In Brief: Honoria Smythe-Smith, of musicale infamy, has known Marcus Holroyd all her life. He’s likReview originally posted at Tea, Toast & Books.
In Brief: Honoria Smythe-Smith, of musicale infamy, has known Marcus Holroyd all her life. He’s like a brother to her. But when she sets up a trap for Gregory Bridgerton, she accidentally catches Marcus instead, and they realize they’re meant for one another.
I Thought: This is to be the first in a Smythe-Smith quartet of books, which I am kind of excited about. I read the first section as one of the previews in The Duke and I, and received it in the mail via BOMC2 a few days later. It’s a nice story, but kind of flat. It felt like most of the book was set over the course of a couple of days in the sickroom with Marcus, and while the hero and heroine were together, they weren’t really interacting. When they did speak, they had the trademark Quinn witty banter, which I always enjoy — as well as the somewhat wacky way they think about themselves in their heads.
Still, I don’t feel like I got terribly attached to either of the main characters, and the side characters seemed almost like an afterthought. It was great seeing Lady Danbury again, and the references to events in some of the Bridgerton books were fun. Overall, though, the story just lacked depth for me. I liked that Marcus isn’t a reformed rake, for once, but I don’t feel like I really understood who he was or his motivations; same goes for Honoria.
The ending felt terribly rushed, like all the action got shoved to the last 50 pages. There is only one really sensual love scene here, and it’s at the tail end of the book, but really sweetly done. There are really none of the overused tropes of the genre here, which is a great relief.
I read the book in a few hours; it felt much shorter than it actually was, possibly because it never seemed like much was happening. Not Quinn’s best work, but certainly an enjoyable bit of fluff for recovery after A Dance with Dragons (the review for that is probably going to be a while in coming, because I’m still deciding how I feel about it). It’s not going on the keeper shelf, though....more
In Brief: Catherine Forsythe and her sister Susannah have been reduced to poverty, so when an invitReview originally posted at Tea, Toast & Books.
In Brief: Catherine Forsythe and her sister Susannah have been reduced to poverty, so when an invitation to a house party arrives, Catherine knows they must make the most of the opportunity to find wealthy husbands. A certain head gardener at the ducal estate has some different ideas, though….
I Thought: I wasn’t as immediately drawn into the story as I was with The Best Intentions. (It really might be unfair to read the two out of order, and so close together, because The Best Intentions is really one of those rare gems, so I find myself making comparisons.) To me, Catherine seemed a little grasping and hard-hearted, so determined to marry for wealth — at least at first. If more of the sisters’ life had been outlined, I might have had more sympathy; as it was, I had the same impression of her, at the beginning, as our hero does of most women of society.
However, that shortly went away, because Catherine displayed a completely formed personality, with hobbies, interests, and a sense of humor, shortly after arriving at the house party. Her fortune hunting, though, becomes sort of the main bone of contention between her and Stephen, and that aspect of her personality continued to grate on me just a tiny bit. Only a little bit; but that’s why I had to go with 4.5 stars rather than 5. Well, that and Catherine’s perception of her sister as being bubble-headed. It’s not that it’s unrealistic for her to think that way; it just struck me as harsh and perhaps slightly manipulative. Perhaps on a reread I might not think so.
Stephen, our duke, is quite charming. He’s definitely the outdoor type, and he mostly manages to keep his good sense about him through the twists and turns of the plot. He has a tiny bit of angst in his background, but it just serves to make him more real and doesn’t bog down the lighthearted story.
MacDougal, a sort of… expanded butler, provides a good deal of comic relief at the outset as he somehow obtains for Catherine and Susannah everything they might need to present well at a house party. There’s a little foreshadowing here, too, that leads to hilarity later in the book. Aunt Hetty has a good head on her shoulders, as does the dowager duchess. And Miles! I was so pleased that he was quite wonderful in this book as well.
As I have come to expect from Ms. Hern, we again have detailed descriptions of clothing and of the estate, which really serves to establish a sense of time and place without making me feel like I’ve been clubbed over the head with Extraneous Research Facts.
Watching Stephen and Catherine fall in love was such a joy. And it was based on intelligent conversation (at least in part) that actually seemed intelligent! I don’t think I can say much more about the main plot without spoiling the story, but the writing is quick, light and witty. For example, possibly my favorite quote:
As if he hadn’t gone round the bend already, to be skulking in his own shrubbery. Another keeper from Ms. Hern. I’m so glad I discovered her books, and I’m afraid of what will happen when I run out of them! That they are all available at such a low price for Kindle is wonderful, though I’d like to own printed editions of these someday. I like them that much.
Addendum: My coworker and I were discussing this book on the ride home, having both just finished it. 'Tis a happy thing to giggle over a great book with someone else....more
Quick Review: I didn’t much care for this book, sadly. The beginning didn’t grab me; both hero andReview originally posted at Tea, Toast & Books.
Quick Review: I didn’t much care for this book, sadly. The beginning didn’t grab me; both hero and heroine seem to think in cliches, and the plot is so contrived it’s almost painful. There’s a whole lot of exposition without action, and fact dumps to explain the premise of the novel.
Mirabella and Cam are immediately attracted to one another, presumably based on their scintillating conversation, which wasn’t very interesting to me. And they’re already engaged, but the hero only agreed to it for money and he is bound and determined that he will never be so foolish as to fall in love again. Never! Because his first fiance was caught kissing another man in front of half the ton, right? And what is our heroine doing? Kissing men to track down a killer of sorts, to avenge her best friend, who was physically deformed but had a heart of gold — of course. In case you forget, the author will remind you about once every ten pages.
Naturally, Cam sees Mirabella kissing another man 15% into the book, and thereby we are introduced to the primary conflict, which could be resolved if they would just talk to each other. I might have bought Mirabella’s reluctance to open up if it had been written more convincingly, but no. Also, she thinks of Cam by his Christian name throughout much of the book, which grated, considering she wasn’t even willing to really talk to him.
The conflict was far too contrived for me (really: a villain with a hidden scar and a heroine who decides the best way to find him is to kiss all the boys? and a fiance whose very willingness to love was destroyed by a woman kissing another man?), and I didn’t really buy the characters, either. If this is the author’s first book, that might explain a lot, so I may check out some of her other work, but not soon. I hate writing such a bad review, because it wasn’t a complete wallbanger, but I found myself skimming the last 2/3 of the book just to get through it and say I was done.
In Brief: Jessica Trent arrives in Paris to save her bumbling brother, Bertie, by extricating him frReview originally posted at Tea, Toast & Books
In Brief: Jessica Trent arrives in Paris to save her bumbling brother, Bertie, by extricating him from the devilish grasp of Sebastian, Lord Dain. What she didn’t expect was the immediate animal attraction to the cursed man — beyond a rake, he’s irredeemable. Or is he?
I thought: To put it succinctly, I loved this book. It may have a few flaws, but it’s exactly right for my taste; I’ll try to explain why.
As you may have ascertained by now, I am nearly always more interested in the characters than in the plot per se. This is particularly true for romance novels, where the plot resolution is known before one even begins to read. Boy meets girl, they fall in lust or love, there are some obstacles, love grows, they realize they are Meant to Be, et voila! Happy ending! Thus, the character development is of utmost importance.
And so, here, we begin with Sebastian (who is nearly never called by his Christian name), Lord Dain. Without the prologue, he’d be pretty much intolerable: Arrogant, dissolute, hurtful and almost completely walled off from emotion. Good thing, then, that the book begins with some insight into why he is as he is… and also that he isn’t utterly, bull-headedly stupid about it. He knows he’s broken and, although he doesn’t want to change, there’s at least a realistic possibility.
Our heroine, Jessica, is intelligent, witty, and totally capable. She’s confident in herself and has plenty of experience in dealing with boys and men; no shrinking violet, this. She has enough self-esteem not to plunge into despair over every stupid thing Dain does, but enough humanity to experience some doubt. She understands that he is rather like a wounded animal, and works within those parameters without becoming a doormat and losing herself.
The side characters are an absolute riot. Genevieve, Jessica’s grandmother, is grounded and helpful — a welcome change from relatives who seem to be there only to lead the hero or heroine astray. Jessica’s brother, Bertie, is a hopeless case, but hilariously so. I can’t help but wonder if he’s modeled, at least a tiny bit, on Bertie Wooster. Dain’s school friends are almost an afterthought, though they do help to drive the plot, and provide some insight on occasion.
The writing style provides plenty of narrative explanation of what the hero and heroine are thinking, which breaks the cardinal rule of show, don’t tell — but it works. This reads as a hilarious romp, and even though (having read many books about writing books, and having a few in progress myself) it shouldn’t work, it does.
At one point, there is the typical “if they’d only talk to each other, this entire thing could be resolved” separation, and I groaned a bit, thinking this would drive the plot for the remainder of the book… and then it doesn’t. They do talk, and instead of the lack-of-communication device (which often feels a bit like a cop out), Jess and Dain progress and deal with other, more realistic issues. Dain doesn’t want to let anyone in, and instead of going into paroxysms, Jess realizes this and behaves accordingly. He misunderstands her intentions, but she maintains a rock-solid understanding of his, and so there’s none of the mutual misunderstanding that crops up so frequently in romance novels. I think I made this point above, but I’ll make it again: It’s so refreshing to read (another, after having read some of Candice Hern’s books) a story where straight stubbornness and deliberate failure to understand isn’t the main conflict. Having read many, many Regency romances, there was a sort of meta-delight at the introduction of a typical plot device which was then turned on its head.
Annoyances? Well, the same, almost verbatim descriptions are used often, sometimes within a few pages of one another, but I’m willing to overlook that in light of the sheer joy of reading this book. (Yes, we understand that Dain is diabolical. Really.) There are blessedly few typos in the Kindle edition, which are more than made up for by the general wittiness of the dialogue.
The smuttiness level doesn’t quite go to 11 — this isn’t Stephanie Laurens — but it’s definitely quite descriptive. The relationship between Jess and Dain may begin with lust, but it ends in believable love.
In Brief: Ashley is a disturbed teenager, trying to escape her current life — but she ends up beingReview originally posted at Tea, Toast & Books.
In Brief: Ashley is a disturbed teenager, trying to escape her current life — but she ends up being abducted. Can Lucy Guardino, FBI agent and loving wife and mother, solve the crime in time to save Ashley?
I thought: Within the first 20 pages, I found this book a bit disturbing. (NB: I don’t usually read thriller-type mysteries.) It’s violent, and features kidnapping, vulnerable and abused children, corrupt cops, sexual objectification, and plenty of swearing. It felt at times a little like the author had a checklist goal to meet.
Lucy read, to me, like a bit of a sterotype: Overworked law enforcement parent ignores her own child to protect others, believing that in doing so she can save both the victims and her own daughter. See also: Law & Order: SVU, Body of Proof, &c. &c. I was, however, glad that her relationship with her husband seemed to be loving, stable and mature. Her daughter was a typical (as depicted in fiction, at least) whiny pre-adolescent, trying to distance herself from Mom. We also have the overly nerdy nerd tech guy, the divorced cop who can’t keep it in his pants, the obnoxious journalist — none of the characters, to me, read as being terribly real.
The plot, though, moved at a brisk clip and I was obviously interested enough to finish it, even though I wasn’t loving the characters. From the very first page, the suspense is there, and it never really lets up. The villains are seriously depraved. There were times when I found myself skipping over some of the more graphic descriptions of events; maybe I’m a wimp. (I also avert my eyes during similar moments on the TV. Usually.) Everything reaches a satisfactory conclusion, although it seemed to wrap up a bit too quickly.
Since I live in Pittsburgh, I of course have to comment on the representation of our neighborhoods. It was pretty decently done, although West Homestead isn’t really part of the South Side, Murray and Negley don’t connect (they run parallel!) and — potential spoiler! — if you blew up a house in Lawrenceville you’d take out at least two other houses since they’re packed in there like sardines. I actually picked this up because I was hoping for a more Pittsburgh-y experience, but while many locations are mentioned, none of it really felt integral to the story.
The Kindle edition needs to be hit with the editing stick; lots of “the worse” instead of “the worst,” along with other slight annoyances that make the work feel unpolished. Also, I think the description of what Lyons refers to as “MRPGs” is a bit… well, uninformed. MMORPGs aren’t generally controlled by a single DM, at least, not the fully rendered ones. It’s like the author just transferred pen-and-paper RPGs into “cyberspace” and decided that’s how things were. That kept throwing me out of the suspension of disbelief.
In the end, I just had to know what happened, but it’s not a story that’s going to stick with me, nor am I especially compelled to seek out Lyons’s other work. Perhaps, though, I should emphasize again that this is not a genre I normally read, so you may take my review with a grain of salt....more
In Brief: Widower Miles needs a mother for his children, but has no interest in looking for love agReview originally posted at Tea, Toast & Books.
In Brief: Widower Miles needs a mother for his children, but has no interest in looking for love again, believing he can never feel for anyone what he felt for his wife. Besides, he’s far too proper and starched for that sort of thing. When his sister brings a widow and her younger sister to the estate for a visit, he knows a setup is in the works. Hannah has her head in the clouds, but not for romance — she’s far too focused on her study of architecture. And since her older sister is the intended match anyway, nobody could really have suspected what would happen….
I thought: I absolutely loved this book. I decided I wanted to read another of Ms. Hern’s stories, so I went with this and am so glad I did. The characters are absolutely adorable and frequently hilarious, and the hero and heroine stay true to themselves throughout the book.
Having now read two tales from Candice Hern, I suspect that I will find similar attention to detail in all of her writing. There’s a scene near the beginning of the book, for example, where Miles is eating breakfast, complete with a wonderful description of cracking open a soft-boiled egg. It’s abundantly clear that the author knows a whole lot about the Regency period, but it’s a bit more subtly displayed in this than in A Proper Companion. She manages to perfectly evoke a real sense of time and place.
Hannah is simply wonderful; enthusiastic, imperfect, and mostly ok with that but still with a little insecurity that keeps her from being boilerplate. Miles is a bit reserved, but he opens up over the course of the story and it’s obvious that he and Hannah complement one another quite well.
The side characters, too, are reasonably well-drawn, and there are plenty of interactions with them that display the dynamics of the various relationships. I found myself hoping throughout that Charlotte, the older sister, would not turn out to be just a horrible shrew, and I was not at all disappointed.
There was a particular scene where our heroine was in peril, and the series of events that occurred afterwards was quite hilarious. It could have seemed contrived, but where the same sort of thing seemed a bit gimmicky in A Proper Companion, here it felt perfect.
I once again appreciated the relatively tame love scenes. Ms. Hern here proves that you don’t have to be explicit to convey passion, and that falling into bed together is not a necessary prerequisite for a great relationship.
I tore through this in a single evening; it’s fast-paced and full of warmth and laughter. I didn’t find any distracting typos or text scanning errors, happily. I didn’t realize it was the second book in a duo (the first is A Garden Folly), and will certainly go back and read the first — though I think it will be a little odd to see the beginning of Miles, knowing the end!...more
In Brief: Emily Townsend, gently bred but impoverished, serves as a paid companion to Lady BradleigReview originally posted at Tea, Toast & Books.
In Brief: Emily Townsend, gently bred but impoverished, serves as a paid companion to Lady Bradleigh. The dowager countess is distressed when she learns that her grandson, Robert, has affianced himself to a very young lady with a very grasping family. Lady Bradleigh would rather see him marry her companion — but how to convince him of that and, worse, how can he extricate himself from his disastrous engagement? And will Emily ever believe she is a worthy bride, given her status in life?
I thought: Emily is a bit of a Mary Sue. Her every action is imbued with nobility and quiet sacrifice, and it makes it a little difficult to relate to her. There don’t seem to be any rough edges. Robert, on the other hand, is introduced as an unrepentant rake, but we don’t see much of that behavior, either. And Lady Bradleigh is a somewhat sarcastic, meddling-but-in-a-good-way matchmaker. In short, the characters are lacking in realism. Yet they manage to be likable enough.
The general prototypicality of the hero and heroine means that there aren’t too many moments of tension about whether they’ll end up together. Of course, there’s really never any doubt when reading a romance novel, but some of them still manage to have me on the edge of my seat. This didn’t, but on the other hand, neither did it have the 800 annoying contrived obstacles sometimes found in books of this genre.
The motivations of the villains were fairly transparent, and they were easily handled. I didn’t get any real sense of urgency when the hero had to go deal with them; in fact, he sort of lingered about so all the loose plot ends could be wrapped up before he went off to rescue Emily. Bit odd, and that was the only part of the book that really had me shaking my head a bit.
Something I did appreciate was that the hero and heroine didn’t hit the hay on page 100 and immediately realize they had to have each other; their growing relationship did feel like it was based on something besides base lust. I actually believed they were falling in love, and my heart was racing a few times during the fairly tame love scenes (comparatively, nothing too explicit here — kind of a welcome change).
Overall it was a pleasant, quick read. It didn’t exactly leave me wanting more, but I didn’t regret the time spent reading. Everything was pleasantly fluffy, and sometimes that’s all you need. There are plenty of detailed descriptions of Regency fashions, which I enjoyed reading. Unlike a lot of free/cheap Kindle editions, it’s not riddled with typos, although there is a frequent substitution of the letter “d” for “ct” (I think — now that I’m looking back through, I can’t find examples).
Certainly worth picking up for free, if you have any interest in Regency romances; I will definitely check out some of Ms. Hern’s other work....more
**spoiler alert** Entertaining enough that I kept reading, although the prose was so purple it was difficult going in some spots. Muscles can only rip**spoiler alert** Entertaining enough that I kept reading, although the prose was so purple it was difficult going in some spots. Muscles can only ripple so many times before it gets ridiculous. Also, the inserted explanations of medieval life? Not so much. I'm glad the author knows the parts of a suit of armor, but I don't need to see them gratuitously listed -- though it did create another opportunity to talk about slab-of-granite muscles.
Because the prologue contains the same text as much of the climax (har har) of the book, I found myself skipping a lot of pages near the end just to get to the resolution, since I already knew what was... coming.
I didn't care overmuch for the h/h, particularly the heroine, who seemed needlessly shrewish. When the Bad Guys (who really had no redeeming qualities) accused her of only being sympathetic to Lucien because they'd had sex, it was difficult to disagree.
Still, not the worst romance I've ever read, and the plot moved fairly quickly. Some of the other players were rather endearing, and I was hoping that the sequels would be about, say, Friar and Gil. I may read the remaining books, because the price is low enough on Kindle, but were this one a paperback it wouldn't make it to my keeper shelf....more