Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julia Anne Long

April 17, 2014
A review is a review is a review.

I like to think that reviews don't prejudice my view of a book; however I know that's not entirely true. Sometimes a review has been known to stop me from reading a book. So, when I read some of the negative reviews out there about Between the Devil and Ian Eversea I was concerned. However, I love the Pennyroyal Green series so there was no way this book was going to be relegated to the dust of my TBR pile.

I'm glad I didn't leave this one in the pile because I absolutely loved it and surprisingly enough I loved both the hero and the heroine. Why do I say surprisingly - well, when this story begins the heroine, Tansy, was rather unlikeable. When she first walked out onto the pages, I didn't like her nor did I understand what she was about. She seemed to be so self-centered, a user of men and so uncaring of when she stepped on other women's toes that I found myself wondering if I was going to make it through this story. I know all of you women out there have been around females like her. You know the ones: they are so fake and sweet and they are such liars and men are falling all over themselves just to say hi to those women. Of course, it doesn't hurt that these fake sweetie-pies are gorgeous either. You just want to trip them or throw ice cream in their face or something. Anyway, Tansy, our heroine, is one of those females and she isn't easy to like in the beginning. Then we are allowed to see what's behind that facade. We are allowed to watch her slowly emerge, and we get to see what makes her tick.

Ian Eversea is a Romanceland typical rake and a renowned womanizer. Also, from past books, he doesn't seem to be all that honorable nor a respecter of friendship. When he sees Tansy for the first time, unlike other men, he isn't all that enthralled with her. She on the other hand can't breathe and she doesn't understand why he hasn't turned into a drooling idiot like all the other men. Once again, with Ian we have a character who isn't likeable in the beginning.

Watching both of these characters unfold through the book was amazing. I was cheering on each one of their encounters as they circled each other. I loved the talks they had with each other in the bedroom - these moments were actually quite poignant. While this seemed to me to be a bit more of a darker tale, there are some extremely funny moments that had me laughing - not chuckling - laughing. I just happened to read the misuse of Tansy's nickname by Ian while my husband was trying to sleep. Oh well. The other laugh out loud for me was when Ian shouted out what disease he didn't have while he was in a crowded ball room. That scene also contained a great groveling, growling and all-round jealous tantrum moment.

As far as the overabundance of the people of Pennyroyal Green, I didn't mind nor did I think they distracted from the romance between Ian and Tansy, mostly. Instead I thought the brothers, wives, servants, etc., were all needed to show the development of Ian and Tansy. I may be in a minority, but for me this story worked as a love story on a couple of different levels. It worked as a love story between the main couple and a love story about the people who surround Ian and Tansy.

I do have some future concerns with Pennyroyal and I am probably in a minority here, but I want the secondary characters of Olivia and Lansdowne to end up together. I'm sure she's slated for Lyon Redmond, but just once I'd like to see a nice guy win the girl. While I'm at it, I hope Ms. Long is going to give Polly a story that's longer than a novella - maybe she'll end up with Lyon.

Bottom line, I loved this book - it's a slow building romance, it takes some time developing some pretty selfish people into one of my favorite couples this year.

Time/Place: Pennyroyal Green England
Sensuality: Hot


Unlacing Lady Thea by Louise Allen

April 16, 2014
Road Trip! Road Trip!
I'm doing another project. I love starting projects (don't usually finish them). It seems lately that I'm been underwhelmed by some of my auto-buy authors. It takes me a long time before I stop buying my old stand-byes, but it has happened. So, what's a person to do when their list of favorite authors start to shrink? Why, they start looking for new ones. In this case I'm not talking about debut authors, although I do keep an eye out for new and exciting authors. No, what I've decided to do is forage around for authors who have been around forever and ever and for one reason or another I’ve never read any of their books. I've decided to pick at least one of these authors every month and read their latest. This month I've chosen Louise Allen's Unlacing Lady Thea to begin my odyssey. Louise Allen is an author from the United Kingdom and she seems to have first been published in 1993 under the name of Francesca Shaw (a collaboration). Since 2003, she has been published under the name of Louise Allen. 

Unlacing Lady Thea is a road trip book - a well-drawn travelogue of sorts as our hero, Rhys, and our heroine, Thea, have an adventurous journey through England, France and Italy. And what an enjoyable journey it was.

This book has the standard heroine tomboy who has loved her childhood friend forever. Of course, he is totally oblivious to her, thinks of her as nothing but a nuisance who used to follow him around. He is a Romanceland standard one-too many-drinks rake, and he's bored bored bored. He has decided to do some sightseeing, and has planned a journey across Europe. Now, somehow, our heroine finds out and, are you ready? Disguised as a boy, she shows up at his London house and connives him into taking her with him. Seeing as how he's drunk and he could never turn her down he agrees. She, by the way, is running away from her father, who is going to force her to marry a man she doesn’t want. And, thus begins our journey. I did have a moment that threw me out of the story.  I question that even drunk, Rhys would agree to traipsing all over Europe with a aristocratic girl who isn't properly chaperoned. However, after I got past my puleese moment and accepted this premise, I actually enjoyed the story.

I also have to say that part way through the book I said to myself, "Boy, this author must have had a great time in France." The places our couple journey to are painted with such a vivid brush, that I wanted to run and pack my suitcase. It's very obvious in her writing that she had a wonderful time. The story was at its strongest when we get to see these places through our heroine's eyes - the scenes were so colorful, one could almost hear the sounds of the bustling villages and smell the scents surrounding our couple as they traveled.

Let's look at the romance portion of this book. Dare I use the word cute? There were scenes of humor and I even had a few giggle-out-loud moments. Usually, those times were when Rhys would end up saying the wrong thing. In this book that happened a lot because he just could not handle his growing awareness of his childhood friend who was blossoming before his eyes into a sensual woman. Thea was a no-nonsense woman and I liked her a lot. She is also a plain woman who is actually plain, unlike all those flame-haired-violet-eyed plain Romanceland heroines out there. What I really like about Thea and Rhys as a couple was that they were friends; it's just the lust that starts to get in the way.

Unlacing Lady Thea is a fast, enjoyable read with some very vivid writing. The romance may bog down a little in the middle and there may have been some traveling down the "I'm not worthy" road. There was also a moment in the book where the heroine starts to take the blame for the hero's jealous reaction. My opinion of that  was, "Whoa, there big boy, she's not responsible for how you react." Rhys' stubbornness may have gone on a little longer than I would have liked, but then it would have been a novella instead of a full length book, so I lived with it.

Overall, this is a good story with a cute romance and a brilliant travelogue. I do recommend it. 

Time/Place: Regency England, Sea, France, Italy
Sensuality: Hot


What a Hero Dares by Kasey Michaels

April 10, 2014
"A good agent doesn't need gadgets. The only gadgets I've ever needed are a sharp eye, sensitive hearing and a whole bunch of bigger brains. "

Spoilers ahead. I love a good series as much as the next person. In fact, most of the books I read are part of a series. I'm so accustomed to reading a story from the series, that I often think I see reoccurring characters in books that aren't part of a series. That's maddening. Series come with a variety of plot lines. We have the siblings-orphans-spies-brotherhood-spinsters-mistresses-friends-vampires-werewolves-shapeshifters, etc. Sometimes these books are just connected by the relationship between these people and sometimes there is a continuing thread through all of the stories. Even though I love connecting stories, I have to admit I have a short memory and I don't always remember who did what to whom, when or where. I find it even harder to remember events when there is a continuing storyline, especially if that storyline doesn't grab me in the very first book.

In the case of the Redgrave series, I was underwhelmed from the very beginning. The only book in this series I liked was What a Lady Needs; the rest were just a lackluster convoluted telling of some sort of mystery involving a hellfire club and the wearing of the rose lapel pin. This is the series with the Redgrave family who are sort of in hiding, but not really, and at the same time they are trying to save the country and get to the bottom of who is in the hellfire club.

This story revolves around Max Redgrave. He's the brother who is ... are you ready...a spy! Yes, he's a spy! Because he is a spy he wears blue tinted glasses... why? I don't know, but they make him look dangerous. Seriously, blue tinted glasses make men look dangerous? Yep, especially since he wears them half-way down his nose, so, he's looking over them. Maybe he's channeling Gary Oldman from Dracula, who knows? By the way, we never do find out why he's wearing those glasses, but then there's a lot in this book we never get to find out the why of. For all of you readers who are keeping track of spies in romance books, this is one of the inept spies. Of course, there could be a reason for his ineptness, he has a partner... Zoe.

At the beginning of the book he hatesssss Zoe, because she betrayed him to the French and lots and lots of good inept spies were killed because of her... so, he hatesssss her. But wait! He's wrong... she didn't betray him... she lied to save him from the e-v-i-l Anton who is in league with the rose lapel pin people. Because Max discovers he was wrong about Zoe, there is no revenge plot in this book - it falls by the way side and they can hop into bed almost right away. However, since there isn't any sexual tension created in this story, you may miss the first hippidy-hoppidy moment. Then Max's brain becomes lust-logged and he turns into an even more inept spy. That doesn't stop he and Zoe from trying to track down the grand pooh-ba of the hellfire club. As it turns out, the grand pooh-ba is a woman... gasp! Who can it be? And, who is her side-kick?  You know, the oh-so-dumb guy with the oh-so-handsome face?  Don't forget to look at the family portraits...there are clues there and more roses.  Where, oh where is the mysterious book that tells all the secrets of the club?  And, what is Anton's connection to all of this?  Do we care?

Do not fear kiddoes because alllll of the Redgraves are back to solve these mysteries, plus some pirates with a captain who I think I'm supposed to recognize from some other book but I don't.  He is called The Black Ghost, so he must be one of the Beckets from the Romney Marsh series, which I know I read and which I don't remember.   So, we don't have enough characters with the gazillion Redgraves - oh no, we have to bring in the Becket's too. Let's not forget the Cooper family, who are really bad people - maybe. Or just maybe they have been led astray my the she-wolf leader of the hellfire society - the ones with the rose lapel pins.

So, we have all of these people, conspirators and spies and they are running all over the place, through secret tunnels that aren't so secret because the doors to the tunnels are left open. Kate Redgrave pretends to be Zoe in an attempt to have Anton follow her (Kate). And, I guess that works, because soon Zoe and Max are in bed together...but wait, Anton shows up so Zoe hides under the bed. No one will ever think to look under the bed, and Max is some place in the room on top of the canopy or something.  Zoe can watch Anton's boots as he moves around the room...but wait another pair of boots - it's the Becket captain from Romney Marsh! He's come to save the day. Thank goodness, now they can find the leader of the hellfire society.

Off Zoe and Max go, discreetly, stealthy-like - creeping through the dark and what do they find?  The mysterious handsome man - dead. And the female leader? Well, she's dead too. So, I guess Max and Zoe don't have anything to do but twiddle their thumbs and all that creeping and crawling was for...nothing. We do get to find out who the woman was in the very end, and that, kiddoes, was a surprise. However, the whole book was one convoluted path to nothing over and over again. 

I know you've heard this before; if the couple in the story had only talked to each other.  Why, I've even said that myself.  Well, my fellow whiners, some times you get what you wish for and wish you hadn't.  This story is an example of what happens when the main romantic couple talk to each other in the first chapters of the book. Almost immediately they have worked their past problems out and confessed most of their lies to each other. There is no big misunderstanding that keeps them apart and there is no tension - of any kind. The romance was bland, there was nothing captivating. Every single time they arrived at a place to solve a problem, it was already taken care of...all that racing around and going nowhere. It seemed to me as if the author was in a hurry to wrap this series up so she could start a new one. I was disappointed in all but one story in this series.

Time/Place: Napoleon/Regency England
Sensuality: Indifferent Hot


The Windflower by Laura London

April 7, 2014
Ahoy matey!!! Blimey, a scurvy pirate story!!!

It’s been 30 years since the publishing of that wonderful gem of a pirate book called
The Windflower.  To celebrate the anniversary, this fun book is being re-released in ebook format April 29, 2014.  So, now’s the time to read it!  And, thanks Tracy at Tracys Place for reminding me of this lovely book.  Following is a reissue of a review I did a few years ago.
I confess, I've never been a big fan of pirate stories; however, w-a-y back in 1984 there was a wonderful gem of a pirate romance novel called The Windflower. Written by the husband and wife team Tom and Sharon Curtis under the nom de plume of Laura London, it has long since been considered a classic in Romanceland circles. Now, whenever I reread a much loved book, I always cross my fingers. Some books hold up over time, but others have me scratching my head over how much my tastes have changed over the years. So, crossing my fingers I opened The Windflower. Drum roll please...

Right away, I was struck with a difference in language. It's amazing how much romance language has changed in 30 years, and yes, that is a short period of time if you consider the whole history of romance books. The very first sentence, "Merry Patricia Wilding was sitting on a cobblestone wall, sketching three rutabagas and daydreaming about the unicorn," had me grinning and rubbing my hands together in anticipation. It was the rutabagas that grabbed me right away. This book is filled with wonderful prose, delightful plot-lines and fantastic characters.

Let's talk about the prose. I think over the years, I have become lazy while reading my books. I am used to historical romance books that make clear statements in almost modern language, and every once in a while a lovely poetic line is thrown in for our edification. The Windflower, on the other hand, is filled with wonderful lyrical words, and I loved every minute of reading them. Now, these were not the flowery words that one might run into if one were reading, say, a Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. And granted there were some phrases that if they were said to me by a real man might elicit a giggle/laugh. However, in the context of the book they brought on Ahhh moments. For instance our hero, Devon, whispers to Merry, "Love, together we can find where clouds are born." See, husband says=giggle/laugh, Devon=Ahhhh. Wonderful language!

The plot-line/s. We have the standard aristocrat-turned-pirate-but-he's-really-a-good-guy-because-he-is-spying-for-his-country meets the kidnapped-innocent-mistaken-for-a-whore-virgin heroine.  This is not new to us and it wasn’t new to us in 1984.  But in the hands of Tom and Sharon Curtis it turns into a magical journey.  Even with scurvy soft-hearted pirates who all fall in love with Merry.

Characters! What a bunch of well-written personalities on board this ship. These are not flat cardboard people inhabiting the pages of this book. And, for those of you who have read The Windflower, I know you can all empathize with me when I sniffle over the wonderful sequels that should have been, but never were. From the enigmatic Rand Morgan to the handsome Raven and finally the mysterious, cold-blooded Cat. Never was there a character in a romance novel that screamed sequel more than Cat! Love Cat! And then there's Merry. What a young, young, heroine. She's almost irritating in the beginning, so innocent, so naive and constantly crying. But, then she's 18 and she's just been kidnapped and deposited on a boatload of pirates, so who wouldn't cry. Throughout the book we watch her grow and we fall in love with her at the same time the pirate crew does. Her relationship with Cat is touching and at times humorous. I chuckled when he was whining about the manner in which she told him it was that time of the month. She left a note on the table for him and while he was reading it, she hid under a nearby blanket.

Even though I enjoyed reading The Windflower again, this is not to say I didn't have a problem with some things. In one word, Devon. Don't get me wrong, Devon made a great hero. But there were times when he was too silent, too obscure, too mysterious and too brutal in his treatment of Merry. However, he was just a minor hiccup.

This book has an advantage over books that are written now -- it's over 500 pages in length, so the authors had time to develop their tale. There isn't the mad rush to tie up loose ends. I wish that books written now could be the same length, because it does make a difference. Of course, there is also the fact that Sharon and Tom Curtis were great writers. I said were because they seem to have retired around 1996. They are published under Laura London, Robin James and Sharon and Tom Curtis. I wish they were still writing, and I dream of the day when Cat's sequel will hit the bookstores. However, I know how hard it would be for them to pick up the cadence of writing a sequel after an absence of 30 years, but a person can wish, can't she?

So, for those of you who have never read this book, you really should. The Windflower has stood up to the passage of time pretty well. This is the Curtis' crowning achievement, and I found it to be a delightful, beautifully told story. And, I loved the words!

Time/Place: High seas, England, 1800s
Sensuality: Warm/Hot
Rating: Classic


Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James

April 3, 2014
At last!  A sigh of relief?

I have had Eloisa James on my auto-buy list since her very first book.  But, I must admit the last three or four books have not lived up to my expectations.  However, I'm glad to say Three Weeks with Lady X reminds me why I have her as an auto-buy.  Was this a perfect novel? No.  Were there some things in it that bothered me? Yes, and I'll explore those later.  First let's look at what's good about this story.  Two words: Thorn and India.

Thorn aka Tobias is the illegitimate son of the Duke of Villiers, the hero of
A Duke of Her Own.  He has made an appearance in a couple of James' stories, the first time as a child.  He's grown into quite a strong self-made man.  He has made quite a bit of money and he is of the opinion it's time to have a family.  Now, he doesn't really care a flying fig what society thinks of him, however, he does care what society will think of his children.  He is on the lookout for a respectable-above reproach woman.  Someone meek, submissive who will adore their children and not say too much about anything.  He has a woman in mind who is perfect for the job, Lady Laetitia Rainsford.  Laetitia, is a quiet, shy, backward, awkward character who I will talk more about later.  In order to win Laetitia's hand he must first impress her horrible mother, so he has purchased a grand mansion, sight unseen.  Now, as luck would have it this mansion is in need of repair and in order to fix the place, he has hired the social-fixer-upper Lady Xenobia India St. Claire, an interior decorator of sorts.

As anyone who has ever read a romance novel will know, India is about as far from meek as anyone could be.  She, like Thorn, has some childhood baggage she's carrying around with her.  Her parents were rather self-absorbed and she's grown up fending for herself.  She is also of the opinion that on the night her parents were killed in a carriage accident they were leaving her behind...without even letting her know they were going.  Because of this, she doesn't feel that she's loveable or that people will stay with her.  However, she hasn't let that turn her into a gloomy Gus - she has instead turned into a very strong woman, opinionated and one who usually gets her own way.  So when Thorn and India met, they instantly clash, and what a fun brawl these two create.  Watching these two try to outmaneuver each other was mesmerizing.  For most of the book I loved how these two interacted with each other.  And, when they aren't together wrangling, they are sending some snappy correspondences to each other.  This was one romance couple who are actually a couple.

Here come the quibbles.
  I loved India, I thought she was a great heroine.  However, she did develop a "he doesn't love me guess I'll turn him down and marry someone I don't love" moment.  Because she is such a strong woman I would have wished that she had gone in a different direction when Thorn proposed.  However, this phase of the book didn't last long.  I also wasn't sure how accepted India would be in society since she was a "working" woman.  Thorn quibbles.  Thorn is portrayed as a manly man.  He's is really really an alpha male.  Toward the end of the book he started to be a scary obsessive alpha male and I was concerned that Ms. James was going to go too far with his domination.  However, his method of proving his love for India balanced out the alpha male theatrics.  Even though I think the river scene was a little too long and a little over the top, I also think it was needed to redeem his character.  Rose quibble.  Rose is one of those really precocious kids, and while I know some children who are precocious, Rose was close to being a pain in the whazoo.  Then again, Ms. James did some fancy footwork and occasionally showed Rose as a child who is in a lot of pain, so the intelligence is balanced with an intermittent glimpses of a sad child. Covering the bases quibble.  There were also some time period issues with things being invented, however Ms. James added a postscript announcing yes all you historical accuracy whiners she took some liberties (those were not her exact words.)

Let's talk about Laetitia. 
Ms. James' has populated her story with a number of solid secondary characters - there's India's aunt, Thorn's friend Vander (hero in search of a book), Laetitia's simply horrible mother - and I do mean horrible.  Her mother is just awful and she will probably be in the running for the Mommie Dearest award - truly gruesome.  She's all the Disney villains in one.  Back to Laetitia.  Laetitia is portrayed as a terribly shy woman, she knows her mother is horrible and she talks back to her under her breath.  Society thinks her a simpleton, she just doesn't talk.  When she is first introduced as the woman who Thorn had picked, I was concerned that she would turn into a character who was bullied by the hero and heroine.  I am really wary when a character's supposed weakness is turned into something the main characters will have a spot of fun with.  This happened in This Duke is Mine with the distasteful treatment of Rupert...scarred me for life.  When Laetitia is introduced and then we also learn that she cannot read due to what I am guessing is dyslexia, my irate-o-mater was starting to go off.  However, glad to say Laetitia was not made into a joke and I ended up loving the scenes she was in.  I would have loved even better if she had socked her mother in the face - but that's just me.

  Just what do men who are described as having an overabundance of maleness really look like in real life?  I just never know how big I’m supposed to visualize these men.  Are we talking caveman, dragging their hairy hands on the ground kind of guy?  My mind did wander down the big guy path a few times in this book, because both Thorn (hate the name) and Vander (name ugh) are portrayed as big big big and not just the Willy-Wonka mobile aka Mr. Toad.  I looked around at men I work with, nope none there.  I do see some men on the street who might be considered manly-men, but they are scary and smelly.  As often happens when envisioning a character, I turned to the entertainment world…maybe Clive Owen, Gerard Butler, Liam Neesen or Javier Bardem fit the bill.  Maybe.

Overall, I loved this book, finished it in a day after staying up to read it through the night.  I thought
Three Weeks with Lady X was one of Eloisa James' better books and I'm a happy camper because I was concerned.  I suspect that Ms. James had a lot of fun with these two characters when she was hammering her keyboard.  Thorn and India are two excellent personalities. We get to watch them as they grow from antagonists to friends to lovers, and finally to that happily ever after couple we are all cheering on.

Time/Place: England 1799

Sensuality: Hot


The Counterfeit Mistress by Madeline Hunter

March 31, 2014

He's back! The return of the Handsome Stupid Man aka Bonehead Hero.
Yes, Madeline Hunter's The Counterfeit Mistress sees the return of the Handsome Stupid Man, so named by our spunky heroine, Marielle, in the first book of Fairbourne series.

The Handsome Stupid man is really Gavin Norwood, Viscount Kendale and he is still following Marielle around. Under his breath he refers to her as a bitch. Wow, I thought, that's a tad bit harsh, what did she ever do to you? Because my memory of the first two books has faded, I don't recall why he's so angry with her. I was hoping for some kind of clarification that would justify his anger, but it never came. The only thing I could deduce was that at one time a French woman betrayed the army battalion he was serving in, resulting in a semi-massacre of that army unit. Of course, you know what that means! That means a-l-l women are suspect and not to be trusted. So they must be followed from place to place because they are up to something - especially Marielle. She's doing something nefarious - what it is Gavin doesn't know, but she's probably a spy. Why does he think that? I don't know, I guess because she doesn't check in with him whenever she goes hither and yon.

You know, I do get mighty tired of bonehead heroes who can't trust women because they are under an assumption another woman did something wrong. And, by the way, I don't believe in the other two books it was ever proven that the unknown French woman actually was guilty. Maybe she'll make an appearance in the next book, because there are still plenty of distrustful men left in this series. 

Actually, Gavin is a little bit correct in his assumptions; Marielle is up to something. What she is up to is one of the many convoluted plots in this story. Here is my take: she is smuggling prints out of England delivering them to France, because there is a bad guy in France she wants to bring down. Everyone knows just how powerful political cartoons can be, and how dangerous. There are people being killed just to stop these prints from leaving the country. But she's up to more than just that - she actually is the engraver of those prints, but she doesn't want anyone to know that. And, is she who she says she is? Is there someone in France who is locked up and she trying to save? Is she going to do all that on her own? And, does she still have time to seduce Gavin? You betcha!

Gavin. This guy also has a plot going on. Besides following Marielle around and jumping to conclusions, he is also searching for the traitor responsible for the murder of his army friends. He's formed a private militia and he's doing all these secret, nefarious things like invading France without anyone being aware. Except that is for the home office and his omnipresent-friend/ex-friend who keeps warning him about things.

I couldn't decide whether this story was a spy story, an adventure story, or a romance. There were too many things going in different directions and when I found out what Marielle was up too, my reaction was, "You're kidding me." Gavin and Marielle were strong secondary characters; however, having their own story weakened them. I was especially disappointed in Gavin. His treatment of Marielle after sex bordered on the Steve Morgan school of charmers. Gavom was very cold-blooded when it came to any whankee-woo. His character bothered me so much that I was awakened in the middle of night and had to write down my thoughts on him. He's portrayed as a darkly mysterious man, occasionally clever, but there was something missing. What was missing was his essence. His character was just a shadow. I felt as if I was just reading words and not connecting to any substance.

I loved Madeline Hunter's medieval stories and when I read the first one in this series I was anticipating some great moments. However, this particular tale was very convoluted and the characters did not live up to the promise they exhibited in their earlier appearances.

Time/Place: England early 1800s
Sensuality: There was sex


Falling for the Higland Rogue by Ann Lethbridge

March 27, 2014
Ok, so I'm a Romanceland Snob

I've been reading romance for a l-o-n-g time and I have to admit that I have a prejudice against certain publishing houses. You see, when I was a wee baby I started reading what I considered romance books. They were books like Forever Amber, My Cousin Rachel, and Rebecca - not technically romance and none of them had too much of a HEA. I've never considered Mr. DeWinter someone a sane woman would want to spend the rest of her life with. Then one day I stumbled across a whole row of books at the library from an author by the name of Heyer and there was no turning back.

Now, I'm sure it was just coincidence and not some wish-fulfillment but around the time of my search for more book similar to Ms. Heyer's there was an explosion of paperback books. We now call those books traditional regency. I had a particular fondness for Fawcett and Signet books. I found many of my favorite authors among those.
It was wonderful! But the best was yet to come because lurking in the wings was The Flame and the Flower. When that book burst onto the scene Romanceland was changed forever. Now, things have changed since then; we've seen many an author come and go. The style of writing has changed. I don't think I could make it through the pages of The Flame and the Flower without cringing now; however, I'm awfully glad it appeared on the scene.

So, where is this going, you ask. I'll tell you. Somewhere in all this joyous book reading I became a
snob. For some reason, I never became too fond of Harlequin books. I don't know if it was the strict guidelines they put on their authors or the fast pace at which they published. Sure, I know some of our high profile authors got their start there, but for me these books always seemed to be more formula than other romance novels. I know, I know, romance books are all formulas… pet peeve coming on… I’m always offended when someone says all Romance books have the same format, and before I get sidetracked, really - don't all popular genres have formulas? A HEA does not necessarily mean formula. Anyway, back to Harlequin. Never read many of their books. Which leads me to Falling for the Highland Rogue, by Ann Lethbridge.

I've never read any of Ms. Lethbridge's books, so I'm new to this series - maybe I should have read the others, but I was able to grasp the plot-line without too much trouble. As I said before, I've read romance a long time, so I'm pretty familiar with the
"formula." Right at the beginning, I had to double check to see if I was reading a Harlequin because I was presented with a totally unexpected hero and heroine. The hero, Logan Gilvry, is uncommonly handsome, ultra smart and extremely cagey... and young. That age was one of the things that would later irritate me. He's 21, however he must be some kind of savant because he seems to have almost super-hero abilities to read people and know just what their next move is going to be. Because of these abilities, I had a hard time remembering that he's just a babe in the woods. However, for most of the book he is a wonderful hero, even though through most of it he is manipulating those around him. Maybe he's so worldly wise because he's never had sex. Yep...he's white...ur...pure as the driven snow. He's never ventured into the valley of whankee-woo. Oh sure, he kissed a girl and somehow that kiss damaged him forever and ever - which isn't saying a lot since he's only 21 - not a very long forever.

So, then we have the other side of the coin - our heroine Charity - not so white. In fact, she was at one time employed in a brothel but she was such an awful strumpet she was purchased by a really nasty gangster, our villain, Jack. I have to say that Jack is a really impressive bad guy - there isn't any possibility that this guy is going to show up as a good guy in a later book. He is spine-chillingly creepy. The scenes that take place in the dark underworld that Charity inhabits are wonderfully vivid. There is a great sense of danger and for Charity there is a sense of hopelessness. The money she is squirreling away to get away from her sordid life is poignant, especially because we has the reader know she is never going to be able to leave her dark world behind. At least not in the manner she dreams of.

I would imagine that a number of readers will not find either Charity or Logan to be very likeable. There is a continual dance between these two as they try to outmaneuver each other. In fact, Charity is such a dark character I kept wondering how Ms. Lethbridge was going to rehabilitate her. And, this is where this book lost some of its punch. The first portion of the book was well-developed, with some exciting (even if they were unlikeable) characters. Then, in the last five or so chapters, things started to fall apart and I was face to face with my old Harlequin prejudice... except in this case it wasn't just a prejudice. The ending was weak - people who hated each other suddenly were dancing with the butterflies. There was just a very unsatisfying rush to a happy ending and no good explanation as to Charity's past and Logan turned from a
super-know-it-all to a jump-to-the-wrong-conclusion guy. Bottom-line, I thought the first part of the book was a well-developed and exciting book. It just didn't hold up so well in the last part.

Time/Place: 1820s Edinburgh Scotland

Sensuality: Hot