Friday

A Woman Made for Sin by Michele Sinclair

August 29, 2014
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…

http://michelesinclair.com/

Or in the case of A Woman Made for Sin, pay no attention to the blurb on the back cover. Why the back cover, you ask.  Well, let me tell you! On the back cover we are told that Lady Aimee Wentworth is tired of waiting around for Reece Hamilton, so she is going to force his hand and sneak on board his boat and have an adventure. That is my interpretation of what the back cover says. So, it’s a romance about Aimee and Reece, right? You wouldn’t know it by reading the story. It’s more like Aimee and Reece have been relegated to secondary characters in their own book. The largest percentage of time is taken up with Millie and Chase from A Woman Made for Pleasure.

Let me review some of the shenanigans in this tale.  I have never read any of Michele Sinclair’s books before and because I’m coming in on the second in a series I was a little lost as to what was going on. However, I was smart enough to catch on that the three women in the series are Aimee, Millie, and Janelle, also known as the Daring Three – but as it turns out they are all struck numb with TSTL syndrome. Janelle doesn’t have a big part in this book, thank goodness. For this outing she seems to be assigned the glare-at-the-man-who-has-done-wrong  part. And, that man isn’t our hero Reece, but Chase from the previous book. In fact, except for one flashback scene, Reece doesn’t put in too much of an appearance til around page 200. Before that we only see him wondering around his boat pondering why his crew is so odd and thinking he can hear a woman sing. Of course he can hear a woman sing – that would be Aimee. You see, Aimee dressed up in boy's clothes in order to catch a thief, then forced Reece’s crew to kidnap her. She received some bumps and bruises in the process, but because she is so plucky and pretty and charming she persuades allllll of the crew members to hide her from Reece until she can heal. Then her plan is to convince him she loves sailing and she was meant for him. Through pages and pages and pages we get to watch Aimee charm one crusty seaman after another… even zee temperamental French cook is charmed. Then during a storm (of course) she climbs the rigging to save the crew and is spotted by the oblivious Reece - and this is more than halfway through the book! For all of you who love l-o-n-g whankee-roo scenes there is a doozey of one in this book. After pages and pages of separation between Reece and Aimee, there is one–whole–chapter dedicated to tossing, sucking, biting, shucking, wrapping, and bouncing. It was a really big yawn. There is no chemistry between Aimee and Reece, there is no bonding, no friendship, no nothing. There is more chemistry between Aimee and the crew members. That would be because she spends time with the crew members - making friends, singing songs, swapping jokes, sewing sails, climbing yardarms, and just being an all-round pal.

Then there is Chase and Millie. In the first few chapters, Chase gets mad at Millie because of Aimee’s disappearance (Aimee is his sister). He sends Millie to the country. Well, as I mentioned before, Millie is part of the Daring Three. She actually seems like the leader.  She cannot sit back and let Chase find her dear friend Aimee! She must be the one to find her! She has a plan. She will disguise herself as a poor woman and work in a bar close to the wharf waiting tables. While she is there, she will make friends with all of the men. It was my observation that the Daring Three seem to be men magnets because whenever they enter a room all the men stop whatever it is they are doing and turn into slobbering, drooling boobs. Anyway, she is hoping one of the men in the bar will have seen Aimee being kidnapped. All the time she is slyly questioning men and they are alllll falling in love with her, she is also trying to make friends with a seamstress, some people at a boarding house, a kid that can read, and the other waitress. In the meantime Chase is back home pacing the floor and recruiting Bow Street Runners to find his sister and his wife. Chase and Millie are separated through almost the whole book, and their story/stories take up about 60% of it. So what we have is a romance about Reece and Aimee who are separated through most of their part and a much longer story about Chase and Millie who are also separated through most of the book. Throw into that mix a villain with a limp who isn’t caught at the end, which leads me to think this story is going to continue.

I was disappointed in this book. I was looking for a romance between two people, not an adventure story with four people who are separated throughout most of the book. I was hoping for better and I’m sorry to say I cannot recommend this book, unless you want to check it out of the library. For a romance to work for me, the couple in love need to be together for more than a chapter or two.

Time/Place: Regency England, Tavern, Ship
Sensuality: Supposed to be hot

Tuesday

Upcoming Historical Romance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! For: September 15, 2014 to October 14, 2014. *Author's name linked. 
Amanda McCabe

Betrayed by His Kiss
September 16
Amanda Scott

Moonlight Raider
Border Nights series
September 30
Anne Stuart*

Never Marry a Viscount
Scandal at the House of Russell series
September 23
Beatrice Small

Serena
The Silk Merchant’s Daughters series
October 7
Carole Mortimer

Zachary Blacks: Duke of Debauchery
Dangerous Dukes series
September 16
Cathy Maxwell

The Groom Says Yes
Brides of Wishmore series
September 30
Christine Merrill

The Truth about Lady Felkirk
September 16
Elizabeth Hoyt*

Darling Beast
Maiden Lane series
October 14
Grace Burrowes

What a Lady Needs for Christmas
The MacGregors series
October 7
Hannah Howell

If He’s Daring
Wherlock series
October 7
Jenna Kernan
Kathryn Albright
Lynna Banning

Wild West Christmas, anthology
September 16
Jennifer Ashley*
 

Scandal and the Duchess
Highland Pleasures novella
September 16
Jennifer Ashley*

Rules for a Proper Governess
Highland Pleasures series
October 7
Jodi Thomas

A Place Called Harmony
Harmony series
October 7
Karen Hawkins*

The Prince Who Loved Me
The Oxenburg Princes series
September 23
Kathleen Bittner Roth

Celine
When Hearts Dare series
October 7
Maya Rodale

What a Wallflower Wants
Bad Boys & Wallflowers
September 30
Mia Marlowe*

Once Upon a Plaid
Spirit of the Highlands series
October 7
Sharon Page*

An American Duchess
September 30
Suzanne Enoch*
Alexandra Hawkins
Elizabeth Essex
Valerie Bowman
Christmas Brides, anthology
September 30
Theresa Romain

Season for Desire
Holiday Pleasures series,
October 7

Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan

August 26, 2014
Let's make this short and sweet.

http://www.courtneymilan.com/

Courtney Milan has produced another short story that should have been longer. In Talk Sweetly to Me, Ms. Milan handles the subject of an inter-racial relationship and it only takes about two hours of the readers time to find out her solution to the problem.  While I applaud Ms. Milan's tackling the issue that an interracial relationship would have in 1882, it really deserved a full-length telling.

The characters of Rose Sweetly and Stephen Shaughnessy were fun and had the makings of a really dynamic pair - if only they had been given the space they deserved.

Rose Sweetly had a couple of issues to deal with for a woman in the 19th century. First of all, she was really smart, and I do mean smart. She loves math and she is used as a computer by an astronomer but she does not get the recognition she deserves. Secondly, she is a black woman, and for once an author didn't add a white mother or father to make her more acceptable to us. She is the wise one in the romance. She is the one who knows what a rough road is ahead for her and the man she loves. I liked Rose a lot. She was sweet, smart, loyal, and strong. She has also fallen in love with her rakish neighbor, Stephen.

Stephen is a charmer. He is a bit of a womanizer - he loves women and he never takes anything too seriously. He writes for a women's newspaper and was a secondary character in The Suffragette Scandal. Stephen has also fallen for his neighbor, so we walk into a romance already in process. I also liked Stephen a lot. He was soooo charming, a guy with a permanent twinkle in his eyes, a hard man to resist. If I had any problem with him it would be that he was portrayed as being oblivious to the issue of race. Rose's skin color was never ever a problem for him. I thought that was a little bit unrealistic. It was sort of explained away by his being Irish Catholic and because of the discrimination against the Irish, he doesn't have any bias. Just because someone is discriminated against doesn't mean they don't have any biases. I would have liked Stephen's character explored more than it was.

But hey, what we are given is a short story that only takes probably 2 hours to read if you are a slow reader. It is a sweet story about two people who are in love and are going to face numerous problems but they get a butterfly flying, unicorn hopping, birds chirping happily ending. It is a feel good story - I just wish it had been longer. These two characters had a lot of potential that wasn't realized.

I'll leave you with my favorite line from the book: "So yes, Mr. Shaughnessy. I'm not one of the people who will watch this happen in all it's glory. Women like me will have to content ourselves with glimpsing the phenomenon in smoked glass."


Time/Place: 1882 England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas

August 26, 2014
"Put on a happy face
Brush off the clouds and cheer up
Put on a happy face..."


http://www.sherrythomas.com/

Ah yes, a happy face - you all know what that is, don't you? Its a frown turned upside down! Evidently, the two main characters in this book didn't know that because these were two of the most depressing characters I've read about in a long time. No knock knock jokes coming out of their mouths.

Sherry Thomas is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is always beautiful, elegant, and well-thought out. In the case of My Beautiful Enemy, all of that is still there. It was just that the characters of Catherine, aka Ying-Ying, and Leighton were such sober characters I wanted to scream, "lighten-up!"

On top of that there were a number of moments filled with martial arts. I'm not a big fan of martial art films - once you've see one crouching dragon in slow motion you've seen them all - regardless of the photographic beauty. I must say the same about reading about kicks, flips, chops, hops, and swinging. I admit I did the same with these parts of the book that I do when there pages and pages of one sex scene - skip read. Too bad an author wrote all those lovely words just to have me skip over them. But reading about any kind of fighting in a book, whether its with a sword or the side of a hand, just isn't interesting to me. And actually, I would have to say this is more of an adventure story then it is a romance.

Then we have flashbacks. I don't normally mind flashbacks, I actually quite enjoy them, if they add to the story. The problem I had with the flashbacks in My Beautiful Enemy was just when Catherine and Leighton were connecting I was jerked back to their past. At least half of the book is told through flashbacks.

There is a prequel which I purchased halfway through reading the book. I understand that it adds quite a bit of character development to My Beautiful Enemy. I question as to why it wasn't included in the full length book because Leighton and Catherine were both in need of more character development.

So, while I still greatly admire Sherry Thomas and this book was full of lovely prose, the characters of Catherine and Leighton lacked romantic chemistry and were both too humorless for me.  As much as I love Sherry Thomas' work, My Beautiful Enemy didn't work for me.


Time/Place: 1880-1890s England/China/Turkestan
Sensuality: Warm/Hot
 

A Little Night Murder by Nancy Martin

August 26, 2014
Froth: Bubbles that form in or on a liquid, or something that is appealing but that has no serious value or interest.

http://www.nancymartinmysteries.com/

First things first. Just ask anyone who knows me...go ahead ask. Does SidneyKay like first- person narrative? After the shudder from the crowd the answer will be a resounding no. Well, guess what A Little Night Murder is written in! First person! Which shouldn't come as much of a surprise to me - really - in that most of the murder/mystery stories I've read they are first person. So when I opened this book, all it elicited was a slight groan followed by a sigh, then I plunged into the book. I will admit, the first person narrative didn't really bother me that much because the relationship between Nora and Michael had already been established. Sort of. What did bother me? This is the 10th book in the Blackbird Sisters series and I found myself lost in trying to catch up on all the relationships. What I thought might be a murder/mystery along the lines of Agatha Christie turned out to be something more along the lines of Rizzoli and Isles. In fact, that's what kept crossing my mind as I read A Little Night Murder - "you know, this would make a really good TNT/TBS/NetFlix/Lifetime series." While the writing was funny in spots, I found all the characters running through the book rather chaotic and a big distraction from the crime. I suspect if I had read this series from the very beginning, I would be a big fan, but I didn't. I came in on the 10th book and it doesn't stand alone well, but that's my problem.

Amongst all of the characters that inhabit this book, and there are a lot, are Nora; her fiancé, Michael; and her sisters, Emma and Libby. There are Blackbird relatives and Michael's relatives who show up. Then there are an assortment of friends, and since I've never read any of the other books in this series I don't know their relevance to the scheme of things. Then there is Nora's boss, Gus... more on him later. Separate from these characters are the characters who I believe are only there to be murdered or be suspects of same said murder. And, this batch of characters are a whacky bunch, especially the woman whose skin has turned blue (and she's trying to produce a play). But really, for me the murder/mystery story seemed to take a back seat to all of the rigmarole that was circling Nora Blackbird. That is one of the reasons this mystery didn't work so well for me - there was just too much chaos surrounding Nora. Maybe it was supposed to be funny, maybe not, but I did find it irritating.

Speaking of irritating, let's talk about Gus, Nora's boss. Nothing screamed sexual harassment more than this jerk. I'm not sure if we were supposed to think his antics were manly-alpha-male funny stuff or not, but if I had been Nora I would have filed numerous suits against this man. He was too close to being a possessive, stalker kind of guy for my taste.  And, he's her boss. He knows all the Human Resources laws that are out there, or at least he should. I have a feeling he's going to show up in future books, because he has a hankering for little ol' Nora. I found Gus to be really creepy and not a character that I found anywhere close to a charming alpha bad boy.

I also didn't care for the cliff-hanger sort of ending. SPOILER ALERT! Will those wedding bells ever ring for Nora and Michael? Yes, I know this is a series and it appears to be a continuous series, but I like closure in the stories I read, and there isn't any reason Nora and Michael couldn't be a man and wife detective team.

For other people this book may be what they are looking for. It was not a heavy-duty, scary, dark mystery. It was a more Sex in the City fluffy-frothy mystery, and that may work for some people. I might have enjoyed a froth-filled mystery if more of the book had been dedicated to the mystery, but there was too much peripheral drama surrounding Nora for me to truly enjoy this book. Sorry to say, A Little Night Murder was a disappointment.  

Time/Place: Current East Coast USA
Sensuality: None

Monday

August 18, 2014
Why are Scottish guys always heroes?

http://www.suzanneenoch.com/

A Rogue with a Brogue, by Suzanne Enoch, is the second book in the Scandalous Highlanders series and its a pretty good read - nothing earth shattering, but nice.  You know a Suzanne Enoch book is sort of like comfort food - just without the carbs.  Ms. Enoch's writing is mature, smooth, and well developed - romance readers will never be disappointed if the have one of her books in their hands.

A Rogue with a Brogue is a sort of Romeo and Juliet story, but without the poison and whiny, angsty teenagers.

It is the story of the second McLawry brother, Arran - a manly man who is supposed to be a bit of a rake - and Mary Campbell.  These two met at a ball shortly after a truce has been adopted between their two families.  Like Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, Arran and Mary are instantly enthralled with each other - not necessarily in love but they can't see to keep away from each other.  Eventually their inability to keep their hands off of each other leads to being caught in a compromising position which leads to Arran and Mary being exiled to separate family estates for punishment.  Well, Arran concocts a plan and steals a will Mary. Then the book turns into a road trip romance as these two journey north to Gretna Green, or her grandfather, or wherever gets them out of England and away from her conniving father, vile fiance, and Arran's well-meaning but stubborn brother, Ranulf.

While reading this story I found myself more interested in Arran's dynamics with his family than I was with the romance between he and Mary.  At times I thought the romance between the two was lost in everything else that was going on - however, I still enjoyed A Rogue with a Brogue very much.

Ponder moment - Why do we continue to like Scottish men as heroes in historical romance books?  I know that before Mel Gibson turned to the dark side, we were enthralled with Braveheart, and didn't the tears fall from our eyes when the Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland in 1996? And I will confess that nothing chokes me up faster than a massed band of bagpipers marching past with their kilts swinging side to side and their drum sticks twirling in the air. I will be the first to confess I love all things Scottish, but I have to ask why don't we ever see other nationalities in historical romance? Oh sure, occasionally a Russian or German man will show up clicking their heels together at a ball but usually they are for comic relief. If an Italian shows up I can almost guarantee that he will be the chef, and the French - OMG - those blood-thirsty guys who followed Napoleon and are usually portrayed as torturing someone.  All of these nationalities have a pretty musical language. I just find it interesting that with all the choices out there it is the Scots that we have turned our fascination toward - I don't know why - I don't have an answer - I'm just pondering.

Back to the book. Rogue with a Brogue is a fast read. There are no surprises, a charming hero, and lots and lots of Scottish brogue for those of us who just cannot get enough. I recommend this book.

Time/Place: Regency England/Scotland/Road Trip
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Behind Closed Doors by Betina Krahn, 1991 - Project A-Team

August 11, 2014

Will the real Elizabeth I please stand up?
 

http://www.betinakrahn.com/
Behind Closed Doors is the sequel to Caught in the Act.  It is the story of Merrie and Jacks daughter Corrie.  Like it's predecessor, Caught in the Act is a wonderful read, although there were a couple of things that made it not quite as good. 

In Behind Closed Doors we are presented with another delightful heroine, who has grown up to be much like her mother, at least in personality.  Her father, Jack, seems to have grown into an overprotective father who is trying to protect the light of his eyes from all males that were like him in his younger days.  So, he's not a happy camper when a command from Elizabeth I arrives demanding his daughter become one of her maids of honor.  There's not too much he can do but allow his lovely daughter to become part of the licentious court that was Elizabeth I. 

It is here that I arrived at my first problem - the portrait painted of Elizabeth I.  She was a secondary character in Caught in the Act, but she was not yet on the throne and she is portrayed as a rather nice person.  In this book, she is anything but.  She is filled with jealousy, she is demanding, and she has hissy-fits of gigantic proportions.  I have read quite a bit about Elizabeth I, both fictional and non-fiction.  What I've read presents so many different images of her that I often wonder what she was really like.  Sometimes she is portrayed has a highly intelligent, loyal person and sometimes she is portrayed as a crafty, dominating, obsessive villain.  In this book she is the villain, and I suspect that while she probably had many insecurities, she wasn't quite the monster that she was in this story.

Anyway, honest, loyal, trusting Corrie is soon Elizabeth's pet.  Elizabeth is very possessive of Corrie, to the point that she warns anyone (mostly males) off if they even sneeze in Corrie's direction.  However, Corrie is never aware of any of Elizabeth's maneuvering.  She is steadfast in her adoration of the Queen, sort of like Horton the elephant. "I meant what I said and I said what I meant...an elephant's faithful 100%."

Enter Rugar, our hero with thighs as big as tree trunks.  You know ladies, if I ever saw a man who had thighs as big as a tree trunk I might take off running in the other direction.  Of course it could be a sapling, but I doubt it.  Anyway, Rugar is big and strong and sexy and golden and just made to make young innocent girls drool, which is what Corrie does.  However, Rugar's got an axe to grind.  You see when he was just a wee seedling, his father was humiliated by Elizabeth and her court.  Rugar has never overcome his hatred of the English and Elizabeth and he has come to wreak revenge on all of them.  His plan is to win every game there is, make all the men in court look ridiculous and make all the women want him, and seduce all of Elizabeth's ladies...starting with the stunning Corrie.

This book is similar in its layout to Caught in the Act.  Our couple rather quickly fall in love, are separated, and get back together.  While I loved both Rugar and Corrie, I did grow a tad bit irritated by one too many kidnappings.  Just one would have been fine, thank you very much.  But that was just a minor bump in the road.

Also present in this story was a strong secondary romance between Corrie's cousin Anne and Rugar’s friend, another tree but bigger, Baron Torgne Sigurd.  These two are different in so many ways.  Anne is a widow who is very aggressive, and she's got an itch that she wants some man to scratch.  She's very up front about her sexuality and she's pretty salty in her language.  She and innocent Corrie have quite a fun friendship. Torgne on the other hand is a proper stick in the mud male who has no use for tarts (not the kind you bake.)  The secondary romance is highly combustible and almost steals the show. 

Behind Closed Doors like Caught in the Act, is filled with Tudor intrigue, an interesting portrayal of Elizabeth I, and two delightful couples.  Even though there was one too many kidnappings and I wasn't too fond of the mean queen, I highly recommend this book and you should try to find both of these rare stories for your collection.


Time/Place: Elizabeth Tudor's England
Sensuality: Hot: