Firstly, I must thank Lady Jayne for recommending this wonderful book, and Catherine for endorsing Jayne’s rec. For some reason, this excellent read i...moreFirstly, I must thank Lady Jayne for recommending this wonderful book, and Catherine for endorsing Jayne’s rec. For some reason, this excellent read is not one that I have seen come up in discussion very much, or if it has, I have missed it. Given the buzz that surrounds other books, I’m surprised this worthy title has not generated more chat and am grateful that it was brought to my attention.
The Duke of Shadows is not your average historical romance. It has elements that I adore in romance - heart-thumping action with the hero and heroine’s lives at stake, a couple that are perfect for each other and realize this early in the piece, a hero that is to die for and a worthy heroine, both of whom have seen more than their share of tragedy – all written in beautiful prose that is at times almost breathtaking.
The book is set in two parts – the first being 1857 India during the time of the sepoy uprising. Ahhh, what can I say but that this part was perfection. India made for a wonderful setting, expertly and at times gruesomely brought alive by a talented author.
The attraction between our couple during the initial period of peace is beautiful and, more importantly, believable. To then find themselves alone with each other and fighting for their lives makes their experience both more poignant and tragic. The author provides some exquisite moments of tenderness amidst the cruelest of brutality. Through it all, there can be no doubt that this couple were meant for each other.
The second part, although set in 1861 London during peaceful times, I found more difficult to read. Having seen how utterly right the love between these two could be, I had a hard time with seeing them apart. I love me some angst in my romance, no question, but at times I felt some of the magic was lost.
There were moments of brilliance in the writing, and I realise the trauma they suffered, but some of the actions and behaviour of the characters was still not convincing or understandable to me. I think we also would have benefited from seeing more from Julian’s POV. At times this left me feeling that this was just another good historical romance, instead of the outstanding read that it was initially.
Of course, the author would then craft a scene that again left me in awe of her writing talent, and I was reminded again that this really was something special.
I am wavering between 4.5 and 5 stars for this one. Either way, I highly recommend it.(less)
4.5 stars maybe. A bit too much 'womb' referencing to make it to 5 stars for me, although it did live up to most of the hype. Looking forward to Patie...more4.5 stars maybe. A bit too much 'womb' referencing to make it to 5 stars for me, although it did live up to most of the hype. Looking forward to Patience, although from the preview at the end of the book I think Valdez may have written Matthew too similarly to Mark. A good hot story with a sweet romance - not an easy combination to pull off (if you'll pardon the pun), and heart-wrenching to boot.(less)
Whitney, My Love is a well-known, old-school HR and is somewhat controversial, so I expected to at leas...moreWell, that was surprisingly..... underwhelming.
Whitney, My Love is a well-known, old-school HR and is somewhat controversial, so I expected to at least have some reaction to it - whether that be in the positive or the negative - but... ummm... no. Not so much. I find that I wasn't inspired enough to really care either way.
And those 'controversial' scenes? Nope. Still didn't care enough to form an opinion.
One thing I did have an opinion on was the overuse of the Big Misunderstanding as a plot device. I'm not a fan, but I can tolerate it happening once, maybe even twice if it's a really good book. But here? Too much.
*sigh* And to think I'd really looked forward to reading this one day.(less)
I shouldn't have loved this book as much as I did. The regency era is my least favourite historical romance period, and I'm not a fan of the big misun...moreI shouldn't have loved this book as much as I did. The regency era is my least favourite historical romance period, and I'm not a fan of the big misunderstanding being relied upon as a primary plot device (and this had a couple of them). I've read only one other 'beloved' McNaught (A Kingdom of Dreams), which I liked well enough, but didn't love.
But. Almost Heaven has found its way into my heart. It's one of those books that gives you (well, me) that indefinable feeling when reading it.
Elizabeth is a young debutante who would rather be admired for her intelligence than extraordinary beauty when she finds herself at the center of a scandal involving our mysterious, roguish and undeniably sexy hero Ian. Cue first big mis and Elizabeth's subsequent social exile.
When Ian and Elizabeth are reunited 2 years later due to a (small) misunderstanding they find their attraction has not waned, but the big mis is initially still in play.
I think one of the reasons I didn't mind the plot device here is that McNaught allows touching scenes between the characters and moments where the passion overrides the big mis, rather than a complete separation of hero and heroine.
Elizabeth and Ian are strong, stubborn and passionate characters, both of whom had issues from their past that resulted in understandable behaviour and a credible explanation for the misunderstanding between them. They have become one of my favourite couples.
And Almost Heaven has become one of my favourite romance reads.(less)
Expectations can be a double-edged sword. More often than not, my high expectations for those books that have garnered almost universal praise are lef...more Expectations can be a double-edged sword. More often than not, my high expectations for those books that have garnered almost universal praise are left unmet and I finish the book feeling vaguely disappointed – even if it’s a good read, it often doesn’t strike me as the brilliance I was expecting.
Along with the rave reviews, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie also had an additional burden. The hero has Aspergers syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder that I am very familiar with (my nephew has this condition).
There is nothing worse for me when reading a book to find that characters with certain attributes are not accurately and realistically portrayed. Room, winner of the GoodReads Choice Award for Fiction 2010 amongst others, failed for me because I did not find the narrator, a five year old, authentic.
And so it was that after delaying my reading of this highly acclaimed novel, I braced myself for disappointment and irritation. After all, pulling this off was a pretty big ask and it was going to take a special and talented author to create a swoon-worthy hero in his own right - not just a gimmick; and provide the reader with a passionate, equal and balanced relationship.
Bravo, Jennifer Ashley! You did it, and I loved it! This is one time I’m glad my expectations weren’t met.
Imagine suffering from this kind of condition back in 1881, before such things were understood, diagnosed and managed. Ian has extreme difficulty establishing or maintaining eye contact. He is literal in every sense, so cannot understand humour. He has a prodigious memory, and can remember and replay entire suites of music from one hearing, although he cannot read a note. He can recall a conversation word for word, even when not paying attention, but panics from the confusion of groups. He cannot read body language or expressions, and learnt polite rules and customs by necessity, although he does not understand them. He cannot lie.
It is no big surprise, then, to learn that he was placed in an asylum at an early age for madness. There, he was condemned to torturous sessions of ice baths followed by electric shock therapy, tied down, beaten and otherwise abused, for the purposes of treating his ‘madness’, which, unsurprisingly, often manifested in rage. I did not pity Ian at all for his Aspergers, but my heart broke for what he suffered as a result.
When Ian meets widowed Beth at the opera, she is betrothed to a man of his acquaintance. Having learned all he could about her, he determines to protect her from the philanderer seeking to profit from her inheritance, and have her for himself. Having no understanding of the subtleties of courtship and decorum, Ian immediately and quite bluntly makes his intentions known.
There is something very attractive, particularly in those times, to have a man demonstrate so openly and honestly his desire without adherence to the conventions and customs of polite society. Having known the pleasures of the marriage bed, and having been without this in her life in the years since the loss of her beloved husband, I can completely understand Beth’s initial attraction to Ian.
It was a little harder to comprehend Ian’s immediate fixation on Beth. What was clear was that he found her eyes compelling, and that there was a kinship in that they were both outsiders – people who would never quite fit with society. Ian for obvious reasons, and Beth for her origins ‘in the gutter’.
This is a tale of lust to love, and while I can understand how some readers would have difficulty ‘buying’ the love story aspect given the limitations and difficulty in their verbal communication, I didn’t have that experience. From my perspective, I was more drawn to how they made each other feel (not just physically, although they were very hot together), and the transformation and improvement they brought into each other’s lives. They were each happier and more content and fulfilled with each other than they were apart, and felt that indefinable and irresistible connection and pull toward each other. That spoke of love clearly enough to me.
I loved Jennifer Ashley’s writing, and the secondary characters were also very well developed and compelling in their own right. This is one that will definitely take pride of place on my keepers shelf, and I can’t wait to read the others in the series. (less)
I would appear to be in the minority here, but I found The Serpent Prince to be a very disappointing conclusion to Elizabeth Hoyt's Princes Trilogy (a...moreI would appear to be in the minority here, but I found The Serpent Prince to be a very disappointing conclusion to Elizabeth Hoyt's Princes Trilogy (although I note that there is a fourth entry in this 'trilogy' - The Ice Princess novella).
For a series that started out with a bang and continued at full steam, it sure concluded with a fizzle.
I am hard pressed to articulate just what it was that didn't work for me in The Serpent Prince. This book just didn't engage me - I didn't feel invested or connected. It seems to be an example where the whole is less that the sum of its parts.
I liked the characters for the most part. Yes, Simon was a dandy, but he was also portrayed with sufficient masculinity, and I enjoyed his self-deprecating wit - although this was all but lost in the second half. Lucy was a strong and sensible woman who seemed a good match for Simon - although again, her personality seemed diminished as the novel progressed.
Their initial interaction was enjoyable, but I didn't 'buy' their relationship. There was no development, no show of growth, no demonstration of depth. It just all of a sudden was.
The writing, too, was good. Nothing stood out to complain about here, just again, that lack of connection for me. I do feel, however, that there were two quite different halves - different feel, different focus - that didn't transition well.
Maybe my expectations were too high - I had seen many reviewers note that The Serpent Prince was a favorite, and it was rated highly by many of my GR friends - but as I reflect on the novel for this review (such as it is), I'm thinking that 3 stars is pretty generous.(less)
'Delightful' is not a word I tend to use much, if at all, in my everyday life. However, were I to use just one word to sum up It Happened One Autumn,...more'Delightful' is not a word I tend to use much, if at all, in my everyday life. However, were I to use just one word to sum up It Happened One Autumn, delightful comes immediately to mind.
The books I give 5 star ratings to are those that engage and elicit my emotions, provoking strong feelings. I generally prefer 'meaty' books with some requisite angst and torment, that are not necessarily always 'pleasant' to read. This does not describe It Happened One Autumn.
But I cannot deny that this book strongly engaged my emotions. It just so happens that prevailing feeling was, yep, delight. I found myself grinning like a fool non-stop while reading this. This never happens. If that alone isn't worth 5 stars then I don't know what is.
I'm surprised my how much I have enjoyed the first 2 books in the Wallflowers series (also my first Kleypas experience). Unlike many readers, I have never found Regencies to hold a strong attraction. The whole trying to marry a peer, not allowing yourself to be compromised, society, manners, men are the best chuck out the rest, blah, blah, blah and etcetera, just doesn't appeal.
Gee am I glad these books have put a great big dent in that opinion. Marcus and Lillian are now right up as one of my favourite couples of all time. I adored them both and they couldn't be more perfect for each other.
Thanks so much to my GR friends for your glowing reviews of this series, without you I wouldn't have had this delightful experience.
One thing does puzzle me, however. Sabastian, Lord St. Vincent seems to be universally adored. After what he pulled in this one, Kleypas is going to need to pull a rabbit out of her hat to make me join those ranks. Her writing is good enough that she may do just that.(less)
I am on a winning streak with series that just keep getting better. Having just read the latest in the I-Team series by Pamela Clare (Naked Edge) whic...moreI am on a winning streak with series that just keep getting better. Having just read the latest in the I-Team series by Pamela Clare (Naked Edge) which IMHO was the best in the series so far, I moved straight on to this gem in the Wallflowers series.
I absolutely adored It Happened One Autumn and didn't think Kleypas would be able to top that one, but she just might have managed it. It's hard to say whether I like this one better, because the two are very different. Where It Happened One Autumn had me grinning like a fool, Devil in Winter was a much darker read. The heroes, too, are polar opposites and yet I would be hard pressed to pick my favorite (I would be happy to keep them both but neither would be inclined to share...)
I could kick myself for having waited so long before giving Kleypas a try. She has not disappointed this reader and has given me the pleasure of these very different but immensely enjoyable reads. I guess the good news is that I have so many stories of hers still to discover.(less)
How lovely to spend some more time with my favourite wallflowers. I didn’t realise how much I had missed them.
In the absence of a designated holiday r...moreHow lovely to spend some more time with my favourite wallflowers. I didn’t realise how much I had missed them.
In the absence of a designated holiday read, Scandal in Spring was a lovely feel-good book to read at Christmas time, and was just perfect for my 100th read of the year (yay me!).
I have heard tell that Scandal in Spring was the weakest book in the series, and I’m happy to say that I didn’t find that at all. While it couldn’t quite match the fun of It Happened One Autumn (and also because Westcliff has no equal) or the excitement of Devil in Winter, I think I actually preferred this one over Secrets of a Summer Night.
I love the Bowman sisters, and though when I finished Devil in Winter I couldn’t see how Daisy could possibly find someone better than Cam, Matthew was absolutely perfect in his own way. I don’t think Lisa Kleypas is capable of writing a bad hero, and of course it was no hardship spending more time with Westcliff in this book.
Scandal in Spring delivered some of the most wonderfully touching, memorable and at times laugh-out-loud funny scenes of the series. Thankfully, the pleasure of this series isn’t over yet, and I still have A Wallflower Christmas to look forward to….then onward with the The Hathaways!
4.5 stars. This series is best read in order to fully appreciate the characters, who appear in each book. (less)
The only thing I knew about Lord of Scoundrels when I cracked the cover is that it's a favourite for many romance readers. It has taken the top spot o...moreThe only thing I knew about Lord of Scoundrels when I cracked the cover is that it's a favourite for many romance readers. It has taken the top spot on the AAR reader-voted top 100 poll since 2000, so I expected it to be good - and it was.
What I didn't expect, was that it would be funny - and it was, delightfully so. The humor was simple, smooth, effortless - and genuinely funny. I never got the sense that the author was trying hard to get a laugh, and so it worked beautifully.
Lord of Scoundrels is listed as number three in the Scoundrels series, but it works as a standalone. I was reliably informed by my GoodReads friends that it has a minimal connection to the other books in the series.
Dain and Jessica are perfectly matched. Dain is used to being the big bad wolf, and plays to the role with relish. But Jess is no little red riding hood, and she is not the least bit scared of Dain's bite.
She rises to all of Dain's challenges, then creates her own with calculated precision. The verbal parrying between the two is a pleasure to read and the plotting and manoeuvering between them was masterfully choreographed by the author and characters.
Jess is one of the best heroines I have had the pleasure of reading. I really liked her style. The author achieved a very delicate balance, ensuring her personality was never over-played or cliched. She helped Dain's emotional growth and their relationship was a joy to read.
I did have very high expectations, and Lord of Scoundrels didn't exactly disappoint. I can see myself wanting to experience the pleasure of reading this again in the future, and can't help but wonder, if I had read without such lofty expectations, whether it might just have achieved 5 star status.
As it is, it rates probably closer to 4.5 stars for me.(less)