Wednesday

Schooling the Viscount by Maggie Robinson

February 15, 2017
"Your silvery beams will bring love dreams, we'll be cuddling soon,
By the silvery moon."
Edward Madden, Gus Edwards - 1909

http://www.maggierobinson.net/

Seeing as how I read mostly historicals, it's been awhile since I've read a Maggie Robinson book (2015 to be exact). Was the wait worth it? Sort of. While this book was decent, I had an overriding sense of agitation throughout the book. Try as I might I could not shake it. So, this agitation caused me not to enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. Let's examine this story.

Captain Lord Henry Challoner has returned from the Boar War with some issues. Physically, he was shot in the foot and lost hearing in one ear from being too close to a cannon. But he's suffering from some major psychological issues and has turned to alcohol, drugs, and women for the solution. Well, his controlling father has decided to put a stop to his son's actions and has him bundled off to a "rehabilitation center" for some "rest." That sentence is actually pretty gentle compared to what actually happens in the book. The place he is sent to is a small village in Cotswold called Puddling-on-the-Wold and while that may seem charming, it is anything but.

At some time during this village's past, it was decided by a "council" that they could make money catering to the "problems" of the wealthy. They take on one client at a time. The whole village transforms itself in order to fix the problem - whatever it may be. For instance, one of the village's previous clients was about to be married and had a weight problem. So the village closed anything to do with food, like the local bakery, and also restricted what the villagers could cook just in case the smell carried to the client. In Henry's case, alcohol vanished and nubile women were hidden away. He was also restricted as to where he could take his walks. It is during one of these walks when he decides to go a different way and stumbles across our heroine, Rachel.

Rachel is the local schoolteacher and she like everyone else in the village must abide by the rules. She seems to have had some problems with the "people who make the rules." And, now she is faced with the village's new client who isn't supposed to be anywhere near her. Another rule for which she will get in trouble. She doesn't want to break any more of the rules because she and her invalid father depend on the money the village rakes in. But she finds Henry to be irresistible from the beginning, so she knows she's in trouble.

There is a mix of humor and drama throughout the entire book. It should have been a pleasant read, but I had this nagging voice in my head all the way through. Our hero is 25 years old, and was a soldier for 6 years. He has his own financial independence, he is an adult. So, how come his father could just bundle him up and dump him in this village? I don't know the legal system of England in the late 1880s but I suspect for a father to do this to an adult male it wouldn't be entirely lawful. Even if it was lawful, I would guess there would have to be some pretty fancy legal foot-work that would have had to be done by the father. So, this bothered me. But that wasn't the only thing. Even if I didn't question the legalities of this plotline set-up, I questioned why a 25-year-old alpha male would put up with being incarcerated in the village. This part of Henry's character weakened the story for me. While he may have whined about being there, he made no attempt to escape and I found it hard to accept that. This a black cloud hanging over my head through the entire story - why isn't Henry doing something about his situation?

There was also a "what the crap" moment. Let's set this up: Rachel is really quite attracted to Henry. She's allll tingly and her woman-parts are wet and throbbing all the time because of Henry. But, she knows she can't do anything about it because someone in the village might see them. So, what does she do to ease her suffering? Well, she goes outside, under the moonlight, in plain sight, and pleasures herself - loudly. Of course Henry stumbles across her doing this and his Timothy Toad becomes an erection set. Really! Outside! Under the bright moon! This was a very silly scene.

This is the first book in a series called Cotswold Confidential. I'm sorry to say that this story didn't work for me. I was toooo irritated with the way the hero was written to relax and enjoy the story. He was an adult male, who was represented as being self-reliant, except he lets his father ship him off to this weird Twilight Zone village. I didn't get it.

Time/Place: England 1880s
Sensuality: Hot

Tuesday

Surrender to Sin by Tamera Lejeune

February 7, 2017
Whatever happened to...

Surrender to Sin, by Tamera Lejeune, was written in 2007. I remember reading it when it
first came out and I remember finding it funny. I also remember reading a couple more of Ms. Lejeune's books and then I stopped and then she just disappeared from Romanceland. I've done a lot of looking but could not find her anyplace. I don't believe she had a website even when she began to write. Maybe she just tired of trying to keep the momentum going and if you have read Surrender to Sin you will understand why I say that. This book was a cross between a fast-paced comedy (think His Girl Friday) and a Jerry Lewis movie (think The Lady's Man.) For those of you who don't enjoy fast-paced farce filled with characters who cross the line between loony and mean, this book isn't for you.


In this book we have Abigail, the very rich daughter of a tradesman by the name of Big Red Ritchie. He has made his money from producing the best scotch in the land. Abigail is a shy person, who has a head for financial matters. She can turn an idea into lots of money, she just can't talk to men. She has also just broken her engagement to her awful fiancé and must flee into the countryside to avoid the scandal. Her father rents her a cottage in the wilds of Hertfordshire. Little does she know that the owner of that cottage and the dilapidated estate attached to it belongs to the handsome stranger who helped her in London. That handsome guy is Cary Wayborn.

Even though Cary is in need of money, he also has a pretty cavalier attitude when it comes to ways to make the cash flow again. He has also been throwing away bills for the alcohol he bought from Red Ritchie. In fact, he doesn't like the man. He does not know that the woman he's been mooning over, Abigail, is Red's daughter. Then she arrives at the cottage. A tree has fallen on the rented cottage which leads to some pretty funny dialogue.

This book is hard to describe, because it's one misunderstanding after another. Mistaken identities abound. There are oodles of outrageous secondary characters - a vicious Macaw, a bird loving corgi, a senile nurse, an unpleasant chaperone, her sensual mysterious nurse, the gossipy neighbors, the actor, Abigail's ex-fiancé, Cary's sister and her fiancé. The entire cast of characters is outrageous. All of them plotting, lying, talking over each other. There's a kidnapping plot, a jewel thief/s, Bow Street Runners. My head was spinning just trying to keep up with all the shenanigans. I had laugh out loud moments, but also moments when I grew tired of all the racing around.

While I found this to be a pretty funny story, there were a couple of things which I had issues with. First of all, Cary's sister Juliet. Evidently Juliet was the heroine in the previous book and I don't remember that book at all. But in this book she was really quite an unpleasant character. She was immature, selfish and her treatment of her fiancé was horrible. I found her character to be terribly unlikable and could only wonder at the fact that she supposedly was the heroine from the first book. She needed to be put in her place, and nobody seemed to be able to. Abigail tried to stand up to her in part of the book, but I wish she had been just a little bit more powerful in confronting her.

The other quibble I had was this book was played mainly for laughs. I love humorous books - I think they are great and I'm always on the look-out for more. In those funny books I like a nice balance of romance and fun. For me the romance lost out to the wacky, zany comedy. Nice try though.

Time/Place: Regency England (I guess - there was no sense of time)
Sensuality: Hottish

Wednesday

January 25, 2017
A poem for you which doesn't rhyme:
O, little corn flake all nice and crispy
What a lovely golden brown treat, floating in some milk
Thank you Mr. Kellogg, even though you were so weird
You pressed together some stale old wheat,
and gave us something good to eat.
So, thank you Mr. K. 'cause now we don't have to eat
innards of cows, pigs, lambs and frogs for breakfast.


Trusting Miss Trentham is the third book in the Baleful Godmother's series by Emily
Larkin. Remember, this is the one where certain people in a family line get one wish. Now, these wishes are tricky because they usually come with a "whoops" clause. In the last books, the heroine couldn't shape shift if she was pregnant, in this one our heroine's wish is that she can hear lies. Not only does she know when a person is lying to her, she hears a giant clang in her head when they do. I don't think I would want that wish myself. But in Letitia Trentham's case she uses it because she has been bombarded with marriage proposals from fortune hunters.


Knock knock. Who's there? It is I, the hero Icarus Reid and I need your help in finding a traitor. So, Icarus finds out about this woman who is pretty sharp when reading people. He doesn't know it's magic, he just thinks she's extra perceptive. Be warned my little Petunia's, this story has a lot of "suspension of disbelief" laying around. Icarus' acceptance of Letitia's insightfulness is a little staggering considering that he doesn't really know her. He only has one encounter with her knowing gaze and they are off chasing after a traitor. I accept that. I know that one has only around 300 pages and some things just get lost in the shuffle, but his acceptance was mighty quick.

Anyway, they're off chasing suspects, spinning convoluted tales to their loved ones. These convoluted tales are so we, the readers, are given an excuse for two unwed people to be traveling together. This is sort of a road trip, an angst-filled road trip because our hero, Icarus, has nightmares. Our heroine believes Icarus means to do away with himself when they find the traitor, so she must find a way to save him. But that's not unusual for this pair. This is a road trip story and along the way Icarus and Letitia become good-deed-doers. Both of them. Unwed mothers, veterans with no arms or legs, people with no place to live, people with no jobs, starving animals, orphans. There is no problem these two cannot solve, except their own.

Letitia's problem is trying to find an honest suitor, but Icarus has some major issues. He was tortured during the war. He feels guilty because the men under him were killed, and that's a large weight to carry around. But there's more - while under torture he revealed information - and he cannot find it in himself to forgive. So, night after night he relives the horrors of the torture and eventual betrayal. This was some pretty strong stuff in the book and it went on a long time. I have to admit that even though there was some excellent writing during these scenes, for me there came a time when I started to find them monotonous. I would have been happier if we could have seen a little bit of improvement in Icarus before we did.

Food. I did become a tad bit distracted while reading this book and had a few ewwwwh moments. This is not the first historical romance I've ever read, so I am familiar with some of the food served during these times. But in this book we have fried sweetbreads (that's not something with yeast and sugar, that's a thymus or a pancreas), raised mutton pie, suet pudding (made from animal fat with spices), chitterlings (intestines) - is your mouth watering yet? There's more! We have muggety pie (made from the small intestines of a calf), apple fritters (how did that get in there?). Sure all of these foods had tons of spices to hide the taste but, ewwwwh, turned my stomach. Oh well - waste not want not.

Disturbing scene. I cannot go on without bringing up a scene in this book I found disturbing. Letitia is an innocent - I mean really innocent, especially as far as what kind of dangly things hang from a man's body. Add to the innocence is curiosity. Here's the set-up. As I mentioned before Icarus has nightmares. Letitia finds a way of helping him through these episodes. She gives him a drink of brandy, followed by Valerian, followed by her reading to him. He eventually sleeps. This scenario is repeated night after night after night after night. Then they start kissing, night after night until he falls to sleep. Then one night Letitia, being mighty curious, waits until he has fallen asleep and takes a peek at what lays under the blanket. Not only that, but while he is still sleeping she starts performing oral entertainment on his Mr. Toad until Mr. Toad explodes in her mouth. This wakes Icarus. One might say Icarus is a tad bit upset. While this may be a titillating scene for some, I found it too unpleasant. I don't care how curious one is, there are boundaries which are set and one doesn't cross those boundaries unless one is given permission. He was not a willing participate, he was drugged, and while she was an "innocent" she should have known she was crossing some lines. I could find no excuse for what she did and I didn't think it was in any way sensual or romantic.

Overall, I found this book hard to rate. While I liked part of it, I was disappointed it was not as vibrant as the previous book. I grew bored with the nighttime routine and didn't think the couple showed any kind of a connection with each other. But most of all, I think what ruined this book for me was the so-call seduction while Icarus was sleeping. For me there are just some lines that shouldn't be crossed and that was one of them.

Time/Place: Road Trip England 1808
Sensuality: Sex yes, Sensual no

Tuesday

Huzzah! Spring is just around the corner! Upcoming Historical Romances!!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! February 15, 2017 to March 14, 2017. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.
Adrienne Basso
http://www.adriennebasso.net/
No Other Highlander
The McKennas series
February 28
Amelia Grey
http://www.ameliagrey.com/
Last Night with the Duke
Rakes of St. James series
March 7
Anna Harrington
http://www.annaharringtonbooks.com/
If the Duke Demands
Capturing the Carlisles
February 28
Catherine Tinley
http://www.catherinetinley.com
Waltzing With the Earl
February 21
Ella Quinn
http://www.ellaquinnauthor.com
It Started with a Kiss
Worthingtons series
February 28
Julia Justiss*
http://www.juliajustiss.com/
Convenient Proposal to the Lady
Hadley’s Hellions
February 21
Julia London*
http://www.julialondon.com/
Sinful Scottish Laird
Highland Grooms series
February 28
Laura Martin
https://lauramartinromance.com/
Heiress on the Run
The Eastway Cousins
Februay 21
Lisa Kleypas*
http://www.lisakleypas.com/
Devil in Spring
The Ravenels series
February 21
Louise Allen
http://www.louiseallenregency.co.uk
Surrender to the Marquess
March 1
Megan Frampton
https://www.facebook.com/meganframptonbooks/
My Fair Duchess
Dukes Behaving Badly series
February 28
Meredith Duran*
http://meredithduran.com/index.html
A Lady’s Code of Misconduct
Rules for the Reckless series
February 28
Sabrina Jarema
https://www.facebook.com/SabrinaJarema1/
Lord of the Mountains
Viking Lords series
March 14
Tatiana March
http://tatianamarch.blogspot.com/
His Mail-Order Bride
The Fairfax Brides series
March 1
Theresa Romain
http://theresaromain.com
Passion Favors the Bold
Royal Rewards series
February 28
Tracy Anne Warren*
http://www.tracyannewarren.com/
Bedchamber Games
Rakes of Cavendish Square series
March 7

Wild Wicked Scot by Julia London

January 17, 2017
“Better run, girl,
You're much too young, girl
With all the charms of a woman
You've kept the secret of your youth
You led me to believe
You're old enough
To give me Love” -
written by Jerry Fuller, sung by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

http://julialondon.com/

I may have a different view of our heroine Margot than some of my fellow Petunia's. Before I get started on my small rant, let me say this: I liked Wild Wicked Scot. Did everything send me into raptures in this story? No. Were there moments when I wanted to reach through the book and choke somebody? Yes. Even with some of the things I found irritating, I became absorbed with the story, the characters, and wondered just how we would get a believable happy ending.

Plot. Our heroine, Margot, is married to a stranger, Arran, when she'd just turned 18. She is then packed off to Scotland to live with strangers. Here's the thing - she's very pampered, very spoiled, waited on hand and foot. She is used to a society of "friends", people who talk to her, laugh with her, surround her. She is a privileged young girl, isolated. Does she know her father's a deceitful liar who is using her for his own purposes? No, and why should she? He's never done anything but give her a comfortable life. The only thing he's done which upsets her world is marry her to a Scottish-alpha-male-lout (our hero Arran).

Margot. I found Margot to be a totally sympathetic character and I had no problem with her being spoiled. I also don't see a problem with the amount of time it took Margot to grow up. If anything I had a problem with the fact that she's the one who was expected to do alllll the changing. There was never one moment in this book in which our hero backed down, saw he was wrong or apologized. Oh sure, he wrote letters which he never sent, but it is always Margot who was the one who was expected to do all the work. She's the one who had to accept the uncouth villages, be happy her husband doesn't talk to her, be with people who talk a different language. She is expected to accept everything the way it is and never ever complain. I think it's a mistake for us as readers to expect an eighteen-year-old pampered girl to adapt and change in the strange environment she was thrust into. So, for me Margot's character was written realistically and I was cheering her on at every turn. If I have a problem (and it would be a small one) it is with Arran.

As I said before, he doesn't do any of the changing in this book. He is somewhat older than Margot. For him it is love at first sight; he falls in love with someone he has spotted on the balcony. He marries her and drags off to the wilds of Scotland, continues on with his life and expects her to blend in. Never once does he explain himself, he goes for days doing whatever it is he has to do and never tells her diddly squat. He's older than Margot, more experienced, he should know that occasionally he has to pay attention to his new, young wife. So, for me, both of the characters needed to change, not just Margot.

Now, you might think I didn't like this book. Wrong. Remember I said at the beginning I liked it, in fact I liked it a lot. It's just the little rant which distracts. I will admit it took me a chapter or two to understand and like the characters in this book. But then I found myself being absorbed into the book, reading most of the words and wanting it to last just a little bit longer. And, even though I included Arran's letters as part of my rant, those letters were soooo touching. Ms. London's writing when it revolves around those letters was truly magical. Not only do you feel Arran's despair, you also feel Margot's pain when she reads them. I loved the letter scenes.

Overall, I recommend this book. This is a character-driven story, with some pretty strong characters. Even if you have a problem with one of the characters in Wild Wicked Scot, there are some really wonderful moments in this book and you really shouldn't miss it. 

Time/Place: Scotland during the time of Queen Anne of England - big hair
Sensuality: Hot

Four Weddings and a Sixpence by Julia Quinn, Stefanie Sloane, Elizabeth Boyle and Laura Lee Guhrke

January 17, 2017
Four short stories, and three obligatory humpa-bumpa scenes.
 

http://juliaquinn.com/
http://www.stefaniesloane.com/
http://www.elizabethboyle.com/
https://lauraleeguhrke.com/
Over the holidays, I always like to have an anthology to read. Usually they are light, fluffy
and fast; just right for an evening in the chair with some a cup of hot chocolate in hand. But Four Weddings and a Sixpence required me to do an observation and a little bitty rant.

 
My itty-bitty rant.
I don't always feel it's necessary to include the requisite sex scene in all romance stories. Whether the story is long or short there should still be a reason to include one. Sometimes there just isn't enough space allowed for one; it shorts the character building. Or sometimes the galumpa-falumpa just doesn't fit in, it comes out of the blue, it jumps out at you and makes you choke on your chocolate. Ooohhhh my lovely authors, (especially veteran authors) you do not need to pound us over the head with a paragraph or page of sex to make us happy. Sometimes the story is better without it, especially a short story. There was one story in this anthology which didn't have any whankee-roo in it and it was the best one of the four. While the absence of a sex scene didn't necessarily make it better, it didn't hurt it either.


The mysterious sixpence. The story line of all four stories centers around a mysterious sixpence our four heroines find stuffed in a mattress when they are in school. I'm not sure why but they come up with the idea that it’s a lucky coin and will bring husbands to the one who is carrying it. No fairie godmother or anything to base this theory on. But hey, they are young and we need something to connect the stories. Works for me.

Something New, by Stefanie Sloane. In this one we have Anna who has to marry by the time she's twenty-one or there shall be dire circumstances. Rhys is the hero, a rake and in no hurry to marry. Through some twists and funny turns Rhys decides to help Anna find her husband. Of course this is Romanceland and he must fall in love with her, cross off all the other men on the list and make her fall in love with him. This was a light story, no shocks, no angst, just smooth sailing to the end. It was ok, except for the out-of-blue proverbial sex scene. B-

Something Borrowed, by Elizabeth Boyle is the standard pretend-fiancé story. Cordelia has invented a fiancé so her family will leave her alone. But her family and friends are expecting her and "fiancé" at the wedding of her dear friend Anna. Well as luck would have it, her childhood friend Kip shows up and she ropes him into it. This was a pretty well-rounded story development. Kip and Cordelia had a back-story, there was an obnoxious woman who Kip was going to propose to and just for laughs we have the twinkling-eyed Drew (Kip's brother) and ignore-what's-going-on companion, Kate Harrington. All of these secondary characters were developed enough to show up in bigger books. And, I hope they do. This was a sweet, funny tale, and except for the misunderstanding at the end after the (you guessed it) humpa-bumpa scene, I liked it. B

Something Blue, by Laura Lee Guhrke. Of all the stories in this anthology, this was my least favorite. This story was a downer, and I just wasn't in the holiday mood to read about lost love, trust, and traitors. We have Elinor and Lawrence. And, they just do not trust each other. Lawrence is trying to find information proving Elinor's father was involved in treason. And, Elinor plays the martyr card for too long defending her father. I found the whole story depressing, from the I-can't-trust-you-ever rigmarole to the galumpa-falumpa between two people who can't trust each other. It may have worked in a bigger book, but it was just not my cup of holiday cheer story. C-
 
A Sixpence in Her Shoe
, by Julia Quinn. This was my favorite story in the anthology and it's mainly due to our wonderful heroine, Bea. She's interested in the stars, her brain is mathematical, and she's always wanted to observe the skies. But she's a woman and she's not allowed. Then she bumps into Frederick, I mean she actually bumps into him. He is sort of an angst hero. He is the owner of only one eye or one working eye. But that problem doesn't hang the story up. In fact, this story doesn't get hung up on too much of anything. It's just a delightful fall in love, romantic story with one of the best first dates ever in it. What Frederick does for Bea is a real "hero" moment. A very romantic story. A-


Overall, most of the stories were ok, there was just one which didn't match my holiday mood but the last story was a smile-creator.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Questionable
Overall: B

The Lass Wore Black by Karen Ranney

January 10, 2017
A Beauty and the Beast tale

What is beauty? What is beastly? In The Lass Wore Black, by Karen Ranney, we get to
ponder that question in so many ways. In the prequel to this book, The Scandalous Scot, we met Catriona Cameron. Catriona is one of the most outwardly beautiful women to ever walk the earth. But on the inside, she is the beast. She's one nasty woman. She uses her beauty to get what she wants. She is entirely selfish, mean, nasty, catty, rotten - I can go on and on. I disliked her intensely in the previous book and I could see no way that Karen Ranney could redeem her enough to make her into a heroine. I must say that Karen gave it the good old college try, but in my opinion she wasn't quite successful in redeeming her to the point where I could actually like her.


I am glad I read this book, because I was really really interested in how Ms. Ranney was going to transform this beastly woman into a beauty. Well, first of all she took away her physical beauty. Catriona is involved in a horrific accident in the very beginning of the story. She has some damage to her arm and leg, but most of it is to her face. Catriona hides herself away, in her room, with her face covered by a veil. So now her face is as ugly as her personality. Her whole way of surviving the world, the only thing she knew, what made her popular is now gone. But, she is still a very unpleasant person and I could not feel any sympathy for her. And, that's ok, because I don't think at this point in the story I was supposed to feel sorry for her. I think the problem I had with Catriona wasn't really her but our hero Mark.

While I liked Mark all right, his character wasn't as fleshed out as Catriona. I didn't see him as being strong enough to give a balance to Catriona. And, when I say strong I don't mean some alpha hit-over-the-head-caveman-grunt-guy, I mean his personality was just sort of bland. Catriona was such a strong character; she was so angry, so defeated, so unlikable, that she overpowered the book. Mark's side of the story was weak. He was a nice guy, a good doctor. He loved his work, he saved poor orphans and single mothers, but he was almost boring and he was no match for Catriona. I didn't think they worked together as a couple, plus there were long segments of the book when they weren't together at all. I think it's very rare for a love story to work when the couple is separated for a lot of the book - it's been done in some stories, sad to say not this one just didn't succeed.

While I like the way Ms. Ranney writes, I didn't care for the couple as a couple. Catriona's story was a fascinating try at making a creepy person into a nice person but I felt it didn't completely work. She was too boo-hoo-poor-me for waaay too long - she didn't have her epiphany soon enough. I would have liked to have seen her struggle with her newfound awareness a little bit sooner... and while I liked Mark, he was no match for Catriona. The Lass Wore Black just didn't quite reach the plateau it was reaching for.

Time/Place: England 1860s-big skirt time
Sensuality: Hot, I guess