We all read book after book after book. Some make us laugh out loud, others have us shedding more than our fair share of tears while still others have...moreWe all read book after book after book. Some make us laugh out loud, others have us shedding more than our fair share of tears while still others have us gripping the book with white-knuckled intensity as the suspense builds page by page. But how often do you come across a book that engages all of these emotions and manages to seize your heart as well? Such was the case for me with Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley.
On the night of her coming-out ball, Isabella met and fell in love with Mac Mackenzie, a peer with few morals and no social acceptance. On a dare from his fellow debauched buddies, Mac crashed the ball and whirled Isabella onto the dance floor. But as fate would have it, it was Mac who was swept off his feet...he and Isabella were married by morning. Despite being disowned by her family, Isabella never regretted her hasty decision because her feelings of love for her husband only strengthened with time. Surprisingly (for a romance novel), Mac's feelings were mutual. But Mac was an established artist; and, in the generalization of the term, was a free spirit who would drop out of sight for weeks at a time to assuage his need to "create". Isabella understood and accepted Mac's "flights of fancy" until his drinking and debauchery spun terribly out of control. After 3 years of marriage, Isabella filed for a legal separation; and, for the next 3 years, the two maintained separate houses and lives.
One day, Isabella discovers that someone is forging Mac's paintings and she sets off for his house to warn him of the impostor. This is where the story begins...
Our first encounter with Mac finds him in his studio, shirtless - wearing only a kilt, boots and bandana around his head - and totally engrossed in the act of painting a nude model. If you haven't read the first book in this series, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, then you would probably be like me and have absolutely no idea what this guy is all about. Not exactly standard fare for a historical romance hero. But the story unfolds rather quickly - the past interwoven with the present so you aren't subjected to long flashbacks - and is relayed primarily from Mac's POV, so you come to know him soon and love him completely.
Quite simply, Mac and Isabella's story could be summed up by the old adage "you can't live with him and you can't live without him." However, Mac was determined to prove to Isabella that she could live with him...thus providing the premise for this story. It was such an unusual story line that no doubt it will never be copied...a hero and heroine who are madly in love AND married from the beginning of the book to the end WITHOUT a single sexual dalliance committed outside of their marriage - even during the 3 years of estrangement! Who would think such a tedious plot could make for such an emotional, "tug at your heart-strings" story? Fortunately for us, Jennifer Ashley did...and she pulled it off masterfully!
If you are reading this review, then chances are good you enjoy reading romance novels and most likely are somewhat of a romantic at heart. With that said, you will be denying yourself the greatest of pleasures and missing out on a beautiful love story between two extraordinary characters if you choose to forgo reading Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage. If I could rate it 10 stars I would.(less)
I love erotic historical romance but the pickings have been getting pretty slim. Jess Michaels was good but she no longer writes this sub-genre. Sarah...moreI love erotic historical romance but the pickings have been getting pretty slim. Jess Michaels was good but she no longer writes this sub-genre. Sarah McCarty is hit or miss (basically "icked" my way through the Hell's Eight series so far) and finding the oddball stand-alone (i.e. Passion) is a rarity. Then recently I discovered Julia Templeton and all is, once again, right with my literary world. She doesn't weigh her stories down with endless pages of description; instead, she focuses on great character development and involves said characters in some seriously steamy sexual situations.
"The Conquest" is set in the Scottish Highlands during the 11th century. Sir Adelstan Cawtor has been sent to Castle MacKay to retreive Lady Rhiannon MacKay and escort her across the country to Lord Malgor, the Norman knight her father betrothed her to. Malgor, too lazy to make the trip himself and preferring to stay with his leman, fakes an injury so that Adelstan must go in his place. But the deception backfires...Adelstan & Rhiannon meet and it's love at first sight.
Although she is still an innocent, Rhiannon is fascinated with the idea of sex and cannot wait to do the wild thing with Adelstan. He is every female's dream...hot looks, a hard body and a sizable package. (In fact, he is described as looking just like the guy on the cover . Trying to do the honorable thing, Adelstan refuses the bold advances of Lady Rhiannon. But she soon wears him down and Adelstan finally takes her virginity. After that, the two are inseparable...making love anywhere and everywhere without anyone being the wiser. The secondary characters (Elspeth, Rhiannon's maid and Jorden, Adelsan's best friend) also hook up sexually but with a little kink thrown in. H/h are exclusive with each other. Although it was love at first sight for the H/h, they really didn't know each other well so jealousy (on both sides) played a big part in the tale. I love jealousy, especially when the hero is consumed by it. Unfortunately, the time comes and Adelstan must escort Rhiannon to her betrothed. Will Adelstan declare his love for Rhiannon and risk treason or will he ignore his heart and allow the marriage to continue as planned?
I thought this was an engaging story...steamy as hell but the plot stayed on course. This was the 3rd book I've read by JT and I'm enjoying her style...especially those set in medieval times because she doesn't make use of faeries, magic or time travel to give the story "oomph"...she uses sex. It works for me!
This book can be read as a stand-alone but I would suggest reading "The Bargain" first...the story of Adelstan's twin sister Aleysia. It is just as good and just as steamy and leads you right into "The Conquest". The author has quite a few books making up her back list and I either have them on my tbr or on my wish-list at PBS. I'm looking forward to JT's continued writing...keeping my favorite sub-genre alive!(less)
When we were little girls, we all knew the story of Cinderella...the rags to riches to rags plight of an impoverished beauty who is granted one unforg...moreWhen we were little girls, we all knew the story of Cinderella...the rags to riches to rags plight of an impoverished beauty who is granted one unforgettable night at a glorious ball with a handsome prince. That might have been a long time ago but none of us has forgotten the love story of Cinderella and her Prince Charming...and the most romantic "happily ever after" in fairy-tale land. A Kiss at Midnight is Eloisa James' gift to those little girls - all grown up now but still believing in the magic of true love, handsome heroes and the perfect, fairy-tale ending.
This story doesn't have any paranormal tweaks...no rats becoming footmen or pumpkins transformed into carriages. It does, however, have a most charming prince who studies archeology and a palace full of odd animals and even stranger people who the prince has taken under his wing. Alas! What an enormous expense it is to keep them all and so Prince Gabriel is resigned to accepting his arranged betrothal to a wealthy Russian princess.
Kate Daltry has been living the life of a cast-aside relation for many years. Once her father died, Kate's stepmother completely took over their London estate and set about making Kate's stepsister the belle of the ton. The stepsister, Victoria, manages to snag a peer but due to unfortunate circumstances, cannot accompany said peer to visit his uncle, the prince, to receive a royal blessing on the union. Kate is forced to go in Victoria's place.
From their first encounter, sparks fly between Kate and Gabriel - and a battle of wits ensues. They are, however, most intrigued by each other; and, managing to spend a great deal of quality time together, are helpless to falling in love. Soon the battle of wits that brought them together transforms, over the course of the story, into a conscientious battle between right and wrong...between letting love rule and loving enough to let go. Add to this dilemma a princess who is not only beautiful but has a sweet countenance as well...also enamored with the prince and by all means has the rights to him...and you've got a twist on the story that no longer resembles the fairy tale. There are many laugh-out-loud moments and a few poignant, tearful scenes made that much worse because there really are no wicked stepmothers to blame for what can never be between Kate and Gabriel. Evil thy name is fate...indestructible and eternal.
Do not lose sight of your girlhood fantasy, however, as James works a little magic of her own to make things right. And don't be caught up with any historical inadequacies you find (as James points out at the end of the book). Simply take it as it's been presented to you...a grownup version of Cinderella written precisely for the incurable romantic that you undoubtedly are. Perhaps, when you are finished reading the book, you will close your eyes and dream...of beautiful ball gowns, sinfully handsome princes, and the glass slipper you left behind.
I have never heard of Katharine Ashe and picked up this novel simply because it was endorsed by Lisa Kleypas as "a breathtaking romance". She wasn't e...moreI have never heard of Katharine Ashe and picked up this novel simply because it was endorsed by Lisa Kleypas as "a breathtaking romance". She wasn't exaggerating.
Taking place in Regency England, the book begins with the heroine, Valerie Monroe, returning to London after a 2-year stay with relatives in Boston. The ship she sails on is overtaken by pirates and the nasty, creepy leader gets his jollies by tying Valerie up in an intricate knot system and forcing a Jesuit priest to untie her. His reasons are two-fold: the priest will be unmanned by breaking his sacred vows and will also rid the girl of her virginity...a tedious task the pirate has no patience for. However, the priest stays in control and Valerie remains a virgin. Unhappy with the results, the pirate keeps the two sequestered together as the voyage continues...positive that the priest is like all other men and will not be able to resist the temptation of an extraordinarily beautiful woman. The pirate's scheme is thwarted; but what he doesn't realize is the spark that has ignited between his two captors...and how close they did come to closing the deal.
Fast forward 6 months to a country house party Valerie is attending with her brother and his wife. She is being courted by a handsome, titled suitor, but her heart is back on the ship with a man she knows is totally off-limits to her, but, nevertheless, the one she has fallen in love with. On day one of the house party, Valerie is introduced to the hostess' godson and is shocked as she comes face-to-face with the tall, elegantly dressed gentleman. Her priest!
The chemistry between Valerie and Viscount Steven Ashford is what fuels this story. Every time they secretly meet, the passion between the two is so hot and so overwhelming it had me breaking out in a sweat...or crossing my legs...or both!
There is suspense throughout the story and a house party is a favorite premise of mine, but everything else pales to the sparks that fly when Steven and Valerie come together. It might seem like a turn-off to know that the two don't actually complete the act until page 300, but take it from someone who likes sex on page 1, you are NOT left frustrated! Ms. Ashe seems to have a talent for building sexual tension to the point you are about to lose it if he doesn't get inside her soon!
There are a few weak areas in the story...the characters' backgrounds are underdeveloped and the suspenseful aspect has a few holes but overall I still thought the book rated 5 stars. Kudos to Katharine Ashe on a great debut novel...I'm looking forward to her next book coming out in 2011! (less)
**spoiler alert** "Guilty(!) until proven innocent"
Viscount Lucien Bryland is getting married to Lady Clara Harkhams. The news isn't earth-shattering...more**spoiler alert** "Guilty(!) until proven innocent"
Viscount Lucien Bryland is getting married to Lady Clara Harkhams. The news isn't earth-shattering as everyone knows the two have been betrothed since birth. What they don't know, however, is that Lucien has been in love with Clara for as long as he can remember. He promised her his heart when they were teenagers, but when he returns from abroad many years later, he finds her in the arms of another man. What an idiot Lucien thought himself to be! After the scandalous deaths of his parents by murder/suicide, Lucien managed to hang onto his sanity in the years that followed because he believed Clara loved him. Bloody hell! She was no better than his mother! The mousy little thing. A peahen! That's what she was! And so the nickname was attached to Lady Clara as a private joke between Lucien, his friends, his mistress...and a good portion of the ton.
The story begins...
I LOVED this book! I adored it...the hero, the heroine, the secondary characters, the plot, the premise...everything! Although I'm not a fan of plain-Jane heroines, I got over it after meeting Clara. Of course she has the cliched "inner beauty" qualities, but unlike other plain heroines, Clara has a sh**load of self-confidence. In fact, she has the art of flirting so finely tuned, every man who makes her acquaintance is mesmerized by her. Unfortunately, so is Lucien. He refuses to be cuckolded like his father, however, so he has a plan...
"In for a penny, in for a pound - 10 thousand to be exact"
Lucien wants Clara but he wants revenge as well. So he'll marry her, get her pregnant and within 6 months he'll have her stashed away at his country home. Life as he knows it...the clubs, the gaming hells and the mistress...will continue. His plan is demeaning to himself, degrading to Clara, and quite selfish (pays the ultimate homage to "having his cake and eating it too"). Nevertheless, Lucien thinks it is a brilliant idea...so much so that he wagers several thousand pounds on it's success.
And into the betting books it goes...
"The best-laid plans of men for their peahens often go awry"
As all good romance novels go, the hero, despite himself, falls deeply in love with the heroine...and she with him. Because of Clara, Lucien's frequent dark moods, fits of rage and jealousy, and mistrust of all things female eventually give way to love, happiness and contentment. But wait! We've still got 100 pages left!
"Hell hath no fury like a mistress scorned"
This is what puts Dark Wager on the keeper's shelf...
So many historical romances feature a hero who has a mistress, but after meeting the heroine he gives the mistress the boot. The ex-lover is then relegated to the background and she may or may not be heard from again as the story progresses. Whatever. It's never a big deal..not the heart-stopping, nail-biting scene that I yearn for but never get. Until this book...and Lady Pamela Halling.
For the most part, Lucien played the cookie-cutter hero here. He intended to get married and continue keeping his mistress of three years; however, once he started sleeping with Clara, he had no desire to continue his relationship with Pamela and told her so. Ah! But the stunningly beautiful queen of all bitches didn't want to give Lucien up. She was in love with him (whatevah!) and wanted to take their relationship to the next level. How could he possibly choose that skinny little peahen over her? Lucien warned Pamela to leave Clara and him alone...or else! Ha! Did he think that was going to stop her?
Out comes her big bag of tricks...
"The pen dipped in poison is mightier than the sword"
An accomplished artist, Pamela, under the guise Le Chat does caricature drawings that are published in an indie newspaper popular with the ton. Her drawings are well-defined and unmistakable as to intent...usually "ruining" the reputation of the unsuspecting person she has chosen to exploit. Hell-bent on destroying Lucien and Clara's marriage, the drawing she publishes for the ton and a special drawing she gives to Clara in private make for heart-wrenching scenes that you won't soon forget. I doubt there is another ex-mistress in Romancelandia more vicious than Pamela Halling.
"Nothing is certain but a HEA and sequel
Aside from being publicly humiliated, privately mortified, and having her self-confidence shot to hell, Clara seemed none the worse for wear in the end. Lucien groveled well, Clara forgave him for his wrongdoings and they lived happily ever after - or at least long enough to play secondary characters in the next book, Lady Wager.
Somehow I can't picture this...the bad guy has a gun shoved into the heroine's side and says something really creative like "Don't try anything funny...moreSomehow I can't picture this...the bad guy has a gun shoved into the heroine's side and says something really creative like "Don't try anything funny or I'll shoot. Let's go." The heroine grabs her purse and off they go. WTF? The bad guy knows the heroine is an fbi agent and he is part of an intricate plot to steal a famous masterpiece. Do you really think he would be so lame as to not notice she grabbed her purse...where she obviously had a gun? (less)
Lady Elyssa has a secret admirer and she wants to meet him. Her brother Harrison, the Marquess of Fellingsdown,...moreAn excellent HR by a new author for me!
Lady Elyssa has a secret admirer and she wants to meet him. Her brother Harrison, the Marquess of Fellingsdown, is horrified when he learns that the so-called admirer is nothing more than a fictitious gentleman their twin sisters have created in the hopes that their older sister will feel better about herself. You see, although she is breathtakingly beautiful and has a charming personality, Elyssa has never had a suitor. A freak accident at the age of nine left her with a mangled foot that could not be corrected, and she can not walk without the use of a cane. Her coming-out Season had been a mortifying experience, and she has been residing at the familial country estate ever since. Harrison, ever the protector of his sister, immediately organizes a house party to which he entices Brent Montgomery, the Earl of Charfield and most eligible bachelor in London, to attend. If Brent will "pay attention" to Elly for the 2-week duration of the party and cause her to forget about the secret admirer, Harrison will let Brent sire a colt on his prize-winning Arabian horse.
Historical romances with house party themes are always fun and this one is no exception. Of course the "deal" goes awry from the get-go because Brent is immediately attracted to Elly, and vice versa. As they become better acquainted, Brent teaches Elly to look past her disability and strive to do all those things she once thought to be impossible. There were several touching scenes...Brent teaching Elly to waltz and how to play croquet...he was really the hero extraordinaire. In fact, their relationship reminded me of that between Kit & Lauren in Mary Balogh's A Summer to Remember. Add to this, a thoroughly enjoyable secondary romance between Harrison and the woman he loved and lost 4 years prior, a peer at the party who wants Harrison dead, a kidnapping and ensuing chase, and of course what transpires when the bet is discovered, and you've got one damn good book! The sexual content is mild and limited, but the sexual tension carries the story right on through.
I'm currently reading another book by Laura Landon that is showing promise of being just as good as Shattered Dreams, and Ms. Landon is showing great promise of becoming an auto-buy for me. Seriously, if you are in the mood for a fast-paced, well-balanced HR with an awww-worthy love story (or two) and a sweet HEA, this would be the book to pick up (for only .99c on Kindle)!
(No, Dina, I will never grow tired of him.:)(less)
I finished this book 3 days ago and I'm just now coming out of the stupor that I've been wandering around in since. One Day isn't a book with many gra...moreI finished this book 3 days ago and I'm just now coming out of the stupor that I've been wandering around in since. One Day isn't a book with many gray areas...readers will absolutely love the story or they will hate it. I happen to be one of the former...so much so that I have spent all of my free time in the last 3 days hunting down pictures, articles, interviews, etc, related to the book and the movie adapted from it (opens nationwide August 19th). Since the author of One Day, David Nicholls, also wrote the script for the movie, I have no doubt that this is going to be that rare exception where the movie will be as good or better than the book. The actors they have cast to play the lead protagonists are a perfect fit. In fact, Anne Hathaway loved the book so much, she flew to London to convince the director why she was perfect to play the part of Emma.
The story centers on the lives of two people, Emma Morley & Dexter Mayhew, who meet the night of their college graduation on July 15, 1988. The one-night-stand they attempt to engage in doesn't pan out; instead, they opt for being friends. Little do they know, this "off-the-cuff" friendship they've settled for will cultivate and grow - encompassing Dex, Em and all of the book's readers. Thus, July 15, 1988 marks the day that changes their lives forever. For each year thereafter, the story stops on that same day to check in with Dex and Em.
One Day is a character study like no other. I don't think I've ever read a book where I have known the H/h as intimately as I do Dex and Em. Their hopes and fears, successes and failures - as well as the steadfast bond between them - is all absorbed by the reader. Whether you enjoyed the book or not, I'd wager very few could deny the amazing chemistry between Dex & Em, as well as how thoroughly exposed & vulnerable their feelings become as the years go by. You will laugh a little at them and cry a lot with them. In fact, there comes a point in the story where the laughter will cease but not the tears...definitely not the tears. Even for those of us that normally don't cry at the drop of a pin...you might surprise yourself here. Forewarned is forearmed...have the box of tissue handy!
I am not going to elaborate on the storyline because it isn't one to tell; rather, it is a story readers should experience for themselves. Although it is a fictionalized account, there are situations in One Day that might hit home as being very personal to you. Friendship and love... does one lead to the other or should heading in that direction be avoided? Can they exist synonymously...running deep and true and eternal? Is there one specific day that changed your life forever?
The only genre I read is romance and IMO One Day is a 10-star contribution. However, if you require your romance to be all wrapped up in shiny paper with a big bow on top (like I usually do), I would recommend that you do not read this book. But for those of you who are willing to step outside of the box, you will get an extraordinary, emotionally-gripping, "laughter despite the tears" powerhouse of a novel in return. The cover of the book says it all!