Tuesday

Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

October 28, 2014
Never work with children or animals.

http://www.elizabethhoyt.com/

There is a reason for that old show business adage. The reason actors don't like working with children or animals is that they steal scenes. The audience is interested in what that child or animal will be doing next and doesn't care what's going on around them. I believe the same can be said about adding children and animals to books. An author needs to tread very carefully when adding these scene-stealers. Well, in Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt there are two scene thieves: an adorable child and an equally adorable dog. I was especially fond of the dog because at one time I was the proud (or embarrassed) owner of an Italian Greyhound. The dog in this story, Daffodil, is an Italian Greyhound and if there is a more goofy, loveable, fun breed of dogs I wouldn't know where to find one. Nothing says sillier than having to carry a dog because they are afraid of falling leaves. Anyway, I thought the boy, Indio, was adorable and actually quite enjoyable and he was needed in this story for the plot to work. If he had been the only distraction to the story it would have worked a lot better, but Ms. Hoyt added the dog and as much as I love Greyhounds, Daffodil was just a little too much.
 
Now, to our hero and heroine, Apollo Greaves, Viscount Killbourne; and Lily Stump. If you are following Ms. Hoyt's Maiden Lane series, you will know Apollo from previous books. He has just recently escaped from Bedlam. Not only does he have the dark experience of Bedlam hanging over his head, he's also been accused of being a murderer and on top of that he's mute. Needless to say, Apollo's a bit of an angsty guy. I was actually a little surprised that with all of the doom and gloom surrounding him, he had quite a sense of humor. I especially enjoyed his encounters with his male acquaintances/friend. Speaking of which, on top of the scene-stealing dog and child, one of the secondary characters just jumps off the pages - the Duke of Montgomery. I am really excited about his story and I wish it were next.
 
There is an almost immediate attraction between Apollo and Lily. Who can blame Lily. After all, she is presented with one of those wet, shirtless, hero-in-water scenes, so it's hard for her to think straight. For a short time, she thinks he is mentally deficit, which leads to some funny scenes, and it isn't long before she figures out the only thing wrong with him is an inability to talk. 
 
Over a period of time they become friends, then lovers.  I loved Lily and Apollo as a couple. They both have issues and secrets, but they trust each other enough to talk about those issues. By the way, the sensuality in the book is very hot!
 
I was also pleased that even though there was a separation in class between Apollo and Lily, and even though Lily had some qualms about being accepted into Apollo's world, that issue wasn't made into a BIG I'm-not-good-enough quandary.  And while I liked this story very much, I have noticed in the few last couple or so romances that I've read in order for our couple to have HEA they have to do some mighty big lying to do so. In fact I'd say that a few of our recent HEA couples are reduced to what might be considered unethical behavior if not down-right illegal activities. I believe in all the cases they have involved hiding the identity of the adorable child.
 
Even with a tad bit shady HEA, I thought this was a wonderful book and I really recommend it. I've loved all of the Maiden Lane series and this one is a great addition to this wonderful series. Next up is Captain James Trevillion and blind Phoebe. 
 
Time/Place: Regency England  
Sensuality: Hot!!!!!!!!

Christmas Brides by Suzanne Essex, Alexandra Hawkins, Elizabeth Essex, Valerie Bowman

October 28, 2014
Novellas should come with a warning.

I need to start checking copyright dates better before buying books, except it's harder to do when one is using an electronic device. You just cannot pick the book up and look at the

copyright page anymore. Oh well, once again I purchased an anthology with four short stories, all of which have been published before (or at least 3 of them have): Christmas Brides with Suzanne Enoch, Alexandra Hawkins, Elizabeth Essex, and Valerie Bowman. Thank goodness I had read only one in this group - too bad it was the one by Suzanne Enoch, who is the reason why I bought the book in the first place.

http://www.suzanneenoch.com/
http://www.alexandrahawkins.com/
It only took me 15 pages and a repeated, "boy does this sound familiar," before it dawned on me that I had read One Hot Scot by Enoch recently. So, even though I remember liking the story, I moved on to the next story in the book, Once Upon a a Christmas Scandal by Alexandra Hawkins. This short story is one in  Hawkin's Lord of Vice series. It has Lady Ellen, who has a big dowry and tons of suitors, and Lord Swainsbury, who is hanging around being a suitor. There is a silly villain who has one of those dramatic, over-the-top scenes at the end of the tale. I lost interest in this story pretty fast. It had the feel of being slapped together rather quickly. I was disappointed.




http://www.elizabethessex.com/
On I drudged. Next was A Scandal to Remember by Elizabeth Essex. This is a horrible parent story with Ian's (hero) father trying to force him to marry and Ann, a mousey woman who has parents who are eager to be rid of her. This short story turned into a "story that wouldn't end." I tried - oh, how I tried to continue. However, I couldn't connect with any of the people in this story and I just had to move on. I was unable to finish A Scandal to Remember.


 

http://www.valeriegbowman.com/
Sigh. I moved on to It Happened Under the Mistletoe by Valerie Bowman, hoping for something that would justify my purchase. When the story began with the heroine and the hero both hiding from their suitors in a closet I thought - oh good, something funny. Alas and alack, it never traveled down the funny road for me. Neither Oliver or Cerian are well developed, and it was hard to understand why they fell in love with each other. So I struck out again. 



Bottom line, I didn't find any of the stories that I read very interesting and I was even unable to finish one of them. I know - I know - one takes chances with short stories. However, I've read some pretty outstanding little gems, so I know it's possible for them to be out there. Sad to say this didn't get me into the Christmas spirit,  nor can I recommend Christmas Brides.

Thursday

Upcoming Historical Romance!!!!

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

In Bed with a Spy
Spy in the Ton series
December 7, 2014
Ann Lethbridge

Captured Countess
November 18, 2014
Carol Arens

Outlaw Hunter
November 18, 2014
Eileen Dreyer

Twice Tempted
Drakes’ Rakes series
November 25, 2014
Jayne Fresina

Sinfully Ever After
Book Club Belles Society series
December 2, 2014
Jennifer Delamere

A Bride for the Season
Love’s Grace trilogy
November 25, 2014
Marguerite Kaye

Strangers at the Altar
November 18, 2014
Megan Frampton

The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior
Dukes Behaving Badly series
November 15, 2014
Meriel Fuller

Innocent’s Champion
November 18, 2014
Michelle Willingham

Unlaced by the Outlaw
Secrets in Silk series
December 2, 2014
Rowan Keats

To Kiss A Kilted Warrior
Claimed by the Highlander series
December 6, 2014
Sarah MacLean
 

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover
Rules of Scoundrels series
November 25, 2014

Wednesday

Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

October 22, 2014
Another Ashley manly man.

http://www.jenniferashley.com/
Do you know when you read a book and the main characters are so powerfully drawn that they overwhelm the story? Well, that happens with Jennifer Ashley’s latest, Rules for a Proper Governess. That can be a good thing or a not so good thing – in this case it’s both. Rules for a Proper Governess is part of the continuing saga of the McBride/MacKenzie families.  Because it is a story about a McBride/MacKenzie man, you know we are going to see a hero with big…thighs.

There are four characters in this story who are just wonderful – Sinclair “Basher” McBride, Roberta “Bertie” Frasier, and Sinclair’s children, Andrew and Caitriona.

Let’s start with Bertie. What a delightful heroine! I simply loved her! Bertie is full of life; she’s charming, fun, and very street smart. And, she should be street smart, because she is a product of Whitechapel. She has been trained by her con-artist father to be a first-rate pickpocket. She has been ordered by her father to take something from “Basher” McBride because McBride is responsible for sending one of their cohorts to prison. McBride is a solicitor/lawyer/whatever. Well, Bertie has developed a crush on Sinclair so while she does what her father wants she also has some very conflicting feelings about it. Because Bertie has a crush on Sinclair she has started to covertly follow him around. It is during one of these stalking episodes that she urns across his unmanageable children. Bertie’s background makes her the perfect candidate to be a governess for these children – over Sinclair’s objection. Bertie is a welcome breath of fresh air for Sinclair’s household and for his children who are struggling with the loss of their mother and Sinclair’s much-loved wife. For once in a romance story the dearly departed wife is actually loved. Sinclair and his children, especially Caitriona, have been unable to move on from their loss. I was grateful that Ms. Ashley didn’t destroy the memory of Sinclair’s deceased wife in order to make his growing love for Bertie palatable.  So many times in romance novels, authors blacken the dearly departed name and I’m assuming that’s because there is only room for one true love in romance. In this book, it’s handled a little more realistically. Oh sure, there is a secret about Sinclair’s wife, but it doesn’t degrade the love he felt for her. I like the way Ms. Ashley presented the idea that, yes, a person can find love again.

Next to Bertie the character I loved most was Andrew, Sinclair’s young, high-energy son, who doesn’t walk into room but charges into them. He doesn’t talk, he shouts. I thought Andrew was a remarkable portrait of a real boy. He actually reminded me a great deal of my nephew.

Sinclair, our hero, is a typical Ashley manly man – troubled, dark, depressed, and hot. However, when Bertie enters his life he is reborn. The dialogue between Bertie and Sinclair is honest, funny, and heartfelt. They are a wonderful couple and by the end of the book neither one of them had changed all that much; they fell in love with each other and didn’t sacrifice who whey were to achieve their HEA.

If I had any quibble it would be with Sinclair’s parenting skills. He seem to be a bit of a cold fish when it came to giving his children what they needed – his attention and love. We also have visits from the MacKenzie clan, and Ian is there once again to offer his sage advice. I also thought that the plot of the story was over-shadowed by the very strong characters of Sinclair and Bertie. It was almost as if we didn’t need anything else going on in the story, in fact I became irritated when the outside folderol interfered with Sinclair and Bertie’s interaction.

Regardless of Sinclair’s neglectful fathering, Super Ian and a behind the scene plot, this is a delightful book and it is a shot in the arm to a series that needed a bit of a boost.

Time/Place: 1885 England
Sensuality: Hot!!

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 fiancĂ©e 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!!!!!!!!!!