Stilted, awkward prose. Wildly inconsistent character motivations. Enormous disappointment- I'm still on the hunt for decent books set in this period,...moreStilted, awkward prose. Wildly inconsistent character motivations. Enormous disappointment- I'm still on the hunt for decent books set in this period, but Rowe's books certainly don't ring that bell. Part of the problem is my frustrated anticipation of Rogue Spy; every time the couple speaks English just feet away from German soldiers or hide in the closet (?!?) I jones for Bourne's clever, deft touch.(less)
A compelling read, Thomas elaborates again on her ever-present theme of lovers hell-bent on punishing each other before finally reaching forgiveness,...moreA compelling read, Thomas elaborates again on her ever-present theme of lovers hell-bent on punishing each other before finally reaching forgiveness, or at least equilibrium. Felix has a backstory to explain why he's so willing to toy with and then humiliate our protagonist, Louisa. What I most like is the way the story frames his behavior but does not excuse it- sometimes we are cruel to each other in the most casual ways, in quick reaction to our own sense of vulnerability. Louisa is less-sharply drawn although very interesting- an unapologetic and shrewd manipulator who finds her twin in Felix. I'm in agreement with Dear Author that Matilda is little more than a plot point and her disability is (mis)used to create plot-necessary motivations for Louisa. That aside, the book was tight, well-written, and (at the end) bizarrely moving.(less)
I had the misfortune of picking this up as an escape from The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie. Unfortunately, I found that Once a Rake eerily suffered from the same sins as Wicked Deeds: distasteful othering of Scottish men, incoherent plots, and ever-changing character motivations. I did not like it *at all*.
If the heroine of the book thought of Ian one more time as a "berserker" this would have become a wallbanger in truth.
Now that I'm settled once again with all my books in tow, I've been rereading many of my old-school historical romances, and many have not withstood t...moreNow that I'm settled once again with all my books in tow, I've been rereading many of my old-school historical romances, and many have not withstood the test of time: Petals in the Storm is a melodramatic Big Mis, Lady of Desire is downright goofy at moments. This makes Tracy Grant's books all the more impressive- she brings melodrama, family secrets, violence, and the French Revolution but manages to hold the plot together. Rightfully His is my favorite- a classic marriage of convenience/blackmail plot with meaty family conflict. Grant's protagonists wander from the script in delicious ways- I love that the hero uses his words rather than going off in a huff!(less)
Well, as Quaker-English nobility romance novels go it's no Flowers from the Storm. And as Carla Kelly naval captain hero regencies go it's no Mrs. McV...moreWell, as Quaker-English nobility romance novels go it's no Flowers from the Storm. And as Carla Kelly naval captain hero regencies go it's no Mrs. McVinnie's London Season. That said, I always remembered Miss Whittier Makes a List fondly, largely for the warm, appreciative dynamic between the *gulp* feisty American lead and the grim British naval captain. It's also astonishingly sensual for an early Carla Kelly. What memory papered over was how painfully young Hannah was- she agonized very little over abandoning her nationality and her religious community for Daniel and I could not help but think that much of her blithe embrace of a very different future was driven by youthful forward momentum rather than a real choice to leave her previous identity behind. Also, the late 18 aughts were a horrible time for an American to contemplate union with a British naval captain (Dolly Madison says shame on her!). That said, Carla Kelly is a wizard and the book holds together strongly with that practical but poignant tone that is classic Signet Regency Carla Kelly.(less)
Gil was fairly unredeemable for me and the grovel, squeezed into the very last pages, was cursory at best. The only point for me to wade through such...moreGil was fairly unredeemable for me and the grovel, squeezed into the very last pages, was cursory at best. The only point for me to wade through such angst and asshattery is for a five star, top-notch grovel, and I was disappointed.(less)
I read this last month so the details are lost to me. What I remember most clearly is that Jack was a dick, but by no means a monster, and Elizabeth h...moreI read this last month so the details are lost to me. What I remember most clearly is that Jack was a dick, but by no means a monster, and Elizabeth had an overdeveloped martyrdom complex. Meh.(less)
I have been in make-soup-and-tea-and-snuggle-up comfort reading mode since 2013 rolled in. Carla Kelly (especially classic Carla Kelly) generally make...moreI have been in make-soup-and-tea-and-snuggle-up comfort reading mode since 2013 rolled in. Carla Kelly (especially classic Carla Kelly) generally makes the top of my comfort read list.
Jesse was my favorite medical lead until he was knocked off by Jonas in A Kiss For Midwinter. Nell is less sharply drawn, a sweet 18 year old whistfully looking into the window of warm family life from the outside a la A Little Princess. Much of the poignancy is Jesse's knowledge that a much more secure and loving life awaits Nell if they can only make it to British lines.
Disappointing, I have to say. The story had no bite, no angst, and little that was original beyond the settings. I've read this hero and heroine befor...moreDisappointing, I have to say. The story had no bite, no angst, and little that was original beyond the settings. I've read this hero and heroine before. The teaser for the next book hooked, though, so I guess this bit did its job...(less)
Most readers and reviewers seemed less than impressed with Robert, and that's exactly why I adored him to bits. How delightfully subversive was the dy...moreMost readers and reviewers seemed less than impressed with Robert, and that's exactly why I adored him to bits. How delightfully subversive was the dynamic between Robert and Minnie, especially when she fantasizes about whispering into his ear at Parliament, but then realizes she would have to attend balls!
Robert's not the brightest bulb, and he's grappling with some major privilege issues. However, I never thought he was looking for a cookie and in fact he flicked off a number of cookies with some discomfort. Instead, he's navigating the world convinced he's inherited the sins of the father, something I felt quite a bit of empathy for. As for the 'arise, oppressed people' broadsheets- while clearly that was not the savviest use of his duke-capital, I did not think that he placed any of the workers in danger. However, to those reviewers wringing their hands over what would happen to the workers left out to dry... assuming the factory workers would strike simply because some anonymous fool dumps a pile of brochures at their place of business is just a bit silly. (Think North and South- quite a bit more to striking that that- poor Boucher!) I think we can excuse Robert of quite a bit (although not stupidly bad tactics- thank goodness he has Minnie).
As for the wedding night- I loved it. Best surprise of the book. Best angst of the book goes to Robert's youthful encounter with Oliver's mom and dad.(less)
A really excellent novella. Milan shines here, given the format, as the characters are as rich as those found in any full-length book.
I believed the b...moreA really excellent novella. Milan shines here, given the format, as the characters are as rich as those found in any full-length book.
I believed the big mis was really well done- it was only natural for Lydia to be defensive and I thought her insistance on holding out only made sense given the deep, shaming experience she had lived through. As for Jonas- well. There's something about the medical hero, and he just displaced my previous favorite, Jesse from The Wedding Journey. The final scenes were delicious, truly.(less)
I have been on a Dorothy L. Sayers binge inspired by a hankering I have for post WWI settings generated by my current project: Into the Silence: The G...moreI have been on a Dorothy L. Sayers binge inspired by a hankering I have for post WWI settings generated by my current project: Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. Reading Walsh is not the same as reading Sayers; as long as you accept that fact straight-on, you will not be disappointed. Sayers was all too coy with her characters; you really have to plumb her books in order to capture the flashes of character development and revelation that make her fiction so worthwhile. Walsh by contrast spells quite a bit out and is generous with time in Peter and Harriet's headspace.
I found much of the flashback plotting and the characterization of 1921 Lord Peter sloppy and inconsistent; I also thought the four children functioned more as plot moppets than integral parts of the protagonists' everyday life. Despite all that, this book was well written and enjoyable, like fantastic fan-fiction.(less)
I did my best and worked my way through all the stories, but at the end of the day the only one worth it is Joanna Bourne's lovely tale of reunited lo...moreI did my best and worked my way through all the stories, but at the end of the day the only one worth it is Joanna Bourne's lovely tale of reunited lovers foiling an espionage plot. Consider this five stars for Bourne's story and minimal love for the rest.(less)
Oh, Mary Balogh. If I lived in the same country as a public library, I would never shell out cash for a new release ever again... First, let's start w...moreOh, Mary Balogh. If I lived in the same country as a public library, I would never shell out cash for a new release ever again... First, let's start with the whole premise of a "Survivor's Club." Also, by this point all of her previous characters, populating every other scene, merge together in an unwholesome muddle of dukes and viscounts. Finally, I've seen all of this before. If Lady Muir's first marriage had an interesting spin, nearly everything else in The Proposal was classic Balogh, in a been-there-done-that sort of way.
Will I read the next one? Of course (public library please!). Why? Despite everything, Balogh knows how to put together the bare bones of an excellent, angsty love story. She may then procede to kill all of the angst with her heavy-handed pen, but pretend for a moment that rather than heavily editorializing the opening meeting of wounded vets, she let the group speak for themselves? Tone down the titles a few notches, leave the corny group moniker for the marketing department, and carry the story forward with snappy dialogue vice plodding internal exposition and what do you have? A classic Balogh regency- sweet, poignant, a little angsty, and wonderful. If I have to wade through crap to get at the ghost of those really excellent books, I guess I'll do it.(less)
I take back all the mean thoughts I had about this book while reading Ravishing the Heiress. Despite several problems, this book hooked me far more st...moreI take back all the mean thoughts I had about this book while reading Ravishing the Heiress. Despite several problems, this book hooked me far more strongly than its two predecessors. Thomas masters the classic amnesia trope (a guilty favorite of mine since I read Until You in middle school) and delivers a surprisingly compelling, if brief, story of antagonism sliding into mutual appreciation. Yes, the beginning of the book is infodump for the previous two installments. Yes, it is hard to understand the deep lack of self-esteem behind Hasting's utter failure to remake his relationship with Helena. Yes, the book is entirely too short to carry all of the plot points. Despite all that, this may be my favorite of the three. Books are funny like that.(less)
A surprizingly nice romance, especially given the lukewarm review that initially pointed me towards the book: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/ov......moreA surprizingly nice romance, especially given the lukewarm review that initially pointed me towards the book: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/ov.... I thought both characters exceptionally well written. While I too would have wished for a more explicit conversation on why Fox behaved as he had, I thought the erotic writing, for once, carried the day in terms of character development. The secondary romance was exceptionally underwritten but managed to be intriguing inspite of itself. Overall, a decent read, if not of the caliber of Scandal.(less)
The book was not nearly as funny as it thought it was. Especially in the first half, dialogue was contrived, stilted, and overly precious. Several sec...moreThe book was not nearly as funny as it thought it was. Especially in the first half, dialogue was contrived, stilted, and overly precious. Several secondary characters were little more than outrageous stereotypes reanimated for what purpose I cannot fathom (thinking Alkedama and his dudes here). I finished largely because of the plot's strong forward momentum in the second half, but this book (the first of the series) is also the last for me.(less)
The middle two stories carried the collection (four stars, easy). The first story depressed me, as I wanted to mourn the male lead's loss of the count...moreThe middle two stories carried the collection (four stars, easy). The first story depressed me, as I wanted to mourn the male lead's loss of the country he fought for, his cultural identity, his hopes for the future, and I knew he would likely be mourning for some time as well. That left the shininess of the HEA more than a bit tarnished. The last story was close to nonsensical for me. The middle two stories were classic Kelly, though. One pairs a sheltered miss with an upright man of the world a la The Lady's Companion and the other has two ethically-inclined adults find each other (and care for a child) despite the chaos of petty, cruel family and friends rather like Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand.
I do not know how I missed this collection for so long- it was well worth it.(less)
Fascinating to see what has changed (and what remained the same!) since this book was published in 1983. It has all of the clear, striking prose of Jo...moreFascinating to see what has changed (and what remained the same!) since this book was published in 1983. It has all of the clear, striking prose of Joanna Bourne's most recent work. The male characters, in their boldness, wit, and penchant for getting things done, also shine through. It is in the development of the female lead where the contrast between then and now is most striking. Certainly part of this is genre convention, but even old gothics like Nine Coaches Waiting permitted the female lead to be both very mistaken but also very brave, competent, even heroic. Sad to say I found Melissa to be not quite bright, not in control of her sexuality, and far too prone to talking herself into and out of accurate first impressions. She is definitely a 180 from Bourne's current crop of heroines. While The Black Hawk saddened me a bit because I hated to see Justine lose, and lose again, at the hands of the British (men), I did read her as easily the equal or even the superior of Adrian in terms of strength of character: http://jobourne.blogspot.com/2011/12/... and http://dearauthor.com/features/letter... are both fascinating reads along these lines.(less)
I loved Millie and hated Fitz. In a nutshell, there you go.
Yes, Millie was passive and held on to her secret for far too long. But given her age, her...moreI loved Millie and hated Fitz. In a nutshell, there you go.
Yes, Millie was passive and held on to her secret for far too long. But given her age, her expectations, and her sense of self I thought her decisions were consistent with her character. The meat of this book was not the romance per se but rather the lovely angst of all the throwaway moments that demonstrated how much Millie loved Fitz and how much Fitz took her for granted. Their shared commitment to the estate and the business was well-drawn, showing how two teenagers took on and mastered very adult responsibilities. The dynamic between Millie and Fitz's sisters was also nice and the scene at the train station with Isabelle was absolutely devastating thanks to the warm respect and care that had grown between the three.
Fitz is emotionally selfish. Jane got that in one, although I would remove the "relatively" http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/ov... I can easily see how Millie appreciates his intense sense of responsibility and his willingness to do the 'right' (heavily determined by social mores) thing. However, I am tired of reading about (mostly because I am tired of watching in real life) upstanding, hard-working men who leave the burden of emotional and domestic work to the women. Yes, Fitz does well by his sisters. Yes, Fitz watches out for Millie. But the caring is money, leadership in the face of external crises, ect. I am being somewhat unfair here- Fitz nails Millie's need to be useful and disciplined and his gifts increasingly show insight into her dreams (I loved the lavender). But Fitz benefits from Millie's emotional selflessness, he thrives under her care and in partnership with her, and he is too lazy to challenge the status quo by asking what's in this for Millie. His casual adultery was also devastating.
All that said, I quite appreciated this book. It is miles ahead of the previous book, which annoyed the pants off of me. I'm anticipating annoyance ahead, as well- Helena and Hastings were drags on the narrative of the plot and I found the dynamic between them increasingly juvenile. But this book was well worth the read, if only to see Millie get exactly what she wants. I myself would have appreciated a grovel, or at least deep remorse for the wenching, but Millie never would. (less)
The book is an extended meditation on two characters who have done nothing but big- and little-mis themselves for seven-odd years of marriage. While I...moreThe book is an extended meditation on two characters who have done nothing but big- and little-mis themselves for seven-odd years of marriage. While I normally do eat this stuff right up (discovering the person you've married is not who you've assumed them to be = rad = sooo excited about Sherry Thomas's uncoming book) here the narrative structure is boring as dust. Long pages of maundering- perhaps I've misjudged him/her. Maybe he/she is not the grim hater/flighty whore I've always thought him/her to be... followed by, naaaah, I'm sure I'm just imagining things. Rinse, repeat. Several times. Snooze. Which is too bad, because I adored the angst here- I just wish it had been better executed.(less)
Probably my least favority Sherry Thomas, this book played with tropes that I tend to find snooze boring- "i'm so beautiful i find it difficult to est...moreProbably my least favority Sherry Thomas, this book played with tropes that I tend to find snooze boring- "i'm so beautiful i find it difficult to establish meaningful relationships," "revenge sex based on mistaken identity," and "love or some semblance thereof at first sight." That's not to say that Thomas did not have interesting things to say about all of the above in clear, lovely prose. That just means that my emotional tie-in to the story was basically nil.
I'm going through a bit of a dry-spell. My normal stand-bys (Duran, Thomas, Milan, Hoyt) have all produced perfectly wonderful new books that moved me not at all. Maybe I'm going through a stage, but I actually just reread a Judith McNaught from my teen romance reading years just for that maturbatory-angst feeling that she always hits square on the head. I dunno.
All that said, I am *psyched* about the next Thomas book, which hits some of my top ten tropes: "underappreciated woman" (a favorite since reading Nerilka's Story at an impressionable age), "marriage of convenience angst," and "men who throw away the love of a good woman and finally realize it angst." We'll see- insha'allah.(less)
The writing was well done and the concept intriguing. The format was not kind to these complicated characters, forcing Milan to make everything just a...moreThe writing was well done and the concept intriguing. The format was not kind to these complicated characters, forcing Milan to make everything just a little too pat, spelling out motivations rather than revealing them bit by bit.
I felt about the ending the same way I felt about The Duke's Perfect Wife- if you go through all the trouble of sketching out an interesting, compelling, ambitious, broken man, don't paint him as a fluffy domesticated housecat in the last few chapters to get the ending you want. There has to be a better way to avoid tragedy (we don't want the heroic fatal flaw a la Oedipus!) without betraying the fundamentals of the character as originally sketched...(less)
Duran is always for me a solid read, even when I don't fall head over heels with a given book. My friend and I were comparing notes and it was interes...moreDuran is always for me a solid read, even when I don't fall head over heels with a given book. My friend and I were comparing notes and it was interesting to me- even though we have very similar tastes we ended up prefering different Duran books. We both agreed (of course!) that The Duke of Shadows was rad. I've always been a fan of Written on Your Skin whereas Cate was pulling for Bound by Your Touch.
I felt that although At Your Pleasure was well crafted and intellectually stimulating, I did not emotionally invest in the story as much as I wanted to. Given all of the family-vs-love angst I was hope to be swept away as I was by the similar dilemma of the heroine in Milan's Unveiled. However, even though I think At Your Pleasure was the better book by quote-unquote objective standards (stronger writing, more fleshed-out heroine, lovely sense of place and time) I was far more into the Milan. It only goes to show that in the strange alchemy of reading you never know what you're going to end up with.(less)
I believe the issue of Hart's sexuality and Eleanor's choice are intertwined. Young Hart buys into that classic Victorian division of labor wherein the lamb in the kitchen and the lioness in the bedroom are two different women. In my reading, Eleanor rejects this instrumental approach to relationships- she is no more a stepping ladder to a political career any more than Mrs. Palmer is a trampoline for kinky shits and giggles. And yet that is exactly how Hart defines and interacts with them. He is a good gentleman in that he does not play with both toys at once; however the initial insult of relating to women as exemplars of narrow categories rather than as full individuals lingers. This is why Hart thinks he can keep playing games with Mrs. Palmer long after she has indicated a wild emotional connection; this is how Hart misses that Eleanor has agency and integrity completely separate from anything he could do to or for her.
Could the book have used a kinkier scene between Hart and Eleanor? Probably. But I was satisfied through conversational clues that their sexual life was heading in that direction regardless. Unlike the hapless MP, Hart does not seem to like kink for kink's sake; rather, he enjoys taking women past their comfort zones because engaging in all of these practices requires women to voluntarily entrust their pleasure (and safety) to Hart, hitting his buttons for submission, control, and paternalism.
My issues focused on a different issue, namely Hart's political trajectory. I loved the mid-book scene of violence; the interview with Darragh spun me up because something in the dialogue and interaction between Hart and Eleanor reminded me strongly of Aral and Cordelia from Lois McMaster Bujold's Cordelia's Honor. Thus my thoughts were trending along Bujold-ian lines when the resolution to Hart's ambitions was introduced and I was left with a boatload of wtf? I would have strongly preferred for events to play out along Ian's vision for the future; this would have allowed for greater angst, true character reconciliation and growth, as well as a more realistic arc. C'est la vie.
If there was once character I think was inconsistent, it was Mrs. Palmer. Her warning of Eleanor was incredibly strange given that her imperative (especially as sketched in The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie) was always to protect Hart at all costs.
In all, however, I truly loved the book, especially many of the scenes that hit midway through the book. It's good to end this quartet on a high note.(less)
So- As a vehicle for much angst, wandering hungry and cold over the moors a la Jane Eyre, and being pregnant and alone in the world, Lily rocks. And I am not knocking any of these tropes- in fact, they are some of my favorites. The drama/melodrama was delicious. I was a little worried that the book might turn too slapstick 'meta' for me, given that it features Lily Troublefield and Devon Darkwell; however, these heavy handed "gothic ahoy" signs aside, the book actually functioned as a serious old-school romance.
That said, I can no longer escape into these glorious angst-o-thons anymore when the hero crosses the red line of douchiness more than once or twice. Devon did a silly little hopscotch back and forth for the entire book- coercing sex, forgetting there was a brain attached to that vag he was so fond of, enacting all sorts of outlandish revenge schemes, and ect. As a more satisfying and honest ending, once Lily's refuge on the moors goes up in smoke (you'll know the scene) I would have someone entirely new and delicious ride to the rescue. He would earn Lily's trust and learn all her secrets, marry her, and whisk her off to a lovely and pastoral neighborhood somewhere. Devon would come to his senses, find Lily, and cast himself down for a class A drama. Lily, no fool she, would realize that her unhealthy Cathy-Heathcliff bond-of-angst has entirely disappeared after having known the love of a non-douchy man and would send Devon packing. Devon would crawl back to his oceanside hideout and drink himself silly- serves him right, the ass.
This book was an absolute delight to read, but is for romance novel angst aficionados only.(less)
Unlike many of Kelly's atypical heroes, the admiral did nothing for me: no frisson of attraction, no red hair and thin lips... That aside, the angst a...moreUnlike many of Kelly's atypical heroes, the admiral did nothing for me: no frisson of attraction, no red hair and thin lips... That aside, the angst around the heroine's initial grim situation and the angst of the last few chapters was marvelously done.(less)