I've always enjoyed a good spy story, but I haven't, until now, read a really GOOD one. Joanna Bourne's The Forbidden Rose was everything I wanted inI've always enjoyed a good spy story, but I haven't, until now, read a really GOOD one. Joanna Bourne's The Forbidden Rose was everything I wanted in a spy novel, complete with romance - the kind that (as it does in war) blossoms unexpectedly and with a desperation that, at any moment, either party could be lost.
The Forbidden Rose takes place during the French Revolution, and Bourne does not shirk from showing the ugly side of the revolution - this is no over-romanticized France. It is a land torn by war and a population ruled by fear. Marguerite de Fleurignac is the leader of a group called La Flèche (The Arrow) which transports aristocrats out of the country and across the channel. William Doyle is a British spy who is looking for Maggie's father - apparently, he has a list of people that has served as a hit list, and there is a suspicion that her father is the one behind the assassinations. Things start to get complicated when Doyle stumbles on Maggie in the ruins of her sacked and looted home. Both are suspicious of each other, but they need each other. Doyle knows she is the daughter of the man she is looking for, and Maggie knows that she will get to Paris (where she is certain someone has betrayed La Flèche) more easily with Doyle to protect her. Along the way, of course, they fall in love, though both of them take their time coming to the realization that despite the danger, they will both risk their lives to stay together.
What I loved most about this book was that the danger was always very real. Doyle and Maggie both have honed skills - Maggie from leading La Flèche, and Doyle from his years of spying - but every time there was a situation, there was always a part of me that thought that they might not get out of it this time. I never had the sense that they were superhuman, which can be a problem in some spy romances. Bourne did an excellent job of showing the thought process for figuring out the solution, step by painful step, to each obstacle in their way. They were just really good at figuring out the puzzles.
The romance side was hot, though not particularly explicit. But throughout the intimate scenes, I felt the desperation for these two lovers - they might never see each other again, and that made the discovery of the other both precious and not. Special because it might be the last, but not too precious that they took time about it. They had no time to spare! These were the kinds of love scenes that reached into my heart and gave it a hard tug.
The side characters were all from different factions, and often clashed despite their connection to Maggie and Doyle. This painted a political landscape where you didn't know where your next enemy was going to come from, and I seriously spent nearly every scene wondering if the person they were speaking to was going to betray them. I never knew who was on their side with an absolute certainty. Hawker and Owl were particularly fabulous side characters, because they're so young. The ease with which Hawker performs certain tasks adds to the darkness of the book in ways that seeing an adult do the same things just cannot do. And seeing Doyle pass on his knowledge to Hawker helped to show us that these skills Doyle has come from a natural talent, but also YEARS of experience. Bourne throws in a lot of tips from Hawker's point of view (repeating in his mind things that Doyle has told him) that gave me a new perspective on scenes I'd already read.
I started this book on a whim at school on Thursday - purchasing it from the Kindle store despite agency pricing because I'd heard so many wonderful things about it. Today I sat down to read a few more chapters in my office and ended up staying two hours later than I'd planned to finish it. I could not put it down. Aside from the excellent world-building, the language itself - especially in Maggie's point of view - was lovely and poetic. Maggie sees the world through a lens of spinning a fantastic tale thanks to her hobby of making written records of local stories. That lens took a dark, dangerous world and gave it a beauty that gave me hope for their future.
**spoiler alert** I had really high hopes for this book. Our hero is blind, our heroine thinks she's plain (though it's obvious she isn't - no one she**spoiler alert** I had really high hopes for this book. Our hero is blind, our heroine thinks she's plain (though it's obvious she isn't - no one she encounters in the book says she is) and they like discussing politics.
**********************HERE THERE BE SPOILERS***********************
Okay, so here are my issues. Our hero, Taris, is blind - great start. He hasn't been born blind, so he has to deal with the issues of being blind in a society that is not kind to those with disabilities. Even more awesomer. He says he can count on one hand the number of people who know his secret - but those do NOT include the servants at his house, other than his valet. Which I find particularly bizarre, because you'd think they'd notice. Especially people like his housekeeper and his butler - I mean, he spends ALL of his time there. He has one friend in London who knows and acts as a guide through social events (his brother is so racked with guilt that it just gets awkward). He's managed to make his way around London, though restricting it so he doesn't have to reveal his secret to the general public. I would have liked to see more of him learning to deal with being blind.
Bea is plain. And she's a bluestocking. And she's barren, but not really. And she has a secret sensuality. And her husband abused her because of all of the above. And there's a man after her trying to kill her. Too many tropes in one lady. Not to mention, that for an intelligent woman, she's pretty clueless. There were so many Misunderstandings that centered on her (Taris pretty much thought she just didn't want someone to take away her freedom). She thinks he's ignoring her because she's plain/lower class/too forward. Then she thinks he's a drunkard. There are a couple of moments where she could have put the pieces together much earlier - OR JUST ASK. She basically goes to him (IN PUBLIC) and says, "Hey, I know you're an alcoholic. I want to try and cure you." And, of course, she gets pregnant, because we can't have barren historical fiction heroines. And no one seems to notice after 3 months, except, of course, Taris.
The sex was mediocre - this is my first HQ historical, so I don't know if that's par for course. I prefer more steam. Considering this whole story revolves around a night they can't forget, I was disappointed on that end. They did it three times, that's all I remember. She seemed to know (despite being practically celibate with her husband after he told her she was barren) what to do, what she wanted, she wasn't shy. I'll buy that, but I'd like deets plz.
The story seemed to fly by. I wanted more time to get to know these people. I felt like not enough time was spent - this was a full-length story crammed into a category size. Taris and Bea could have been interesting, and much more developed. Instead, we get constant flashbacks from her of her abusive husband, her self-destructive thoughts about how plain she is, Taris not telling her he's blind (again and again), and a killer who is so easily caught there is one paragraph devoted to telling us he surrendered without a fight.
That being said, I want more heroes like Taris, who have problems besides the usual scarred soldier or lusty rake. I bought the book specifically because of that - and I challenge authors to continue to write about these heroes, even when it doesn't work for this reader. :) ...more
This is one of those books that, when finished, made me cling my Kindle to my chest, grin, and sigh happily. I haven't had that response to a historicThis is one of those books that, when finished, made me cling my Kindle to my chest, grin, and sigh happily. I haven't had that response to a historical romance in a while, and it could be because I haven't read a ton in the last couple months - but regardless, I thought To Love a Thief was playful, funny, and full of great poetic imagery. In acting training, we are often encouraged to use imagery to key into things we have a tendency to over-think. So I was delighted to see Long use poetic thinking to help Lily overcome the challenges of being a Lady in the ton.
I'm going to have to buy a paperback of this one to put on my keeper shelf. Long is fast becoming a favorite of mine....more
The witty banter and sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine kept me going.. I'd like to give 4.5 stars, because occasionally a word will slipThe witty banter and sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine kept me going.. I'd like to give 4.5 stars, because occasionally a word will slip out of a character's mouth that makes me go "Buh? Ye Olde Language?" But Long has a talent for imagery that I greatly admire, and many of them I find very refreshing and original in their delivery. There's no doubt this book is a keeper for me....more
**spoiler alert** I liked that this was a medieval setting. A lot. Medieval is tough, and I thought Putney did an excellent job setting up the novel h**spoiler alert** I liked that this was a medieval setting. A lot. Medieval is tough, and I thought Putney did an excellent job setting up the novel historically. Unfortunately, I just didn't buy the relationship.
***Some Spoilers May Be Ahoy***
Meriel losing her memory, I believed. Meriel immediately falling in love with Adrian at first sight afterward, I did NOT believe. At the least, he should have had to woo her. I can understand why she wouldn't be as frightened of him as she was at first, but she still doesn't know him. I suppose the child-like innocence explains that (it's mentioned several times) but I didn't buy it. Maybe it was just the suddenness..
There was a lot of religion in this book, which is understandable for medieval times. Sadly, it seemed to matter mostly to Meriel and Adrian separately, quoting of scripture during love-making aside. They only pray together when Meriel has lost her memory.
I had issues with both the hero and the heroine. I don't know how Adrian could have redeemed himself for me to forgive the sexual violence early on. I see his remorse, I see that he has demons.. but I don't think he ever actually faced them. By that point, Meriel has lost her memory and he uses her to heal himself rather than dealing with it on his own. And yet, he claims to have 'atoned' and feels perfectly comfortable marrying her with her ignorance. That really disturbed me.
Meriel's determination not to give in to him was admirable, but for being a woman of a lower noble rank, she certainly didn't know how to behave around a nobleman when she first meets them. A side note: Meriel without her memory turned into this happy, bubbly child. Adrian says he loves her 'spirit', but she was so docile in her childlike state that when her memory came back (minus, of course, everything that had happened since she threw herself out the window), it was shocking to see her go back to the harsh, get-the-hell-away-from-me Meriel. The two just did not mesh for me. Add that to Meriel's insistence on continually exploring forests on her own when we are told what dangerous country this is, and I couldn't figure her out. I know human beings are complex, complicated, often contradictory creatures. But I felt like she hated Adrian.. except when she didn't.
It wasn't that it was easy for her to accept that she loved him, but I don't feel like she was given a chance to love him. She even thinks about Adrian's dueling sides in her cell, but I would have been more comfortable if she had been able to get to know Adrian in all his good and bad parts at once, while accepting them both.
Needless to say, I didn't buy the HEA 100%. But, honestly, I'm not sure exactly what would have sold me on it. Maybe after discussing it with friends who've already read it, I can figure it out.
Summary: This was a beautifully written novel, with excellent historical detail and an interesting story aside from the romance. However, I couldn't get past Adrian's treatment of Meriel and Meriel's easy shifting between love and hate....more
I'm fascinated by the world that Nalini Singh has created. Elena, our heroine, is called "unfeminine" by some of her nay-sayers in the book, but I thiI'm fascinated by the world that Nalini Singh has created. Elena, our heroine, is called "unfeminine" by some of her nay-sayers in the book, but I think that is all to the good. We have ourselves a kick-ass heroine, ladies and gents!
Our hero is sexy, and manages to be a "flawed" hero without being emo. It was refreshing to see a hero learn something about himself, slowly but surely, until it hit him like a sack of bricks. But without all the brooding and dark looks that can come with a flawed hero. He's still learning at the end of the book, and will probably continue to learn in the second.
The only issue I had was the resolution. I felt that it came out of nowhere and was too easily explained. I don't want to post any spoilers, however. I will say I liked the ending, it just... surprised me in the jarring-OMG-she-just-did-that kind of way rather than the holy-shit-good-twist kind of way. But whatever the method, I liked the result....more
I usually don't read category romances. When I do, they are recommended by friends on Twitter or in the blogosphere. So taking a chance on a categoryI usually don't read category romances. When I do, they are recommended by friends on Twitter or in the blogosphere. So taking a chance on a category is kind of a big deal to me (even if that book is available for free from the Kindle Store). When I picked up Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly, all I knew was that I missed my boy, I needed a short, steamy romance, and that Harlequin Blaze delivers that.
What I found was a sweet, sometimes silly story. Madeline is a rich workaholic from a wealthy family who are all notoriously bad at relationships of the romantic variety. Jake is an "all-American boy" who loves baseball, hot wings, nachos, and women with curves. Luckily, Madeline loves all those things too.. er, except that last one. But she is one, so that's okay. It basically starts out with Jake spying Maddy from behind a curtain where he's getting auctioned off for a charity. He is instantly drawn to her because she looks very different from the other women at the event (she happens to be the only brunette) and she seems "out of place" there. She has come to outbid her stepmother on a European gigolo who is also at the auction so that her father's heart doesn't get broken again. Thanks to a mix-up in the program, Jake is sold as the gigolo instead of the Chicago Paramedic (the fact that this book is in Chicago = <3), and the relationship begins with Maddy thinking he's a man who has sex with women for money. Mind you, she's still drawn to him. Irresistibly, in fact. And he won't take no for an answer.
It sounds like I'm ragging on this book. I'm really not. I really enjoyed the silliness, and Maddy has the sense when she realizes her mistake to not blame Jake for going along with it (once he, of course, realized what she thought of him). What I didn't really enjoy was how faultless Jake came out of the whole thing. He was kind of the perfect guy, except for one moment of weakness when he verbally seduces Maddy in front of their waitress. Of course, it leads to mind-blowing sex, but he has a few moments of guilt for not being a gentleman....more