Tuesday

Wilde in Love by Eloisa James

November 14, 2017
Cardboard - not fully lifelike; shallow; two-dimensional:

http://www.eloisajames.com/

Well, this is the third book in a row with a favorite author that hasn’t met my expectations. This is Eloisa James' first book in the Wilde series, Wilde in Love. In it we are presented with a different time period, Georgian, which was refreshing. I always enjoy the heroes in this time period because their clothing is so at odds with he-man swagger and usually the stories are quite entertaining. For the first few pages of Wilde in Love I was grinning – the entrance of our hero Alaric was so much fun. Unknowingly, Alaric has acquired tons of swooning female fans because he has written books based on his travels. What he doesn’t know is that someone has written an over-wrought melodramatic play based on his books. The scene when his ship is about to dock is very funny and I was rubbing my hands in glee. Sad to say, the rest of the book didn’t continue the momentum.

This is a story of prejudice, basing opinions on nothing, and then not being able to accept the truth when it’s staring directly into one’s eyes. Most of the prejudices, stubbornness, and immaturity landed on the heroine Willa Ffynche. By the way, was the name of Ffynche a play on words? I noticed a few other names, for instance Mr. Fumble. I know that Ms. James does a lot of wink-wink at romance readers, but there seemed to be a little bit of a heavy-hand in this book. I have no problem with romance novels which have deliberate caricatures, satire or parody, but the entire book should envelope that type of humor. Sometimes ridiculous humor is very funny.

This book is also uneven; it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In the first part of this book I felt as if I were on a hamster wheel – going around and around and not getting anywhere. The problem for me lies with Willa’s character. I could not connect with her. She had never met Lord Alaric Wilde, but she had developed strong opinions based solely on her perception of who he was. Those perceptions seemed to be based on other women idolizing him and a silly play she’d never seen. Even after she is introduced to him and begins to know him, she still maintains her prejudices against him. She doesn’t like guys who have adventures. Yes, that’s the reason for her dislike of Alaric. It’s based on some weak do-da surrounding the death of her parents – but I found this motivation very contrived. There were so many problems with Willa that I can’t include them all in this review. I will mention Willa and her cousin Lavinia’s obsession with dirty books and talking bawdy. That could have been another funny bit, however like the rest of the book it didn’t happen all the time. I would have appreciated it more if Willa and Lavinia’s antics had been more outrageous. For me Willa was an entirely flat character, which is too bad because Alaric had possibilities.

I liked Alaric, he could have been a terrific hero – if only he’d had a good heroine to balance him out. For most of the book, he is befuddled by all the ridiculous fame his books have garnered. But once again the narrative of the story doesn’t take advantage of how outrageous this could have been. Things are mentioned throughout the tale, and if they had been written in an over-the-top manner all of these plot-starts would have worked. But, it seemed to me that Ms. James could just not break free and write absurd comedy. I for one would not think any less of Ms. James if she could let loose and write ridiculous farce.

Secondary characters. The secondary characters in this story almost steal the show and I have hopes for Lavinia and Parth Sterling in their book. In this book their relationship is full of funny banter, almost touching on farcical. Puleese, continue with the fun in their story. I was less interested in Roland and Diana, but even they had more appeal than the main characters of this story.

Bottom-line. I was disappointed in Wilde in Love. I had great hopes when the story began, but it wasn’t long before the characters became flat and I didn’t really care what happened to them.

Time Place: Georgian England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Monday

Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt

November 13, 2017
Goodbye Maiden Lane
 

http://www.elizabethhoyt.com/
Yes, it is time to say goodbye to Maiden Lane (except for the two novellas which are coming out soon). I’ve enjoyed most of the Maiden Lane stories – some of them have been quite exceptional. For the most part they’ve given us some hot guys, incredible characters, and memorable stories. I will say I was glad the Ghost of St. Giles didn’t make his/her appearance in this story. That character lost its appeal a few books ago. Instead we have the Lords of Chaos to contend with in Duke of Desire. For me, Duke of Desire is just tooooooo dark a tale for the ending of a great series.

Duke of Desire depressed me. It is filled with Elizabeth Hoyt’s trademark great writing. With all of Ms. Hoyt's books, there are always vivid images – you can smell the places our characters inhabit, the words are always eloquent - full. That may have been some of the problem with this book – it was toooo vivid, toooo painful and there wasn’t enough time given in the tale for the eventual healing.

In this book we have Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore – he has a scar on his face and scares housekeepers and scullery maids. We also have Lady Iris Jordan. The last time we saw our couple they were dancing at a ball in the previous novel, Duke of Pleasures. When this one begins a kidnapped Iris is tied up and in the middle of a bunch of naked guys with masks. These guys are up to no good, they mean to do harm to her. So, we have a kidnapped woman, surrounded by naked men who intend to rape her, then kill her. Of course, being a heroine in a romance novel, she has time to check out one of the masked men. She is very impressed with his giant winky-dink. That was in the very beginning of the book and believe me, it was a big eyebrow-raise moment. Who does that? Who is interested in humongous winky-dinks when surrounded by a group of degenerate killers? Anyway, the guys have kidnapped the wrong woman, so Raphael (part of the group of guys) insists on taking Iris out of the deep dark abbey where the Lords of Chaos have gathered. He is actually a good guy, just in case you didn’t know – after all, he’s the owner of the big winky.

Well, Iris is a tad bit upset and doesn’t see Raphael as a rescuer. She ends up shooting him. This makes Raphael mad. He tells her that he is rescuing her and now she has ruined everything, so now she has to marry him. That way he can protect her. I’m not sure how marriage to him will be a protection, but hey it’s fiction after all.

Anyway, Iris marries Raphael. Now she can become better acquainted with his giant protrusion – and she does. She also doesn’t scream and run from the room when she looks at his scarred face. In fact, she wants to know why he has it, and sets out to find out. She is “Miss Perfect” and he is the opposite. He tells her not to go places, she ignores him. He tells her to follow his orders, she doesn’t. She goes into rooms she’s not supposed to. While you may think she exhibits TSTL characteristics, she’s actually quite smart. When she stumbles across some drawings of naked children in her late father-in-law’s bedroom she is puzzled. Her brain starts to become suspicious of things in the old castle. Spoilers. When you read this scene in the book, you should know right away what kind of man Raphael’s father was and you should suspect what he did to his son. And, it is hard to read. I had to put the book down a number of times; it was just too painful.

Raphael is one of the most angst-filled heroes I’ve seen in a long time, but he has reasons. I know Ms. Hoyt always writes dark stories with anti-heroes and I’ve loved them in the past; however, this time I don’t think there was a good balance between what happened to Raphael when he was a child and his emergence from the darkness later on. Probably Iris was supposed to counterbalance Raphael’s darkness, but it didn’t work. Raphael’s pain is too heavy-duty and there wasn’t enough space allotted in the book to make it work. Because so much time was spent trying to fix Raphael’s pain, the romance in the book didn’t work. Raphael’s pain is so hard to read; the romance in this book suffers and takes a backseat.

I wish Duke of Desire hadn’t been the last book in the series. As I said before, I was sad to see this series end with such a depressing book. Hopefully, the remaining novellas will let us get a glimpse of some of our beloved Maiden Lane characters. And, not be so depressing. Puleese.

Time/Place: Georgian England
Sensuality: Hot/grueling

Thursday

Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh

November 9, 2017
In search of Camille.

http://www.marybalogh.com/

Mary Balogh’s Someone to Hold is the second story in the Westcott family series. This one happens to be about Camille Westcott and Joel Cunningham. If you’ve read the first in the series, you will know that Camille is the illegitimate product of a bigamist marriage. She has grown up privileged, thinking she was the legitimate daughter of an aristocrat. She’s been surrounded by people who have put her on a pedestal, but it’s a false pedestal and something she hasn’t earned on her own. She’s on that pedestal just because of her birth; she has no other identity. Then her world is shattered when she finds out her father was never legally wed to her mother. She has grown to expect certain things just because she was born into a certain place in the world. Now, everything is falling down around her feet, her friends turn from her and her fiancée breaks their engagement – she doesn’t know who she is. And, that’s what this book basically is – Camille’s search to find herself. 

Before I go any further I will say this was not one of my favorite Balogh books; I had a problem with Camille. Camille was very unlikable. She was unlikable in the previous story and she still is. She does some odd things to find herself. One of the things she does is find employment at the orphanage her half-sister Anna was employed in. By the way, Anna also grew up in that orphanage. I never quite bought into the idea of Camille finding herself in that orphanage. I didn’t understand her reasoning. Sure, sure, she would have found out what made Anna tick but how she was going to find herself? This didn’t ring true for me. On the up side, Camille gains a certain amount of freedom, which she never had before. 

Joel Cunningham is Camille’s love interest, although I couldn’t see any romantic chemistry between the two. Camille was so involved in finding herself without the help of anyone else, that the romance became secondary. I also have to add that I found Camille’s constant declining of help from her family selfish. Not only did she reject Anna’s help, but she cut herself off from her sister Abigail. Abigail had none nothing to deserve Camille’s boo-hoo-pity-me attitude.

Then there’s Joel’s story line. It was just odd. He was an artist who painted portraits of people based on their personalities. He would get to know them and then miraculously come up with these great pieces of art. These pieces of art were quite popular with society, so he was able to make a living at them. But, I found Joel’s story to be a little…searching for right word…boring. Then toward the end of the book, he finds out who his father was and inherits lots of money from a curmudgeonly relative. I thought this was a very contrived. It was the poor-guy-to-rich-guy routine. I was a little surprised to see this device in a Mary Balogh book.

Parents. One of the things that bothered me in the book was Camille’s need to look good in her father’s eyes. And, I will be blunt – her father was a bit of a shite. I can understand how a young Camille would try everything she could think of to win her father’s affection. But, how many times does one have to be kicked in the teeth before one sees that some people are just not worth the bother? Then she forgave him. That had me gritting my teeth. Why Camille had to forgive her father was beyond me. Just because you are family doesn’t mean you have to like them. It’s alright to realize that your father isn’t someone you want to be around. It’s also alright to think that just possibly… maybe… you don’t really like him, let alone love him. I think Camille would have appeared stronger if she had some kind of epiphany about her father and not “forgiven” him. He wasn’t worth the pain. I also never understood why Camille’s mother went into hiding while her children suffered.

For me this story didn’t work. I didn’t particularly care for Camille, I thought the romance was flat and for once I was not able to get lost in a Balogh book. Very disappointed. The only thing I liked about this story was when Camille and her half-sister Anna finally started to accept each other.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm

Tuesday

Goodbye Miranda Neville

Just found out that Miranda Neville passed away. I had a number of her books, in fact some of them were/are really quite wonderful. Goodbye Ms. Neville.

Monday

Someone to Love by Mary Balogh

October 29, 2017
So quiet you almost don’t hear it.

http://www.marybalogh.com/

Someone to Love, the first novel in the Westcott series by Mary Balogh. This story is a wonderful example of Ms. Balogh’s writing a simple love story which isn’t really simple.

There isn’t any spy, villain, kidnapping, rescuing, or big misunderstanding. There is a misunderstanding but it’s so subtle one almost misses it. Ms. Balogh is at her best when she writes quiet stories and this is a great example of just how strong silence can be.

By the way, there is a pedigree chart in the beginning of this book which comes in handy. You see, we are introduced to a plethora of characters and there just may be a quiz at the end of the series (I made that up).

Anna Snow is a twenty-five year old teacher who works at an orphanage. She also happens to be an orphan herself. She likes her job and she is happy with herself. However, she yearns for someone who will love her and whom she can love. Everything is moving along normally at the orphanage; the children love her, she has a best friend Joel, her little room and the respect of the woman who runs the place. Then one day everything changes when she receives a letter from a solicitor requesting her presence in London.

Weeks earlier, the Westcott family, along with Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, are gathered for the reading of the will of Earl of Riverdale. At the end of the will reading, Riverdale’s widow requests a meeting with the solicitor and Avery in which she tells them that her late husband had fathered a bastard child. She asks the solicitor to locate this person, give that person a settlement and then the family can then wipe their hands of her/him. Well, imagine the entire family's surprise when they are called back together some time later to find a stranger in their mist. Because they think that stranger is the illegitimate product of Riverdale they do not look on her very kindly. But more is in store for this aristocratic family. It seems that the earl was already married at the time of his second marriage – which means he committed bigamy. That also means that the orphan – Anna Snow – is now the legitimate off-spring and the three children by his second marriage are illegitimate. What a mess! And what a terrific beginning for a series. I can see alllll kinds of problems arising from this mess.

I was a great fan of both Anna and Avery. They both have hidden depths. Avery is not portrayed as the typical romance hero – he’s not tall, he doesn’t have muscles oozing out all over his body – he’s a sleepy-eyed fop. Those are the best kind and sleepy-eyed guys hark back to the early days of romance when most heroes had those eyes. So, because he reminded me so much of a number of my favorite old-time heroes, I liked him quite a lot.

Anna, I loved. She was such a strong woman; she understood so much. She was also very gentle, but she only allowed people to walk all over her so much. There were numerous times in this book when she took the control of her life away from her new-found family. I loved her reasoning and I loved the little speeches she gave. Together Avery and Anna made a great couple. And, their romance was a gentle, quiet thing, full of self-discovery.

I did have one quibble with a portion of the overall book and that quibble took me out of the story. If you have read the book, you may know which part I am referring to. It was an odd moment, I don't know if historically Avery would have really practiced any form of martial arts. So, it was a stretch for me to believe this portion. Having said that let me say this – briefly – I read historical romance books to escape – they are escapism. These days all I have to do is turn on the television and I am bombarded with things which are making me crazy. Which is why I do not like romance books which have an agenda, be that agenda left or right. I have read some of the comments about this portion of the book and they make me sad. Sometimes I think we scream our opinions so loudly we cannot hear others speak. When does one become a bully? Is someone a bully even when they are screaming the truth? Or what they perceive is the truth? I am rambling here, so I will stop.

Overall, this is a well-written book by Ms. Balogh. It is a gentle offering and I do recommend it


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality:Warm/Subtle
 

Holy Cannoli!! Upcoming Historical Releases!!

October 23, 2017
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! November 15, 2017 to December 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.
Alyssa Cole
A Hope Divided
The Loyal League series  
November 28

Amelia Grey  
To the Duke, With Love  
The Rakes of St. James series  
December 9

Bettina Krahn*  
A Good Day to Marry a Duke
Sin and Sensibility series  
November 28
Carol Arens  
The Rancher's Inconvenient Bride
November 21
Gina Conkle 
The Lord Meets His Lady
Midnight Meetings series  
December 5
Jane Ashford  
The Duke Knows Best
The Duke's Sons series  
December 5
Jenni Fletcher  
Besieged and Betrothed  
November 21
Laura Martin  
An Unlikely Debutante
November 21
Loretta Chase*  
A Duke in Shining Armor 
Difficult Dukes series  
November 28
Maggie Robinson*
Redeeming Lord Ryder  
Cotswald Confidential series  
November 21
Marguerite Kaye*  
Bronwyn Scott  
Scandal at the Christmas Ball, Anthology  
December 1
Mary Brendan  
Rescued by the Forbidden Rake  
November 21
Maya Rodale  
It’s Hard Out Here for a Duke 
Keeping Up with the Cavendishes series  
November 28
Rachael Miles  
Enchanting Ophelia  
The Muses' Salon Series, novella  
November 28
Sarah McCarty  
Luke’ Cut  
Hell's Eight series
November 28
Sophia James  
A Secret Consequence for the Viscount  
The Society of Wicked Gentlemen series
November 21
Victoria Alexander*  
The Lady Traveler’s Guide to Larceny With a Dashing Stranger  
Lady Travelers Society series 
November 28

The Reunion by Sara Portman

October 23, 2017
Secondary characters - sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

http://www.saraportman.com/
The Reunion is Sara Portman's debut book and I'm always on the look-out for new authors. There's always a hope that each one of them may become one of my auto-buys. So, I always have my fingers crossed dreaming of the day when I have found the new Mary Balogh or Lisa Kleypas. Well, while Ms. Portman's debut novel is a descent attempt, it doesn't quite make it up to the top rung of the ladder.

The good stuff. The novel started off pretty well. The writing had a modern feel about it. There weren't the thought-provoking words of a Balogh or Kleypas, but I can adjust. After all, I'm a big fan of Julia Quinn books. As I said the story started off nicely. The plot is composed of a hero who at one time was quite insensitive to his fiancée. They were both very young, never met each other, and were being forced into the arrangement. So, why should our hero really care what he says to his seventeen year-old fiancée. Especially when he has an axe to grind with his domineering father. Well, anyway, John (hero) insults Emma (heroine) then takes off without any benefit of an explanation, goes to America and then comes back four years later in need of a wife. By the way, he has sort of forgotten all about Emma.

Well Emma hasn't forgotten about him. Unbeknownst to him, his leaving has made her a pariah in society. She has been scorned all those years he was missing. However, and here's one of the satisfying things in the book, Emma is no longer the boo-hoo seventeen girl. She's a strong woman. She speaks her mind and she speaks her mind in public. Woe to those who feel the bite of her sharp tongue. I really liked Emma a lot in the first part of the book. Eventually John and Emma run into each other at a party. He has no idea what he did to her, he doesn't actually even know who she is - but he is interested in her. She knows who he is, though, and she lets loose her tongue. Being a Romanceland hero, he is instantly attracted to her. So he sets out to court her, and she doesn't make it easy for him. That was a fun part of the book. Then they get married.

Now, the reason John wanted to marry so badly was because he had a sister back in America who everyone in the ton thought was dead. He wants to bring her back, but he knows that she will in all likelihood be made to feel unwelcome. So, he needs a strong wife, someone who isn't afraid to stand up to a few aristocratic snobs. Hence Emma. Well, what he has neglected to tell his new wife is that his sister (Charlotte) is a giant termagant - and that's being nice. Having read a few romance books in my time, I of course knew where the Charlotte storyline was going to go. You see, John has an unpleasant friend Hugh whose main purpose in the book seems to be to make snotty comments to Emma and be Charlotte's eventual luv-bub. Yes, there is a secondary love story in the book and it's odd.

The secondary love story was a bit of a distraction. It was almost as if it was a big secret, then there were a few eye-glare moments, then they were a couple. The secondary romance didn't work for me. But that wasn't really crucial to me liking the book or not - my issue was with the secondary character of Charlotte. Charlotte was really, really an obnoxious, unlikable, petulant character. I could find nothing to like about her; I could feel no sympathy. It was also with this character that I started to get irritated with John. Why he didn't do something about Charlotte's annoying behavior was beyond me. I guess I am really not all that fond of men who let other people take care of their problems.

Overall, I will be trying her next book in the series - I haven't given up and I'm still hopeful. I thought the first part of the book was very good, but when Charlotte was introduced in the story I just wanted to reach through the pages and strike a blow.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality:Hot