All About Romance aka AAR Project

March 23, 2018
Ah, those brainstorms. Yes, I had a brainstorm which might help with my reading slump. I'm a big fan of the website All About Romance - have been for years. I even contribute to that big old end of the year list. So, I know they have lots and lots of lists on their website. They have lots and lots of different kinds of lists. You have to do some hunting, but listed under their Annual Readers Poll are some gems. So, I went into their "Favorite Books by Favorite Authors" and did some shopping. Do I care that these lists haven't been updated since 2009? For my purposes - no. After perusing, I have picked a nice little selection of old books to get me through. Some I've read, some I have not. But I am excited.

First one up: The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie - 2005. Even though I am not finished with this one, things are looking up - I just laughed out loud. That's always a good sign.


From Governess to Countess by Marguerite Kaye

March 22, 2018

Marguerite Kaye's series Made in Scandal takes us on a journey to St. Petersburg, Russia in From Governess to Countess. And, that's all right by me. A change of scenery is sometimes beneficial, especially if you are given the words that take you there. While I applaud Ms. Kaye's attempt to entice by moving the scenery to a different climate, I didn't think it necessarily worked. For me, it might as well have been located in a cold England. While all the historical "stuff" which I identify with Russia in the 1800s was there, the ambience of the place didn't come alive for me. Maybe my problem is I've read an awfully lot of non-fiction books about historical Russia. I'm very much aware of just how horrible Russian nobility was. The elite of Russian society would have been a hard path to maneuver through. Especially if you were a governess. Which is what our heroine Allison Galbraith is. You know, a mind, which is distracted while reading can be a terrible thing. I was immediately disturbed with the scene in the beginning of the book. In that scene our hero, Count Aleksei Derevenko, takes his governess, Allison, to an aristocratic party and introduces her around, as a guest. I found it hard to believe that a lowly governess would even be allowed to cross through the doors of any palace in Russia, especially as a guest. When it comes to Romanceland, there are a lot of things I will gloss over, or even come to accept if the writing interest me. For me, this scene became a big blinking red light flashing before my eyes. But I continued, even though I don't think a governess would have been allowed on the dance floor - I persevered. Even though I knew in about 100 years the society these people belonged to would disappear under a barrage of bullets - I persevered. You see, I had to finish some kind of book in 2018.

Here’s the plot. Allison Galbraith is an herbalist who has been disgraced in England. She is given another chance by a mysterious woman calling herself “The Procurer”.  Allison is packed off to Russia to help Count Aleksei with his orphaned nieces and nephew. She will pretend to be a governess while all the time helping Aleksei solve the murder of his brother and sister-in-law. Aleksei must have a foreign herbalist because he cannot trust any Russian. So, this story has a romance, two murders, three resentful children, the decadent court of Alexander I, and a boatload of suspects for us to shift through. Even though it had all the ingredients to make a good story, for me there just wasn’t any spark.

First the romance between Allison and Aleksei lacked chemistry. Oh sure, they fell instantly in-lust, but I wouldn’t have realized that if I hadn’t been told that they were hot for each other. There wasn’t any fire. The three children were introduced later in the book than I expected. They were pretty flat; there wasn’t any chemistry between Allison and the children – good or bad. They start out resenting her, we are told - then they don’t. This is a case where the children in the book do not steal the show. Then there are the murders to be solved. What can I say about the murder/mystery? No thrill, no suspense, then it is solved solved.

Tours. I guess because this book takes place in Imperial Russia, we are given guided tours of the place. We get to look at room, after room of over-indulgence. Even though everything is described in detail, there was a lack of life brought to these settings. Sometimes when I read a book I can actually feel the place, smell it, and hear all the sounds floating around. I couldn’t find any ambience of a place in this story.

While I finished this story, sad to say it was hard to do so. I didn’t find any of the characters in the tale exciting and what should have been a colorful setting turned out to be just gray. Big disappointment, I was hoping for something to pull be out of my slump.

Time/Place: Russia during Alexander I early reign
Sensuality: Flat


March 14, 2018
DNF vs Return to TBR
If you are wondering why I haven't done too many reviews lately, I'll tell you. It's not that I haven't read any books. Far from it. It's just that I have been setting aside the ones I've started for a variety of reasons. So, are these DNF books or are they return to TBR books? I don't know, yet. Only time will tell if I return to the following books. 

From Duke to Dawn by Eva Leigh. The story of lost love started out promising. Then it turned into a pickpocket-secret-identity story which takes place inside of a gambling establishment. Too much angst for me to think about. Got to page 59.

Bedchamber Games by Tracy Warren. Woman disguised as a man story, made it to page 19.

The Trouble with True Love by Laura Lee Guhrke. You know, I love Ms. Guhrke. She's one of my auto-buys. However when I stumbled across the words "no-win" I was totally thrown out of this story. This takes place sometime in the Victorian era; there are telegrams and trains, etc. So we are getting close to modern time and I know slang was used in all time periods. But there was just something about the term "no-win" that stopped me and made me turn to ye' olde' dictionary. The term "no-win" first showed up in American English language in the 1960s. At least according to my dictionary. But, I continued reading until I arrived at page 61. On this page our hero has a fading black eye injury which he is looking at in a mirror. He comments to his valet that it makes him look like an Apache. Once again I was stopped by a plethora of questions running through my head. First of all, how would he know what an Apache looks like? Was he out west or did he see them in a movie? Wait a minute, movies weren't around yet. Maybe he saw a photograph taken by Edward Curtis, but since I don't know the date of this story I don't know if that is possible. While Edward Curtis took a couple of photographs in 1895, it wasn't until 1906 that he started his giant photographic project of taking photographs of Native Americans. So, I doubt he would have seen any photographs. In what way is the black/purple eye like an Apache? I was flummoxed; thrown out of the story and had to check that a veteran author was indeed the writer. Also, correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't Apache be capitalized? It wasn't. I made it to page 61.

The Rogue is Back in Town by Anna Bennett.I became annoyed with the heroine who is trying to save her family allllll on her own. Stopped at page 30.

My Once and Future Duke
by Caroline Linden. Aakkk! Another gambling den! Made it to page 44, which made me sad because I was looking forward to this book.

Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas. It pains me to say this, but I was so underwhelmed by the latest by Lisa Kleypas I could not go on. This made me sad because Ms. Kleypas is one of my favorites. But I could just not connect with the hero and heroine. Page 75.

Devil in Tartan by Julia London. A supposedly smart hero whose brain dissolves at the sight of a female chest. Stopped at page 17.

A Devil in Scotland by Suzanne Enoch. I was very distracted by the heroine marrying her dead husband’s brother. Granted I know nothing about Scottish marriage laws. I know that Scotland was a lot different from England when it came to marriages, and maybe in Scotland one could marry a brother's wife. But there wasn't anything in the book that let me know that, and I spent way tooooo much time trying to find the answer. I wish Ms. Enoch had stated the laws in the beginning of the book or made the brothers cousins. I still don't know what this marriage would have been called in Scotland. I also ended up trying to read Canon law - it wasn't pretty. Besides that, the hero was a real bonehead. Made it to page 71.

So as you can see, I'm really trying. If only others would cooperate.


A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen

March 12, 2018
You call it coincidence, I call it circular.

Kelly Bowen is really blooming into a very good writer. In A Duke in the Night, the first book in the Devils of Dover series, we have August Faulkner, the Duke of Holloway and Clara
Hayward. Usually I focus on the heroes in the book. But in this one, even though I loved the way August Faulkner was written, Clara Hayward stole the show. What a wonderfully drawn heroine. The writing of her character was very subtle, very understated; and yet she proved to be very strong, again and again. I loved Clara, she will join my list of memorable women characters. Watching August and Clara play off of each other was quite captivating.

August is controlling. He has his reasons for that control. You see, his father was in debtors prison. He and his sister, Anne, had quite a struggle surviving when they were young. Now he is a Duke and has accumulated great wealth over the years. He buys out failing businesses, takes them apart, and then puts them back together in ways which work. He is brilliant when it comes to business, but sometimes he misses the effect his restructuring of businesses has on the people involved. His way is the right way, which is why he cannot understand why his sister Anne is so very unhappy. He gives her everything any woman would be happy with: clothes, jewels, etc. He has her life all planned out for her. So, he is blindsided when she sort of runs away to the Haverhall School for Young Ladies. I say sort of because she does leave behind a “don’t worry about me” note – which as anyone with parenting experience knows doesn’t work. Haverhall School for Young Ladies is owned by Clara Hayward.

Everything is circular. Once upon a time Clara Hayward was a young, wealthy, wallflower. Men would avoid her at all costs. She didn’t fit in with the rest of the flibbertigibbets. Why? Well, it would seem that a young Clara was extremely intelligent and most men were not looking for someone who was smarter than they could ever hope to be. One evening while Clara was being a wallflower at a dance, a very young August asked her to dance. While Clara may have been young, she didn’t just get off the boat yesterday. She only has to look across the dance floor to see a group of sniggering young men and realize that August’s asking is a set-up. Yes, he only asks her to dance on a dare. Even though she knows she is being mocked, she accepts his dance anyway. It isn’t long into the dance that Clara is holding the upper-hand. It is a dance which neither August nor Clara will forget.

Fast forward 10 years. August is now a wealthy Duke. He’s a powerful, ruthless, business man. He is interested in buying the Strathmore shipping company. The Strathmore shipping company is on its last legs, just the kind of thing August loves to take apart and rebuild. Now it just so happens that the shipping company is owned by Clara’s brother. Clara and her sister will do anything to help their brother save the family shipping company. Clara has sold her beloved school and property to help keep her brother afloat (so to speak). In his never ending quest to own the world, August has purchased Clara’s school. This is before he finds out that his sister has skedaddled off to Clara’s Haverhill School for Young Ladies. But he has developed a plan. Ah, nothing better than a hero with a plan. He plans on bringing his sister back and while he’s at it he will also persuade Clara to introduce him to her brother. Once the introductions are done, it will be very easy for August to buy the company. Poor August.  August is in way over his head in his dealing with Clara; he also is very much out of touch with his sister. While Clara may not know all of August’s dealings, especially the part about who owns the school, she doesn’t let August get away with a whole lot in this story. As I said before, Clara is a strong woman, she is the dominating character in this story. She is a very liberated, comfortable in her own skin, and she doesn’t have to become a tyrant to win. She uses her intelligence to succeed, and most of the time August just never knows what is happening to him.

Everything in this story is connected to something else, it was all so circular. I loved the way it was written. I loved the way Clara’s brother supported her, how he listened to her, how he let her make her own decisions. There was a great boatload of secondary characters, probably too many to squeeze into this series. Clara’s sister and brother will both probably have their own book. I’m not so sure about August’s sister Anne, but she may. There were also a number of interesting girls enrolled in the school. By the way, what a great school curriculum.

Overall, this is a book which is not to be missed. I highly recommend it, And, Kelly Bowen is an up and coming author who everyone needs to keep an eye on. She’s just getting better and better.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


My Fair Lover by Nicole Jordan

February 28, 2018
It’s Way Back Machine Time!

You just never know when you’re going to be transported back to the days when heroes were boneheads, and, we in Romanceland seemed to accept these twit-clowns. Thank goodness they seem to be rarer now than they used to be. Or are they? I guess I wouldn’t be able to give out the Steve Morgan Bonehead Award every year if they had vanished from the Romanceland landscape.

Well, my little Petunias, we have a bonehead hero lurking in the pages of Nicole Jordan’s My Fair Lover: Brandon Deverill. Supposedly this story is a twist on the Pygmalion/My Fair Lady story, only it’s the guy who needs to be spruced up in this tale. But first, let me say a couple of things about Pygmalion/My Fair Lady. I’m not really too fond of the George Bernard Shaw’s interpretation of the Greek legend – it’s really quite misogynistic. I am also not all that keen on the My Fair Lady movie with a 100 year old Rex Harrison cast opposite a much, much, younger, skinny Audrey Hepburn. But, hey that just me. By the way, Mr. Harrison was probably not 100 when he starred in My Fair Lady.

While I’m still rambling, it struck me as odd that Brandon needed to be refurbished. He already had associates in society. Just because he went off to fight in the war of 1812, doesn’t mean he was some backward hick who spits tobac-cy into a nearby fern. He already knew how society worked, and he was an Earl. What other requirements would he have needed to find a aristocratic marriage partner? So this part of the plot, the whole reason for the antagonists to be together - didn’t work for me. Just so you know, if you really want to read a romance book where the refurbishing of a man works, I recommend The Proposition by Judith Ivory.

Back to the story, and why Brandon is a Bonehead. Once upon a time, Brandon was an American privateer who somehow hung around Lady Katherine Wilde’s family. They are both very young; she is 17 and he is, I believe, 20 or 21. She has developed a humongous crush on him. But, he is going to America to fight in the war. What’s a girl to do? She decides to seduce him. I betcha’ he won’t go then! A lot you know. In the only scene where Brandon is half-way honorable, he turns down a naked Katherine’s attempt to bed him. What a guy. Then he leaves and she is crushed. She will never forgive him, never speak to him, he’s a cad. She, of course, will not look at another man for the next six years. Surprise, surprise, surprise romance readers – she will only marry for love!

Six years pass. Brandon, a new earl, decides he needs to marry. So, he returns to England and decides he will marry Katherine. Now, here’s the deal. He doesn’t believe in love. What! A romance hero who doesn’t believe in love! Could it be his parents had a miserable marriage? You know what that means? You guessed it! He can never luv anyone because of his parents – blah, blah, blah. So, why does he pick Katherine? He knows she wants love in her marriage. Why doesn’t he leave her alone? He doesn’t want love? Right from the start he plots and schemes and lies to her. He tries to make her jealous (I hatesssssss games). One minute he doesn’t want her love because he can’t return it, then the next moment he is trying to make her fall in love with him – even though he will never love her!!! He was a real twit! I also want to know why it is Brandon who decides whether they use a sponge, (I’m not talking dishes either). Speaking of which, how do those things work in romance books? Were they one size fits all? Just how tight was that silken ribbon around the sponge tied? Would our heroine know about the side-effects of using one of those things? All that bacteria just waiting makes me cringe. My mind always has tons of questions whenever I see this method of birth-control used in the 17th,18th, 19th century romance books. But the main thing about the sponge in this book: Why is Brandon the one who decides whether they use it or not?

Then we have a journey over the sea to find the graves of her parents. There is only one person who can help them in their search. The dread pirate Louvel. Louvel is holding a grudge against Brandon. It seems that somewhere in their past Brandon stole Louvel’s mistress away from him or something like that. So, Louvel hatessssss Brandon – but Louvel will help him because he is charmed my Katherine. In fact, Louvel flirts with Katherine in a kind of sleaze-ball way. Here’s the thing, Louvel has a very lovely, nice, charming, young mistress, Gabrielle. Gabrielle would do anything for him; she loves him and she wants to marry him. Did I mention that Katherine is a matchmaker? Well, she is. She decides to match-make Louvel with his mistress. At this point I thought – “oh, a secondary romance.” Maybe that was the intent, but here’s the thing – spoiler alert. As the story starts to wind down, Louvel actually tries to murder Brandon. He puts him in a cave which is filling with water. Besides being a cold-blooded killer-maniac, Louvel is a creepy guy, abusive, and psychotic. Do you know what Brandon and Katherine do in the end? They give Louvel a strong talking to and leave that lovely, nice, Gabrielle with him. Katherine is a matchmaker after-all. I couldn’t believe that they would leave poor Gabrielle behind with an abusive man.

Bottom-line. This is a predictable book with the tired, often repeated: I-cannot-luv-because-of-my-parents-mother-father routine. The hero was a selfish, manipulating, twit. Louvel should have been locked up. Katherine and Gabrielle should have dumped the guys and opened up a resort together. I cannot recommend this book.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Boring Hot


Holy Cannoli! It's Time for Upcoming Historical Romances!!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! March 15, 2018 to April 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.

A.S. Fenichel
A Lady’s Honor
Everton Domestic Society
April 3

Anne Gracie
Marry in Scandal
Marriage of Convenience series
April 3

Candace Camp
His Wicked Charm
The Mad Morelands series
March 27

Christi Caldwell
The Hellion
Wicked Wallflowers
April 3

Elizabeth Beacon
A Wedding for the Scandalous Heiress
March 20

Eva Leigh
Counting on a Countess
London Underground series
March 27

Greta Gilbert
In Thrall to the Enemy Commander
March 20

Jenna Jaxon
To Woo a Wicked Widow
Widow's Club series
March 27

Jenni Fletcher
Captain Amberton's Inherited Bride
March 20

Lauri Robinson
In the Sheriff’s Protection
Oak Grove series
March 20

Lenora Bell
What a Difference a Duke Makes
School for Dukes series
March 27

Louise Allen
The Earl's Practical Marriage
March 20

Marguerite Kaye
From Courtesan to Convenient Wife
Matches Made in Scandal series
March 20

Sabrina Jeffries
The Secret of Flirting
The Sinful Suitors series
March 27

Susanna Craig
The Companion’s Secret
Rogues and Rebels series
April 3


Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath

February 22, 2018

I have never experienced reading a Lorraine Heath book. Oh sure, I have one in my TBR pile, but Beyond Scandal and Desire is my first read. I was pleasantly surprised, especially since I'm not a big fan of the revenge plot. This story begins Ms. Heath's newest series, Sins for All Seasons. I'm guessing this series will revolve around a group of "siblings" who were abandoned as babies to a woman named Ettie Trewlove. There are two women, Gillian and Fancy, and four men, Aiden, Finn, Mick and Ben/Beast. Beast is the one with the requisite scar. None of them are related except for Finn and Aiden, however, they consider themselves to be family. Even though the blood relationship between the siblings is weak, there is nonetheless a sibling bond between all of them. They grew up in the dredges of London and their loyalty to each other is something that cannot be denied. They are also very devoted to the woman who took them in, Ettie. She is the woman they look on as their mother. She has their love and respect.

Mick Trewlove is seeking revenge on the man who abandoned him when he was a baby. He knows who the man is. The man is the Duke of Hedley. The Duke has a son, Kip, and is also guardian to Lady Aslyn. Lady Aslyn's parent were killed when she was a young child and she has grown up in the Duke's household. She has also grown up very sheltered in their household. She knows that they love her and she loves them in return. She has a great affection for Kip and expects that someday she and Kip will marry. Everyone just kind of expects it. Aslyn is comfortable with her situation. Oh sure, sometimes she feels as if she's missing something, but she hasn't found the need to find out what that missing something is. Then Mick Trewlove crosses her path.

Mick Trewlove does not cross Lady Aslyn's path by accident. He has made up his mind that ruining Kip through Lady Aslyn is the perfect way to get his revenge on Hedley. So, with the help of his spunky sister, Fancy, he meets the two one evening on an outing. It wasn't long before I found myself becoming absorbed by the story.

What I found so fascinating was that this was more than just a romance story. All the secondary characters were well-rounded, they are part of the story of Mick and Aslyn and I was never distracted by their presence. I liked Mick a lot. Sure he wanted to get revenge, but it wasn't long after he meet Aslyn that he began to struggle with his idea of revenge. He finds himself drawn to Aslyn and not too much time passes before he's running into problems with his grand revenge plan and fighting his need for Aslyn.

Aslyn is almost too good to be true. She isn't class conscious at all. She has no problem with Mick's family and is fascinated with how Mick has made his way up from the dregs of the London streets. I was worried for a while that she wouldn't stand up for herself when it came to her engagement with Kip. However, almost from the moment she becomes engaged to her childhood friend, she starts to question the wisdom of their engagement. She recognizes that there isn't any spark between the two of them. When she finds out that Kip is addicted to gambling, she is very up front with Kip and tells him where he can get off.

While I enjoyed the romance between Aslyn and Mick very much, I was equally fascinated with Kip, Hedley and Hedley's wife. All three of these secondary characters had enormous problems, which can be a big distraction to some stories. In this case, the secondary plotlines were given just the right amount of time in the story. They added to the overall plotline instead of detracting from it. I found all of these secondary characters very intriguing.

Bottom-line. I loved this story. It was a full, robust tale of more than just romance. It was emotionally satisfying and I can hardly wait for the next in the series. I was pretty impressed with Lorraine Heath's Beyond Scandal and Desire.

Time/Place: 1870s England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot