Friday

Surrender to the Highlander by Lindsay Sands

February 16, 2018
Dinna fash yersel'

http://www.lynsaysands.net/

Hey, guess what! Get ready to journey back to the good old days of Scotland. Yep, those were the days when lassies were lassies and laddies were brawny and said "dinna" a lot.

It's been a while since I've read a Lindsay Sands. I couldn't remember why I didn't read her anymore.  I remember loving The Deed. I also remember enjoying her vampire books, until I became tired of the gazillion cell-phone conversation her characters had. Regardless, I picked up Surrender to the Highlander and started to read. I actually found myself enjoying it and then something happened - I remembered why I haven't read Ms. Sands in a while. Let's examine my epiphany.

Our main characters in this story are Edith Drummond and Neils Buchanan. By the way, Neils Buchanan is the series connector. He has a bunch of brothers: Alick, Geordie, and Rory. Rory is the doctor-brother. There is also a sister by the name of Saidh, but her story was the previous one. Hey, and by the way, how does one pronounce Saidh? I went online and listened to different pronunciations. There were all kinds of pronunciations, from said, as in said, to c-ad, c-ed, sin-o, ci-ad, ce-ad-ded, sid and just plain c. I bet I'm not the only one who becomes distracted when it comes to certain Romanceland names. They may look pretty, but pronouncing them is a whole different matter. Anyway, back to Edith and Neils.

Saidh is worried about her friend Edith. She hasn't heard from her in a long time and she is suspicious of things not quite right at the Drummond castle. But, Saidh can't find out because she's about 20 months pregnant with a giant cow and cannot ride a horse to the Drummond castle. Her husband will not leave her side, so she coerces her brothers into investigating. The four brothers grudgingly agree and they are off.

Getting into the castle. When they arrive at the castle they are not allowed into it and a very long funny scene begins between the brothers and the guards. It reminded me a little of an old Laurel and Hardy movie. Eventually the four brothers are allowed into the castle and we meet more characters: Ronson, the cute Romanceland orphan boy with his trusty giant dog, Laddie; Ronson's grandmother; Tormod, the Laird's first; and Cawley, the Laird's second. There are also a bunch of assorted servants all over the place. It's actually quite crowded. It has to be crowded because someone is killing them off and the more people who get murdered, the smaller our suspects list becomes. Edith's father and two of her brothers have already died, and someone has poisoned her. Her brother, Brodie has taken off along with his wife, and are in hiding - at least that's what we are told. Oh, I forgot, there may be spoilers ahead, to say nothing of the red herrings.

Anyway, someone has poisoned poor Edith and she's in some kind of poison coma. Lucky for her Rory is a doctor and after lots and lots of discussion by all the guys, they arrive at the conclusion that her food was poisoned or maybe it was her mead or cider - whatever, there was a bigggg discussion.  I did not know which of the brothers Edith was going to end up with. At first I thought maybe Rory was the one, but ‘twas not to be. Nope, Neils was the first one Edith's eyes landed on when she finally opened them. Well, not really the first one, that would be the snoring Alick. Alick was on guard duty. Neils was the first one whose arms she collapsed into. She is instantly attracted to Neils and they start to talk about who is trying to murder her. He and his brothers and her servants try to protect her, but she occasionally turns into a TSTL heroine and wanders off into the castle by herself. She just cannot abide waking poor Neils from his sound sleep, the poor dear, even if someone is poisoning her food and shooting arrows at her. She just tip-toes over him. Another sleeping brother on guard duty.

How to catch a murderer. It was while I was reading a scene in which a detailed discussion was going on that my light bulb went off. A bunch of the guys were talking, in detail, on how to catch the killer. Now I remembered why I haven't read Ms. Sands in a while. These how-to discussions were done more than once in this book and were all quite pointless. They had to have been word count fillers I see no other reason for them being there. There were pages and pages of things like - I paraphrase: "you walk into a room and turn around and say, “oh, where is so and so”. Then turn to your left and trip over the stairs and then say, so everyone can hear, “I'm going up stairs now - by myself - all alone - with no one to protect me”. Then Tormod will go here and Rory will go there and Neils will go there and Alick will be under the bed waiting". On and on and on and on. Then you know what? Someone gets thrown over the castle wall and the conspirators don't do the plan. They forget their brother under the bed. None of the clever we-have-a-plan conspirators see anything. There wasn’t anyone in the hallway, stairs, closet, table, chair, etc. The whole conversation was a waste of time. Then I was presented with an OMG moment.

OMG moment. So, we have a killer on the loose. We don't know who. We don't know how they are getting from place to place without being seen. We have discussions, and plans, and more discussions and a heroine who just can't seem to stay in one place. Tormod. You remember Tormod? He's the big kahuna of the castle, he's the First, the guard, the protector. Oh, geewillikers guys, did Tormod forget to mention there are secret passages thourghout the castle? Really, Tormod! Do you think it might have come in handy to know there were secret passages? And, this is the guy who is supposed to be guarding the castle. But wait, there are more moments in this story. Our Ewwwwww moment.

Ewwwwww moment. Edith is a total innocent, I mean she is a clueless innocent. She and Neils marry part way through the story. She wants to please her man, so she asks her maid for instructions. Actually, some of this discussion was quite humorous. Edith has no idea what her maid is talking about. I even chuckled through their conversation. If only Ms. Sands hadn't gone a step further. Ms. Sands just doesn’t seem to know when to stop. You see innocent Edith, on the advice of her maid, smears some kind of dark fruit preserve all over Neils winkee-dink. (This is to make it taste good.) But, she hasn’t stopped there, she has inserted some preserve in her lady-channel, if you know what I mean. Well, my little Petunia's, remember Edith has been poisoned in the past. It seems that once again she has been poisoned and in the middle of enjoying the placements of preserves, she throws up. All over everything, including Neils' Timothy Toad. You might think that's the Ewwwwww moment - nope. Rory, the doctor-brother, sees Neils’ preserve-laden Timothy Toad and suggests that Neils clean up. He also suggests that Neils clean up Edith because he can see preserves "seeping" from her golden vessel. That was my Ewwwwww moment. But wait, there is one more moment; the villain wrap-up moment.

The villain wrap-up moment. You know over the years, I have seen movies or read books which have villains exposing allllll the reasons they have for killing a gazillion people. This is the first time I have ever seen the heroine, the woman who the villain is trying to kill, sit down with the villain and discuss allll the reasons why. It was just toooo ridiculous for words. By the way the death toll was 14 in this book, not counting the horses.

Bottom line. What started out has a humorous romantic story took a turn half way through. The conversations surrounding the “who-done-its” were just pointless. The heroine, the First, and the brothers were not the brightest bulbs in the package. And, there were just too many "moments" which kicked me out of the story. This book did not work for me, I was very disappointed that what started out promising ended up being very awkward. Sorry to say I cannot recommend Surrender to the Highlander.

Time/Place: Generic time Scotland
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


Tuesday

Christmas in the City series by Jill Barnett

February 7, 2018
So, the Holiday season is over - but what the hey
Well, 2017 is over and I had high hopes for 2018. However, so far, 2018 selections are making me walk around with a frowny face. I've started three, put them away and had to turn to some old holiday novellas for a smiley face. Anyway, Jill Barnett has republished three of her holiday short stories: Daniel and the Angel, 1994; Eleanor's Hero, aka Boxing Day, 1997; and My Lucky Penny, 2017 (new). They have been repackaged as the Christmas in the City series, but really the only thing that connects them is they take place in New York City in the late 19th century.

Daniel and the Angel, 1994. This is a sweet story, maybe even a little silly. It reminded
me an awful lot of some old Hollywood movies like It's a Wonderful Life, The Bishop's Wife, and Here Comes Mr. Jordan. A bumbling angel, Lillian, is sent to earth to soften the heart of a young, handsome miser, D.L. Stewart. When Lillian is kicked out of heaven, she lands with a bump in front of Stewart's carriage. Believing she is injured, Stewart takes her home. His lawyer tries to get her to sign a release so she won't sue. Lillian, being an angel, has no use what-so ever for any money. Someone who has no use for money is an oddity for Stewart, one that he has trouble understanding. And, that's the basic story. Lillian trying to turn D.L. Stewart into a nice guy and D.L. trying to figure Lillian out.


This is a case of instant love, but that's ok because this is such a short story there isn't any room for a long love preamble. The tale is pretty whimsical, with just a light touch of angel dust thrown in. It was a nice read, very seasonal and it cheered me up. So, if you like bumbling angels, this should hit the right spot. It's a fast, pleasant, joyful read.

 


Eleanor's Hero, aka Boxing Day, 1997. This one I didn't like so much. Here's why - I'm not too keen on professional boxers being heroes in my romance books. I don't know why. I never have been a big fan of men beating each other in the head with their fists. But I tried to get past that in this story. But then there is Eleanor. Eleanor is a forty year old woman and our heroine, but gee willikers one would think she was 80 years old and had no hormonal urges. You see, Conn, our hero-boxer is younger than Eleanor - I think by eight years. So, she's forty and he's thirty-two. I have to ask - how would one be able to tell the age difference just by looking at them? Forty/thirty-two - don't get the problem. But the age difference was a biiigggggg problem with Eleanor and that made what should have been a light-hearted short story irritating. There could have been some really funny things in this story, especially after she moves into the same building as the one he lives in. She's also his landlady. But there was just too much time wasted on the age thing, and it got pretty monotonous pretty fast. Not my favorite Jill Barnett story.




 My Lucky Penny, 2017. This is the new story in the batch. Well, here I go again - this is
one of those times when a short story should have been longer. There was just too much going on in My Lucky Penny and the characters needed more development time or something should have been edited out to allow for more depth. Here's the plot, a bachelor uncle, Edward, becomes the guardian of his 4 year old niece. His niece is going through some kind of trauma and cannot or will not speak. Then one snowy day she sees a doll in a store window which looks likes her mother - and she talks. She wants that doll. Well, Edward cannot stop the carriage, he's a busy guy after all, but promises her he will get it for her later. When he goes back, the doll is gone. So, he begins to look for another doll just like that one. The doll maker is our heroine, Idalie Everdeane, and Idalie hasn’t anymore "Josie" dolls.


The strong parts of this story were the moments shared between Edward and his niece, Penny. He is a pretty busy guy who has filled all of his days with his work and when he becomes Penny's guardian all of his orderly routine becomes chaos. Their relationship is pretty special. What isn't so strong is the romantic relationship between Edward and Idalie. Remember this is a short story, but Ms. Barnett doesn't actually have Edward and Idalie interact with each other for quite a while. For me, there just wasn't enough romantic chemistry between Edward and Idalie - they just didn't seem to connect. My Lucky Penny had moments of superb writing, but that wasn't enough for this short story to work.


 


Bottom-line - I'm always a sucker for short stories. I know what I'm getting into when I purchase them. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. But, usually they make me smile. While My Lucky Penny deserved a longer format, it had its delightful moments. It's just the romance in the story didn't work. I liked Daniel and the Angel, I thought it was a pleasant, smiley-face read. My least favorite of the three was Eleanor's Hero, aka Boxing Day - what an irritating heroine.
Time/Place: 1880s New York

Sensuality: Varies: Sweet to Warm
Overall:

Wednesday

His Lordship's Last Wager by Miranda Davis

January 24, 2018
Yeahhhh!!!

It's been a long time, almost 5 years since Miranda Davis' last book. Finally - finally!!! The wait was over! I put all my other books aside and plunged in. Before I begin, I must say I read my story with a Nook device and there was a formatting snafu which I found irritating, but I learned to live with it. Back to the story. Miranda Davis writes books which are longer than most other romance books around. And, while I am one of the people who continue to whine about the need for longer romance books, this story could have been edited down just a tad. There were just some scenes which were superfluous. However, even with the weird formatting and extra scenes, I had a smile on my face. It was just great to have a new Miranda Davis story in my hands.

For me, His Lordship's Last Wager was a delightful book and mostly a pleasure to read. Was it as sensational as The Duke's Tattoo? No, but it's still very good. We are reintroduced to Lady Jane Babcock, a not so nice secondary character from The Duke's Tattoo, and Lord Seeyle Burton, one of the Four Horseman of Apocalypse. And, after reading it I decided to reread the other two - just so my memory would be restored. I'm not sure if it was the formatting or the story but I had a hard time starting the story. However, I eventually found the author's rhythm and I was finally able to enjoy the story without too much distractions.

The best part of the book begins when it turns into a road trip story. Jane and Seeyle are great fun as they journey across the country with a big brown bear. There are tons of improbable turn-of-events, a lot of silliness, and things that wouldn't really happen - but it's all great fun. This part of the book was well written and highly enjoyable. It was also fun to have the four horsemen back together again. There were numerous scenes in which the four friends were friends, with all the jabbing, witty exchanges, and loyalty that happens in a true friendship.

Overall, this was a fun read, full of great secondary characters and a fun romance couple. It was great having Miranda Davis' newest book in my hands. While it may not have reached the heights of the first story, it was still good and I do recommend it.


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm

Tuesday

Hokey Smoke Bullwinkle! It's time for Upcoming Historical Romances!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!!  February 15, 2018 to March 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.
Emma Harrington
http://www.annaharringtonbooks.com/
As The Devil Dares
Capturing the Carlisles series
March 6
Ann Lethbridge
http://www.annlethbridge.com
Rescued by the Earl's Vows
paperback - February 20, ebook - March 1
Caroline Linden*
http://www.carolinelinden.com
My Once and Future Duke
The Wagers of Sin series
February 27
Ella Quinn
http://www.ellaquinnauthor.com
The Marquis and I
The Worthingtons series
February 27
Grace Burrowes
http://www.graceburrowes.com/
A Rogue of Her Own
Windham Brides series
March 6
Julia London*
https://julialondon.com/
Devil in Tartan
The Highland Grooms series
February 20
Kelly Bowen*
http://www.kellybowen.net/home.html
A Duke in the Night
Devils of Dover series
February 20
Lara Temple
https://www.laratemple.com
Lord Ravenscar’s Inconvenient Betrothal
Wild Lords and Innocent Ladies series
March 1
Lisa Kleypas*
http://www.lisakleypas.com/
Hello Stranger
The Ravenels series
February 27
Lynna Banning
http://www.lynnabanning.net
Miss Murray on the Cattle Trail
February 20
Marguerite Kaye*
http://www.margueritekaye.com
From Governess to Countess
Matches Made in Scandal series
paperback - February 20, ebook - March 1
Megan Frampton
http://www.meganframpton.com
Lady Be Reckless
The Duke's Daughters series
February 27
Meredith Duran*
http://meredithduran.com/index.html
The Sins of Lord Lockwood
Rules for the Reckless series
February 27
Michelle Styles
http://www.michellestyles.co.uk
The Warrior's Viking Bride
March 1
Sarah Mallory
http://www.sarahmallory.com
The Ton's Most Notorious Rake
February 20
Shana Galen
http://www.shanagalen.com
No Earls Allowed
The Survivors series
March 6

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