Friday

How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries

October 17, 2014
Let's be honest ladies...

http://www.sabrinajeffries.com/

and gents. Whenever I come across a romance novel in which our hero has big thighs which all the ladies are ogling, my eyes roll to the back of my head. Puleese, I say to myself.  Let me get this straight!  The hero saunters into the room with his tight white britches - or - he's lounging in a chair in the library with his ankles crossed and our intrepid heroine stumbles into the room. Oh dear!  Where does our heroines eyes flit to?  To the thighs.  Pffffft - sure they do.  Oh honesty, where art thou?  In my experience, when I was younger and as I advanced in age - when my eyes land on a guy with tight pants they do not go to the thighs - they go to the big ol' bulge between those manly thighs.  I suspect if all of us ladies and gents were honest that ol’ lump is where all of our eyes focus.  The air circulation from all the fluttering fans must had been enormous in the 19th century, to say nothing of all the tittering behind those fans when confronted with men in short jackets and tight white britches/breeches/trousers/pants. So, what's your point SidneyKay?  Well, I don't know if I really have a point, it’s just that big thighs turned up again in this book and triggered a ponder moment.  Why do authors continue to disguise sexual interest in a hero’s anatomy under the guise of big thighs? I think it's time to make a stand - it's not the thighs, it's the bulging package between we are interested in! Be brave, just say it!

Now, on to How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries, the third in The Duke's Men series. While this was a pleasant book, a comfort read of sorts, there were a number of unbelievable coincidences that made it impossible for me to say this story is a “must read.”  Let's examine some of these.

Our main characters are Tristan and Zoe and they have both been introduced in previous books, which may be a good thing seeing as how they quickly fall into lust. Having this couple quickly fall into the romance groping syndrome so soon also left the book without any romantic/sexual tension. That meant that the story basically depended on the plot, which in my opinion was trite. Here's what we have, we have Zoe, who happens to be one of those English women who can inherit a title/estate. Which is all well and good, however, her aunt has accidentally revealed to Zoe that Zoe was purchased from a Gypsy/Romany woman by the name of Drina. Because Zoe has a conscious (sort of) she decides to hire an investigator (instead of asking her father.) So, Zoe with the sort-of conscious goes to Tristan, who is partners with his half-brother in an investigating firm. Well, it seems that our Zoe is holding a sword over Tristan’s head because she saw something in the previous book that Tristan or his brother doesn't want anyone to know.

Tristan, as you may guess, has a problem with aristocrats. He's one of those heroes who because his father and half-brother were worthless he believes alllll aristocrats are worthless, hence he thinks Zoe is a silly woman who only likes clothes. He doesn't know she cares for her downtrodden people who live and work on her estate. But none of that aristocrat stuff matters because his Timothy Toad is directing his actions and her Victoria Valley is responding. But wait! Tristan is also doing some personal investigating that requires him to go north and ask questions of the Romany. Mmmmm, the Romany. He's looking for a man by the name of  Milosh. Remember that name, it comes up later. Now all Zoe and Tristan have to do is come up with some logical reasons for them to meet without chaperone, which they do. Well, I don’t know how logical their reasons are, but in no time they are meeting in secluded corners and table tops.  In the meantime, Zoe's father/maybe father is trying to get her interested in her American artist cousin Jeremy. All through the book Jeremy seemed to me to be hiding something, so I don't know if he's showing up again in another book or not, but he had the feel of a future hero about him.

After questioning people and pondering, Zoe jumps to the conclusion that maybe her adopted father is really her biological father and maybe he had a Romany mistress. Tristan, who is knowledgeable in the ways of the Romany (what hero isn't) says…no, that cannot be - the Romany people are very moral and that just wouldn't happen. Anyway, Zoe and Tristan are off questioning people again. Zoe, by the way has to go with Tristan everywhere he goes, I guess he just can't handle all that investigating on his own. Remember Milosh, the Romany who Tristan is looking for?  Well, he finds him and guess what? Milosh had a sister named Drina! OMG, what a coincidence! Could it be? Is Milosh's sister Zoe's mother? What do you think? Now Milosh is Uncle Milosh! But wait! There's more! We still don't know who Zoe's father is and what about the evvviillll half-brother of Tristan's, George? What about Zoe's adopted father? What about her goofy aunt? And what about Tristan's busybody sister? And will Zoe continue to fib so she can save her downtrodden people? There’s still more to the story before all the ends are finally tied...but you'll have to read it to fine out.

Ponder moments. While reading this story I ran into some "please-come-up-with-something-different" moments. Why do we continue to read about heroines who are tired of waiting...those poor unfortunates who just want to do "it" once before they die - before they marry - before they go to Europe - before they are released from the dungeon?  Another ponder moment.  What about those heroines who are better than any other woman our hero as ever had…ever?  They are more responsive, even though they don’t know what they are doing. They are just flapping around there on the bed. It’s never been like this for our hero before, these women are special. She is unlike any other woman before. Why? Sometimes I would actually like to know why she is so different from other women.  Another ponder moment.  Oh, those poor heroes who don’t think they can last if the heroine touches him.  His poor little Timothy Toad just might explode if she lays one of her digits on his – oh I don’t know – his collar-bone.  You know, just once I’d like to see a hero that loses control before he unbuttons his trousers.  Don’t get me wrong, this book is not the only one that has these moments.  No, they abound in lots and lots of romance stories. I think it’s time to find some new romance trope before they become trite.   

In the end, this book was a pleasant read, nothing earth-shaking. We didn't get to see Tristan and Zoe grow in their relationship, because it seemed to be formed almost immediately. There was some interesting information about the Romary people, but nothing that I haven't read before. However, if you don't want to lose touch with what is going on with this series, I suggest you read this book - just so ya know.

Time/Place: England 1816
Sensuality:Hot

Monday

A-Team Project - Then Came You and Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

October 5, 2014
Lisa Kleypas can produce drool worthy men!

http://www.lisakleypas.com/

So, I just finished reading my third Lisa Kleypas book in a row and all I can say is, boy does Lisa Kleypas create some really sinfully, hunky heroes. I would continue reading more of her books, but there are other authors calling my name. Maybe later.

After I finished with my Derek Craven adventure I decided to read the first book in the Gambler series, Then Came You, and then the semi-sequel, Devil in Winter, which has Evangeline Jenner featured as the heroine. Jenner is the daughter of Ivo Jenner, a character from Dreaming of You. Devil in Winter is also part of the Wallflowers series.  I'm so confused; I feel as if I'm looking at a ancestral chart for the royal families of Europe...so many connections.

Let's start with Then Came You, which introduces us to Lily Lawson as a heroine who seems to be bored with life, and like many people bored with life she overcompensates by being just a tad bit wild. At least that is the persona she presents to society. Then there is Alex Raiford, a rather uptight, cold man with tons and tons of responsibility dumped onto his shoulders.  He is not at all impressed with his first glimpse of the frivolous Lily ...probably because she jumps into the stinky Thames to retrieve her bonnet.  There is a reason Alex is disdainful of Lily and that is because his much loved fiancée fell and broke her neck in a hunting accident after not heeding his advice.

Then Came You is a perfect tale of two people who seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Silly Lily and stodgy Alex, although I have to say somehow Kleypas' stodgy guys are really quite hot. Anyway, when these two get together it's immediate firework time. The bickering and bantering is a joy to read. This book is filled with some really strong characters, especially Derek Craven, who almost steals the show.

I noticed when I read these particular Kleypas books that even though there is some kind of nefarious activity going on in all three of the stories, it is really the romance between the two main characters that fills the pages. In this book, Lily's daughter has been kidnapped and even though she is upset, for most of the book her emotional upheaval is because she is overwhelmed with her feelings for Alex. The missing child is very much a background story, which may have been just a little bit of an issue with me. I found myself questioning whether Lily wouldn't have been more upset than she was portrayed in this story. And, would a mother of a missing child have found time for the hot romance found in this book? The other issue I had was the very fast solution to the nefarious villain; it was almost an afterthought. Because the romance was so strong in this book, I wondered if the plot of the kidnapped child was even needed.

Regardless of the kidnap issue, this is a very strong book, a great companion piece to Dreaming of You and if you haven't read it yet, you really should. 

Time/Place: 1820 England
Sensuality: Hot!!!!




On to Devil in Winter. Devil in Winter is connected a bunch of other Kleypas stories and it's up to you just what order your going to read them in. I read this one because it is connected to Then Came You through the secondary character of Ivo Jenner. However, both the heroine Evangeline and the hero Sebastian are secondary characters in It Happened One Autumn. It is Sebastian who steals the show in this book, and what we have in his character is a romance novel redeemed villain. You see, in It Happened One Autumn, he is the bad guy. I will be honest, I didn't reread It Happened One Autumn so I don't remember how bad he was, but from the clues given in this book he must have been a real stinker. I should go back and read that one again too - later - later. Too many books, too little time.

Anyway, Sebastian is a pretty fascinating man. He is truly a bad boy in need of a heroine. He is one of those manly romance novel men that I, as a reader, wonder how he made it to thirty-two without contracting a disease. According to him, he's been careful. When this story begins he is nursing some wounds from his failed kidnapping of the heroine from the previous book when who should arrive on his doorstep but our heroine Evangeline, or Evie, as she is called through most of the book.

Sebastian is in need of some cash and Evie has a deal to make him. You see, she is one of those heroines with horrible relatives and she needs a husband to rescue her from their nefarious plans. She's looking for a man who isn't afraid of anyone and who has loose morals, hence Sebastian. They strike a bargain and are off on a race to Scotland to get married. Well, it doesn't take long for the insufferable Sebastian to fall - one of my favorite themes in romance is the debauched rake who stumbles through the love of a good woman. Devil in Winter is one of the better examples of a stumbling rake - I loved Sebastian's struggle with his emotions.

Evie is a great partner for Sebastian. There is more to Evie than just someone who is horribly shy and has a stammer. Underneath it all, she's quite a strong person, dare I say stubborn. While Sebastian says some pretty hurtful things to her, she doesn't let them subdue her for very long. In fact, in most of their encounters it is Sebastian who learns the lessons.

There is also a very funny wedding scene involving a Scottish blacksmith with a rather heavy brogue - a chuckle escaped me during Evie and Sebastian's wedding.

All in all, this was another very satisfying read and I highly recommend Devil in Winter, along with Then Came You and Dreaming of You. There were also numerous secondary characters who have books of their own and I must reread them. Let me say once again, I am very glad Ms. Kleypas is returning to historical romance; I'm sure we have some future manly men waiting for us to drool over.

Time/Place: England 1943
Sensuality: Hot!!!


Tuesday

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas - A-Team Project

September 30, 2014
Of course I did it out of order.

http://www.lisakleypas.com/

However, I don't think reading this particular series out of order will be too much of a
problem because the characters are so lovely that each book stands on it's own merit. I reread this in 2010 and fell in love all over again with Derek Craven, this time around I found him to be once again a remarkable character. I've also heard that Ms. Kleypas is writing another historical romance series for Avon...that makes me smile, for I have missed her very much.

This time around I noticed how much I liked the heroine Sara Felding.  I did think she suffered a little from a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde complex. Here character in the beginning of the book is totally different from the character she is portrayed as when she returns home.  I thought that she waited just a little too long to stand up for herself against her dreary fiance and I was glad when she did.  She eventually turned into a strong heroine and she really needed to be to be a match for Derek Craven.

Next to Sebastian from Lord of Scoundrels, Derek Craven is one of the most memorable romance hero created.  He's on my list. 

I don't have too much more to add to the review I've already done for Dreaming of You except, if you have never read this story you really should.  It should be a required reading for all romance readers. However, unlike me maybe you should start with Lily Lawson's story in Then Came You...and let me also add, Ms. Kleypas knows how to write some hot bedroom scenes.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday

Upcoming Historical Romances!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! For: October 15, 2014 to November 14, 2014. 
Ann Barton

Scandalous Summer Nights
A Honeycote series
October 28
Ashlyn Macnamara

What a Lady Demands, ebook
November 4
Beverly Jenkins

Destiny’s Captive
Destiny series
October 28
Carole Mortimer

Darian Hunter: Duke of Desire
Dangerous Duke’s series
October 21
Christine Merrill
Linda Skye
Elizabeth Rolls
 

Wish Upon a Snowflake, anthology
October 21
Elizabeth Boyle*

The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane
Rhymes with Love series
October 28
Elle Daniels, debut 

He’s No Prince Charming
Ever After series
October 28
Joanna Bourne*

Rogue Spy
Spymasters series
November 4
Kathleen Bittner Roth

Alanna
When Hearts Dare series
November 4
Lauri Robinson

The Wrong Cowboy
October 21
Leigh Greenwood

To Love and to Cherish
Cactus Creek Cowboys series
November 4
Lillian Marek

Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures
Victorian Adventures series
November 4
Lucy Ashford

The Rakes’ Bargain
October 21
Mary Balogh*

Only Enchanting
Survivors Club series
October 28
Mia Marlowe*

A Rake By Any Other Name
Somerfield Park series
November 4
Paula Quinn

The Wicked Ways of Alexander Kidd
Highland Heir series
October 28
Sally Orr,* debut

The Rake’s Handbook: Including Field Guide,
The Rake’s Handbook series
November 4
Stephanie Laurens

By Winter’s Light
Cynster series
October 28
Valerie Bowman

The Accidental Countess
Playful Brides series
October 28
Victoria Alexander*

The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding
Millworth Manor series
November, 4

Scandal and the Duchess by Jennifer Ashley

September 24, 2014
Fasten your seat belts, it's manly men time!

http://www.jenniferashley.com/
Looks like we have a prologue into another series or maybe it’s just a continuation of the MacKenzie family. Depends on how one looks at it. This one is a short story about Captain Stephen McBride whose sister is married to a MacKenzie. There are three other McBride brothers, so, I’m assuming there will be three more stories filled with manly men who have slight Scottish accents and know their way around a bedroom. Of course they will be big big men with big feet and they will be drool worthy, because Ms. Ashley does not write about skinny guys without muscles.

Anyway, in Scandal and the Duchess, our hero is Stephen McBride who is on a short military leave to deliver some bad news to a woman he thinks still loves him or something like that. Honestly, this part of the story was superfluous and didn’t add too much to the tale. For some reason, Stephen is rip roaring drunk and ends up tumbling into our intrepid heroine’s lap. That lap would belong to Rose. Anyway, even when he’s drunker than a skunk he recognizes a lush little bundle when he falls into it. It is immediate lust, and I guess with a short story it would have to be, but then he's  one of those manly men, so who knows. 

There is a plot, sort of. Rose is a dowager widow in need of money because her nefarious step-son won’t give her any. Stephen has taken a liking to our little Rose and has decided to help Rose get the inheritance that was left to her. That would be two pieces of furniture. Rose believes that the two pieces of furniture have something hidden in them. Could be – could be. While Rose's problem is solved are introduced to the rest of the McBride brothers. Of course Ian MacKenzie shows up to solve the secret of the furniture mystery. But really this story is about Stephen and Rose falling into bed together and having mind blowing sex.

This is an ok book, not much to it. The characters are not very well developed and it can be viewed as the intro for the much larger book that is being released in October, Rules for a Proper Governess, which is Sinclair McBrides' story.

Time/Place: Bustle time in England
Sensuality: Hot

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

September 24, 2014
Let’s Do Lunch

http://robert-galbraith.com/us/

I finally finished The Silkworm the second in private investigator Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. In case you don’t know by now Robert Galbraith is JK Rawlings, which
leads me to a ponder moment.  

Moment: Is it better to be a writer who creates a phenomenon first story or is it better to write mediocre books, get your footing, then have a phenomenon? In a way I feel sorry for JK Rawlings.  Harry Potter will always cast a shadow over everything she does, but hey, she’s met the Queen and I haven’t.

Back to private eye Cormoran Strike. I actually liked the first in the series, The Cuckoo's Calling, but The Silkworm was a big disappointment. It took me forever to read, the middle of the book dragged and I had to force myself to finish it.

In The Silkworm, we get a glimpse into the publishing world seen through the eyes of JK Rawlings, aka Robert Galbraith.  And, it’s not a very pleasant glimpse. First of all our murder victim is an author and all of the suspects have connections with the publishing world.  None of the characters are likeable. The whole book had a murky depressing feel about it. When the story begins, Cormoran Strike has been hired to find a missing author by the authors wife.  Find him Cormoran does; only he’s dead. Now, because the police force of Great Britain seems to be bumbling boobs, they arrest the wife. Cormoran knows she’s not the killer and of course Cormoran is always right, so most of the book is taken up with finding the real murderer. How does he do this? Well, he seems to do a lot suspect questioning in restaurants and pubs. We get to watch him go from one food place to another as he questions all of the suspects. Lots and lots and lots of boring questions. This is not a thriller; actually there isn’t any tension at all.

When I read a mystery/murder story I like to be given enough information to see if I can solve the crime before Hercule/Sherlock/Marple/Spade do. It is always a race toward the end to see which one of us will be first with the solution. In this whodunit the reader is never given any clues. That is because Mr. Strike is a know it all. He either tells us who isn’t guilty or he keeps almost everything to himself with the annoying use of partial sentences and incomplete thoughts. Part of the joy I get out of reading mystery books isn’t reading about the gore that’s covering the pages but trying to solve the problem. After a while I didn’t really care who murdered the author, I just wanted it to end.

I was also disturbed with the glimpse into the publishing world that we are given by Ms. Rawlings/Galbraith. Oh not the murderous villain or the many giant egos that were exposed throughout the tale.  No, I was disturbed by a certain biting undercurrent that was representative of the publishing world portrayed in this particular book. This story was filled with unkind people, authors who think they are more literate than other others because they write words with four syllables, all the while they belittle authors who write "female porn" (romance.) While I realize that all businesses have vicious backstabbing people in it, this one seemed to have an overabundance of it. There wasn’t one character in this book I could cheer on. This seemed to be a book with an axe to grind.

Let me talk about our hero, Cormoran Strike. For some reason in this story I didn’t care for him all that much. Sure, he had his leg blown off in Afghanistan, but I got tired of hearing about it hurting or being red or swollen or his prosthetic not fitting or having to wear crutches or his balance being off…whine whine whine. It’s time for Mr. Whiney guy to fade into the background. Then there is his sleazy user attitude toward women. By the way, for all of his supposed brilliance he is very lacking in understanding his partner/secretary/helper Robin. Maybe it's because of his hair. Hair! He has hairy knuckles and hairy hands. He has big big feet, he’s a big guy. He’s almost like Hagrid, and I’m sorry I just never thought Hagrid was all that sexy – but women seem to fall all over themselves to jump into bed with Cormoran.

I did see possibilities in the Robin character, but she doesn’t have as much play in this story as she did in the last.  Whenever she made her appearance the book became interesting, although, I hope she dumps her horrible boyfriend.  Both Robin and Cormoran could use more character development, because in this book they aren’t any further along than they were in the first one.

I was disappointed in the second Cormoran Strike book; we don’t learn anything new about Robin or Cormoran. It was just a bland story. I may read the third in the series, but if it’s not any better than this one, I’ll probably pass on the entire series.

Time/Place: Current time Great Britain
Sensuality: None
Gore: Plenty

Monday

My Highland Spy by Victoria Roberts

September 15, 2014
"Ti-i-i-ime is on my side - yes it is."

http://www.victoriarobertsauthor.com/

My Highland Spy is the first book in Victoria Roberts' new Highland Spies series and it also happens to be the first book by Ms. Roberts that I've read.  I was pleased with Ms.
Roberts' book and it won't be the last by her I will read.  Now, did the book blow me away? No. It was a charming book but there seemed to be a certain lack of any depth to it. 

I am always encouraged when I find a new author with promising talent. Sure this is not Ms. Roberts' first book - she has three other books under her belt - but for me she is a new author. I understand how hard it is to write a romance. One pours so much of oneself into those words - sleepless nights, doubts, sweat and then the nail biting moments when you give it to a friend to read or read it yourself and realize how much more work you have to do.  I'm saying that because I do not take criticism of books lightly, although I will admit I do have an occasional sarcastic word escaping my pen. I am often disappointed in authors who I have loved for ages and seem to have lost some of their magic. On the other hand, I can appreciate young authors who are finding their way and with just a little nudge can become really good. In the case of Ms. Roberts, I believe she needs to slow down her story lines and more fully develop her characters. While the characters in this book are engaging, they could have been so much more if more detail had been given to them - this book needed more atmosphere.

Let's ponder time. Time ponder one. This story takes place in the time period of James VI of England (June 19, 1566 – March 27, 1625) but it felt as if the characters were 21st century people dressed up in costumes. Usually in historicals we are bombarded with dress/costume details and in my opinion this time period was abundant with complicated clothing which identifies it. However, I never had a sense as to what any of these people were wearing unless it was a kilt. Incorporating clothing details would have been one way of establishing some kind of feel for the time period it was set in. Or - language. While we do have some Scottish brogue and even an abundance of Gaelic, the spoken/written English in this book sounds modern, unlike the interesting cadence of 17th century English. For example, just look at this sentence from Prince Frederick to Princess Elizabeth: "I beg of you, be not distressed."  There is no way that could be mistaken for 21st century language, and I still know what the meaning of that sentence is. While I would find it hard to read an entire book filled with 17th century language, there could have been a few words scattered here and there to enhance the feeling of the time period the author was going for.

Time ponder two. My Highland Spy takes place over a time period of a couple of months; however, the only reason I know this is because the author told me. If not for the occasional "time passes" inserted in the book I would not have realized that any more time than a few weeks had gone by.

Characters. Our heroine Ravenna is a spy and I'm not sure I bought into her being one. The courts of James VI and his predecessors were filled with intrigue, so one really had to be on one toes. There were numerous people who weren't and ended up on the block. Ravenna didn't use intrigue to spy - she was more of a Mati Hari kind of spy (and Mati Hari was not all that good at the spy business). Lurking behind a pillar doesn't mean good spying. So, she is sent to Scotland to "spy" on our hero Ruairi Sutherland and teach his son how to speak English. That's her disguise - teaching. It doesn't take long before Ravenna and Ruairi are in lust and kilts are flying by the wayside. But Ruairi has problems of his own, someone’s killing his cows.  He confides his troubles to Ravenna then finds out she's a spy - oh, will they ever have there happy ending?  There are some secondary characters running around in kilts being manly men.  One in particular, Fagan, is slugged in the face by Ravenna's sister, Grace - their book is next, should be great fun and I'm looking forward to their story.

I do not want to put any pressure on Ms. Roberts, but I am going to keep an eye on her and see to what heights she takes her writing. Overall, this was a pleasant read. Even though it's a "spy" story, there isn't too much distrust angst that last very long. If I had been able to feel the time period that this story takes place in, it would have taken this book to a whole other level. Just a little tweak here and there would have made all the difference. It would have made a simply charming story into a great story. However, I am interested in this series and I will be picking up the next book to see where Ms. Roberts takes me.

Time/Place: 17th century England and Scotland
Sensuality: Hot