Monday

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

June 27, 2016
Cat-and-mouse - big time!

http://www.elizabethhoyt.com/

Webster defines Cat-and-mouse as:  "a:  the act of toying with or tormenting something before destroying it. b: a contrived action involving constant pursuit, near captures, and repeated escapes (played a game of cat and mouse with the police); broadly: an evasive action."

Where to begin, where to begin? In the world of Romanceland, we are oftentimes faced with bad boys, rakes, and rascals. You know those handsome devils who supposedly do bad things while all the time helping the orp-fi-ans of London. Well in Elizabeth Hoyt's latest, Duke of Sin, we have a bad boy with a capital B. In fact he comes really close to being a narcissistic sociopath. Think back to some of those Anne Stuart hero/villains. Yes my little petunia's, Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, fits in comfortably with fellow scary hero/villain Sebastian from The Devil in Winter. And, Sebastian is tame compared to Valentine. A word of warning - some readers may find Valentine too much to accept and I suspect you are either going to love this guy or hate him. I loved him. From the very first scene I wanted to know just how Ms. Hoyt was going to save Valentine. Ms. Hoyt has created a most memorable character in Valentine. I couldn't put this book down. I was mesmerized - ooooOOOoooo.

Spoiler and warning ahead. Valentine is a dark, cold, unfeeling man. He doesn't seem to have a concept of what is right and what is wrong. People live in fear of him (and they should). He is ruthless, he sees nothing wrong in kidnapping, blackmailing and even dispatching someone if the need arises. There is only one person in his life who he has ever had any feeling for and that is his half-sister Eve. But even with her he isn't sure what he's feeling. He enjoys making people uncomfortable, afraid, desperate. He uses blackmail not because he needs money, but to alleviate his boredom and because he loves to play with people’s lives. Which is what he intends to do when he catches his housekeeper snooping into his secret hiding places. By the way, he's been hiding in the secret passages of his home because he's supposed to have been banished to Europe. Anyway, when he spies his housekeeper snooping he is intrigued and he begins a game of cat-and-mouse with her. In this book the Webster definition hits the nail on the head. By the way, Valentine is the cat.

The mouse would be Bridget Crumb. Bridget is also an interesting character. She considers herself to be the best housekeeper in London. While she has a great deal of fondness, even love for the woman (her adopted mother) who raised her - there is a sadness about her because her biological mother gave her up. Pay close attention to Bridget's back story because it has made her what she is. She has worked her whole life to prove that she is worth something. Bridget is a very strong woman, intelligent, and stands firm against the odds she is confronted with. She needs to be, because Valentine is one cold manipulator. How does she end up in his household? You see, Bridget is the illegitimate daughter of Lady Caire. Lady Caire has been careless with some of her correspondence. She is being blackmailed by Valentine, so she has asked Bridget to retrieve those letters. Much like a mouse, Bridget gets into places she really shouldn't be.

Dark warnings. For those of you who worry about animals making it through movies (regardless of how many humans bite the dust), there are some parts in this book which will be very upsetting to you. Valentine's horrible father belonged to a group of creeps who called themselves the Lords of Chaos. His father used all kinds of torture to control his son when he was a youngster. One of his many twisted beliefs was that a way to control people was to the thing they love. Without going into too much detail, when this was revealed in Valentines back story, it was heartbreaking and very upsetting. So, be warned. Valentine has made it a priority to find and seek revenge on the Lords of Chaos. I believe we will see further Chaos people in future books.

Now, everything in this book is not all dark. Even in all of the blackness there are moments of humor - two of them stayed with me. There is a confrontation between Lady Caire, Lady Caire's son, Bridget, and Valentine. Valentine loudly announces he has been bedding his housekeeper - he gets punched in the nose for that one. There is also a moment of funny revenge toward the end of the book when Lazarus Huntington's little daughter tells Valentine "I don't wike you." What does Valentine do? He gives the little girl a tiny kitten and then proceeds to hand out seven more little kittens to all the little children. These little children happen to belong to heroes from previous books and these heroes haven't decided to accept Valentine yet - so this is his revenge. After all what hero can deny his child a cuddly kitty? It was a sweet funny moment.

Overall, this was a great addition to the Maiden Lane series. Everything about this book was spellbinding and I had a hard time putting it down. The story has some amazing writing, and amazing storytelling. It takes a truly gifted author to pull off a character like Valentine and to make us, the reader, cheer for him. He has joined my list of favorite heroes (even though I don't know if hero is the correct word) - what a dynamic guy. Loved this story and it stayed with me long after I closed the book.

By the way I somehow missed Eve's story Sweetest Scoundrel - I need to take another look at how I'm cataloging my books cause it's there on my Nook but never been opened. It will be soon.

PS - There is one Hot Hot Hot bathtub scene in this book and it's not the water!!

Time/Place: 1741 Maiden Lane England
Sensuality: Yipes!

Thursday

The Wicked Duke by Madeline Hunter

June 23, 2016
What a treat.
http://www.madelinehunter.com/

Madeline Hunter puts the finishing touches on her Wicked trilogy with The Wicked Duke. I'm always amazed how some authors can pack a whole lot of story in a little under 300
pages. This was a gem of a book.

Lancelot Hemingford, Duke of Aylesbury, is rusticating at his country estate. For some reason he and his brothers believe if he keeps a low profile and his Mr. Toad in his pants, society will forget just what a wicked man he is. Out of sight out of mind. But it's been nine long months and Lance is becoming bored with the waiting. But there is also another problem besides his profligate ways; he is under suspicion for his brother's death. Society has jumped to the conclusion that Lance did away with his brother, and while Hemingford believes that his brother Percy did die a questionable death, he knows that he is not the one responsible for it. Lance has been twiddling his thumbs waiting for the local magistrate Sir Horace to declare Percy's death an accident, then Lance can be free to live life again. However, Sir Horace has a plan. Sir Horace is interested in an aristocratic lady's hand in marriage but he must have access to society. Here's his plan: he has a daughter, Nora, who he wants to get off of his hands. So, he hangs a carrot in front of Lance - if Lance marries his daughter, Sir Horace will say Percy's death was an accident. Having his daughter married to a duke will give Sir Horace access to his widow. Lance is ok with that - here's the problem - Nora suffered a mysterious trauma when she was in her teens and she has a fear of people, places, and things. In fact she goes into hysterics when Sir Horace suggests the marriage to her. Enter our heroine, Marianne. Marianne is Nora's very protective cousin. She forces Sir Horace to back off - Sir Horace develps another plan. All is not lost in his endeavors to charm the widow. He tells Marianne that if she marries Lance he will not force Nora into marriage and he would still have his entry into society. Marianne grudgingly agrees, but she loathes the Duke of Aylesbury. You see, she has arrived at the conclusion that the Duke of Aylesbury is the man who assaulted her cousin. Lance and Marianne marry - the end. Not really, their marriage is only the beginning of some wonderfully satisfying writing.

This story was slow moving, which in this case was all right because the characters had time to fully develop. It was refreshing to read a book in which an author took some time. Lance and Marianne are very complex characters who are supported by a group of unique secondary characters. All of the characters in this book have selfish motives for doing what they want, but it works. The scenes when the brothers were together were wonderful. They were a real family. They cared about each other but they also got their quips in.  Not only is there a wonderful romance in The Wicked Duke but also a couple of mysteries to be solved. Actually Percy was murdered - so there is that mystery and then there is the one revolving around Nora. Kudos to Ms. Hunter for deceiving me on the one. I figured out the Nora mystery almost right away, but the "who killed Percy" mystery was a surprise. Also, the solution to that mystery was handled differently and satisfyingly.

Overall, I recommend this book. There's some lovely full writing between the pages and that makes me smile. I love a good story.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Wednesday

Holy Cannoli!!! Upcoming Historical Releases!!!!The Year is Just Speeding By!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! July 15, 2016 to August 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.
Anna Bradley
A Season of Ruin Sutherland Scandals series
August 2
Georgie Lee
Miss Marianne’s Disgrace
Business of Marriage series
July 19 paperback August 1 ebook
Greta Gilbert
Enslave by the Desert Trader
July 19
Gwyn Cready
Every Time With a Highlander
Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands series
August 2
Jade Lee*
As Rich as a Rogue
Rakes and Rogues series
August 2
Kasey Michaels*
A Reckless Promise
The Little Season series
July 26
Kelly Bowen*
A Duke to Remember
Season for Scandal series
July 26
Kerrigan Byrne
The Highlander
Victorian Rebels series
August 2
Lillian Marek
A Scandalous Adventure
Victorian Adventures series
August 2
Lynna Banning
Her Sheriff Bodyguard
July 19 August 1 ebook
Marguerite Kaye
Sheikh’s Mail-Order Bride
Hot Arabian Nights series
July 19 August 1 ebook
Megan Frampton
Why Do Dukes Fall in Love
Dukes Behaving Badly series
July 26
Sophie Barnes
His Scandalous Kiss
Secrets at Thorncliff Manor series
July 26

Monday

All I Ever Needed by Jo Goodman

June 20, 2016
OMG – Just Say Yes!

http://www.jogoodman.com/

All I Ever Needed is the third in the Compass Club series by Jo Goodman. When I started reading this story I liked it better than The Price of Desire. But then the annoying heroine presented herself to me. Lady Sophia Colley is one of those I-can-hop-into-bed-with-you-break-all-kinds-of-class-conscious-rules-but-I-can’t-marry-you heroines. What makes this one especially irritating is the fact that our hero East keeps asking and asking and asking and asking. As I look back on this book I have to say it’s too bad the author decided to put the I-can’t-marry-you device into this story because it was detrimental to what could have been a good story. It’s getting harder and harder for me to abide that particular heroine whine. For me to accept her no-no-no her reason for turning him down needs to be more than just a means to drag the story tension out longer. In All I Ever Needed the heroine's “turn down” went on way too long and then when the reason was revealed I had a “you’ve got to be kidding” moment.

Before I get distracted by my rant, here’s the plot and there may be a few spoilers ahead. Once upon a time there were some guys sitting under a tree laughing (our hero the Marquess of Eastlyn being one of them). Well, being the paranoid heroine that she is, Sophia just knows they are laughing at her. Of course there is that false rumor floating around that she is engaged to Eastlyn – that must be the reason they are laughing at her. Oh look – Eastlyn is approaching her. He is probably going to make fun of her, so she will be rude to him. Which she is. Eastlyn, who had approached Sophia for the purpose of straightening out the rumor, instead becomes captivated by her snootiness. Ah, he thinks - she’s a snarky person, she must not be as dull as he thought she was. He decides to marry her. This starts our poor hero down the road of asking for her hand in marriage, which she turns down.

Eastlyn, aka East, is really quite a nice hero, which makes Sophia’s stubbornness even more irritating. After all, why would any woman want to be married to a charming, intelligent, handsome man with loads of money who would give her anything she wanted. I feel myself digressing again. I don’t know who to blame in Romanceland for the overabundance of I-can’t-marry-you women, but puleese make it stop!

Back to the story. East is one of the four members of the Compass Club and he is instantly attracted to Sophia – sort of. He has forgotten that he met her years ago and hurt her little feelings because she had a crush on him and he, like most young men, was totally oblivious to a boring young girl’s crush. Anyway, Sophia is holding a grudge against him for being a typical male. Well, it turns out that the rumor was started by East’s cast-off mistress – an almost villain but not quite. Don’t worry about not being enough villains in this story because the mistress is only half a villain. There are oodles of villains. There’s the group of school chum bully villains from East’s younger days; the heroine’s dastardly villain Uncle and the secret head-honcho villain who reveals himself at the end with a lonnnng soliloquy as to why he did what he did what he did. He gets his comeuppance, the others get sent to the Island of Misplaced Villains. What do the villains have to do with the plot-line you may ask? Well, I don’t really know if the school boy bullies have anything to do with a lot of the story, but the Uncle and the secret villain do. You see, Sophia thinks someone poisoned her father.

Sophia and her father. As I have said before, I found Sophia to be truly annoying, but the flashback scenes between her and her father are very memorable. I loved the relationship between the two of them, it was so touching, so poignant – there were times that I had moisture forming in my eyes. And, it wasn’t from allergies. I just wish Sophia had been presented as this caring, loving person throughout the entire story.

The real kicker. We already know I found Sophia to be annoying but I still held out hope that somewhere along the way she would turn over a new leaf – but then she stepped on every one of my nerves. As anyone who as ever read a romance book which as the I-won’t-marry-you heroine in it knows - that even though these women won’t marry the hero, they have no qualms about jumping into bed with them. Even though I could strike up a rant about the realities of a historical, sheltered, innocent woman jumping into bed with a man without the hope of marriage, I won’t. What I will rant about is this: Sophia finds herself pregnant. What does she do? Well, she writes our hero a letter informing him of the fact and telling him she is going to raise the child on her own. Yep, she makes up her mind to bring a child up – in Regency England – as illegitimate. She makes the decision to separate that child from his father and his grandparents without any thought as to what this might do to that child. She has no visible means of support, but somehow manages to rent a cottage. I think she may have been a secret writer, I forget. On top of that, she knows by this time that she has feelings for East and she suspects he has feelings for her. But no, she can never marry him. She would rather her child grow up shouldering the pretty heavy burden of illegitimacy than say yes to marriage. It was pretty unbelievable. At this point Sophia went from being annoying to being totally unlikeable.

I wanted to like this book soooooo much. I think Ms. Goodman writes terrific prose – but in this book she gave me a heroine who's actions I could find no way to justify. When the eventual reason for her refusal of East’s many proposals is revealed, it was not powerful enough to counter-balance the many “no’s” and the extremely selfish decision to separate father from child. 

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Wednesday

The Price of Desire by Jo Goodman

June 15, 2016
"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know." Groucho Marx

This story needs a punch line. How much suffering, trials and tribulations are enough? How

much must one endure to qualify as a heroine? A long long time ago when movies began - around the 1913-14-15 - there were cliffhanging serial movies. A number of them involved heroines being tied to railroad tracks, hanging from cliffs, jumping from buildings, being lost in balloon - all of them being menaced by a villain or two. The Adventures of Kathlyn, The Hazards of Helen, What Happened to Mary, The Perils of Pauline. One of the things common to these serials, other than all of the stuff they had to go through, was that these women for the most part saved themselves. I think that is something that we in the 21st century have forgotten. We have the misconception that heroines in the early 20th were weak - that they needed a hero to save them. Well, in The Price of Desire there isn't any railroad track, no tall building, but gee willikers there is a long-suffering, stoic, angst-filled heroine. In fact she just may be one of the biggest Moaning Myrtles I've come across in a book in a lonnng time. She had more baggage dumped on her than even an Antonov An-225 Mriya could hold. Upon completion of this book I really needed a good laugh or even a bad laugh. It was Groucho Marx time.

There may be spoilers ahead. Here's the plot line: Olivia's pinhead brother Alistair owes a huge gambling debt to Griffin Wright-Jones, Viscount Breckenridge. Griffin is one of those aristocratic guys who owns a gambling hell. That happens a lot in Romanceland. Anyway, our worthless brother leaves his family heirloom emerald ring as a marker - then the marker disappears. Then he disappears, leaving behind a note bestowing Olivia as the marker. Enter our marker, aka Olivia.

Olivia is one cool customer. She goes to the gaming hell without too much hesitation. As far as Olivia is concerned the gaming hell offers more security than she had before. And, she has food. Thus begins the long long long journey toward a HEA for Olivia and Griffin. Let me tell you, it is quite an angst-filled trip we, the readers, are led down. Both Griffin and Olivia have secrets and problems. But Olivia's are overwhelming. They are overwhelming to Olivia and they were overwhelming to me. I would suggest that we didn't really need Griffin's past problems in this story because it was Olivia's past which the story revolved around.

Doom and gloom. I don't recall ever having read such a wounded creature as Ms. Goodman's Olivia. (And, I've read my share of Mary Balogh’s books.) While the story is filled with some remarkable writing and overall it is a very strong book, there were just too many problems dumped on Olivia. We no sooner learn one secret/problem than another is revealed. I found myself groaning, "Oh no, not another one." Just how much can one person suffer before it's tooo much? In my opinion there only needed to be one horrible occurrence in Olivia's past and that was the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. This trauma was painted very realistically; it was so very dramatic and Olivia's pain was very vivid. I didn't need additional damage done to her at the hands of others to make me have compassion for her. It was already there. The extra stuff which Ms. Goodman put Olivia through was overkill. For me all the extra ordeals weakened the story.

Poor forgotten Griffin. Griffin was a great hero - his story was just buried beneath Olivia's wreckage. He's everything one could want in a hero - understanding, strong, kind, decent, and of course, hot. Even though he's such a strong character, it's almost as if he plays second fiddle in the story. I wish there had been more focus on him; he was really quite adorable. He was a total alpha male character, however he just didn't know what to do with Olivia. He was all the time putting his foot in his mouth when he tried to communicate with her. He was an imperfect hero, which in my opinion made him perfect.

Weasels. There are lots and lots of odious villains in this story. Realistically I know that these guys would never get what they deserved but I really wanted them too. I thought Olivia forgave her blockhead brother waaayy tooooo fast but the real kicker was her father. Yes, her father got away with child molestation and the times being what they were I'm not sure anything else would have happened to him. HOWEVER, either she or Griffin should have stood up to this guy, warned others, done something - locked him away. I wasn't happy with the father solution.

Overall this is a strong character driven book with a lot of extra baggage which isn't needed. Besides all of the events that happened to our tortured heroine, there was a skanky mistress, a competing gambling hell villain, a philandering wife and a secret son. There were tooo many excess stories. Olivia's background story was all that was needed to make this a great story. It was all I needed. This had all the makings of a DIK if only a few things had been edited out. Some great writing and great characters - if only a little more focused. I do recommend this book although it comes with a caveat - you may need a Margarita and a Marx brother's movie after you’re done. You've been warned.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn MacNamara

June 1, 2016
He's not worthy - he's not worthy.

Bummer time. It's been only two days since I finished reading To Lure a Proper Lady and
I cannot remember too much about this story. To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn Macnamara is the first book in the Duke-Defying Daughters series and came out in March of 2016. This is also one of the books I chose to read based on a glowing review from AAR. For me this book was decent, but there wasn't anything about it that stuck with me long after I closed it. On top of that, there was a little irritate that keep raising its head all the way through - we shall explore that later.


In To Lure a Proper Lady we are introduced to the Wilde sisters - Elizabeth, the eldest, the organizer, the runner of the estate - Caro, she likes horses and dresses in pants - Pippa, I believe she is the artistic quiet one. All of these women are unmarried and want to stay that way. Their father, the Duke of Sherrington wants them married and when this story begins it seems he is on his death bed - once again playing the guilt card. You see he seems to be a bit of a hypochondriac. To my mind he also seems to be a bit of a slacker seeing as how he leaves the running of the estate to Elizabeth instead of getting his rear end out of bed and doing it himself. But this time his illness sounds alarm bells in Elizabeth's head. She suspects he's being poisoned. She must find a Bow Street investigator/detective/cop/sleuth. Enter Dysart.

You know a guy smoking a cheroot/cigarette/cigar in a book is so much more romantic than the guy smoking in front of you at a ballgame. Even though we hack and cough in real life, (to say nothing of the taste of a cigarette kiss), there is still something evocative about a hunky guy blowing smoke when we view it on the written page. Smoke (if written right) can create a powerful scene, it can tell us a lot about the character. In this book it does. This is how we are introduced to Dysart, with a cheroot in his mouth, surrounded by bluish smoke. It's his prop. It hides his true self - makes him mysterious. In this case it also gives off the impression that Dysart is one smart guy - initially. Let me say this about his skills as a Bow Street whatever - a good thing he had Lizzie there to help solve the mystery. Talk about a Velma/Scooby Doo team. Dysart would be Scooby Doo and Lizzie would be Velma. Ruh oh. Actually Lizzie and Dysart are a cute couple. There banter is funny and they work together pretty well - if only Dysart wasn't so distracted by Lizzie. Ruh oh.

He's one of us. Let's talk about my little distracting irritate. Spoiler - sort of. As I mentioned before Elizabeth is a Duke's daughter - so she is a Lady. Dysart knows this, which I guess is why he considers himself "not worthy."  How do I know he's not worthy? Because he says it about a gazillion times in this book. Now, I would agree with him if he was talking about his detective work, but I don't think that's what he meant. I'm not sure why he considers himself not worthy. Oh sure, he's got a secret and this secret is actually pretty hero-worthy. He's almost a super-hero with all the goodness packed inside of his little ol' heart. Soooo, I guess it's because Elizabeth is a Duke's daughter and he is a lowly Bow Street runner/detective/whatever - but wait! There's actually another secret - he is an Earl's son. I did not pull out the long list of peerage naming, but I think if Elizabeth were to marry Dysart she would still be a Lady. Oh sure, she would have to walk behind her sisters and sit someplace else at the dinner table - but what the hey. I didn't get it - at least if the reason he's not worthy is because of his rank. Let's be honest here - just how many Duke's sons are out there? Going hand and hand with the irritating "not worthy" was the irritating "he's one of us." Elizabeth is the one who kept saying "he's one of us." What does that mean? She would look at Dysart, discount his many disguises and state "he's one of us." Does that mean he's noble, so he's one of us? Or did he arrive in a pod? He's one of us - oooooooooo. Regardless of whether he a pod person or a secret aristocrat I found "he's one of us" annoying.

Overall, this book took me a long time to read and it shouldn't have. The book just didn't pull me into the pages. Dysart and Elizabeth could have been interesting, but there just wasn't anything about them which was memorable. I was a little disappointed because for me this was just an average read.

Time/Place: 1820s England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Tuesday

Goodbye Jo

May 24, 2016

Today I found out that Jo Beverley had passed away on May 23rd. This makes me sad. Jo
was one of my favorite authors. It seems as if we have been together in the changing Romanceland from the beginning. She is the first author I ever wrote a fan letter to and much to my surprise she responded. In 1996 she wrote a book entitled The Shattered Rose. When I first read this book, I didn't like it. Years passed and I reread it and fell in love with the wonderful writing which Ms. Beverley brought to her books. The Shattered Rose is now one of my favorite poignant stories. She is also responsible for a wonderful character by the name of Rothgar. Rothgar is the older brother from her Malloren series, and she saved him for last. She created a clever campaign prior to the release of his story in 2000, sending out buttons with the words Waiting for Rothgar printed on them. This button has been pinned to my bookshelf for years - it always makes me smile. Ms. Beverley is also responsible for writing one of the longest, smartest, detailed, accurate how-to-name-your-aristocrat paper that's out there.  And, who can forget her Company of Rogues? Jo Beverley created a world filled with rogues, rakes, spinsters, heroines and loyal friends. We will miss the voice which created an amazing fantasy world for us to lose ourselves in. So I say goodbye Jo, I will miss you.


For Jo - "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of  these is love."