3.5/5 Although I loved MacLean's YA debut, The Season, I found her debut romance Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake extremely unsatisfying. Howe...more3.5/5 Although I loved MacLean's YA debut, The Season, I found her debut romance Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake extremely unsatisfying. However I know MacLean is a good writer so I wanted to give her new series a shot. Apparently the heroine of this book was jilted in the previous series but you do not have to be familiar with those books to read this one.
And this one started very promisingly. Male lead Michael Bourne lost his entire fortune and land, everything that wasn't entailed, on a bad hand of cards to his mentor and protector, the father of his best friend. After losing everything, he is ostracized from society and driven solely by his need for revenge. He manages to rebuild and even outpace his fortune in only nine years by owning a gaming club and the final piece of the puzzle is Falconwell, which has been attached to Lady Penelope Marbury's dowry.
Penelope is a 28-year-old spinster who was jilted years earlier as her fiance sought a love match and now secretly hopes for the same herself; she wants more. I liked Penelope immediately, which made it all the harder to endure the male lead's, who is supposed to be a HERO, treatment of her. He is absolutely horrid to her. He abducts her with the cold intention of regaining his land; he could have played it much better due to their childhood friendship. He did not have to be a monster; he easily could have wooed and won her. But he chose the easy route, not the right route. And he doesn't stop there. He emotionally distances her while boring me with how much he wanted her body. There are glimpses of a decent person but only that. I cannot believe I kept reading, just to find his redemption.
Luckily that redemption was handled well and is responsible for the high rating here. I never got over my first impression of Michael especially because I loved Penelope so much and wanted more for her. She wanted and deserved to be passionately loved but Michael just kept breaking her heart into little pieces and proving his unworthiness. I prefer a different kind of man in my romance novel.
I guess I'm kind of getting the impression that MacLean and I just don't click. I have disliked the heroes in both of the books I've read by her and not just in minor ways but in big ways that hindered my enjoyment. I'm glad I gave it another shot but I have been burned too much.(less)
The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig Dutton, 2011 403 pages Historical Espionage Romance 4.5/5 stars
I've been reading the Willig books from t...moreThe Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig Dutton, 2011 403 pages Historical Espionage Romance 4.5/5 stars
I've been reading the Willig books from the beginning, meaning pre-blog, so of course I wanted to read this one. It seems so weird to me that the books started in 2004 and because the modern section moves so slowly it is still 2004. I'm not sure how much has changed since that time but I know a lot has. What hasn't changed is Willig's ability to craft a satisfying historical espionage with delightful writing and characters. In fact, I would say she has improved as this was one of my favorite outings so far.
This time we have Laura Grey or Griscogne as she will be known when she becomes governess to an important official in Napoleon's government in 1804. Over her sixteen years of governess service, she has become as bland and plain as her name suggests, able to hide in plain sight. But this is her opportunity for something different, to serve with the forces arrayed against Napoleon in a spy mission in collaboration with the Pink Carnation and forces.
Her employer is Andre Jaouen, who has his own secrets and two children in need of education and attention. Although outwardly secure with a powerful patron, Andre is in a precarious position with the sinister Gaston Delaroche dogging his steps. Soon he and Laura will have to use all of their wits to escape certain torture and death and protect the ones they love. Their romance was one of my favorites within this series and I felt it was really built on solid foundation that bodes well for their future. The spy part wasn't quite as thrilling because I had no doubts that they would extricate themselves from their troubles. Don't get me wrong, it was fun to read but not as suspenseful as some others.
Meanwhile back in 2004, Colin and Eloise are going strong but Colin faces challenges from his family and his douchey cousin/stepfather Jeremy. They are also in Paris and I wish there could have been a bit more of them because I really want to see how they deal with the new challenge but I guess I will have to wait for the next book.
Cover: I really like this cover although perhaps the dress should have been more grey? (less)
Elizabeth Boyle books are pretty much must-reads for me so the title, cover, and plot didn't really matter to me. I saw her name and that was sufficie...moreElizabeth Boyle books are pretty much must-reads for me so the title, cover, and plot didn't really matter to me. I saw her name and that was sufficient. However if it did matter, I think the duke part would be very enticing. I once read that romance books with duke in the title sold better and I believe that; I know I like books when the man is of high rank, not that a mere mister can't be a good hero, of course...
Anyway on to the book itself: I suffered some confusion in the beginning just with the pacing and tone. On the one hand, there is Miss Tabitha Timmons, a confirmed spinster living with her cold uncle and aunt who assumed responsibility for her when her father died in exchange for a better position as vicar. They took the opportunity to improve their social standing while also gaining a free maid of all work. Yet Tabitha's spirits are bright especially because she has her two best friends Daphne and Harry. They are all spinsters and happily so in the small town of Kempton that is filled with many legends about the famous spinsterdom. Many names are thrown around but not all are important.
Then we meet her love interest, the Duke of Preston, although Tabitha does not realize this for a while. Because she does not know of his exalted status, she is fine lashing him with her tongue, immediately intriguing him. He is an awful rake, having ruined several ladies this season while also betting exorbitantly. My confusion stemmed from the relationships in his life. He has an aunt and uncle (twins) who are only about six months older than him as well as a friend Roxley. I was confusing the friend and the uncle, who I believe will be receiving their own stories with Tabitha's friends to complete the series (hopefully Preston's aunt will also receive a mate as she is widowed in this book).
The basic plot is that Tabitha must wed the eminently respectable Mr. Barkworth in order to inherit a sizable fortune. Problem is that she's in love with Preston and well he realizes he's in love with her. Tabitha's greedy relations will go far to keep Tabitha's inheritance in their hands but they are no match for true love.
Once I had sorted out the relationships in this book, I was enchanted. My ARC has a blurb from Julia Quinn that is just so true, "Wit, passion, and adventure, Elizabeth Boyle has it all." I loved the humor so much-I feel so in sync with Boyle because she always brings it for me. In particular, I enjoyed Preston's mocking of Mr. Barkworth. However the main reason I fell for both of the main characters though wasn't because they said some great lines; it was the way both suffered from losing their family and wanting to build one together. Serious tragedy in their pasts helps them appreciate the importance of family and gave them a very real connection. I appreciate the balance of serious with humor.
Overall: Perfect for fans of Julia Quinn and lighter romance-this is a humorous sweet story with two people eager for a deep connection and who have to battle base knavery to achieve their happily ever after.(less)
This is my favorite of the Wallflowers quartet. I love Lillian and Marcus's story-their passion for life and each other. The twist with St. Vincent ma...moreThis is my favorite of the Wallflowers quartet. I love Lillian and Marcus's story-their passion for life and each other. The twist with St. Vincent made me like him much less which is unfortunate since his book came next.(less)
Once Upon a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle Harlequin, 2011 378 pages Romance; Historical Second in Trilogy 4/5 stars
While this is the second...moreOnce Upon a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle Harlequin, 2011 378 pages Romance; Historical Second in Trilogy 4/5 stars
While this is the second in a trilogy, I believe it can be read standalone as I did without missing anything.
At first I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this book because it features a trope I don't like: boy meets girl, boy and girl are separated for years with him giving her no reason why-just that it has to be, boy comes back to discover girl is not receptive to his advances (because he was such a jerk!) but I didn't mind it this time. First I was very invested in their relationship to start and second because Thatcher was very much in love with Victoria all of those years and it was well conveyed to the reader. Victoria's heartbreak was real but she was also using those feelings as a defense mechanism after losing her mother, her brother, and, slowly but surely, her father so I easily rooted for their feelings to accord once again.
That's not to say that I thought the journey would be easy. Victoria is essentially forced to marry Thatcher in order to retain her nearly 100,000 pound inheritance and she does not want to give him another opportunity to break her heart. Thatcher is battered after his five years of service to brutal Venetians as a cicisbeo, a man who serves a married woman as champion, protector, lady's maid usually in a non-sexual way, and his poverty that led to that situation. The practice sounds so bizarre to me but Marvelle mentions its ubiquity. He is a complete romantic while she is more practical and I loved that combination.
In order to win her over (and I think he does manipulate her in order to do this), she must accompany him to Venice where she can meet his stepsister and her family and fall in love with the city as he has. They will also have to confront the past especially his male pride when his former employer appears; I did not like those scenes. But of course everything works out so they can live happily ever after.
Note: There were several references to Napoleon that made it sound like he was still terrifying Europe, despite being set in the year 1829 when Napoleon was already dead. I suppose they could have been referring to when he was Emperor but the way the references were used made it sound more like he was still in power. Has anyone else read this who can clarify my understanding?
A quote from their pre-separation times: "How could she not adore this man when all he continued to do was try to get her to adore him?" (page 52 of Netgalley egalley edition, October 29, 2010.)
Cover: I like the creamy colors but his head looks really ugly and that angle in general looks quite uncomfortable. (less)
Sometimes you just want a quick jaunt with a sweet romance, you know? And that's what you get in this story. Unusually, as I am a Regency romance read...moreSometimes you just want a quick jaunt with a sweet romance, you know? And that's what you get in this story. Unusually, as I am a Regency romance reader first and foremost, this story is set in 1866 New York with a country still hurting from the scars of the Civil War. Susanna is a servant in her aunt's boarding house near Vassar College, where she waits on various spoiled rich girls. One day Charlotte tosses aside an unromantic letter from a potential suitor and Susanna writes a curt response on her behalf.
Meanwhile Theodore Blakely chafes at his father's pressure to court Charlotte for the family gain. Her feisty response floors him and also draws him in. He thought she would be prim and boring but instead she's passionate and challenges him. As the letters continue, Susanna is wracked with guilt but interested in forming a relationship based only on the truth with Teddy. This culminates with a waltz at midnight at a masquerade.
As you can see, this is a very short story. But as a long-time lover of epistolary novels, the fact that much of the story is told through the couple's correspondence worked well for me. Both have deep scars from the war: Teddy fought while Susanna lost many in her family. And both share an interest in travel, wanting to see more of the world. Though short, the letters capture their similarities and showcase how they challenge each other. I especially enjoyed seeing how she confronted him and challenged him to be better because he had the ability to do so.
Overall: A nice fast read with two likable main characters-maybe could have been a bit longer but I'm glad it wasn't needlessly padded out to novel length.(less)
How I Met My Countess by Elizabeth Boyle Avon, 2010 345 pages Romance; Historical; Series 4/5 stars
Source: Picked up cheap in a thrift store.
I've never re...moreHow I Met My Countess by Elizabeth Boyle Avon, 2010 345 pages Romance; Historical; Series 4/5 stars
Source: Picked up cheap in a thrift store.
I've never read a romance that had so many chapters set in the past but it's necessary in order to fully tell the love story of Lucy and Clifton (His name appears to actually be Justin Grey but he's never called that.) Seven years earlier, he and his brother Malcolm arrived at her father's home to be inducted in to the world of spies. Along the way, they fall in love. But Lucy is illegitimate and Clifton is an earl so her father tried to manage her expectations. Seven years later she is widowed after marrying in desperation and thinking Clifton had forsaken her. He in turn believes her to have been untrue.
I really loved Lucy, a vibrant and exciting woman. She has a mean right hook and a tart tongue She did not seem of her time but I didn't mind. I was less enthused about Clifton, mostly because he was sometimes too intent on dominating her. He also has trust issues (see Spoiler). But he is genuninely heroic, having faithfully served England as a spy all these years.
SPOILER: I don't believe this is really a spoiler but better safe than sorry. Mickey is obviously Lucy's nephew and Clifton's as well for while Clifton hearts Lucy, his brother Malcolm loves her sister. But when Clifton meets Mickey, he jumps to the ludicrous conclusion that Lucy and Malcolm had produced the child. END SPOILER.
I believe this marks the start of what I'm calling the Lady Standon series as Lucy, Elinor, and Minerva are all called by that name. They all married men they didn't love and this is now their chance to get their happily ever after. Check out Elizabeth Boyle's website for more info.
One interesting aspect is toward the end where Lucy takes a rather philosophical approach to life that such a thing had to happen in order for other things to happen. The second book, featuring Elinor, is also set up.
My big problem with this book is how problems cropped up and were quickly dispensed with. There were a lot of problems but they never lasted for long. However I liked that the couple were pretty much always in love and were eager to resume their relationship after those misunderstandings were cleared.
This is all set in Elizabeth Boyle's Regency World with references to spymaster Pymm, spy Temple (hero of my beloved Stealing the Bride), and Felicity Langley (from Love Letters from a Duke) in a rather unsympathetic portrayal. There are also two hilarious dowagers who come to help the Lady Standons remarry and who will hopefully be in the next two books.
Overall: A perhaps too fast-paced romance spy novel with an amazing heroine from the ever-delightful Elizabeth Boyle.
Cover: Why hello Miss Cleavage-pretty necklace! (less)
I was really nervous when I opened this book and saw the year 1632 listed as I had requested this under the impression that it was set during the Rege...moreI was really nervous when I opened this book and saw the year 1632 listed as I had requested this under the impression that it was set during the Regency time period and I was really craving that. Happily this is only a prologue chapter that sets up the basic premise of this book (and the next two that will follow) and what a wallop it packed! See in 1632, Fenella's beloved daughter Rose handfasted with Charles Chattan; but he proved to be faithless, marrying an Englishwoman of title and power. For vengeance, Fenella curses his line that once a man falls in love, his death is imminent. He will father a son to carry on the curse but death will take him. And so it goes to the time of 1814 when our story proper begins.
The first character we meet is Thea Martin, a young widow and mother of two boys who had been disinherited by her duke father for marrying below her station. Now she scrapes by as a highly sought after matchmaker for the difficult cases of the ton. But she has never received a case so preposterous. Neal Chattan, Lord Lyon, wants her to find him a bride who he will not detest but with whom he will never fall in love. Complicating matters are Thea's own deep belief in the power of love as well as a youthful attraction between the two.
For his part, Neal grew up at a distance from his father, learning about the curse during the summer he met Thea and has tried to stay detached since. With his brother Harry and his sister Margaret, they have sworn to let the curse end with them. But Neal craves children and, although he doesn't want to admit it, he craves Thea. Thus enters their conflict. Her youthful marriage has left her scarred but still wanting to fall in love and be married. If he marries a woman he loves, he will father a child but die young.
I really liked the dance Neal and Thea went through as each pretended they were untouched by the other's presence especially because I as the reader got to see how much they loved each other. Both characters have strong senses of personal honor and are restrained, which tend to be my favorite characters as I feel I have similar attributes. It was easy to put myself in Thea's shoes despite our very different positions and that always makes me happy.
But what I probably found most interesting was how the story ends with Neal facing the first symptoms of the curse: a numbness on his left side. The group does not want to give up though so Harry is dispatched to search for Fenella. The next book is called Scottish Witch, due Fall 2012, making me think Harry might fall for one of Fenella's descendants, leading to another reason to end the curse as Chattan finally makes restitution for the wrong.
There is also a house party (I love Regency house parties), snobby leaders of the ton, adorable little kids, and plenty of threads for the future romances of Harry and Margaret with all of their flaws and virtues.
Overall: An intriguing curse premise hangs the entire trilogy together and I can't wait to read the next section!
Cover: Really not a fan of books where a model stares out at the reader but I still kind of like this especially with the gorgeous blue cover background.(less)
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean Avon, 2010 397 pages Historical; Romance First in trilogy 3/5 stars
Summary: Callie...moreNine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean Avon, 2010 397 pages Historical; Romance First in trilogy 3/5 stars
Summary: Callie is tired of being the perfect spinster and is spurred to try living her life anew after hearing some less than flattering comments. To that end, she approaches the Marquess of Ralston, the man she's been in love with for ten years, in order to have her first kiss. He sees an innocent who nonetheless provokes and intrigues him as well as the solution to the problem of his untutored sister.
Thoughts: I mostly enjoyed MacLean's The Season and I saw largely positive reviews of this book so I thought I'd try it. Once I got past the insanely long title, I was not enchanted. I expected a lot of humor after enjoying the Austenesque The Season but it was not really funny. I was intrigued by the concept: a confirmed spinster decides to start pushing the bounds of propriety, including brazenly romancing a rake. And I liked Callie a lot. I also appreciated her points about the sexist society in which they live-very different fare than I usually see in romance novels. I somewhat liked the hero, Ralston. He was very devoted to his brother and newfound sister. That sister Juliana will be the heroine of the third book and she was lovely. She was raised in Italy and shares a mother with the brothers; all of them were abandoned by the mother. Because of that, Ralston has vowed never to love (see where this is going?) while Callie is adamant that she will have only a love match.
I didn't enjoy Callie's adventures as much as I wanted to because Ralston kept interfering in a patronizing way. His slowness in not realizing that he loved her was infuriating and after he compromised her, his proposal of marriage sucked majorly. There was also a lot of kissing and sex scenes which despite my love of romance novels is my least favorite part (I know for some (many?), that is the main reason to read them but I prefer humor and the clean ways they spend time together.) However if you like that, you would probably enjoy this.
Overall: Two idiots (eventually) in love and a severe lack of humor hamper my enjoyment.
Cover: I really love the heroine's dress although there is again a cut-off head. (less)
In For a Penny by Rose Lerner Leisure Books, 2010 310 pages Romance; Historical 4/5 stars
Summary: After Nev's father dies, he is in despera...moreIn For a Penny by Rose Lerner Leisure Books, 2010 310 pages Romance; Historical 4/5 stars
Summary: After Nev's father dies, he is in desperate need of money. He turns to fabulously wealthy but untitled Penny, asking for her hand in marriage because he needs money. While Penny is pleased in her elevation in status, she finds that her new role comes with the pressures of restoring Nev's family's estate, navigating her role in the family, dealing with his aggrieved tenants, and a menacing neighbor. Nev and Penny must rely on each other...will it be enough?
Thoughts: I saw this when it first came out, mentioned on quite a few blogs and I was intrigued especially because of the glowing reviews I read. I was pretty pleased with the novel as a whole with a few big problems.
I fell in love immediately with the very charming Nev and Penny. I was very invested in their relationship and I liked that they got married earlier on so that most of their romance was them learning to navigate marriage. They really grew to love and care for each other. I also adored her parents and I even kind of liked his mother although she's a total snob and is rather mean to Penny.
Then there are the things I didn't like. I did not really enjoy the social commentary; it's very different from the romance novels I know best. I could have appreciated it more if I had been expecting it. Basically the tenants on Nev's lands have been oppressed leading to them poaching and violent retribution in turn from Nev's neighbor.
While the couple started out charming, they got a bit old with their constant worrying about the other. Penny worried about being a lady, about being charming enough, and about Nev lying to her. Nev thinks he's not good enough for her (rather true!) They both want the other to love them but are too embarrassed to speak truthfully with each other. I can handle a bit of that in a romance novel but it went on too long for my taste.
And a few quick ones that make more sense if you've read it: The villain was a bit overdone. I did not appreciate seeing Nev's ex-mistress resurface. Louisa=brat! I did not gain closure from Lerner's treatment of her and I maintain a grudge.
Overall: I'm happy that I read this and I will keep an eye out for Lerner's next novel, A Lily Among Thorns.
Cover: Very different from other romance novels (nothing embarrassing) and the somewhat melancholy air captures the social commentary aspect of the novel while the gold relates to money, in my interpretation. (less)
Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn Avon, 2010 377 pages Historical; Romance Third in Bevelstoke Series 3/5 stars
Summary: Sebastian Gr...moreTen Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn Avon, 2010 377 pages Historical; Romance Third in Bevelstoke Series 3/5 stars
Summary: Sebastian Grey is the presumptive heir to his uncle's earldom but said earl hates him and is trying to find a bride to bear him a new heir. That young lady is Annabel Winslow who despises the earl but feels responsibility for her seven younger siblings and recently widowed mother-what's a girl to do?
Thoughts: I really loved the book trailer (and I usually avoid them like the plague) so I picked this up. I wanted to love it because Sebastian is soooo charming and it's always great when the womanizer is finally bested and falls in love with just the one woman. I also the idea of top ten lists. However this was such a jolting experience. First it would be charming Sebastian Grey; then the vulgar desperate earl; then more Sebastian; then Annabel being somewhat mopey. Instead of Quinn's usual polished style, it jumped and left me feeling disoriented. Every character was too exaggerated. The earl was too pervish, Annabel's grandparents were too mean and openly accepting of adultery to an innocent, Annabel had little personality. For one thing, if she loved her siblings so much why do I only know one sister's name? I would have appreciated diving more in to her family life and how that impacted her decisions.
The romance was okay-they said a lot of funny things to each other but it don't cohere in to a whole and it wasn't as deep as I would have liked. I guess I was expecting more from Sebastian, who utterly charmed me in What Happens in London but I was let down.
Overall: Disappointing story of a charming rogue.
Cover: I don't really like the girl's face (and I'm not sure she's curvy enough) but the white of the background looks good with the purple of the title and Quinn's name. (less)
To Sin With a Scoundrel by Cara Elliott Forever, 2010 349 pages Historical; Romance First in Series 4/5 stars
Summary: Ciara is known (quite unju...moreTo Sin With a Scoundrel by Cara Elliott Forever, 2010 349 pages Historical; Romance First in Series 4/5 stars
Summary: Ciara is known (quite unjustly) as a lady who murdered her husband. Lucas is known (quite rightly) as an unrepentant rake and womanizer who revels in his reputation. Yet the Bluestocking and the Rake can help each other, thereby dispelling those nasty rumors and reputations. And there will be absolutely no romance because they loathe each other.
Thoughts: I really liked this! I enjoyed reading about an academic lady with a young child who she loved and had to overcome challenges to keep. She is rumored to have murdered her husband-a reaction coming about because society can't handle a brilliant woman. She also has those dead husband's greedy relatives prowling around, proving a very real threat. Luckily she has a strong circle of friends who want to help her. And while my twenty-first sensibilities are ruffled by their decision that she needs a man as a champion, my knowledge of Regency society as described in romance novels knows they are very right. But the man they choose!
That man is Lucas, Lord Hadley (who has a rhyme attached to his name!) is considered probably the worst rake in Society (or the best depending on where you're coming from). His days are full of sleep as his nights are full of debauchery. But he has a soft spot for his guardian academic Henry and will approach the Murderess when Henry says that she is the most appropriate scholar to study a newfound manuscript. Now they can help each other.
And help each other they do, far beyond the bounds of their original agreement. She helps give his life a purpose, redeeming his poor academic record, giving him responsibility for a family and taking care of others and teaching him a great deal additionally. He in turn helps her find herself after years of brutality from her husband and provides a good role model for her son. They were a lovely romantic couple and I look forward to them having a long and happy life together.
Overall: Fun chemistry and a bit of suspense with real stakes! I definitely want to check out the second book, To Surrender to a Rogue, which is hinted at a bit in this book; we meet the hero and heroine and even see them interacting.
Cover: Eh-not a fan of chopped off heads. And there is an awful lot of words. (less)