I literarily wended, linguistically traveled, and read with eager purpose, burgeoning desire, and incendiary yearning. Utterly determined — alone and...moreI literarily wended, linguistically traveled, and read with eager purpose, burgeoning desire, and incendiary yearning. Utterly determined — alone and seeking a reviewer’s sweet satiation — engaging my somnolent disbelieving emerald orbs - fraught and needy, laboring to find the pinnacle of completion, desperate beyond measure to finish this book. Done. Basking. Glorying in the magnificent awareness, the enthralling conviction I will no longer - never again - have to read prose like that found in Ms. Laurens’ overwrought and overwritten tome The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae.
The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae is the eighteenth book featuring the Cynsters. Perhaps the only interesting thing about this novel is that, in it, the Cynster males — Devil and his uber-masculine kin — are as boring and unnecessary as a dance number on the Oscars. Sadly, the Cynster women aren’t any more engaging — I found the heroine of this book, Angelica Cynster, annoying, silly, and verbose. She’s yet another Laurens heroine who is practically perfect in every way: A virgin with a harlot’s skill, exquisitely beautiful without a trace of icky vanity, able to handle any challenge thrown her way with clichéd wit and chirpy charm.
She’s also able, with just a glance, to see that a tall, incredibly handsome man she spies at a soiree is destined to be “her hero.” She’s has a magical necklace dangling betwixt her breasts, passed onto her by her sisters, a “talisman that The Lady, a Scottish deity, had gifted to the Cynster girls to assist them in finding their true loves.” Somehow, between wearing this pendant and noticing that “he was undeniably the most gorgeous male she’d ever seen,” she’s determined to marry the man before they’ve ever exchanged a word.
The gentleman in question is Dominic, the eponymous earl of the novel. Dominic is at this party searching for Angelica, whom he’s never met. He is the elusive quasi-villain of the first two books in the Cynster Sisters series; a man who for reasons unknown kidnapped and then released unharmed Angelica’s two older sisters. When Angelica approaches him and makes it clear she’s like to take a walk in the garden with him, he takes her up on her offer, sweeps her into his arms and over his shoulder, gags her, binds her arms and legs, and tosses her into a carriage he has waiting in the mews. Angelica, despite being uncomfortable and miffed, gives some thought to his behavior and decides that, yes, he’s still her true love and yes, she’s still meant to be with him. She tells herself, “Whatever it takes, he will be my hero.”
And wouldn’t you know it, shocker of shockers, she’s right. Dominic has tied her up, kidnapped her - ruining her reputation - and put her in harm’s way because he has no choice. He’s doing it to save his clan. Dominic’s mother, Mirabelle, a woman so absurdly evil she’s inadvertently amusing, has spent her whole life resenting Angelica’s mother, the woman her husband, Dominic’s father, loved, lost, and never got over. Mirabelle stole a goblet from Dominic — the goblet has a long and convoluted back story involving Sir Walter Scott, Prinny, and the Regalia of Scotland — which he needs. His father long ago promised the goblet to bankers in exchange for a huge sum of money. If Dominic doesn’t get the goblet to the bankers by the end of the month, all of his assets are forfeit and his clan homeless out on the Scottish moors. Mirabelle will only give Dominic the goblet if he kidnaps and ruins a daughter of the woman — Angelica’s mother, Celia — Mirabelle neurotically loathes....
If you'd like to read the rest of my review go to All About Romance:
I hope you are having a lovely holiday season. This year, as in 2011, you enriched my December by releasing a stellar Christmas tale. A Kiss for Midwinter is not quite as brilliant as This Perfect Gift (mentioned here in my list of favorite holiday stories) but it’s still wonderful. Thank you.
The heroine of your novella, Miss Lydia Charingford, is the best friend of the heroine in your latest novel, The Duchess Wars. It was clear, when I read The Duchess Wars, there was a romance brewing between Lydia and the town’s young doctor, Jonas Grantham. Jonas was my favorite character in The Duchess Wars.I have a weakness for accurately written medicine men in romance and a loathing for those who are poorly rendered. In A Kiss for MidwinterJonas is my dream physician: he’s a superb, conscientious, thinking practitioner and a hell of a guy. You write in the addendum to your story that you “have always been fascinated by the history of medicine.” You’ve clearly researched early Victorian medicine and the facts behind your story give the tale a realistic resonance I loved.
As the novella begins, it’s 1862 and Jonas is newly returned to Leicester. He grew up there, the brilliant only child of a scrap metal man; Jonas’s mother died when he was five. Jonas has been gone from Leicester for many years, first away at school, then studying medical instruction in London for three years. The last time he was home, he’d had a horrific experience in which he watched the town’s then doctor, Parwine, treat a fifteen year old pregnant girl with verbal malice and heinous medical malpractice. Jonas couldn’t stop Parwine, but the experience shaped him significantly. Now back home, he’s taken over Parwine’s medical practice and is ready to find a wife and settle down. He’s made a list of the ten prettiest single young ladies in Leicester and he plans to speak to each of them in hopes that one will suit. The young ladies are, in general, quite interested in Jonas. He’s handsome, tall, and makes a good living. Jonas knows he’s not perfect. As he explains to a friend,
“I’d rather cast my net broadly than miss altogether. And, as it happens, I have a few defects in my character.”
For instance, he was fairly certain that his list of local beauties, arranged by degree of physical attractiveness, was not something that members of the opposite sex would find particularly compelling. Also, he had decided it would be best not to mention his main reason for wanting to marry—that he thought it expedient to procure a regular source of sexual intercourse without risking syphilis.
There is a young lady Jonas sees at church who is not on his top ten list–she’d be eleven–who he decides he should at least talk to in case she improves upon closer inspection. He manages to get her on his arm for a walk in a park a few days later and finds that not only is she definitely number eleven, she’s also unpleasant to talk to. She won’t look him in the eye and returns all his conversational sallies with monotone answers. Jonas finally loses his temper with her and is shocked at her response.
Her terse responses brought out the devil in him. He’d not been lying when he said he had a few defects in his personality. He turned to her and spoke with no effort at politeness. “Did you know that before I spoke this sentence, you had uttered twenty percent of the words in the conversation? Now we are much closer to ten percent. It won’t do, Miss Charingford. It won’t do.”
Beside him, she tilted her head. “Won’t it?”
He clenched a fist, annoyed beyond measure. He’d used up his rather limited store of polite conversation already, and she wasn’t even trying. In fact, she was looking up at him resentfully.
“I think it will do,” she said. “I think it will do very well. I know what you are thinking, Doctor Grantham. You’re thinking that I’m easy prey.”
“I’m thinking that?” He wrinkled his nose.
She looked about, as if to verify that nobody was nearby. “That because you know of my faults, of what has happened to me, that I’ll be susceptible to your blackmail and flattery.”
“Blackmail!” he repeated in surprise.
“I don’t care what you think of my moral decay,” she hissed. “I am still alive, and I intend to remain so. I refuse to be ruined. If you try anything, you’ll be sorry.”
It was the look on her face that sparked his recognition—that defiant, accusing glare directed at him once more. It made him catch his breath, remembering the girl from five years ago. He’d worried about her after he left. Every time he’d seen an unwed mother or a prostitute in those intervening years, he’d wondered what horror his silence had brought to her.
And in that moment, as Jonas stares at Lydia, seeing the girl he’d thought destroyed, so alive and so vibrant, Jonas’s list shrinks to one.
Sadly for Jonas, Lydia can’t stand to be near him. Every time she sees him, she remembers the horror of what happened to her five years ago. She’s sure Jonas judges her–he’s the only one living in town other than her parents who know her secret–and when she sees him, all she can see is someone who sees her as so much less than she’s determined to be. Sixteen months pass from their walk in the park, and now, it is two weeks before Christmas. Jonas’s life is breaking his heart. His father, Lucas, is dying and losing his mind in ways that put both Lucas and Henry, the young boy who cares for him, at risk. His love for Lydia has prevented him from marrying any other young woman and Lydia makes it clear every time he talks to her that she dislikes him profoundly. And, no matter how hard he works, he can’t save his indigent patients from the horrors of 19th century poverty.
So, in one last attempt to show Lydia the man he is rather than the man she insists on seeing, he makes her a bet. One of the things he loves best about her is her unflagging joyousness in the face of all the sadness life contains.
“I wager,” he said, “that I could show you a situation before Christmas that would be beyond even your capacity for good cheer.”
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I see the worst of Leicester. In five minutes, I’ll leave for my next appointment. You smile and you wish and you see an entire world set forth in the most optimistic terms. I wager that I can find you a situation that lacks a bright side.”
He didn’t have fastenings, but he did have his version of it—house calls.
She mulled this over for a few moments. “What do you get if you win?”
“We’ll get to that in a moment, if you please. The more salient question is, what would you wish if you win? You could ask me for any favor. You could make me stand on my head in the market square for twenty minutes, if you wanted. Think, Miss Charingford, of all the ways you might humiliate me. Surely that would be worth something to you.”
She frowned and tapped her fingers against her lips. She didn’t look at him as she thought; she just tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. Finally, she gave a nod. “What if I said I wanted you never to talk to me again?”
His lungs stopped working. “That’s…that’s what you’d want?”
…“And what humiliation will you heap on me if you should prevail?” Miss Charingford asked.
“I want a kiss.”
Thus begins the true courtship between Jonas and Lydia. He takes her to visit his poorest patients, saving the most tragic for last. And she, rather than see only the tragedy, shows Jonas hope and joy in every home. Furthermore, as she spends time with Jonas, she begins to question her convictions about him and her past.
Just about everything about this novella is perfect. If I made a list of my top ten favorite romance heroes, Jonas would be on that list. (Hey, there’s a blog post for the New Year!) Jonas is a great doctor and man–his compassion for humanity extends to everyone but himself and his belief that he can always do and be better makes him so appealing. His wit is sly and lovely and he’s breathtakingly open about how he sees himself and the world. At one point, in order to avoid having an honest conversation with him, Lydia sings all of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Jonas tolerates this almost to the end and then interrupts.
“Who wants lords a-leaping?” he asked. “If my true love brings me any number of lords shambling about in their cups on Christmas, I’ll have words for her. Someone’s going to break a bottle and cut his hand, leaping about like that, and then guess who’s going to be roused from his warm home on the holidays to stitch him up? ‘Oh, Doctor Grantham, you’d best come quickly!’” He made a rude noise.
Lydia is a marvelous match for Jonas. She’s lived all her life in Leicester and is, a twenty-one, determinedly unmarried. She knows there is pain, cruelty, betrayal, and sorrow all around her–and starkly in her past–and she responds by seeing more than that. She seeks out the best in the world, determined every day to prove to her and to those around her that life’s joys outnumber its woes. And, though her behavior is, in part defensive–it enables her suppress her emotions about what happened to her five Christmases ago–it’s still beautiful and kind. She, like Jonas, every day makes the world a better place for those around her. My only complaint about her–and really, my only complaint about the novella–is that she holds on to fear for longer than seems necessary.
A Kiss for Midwinteris so well done–Ms. Milan would do the romance world a great favor if she’d share her secrets for how to write an ideal novella. In the 131 pages of this e-book, Ms. Milan offers readers a wholly rendered love story complete with history, fully realized characters (primary and secondary), and a genuinely joyful happy ending. (The very last scene of the novella is one of the best I’ve encountered in some time. I think first-rate endings are rare–Ms. Milan has given readers one in this charming holiday story.) I give A Kiss for Midwinteran A-.
Happy holidays to all and good wishes for the New Year!
God, I can't stand either lead in this book. Both Andi and Alex make me crazy--one's a whiney crazy and the other's a megalomaniac martyr. I am hoping...moreGod, I can't stand either lead in this book. Both Andi and Alex make me crazy--one's a whiney crazy and the other's a megalomaniac martyr. I am hoping the last sixth of this book somehow redeems them both.
I did like the ending of the book vastly more than that which preceded it. And I have to say, since finishing it, I've thought a lot about Ms. Donnelly's portrayal of France in Revolutionary times. Her sympathies are with both the royalty and the common man. I still never liked Andi or Alex--although I liked the men around them--but I'm glad I read this book.(less)
When you sentDear Authora teaser for your novelTeach Me, you described it as an historical novel set in the early Victorian period. In describing th...moreWhen you sent Dear Author a teaser for your novel Teach Me, you described it as an historical novel set in the early Victorian period. In describing the book, you wrote “romance will be the focus of the story with erotic elements. Sex and language will be hot, graphic and plentiful.” You weren’t joking about the sex. In fact, I wouldn’t describe your book as an historical romance; I’d call it erotica set in a very imaginary Victorian London.
Your heroine, Elizabeth, the Viscountess Rocksley, is at twenty-eight a very curious widow. She married young to a man she perhaps loved but never experienced passion with. (He was the stereotypical Victorian and would only make loved under the covers, clothed, quickly, and with no conversation.) The whole time Elizabeth was wed, she wondered if there wasn’t more pleasure to be had and, after her husband died and she finished her mourning period, she did have three discrete quickies at social events with a very nice rake whose hurried thrusting made her feel something stirring, although not quite thrilling. So, what does she do next? She asks around for the name of a brothel—this seemed ridiculous to me; a woman of her status could no more fish about for the name of a house of ill repute than discuss erotica at a dinner table (which Elizabeth does later in the book and doing so gets her in all sorts of trouble with her respectable social set). She contacts the madam of La Belle Jeune Fille Pieuse and requests an education in carnal pleasure. Elizabeth wishes to know sensual joy, to learn to give and receive it.
When Elizabeth goes to the bordello, she expects to encounter Mrs. Lydia Morcom, the madam. It’s never explained what sort of initial conversation Elizabeth had with Mrs. Morcom, but Elizabeth is expecting her training to be verbal and to be done by the madam. Instead, when she arrives for her first session, she’s met by an icy, gorgeous, arrogant peer, the utterly sexually depraved Earl of Malvern. Elizabeth, initially nonplused, quickly finds the idea of being educated by the Earl damn alluring. He tells her, after having her take off her cloak and checking out her body, that he is willing to teach her all she wants to know.
“I shall show you carnal pleasure, madam. As you say, both to receive and to give. However, pregnancy should be avoided at all costs.” His eyes flickered, the first sign of something resembling emotion crossing his face. “I will not marry you, no matter the circumstance.” Well, of course he wouldn’t. She wouldn’t wed him either. In any event, conception was not a concern for her, not after a marriage that had never yielded— Good Lord. He spoke of practical application. He spoke of touching and kissing and— Was it warmer in here of a sudden? He continued with barely a pause. “Actual penetration will be avoided. While many people extol the virtues of withdrawal, I remain unconvinced. We will discuss methods of contraception during your education, but the most effective method is always avoidance. You are in agreement?” Still confused but now with cheeks aflame, Elizabeth nodded. In all her life, no one had ever spoken so frankly. This, combined with his matter-of-fact manner and lack of emotion, banished any lingering apprehension and left only the excitement. Glorious, thrilling excitement.”
The two agree that Elizabeth will come to his townhouse—discretely of course—three days hence. Elizabeth leaves the brothel in a tizzy—she’s never been so turned on in her life—and James, the Earl, goes to ask Lydia, a woman he’s f**ked many a time, why she decided to offer him the “mousy” little widow. Lydia says she thought her present would appeal to his “degenerate soul” and that, since she’s just gifted him, she’d like him to gift her with the reward of his cock which he, without much interest, does.
Three days later, Elizabeth finds herself in the Earl’s home, where the two go over the basics of their arrangement. They will meet twice weekly at five in the evening—this hour is somehow more discrete than other times. The Earl asks Elizabeth to detail her sexual history. She, who has never talked about sex with anyone, is unable to answer. So, because Elizabeth isn’t really mousy at all, she asks him instead to tell her his sexual history.
click here to read the rest of the review at Dear Author.(less)