Sullivan Warring, a by-blow of a nobleman without par in the Society, is intent on revenge. His mother died while he was at war against the French in...moreSullivan Warring, a by-blow of a nobleman without par in the Society, is intent on revenge. His mother died while he was at war against the French in Spain and upon his return his father (who never acknowledged him) has stolen his inheritance – his mother's paintings. Sullivan is adamant at getting those paintings back and embarrassing his lordly father in the process.
So, in broad daylight he's the most respected and sought-after horse breeder in England, while at night he visits his father's friends' homes, stealing the paintings back. He has only four left to go, when the lady of the house he's currently robbing stumbled upon him. To prevent her from alerting the household, he silences her with a kiss...But the lady isn't idle, either, and rids him of his mask in the process.
Lady Isabel Chalsey comes face to face with the infamous Mayfair Marauder the very next day, accompanying her brother to a horse auction. Instead of turning him in, she concocts a crazy scheme. In order to learn why he is robbing the residents of Mayfair and to keep an eye on him, preventing him from further mischief, she buys a horse – despite her debilitating fear of the animals – and employs Sullivan as trainer.
It took me quite a while to get into this book. Mostly because of Isabel's character in the first few chapters. As most Society belles she was spoiled and firmly ensconced in her narrow little world, but it was her bossy manner and dramaqueenesque manner that really put me off. Only when, in the course of the story, she finally grew up and had her eyes (forcibly) open to the pettiness and fickleness of polite society, I started really enjoying the whole deal. It's almost unheard of for a romance heroine to go through such a drastic change in personality and perspective as Isabel did in this book, but still the author never made her appear inconsistent. Whatever she did or said was always perfectly in tune with the mind frame Isabel was in at the moment.
Sullivan, like Isabel, also went through a great change in the process of the story, and his development was completely tied in with Isabel's change. It was by looking at her, processing her own change, that he realized not all members of the Society were alike, and his bitter quest for revenge against the aristocracy slowly and irrevocably morphed into desire to (at least) try to understand the aristocracy and forget his anger and betrayal for her, to make her happy and him worthy of her admiration and love. They were both acutely aware of their differences and possible consequences of the clandestine affair, yet still persisted in their quest for happiness (kudos to Isabel in this instance).
I loved the entire premise of the book. Ms. Enoch paired two characters from completely different backgrounds. While Isabel was the darling of the Society, Sullivan, thanks to his lucrative business merely brushed against its outskirts. The pairing of a haughty, aristocratic woman with an aristocratic by-blow was this story lifesaver, if you ask me. And the development of their romance (which was again an organic in growing affair) and their secret courtship was a real joy to read. It slowly built from initial attraction between "enemies", to a grudging trust, to friendship, and finally to passion and love.
Unlike many of her fellow author, Ms. Enoch didn't forget about the secondary characters. They weren't just figures creating a backdrop for the leading couple, but had a life of their own. Some bad, some good, some shady and in between, but still real and believable, making the reader want to read their stories as well.
So if you like your romance to have a pinch of realism, wonderfully developed and multidimensional characters, and some great depths, this is the book for you.(less)
Country bred Willa Trent is an orphan and jinxed. It wasn’t enough every suitor she’s ever had has ended up with an injury of some sort as soon as he...moreCountry bred Willa Trent is an orphan and jinxed. It wasn’t enough every suitor she’s ever had has ended up with an injury of some sort as soon as he stepped closer to her. Now she’s maiming innocent bystanders as well. The only excuse she has for dropping the man off his horseback is the fact she had no idea slingshots were so very inaccurate. How was she to know that the stone she was planning of springing a poacher’s trap with will end up smashing the hornets nest?
Nathaniel Stonewell, Lord Reardon, a.k.a. Lord Treason, dubbed for one infamous act, is living in isolation, rebuffed by society, exiled and rejected by his own family. The truth is he’s as much traitor as Prinny George. Nathaniel is in fact a member of the Royal Four, an elite, extremely secret, groups of royal defenders. It was his undercover mission, that he’s still on, that landed him in the Lord Treason mess.
He also appears to be the only man who cannot be maimed or mutilated by Willa’s predilection to accidents (falling off his horse doesn’t really count). After the two spend the night together, albeit he’s unconscious, the villagers, Willa’s big, extremely extended family, seize the opportunity with both hands, and after he gentlemanly offers for her, the two are wed.
Since Nathaniel is still in pursuit of a traitor, not that he has any hopes of catching him, the two quickly leave for London. Along the way, Nathaniel does his best to ignore Willa (she’s a chatterbox), fend off her increasingly demanding pursuit (she’s more than eager to lose her virginity), has to reveal the “truth” about himself and his nickname (she doesn’t believe him, of course), and make her realize why she cannot stay with him even after they are legally wed (and again, she doesn’t want to listen to reason).
Stuck with a stubborn bride, Nathaniel now must fend off the sometimes violent revulsion of the ton, juggle his triple identity (he sees himself as Nathaniel Stonewell, the spy and Lord Treason), find the traitor, and stay the hell away from Willa, since they can never have a future together. Pity his bride thinks differently on the matter.
This is the first full-length novel by Celeste Bradley I’ve read and it certainly will not be the last. I’m only sorry to have picked this one up before the Liar’s Club series, since Nathaniel’s “downfall” is described in The Impostor.
The two strongest points this book has are humor (there’s plenty of it, especially in Willa’s internal banter) and the heroine. Willa is by far most my favorite HR heroine so far. Though you’ll be hard pressed to find a HR with a plain, shy, idiotic heroine, Willa heightens the bar. She’s funny, smart, witty, loving, fiercely protective, and she never lets others think for herself. She doesn’t have that inbred sheep instinct all the young girls of that time had, maybe because she’s grown up in the country, but mostly because she thinks with her own head, she observes, she rationalizes and she draws her own conclusions She’s known her husband for less than a week and yet she is absolutely certain every single member of the ton is wrong about him, and despite his efforts, she will not be swayed in her conviction. She’s a charming young lady, full of life, full of love… and a mean right hook.
There is not much to say about Nate. He’s the typical male, though his vulnerabilities do shine through, especially in relation to his step-father, and, toward the end of the book, Willa. Some of his decisions are appalling, when he decides to listen to orders instead of his heart, and has no qualms in playing dirty to get Willa to leave him. He quickly repents, of course, but that aspect of his personality didn’t sit well with me. On the other hand it is understandable. He’s known nothing but rejection and insults lately, and when Willa, with her sunny optimism and her stubborn faith in him, comes along, he’s out of his element and has no idea what to do.
The first part of the book was a delightful country romp. While in the first couple of chapters the humor reigned supreme with Willa mentally calling her spouse “Idiot Male”, “Unholy Beast”, and “Hell-husband”, the focus soon turned to bitter-sweetness as soon as he confessed his darkest sin of treachery. With her eyes, head, and heart open, she adamantly refused to believe him and proceeded in making everybody see the truth of her “big marshmallow sweet” of a husband.
Quickly after their arrival in London, though, the plot shifted gears so fast I could feel the burn. There were so many villains all of a sudden, searching for an important document, there was a possible murder plot to get the inheritance, the bitterness of a woman for her life spent married to a spy (causing more doubts in Nathaniel), and last but not least a shocking revelation of Willa’s parentage and her connections to an extremely high-ranking official in Court.
And of course, the main plot’s resolution (you have to read the book to know what I’m talking about) proved just how sheep-like people really are.
Despite the patched-up-ness of the last few chapters when all the loose ends were quickly tied up in a nice little bow, To Wed a Scandalous Spy was a very entertaining read, with a rich and layered, albeit a little hole-y, plot, great humor and dialogue, and good character development.(less)
Lady Joanna Fenton is in way over her head. The ancient Chinese statue that would have saved her family’s finances is gone, along with her younger bro...moreLady Joanna Fenton is in way over her head. The ancient Chinese statue that would have saved her family’s finances is gone, along with her younger brother. With her mother’s ostrich-like attitude and the date of the auction, where the statue would’ve been sold, drawing near, Joanna doesn’t know where to turn.
On a friend’s recommendation, she boldly decides to go where no lady of the Ton has ever ventured before, and enters a seedy tavern in search of one MacDonald Archer. She hopes the man used to move in the underbelly of London, might help her find her brother and the statue, all the while keeping at bay a scandal that might ruin her sister’s possibilities of a prosperous marriage.
What she finds in the tavern is not at all what she’s expected. Mac looks more a gentleman than a (retired) smuggler, his educated manners belie his surroundings, and he has no intention of helping her.
Mac is just one illegal shipment away from forsaking his smuggler’s ways and try his hand at legal trade. The danger and adventure are no longer satisfying and in truth he doesn’t know what exactly he’s missing or looking for.
When Joanna enters his life and immediately intrigues him. He sees beyond the veneer she sports in front of the society and her intent on saving her family piques his interest. She is a puzzle, both vulnerable and determined and he soon joins her on her hunt fro answers.
Though at first glance this book is a romantic suspense novel from the regency era, the mystery subplot serves more as the backdrop for the romance and the necessary character development that comes along with it.
Unlike other historical suspense novels that focus mostly on the mystery subplot, reducing the romance into graphic coupling scenes with no romance and even less love, the romance in this book is strong and endearing. The author made an effort to incorporate equal amounts of sensuality and romance and her effort paid off.
Though Lady Joanna Fenton is a model of HR heroines, strong, determined, feisty, her lack of confidence and continuous disbelief in compliments Mac pays her really got on my nerves from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a wonderful character. Despite the fact that her family often takes her for granted and her reputation has been torn to pieces a few years back, she hasn’t fled to the country or doesn’t stay locked up in the house, but faces the polite society with as much dignity as she can possess. As Mac notices, she’s a mix of determination and vulnerability, and luckily by the end of the novel, she stops behaving like a martyr to her mother and brother, and decides to take Mac’s words to heart.
What to say of Mac? He is McDreamy and McSteamy blended into one, every woman’s fantasy come true. He’s a walking contradiction, which all women find appealing. He’s a bad boy one moment, and the next he’s putty in the hands of the woman he loves. Strong yet gentle, with an extremely short fuse, but caring, passionate, and with a sensual touch that turns both Joanna and the reader into mush.
With a combination of romance, suspense, and danger this book is one breathtaking rollercoaster. Yet despite all the action, the true gem of this book are the two main characters.(less)
Orphaned Diane Albret finds herself in the headmistress's office to be punished under the eyes of her mysterious guardian, Daniel St. John.
Daniel soon...moreOrphaned Diane Albret finds herself in the headmistress's office to be punished under the eyes of her mysterious guardian, Daniel St. John.
Daniel soon realizes his young charge is no longer a child he thought he knew and she no longer belongs into a school. He takes her to his home in Paris, a home he shares with his sister.
As Diane's guardian, Daniel buys her a new wardrobe and takes her to the theater, not realizing the impact such attention might have on his young charge... or to him.
Despite his reputation as a notorious seducer, Daniel fights his attraction to his beautiful protegee since she is part of the revenge plan he's been harboring for the past fifteen years.
But the heart and passion would not be denied and as Daniel takes Diane into his arms and his bed, he realizes the most important lesson of all. Revenge does not come sweet, when the cost is love.
Madeline Hunter has moved from the medieval settings into Regency, offering us a dark and sensual introduction into a new series.
Daniel St. John is one of the darkest, brooding heroes that I've encountered. His secrets keep accumulating, keeping the reader at the edge of the seat wandering what they are and whether there are even more of them.
Ms. Hunter weaves a dark tale of seduction, revenge, sensuality, secrets, and love so palpable you can touch it.(less)
I admit to buying this book because the cover bore Christina Dodd's name, but her story The Lady and the Tiger was a huge disappointment. Don't get m...moreI admit to buying this book because the cover bore Christina Dodd's name, but her story The Lady and the Tiger was a huge disappointment. Don't get me wrong, I love steamy scenes, but there were too many crammed up in a novella. Instead of exploring the spy plot more fully, Ms. Dodd concentrated on the lead couple's sexapades at times plunging the plot into weak chick-porn.
Stephanie Laurens's Melting Ice was a pleasant surprise. There was still enough steam to boil Chinese dumplings, but at least she gave her characters an extremely believable back story that made the reader root for the two to finally clear the humongous misunderstanding and have their deserved HEA.
Celeste Bradley's Wedding Knight was a delight to read. Though the premise was quite outrageous to begin with, the plot was charming, the two leads at first glance complete opposites, yet so similar. Maybe the "mystery" took a little too long to unravel, resulting in a hasty, rather patched-up ending, but still, this story was an endearing one. It most definitely put Ms. Bradley on my map.
Leslie LaFoy's The Proposition is another little gem in this quartet of novellas. It's a bittersweet and poignant take on "the second chance" everyone deserves yet few get. Rennick's words "I'll wait for you, Julia. For as long as I must." give additional emotional weight to the already deep story of second chances and the difference between forgiving and forgetting, yet ending up doing both.(less)
**spoiler alert** This book suffers from short-storiness, if you ask me. As we all know it's tough writing short stories, since you have to cramp up a...more**spoiler alert** This book suffers from short-storiness, if you ask me. As we all know it's tough writing short stories, since you have to cramp up a plot, believable characters and their development, romance, and the resolution in approx. 100 pages, give or take a page or two.
And though some anthologies are pretty decent (at least parts of some anthologies), this is not the case with Once Upon A Pillow.
The four stories revolve around a famous bed - The Bed. Which is pretty nifty if you ask me, if it weren't all botched up.
The first story, set in the Middle Ages, about how The Bed came to be was pretty sweet, with a battle-scarred hero that is still a decent, piece-loving guy despite having "served time" in a Saracen prison. The heroine though comes through as a blood-thirsty wench on her way to sainthood. Throw in three blood-thirsty monks, a young would-be suitor and you have Connie Brockway's story.
There is not much background for the characters, no development whatsoever. One day they're married by proxy with her hating his guts and him just calmly taking it all in stride and the next they're madly in love with each other and making master's sons.
Christina Dodd takes the quill next for an Elizabethan era would-be-romp, which is just plain weird, if you ask me. The hero kidnaps the heroine thinking it's her cousin, that in reality set the heroine up to be "ruined" because she hates her. So the heroine, trying to make the best of things, turns the hero's castle into a well-run household and his battle-weary men into gentlemen in a day.
The two resist their attraction, because he must marry a heiress to keep his castle and his lands, but they end up in The Bed anyway, because her friend and his friend set them up. But even after they did the deed he still needs an heiress and she leaves only to fall into the clutches of her uncle that tries to kills her, but the hero saves her, she turns out to be an heiress and they all lived happily ever after.
The third story, once again by Ms. Brockway, is a little too similar to Ms. Dodd's story in My Scandalous Bride. There are smugglers, a suspected brother (though he's alive), a huge misunderstanding between hero and heroine, and the hero ending up chained to the bed. The only difference is the fact that they use chains and the heroine ends up in the same predicament.
At least this one had a semblance of a backstory to it.
The fourth, wrapping up The Bed saga is a contemporary by Ms. Dodd, and it just freaked me out. Up to a few months past the heroine had apparently been one of the rare twenty-something virgins in England, the hero "deflowered" her and in a bout of chivalrous behavior immediately asked her to marry her.
That which would have worked nicely for a historical, is just a right-hook into the teeth for a twenty-first century romance. What the heck?!
The plot basically leaked like a barrel after a rundown with Al Capone's men. Besides the obvious ludicrous backstory of a one night of passion ending up in a marriage proposal, there are some more smugglers and Interpol agents thrown in the mix, with the final revelation of the hero's true heritage.
All in all, I give it four stars for the welcome workout my eyes underwent with all the rolling.(less)
Nick Gentry, former crime lord turned Bow Street runner, is hired to find the elusive Miss Charlotte Howard, Lord Radnor’s unwilling fiancée. Nick is...moreNick Gentry, former crime lord turned Bow Street runner, is hired to find the elusive Miss Charlotte Howard, Lord Radnor’s unwilling fiancée. Nick is to hunt the reluctant bride down and bring her back to his groom-to-be no matter what.
For Nick, known for his knack in solving “delicate” situations, this should be an easy mission. The playfield shifts when he finally meets her.
Charlotte Howard is desperate and prepared to do anything to escape a fate worst than death as the obsessed Lord Radnor’s wife. If that means accepting Nick’s shocking marriage proposal, so be it.
For the man reputed to be the most skilled lover in all England, their bargain of a marriage will certainly not in name only. He’s an expert in the women department, and with one look at Lottie, he knows she is his match in everything.
With this marriage of convenience, Nick and Lottie embark on a roller-coaster journey toward self-discovery, understanding, trust, and ultimately love.
This was the first Lisa Kleypas book I’ve read and up to this day it remains my favorite.
Nick Gentry is an amazingly complex character with inner demons aplenty and a past so dark it’s chilling. Though he’s a man hardened by his past and his secrets, he still tries his best to make amends, mostly to win the heart of the woman he loves, though he has a hard time accepting the fact he is in love.
Charlotte was Nick’s perfect opposite. She was light to his darkness, extremely feminine and sweet, and with a heart so soft it was bound to bring Nick to his knees, though his reluctance to open himself to her emotionally (physically he was pretty open) seemed to be pushing her away every time.
Once these two strong characters collide and their separate worlds mesh together, we’re in for quite a ride, when they both follow that sweet promise of passion and love while still holding themselves back.(less)
Miss Agatha Cunnington is in dire need of a man. In search of her missing brother, James, she has ventured to London as Mrs. Applequist, but needless...moreMiss Agatha Cunnington is in dire need of a man. In search of her missing brother, James, she has ventured to London as Mrs. Applequist, but needless to say, her dear Mortimer does not exist. Now, with callers banging on her front door demanding to meet this elusive, adventurous Mortimer, Agatha snatches herself the first man available – a chimneysweep, Simon Rain. He’s an immediate success and the newlyweds promptly receive a pile of invitation for social gatherings.
Agatha has no intention of declining the invitations. She might learn something about her brother’s whereabouts from the military officers mingling among the ton and her uneducated, Cockney-accented, yet incredibly attractive chimneysweep will be her ticket. If she can teach him the intricate rules of the society, the right phrases to say and how to pronounce them, how to eat, and how to dance.
Little does she know her chimneysweep is in truth a master spy, Simon Montague Raines, working undercover to find a traitor in his organization, the Liar’s Club. Due to his abrupt disappearance, James is on the top of Simon’s list and Agatha, paying her bills from James Cunnington’s account, is suspected to being his accomplice… and mistress.
Simon, in order to get closer to her, agrees to the scam of posing as her husband, but soon discovers her to be a huge distraction for his mission.
The Pretender is the first in Ms. Bradley’s Liars’ Club series. I decided to pick this up after the great experience of To Wed A Scandalous Spy. I was slightly disappointed, but it was still a good read.
The main plot, the mystery / suspense, was slow throughout the story and only picked up pace in the last few chapters. Instead of building on the suspense, Ms. Bradley forsook the mystery and concentrated on the intricacies of the romance between the two leads. Don’t get me wrong, I so love the star-crossed-lovers ploy, but in my opinion that was laid a little too thick in this book.
The second bone to pick would be Agatha. I like the feisty, headstrong heroines that don’t let their “hero” trample all over them, but Agatha was a little too headstrong for my taste. She should be slapped regularly every two hours and there is no wonder she received so many marriage proposals. The blokes knew they had to save her from her own stupidity. At times she also appeared extremely selfish and self-centered. Granted, she repented later on, but still, it’s the thought that counts.
What to say of Simon? Again, McDreamy, McSteamy, and McHorny combined. He’s a stuff of dreams, too good to be true. While Agatha was like an average woman, a little on the plumpish side, he was perfect. Ms. Bradley could’ve made him a little less mouth-watering, but she did give him pretty insurmountable mental hurdles. I understood his need for brooding, but again, it took too much space and time, and once again drew the focus off the plot, slowing it even more. Also, for a super spy, he was a little thick and rather slow on the uptake.
In general, everybody in this book was a little slow. I figured out who the baddie was the instant the villain appeared in the book. Agatha took a little longer, and once again we proved the male species to be a little thick and (always) thinking with the wrong head!
Despite it all, The Pretender is a greatly entertaining book. While most books are driven by their plots and subplots, the thing keeping this book breathing are the characters, especially the supporting cast filling the gaps with their antics. Mostly, it’s an ode to love (brotherly and other) and patriotism.(less)
Sir Thorogood has the London society in an uproar. With his cartoons he's apparently ruffled a feather too many. The Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, e...moreSir Thorogood has the London society in an uproar. With his cartoons he's apparently ruffled a feather too many. The Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, entrusts the new "leader" of the Liar's Club, Dalton Montmorency, Lord Etheridge, to find the scoundrel and bring his drawing days to a halt.
Desperate to gain the respect of the Liars after Simon Raines' retirement, Dalton takes on the task by himself. Posing as Thorogood, a dandified fop, he has all intentions of exposing the real cartoonist and bring him to justice.
The problem is, Sir Thorogood is no dandy. He is in fact a she.
Widowed Clara Simpson (yes, the one from The Pretender is justifiably outraged at the impostor pretending to be Sir Thorogood. She started drawing the cartoons in order to expose the corruption in the powerful of the ton and the impostor is stealing all the fame and glory. Now, she is determined to unmask him. So, she sheds her "widow-y disguise", acts like a ninny, shrieks and laughs at idiocies like a fishwife, and follows him everywhere, getting mightily on his nerves.
All the while, the two live another secret life, she as Rose, the neighbor's maid, he as Monty, a midnight burglar. And while Rose and Monty fall in love, Sir Thorogood and Crazy-Widow Simpson dislike each other with a passion.
But what happens when Dalton and Clara meet at last? Without pretenses, masks, and secrets?
While I quite enjoyed the prequel, The Impostor failed to rise to the occasion. While the premise was excellent and intriguing, I soon grew bored of the intricacies Ms. Bradley concocted to "heighten the suspense", and soon the appeal of the dual triple identity wore off.
The leads frankly left me cold, their characters were bland and there was no real depth to them. Why was it necessary for Sir Thorogood to be a parrot-color-wearing fop? Why was Clara acting like a loon when she was with him?
The romantic sub-plot suddenly took center stage and the mystery seemed to be forgotten. The lines between identities blurred, the two suddenly didn't know who they loved, who they despised, sometimes they loved who they despised and sometimes despised who they loved. It took forever to bring this sub-plot to its arc, then it got complicated again, and after twenty or so pages all was good and well. Instant HEA.
Also, for two such observant creatures, a spy and an artist who made a living by observing people, Dalton and Clara were incredibly dense. Their inability to see beyond their disguise was jarring.
To top this off, there are quite a few point that just didn't make sense. Clara's reasoning after she discovers who Monty is, for example. Plenty of loose ends, too, mostly revolving around Lord Reardon (I probably ruined it all by reading To Wed A Scandalous Spy first and knew the deal) and the whole spy/mystery plot.
Not a great read, but still worth a try, at least to keep up with the series. The supporting cast makes up for quite a lot.(less)
Rose Lacey and Collis Tremayne are fellow trainees for the Liar's Club. The two are at the top of their "class" and are expected to "graduate" shortly...moreRose Lacey and Collis Tremayne are fellow trainees for the Liar's Club. The two are at the top of their "class" and are expected to "graduate" shortly.
The rivalry that's brought them so far, is now the only thing keeping them from achieving the goal. The two just can't seem to be able to work together. And they profoundly dislike each other to boot.
To smooth things over, and as punishment for their latest mess, the pair is sent on a test mission. They have to infiltrate a house, find the proof against the owner, and get out... Together.
Thanks to a clumsy case of fallen case files, Rose and Collis end up staking out the wrong house. As they uncover the true, nefarious plot against the English soldiers, the Prime Minister, and the Prince Regent himself, can they manage to work together without going for each other's throats? And is their animosity toward one another real, or just a cover for something much more powerful?
The Charmer is the first book in the LC series I truly enjoyed from cover to cover.
The interaction between the two leads was so real, the book could easily pass as "UST for Dummies". The tension was palpable and at times so thick you could hack it with a chainsaw.
But what truly drives the story in the middle and keeps the plot from slowing (yet again!) is the funny, yet bitter-sweet presence of George IV, the Prince Regent. He's the comedic character, driving instrument, and sage older adviser combined into one. Once he enters the scene, you won't be able to put the book down. And lucky, he's in there almost from the beginning. His pudgy self keeps the plot going, when it tethers precariously on the edge of the precipice to pace-Hell.
This is truly a little gem, maybe in need of some soft mop to polish it into shining, but still a highly-recommended read.(less)
Fleeing Napoleon's spies that kidnapped, and possibly murdered, her father, Phillipa Atwater doesn't know where to turn. Almost destitute and with now...moreFleeing Napoleon's spies that kidnapped, and possibly murdered, her father, Phillipa Atwater doesn't know where to turn. Almost destitute and with nowhere to go, she finally gets a break when she spots an add for a tutor.
The only problem is, the tutor is supposed to be a man.
So she cuts and dies her hair, "borrow" some man's clothing and presents herself as Phillip A. Walters in the house of Mr. James Cunnington, the man whose name is scrawled in the margin of her father's mysterious notebook.
James Cunnington is a man with three missions: find proof to condemn his ex-lover and French spy Lavinia Winchell, find a tutor for his adopted son Robbie, and find the daughter of a missing code-breaker that's suddenly working for Napoleon.
Little does he know that the pale, almost starved-to-death boy applying for the tutoring job will help him solve all three. And free his soul from the dark hell of guilt and remorse.
As is customary in the Liar's Club series, this book looked quite promising at the beginning. I was intrigued with the notion of a politely-bred Regency woman posing as a man. And I was looking forward to the knots the chit would tie herself - and the hero - in.
But, as is also customary in the Liar's Club series, the plot soon pulled the breaks to the point where everything almost came to a standstill.
Of course, toward the end - and after the big revelation - the story picked up pace once more, leading to a pretty satisfying end, but it would have been really nice if the plot flowed effortlessly throughout the book.
I liked Phillipa. She had spunk. For someone who shuddered at the thought of spitting, she quickly accustomed herself to her new "circumstances", taking up boxing and cursing a blue streak in her native tongue and not just Russian.
Robbie was a real gem, a scarred, old soul in a young boys body. But despite the hardships he's obviously been through, he could still be a child.
The nag this time is with the hero. Sure, James is what we'd all want in a man. Strong, handsome, explosively sexy, with a protective streak a mile wide, but some aspects of his personality put me off. While his need for vengeance was quite understandable, the means he was prepared to take and what it made him do, how it made him act with those around him, sure didn't warm me up to the man. And his obstinate pursuit of someone he perceived as traitor (despite no obvious proof) was quite hypocritical since he's been in that same exact position not long before the events of the book (read: The Pretender). Lucky for him he had people around him that had no qualms in putting him in his place. Also, For a spy, he was incredibly unobservant, both Robbie and Button immediately knew the tutor was a woman, while the "experienced womanizer" that was James was completely blind.
And as in all romances worth their salt, it took love and more than 300 pages for the hero to realize just how wrong he's been and live happily-ever-after with his heroine.
Despite it's slowness, though, this is still a charming read, once you get stubborn and decide not to put the book down until you finish it. ;)
P.S. And finally we've banished the saccharine, flowery nicknames. (less)
Marcus Ramsay’s day has finally come. With the death of Lord Barrowby, the former “Fox”, member of the elite (and mysterious) Royal Four, it’s Marcus’...moreMarcus Ramsay’s day has finally come. With the death of Lord Barrowby, the former “Fox”, member of the elite (and mysterious) Royal Four, it’s Marcus’ turn to take the coveted seat.
Unfortunately, he didn’t count with the competition. There is someone else “applying” for the position of the most cunning of the Four. To add insult to injury, the upstart is a woman.
Lady Julia Barrowby has been acting as the Fox for the past three years, ever since her elderly husband’s collapse. She knows full well her gender alone will keep her from being readily accepted into the Royal Four, but she would never suspect they’d send someone to infiltrate her house.
Marcus’ initial plan is to find all the dirty secrets the beautiful, tempting widow keeps and use them to discredit her. So when he finds a stash of explicit-content diaries, he jumps at the opportunity to use them against her...Little does he expect that after only one kiss, he’d forget about his nefarious plan and want to help her fulfill her fantasies instead.
Of all the books in the Royal Four Series this was by far the worst. The plot was too slow (the “chapters” from Julia’s steamy diaries didn’t help at all), the humor flat and the action kept to a bare minimum (until the last few chapters).
I just couldn’t relate with the characters, there seemed to be no drive behind their actions, no great motivation – not even Marcus could inspire more than a yawn with his mercurial changes, endearing as they might be. Julia was a total bore (thank Celeste for the little insight into the Jilly alter-ego) and her diaries were a little too much. She was nearly a virgin, how could she have such profound knowledge (and vocabulary) of what goes on between lovers? I don’t think they sold erotica novels in the Regency period. Out of all the characters, Elliot (a supporting character) was the most fun “to spend time with”. He was hilarious and the tension and male-banter between him and Marcus was one of the few bright points of this novel.
Another good thing about this one was the character-from-previous-novel cameo. Dalton just gets better and better with every novel and the romance between him and Clara is still strong...Stronger and “cuter” than in his own book (The Impostor), unfortunately and much, much better than what was between the leads in this book.
Although Ms. Bradley tried valiantly to pick up the pace with the action-packed ending, this book just couldn’t muster enough stamina to stay afloat. I just skimmed the pages, hoping for the Chimera to just get it over with already! *yawn*
This is sort-of recommended only to those who (like me) are adamant at reading the series from first to last book, but other than that this one doesn’t have much going for it.
When Stanton Horne, Lord Wyndham, the member of the elite Royal Four as the Falcon, receives the visit of Lady Alicia Lawrence, the disowned daughter...moreWhen Stanton Horne, Lord Wyndham, the member of the elite Royal Four as the Falcon, receives the visit of Lady Alicia Lawrence, the disowned daughter of the Earl of Sutherland, he’s extremely weary of her story about a conspiracy against the Crown. Not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a notorious woman — five years ago she was shunned by Society and labeled a notorious liar.
Stanton’s ability to spot lies and liars, so convenient in his work as the Falcon, fails him, when it comes to Alicia. She’s completely unreadable to him, but her "proof" — the mention of the scarred man — is the one thing that keeps him from completely dismissing the woman.
Since she’s convinced she could identify the man plotting to kidnap Prince George if she heard him, Stanton, very reluctantly, agrees to attend a house party (read: orgy) and bring Alicia along as his pretend mistress.
Their "mission" is fraught with danger. Not only to track and stop the deadly French spy, but Alicia and Stanton might have found their match — she a man that might actually believe her, he a woman to finally melt the ice surrounding his heart.
The prologue itself hinted to a great read as Alicia hilariously opened her first letter to Wyndham with: "I am writing to you because you appear to be a somewhat lesser idiot than other gentlemen." This one line showed Alicia’s true character and promised a riotous book.
Despite the fact her family considered her dead and Society pretended she did not exist, Alicia didn’t lose her youthful vitality. She was sassy, spunky and had a wicked sense of humor. Granted, she might have appeared bitter at times, but that was understandable attitude adjustment she went through after the hurt and betrayal.
Stanton was portrayed wonderfully as he found himself completely out of his depths with the whole situation and especially Alicia. He too had been betrayed by his own flesh and blood, but instead of enfolding himself in mockery and sarcasm, he chose to lock himself away from the world.
The characterization was absolutely sublime. Here you have two people deeply hurting for quite similar reasons, betrayal by their own family, yet they deal with those feelings in two completely different ways, yet cannot help but be drawn to each other in a last attempt at salvaging what is left of their souls and heal each other in the process. As is obvious from the epilogue they didn’t change that much (the servants still thought of Wyndham as "inhuman", only in a better way than in the first chapter *wink*), but what little they did change was for the better.
As for the plot, the pacing was utterly to the mark. There was no single dull or breaking moment in the book. The sparring between the two leads was entertaining and cute at the same time, the interaction between characters was splendid, the humor was there, the adventure was there, the drama, the action…What more can one want from a story.
It was a lovely tribute that Ms. Bradley brought back the couples from previous books for more than just a cameo experience. This "reunion" and the just demise of the Chimera brought the entire series full circle.
This book could be read as a stand-alone, but if you want to really enjoy it fully (all the subtle nuances, the relationships between characters, their interaction…), you have to read the series in an order. Bottom line — this entertaining and frolicking read is definitely a keeper. If you like your romance laced with humor, action, a little drama, a whole lot of sensuality and a pinch of adventure, this is definitely the book for you.
P.S. If it were possible, I'd add half a star to my rating above.(less)
After ending up in the Thames, thanks to her meddling mother, Olivia is rescued by a Viking god a.k.a. Dane Calwell, Lord Greenleigh... Well, in the e...moreAfter ending up in the Thames, thanks to her meddling mother, Olivia is rescued by a Viking god a.k.a. Dane Calwell, Lord Greenleigh... Well, in the end she is the one doing the rescue.
Two weeks later, the two are wed.
Olivia, despite the fact she knows absolutely nothing about her husband, ends up falling head over heels in love. But it will take much more for her husband to follow her lead. Much, much more.
Dane Calwell, known to his fellow spies as The Lion, is quite content with his choice for a wife. Olivia is, according to her mother, the epitome of sophistication, meek, poised, a perfect hostess... everything a man of Dane's position dreams of. Unfortunately, he's in for quite a surprise when he discovers Olivia's mother has vastly exaggerated.
Now, the newlyweds have to get to surpass the initial obstacles of marriage between virtual strangers, get to really know each other, and stay alive when a blood-thirsty enemy conspires against them... And the very Crown.
Whomever wrote the blurb should be sacked on the spot. They didn't even see the cover of this book, least of all read it through.
Despite being the a sequel to To Wed A Scandalous Spy, this book pales in comparison. There is not much of a plot to be found, except for the main Chimera thread which began with the Liar's Club series.
I got the impression of reading a manual on "virgin initiation", complete with Rods of the Rajah (read: dildos). In short, this is a sex-driven book, instead of a plot- or character-driven book.
I didn't like the two leads, Dane and Olivia, although if I had to choose, I'd choose her over him any day.
She was sweet and caring, though a little stupid at times. Sorry, but rushing to a courtesan's door for help of preparing a ball, without even knowing who you're meeting, just doesn't strike me as incredibly bright. Yes, I know her mother embellished her to Dane, but couldn't she just tell him the truth? They were married, he wouldn't divorce her just because she had no idea how to host a ball.
Dane was just an ass. A huge (all over), overbearing, egotistical, overly proud, blong, Viking-ish ass. And though the author offers an apology for his behavior - his father sending a bullet into his brain over a woman - it just didn't ring true for me. He was hard and he was harsh, and his actions spoke strongly against him. So much in fact, I was aghast as to how Olivia could forgive him in the end. I know redemption is an integral part of a HR template, but some of the things he said to her were worth beyond contempt.
The romance between them didn't click for me. It just seemed empty and cold. They seemed more a going-through-the-motions couple than a man and a woman gradually developing tender feelings for each other. Maybe it was also due to the fact that Olivia falls for him almost instantly, while his feeling (or their development) are never revealed fully - he was more in lust than in love with her.
There were plenty of eye-roll inducing parts. The most memorable being Dane's "anatomical problem". I was fine with it for a while, it explained some of his reservations of giving in fully, but after a while the constant reminding of his impediment grew tiresome and boring.
Ms. Bradley failed to exploit the little things she created. The refreshing twist of having the leading couple married from the beginning provided ample opportunities for excellent characterization, yet she left the character development drop in lieu of bedroom scenes.
Also, her trademark humor seemed to disappear entirely, except in the scenes with George IV. It's evident the author uses him as a comedic interlude, which is also a pity, since he's such a rich, layered character.
The only thing I really appreciated, was the return of the Reardon's, Nate and Willa from the previous book. Luckily, Willa retained her characteristics and had no qualms giving Dane a hefty piece of her mind on how a wife should be treated. I wouldn't have minded - and it wouldn't be a grand surprise - if she took a well-aimed knee into the region of his "anatomical problem".
As I said before, Surrender To A Wicked Spy had too much sex and too little story, and even what smidgen on plot that survived the bedroom scenes, seems flat, missing the usual Bradley spark.
Not extremely disappointing, but not a keeper either.(less)
Ethan Damont is a gambler, constantly living on the fringe of Society - dangling between worlds - not quite an outsider, but not belonging either. Thi...moreEthan Damont is a gambler, constantly living on the fringe of Society - dangling between worlds - not quite an outsider, but not belonging either. This trait of his has brought him to the attention of the Liar's Club, and he finds himself the newest, and not so willing, recruit to the strange band of thieves, gentlemen, and spies.
His first mission is to "infiltrate" the household of Lord Maywell, a suspected traitor to the Crown, where he meets Maywell's niece, Lady Jane Pennington, hanging upside down from a tree branch.
Neither suspect, that his gallant rescue is just the beginning of a whirlwind that might save or destroy them both.
Finally! Ms. Bradley has finally succeeded in pulling me in fully, without having to bring in the Regent. ;)
Though the mystery and intrigue is still there, it has been succesfully pushed into a subplot, while the main plot, and its intricate twists and turns, revolve around Ethan Damont, oh so conveniently introduced in The Charmer when we ran out of drool-worthy and eligible spies.
Ethan truly has it all. He's handsome, sexy, charming when he needs to be, yet upon closer inspection, his easy-going nature is but a mask. A mask behind which he hides his insecurities and his fears. This is a man I wouldn't mind falling in love with and it's obvious why Jane did.
His gradual growth from drunken gambler and rake extraordinaire to a trustworthy and love-worthy man, not only in the eyes of those around him, but most importantly in his own eyes, is endearing and pulling from beginning to end.
Jane, his heroine, literally disappeared when Ethan strolled onto the scene. IMHO, she served no higher purpose than help him redeem himself and see himself for the man he truly was.
The "attraction" and romance between them seemed a bit strained, though the one full love-scene was quite daring and much hotter than the previous books in the series.
The ending was quite nicely concocted if you ask me. Although the Liar's series might have come to an end, the ongoing spy theme is far from finished. The revelation of the Chimera's identity and the cameo of the Falcon carry us onward into The Royal Four series. A really nice move, that.
P.S. This book also put in stark evidence that whoever writes the blurbs, evidently doesn't bother with reading the book first.(less)