Friday

Redeeming Lord Ryder by Maggie Robinson

January 12, 2018
Coincidence...fancy meeting you here

http://www.maggierobinson.net/

In Redeeming Lord Ryder by Maggie Robinson, we are asked to believe that a woman, Nicola, who lost her voice in a train wreck, and a man, Jack, who is responsible for the train wreck, end up in the same place at the same time for rehabilitation, and fall in love. Kismet, destiny, karma, or coincidence? Could be all of those, but it’s also the plot, all boiled down to one sentence - but of course that isn't all there is to it. We, after all, have a ton of pages to fill.

Actually, this book started out promising. Nicola lost her voice because of the trauma of being in a train wreck in which a couple of people were killed. She has journeyed to Pudding-on-the-Wold for rehabilitation, but it's not working. She has not regained her voice back; however, she has grown quite comfortable in her little cottage. Unlike some of the previous books in this series, her "keepers" have been kind to her. She eats what she wants, she goes where she wants, she is able to communicate with her family, and she seems to be independently wealthy. She’s even been kicking around the idea of staying in her cottage forever, though she hasn't figured out how she will manage that. Her fiancĂ© broke off the engagement when she lost her voice, but she has accepted that - after all, he has dreams of being a politician and everyone knows a wife of a politician needs to have the ability to talk. So, she understands - in fact, Nicola understands almost everything.

Then we have Jack, Lord Ryder, and he has come to Pudding-on-the-Wold because he feels a tremendous amount of guilt over the train wreck Nicola was in. It’s a crippling amount of guilt. You see, it was his foundry which produced the faulty girder, which then caused a bridge to collapse, which then caused the train to plunge, which then caused two deaths and Nicola's injuries. Jack has overcompensated for the disaster. He has dumped every business he owns which may injure anyone - even if the injuries are in the most infinitesimal of ways. He has helped the two families who suffered the losses of their loved ones, but he just can't get over the horrible guilt. He is one big angst lump.

Jack and Nicola encounter each other by accident on one of their walks one day and the sparks fly. They are instantly in lust with each other but they also become friends. Of course, they have their keepers to contend with. Their keepers do not allow any kind of hanky-panky at Pudding-on-the-Wold, and if any of you are familiar with the previous books in this series you will know that is a big joke - no hanky-panky my eye. Anyway, neither Jack nor Nicola know who each other is, nor do they have any idea of how much they have in common. This will of course lead to a big misunderstanding, followed by an even bigger conniption fit by our hero. I will be honest with you here; by the time the conniption fit rolls around I had become somewhat bored with this couple and the hero's big snit seemed to be way out of proportion to what actually happened.

Much to my sorrow, I struggled with this book. I started to lose interest in Nicola and Jack about half-way through. All I wanted to do was finish this story, so there was some skip-reading toward the ending. I couldn't find anything to connect with either Nicola or Jack. I grew tired of Jack's continual guilt fest and tired of Nicola's trying to seduce Jack. I know I'm in trouble when a book allows my mind to wander.

Ponder moment. Why do a lot of authors use the grand old oral hanky-panky-ooh-la-la moments as the first sexual encounter of heroes and heroines? I've thought about this a lot lately, because it's not just Ms. Robinson who fills her books with “insert tongue here” first time occasions. I'm often startled when these first-time episodes happen and here's why. Usually these encounters are the woman's first time at any kind of sexual intimacy - ever. She is in all likelihood a total innocent, in more ways than one. She doesn't know anything about the organ or the act. On top of that, she probably doesn't even know the guy all that much. Remember I’m talking about historical romance novels, not Fifty Shades of Whatever stuff.

It seems to me that this kind of first time moment implies a whole different type of intimacy. And, it should be more than just a method of birth control. When someone is rooting around underneath a skirt, there is more involved than just a moment of relief. Allowing someone to do this is highly personal; it involves all kinds of trust issues. You are opening yourself up to all kinds of up-close and personal stuff. For a long time I've thought that this act is more intimate than the actual big bang moment. So, to have someone you barely know, or a couple who have just met, or for this to be an innocent's first time is bothersome to me. I have finally arrived at the conclusion that this type of intimacy is an expression of trust for a couple and I wish authors would write these encounters after the big bang and not as a precursor to it. Or, even worse, as a writer-delay-build-the-tension-scintillate tool. I asked my husband his opinion, and he, like all good husbands, agreed with me. And, that is my rant. Writing of the act itself does not bother me; the placement of it in a book does. It's been on my mind lately while reading romance books and it just so happened that this is the book that triggered my ponder moment.

Bottom-line. I had trouble with this book. While the premise of the book had possibilities, the luv-couple didn't connect. They didn't connect with each other and they didn't connect with me. I was disappointed.

Time/Place: 1880s England
Sensuality: Warm

A Good Day to Marry a Duke by Betina Krahn

January 13, 2018
Welcome back Betina – it’s been a while…

https://betinakrahn.com/

Let me see, the last time I read a new book by Ms. Krahn was Make Me Yours in 2009. You know, I’ve actually seen some authors in their human forms, so I know they are not robots or aliens or something not of this earth. And, because they are human I know they all have trials and tribulations just like everyone else. So, even though I periodically checked Ms. Krahn’s website I had arrived at the conclusion that she was going to join that list of authors who have vanished from Romanceland. (That list makes me cry.) Imagine my delight when I discovered she had taken up her quill again! While I was excited, I also had some trepidation. Would the old Krahn spark still be there? Well, glad to say, yes it is! While this story does not reach the level of my alllll-time favorite Krahn, Behind Closed Doors, it is a most welcome endeavor. It is a nice to have Ms. Krahn back.

A Good Day to Marry a Duke begins the new series Sin and Sensibility by Betina Krahn. We are introduced to Daisy, a rich American heiress and also a heroine who is mighty hard to like – just so you know. Not only is she hard to like, but her reasoning at times is childish and she’s somewhat selfish. Yes, yes, everyone is selfish because we are all “self” centered but she is a harebrained selfish and that was my one quibble with this book. So, let’s get it over with.

Rant. The problem I had with Daisy was how could she not know that going against the conventional standard established for women of her time period would eventually hurt her and her family? Hanging out with the guys, passing the flask between the fellas, being out-spoken, and riding astride would all be cause for censure. Daisy’s stubbornness in flaunting the rules was irritating. It actually reminded me of an old movie with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball called Fancy Pants. Lucile Ball did the things she did because supposedly she didn’t have the proper know-how because she lived in some podunk town in the old west. Now, we are creeping up on one of my pet-peeves: the representation of “hicks” in movies, literature, news, etc. I have always been insulted when I am bombarded with images/written words which love to make out that the only culture we have is in the large cities and that country-folks are just morons who wouldn’t know a Seurat from a Delacroix. Sure, they are not exposed to some “cultural” items on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean they can’t think. So, for this book to imply that Daisy did the things she did “because she didn’t have no learnin” pressed by buttons. I digress. I rant.

Anyway, it’s too bad that Ms. Krahn picked a heroine who triggered one of my aversions because the guys in the book were so very interesting.  First of all we have the hero of the story, Ashton. Ashton is the wastrel-black-sheep of the family. Hardly anyone in the family likes him; he’s someone that the rest the family cannot control. But, Ashton has a weakness - his brother Arthur. He will do anything to protect his brother and if that means seducing that flamboyant American heiress Daisy away from his brother, so be it.

Secondary guys. Arthur. I loved Arthur. He was a sweet nerd – he likes flowers and bugs. Arthur could expound on any kind of bug that flew past. His mind was filled with all of those wonderful flying insects, he had no time for anything else and that included his estates, his servants, and his maybe fiancĂ©. The only person he held in high esteem was his brother, Ashton. Arthur has been so busy with the bugs, he is still a virgin. Daisy actually is good for him and they do become friends. I loved watching Arthur emerge from his cocoon, so to speak. I also thought Ms. Krahn did an excellent job with the tangled web of Ashton, Arthur and Daisy.

Then we have Reynard, a gossip, a rake, and a man who avoids matrimonial women of all kinds. I hope we get to see him get what he deserves. There was also something going on between Daisy’s uncle Red and her chaperone. But just what that was never was explored – maybe there will be room in a novella for them. 

Overall, I thought this book was a fine beginning to a series and a lovely return of an author who has been gone for a while. While I found Daisy to be irritating and the solution to Ashton and Arthur’s problem eyebrow raising - I’m not sure if legally Ashton and Arthur could do what they did, but hey, I’m not a lawyer - I do recommend this book. I think that we will probably see some pretty good writing in the books that are to follow.

Time/Place: 1880s England
Sensuality: Subtle

His Lordship's Last Wager by Miranda Davis

December 29, 2017
YEAH!!!!!

For those of you who have been waiting for four lonnnnngggggg years, the third book in the Horse of the Apocalypse series by Miranda Davis is out!! It is in ebook format and available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble - probably others. Oh, and it's called: His Lordship's Last Wager.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5421963.Miranda_Davis/blog

The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny with a Dashing Stranger by Victoria Alexander

December 29, 2017
Oh for a business trip to Europe.
https://www.victoriaalexander.com/books/

All I can say is I suspect Ms. Alexander may have taken a recent trip to Europe, and in the process wrote every single sight and sound down. This is a very scenic book and it makes me want to go and see all of those places.

The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny with a Dashing Stranger is the second in Ms. Alexander’s Travelers Society series. I enjoyed this one more than I did the last. Also, one of my favorite secondary characters, Val, makes an appearance in this one – here’s hoping for his own book.

There’s a lot going on in this story, so I’m going to break this down into a brief plot/premise/whatever – sort of. There’s a painting. Our heroine, Wilhelmina aka Willie, had that painting. It was handed down to her by her grandmother who had been given the painting because…she was loved by someone. Well, it seems Wilhelmina’s wastrel husband gave that painting away to pay off a gambling debt. Her husband has since died, her friends have all deserted her and she’s trying to find money. She believes if she can get that painting back and sell it she will be able to live comfortably – at least for a while. But hark! She is not the only one who wants the painting.

You see, the person who gave that painting to Wilhelmina’s grandmother has a grandson. This grandson, Dante, has inherited allllll of the paintings. He has established a museum of sorts and he wants that painting back. The painting is part of a triptych and he has the papers proving that all of the paintings belong to his family. Dante has had Wilhelmina investigated; he doesn’t think too much of her morals and he also thinks maybe the painting was stolen from his family. He is very passionate about art, culture, history, etc. One of the big differences between he and Willie’s desire to get the painting back is he wants it so he can add to the beauty of his collection; she just needs the money. Willie has no appreciation of the “finer” things of life, Dante does.

So, that’s the set-up, but there is a lot more. There’s a boatload of great secondary characters – mostly all women. Mother’s, daughters, Dante, and they are all headed on a grand tour of Paris, Monaco, and Italy with Willie as the guide. Willie, by the way, has never been anywhere, so everything she is spouting comes from her giant boring guidebook. Along the way they also pick-up a would-be suitor one of the mothers is trying to keep away from her daughter. There is also a trust issue with Willie, which of course means Dante will be keeping secrets from her - hey, it's a romance!

There is a lot of banter, humor, and some funny fights between Willie and Dante. Dante has a big problem with saying the right thing at the right time. His tongue is not connected to his brain. When Willie finds out what Dante has been keeping from her, there are some pretty funny name-calling moments going on in Willie’s brain. I loved Dante’s and Willie’s arguments.

There is so much in this book, almost more than what the page count allows. Not only do we get to read about some wonderful places, we also get to meet some wonderful characters. I loved all the secondary characters and it was great seeing Val again, if I had a quibble with the book it was that the ending seemed to be a little rushed. But, overall I do recommend this book. It was an enjoyable read.

Time/Place: Paris, Monaco, Italy 1889
Sensuality: Warm

Thursday

Goodbye 2017 ... Hello 2018

December 21, 2017

“We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
'Til the blue skies
Drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them it won't be long
They'll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singin' this song
We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day”
- Hughie Charles / Ross Parker
 

Farewell to the romance authors we lost this year: Elaine Barbieri, Helen Cadbury, Janet Chapman, Miranda Neville.

Here are some debut romance authors who have crossed my radar. Congratulations. Clara Christensen, Sara Portman, Olivia Hart, Susan Cliff, Maggie Conway, Mona Kasten, Victoria Gilbert, Jessica Ellicott.


Thank goodness for my giant collection of old books! I’m not sure what was going on this year, but the percentage of new books which I found enjoyable dropped greatly. Here’s hoping for a better year in 2018. 


Now for my outstanding historical romance books of 2017. A number of these books had giant laugh-out-loud moments and if you haven’t read any of these books…what are you waiting for?
Outstanding books of 2017, in no particular order.
1.    Loretta Chase, A Duke in Shining Armor, 2017
2.    Mary Balogh, A Rogue’s Downfall: The Anniversary-1994, The Wrong Door-1993, and Precious Rogue-1995
3.    Mary Balogh, The Famous Heroine, 1996
4.    Mary Balogh, Lady with a Black Umbrella, 1989
5.    Mary Balogh, The Temporary Wife, 1997 (notice any patterns?)
6.    Anne Stuart, The Spinster and the Rake, 1982
7.    Mary Jo Putney, Angel Rogue, 1995 aka The Rogue and the Runaway, 1990
8.    Anne Gracie, Marry in Haste, 2017
9.    Caroline Linden, The Secret of My Seduction, 2017
10.    Deborah Simmons, The Vicar’s Daughter, 1995, electronic release 2017
11.    Lisa Kleypas, It Happened One Autumn, 2005
12.    Karen Ranney, After the Kiss, 2000
13.    Kelly Bowen, Duke of My Heart, 2016
14.    Kelly Bowen, A Duke to Remember, 2016
15.    Kelly Bowen, Between the Devil and the Duke, 2017
16.    Julia London, Wild Wicked Scot, 2016
17.    Julia Quinn, And A Sixpence in Her Shoe, short story from Four Weddings and a Sixpence (the stand-out in an otherwise average group of short stories.)


Disappointing historical romance books of 2017. As I do every year, I will explain how a book makes it to this list. A book does not have to be the worst book ever written to make my disappointing list. If you look at the books on this year’s list you will spot a number of my favorite authors. You may ask, “Well, if these are some of your favorite authors, why are they on this list?” It’s called expectation. I expect a lot out of my favorite authors and sometimes those poor dears are just plain overworked. They have spent tons of years of blood, sweat, and tears just to make me happy and sometimes I am just not satisfied with the results. This doesn’t mean that other readers won’t like the books. It means that for this particular time, this particular book, I was just not pleased. Reviews are very subjective; all kinds of things can affect them. Soooooo, for whatever reason here are the books that were my disappointments for 2017. In no particular order:
1.    Eloisa James, Wilde in Love, 2017
2.    Elizabeth Hoyt, Duke of Desire, 2017
3.    Mary Balogh, No Ordinary Love: The North Tower-1993, The Dark Rider-1992, The Heirloom-1996
4.    Licie Laine, My Fair Baron, 2017
5.    Tessa Dare, The Duchess Deal, 2017
6.    Lillian Marsh, The Forgotten Bride, 1983
7.    Lois Stewart, The Reluctant Heart, 1994
8.    Julia Quinn, The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband, 2017
9.    Elizabeth Boyle, Six Impossible Things, 2017
10.    Suzanne Enoch, My One True Highlander, 2017
11.    Karen Ranney, The English Duke, 2017
12.    Lisa Kleypas, A Wallflower Christmas, 2008
13.    Lisa Kleypas, Scandal in Spring, 2006
14.    Lisa Kleypas, Again the Magic, 2004
15.    Julia London, Sinful Scottish Laird, 2017
16.    Maggie Robinson, Schooling the Viscount, 2017
17.    Emily Larkin, Trusting Miss Trentham, 2016



No More Wire Hangers – Yes, it’s time for the 2017 Mommie Dearest Award. To be nominated for this category, a character has to be a horrible, nasty relative. And, in Romanceland there are always oodles of brothers who are in debt, beautiful self-centered sisters, cold fathers, and conniving mothers. Let’s take a look at this year’s crop.
1.    Anthony Earheart’s father from Mary Balogh’s The Temporary Wife. Yes, Anthony (our hero) had a brilliant plan on how to do some double-dealing rotten stuff to his father. However, he was no match for him. His father used both his son and daughter-in-law. Or, he thought he did. Thank goodness for a smart heroine who knew how to do a little maneuvering herself. 
2.    The mother-from-hell in Karen Ranney’s After the Kiss. This woman will do anything to make trouble. She loves nothing better than to make her son miserable and she doesn’t care who she hurts in the process.
3.    Juliet, Cary’s sister from Surrender to Sin by Tamera Lejeune. Sometimes even when a character has their own book, they can still be immature and unpleasant. A very unlikeable sister.
4.    Another character who was loathsome and still managed to get a book of her own: the horrible sister in A Scandalous Scot by Karen Ranney – Catriona. She was mean, mean, mean and walked all over her sister – and then she got her own book – oh the humanity.
5.    From Sara Portman’s The Reunion, we have another detestable sister. Charlotte is one unpleasant termagant and someone should have sat on her mouth a long time ago.
6.    But the winner of this year’s 2017 Mommie Dearest award goes to a dead man. Yes, this year the award has to go to none other than the Earl of Riverdale from Mary Balogh’s new Westcott family series. Nothing more destructive than a bigamist marriage. And, we get to watch the fall-out caused by this callous man in a series which is just beginning.


2017 Steve Morgan Bonehead Award. This is one of my favorite awards. There’s nothing better than a good old rant because the hero in the book is such a jerk. For all of you who don’t know who Steve Morgan is, check out Rosemary Rogers’ Sweet Savage Love. Written in 1974, it is the epitome of the term bodice ripper. He is probably one of the most abominable heroes ever written. Cruel, unfaithful, possessive, jealous, etc., etc. The Bonehead hero does many unforgiveable things and usually he never apologizes. Here are my nominations:
1.    Edward, aka Reeve, aka Ward, from Steven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James. This guy was stubborn, stubborn, stubborn waaaaay too long. He couldn’t bend, he couldn’t give, and he was really irritating.
2.    Then we have the bonehead hero who is mad at the entire world because he’s scarred. He’s a sulky boo-hoo, nobody-likes-me-guess-I’ll-go-eat-worms character. From The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare let me introduce you to “don’t look at my face” Ash, aka Duke of Ashbury.
3.    Sometimes I find bonehead heroes who are not creeps like Steve Morgan, but are boneheads for other reasons. We have an oblivious one in The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh. Yes, Alistair doesn’t see the truth even when he’s staring at it for half of the book. He’s a jump-to-the-wrong-conclusion-and-even-if-he’s-wrong-he’s-right guy. It’s his way or no way.
4.    Over the course of my reading career I have encountered numerous boneheads and usually they are Alpha guys, but this year I stumbled across a Beta bonehead. Now because his actions were different from most alpha boneheads, I didn’t notice at first. Then I did. Perry from Mary Balogh’s Promise of Spring was a bit of a passive guy. He was so laid-back I found him to be irritating. There is a thin line between passive and indifference. Perry was indifferent enough to appear cruel and uncaring. He made no attempt to stop the bullying overtures of his wife’s ex-lover and that conduct is what placed him on my bonehead list.
5.    Then we have a flashback bonehead. Malcolm from The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacClean gets to be an idiot through a number of the books in this series. He’s a secondary character until he is gifted with his own book. I’m assuming the whole book was to be used for his grovel, however there were other plotlines which were inserted and Malcolm didn’t have enough time for a good grovel. Maybe the heroine forgave him, but I didn’t and we all know it’s all about me.
6.    From Lisa Kleypas’ A Wallflower Christmas we have a bonehead squeezed in amongst a ton of secondary wallflower reunion characters. Rafe Bowman exhibits dishonorable intentions toward not only the woman he wants to marry but also the woman he wants as his mistress.
7.    And the winner of this year’s bonehead award is from Julia London’s Sinful Scottish Laird. And guess what, instead of a man it’s a woman who has made it to the top bonehead status. Sometimes giving a female character male attributes to prove she is a strong, free-thinking woman doesn’t work. Women do not have to be male-sluts to be strong or to prove they have a place in a man’s world. Inconstancy doesn’t sit any better on a woman’s plate then it does on a man’s. Authors, a woman does not have to be like a man to have her own voice.


Sidekicks, aka Secondary Characters, aka Supporting Cast of 2017. Yes, where would our books be without those scene-stealers, those secondary characters who are the only thing one might remember from a book? You know what I’m talking about – sometimes those characters are so strong they get their own fans. Fans who wait and wait for them to have their own book. And, sometimes those books work and sometimes they don’t (but that’s another story.) Here are my nominations for some memorable secondary characters I stumbled across this year.
1.    From Eloisa James’ Wilde in Love we have two people, a couple, and a fun couple: Lavinia and Parth. They were scene-stealers, they made me laugh, and they were the fun that should have been throughout the entire book. There’s nothing wrong with writing comedy.
2.    Once again from Eloisa James. In Seven Minutes in Heaven the precocious children Lizzie and Otis. Eloisa James excels in writing children. Sometimes her children are a little bit too advanced for their years, but in this story they stole the show.
3.    Sometimes scenes are stolen and not in a good way. We have what I call the S-troup supporting characters from Sarah MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess. I found the sisters Sesily, Seline, Seleste, Seraphina, and Sophie confusing and irritating. And, from the way the author reintroduced Sophie back into a conversation after she had been dropped off makes me think I wasn’t the only one confused.
4.    Val from Victoria Alexander’s The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels and Other Gentlemen. What a fun guy and I feel the coming of a Val fan club approaching. Hopefully this character gets his own story because he’s really intriguing.
5.    From an old book by Mary Balogh, Angel Rogue, we have the characters of Desdemona and Giles. They are a typical couple of mismatched guardians who give chase to the main couple. Sometimes the chasing couple is a distraction to the main story but in this one they were fun to watch and I found myself looking forward to scenes which included them.
6.    Once again a young character steals the scene. The youngest brother, Collin, from My One True Highlander by Suzanne Enoch was a delight to read. He was one of the better things in this book. He was just too adorable, and his relationship with his brother was wonderfully written.
7.    Another nine year-old, Ellis, from Sinful Scottish Laird by Julia London. Ellis’ character was so well written he almost won this award. The relationship between Ellis and Cailean was so special and so poignant and written so well. I just wish the rest of the book had been on the same level.
8.    Catriona. Catriona is in two categories, Secondary Characters and Mommie Dearest. The reason why she is also in this category is because she steals scene after scene of A Scandalous Scot by Karen Ranney. And, that’s really too bad because I did not like her at all. See, you don’t have to be liked to make this list.
9.    And the winner for most memorable secondary character this year is dead. Yes, Julia Quinn managed to make me care a whole lot about Thomas in The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband. The interesting thing about Thomas, other than he’s dead, is that we get to know him mainly through letters, flashbacks, and the memories of others. In order to do that Ms. Quinn had to do some mighty fine writing, at least as far as the secondary character.


Garlic Breath award of 2017. So named because a majority of villains in Romanceland eat garlic and have yellow teeth. Portraying villains in this manner makes it easy for us dumb readers to spot them. My favorite villains are the one you can’t really spot. However, on my list you will find the villains you can spot from a mile away and the ones that are hidden deep under pages of great writing. This year I must have not have read too many spy/secret society books because I had a shortage of memorable villains to choose from. But here goes anyway.

1.    Nothing says villain more than Francis Ellery from A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen. This guy was so awful he had a perfectly sane person committed to Bedlam just so he could have a little money.
2.    The next villain is once again created by Ms. Bowen in her Between the Devil and the Duke. While there were numerous villains to choose from in this book, there was one I didn’t see coming .. and I’m not going to tell you who it is!
3.    And here we are. We have arrived at the winner of the best villain of 2017. See, I told you I didn’t have many memorable villains to pick from the books I read this year. Anyway, this year we have not one, but a whole group of e-v-i-l men: the Lords of Chaos from Elizabeth Hoyt. These guys have been around for a few books and they just keep producing – like rabbits. I for one am glad to see the last of them. This year they were in the Duke of Desire, the last of Ms. Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, and they reached the pinnacle of badness – almost over-the-top bad. A number of their group were downright disturbing. There was a dark, depressing feeling caused by this group that stayed with me long after the HEA.


Gus award of 2017. The Gus award is for all those adorable critters who populate romance books. As with the villains there seemed to be a shortage of these scene stealers and I don’t understand why. I know allllll of you authors have pets, I know because I’ve seen the photos on your websites. So I know you have funny pets in your house that are doing wonderful things you could insert into a book or two. Why aren’t you including these little tidbits in your books? Then I can nominate them for my awards – remember it is all about me. Anyway, here are my memorable critters for 2017:

1.    From Surrender to Sin by Tamera Lejeune, there are a whole boatload of animals, a whacky Macaw, and a hungry corgi. Sure they were over the top, as was the book and it was written in 2007 – but I needed some animals!
2.    Sometimes I don’t especially like the pet in a book. But sometimes that pet is the link which connects the series and it is what I remember about the storyline. In this case we have Poppy the cat from Sally MacKenzie’s Spinster series. Poppy didn’t really make too much sense, she was just strange and wandered through the series being profound. Poppy the profound cat.
3.    And the winner is Cato from Loretta Chase’s most recent novel A Duke in Shining Armor. Who would not love this dog? It was such a…a dog. Cato was so much fun and didn’t distract from any of the shenanigans that were going on around it. As with the whole book I found Cato to be just delightful. Thanks for the uplifting book, Ms. Chase!


And now for the heavy lift. It’s time to look at 2017s Timothy Toad award. I always anticipate these guys every time I open a romance book. You just never know when a giant slimy thing is going to grab one’s attention. Sometimes they even have helpers who catch the eye. Let’s take a look at this year’s crop.
1.    Occasionally in Romanceland one wonders how come there aren’t more diseases afflicting our heroes, and that would be the case in Mary Balogh’s story Precious Rogue. Joshua’s winky-dink is in a lot of pies and I did wonder why it hadn’t fallen off yet. Precious Rogue is part of A Rogue’s Downfall compilation.
2.    Sometimes there is humorous moments involving Timothy Toads. Take for instance The Secret of My Seduction by Caroline Linden. I know that most Mr. Toads would have a hard time performing when faced with a heroine who comes with a pad and pencil in order to take notes. Made me smile.
3.    There should be a special award given to Lisa Kleypas and her busy, busy, boys. After glomming her Wallflower series this year my eyes were starting to cross because of all the humpidy-pumpidy which was going on. A nod goes out to Simon Hunter’s sweaty, throbbing, purple celery stalk from Secrets of a Summer Night, and a special two-for-one sale going on in Again the Magic. First John was busy hoinky-doinkying, then it was Gideon’s turn.
4.    Then there are moments in books when one wonders just what was the author thinking. In Trusting Miss Trentham by Emily Larkin, our heroine entertains Mr. Toad while our hero Icarus is sleeping. Poor Icarus is awakened by Mr. Toad’s untimely explosion. This scene was unpleasant and crossed one too many boundaries.
5.    Then there is the scene from Schooling the Viscount by Maggie Robinson. Poor Mr. Toad is an unwitting observer of our heroine taking things into her own hands. What an eye-full.
6.    And the winner of this year’s prestigious 2017 Mr. Toad award goes to Michael’s Mr. Toad from After the Kiss by Karen Ranney. Not only do I worry about all of the Mr. Toad’s dropping off due to disease, I also feel for the heroines on the receiving end of a giant, active, aggressive, starved Toad. I can only imagine how much more money the Azo company would have made in the previous centuries.


And, authors, I never tire of all those over-the-top scenes with Mr. Toad.


Now for some special mentions. I could not let this year pass by without mentioning three memorable moments from this year. First of all, even though I had some problems with Sarah MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess there was one of the best written scenes for the year in that book. In case you want to know which scene, it involves riding on a horse. There is so much emotional impact in that one little scene and I was amazed at such wonderful writing. Truly brilliant. 


The second moment I want to mention is from Elizabeth’s Hoyt’s Duke of Desire. Raphael has to be one of the most angst-filled heroes I’ve ever read. This storyline was just too much, too painful. While the writing was superb, I found the storyline so disturbing I couldn’t quite like it. 


And finally, it was a pleasure to reread one of my all-time favorite Mary Balogh books, Lady with a Black Umbrella. This little gem of a book proves beyond a doubt that Ms. Balogh can write some pretty funny stuff. A wonderful, feel-good book.


So goodbye 2017. I’m always on the lookout for some new and exciting authors. Believe me when I say I know how hard authors work. Even when I’m not so fond of what you created, I realize you have all put a lot of yourselves into those words. I’m still looking forward to works from my auto-buy authors and also keeping an eye out for those old books which have gathered dust. Here’s to 2018 and hopefully a new historical from Courtney Milan.

Wednesday

Holy Canolimas! Upcoming Historical Romance Releases!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! January 15, 2018 to February 14, 2018. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.

Alyson McLayne
http://alysonmclayne.com/
Highland Conquest
Sons of Gregor MacLeod series
February 6

Anna Bradley
http://www.annabradley.net
More of Less a Marchioness
Sutherland series (Somersets)
February 6

Annie Burrows
http://www.annie-burrows.co.uk/
The Marquess Tames His Bride
Brides for Bachelors series
January 16-paper, February 1-ebook

Beverly Jenkins
http://www.beverlyjenkins.net/web/
Tempest
Old West series
January 30

Bronwyn Scott
http://www.bronwynnscott.com/
Innocent in the Prince’s Bed
Russian Royals of Kuban series
January 16-paper, February 1-ebook

Candace Camp
http://www.candace-camp.com/
His Sinful Touch
The Mad Morelands series
January 30

Carla Susan Smith
http://www.CarlaSmithauthor.com
Resolve
Corsets and Carriages series
January 30

Jane Goodger
http://www.janegoodger.com/
The Earl Most Likely
The Brides of St. Ives series
January 16

Laura Lee Guhrke*
https://lauraleeguhrke.com/
The Trouble with True Love
Dear Lady Truelove series
January 30

Lauri Robinson
http://laurirobinson.blogspot.com/
Married to Claim the Rancher's Heir
January 16-paper, February 1-ebook

Liz Tyner
http://www.liztyner.com/
Redeeming the Roguish Rake
January 16-paper, February 1-ebook

Lorraine Heath*
http://www.lorraineheath.com/
Beyond Scandal and Desire
Sins for All Seasons series
January 30

Lynsay Sands*
http://www.lynsaysands.net/
Surrender to the Highlander
Highlander’s series
January 30

Manda Collins
http://www.mandacollins.com/
Wallflower Most Wanted
Studies in Scandal series
January 30

Michele Sinclair
http://michelesinclair.com/
The Most Eligible Highlander in Scotland
The McTiernays series
January 30

Michelle Willingham
http://www.michellewillingham.com/
Forbidden Night with the Highlander
Warriors of the Night series
January 16-paper, February 1-ebook

Renee Ann Miller
https://reneeannmiller.com/
Never Dare a Wicked Earl
The Infamous Lords series
January 30

Suzanne Enoch*
http://www.suzanneenoch.com/
A Devil in Scotland
No Ordinary Hero series
January 30

Virginia Heath
https://www.virginiaheathromance.com/
A Warriner to Tempt Her
The Wild Warriners series
January 16-paper, February 1-ebook

Tuesday

A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase

December 12, 2017
Well that was fun

http://www.lorettachase.com/

And to think I almost didn't read it. Yes, yes! Shine the hot light on me. This was a prime example of reading a book when one was in a bad mood. Now, I don't know why I was in a bad mood and usually when I pick up a Loretta Chase book I'm doing a happy dance. But when I first opened this book I couldn't get into it. I was irritated, I couldn't grab onto Ms. Chase's writing rhythm, so I closed it and picked up an old old book and read that instead. After cleansing the doldrums away I returned to A Duke in Shining Armor and was I ever glad. What a delightful story - I had numerous chuckles and some strong laugh-out-loud moments. This was a pure joy, just in time for the holiday. Was everything smooth sailing? Of course not, I can always find something to whine about. Was this as good as my all-time favorite Lord of Scoundrels? Bite your tongue! But if you are in the mood for some light-hearted silliness, some goofy guys, some immature pranks, then this one is for you.

A Duke in Shining Armor begins Loretta Chase's new trilogy Difficult Dukes and I suspect that none of the Dukes are going to be asked to join Mensa. It will be interesting to see just where Ms. Chase takes the remaining not-so-bright heroes. I'm not sure their antics are sustainable - could be, could not be - we will see.

Lady Olympia Hightower, only daughter of the Earl of Gonerby is getting married. The story begins with her wedding day. She is having second thoughts. You see, she has been voted "most boring" girl of the season seven years in a row by the other debutantes. She is a wallflower, she's smart and she wears glasses, glasses that she needs. Imagine her surprise when she is first courted then asked to marry by the handsome, dissolute Duke of Ashmont. He and his two friends the Duke of Blackwood and the Duke of Ripley are up to all kinds of antics. Some funny, some not so funny. Ashmont is constantly drunk and constantly fighting duels. Because Olympia accidentally saves him, he becomes interested in her and proposes.

The day of the wedding Ashmont is there along with his two friends. They have had a night of carousing and he's a little worse for wear. He appoints his friend Hugh Ancaster, Duke of Ripley, to make sure everything goes as it should. When the people start to wonder just where the bride is, Hugh is sent to find her. What he finds is a surprise. The bride, in all of her finery, is climbing out of the library window. It seems she has changed her mind. The brandy she has been drinking has given her courage to make a run for it. Before Hugh can stop her, she's off. He gives chase. Which leads us down the path of a wonderful road-trip romance.

This was such a fun story. There are so many things which go wrong on this trip. True, some of the things, like saving a dog, have been done tons of time in Romanceland. However, in this book the save-the-dog routine has a fresh, funny feel to it. Hugh and Olympia's journey is intermingled by some of the great secondary characters in the story. Blackwood and Ashmont (say next heroes) give chase, so we start to learn what makes them tick along the way. But they are not the only secondary characters abounding in this book, there are: her aunt, Ashmont's uncle, Blackwood's wife - and the dog. All of these characters were strong, well-developed people with just enough mystery left over for the next books.

This is a fast-paced book, one thing happens after another - almost like a screwball comedy. But we also have a look into some of the deeper reasons behind some of the things the three men do. But mainly this is a fun book. I did have a few quibbles. The men are like immature college frat boys, always doing one plank after another. I did question whether the party they had with only people who had a speech impediment was funny. I considered it rather a mean thing to do and was surprised that the author put that section into her book. That and me not understanding why Hugh and Ashmont had a duel took this book out of a DIK category.

Overall, this is a delightful story filled with humor, wit, and some poignant moments - but mostly it was a delightful read. I highly recommend this latest Loretta Chase story.

Time/Place: 1833 English road-trip
Sensuality: Warm,hot