Tuesday

A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase

December 12, 2017
Well that was fun

http://www.lorettachase.com/

And to think I almost didn't read it. Yes, yes! Shine the hot light on me. This was a prime example of reading a book when one was in a bad mood. Now, I don't know why I was in a bad mood and usually when I pick up a Loretta Chase book I'm doing a happy dance. But when I first opened this book I couldn't get into it. I was irritated, I couldn't grab onto Ms. Chase's writing rhythm, so I closed it and picked up an old old book and read that instead. After cleansing the doldrums away I returned to A Duke in Shining Armor and was I ever glad. What a delightful story - I had numerous chuckles and some strong laugh-out-loud moments. This was a pure joy, just in time for the holiday. Was everything smooth sailing? Of course not, I can always find something to whine about. Was this as good as my all-time favorite Lord of Scoundrels? Bite your tongue! But if you are in the mood for some light-hearted silliness, some goofy guys, some immature pranks, then this one is for you.

A Duke in Shining Armor begins Loretta Chase's new trilogy Difficult Dukes and I suspect that none of the Dukes are going to be asked to join Mensa. It will be interesting to see just where Ms. Chase takes the remaining not-so-bright heroes. I'm not sure their antics are sustainable - could be, could not be - we will see.

Lady Olympia Hightower, only daughter of the Earl of Gonerby is getting married. The story begins with her wedding day. She is having second thoughts. You see she has been voted "most boring" girl of the season seven years in a row by the other debutantes. She is a wallflower, she's smart and she wears glasses, glasses that she needs. Imagine her surprise when she is first courted then asked to marry by the handsome, dissolute Duke of Ashmont. He and his two friends the Duke of Blackwood and the Duke of Ripley are up to all kinds of antics. Some funny, some not so funny. Ashmont is constantly drunk and constantly fighting duels. Because Olympia accidentally saves him, he becomes interested in her and proposes.

The day of the wedding Ashmont is there along with his two friends. They have had a night of carousing and he's a little worse for wear. He appoints his friend Hugh Ancaster, Duke of Ripley to make sure everything goes as it should. When the people start to wonder just where the bride is, Hugh is sent to find her. What he finds is a surprise. The bride, in all of her finery, is climbing out of the library window. It seems she has changed her mind. The brandy she has been drinking has given her courage to make a run for it. Before Hugh can stop her, she's off. He gives chase. Which leads us down the path of a wonderful road-trip romance.

This was such a fun story. There are so many things which go wrong on this trip. True, some of the things, like saving a dog, have been done tons of time in Romanceland. However, in this book the save-the-dog routine has a fresh, funny feel to it. Hugh and Olympia's journey is intermingled by some of the great secondary characters in the story. Blackwood and Ashmont (say next heroes) give chase, so we start to learn what makes them tick along the way. But they are not the only secondary characters abounding in this book, there are: her aunt, Ashmont's uncle, Blackwood's wife - and the dog. All of these characters were strong, well-developed people with just enough mystery left over for the next books.

This is a fast-paced book, one thing happens after another - almost like a screwball comedy. But we also have a look into some of the deeper reasons behind some of the things the three men do. But mainly this is a fun book. I did have a few quibbles. The men are like immature college frat boys, always doing one plank after another. I did question whether the party they had with only people who had a speech impediment was funny. I considered it rather a mean thing to do and was surprised that the author put that section into her book. That and me not understanding why Hugh and Ashmont had a duel took this book out of a DIK category.

Overall, this is a delightful story filled with humor, wit, and some poignant moments - but mostly it was a delightful read. I highly recommend this latest Loretta Chase story.

Time/Place: 1833 English road-trip
Sensuality: Warm,hot

Thursday

Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh

November 30, 2017
Pass me the chocolate - Puleese.

http://www.marybalogh.com/

Ahhhhhh, you know I love Mary Balogh. There isn’t anyone quite like her when it comes to putting words together – tons and tons and tons of words. And allllll of those words mean something, they all have to be studied, felt, and cried over.  Here’s the deal: I’ve read a number of Ms. Balogh’s books in the last few months and I think it’s time to take a breather. I have developed word-i-tis, a disorder often found in romance readers' brains. It’s caused by an over-abundance of angst and hero brain-think.

Someone to Wed is the third in the Westcott family series. The story continues with Alex, who is now the Earl of Riverdale thanks to his bigamist uncle. In this story we get to see that it isn’t only the children of the original earl who were harmed by his actions, but also those on the periphery.  Alex had his own estate. He was doing quite well making it profitable and had recently helped his mother and sister to have quite comfortable lives. Everything seemed to be going well for him, then the bigamy thing happened. Now he has a decrepit estate with no money in its coffers and people who are depending on him to fix it. By the way, Alex is a beta hero and he has to fix everything that needs to be fixed. He’s a real nice guy, almost toooo nice. So what is Mr. Nice guy going to do to save alllll the people on his estate? Well, he has to marry someone, someone with lots of money.

Miss Wren Heyden has lots of money. She inherited her money from her uncle’s glass-work factory and she’s been running it ever since his death. She’s one smart cookie. She’s pretty much happy with most of her life, except for one thing. She’s lonely. She wants to be loved. She wants a family, she wants children, and she wants to know the sensual side of marriage. She doesn’t necessarily want grand passion but a little tweak every now and then wouldn’t be bad. But how does she go about it? You see, she’s a recluse. She’s hidden herself away from the world all of her life. Why? She has a large purple birthmark on one side of her face. This is where Balogh’s angst comes in. While Wren is a strong woman in many ways, she has a lot of insecurities when it comes to her physical appearance. That also leads to some mental anguish. She wears a veil which covers her face, but even when that veil is removed she protects herself by hiding behind a self-imposed shell. When the story begins, she has been interviewing men for the role of husband. So far, she has crossed two men off of her list. On her list of eligible men is Alex. She has invited him to her house and he has accepted. He believes he is going to a house party, imagine his surprise when he finds out he is the only one invited. Then he finds out why. At first he is insulted, then he isn’t.

Wren and Alex are an interesting couple. This is a slow moving romance. These two circle each other, they do a lot of thinking, and they don’t like each other at first. Alex is repulsed not by Wren’s face but the negative person that she has become.  Then they start to know each other, become friends, then decide that they wouldn’t make a good marriage and end the relationship. Alex goes back to London and Wren visits her glass factory. Wren knows there are just too many public things she would have to do to be an earl’s wife. Then there is a lot of brain think. Alex thinks about his problems, he thinks about his sister, he thinks about his land, he thinks about Wren. Wren thinks about Alex, she thinks about glass, she thinks about pretty women. Lots of brain think. I do recommend lots of Advil. Then Wren goes to London because she wants to give Alex’s life a chance. So, she starts to step out into the world. This is where I have a little quibble with the book.

Wren is the one who has to change the most. She has to accommodate his world, she has to throw off the veil, she has to go to the opera, she has to meet his family, and she has to walk in the daylight. For their marriage to work, she has to do the hard stuff – all he has to do is accept and support. It didn’t really seem to be a fair balance.

Overall, if you like Mary Balogh you will like this book, but it is a heavy-duty Balogh brain think story. Wren and Alex take a long time to find their romance, they take a long time to grow. When the conclusion to the story arrives you know that Wren and Alex will have a successful, mature marriage, maybe not a grand, maniacal passionate marriage, but one that will last.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot the Balogh's way

A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe

November 30, 2017
Just when does rich become too much?

http://www.joannashupe.com/
Do you ever ponder - when reading romance books - if they would be so romantic if there
wasn’t so much wealth flung around in them? What if our couple really had to struggle with day to day living? What if the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow didn't come along? Well, you don’t have to worry about that in this book, because our hero has just oodles and oodles of cash. Actually, that was one of my problems with this story, or maybe it’s just the mood I was in when I read it. Yeah, sure it must be nice not to worry about where the next hamburger is coming from, but gee-willikers I sure get tired of reading about all the preponderance of wealth. In A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe, we get to have a glimpse into the Gilded Age of New York – oh boy! A time period of rich, overindulged, capricious people such as the Astors, Vanderbilts, Whitneys, etc.


We have Lady Honoria Parker, daughter of the Earl of Stratton. She has been exiled to America because she was caught in the arms of an unsuitable man. So, she’s been sent to live with her aunt in New York. Well, she’s not a happy camper. She is still in luv with the artist/man she was caught in the arms of and she is bound and determined to return to those arms. She also has a my-father-doesn’t-like-me-no-matter-what-I-guess-I’ll-go-eat-worms problem. So, what is her solution? Get ready for the Romanceland stretch plot-line. She believes that if she can create a big enough scandal her father will cave in, let her return to England and marry her artist/man. Cause she can’t help lovin’ that man of mine/hers. Honoria must ponder what to do to; just what could she do that would be so horrible that her father would haul her back? Wait, what’s that noise she hears on the floor above where she’s dining? Sounds like a herd of elephants or maybe just a few horses. She must investigate that noise. What? You mean to say that some drunken man has brought horses into the hotel. Why he must be just terrible. He may be just what she needs to become scandalous. Enter, the rich, self-made man about town – Julius Hatcher.

Julius Hatcher is drunk. He’s celebrating his birthday or something on the floor above the restaurant. He is rich beyond measure, but he’s also creating quite a name for himself in the scandal sheets. He is enthralled when he is approached by the lovely English miss with the plan to create a scandal. And, he’s drunk enough to agree to her scheme. You see he is yearning to gain entry into society so he can find the men who destroyed his father, thus he can destroy those men. So, my fellow romance reader Petunia-people, we are asked to accept the plot-line: Julius Hatcher must clean up his act so that he can be received into the top echelon of society, so he agrees to help Honoria create a scandal so she will be returned to England and the arms of her beloved. They will do this by having a fake-engagement and somehow Honoria will create a scandal and Julius will become squeaky clean. I was very confused by how all of this was going to work – and, it never did. Over my years of accepting plot-lines which don’t always made sense, I’ve been able to enjoy the books. But, this one asked me to leave behind anything that made sense just so our couple could have a reason to be in the same room together.

I will admit that the writing had possibilities, but for me, the premise of the entire book required that I should put my dumb-hat on and I was not able to.

Time/Place: 1890 New York
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Tuesday

Hokey Smoke, Bullwinkle! Upcoming Historical Releases!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! December 15, 2017 to January 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.

Amanda Forester
http://www.amandaforester.com/index.html
Earl Interrupted
The Daring Marriages series
January 1, 2018

Amy Jarecki
http://www.amyjarecki.com
the Highland Guardian
Lords of the Highlands series
December 19, 2017

Anna Bennett
http://annabennettauthor.com/
The Rogue is Back in Town
Wayward Wallflowers series
January 2, 2018

Bronwyn Scott
http://www.bronwynnscott.com/
Compromised by the Prince’s Touch
Russian Royals of Kuban series
January 1, 2018

Carla Susan Smith
http://www.CarlaSmithauthor.com
Mischance
Smith’s Corsets and Carriages series
January 9, 2018

Catherine Tinley
http://www.catherinetinley.com
The Captain’s Disgraced Lady
The Chadcombe Marriages series
January 1, 2018

Cathy Maxwell
http://cathymaxwell.com/
If Ever I Should Love You
The Spinster Heiresses series
December 26, 2018

Elizabeth Rolls
http://www.elizabethrolls.com
His Convenient Marchioness
Lords at the Altar series
January 1, 2018

Hannah Howell
http://www.hannahhowell.com/
When You Love a Scotsman
Seven Brides for Seven Scotsmen series
December 26, 2017

Helen Dickson
http://www.hdicksonrnweebly.com/
Carrying the Gentleman's Secret
December 19, 2017

Juliet Landon
https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/juliet-landon/
The Mistress and the Merchant
At the Tudor Court series
January 1, 2018

Kate Moore
http://www.katemoore.com/index.html
The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London
Husband Hunters series
January 2, 2018

Kathryn Albright
http://www.kathrynalbright.com
The Prairie Doctor’s Bride
January 1, 2018

Shirley Kennedy
http://www.shirleykennedy.com
River Queen Rose
Old California series
December 26, 2017

Sophie Barnes
http://www.sophiebarnes.com
The Duke of Her Desire
Diamonds in the Rough Series
December 26, 2017

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 fiancĂ©e 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