Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare

October 19, 2016
What's with the "song-pun" titles.

The title of this book will show just how old I am. When I first read the title of Tessa Dare's latest, Do You Want to Start a Scandal, my mind immediately sang the Beatles song, Do you Want to Know a Secret. Then I started to hear rumblings of a song from Frozen and I thought, what are they talking about? I had to look up the songs from Frozen and found Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Well - that's a fine howdy-do. Which is it, Secret or Snowman? I don't know, but I wish whoever is thinking of these oh-so-clever titles would stop because now I have two songs going through my head.

Now on to the book with the silly title, Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare. This book started off great and I thought that at last there was light at the end of the tunnel - and there was - sort of. This is also a hard book to review because not only is there a delightful heroine, it also has one of the funniest scenes I've read in a long time. The problem I had was that the book was not able to keep up its momentum alllll the way through. 

I adored the heroine, Charlotte Highwood. Some people may not because she is a tad bit outrageous. She does things that are not at all historically correct, so if you have an issue with trying to keep your characters in their time period, this book may not be for you. In this case, I enjoyed the fun and I smiled a lot through the beginning of the book.

Charlotte has a problem - her mother. Her mother wants to see her final daughter married and she is pushing her at any male who crosses her path - and, I do mean push. Her mother actually pushed her in front of a horse with a bachelor on its back just to get his attention - the man, not the horse. What this incident ended up doing was making Charlotte the talk about town and not in a good way. Men were going the long way around just to keep out of her way. Even though she is highly embarrassed, Charlotte doesn't really care toooo much (except for the occasional sneer aimed her way). You see, she has a plan. She and her best friend in the world, Delia, are going to be spinsters forever and ever. Not only that but they are going to see the world. One of the more poignant issues in this story was Delia and Charlotte's friendship. Ms. Dare did a fine job of writing about a close friendship when a third party starts to interfere. That was another part of the book which I found special.

Brain talk. Charlotte's physical persona lived in the time period she was supposed to be; she was quiet when faced with the people around her. But she had one sarcastic little brain. Reading her inner comments was quite a lot of fun. I found this part of Charlotte's characterization very amusing - not everyone may.

Laugh out loud warning. I was unable to sleep. It was 2:00am. I retrieved my Nook, crept back into bed and tried to open it up. Of course I have the music setting turned up really loud, so I threw my pillow over my Nook when the light and noise erupted. Husband still asleep. I started to read. And, then there came a scene involving a mother, a daughter, the you-know-what-talk, and a basket of vegetables. It was a laugh-out-loud-hand-over-mouth moment. This scene made up for alll of the hero's flaws.

Piers Brandon was in a study rifling through a desk which didn't belong to him when he first encounters Charlotte. It doesn't initially dawn on Charlotte that he's snooping because she was on a mission. She came to warn him to stay away from her because her mother had set her sights on him as a future son-in-law. This had all the makings of a screwball comedy - I'll make this short. Charlotte tells her story, Piers listens, they hear a noise, they hide, two mysterious someone’s enter the room, those someone’s precede to use the desk for some hot whankee-roo, Piers and Charlotte listen, Charlotte giggles, the mysterious couple leave, Piers and Charlotte think everything is clear, they tip-toe out, a monster 9-year old boy screams Murder, they are caught in a compromising position. There is more that was built up on that scenario and it's all very funny.

I had a lot of fun with all of the wild shenanigans which went on in this book. I loved how Charlotte made lists and dragged Piers into trouble again and again. However, the story lost some of its glow because of Piers. If Piers had just been charming and ironic through the whole book I would have been really excited about this tale. But he had a dark side. No, not a dark side! On top of that he's a spy. No, not a spy! He was at the same house-party that Charlotte was at because he was trying to find a spy or there was something slightly shady about his host (Delia's father). So, he's sneaking around. But that's not the part of the book that through me out of my enjoyment. For some reason he's not worthy of Charlotte. Oh no, not worthy! He had to prove to her that he's a really rotten. How does he do that, you may ask. Well, he sets fire to the house. Just a small wee fire - enough to smoke up rooms and send people fleeing into the night screaming. Well, I guess if you want to prove you're the wrong kind of person you burn things down. Yep, that would do it for me. Of course, he explains it all and she forgives him. But when I read this, I stopped and wrote - "what the crap was that all about?" That is a direct quote from my Nook notes. After all of the fun, charm, wit and laughter there was a scene from Twilight Zone thrown in which made no sense to me. Must all of our heroes be dark and in need of saving? And, in such an outrageous, overboard, silly way. If only that scene hadn't been in this book.
For the most part I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed Charlotte's zany character and I loved Piers trailing along with her because he couldn't help himself. I enjoyed the lightness, fun, and humor which abounded throughout the story. If only the "what was that" scene had not been included in the story I would have given this book a glowing recommendation. I still recommend Do You Want to Start a Scandal, but just be prepared for a bounce-out-of-the-book scene involving Piers.

Time/Place: 1800s English House Party
Sensuality: Hot


Piers trust-me-moment of weirdness:


Hero in the Highlands by Suzanne Enoch

October 18, 2016
Didnae, ken, och, oh my.

Yes it’s time to once again tramp through the rolling hills of Scotland where winter comes early and the wind is sharp. I will admit I am a sucker for Scottish highland or lowland romances (sometimes even crossing the border into Cornwall). But even with all the brogue and manly knees showing, sometimes the novel just doesn't grab me.

I always look forward to another Suzanne Enoch. I know what I'm getting; she's like a pair of old shoes - comfortable. Some of her books are gems and some not so much. This book is one of the latter. Hero in the Highlands was a "could-have-been-good" book.

The hero was great. Major Gabriel Forrester was/is a soldier and a darn good one. Being a soldier was all he ever knew and he liked it. Being in a battle was exciting. Strategizing was one of his strong suits and he was one of Wellington's top guys. He didn't go into being one of the pampered elite soldier-aristocrats; in fact those guys really irritated him. Much to his chagrin, he has recently become the Duke of Lattimer. He has no time for idiots. One top of being the only one in the army who does anything right, he has now been ordered by Wellington himself to go to his estate in Scotland and find out what's going on. Gabriel packs up his stuff and along with his trusty aide-de-camp, Sergeant Adam Kelgrove, he's off to Scotland - but he's grumbling.

In Scotland Fiona Blackstock (another female steward) is trying to get a cow out of some mud. She and the cow are both stuck. Who should come galloping over the hill? Gabriel, our hero. As in all things, when Gabriel sees something that needs to be done he just charges right in. Well, Fiona doesn't think she needs any help getting out of the muck along with the cow. Right away there is a conflict of wills. Even as Gabriel is pulling her and the cow out of the goo, Fiona is berating him. And, it's that way through most of the rest of the book.

Fiona is one headstrong woman. She and the people on the estate do all they can to drive Gabriel from it. From taking him on rides in a wagon filled with manure to creating ghosts. It is just one set-up after another in the mistaken belief that Fiona can drive Gabriel away. He is having none of it. Every obstacle she throws in his path, he knocks aside. He even breaks through the "I-hate-Sassenach" routine the villagers sing. This book could have been a fun book, but there were a couple of things that diminished it for me.

Funny or not to be. This story had all of the ear-marks of a light-hearted romp and it could have been. There were some outrageous moments peppered throughout the story. And, just when I started to smile at some of the shenanigans something dismal would be thrown in. I wish the author would have either gone one way or the other - make this a completely outrageous book or make it totally angst-filled. There just wasn't a good balance of laugh vs. boo-hooing in this story.

No chemistry between loving-couple. Even though Gabriel walked around through most of the book with a giant tent-pole, I didn't feel any kind of spark between him and Fiona. Sure there was banter and funny dialogue, but I just didn't see this couple connecting. As the story progressed, I lost interest in what they were doing. Sure, there may been a lot of bouncing Toad moments but there wasn't a connection - no chemistry - nah, none, zilch.

There were also a number of things which were left hanging at the end. Where is her brother? What happened to the villains? What happened to his aide-de-camp? Maybe all of those things will be tied up in the next book, but I suspect they won't be. For me this story didn't work. I had to push myself to finish it. I was disappointed in the love story between Gabriel and Fiona. I didn't think it worked. This was not one of Ms. Enoch's best efforts.

Time/Place: 1800s Scotland
Sensuality: Lots of sex, no chemistry


Mad for Plaid by Karen Hawkins

October 17, 2016
Smelly road-trip ahead.

We come to the end of the Oxenburg series by Karen Hawkins. That's ok by me, because I'm not too keen on made-up countries in Romanceland. I don't know why. Now that I think
about it, I'm not too keen on made-up royalty - dukes I can handle, but not fake rulers. I don't know why - maybe I feel that creating a "prince" is a little too close to a fairytale for me. I feel as if I'm being talked down to or should I say written down to. Give me a fake duke/earl/marquess anytime. Anyway Mad for Plaid is Nikolai Romanovin, a royal prince of Oxenburg's story. We will call him Nik. He's in Edinburgh involved in some kind of intrigue which has to do with his country, but then he gets a message from Lady Ailsa that his grandmother, Natasha, has been kidnapped. He has to decide whether he stays and intrigues or goes off to find his grandmother. Should he stay or should he go. Should he stay or should he go. What's a prince to do? He'll go, but he'll go in disguise - sort of. He's the tall one in the group and he walks regally and doesn't act like a groomsman, so his disguise pretty much sucks. I had to think he's really not much of an intriguer. Anyway, he and two other tall men are off to Scotland to find his grandmother and they are being stealth-like - sort of – except when he’s regal-like.

In Scotland we have Lady Edana and her granddaughter Lady Ailsa. Natasha happens to be visiting her friend Adana when Natasha is kidnapped. Now for some reason 22-year old Lady Ailsa seems to be in charge of a large rambling Scottish estate. I'm not sure why. Her father is still alive and she has older sisters, but they all seem to be in London. I never figured out what it was about Ailsa which would indicate that she was qualified to be in charge. She was stubborn, but I wasn't inclined to view her as being very savvy. I thought she made an awful lot of wrong decision and I couldn't really figure out why any of the men on the estate would follow her. 

You know, the older I get the less I like kidnapping plots in Romanceland. In this book in particular there doesn't seem to be any urgency in finding the victims. Ailsa waits for days before she sends any note to Nik letting him know that his grand-mother has been kidnapped. Then he spends an inordinate amount of time deciding whether he should go. Then there is the silly disguise, which Ailsa sees through almost immediately, then there is the “you're-not-the-boss-of-me” squabble between Ailsa and Nik. For some reason Ailsa thinks she is some kind of super-hero. She is going to go off with a group of men over mountains, through canyons, fording streams, scouting, looking for signs - oh look! A broken twig. She never sends for help, she never notifies her father. I guess I didn't understand the necessity of even having a father in this book. The relationship between Ailsa and her father is never explained. We never know why he in London and she's down on the farm. Oh yes, this tale turns into a long, no-bath, romance road trip.

The villains. There is only one villain in this book, but there are two secondary characters who do very suspicious things. One of them does more covert things then the other, but I had a feeling that was just a red-herring to distract me from the real villain. I was right. I found it irritating that I was being manipulated into believing the one guy was guilty when I knew he wasn't. I like subtle villains, I like to be surprised by who the bad guy turns out to be. This wasn't subtle.

This was an ok book. The hero was a manly-man but the heroine was too stubborn for too long and she did some idiotic dangerous things. There were a lot of things left unexplained, a lot of things which didn't make sense and my mind had a hard time wrapping around a 22 year-old girl being left in charge of a large estate. Rather a bland read.

Time/Place: 1800s Scottish road trip
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

October 5, 2016

I’m not worthy – no, I’m not worthy – no, I’m not worthy. You’re right, you’re not worthy, but then neither am I.

Oh my little Petunias, in A Scot in the Dark we have not one unworthy lead character but two. Yes, yes Lily Hargrove is unworthy because she is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful – but no boy likes her. She has no friends, she is unworthy. Why is she unworthy? Because she is beautiful! I guess that’s why. I wasn’t quite sure. Then we have our unworthy hero, Alec Stuart. Why is he unworthy, you may ask. Because he’s big, big, big! He’s a brute! He’s a beast! He’s brawny! He’s not good enough for any fair maiden because he is a beast, beast, beast.

Unworthy. I have an issue with the plethora of unworthy characters strolling through Romanceland. I’m tired of them. There are soooo many of them around. The writing in a book with a whiny-woe-is-me person would have to be pretty good for me to like it. But to suffer through two unworthy people – it was just tooooo much. It was a struggle to get through this story.

Not only are both the hero and heroine unworthy, our heroine, Lily is unlikable. In the real world, beautiful women usually have friends or people who want to be friends. There’s a lot of shallow people out there, so they are always on the look-out for someone who will make them look good. People like to hang out with beautiful people. So, in this book we have an extremely beautiful person with no friends or want-a-be – why? Don’t know, it was never made clear as to why Lily was so unpopular. Of course, she is not the most pleasant of people when she has her run-ins with our hero. Let me tell you, I did not find her wit funny. She was more derisive then witty, more contemptuous then droll. Her clever quips were just mean. Lily was just plain ol’ disagreeable.

Bigness vs Hagrid. I love Hagrid from Harry Potter. He’s a great lumbering, gentle guy – but there is no way I would ever consider him sensual (maybe sexy in a cute sort of way). Hagrid would just not trigger my “wow is he hot” hot-o-meter. To say that the constant reminder that Alec was a big, big, big, brute of a guy was irritating was an understatement. I’m not sure which authors ushered in gigantic heroes, but somewhere in my hazy memory – before Fabio hit the covers – I remember smaller heroes. Some were even downright thin (they were probably vampires). Yes, I know the purpose of the big, big, big reminder was that we needed to know Alec had body issues, but this book mentioned it 50 gazillion times – it was over-kill.

I feel bad. I liked Ms. MacLean’s earlier books but this one was a struggle to get through. I wanted to like both characters in this book, but Lily turned into a beautiful shrew who does stupid things which don’t work in the time period she supposedly lived in. And, Alec could have been a wonderful hero – a lovely Scottish guy, but his perception of himself was badly written and that was the author’s problem.

Sorry to say I didn’t like this book. I was very disappointed. I expect more from Ms. MacLean. I cannot recommend this book.

Time/Place: Regency England, I guess
Sensuality: There is sex, just no chemistry


Ta-Ta-Dah!!! Upcoming Historical Romance Releases!!!! October 15 to November 14, 2016!!

September 27, 2016
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! October 15, 2016 to November 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.
Amanda McCabe

The Queen’s Christmas Summons
October 18
Cathy Maxwell*

A Date at the Altar
Marrying the Duke series
October 25
Carol Birch

Orphans of the Carnival
November 8
Joanna Shupe

The Knickerbocker Club series
October 25
Katharine Ashe

The Earl

Devil’s Duke series
October 25
Lauri Robinson

Unwrapping the Rancher’s Secret
October 18
Liz Tyner

The Runaway Governess
The Governess Tales series
October 18
Louise Allen

Sophia James 

Annie Burrows 
Once Upon a Regency Christmas 
October 18
Mary Balogh

Someone to Love
Westcott series
November 8
Martha Hix

His Make Believe Bride
Texas Brides series
October 25
Rachael Miles*

Tempting the Earl
The Muses Salon
October 25
Susanna Ives

How to Impress a Marquess
Wicked Little Lies series
November 1
Sophie Jordan

While the Duke was Sleeping
The Rogue Files series
October 25
Valerie Bowman

The Legendary Lord
Playful Brides series
November 1


Memories Schmemories, On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn

September 14, 2016

What we have here is a case of Lastbookitis.

Before I begin, let’s sing a little song: 

“Some enchanted evening you may see a stranger (or the back of their head)
You may see a stranger (or the back of their head) across a crowded room
And somehow you know, you know even then
That somewhere you'll see her
(or the back of her head) again and again”Rodgers and Hammerstein – sort of

So begins the last of the stories in the Bridgerton series, On the Way to the Wedding. At last
it’s Gregory Bridgerton’s turn. Poor Gregory - he’s alone and feeling blue. He’s blue because everyone has someone but him. He’s wants someone. He’s on the lookout for someone. And then, he enters a room. There - across the way - he spots a beautiful woman. He’s hit by the luv-lightening. Oh lovely lady, I luv you forever and ever. At least the back of your head. Yes, fellow readers, Gregory Bridgerton of the famous Bridgerton family falls in love with the back of some woman’s head.

The woman belonging to that head-back is Hermione Watson. Excuse me while I ponder naming of characters in books. All the way through the book I had a problem with the name Hermione Watson. First of all I don’t like the name Hermione (sorry all you Hermione’s). Secondly I kept thinking of Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. Then it dawned on me that the actress who plays Hermione is Emma Watson. Ms. Quinn would not be so playfully cute as to combine those names for this character – would she. Because if she did, I have to tell you I found it very distracting.

But that's neither here nor there because Hermione is not the heroine of this book. No the heroine of this book is there in the crowd of men surrounding Hermione – Lady Lucy Abernathy. Yes, that’s her – the one who nobody pays any attention to. Anyway, Lucy happens to notice the moment of luv-lightening striking Gregory Bridgerton. She mentally shrugs her shoulders because she sees it all the time. Hermione and Lucy have been friends for a very long time and Lucy is used to men making fools of themselves over Hermione. But this time it’s different and not just because Lucy is sort of attracted to Gregory. No that not it. Lucy is sort of engaged so she can’t be interested in Gregory. But the beautiful Hermione is in luv with an unsuitable man and Lucy knows that this unsuitable man will be wrong for Hermione. Lucy decides to help Gregory in his quest to win fair Hermione’s hand. So she starts giving Gregory advice, advice which he has not asked for. Lucy likes to advise people. She likes to make everyone happy. Be prepared, she’s a martyr.

Gregory follows Lucy’s advice of ignoring Hermione in hopes that Hermione will notice him. Then one morning at the breakfast table Gregory says something and Hermione thinks he interesting. He makes her flutter. But wait a minute! Lucy’s brother shows up with an emergency message! Lucy must go home immediately because her uncle must see her. But first there’s another party to go to. At that part Lucy’s brother, who is also in luv with Hermione, seduces Hermione. Well, he actually doesn’t work very hard at the seduction because you see Hermione is now in luv with Lucy’s brother. He makes her flutter. So much for the unsuitable guy and the fluttering Gregory was creating at breakfast. Hermione and Lucy’s brother marry. Gregory is alllll alone – again. However, he watches Lucy as she walks away.

Lucy has returned home. Her sort-of fiancĂ© is there along with his fat, creepy father. She finds out her fiancĂ© doesn’t care for women, but that’s ok. You see the creepy father informs her that if his son can’t put the erection set together, he will. Lucy turns him down. Lucy’s uncle blackmails her with words like treason, scandal, family destroyed. Lucy the martyr will marry the son.

Gregory returns to London. He is wandering through Hyde Park. He is once again struck by luvs-lightening when his eyes fall on the back of another woman’s head. It’s luv, luv, luv, luv. He luvs this woman! She turns! It’s…Lucy! Groan – not the good kind.

I had a big problem with this book. There were so many things that left me wondering just who had written this. This book had all of the signs of a last book in a series. It was rushed, the plots meandered all over the place. I had the feeling I was in grade school again watching people in the throes of their first love. All we needed was for Gregory and Lucy to write notes: “I love you, if you love me check this box”. They were soooo immature, falling in and out of love at the drop of a hat. Then there was the added blackmail, treason, evil uncle, and kidnapping thrown in at the end. On the Way to the Wedding was allll over the place. Then there was the short-sentence-paragraph-filler.

Anyone remember Robin Schone?

She wrote like this.

That is what happened in this book.

I was scratching my heading wondering what was going on.

Why was Ms. Quinn filling the pages with sentences like this?

Overall. This was my least favorite book in the Bridgerton series. The plotline was all over the place, the characters were immature and the love/luv expressed in this book was just fickle. This story had the feel of a rushed job with different ideas thrown in just to get the writing done.
Time/Place: 1830s England
Sensuality: Warm

Memories Schmemories, It's in His Kiss by Julia Quinn

September 14, 2016

The in-your-face Bridgerton
At last it’s time for Hyacinth Bridgerton. Hyacinth has been a character in almost all of the books in the series. She is one of those scene-stealing secondary characters; one of those

characters that make us nervous about her own book. Will that book be good or will it be a dud? Will my expectations be met or will they be crushed under someone big old foot? Well, I'm happy to say It's in His Kiss worked for me.

Was Hyacinth a little bit over the top? Yes. Was she a character who some readers may not like? Yes. But for me she had all the ingredients needed to make me smile – even have some laugh-out-loud moments. It’s in His Kiss does justice to Hyacinth and Ms. Quinn writes her just how I imagined her to be.

Hyacinth is not married. She is not married because men run from her in fear. She is a younger version of the outrageous Lady Danbury, her idol. Hyacinth is outspoken, head-strong, competitive, intelligent, and honest. She knows no fear and she craves adventure. She does things that are outrageous, but because she is a Bridgerton she has never been condemned for her behavior. If she were an older woman, she would be called eccentric. She is a sparkling, dominating presence wherever she appears. I loved her.

Gareth on the other hand is the typical manly-man rake who inhabits Romanceland. Yeah, he has problems – his dad is the main one. For all of you people who love to make lists, maybe you could make a list of rotten dads in Romanceland. There sure seems to be a plethora.  Anyway, his father hates him. The reason for this hatred is Gareth really isn’t his son, so there is a strong dislike between the two of them, even more so now that Gareth’s older brother has died, leaving Gareth the heir. Gareth’s father-not-father has also cut Gareth off because he refused an arranged marriage. The only one who Gareth cares for is his grandmother Lady Danbury.

Lady Danbury. When one applies the term character to Lady Danbury it means more than just a character in a book. She’s been in a number of stories and I would categorize her as a scene-stealer. She’s a pretty entertaining woman, but she’s also a matchmaker and she thinks Hyacinth and Gareth would make a great couple. And, she’s right.

This is pretty much a character-driven story. The only external conflict comes from Gareth’s paternal grandmother’s diary and that’s not all that much. Most of the story focuses squarely on Hyacinth overwhelming Gareth and Gareth allowing her to overwhelm. Even with all of Hyacinth's strong-willed, adventurous, sparkling, take-over antics Gareth never loses any of his alpha manly-manliness.

For me, this story was great fun. Yes Hyacinth had her nose in everything and Gareth found her hard to resist, but I didn’t care. I had fun reading this book.

Time/Place: 1830s England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot