Friday

The Witches, Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff

April 29, 2016

I am not worthy.
http://www.stacyschiff.com

I never thought I would ever have a headache from reading so many words. Lots and lots of words. I am not worthy of so many words. At times I felt as if I were in the middle of a college text book. That's too bad, because I have always found the depressing witch hunts to be fascinating. I found Ms. Schiff's take on the Salem witch hunt puzzling. I do not know where she was were going with her tale or what her point was. I wasn't sure what conclusion I was supposed to arrive at. All I know is that this book was awfully long-winded. The witch hunt was a shameful and yet compelling piece of our history, but this book turned the event into a long meandering-going-nowhere work. I am not worthy of the many words that I had to weed through, in fact I was unable to finish this mountain of tedious verbiage.

Monday

Holy Cannoli! Time for Historical Releases Again!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!!  May 15, 2016 to June 14, 2016. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.
Cathy Maxwell*
The Fairest of Them All
Marrying the Duke series
May 31
Elizabeth Hoyt*
Duke of Sin
Maiden Lane series
May 31
Jane Godman
The Jacobite's Return
Georgian Rebel series
May 31
Jessica Brockmole
At the Edge of Summer
May 17
Kathleen Kimmel
A Gentleman's Guide to Scandal
A Birch Hall Romance series
June 7
Lauri Robinson
Her Cheyenne Warrior
May 24
Lily Blackwood
The Beast of Clan Kincaid
Clan Kincaid series
May 31
Lisa Kleypas*
Marrying Winterborne
The Ravenels series
May 31
Louise Allen
The Many Sins of Cris de Feaux
Lords of Disgrace series
May 24
Madeline Hunter*
The Wicked Duke
Wicked Trilogy series
May 31
Marguerite Kaye
Bronwyn Scott
Scandal at the Midsummer Ball
May 24
Monica McCarty*
The Ghost
Highland Guard series
May 31
Olivia Drake
His Wicked Wish
Cinderella Sisterhood series
May 31
Rachael Miles
Chasing the Heiress
Muses’ Salon series
May 31
Sabrina York
Lana and the Laird
Untamed Highlanders series
May 31
Sophia James
Marriage Made in Hope
The Penniless Lords series
May 24

50 Ways to Sin by Caroline Linden

April 25, 2016
A cautionary tale.

Reviews are subjective, but there's subjective and then there's subjective. What follows should be a warning to all my fellow Romancelanders. Beware my fellow Petunia's of bad movies masquerading as cult classics. You may ask, what does a bad movie have to do with a book review? Well, I'll tell you. So begins our cautionary tale.

Once upon a time someone (me) was having trouble sleeping. I have found that there's nothing better than a movie or a book to put me to sleep, so I stumbled downstairs and flicked on the television. Well, guess what. TCM was having a premiere of a supposed cult classic, so I started watching. Being a big fan of classic movies whether they are cult or not I was prepared to be entertained and soothed at the same time. I was not prepared for the "badness" of this movie. This movie was not the first rotten movie I've ever see - no siree. When you've see an elderly drug-induced Bela Lugosi wrestling a fake octopus (Plan 9 from Outer Space), you may think you've seen them all. But not so. The movie I was watching was horrible, the sets were horrible, the supporting characters were horrible, the acting was excruciating but the most unacceptable part was the writing. Nothing brings a movie down faster than bad writing. In this movie it was an amateurish, stilted, embarrassing mess. It was a DNF movie for me. I turned it off. But you see I had a problem, I was still awake. I decided to read. Maybe the book would make me sleep and help me forget that wrenched movie. I opened up Caroline Linden's Six Degrees of Scandal and began. And, here was when a disturbing brain thing happened. I started reading the words in the language of the awful movie I had just watched - it was quite bizarre. The prose in the book was horrible, the words were stilted; it was as if I had a copy of Dick and Jane in front of me. I had to stop, close the book and think about it. I was actually quite surprised that the bad bad writing in the movie had manufactured itself into my brain so much that I was reading my book in bad-movie-speak. I did not sleep well that night - I kept hearing stilted voices in my head. The next day I picked up another book because I was worried I would not be able to return to Six Degrees of Scandal. I was concerned my judgement would be off. It took me three books to cleanse my palette and pick up Six Degrees of Scandal again. Thank goodness the stilted language I was hearing in my head had vanished. Let that be a lesson to me/you - the noise which filters through our world can affect the voice we hear when we read. This also means it can affect ones reviews. It was a strange experience. Now onto the book.

50 Ways to Sin was a second chance at love story and though it was a standalone tale, I recommend that you refresh your memory by reading Love in the Time of Scandal. In that story we get to meet our heroine Olivia, our hero James Weston but most importantly our villain Lord Clary. While 50 Ways to Sin was a pleasant read, it was not one of Ms. Linden’s better stories. The tale was almost evenly divided between solving a mystery and the rekindling of lost love. I found the mystery intriguing at times and at times it slowed the story down. I have to say the same thing about the romance.

Olivia and James were both nice people. They were very very young when they first fell in love. They were too young to commit themselves to each other or at least James was too young. Once he had Olivia and then proposed he was off on an adventure, leaving her alone to face the music. So, he was rather an irresponsible young man. Olivia was still a teenager and while some may wonder why she didn't stand up to her father, I would suggest that legally she couldn't stand up to him - being an underage female in the Regency time period would have left her with few options.  So she was forced to marry a man she hardly knew. When James returned from his business, he was devastated - but he also knew that the entire fiasco was his fault. Through the years Olivia and James maintained a nodding distance. Then Olivia's husband dies. He has been keeping some secrets from her, some dangerous secrets. This was where the nasty villain Clary stepped in - he wanted something he thought Olivia had, but she didn't have any idea what that might be. Clary was a dangerous guy, he'd already tried to murder one heroine and now he's after another. Olivia turned to James for help and the race to the finish begins.

Olivia and James must find out what Olivia's husband was up to and at the same time keep Clary at bay. Finding out what Olivia's husband was up to was actually quite interesting, but the sparks between Olivia and James were missing. They just sort of fall into each others arms again and the few bumps in the road were smoothed out fairly quickly. There was also a tie-me-up-trust-me scene in this book. I had a problem with this scene because there wasn’t any sexual tension building prior to it. The insertion of the tie-me-up was a jolt to my system.  It takes more than a conversation about a scandalous book to create sexual tension between two characters.

We also find out who the mysterious Lady Constance was, but you should be able to figure that out yourself if you pay close attention in this book. There was a cringe-worthy book burning scene toward the end of the story. I think it was supposed to be funny, but I found it embarrassing (might have been a leftover bad-movie-brain-thing.)

Overall, even with the bad-movie-speak, I found this story to be a pleasant read. Nothing earth shaking, nothing new - a nice visit.

By the way the name of the movie was/is Abar.


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot/Tie-me-up



Friday

A Scandalous Proposal by Kasey Michaels

April 15, 2016

Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve
http://www.kaseymichaels.com/
Have you ever wanted a book to work so much that you just keep on reading? Maybe the need to finish is because one has been a fan of the author for so long that one ignores the passing of time and the missing freshness that was once present in their books. Maybe the need to complete the book was because one of my allll time favorite funny books was written by this particular author. (The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane.) Maybe I was hoping for another great fun story, after all the heroine in this book was so irrepressible that she just made me smile. There were a lot of reason’s I wanted to finish A Scandalous Proposal. I wanted this book to work for me, but sad to say even with one of the funniest, perkiest, breath-of-fresh-air heroines I’ve seen in a long time, she just couldn’t make this story any more than an average tale. I thought about my disappointment for a long time and I think one of the biggest problems I had was with our hero Cooper Townsend. He was just no match for our zippy heroine Daniella (Dany) Foster.

Dany was just a delight. She was what one might consider a spunky heroine, but in a good way. She was the type of heroine who would spell disaster to most romance heroes. This could make for some really fun times if we had the right kind of hero. I adore a hero who stumbles, struggles and basically has a hard time with the female lead. An arrogant hero would be fun to watch. This doesn’t mean the hero has to be an alpha bonehead, but I think the story takes on a life of its own if the hero was really arrogant – a stuffed shirt – someone who is alllways right. With that kind of guy the sparks should fly off of the page. Cooper just wasn’t stuffy. He wasn’t arrogant – he was just bland. Cooper was the weak link in this book and that’s toooo bad because he could’ve been so much better.

Maybe you might be interested in the plot. Well, it revolves around everyone in England being blackmailed and Dany and Cooper try to find the blackmailer. Well, not everyone in England was blackmailed. Dany’s sister, the Countess of Cockermouth (yes that’s the name) and Cooper were. Cooper was being blackmailed because everyone thinks he’s a hero and he’s not – or was he? The Countess of Cockermouth was being blackmailed because she wrote some indiscreet letters. (Never put anything in writing.) She also thinks her husband, Oliver, was tired of her and she’s boo-hooing about that throughout the book. The portion of the book dedicated to the sister was another missed opportunity for making this story into a great farce. Maybe if less space had been allotted to the gathering-of-series-characters there would have been more time to develop other secondary characters. But as it was there was a giant get-together of all the other primary heroes from the other stories and their wives and their aunts and their dogs. And, they all had a plan to find the villain. Word of warning, don’t blink or you might miss the villain.

Villain. Spoiler! This was one of those villains we only hear about. In fact I don’t think he even talks in this one. There might be one scene where he breezes through, but mostly he was talked about and dealt with completely as an afterthought.  The absentee villain syndrome has the feel of a rush to get to the end of the story and go on to the next one.  I wonder if middle books are similar to middle children.

Bottom line – loved the heroine, but she’s not strong enough to carry the entire book on her own. The hero was weak, the secondary characters not fully developed and the villain almost invisible. This was not one of Ms. Kasey’s better books and I was very disappointed because I had such high hopes.


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


Tuesday

Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

April 5, 2016
A hamburger and Julia Quinn.

http://juliaquinn.com/

Over the weekend I had a hamburger and fries (comfort food). I also read Julia Quinn's latest Because of Miss Bridgerton - also comfort food. Comfort food is defined as "food that gives emotional comfort to the one eating it, these tend to be favorite foods of childhood, or linked to a person, place or time with which the food has a positive association." While Because of Miss Bridgerton didn't remind me of anything from my childhood, it was certainly familiar and it made me feel good, but it wasn't anything new.

If you have read any of Ms. Quinn's works you will recognize the name of Bridgerton. The Bridgerton's were/are one of Ms. Quinn's most successful series. The series was also quite lengthy. Well we are returning to the Bridgerton family only we are in a different time period; we are moved backward in time to the Georgian. In fact, our heroine Billie (Sybilla) Bridgerton was/is the elder sister of Edmund Bridgerton and Edmund will be the father of the original Bridgerton group. The hero of our story was/is George Rokesby, the eldest Rokesby sibling. The Rokesby children and the Bridgerton children lived next door to each other, grew up together. As a child Billie was included in most all of the adventures of Edward and Andrew Rokesby. Throughout most of her life, Billie has run around the neighborhood unchecked - she was/is a tomboy, dressing in britches, riding astride, climbing trees - just having loads of fun. But there's one fly in all that ointment - George. George and Billie just don't get along, they never have. They are opposites. He's responsible, slightly dour, and he just doesn't understand Billie - she irritates him. Billie's energetic, bright, peppy, loves fun and she doesn't understand George - he irritates her. Well, as luck would have it, on one of her adventures while trying to save a kitten, she finds herself stranded on top of a roof. Who should happen along but George? Well after a few moments of bickering between the two, George attempts a rescue, only to have the ladder he's using fall to the ground. Now, George and Billie are stranded together on the roof - bickering, blaming, bantering, and irritating each other, until George's brother Andrew arrives on the scene to rescue both of them. Well, something happened between George and Billie while they were on the roof - they became aware of each other and this time it's not just because they are irritated which each other. Neither one of them understood what was happening, and neither one of them liked what they were powerless to stop from unfolding. They both fight the attraction that was blooming right in front of their eyes, at least for a little while. All of that makes for a pretty amusing story, filled with Ms. Quinn's trademark humor - although, sometimes the humor was a little stretched. There was also a take-no-prisoners Bridgerton Pall Mall (croquet) game for our entertainment.

We are introduced to some interesting secondary characters. I especially liked Andrew and Billie's sister Georgina. Outwardly, Andrew seemed to be a careless jokester, but I suspect there was some darkness behind his laughter. Georgina was intriguing; she was sick as a child and was coddled by her mother. She's quiet, reserved, observant, and honest. I suspect in a future book she will do a bit of rebelling. It will be interesting to see where these two characters are led.

I enjoyed this book very much. I thought it was humorous, no angst, a light read. It was a typical Julia Quinn book, not as outstanding as some of her others but it was a good start to a new series. This was also a case where the heroine and hero bring out the best in each other.

There were a couple of hiccups. Spoilers ahead. There was some kind of odd, short plot that was thrown in. George was asked to deliver a message to someone. He doesn't know why - sort of a spy thing. He does it, but he's not very successful. Then he was asked to deliver a package - same deal, he doesn't know why, this time he says - nope, not going to do it - not going to deliver something he doesn't know what, why, who. No sir, no siree. Billie volunteers to deliver the package and George says no you are not going to. And, they don't. The guy who tried to recruit George leaves the room and that’s it. Nothing more was ever said about any of this nonsense. This plot or filler or whatever it was went nowhere. Maybe the plot will make its appearance in another book in the series, don't know, but in this one it was an irritating distraction which just sort of sputtered out.

Overall, this was/is a pleasant, funny read. George and Billie's antics were entertaining and  made for a fast read. Because of Miss Bridgerton was/is a pleasant beginning to the newest in the Bridgerton saga.


Time/Place: Georgian England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot
  

Thursday

Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan

March 31, 2016
Well, that didn't take long!
 
http://www.courtneymilan.com/
Actually because of some do-dah at B&N yesterday, it took longer to download Courtney
Milan's latest, Her Every Wish, than it did to read it. This is the latest in her Worth series and I have to say even though this is a very short book, it is an amazing story. I confess I wanted it to not end, but end it did and there might have even been some birds tweeted and butterflies flitting - even a rainbow in the sky. I'm always amazed when an author can pull off a really good story in a limited space and Ms. Milan seems to excel with short stories.


There is some heavy duty characterization going on in this book. Everyone, including the secondary characters, are vibrant, interesting and make the reader want more of them. There were a couple of characters in this book, the woman with the flower in the lapel and the red-haired little girl who had really small parts, but who I also wanted more of. But, the main characters of Daisy and Crash are enchanting. Daisy and Crash have a past, but due to a misunderstanding they are not on the friendliest of terms. That all changes when Daisy turns to Crash for help in making her dream come true. We get to watch these two as they help each other achieve their dreams. There is a strong element of feminism in this little story, an encouragement to not only women but men that one can achieve their dreams. Without giving too much away, I was glad that Daisy's initial dream didn't come true because she found another way to have it.

In the end, this was a delightful story, jam-packed with interesting characters, and hidden behind the romance a message of strength. I do think that Courtney Milan may be skating close to sermonizing in this book and it made be wonder if this genre was the proper venue for it. But if not here where? Anyway, there are a lot of messages in this book and if you don't enjoy messages mixed with your romance, this short story may be a problem for you. But if you are a fan of Ms. Milan's writing dig in.

Time/Place: England 1866
Sensuality: Hot

Friday

Let Me Be the One by Jo Goodman

March 25, 2016
We have another super hero - ta ta dah - Cryptic Girl.
 

http://www.jogoodman.com/
There be spoilers ahead. What's that old saying by Henry Wadsworth? "Into each life
some rain must fall." Well, my little Petunia's, the same runs true of books - "Into an author glom project a stinker must appear." Doesn't have quite the gentleness on the ear as Wadsworth, does it? Oh well, I gave it a try. So I must face the facts, sad as they may be: I finally have tripped over a Jo Goodman book which leaves me nonplussed. This books begs for a punch line like, "What's the difference between a DNF and perseverance?" I don't know, time, money, headaches, yawns - you take your pick.


In case you haven't guessed by now, Let Me Be the One was not my favorite Jo Goodman book... dare I say - book. Let Me Be the One is the first in the Compass Club series and was published in 2002. It seemed that it took for-ev-er to finish this story and there were times I almost put it down, but being the first in a series I decided to drudge on. It all boils down to a few words, which I can string out. Those words would be: no chemistry between the heroine, Libby Penrose and the hero, Brendan, the Earl of Northam (North to his friends). On top of that we have one of the most self-loathing-I-don't-deserve-love-guess-I'll-go-eat-worms heroine I've ever come across. I'm-a-bad-person Libby was very tiring, very depressing and excruciating to read. Can you tell I didn't like her? Not only was she constantly beating herself up, but she was also constantly leaving cryptic messages around. Dire predictions of what might happen if our hero would fall in love with her. "You would do so much better to leave me in peace - I cannot be a virgin for you no matter how you make me bleed - don't trust me - don't love me - I will not allow you to save me." There were waaay to many self-loathing cryptic remarks out of Libby's mouth; this book almost hit the wall. Then we have our hero - Brendan.

Poooooor Brendan. He seems to be a Beta hero, but it's hard to tell. I know he falls in love with Cryptic Girl and goes around making excuses for her and trying to understand why she is the way she is, especially since she's nottt tellllling himmmm. See, I'm getting mad at Libby again. Back to Brendan. Brendan is kind of - looking for a word - looking for a word - I have it! Boring! Yes, I said it! Boring! He's not interesting! He has no sense of humor - well who could with Libby around? But this guy wouldn't know a joke even if W.C. Fields was standing next to him. When it comes to the sex scenes in this book, (and let me tell you there are tons of them), they are mostly skimmable. Two people, one self-loathing and one boring having whankee-roo is just not readable - especially when Cryptic Girl says depressing things while humping and bumping. If anyone could deflate a Timothy Toad it would be her.

Even as much as I found Brendan and Libby to be really really annoying, I thought the plot could have been interesting - if only there had been two different leads. Libby's past, the mysteries of her past, the villains, the Gentleman Thief, her father, her friend, his friends - all of that could have made for some good reading. But, the story failed. The villains are easy to spot and the solution to the various problems is done in a rush - leaving for me some glaring questions. What about Libby's son? What about her father? What about Isobel, her friend? Those ends were not tied, they just faded away - forgotten.

For me this book was a huge disappointment. The writing was choppy and hard to follow. The hero was weak, flat, boring. There wasn't any spark between the main couple. The biggest problem though was with the horribly depressing self-derisive heroine. If this were a standalone book, I'd say pass on it - but it's the first in the series. So, enter at your own risk, just be prepared for Cryptic Girl.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Wake Me When Its Over