The first Courtney Milan that I haven't really cared for. I'm guessing it would have made more sense if I'd read it in Three Weddings and a Murder whe...moreThe first Courtney Milan that I haven't really cared for. I'm guessing it would have made more sense if I'd read it in Three Weddings and a Murder when it was originally published, rather than as a stand alone.(less)
Adele Ashworth is a new author to me, and if this book is any indication, she will soon be one of my new favourites. This book has almost ever...more4 stars.
Adele Ashworth is a new author to me, and if this book is any indication, she will soon be one of my new favourites. This book has almost everything needed for a perfect historical romance read:
An excellent sense of the era: No wallpaper here! From beautifully detailed descriptions of the Duke's home, their clothing and lifestyle, to the depictions of class differences (for example, the tea served to the heroine when she attends the Duke's residence is "a wonderfully strong Lapsang Souchong. Somewhat unconventional for standard fare, especially when serving to a guest of the lower class.") The distinction between the classes plays a large part in this book.
An excellent Hero: The Duke of Trent resides at his country estate. He is a virtual recluse there, shunned by society after being acquitted of killing his wife. Will is gorgeous, noble and LONELY. A bit tortured too, with a sad, sad history.
A just-as-excellent heroine: Vivian lives in an exile of sorts as well, except hers is of her own making. She lives quietly as a widow in the village of Penzance and makes her living as a florist. Her secret is that she is not a widow at all. Her story is just as sad as Will's.
A scandalous bargain: He has something she needs, she has something he wants. A deal is struck, and the tension and chemistry between the H/h is palpable.
Chemistry, chemistry, chemistry!!!!: And teasing, flirting comments. And funny, sexy pillow talk.
Some excellent steamy bits: WHEW. 'Nuff said.
A bit of intrigue, blackmail and danger: Because you have do SOMETHING other than just have sex, right?
The prettiest declaration of love I've read in quite a while: I know I shouldn't, but I can't help myself -- here's part of it, hidden by a spoiler tag. (view spoiler)["Every breath I have ever taken," he maintained softly, "every trying season of my life, has been merely a bridge that has led me to this moment with you." All together now, "Aaaaaawwwwwwww" (hide spoiler)]
It also had a bits and pieces of the following (dammit!), which pulled my rating down:
A few cheesy bits of sexy dialogue: I'm not going to tell you here, you'll know the second you read them which ones they are.
A stupid, contrived misunderstanding + Hero behaving like an asshat: Part of this was necessary to the story, but I'm not sure the rest of it served much purpose other than giving the author an opportunity to introduce her Heroes for the rest of the trilogy. Great couple of guys - they figured out what was going on when the Hero couldn't, and thus saved him from further asshattery.
All in all this was a wonderful book -- I'm keeping it, I'll most likely re-read it, and I'm eagerly anticipating the rest of the series.
(Adele Ashworth also has a decent-sized backlist, which is always good news when you find an new author you like.) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The more I think about this book, the less I can figure out what the hell I thought of it.
On the one hand, it's a Laura Lee Guhrke. She has become one of my "go-to" authors. The Guilty series was outstanding, Abandoned at the Altar is shaping up to be even better, and the first book in this series, And Then He Kissed Her, is one of my absolute favourites.
The writing is great, the H/h are well drawn, and the cast of supporting characters (especially the ladies at the boarding house) are either charming or exasperating, depending who they are.
I just didn't really like Rhys. I'm not even really sure why, because, within a chapter of meeting him you know exactly what he's about. Charming, insincere, self-absorbed, dissolute and irresponsible. When we meet him he is wondering if he could talk Prudence into a tup; he saves a maid from being raped by a peer, but sleeps with her himself immediately afterward (mostly because she's cheap and he can't afford to keep a mistress). He comes by his character quite honestly; his title is hollow and his estates are in ruins, mostly due to 6 generations of dukes before him who behaved exactly as he did. Creditors are banging on the door and he's reduced to dining-and-dashing at gentlemen's clubs and couch-surfing at his friends' residences. He needs to marry money. Huge money. And fast. I actually felt like Rhys was probably quite historically accurate. His description to Prudence of what peers did with themselves was hilarious:
"Darling, most duchesses are like most dukes. And marquesses and earls, etcetera, etcetera. We don't do anything. We lead terribly lazy lives in which we give and attend fabulous parties, gamble away our fortunes - if we have them - eat outrageously rich food, drink excessive amounts of champagne and port, travel the world, accumulate massive amounts of debt, and engage in outrageous exploits. All because the lot of us suffer from terminal ennui....Peers are the lilies of the field, my sweet. We toil not, neither do we spin."
Heh. Maybe I did kind of like him. See what I mean? I can't even decide what I think about the Hero. Towards the end of the book all bullshit he's been slinging comes home to roost (oops, mixing metaphors here), he realizes that he actually meant all of it, and that Prudence was the one good thing he'd managed to finagle and he has to try to figure out how to keep her.
it was Prudence I didn't really like. I did at first - she was independent and sure of herself, but then she became besotted with Rhys and inherited gazillions of $$ and lost her marbles. Her ideal of marrying for love seemed anachronistic (HUH, you say? Bear with me, I'll explain). During the time the book is set, marrying for love was the exception, not the rule. Arranged marriages happened ALL the time - for money, social position or bloodlines - that's just the way it was done. It was expected that your dowry would bail out whichever peer offered for you. So for Prudence to be so set on marrying for love (and a penniless DUKE, nonetheless) and for her to be so outraged and vocal about her hurt when she finds out seemed wrong to me. For us 21st century women, sure. For a late Regency/Victorian miss? Uh-uh. And crossing the class lines seemed too simple in this story as well.
I've swallowed bigger loads of baloney in a historical romance, but I need to be able to lose myself enough in the story so that I don't notice myself choking on it.
it was the ending that clinched it for me. I know it's a historical romance and we all need our HEA, but for these two to get past the big lie would take YEARS, not a week. Years of him being in love with her to prove to her that he means it; years for her to accept that even if he didn't love her from beginning he loves her now.
AND ANOTHER THING!
The fact that Rhys' terrible childhood (oh, those poor little British kids shipped off to Eton and abused by their wicked, wicked mothers and evil Uncles) and his relationship of mutual dislike with his mother seemed to be thrown into the mix for good measure, instead of being used with any depth for what it was most likely intended. Wow, did that make sense?
Hmm. After all this I'm still not sure what I thought of this one. I guess I'll call it at 3.5 stars. Liked the writing, the premise and the supporting characters, didn't like the Hero or the heroine all that much. (less)
So this book started out quite well, but then the Hero went crazy and I wasn't buyin' what the author was sellin' after that point.
Let me explain. **H...moreSo this book started out quite well, but then the Hero went crazy and I wasn't buyin' what the author was sellin' after that point.
Let me explain. **Here there be spoilers for anyone who hasn't read the book**
The premise of the story is that the heroine was caught with a man who had his hand up her skirts. The friend who caught them challenged the man to a duel and was killed. There was a huge scandal, of course, and Alexandra was ruined. She meets the Hero, the dead man's brother, when he comes to her home to tell her that she was merely a pawn in the scandal; that she had been used to force a duel. As if that weren't enough, Collin Blackburn tells Alexandra that his brother had been in love with her and preparing to offer for her before the scandal.
So that's how they meet. Sparks fly, he tries to do the honourable thing, she figures if she's labelled a whore she might as well act like one, they get together and shortly after that the Hero goes bonkers. That's the only explanation I have for his behaviour.
Now, I love an alpha hero as much (if not more) than the next girl. Strict, rigid, possessive, stubborn, softening only when he is with me the heroine....yum. Those alphas you can work with. They are usually redeemed by the heroine, and can see their boorish behaviour for what it is (a plot device, mostly).
But a Hero who is irrationally jealous, accusing his wife of lifting her skirts for many before him (though she was a virgin when he took her), believing the worst of anything she says to any male in the vicinity and becoming violent with his best friend when he thinks (wrongly, of course) that his wife is in his bed? Those guys never change. His problem is his own, not hers, and she will never be able to fix it for him. It's those guys that we see on the news nowadays. Because they end up killing someone.
And that ain't romantic to me, folks.
Now, I would normally suspect that this is a knee-jerk reaction on my part to an overly jealous alpha, except that I've never read a book where it seemed to come right out of left field like it did for me with this one. Nothing Collin said or did in the first half of the book prepared me for how he was going to act in the second.
Anyhow, as a result, I didn't really believe the HEA. Ms. Dahl sets it up so that the Hero sees the error of his ways after a couple of lectures from the heroine and after she kills the bad guy to save him, but I just wasn't so sure.
So I'm on to the next in the series. I'm going to chalk this one up to the author hitting a button I didn't know I had about insecure, super jealous men.
I've been reading historical romance novels for more than 30 years (not counting a 10 year hiatus when I thought they were silly) and by now have gott...moreI've been reading historical romance novels for more than 30 years (not counting a 10 year hiatus when I thought they were silly) and by now have gotten to know the standard heroine types quite well.
There's the Mary Sue, TSTL, feisty spitfire, spinster, bluestocking, ugly duckling, the beatific one, the ditsy one, and on, and on, and on. That's not even counting all the little sub-types -- there are endless combinations and permutations of them.
Normally, this works quite well for me - it means you can almost always find something in a heroine to identify with. The problem starts when the main trait shown by the heroine is the thing you like least about yourself. That is not a comfortable feeling. It makes what would normally be an entertaining read into something quite angsty. While I can completely understand the heroine's motivation, it's cringe-inducing to see the worst part of yourself front and centre. And while you love the Hero for trying to get past her bullshit to wonderful person beneath (because, of course, it's your bullshit and the wonderful person beneath is you) on the other hand it's hard to not to want to yell at him for putting up with it.
It's the story of Mara Elliott, owner of a small factory. She was married to an inveterate dreamer - she spent years left holding the bag and cleaning up his messes as he flitted about from one scheme to another. Shortly after he left for his last flight of fancy their daughter died in a fire and Mara was left completely alone. She is closed up, shut down and shoulders responsibility for everything - terrified of being alone, yet at the same time even more afraid to reach out to anyone. At the same time she gets notice that her husband has died in a mine cave-in in California, Nathaniel Chase arrives from America and appears on her doorstep, fresh from meeting with her husband. He's ready to become partners in her factory and begin making toys.
The rest of the book is a battle of wills between Mara and Nathaniel, as he tries to get past her bullshit (and there is a LOT of it, including a cruel streak) and she struggles not to fall in love with yet another version of her husband, the dreamer. Throw in a big bad villain and a neglected little boy who melts Mara's heart and brings the protagonists together and call it done. The story itself was interesting and kept me reading but it suffered from "throw-all-the-conflict-and-the-kitchen-sink-and-showdown-with-the-villian-and-wrap-up-all-loose-ends-and-have-an-HEA-into-the-last-20-pages" syndrome.
For anyone who has read Lavyrle Spencer's book The Gamble (published 7 or 8 years before this one) they will recognize this story almost immediately, down to the almost-orphan boy hanging around the factory. Unfortunately, I think Spencer did it better. Her heroine was way more likeable than this one and the Hero was a gambler with a southern accent (yum).
So at the end of the day, would I recommend this? Probably not. I doubt LLG would recommend it either, I think it's OOP for a reason. The only reason I did read it was because of my ridiculous tendency to want to read an author's back list chronologically. I obviously didn't learn a thing from Scandalous.
I have a short attention span and I skim read. While this might mean that I have undiagnosed ADD, it also mea...moreMy name is Tammy, and I am a lazy reader.
I have a short attention span and I skim read. While this might mean that I have undiagnosed ADD, it also means that, from time to time, if an author doesn't smack me in the face with information I'm left wondering what the fuck is going on. On some occasions it is strictly my fault - lazy reader that I am. Others I must lay at the feet of the author, and I'm going to do that with this book.
I wanted to love this book. I SHOULD have loved it. I enjoyed the story the author told very much. I liked the prose, the dialogue and the setting. I liked the Hero, the villains, and the descriptions of the leering, middle-aged horndogs at the country house orgy were unsettling and vaguely menacing (just as the author intended). The whole thing had a very gothic feel to it.
It's one thing for a book to be a mystery, it's quite another to have no freaking idea what the connection is between the bad guy, the heroine (and her family's mysterious background) and the Hero. I know we're not supposed to know all of it, that's why it's a mystery, but you have to give me something so that I give a shit about it. I re-read the first 3 chapters of this book twice, and then looked it up on GoodReads to see if I'd missed a book in the series.
The Villain's name is given to us in the first chapter, but in the same way that you would use the words "Jesus Christ", with an assumption that the rest of the world knows who you are talking about. The same with references to Julia's family, and her Aunt Meredith, and the fact that she has no memory of her life before coming to live with her. Same with the Hero's background, for that matter. The author has the characters talking about the villain, mentioning that he wears a mask, that he has scars and allows no one to see his face, that he is insane and prone to fits. But she never tells or shows ME, the reader. Same with important details about Julia's past, her Aunt, and Alexander. They tell each other, but never show ME.
And isn't it all about ME, the reader? Even if I'm lazy?
I found the heroine the teensiest bit tiresome by the end of the book. There are allusions to this private world they lived in on the estate, almost as if they were being kept safe from something. (This was intriguing, but there was absolutely no pay-off at the end of the book.) She refuses to tell the Hero about her past (or much of anything about herself) and at one point actually becomes mute (at which point I would have slapped her around, but the Hero was much more patient).
The bad guys are dispatched with ease at the end of the book, and there is an ever-so-sweet epilogue as well. All very nice, except it all seems pret-tteeee convenient. And, as we never do find out what the connection is between them all, or the reason the Villain was after them in the first place, I felt cheated.
(Oh, look! There's a book two! Shocking.)
So, to sum up:
If you're a lazy reader like I am, you might plow through this with little to no understanding of the details I have complained about above. You might not like it much.
If you actually read your books word for word and like to figure out the background and details on your own, you'll probably love this book.
I'm going to read the next one in the series, for two reasons: 1) to find out what the heck the story is about their Aunt Meredith. I'm not hugely optimistic that I'll find out, as I've just seen there is a third book in this series. 2) to see if the author is still as coy with her details as she was with this book.
Here's what I wrote in April, 2011 after finishing this book:
3.5?? 4??? I'm stuck. Liked the story, liked the ending (another big AWWWW one) but I di...moreHere's what I wrote in April, 2011 after finishing this book:
3.5?? 4??? I'm stuck. Liked the story, liked the ending (another big AWWWW one) but I didn't really connect with either the H/h.
Like I'm finding with lots of books I inhaled read last year, it has definitely benefited from a re-read. Judith Ivory's writing is beautiful; her prose is so descriptive, her phrasing so witty and her grasp of the period - especially in terms of the vernacular - so precise, it's difficult to come away from one of her books without feeling as though you've been in a time machine.
I found myself laughing out loud from time to time at the interplay between the H/h, especially Stuart's advice as to where Emma could stuff his bank note (view spoiler)[up her very nervy bum LMAO! (hide spoiler)] after she writes to him demanding repayment for a lamb run over by his carriage.
And it just got better after that.
Stuart was earthy, a bit bawdy, and a complete charmer under a somewhat imposing exterior. I was completely enraptured this time around. I had a bit more trouble connecting with Emma, but in the end the decisions she made were in keeping with her character. And did I mention Stuart? ;D
Oh yeah - and this is the book with the "chair scene". Whew!