Wednesday

Wicked My Love by Susanna Ives

March 25, 2015
I laughed!
 
Wicked My Love, by Susanna Ives, was a breath of fresh air. At last, a book with humor in it! Before I continue, let me preface all of this by saying comedy/humor/funny is very
subjective and what tickles one person’s funny bone will only make another person groan disgustedly. Wicked My Love is the second book in Ms. Ives' Wicked Little Secret series and I confess I sort of forgot the first book, although I did read it. So, when I had a laugh-so-hard-I-cried moment in the beginning of this book, I stopped. I was a little afraid that having laughed so hard at the beginning I might run into problems later - so I checked out my review of her other book and then I remembered. I remembered there were a few what I call Jerry Lewis syndrome moments in that book (that is not knowing when to stop), so I crossed my fingers. I have to say that Ms. Ives writing has entered a new level. Was it silly? Was it farcical? Was the humor sometimes over the top? Yes, yes and yes, but I smiled alllll the way through the book because not only was there some funny stuff in this book but the characters were more than just something to bounce humor off of. Both Isabella and Randall were well-developed, interesting characters and that proved a counterbalance to some of the silliness. It was a very enjoyable book.
 
Isabella and Randall have known each other since they were children, and as children there was a strong animosity between them - they just didn't get along. Always trying to get the better of each other, always trying to be the one who is right. That doesn't change to much as they grow older; however, now there is sexual tension just below the surface. Isabella is a shy person. She keeps all of her emotions bottled up inside and she believes that at 29 she will never have a fulfilling life. That fulfilling life includes a husband and children. She has a mind that understands finance and through the encouragement of her aunt Judith she has written a bestselling book. Now this book has made her sort of a folk hero to a lot of women; in fact she has quite a fan base. However, because of her shyness she is not all that eager to meet her fans and sometimes she is embarrassed with their enthusiasm. She is also partners in a banking venture and one of her partners is Randall.
 
Randall, on the other hand is all about emotions. He is a politician and he just exudes charm. He comes to Isabella for some help in saving his career and along the way they team up to find out who is passing fraudulent bonds. However, that plot is only an excuse to get these two together for a fun adventure. Along the way we get to meet a variety of great supporting characters, especially Isabella's maiden Aunt Judith. Aunt Judith isn't all that fond of men. She has founded the Mary Wollstonecraft Society Against the Injurious Treatment of Women Whose Rights Have Been Unjustly Usurped by the Tyrannical and Ignorant Regime of the Male Kind. She has educated Isabella in the ways of a women's "sacred vessel" and a "man's dangly parts." So, Isabella's outlook on biology is a tad bit slanted - but don't worry, Randall helps her sort through most of it.
 
If you want a laugh or two you should pick up Wicked My Love. But, I think you will get more than just a few guffaws. This book has a very delightful couple in Isabella and Randall. Even with all of the chortles there are some emotional depths explored by both Isabella and Randall by the end of this tale. Wicked My Love was a pleasure to read.
 
Time/Place: 1847 England
Sensuality: Hot

A Wicked Pursuit by Isabella Bradford

March 25, 2015
I love you. No, I love you. I really love you - and, I really love you - love - love - love.

http://www.isabellabradford.com/

I remember the old days when there would be only one time the word love was ever used in the entire romance book and that was usually on the last page. Some older books didn't even mention the word. I am not advocating returning to those days, because there was always a little voice in the back of my head that kept asking "yeah, but does he love her?" However in A Wicked Pursuit "I love you" was said at least a gazillion times and I found myself saying "oh, no not again." While I did find the use of the word love in this story to be a little irritating, I also thought that it showed even though a couple have admitted their love for each other there were still some stumbling blocks along the way to true happiness.

A Wicked Pursuit is the first in the Breconbridge brother series and yes, I read the second one first. I was familiar with the characters of Augusta Wetherby, aka Gus, and Harry but it was interesting to see their story. I wasn't as fond of A Wicked Pursuit as I was of A Sinful Deception, but it was a pleasant read.

This story has a ton of selfish people who our step-all-over-me heroine has to put up with. You know, I liked Gus in A Sinful Deception and I liked her in this story; however, I really want her to tell everyone where they can jump. At least in this story Harry's father's not there to insult her. She just has a self-centered, mercenary sister - Julia; and a father who takes Gus for granted while at the same time pandering to Julia's wants. Gus knows Julia is the beautiful one and has grown up with a huge I'm-the-ugly-one complex. She considers herself plain, but she is the glue that has kept her family together. She is the one who does the work, manages the household, makes sure everything is running smoothly. I did get tired of her making excuses for Julia. Julia, by the way, is the one our hero Harry wants.

Harry is young. He's 24 in this story and I have to say he's a really young 24. I found his character quite immature. He has fallen for the narcissist Julia and has gone to the Wetherby household to propose marriage. While there, the ignorant, cruel Julia puts him on a maniac horse he can barely control and then for some reason hides from him. Then for some reason she jumps out at him making him lose control of the horse. He is thrown from the horse, hits his head and breaks his leg - severely breaks his leg. Julia instantly runs off, leaving Gus to clean up her dirty work. While Harry is unconscious and fears of moving his horribly mangled leg are discussed, Julia leaves for London. Julia's father charges after her, leaving Gus alone and unchaperoned with an unconscious man who has a broken leg. Thank goodness for Harry's valet, cause I kept wondering how certain things that are done in real life would happen, since romance characters don't generally mention them. You know what I mean - those bathroom things.  Anyway, when Harry wakes up, he wakes up to plain Gus not beautiful Julia. Of course Gus covers for Julia, because Gus is unworthy. It doesn't take long for Harry to fall under Gus' charming spell and soon he's in love with her. However, that doesn't stop him from being a self-indulgent young bonehead. He invites a trio of string instrument players and some friends to the Wetherby household without asking for anyone’s permission. He also doesn't seem to care how much of a disruption all of this has on the household and how much work Gus has to do. While Gus does show an occasional temper, in my opinion she didn't show enough - she is almost a saint, just accepting everything that everyone is dumping on her.

After some I love you’s and a visit from Harry's father, they get married. This part of the book had the feel of added pages about it. Because the couple has said they love each other and married, there still needed to be some kind of conflict to fill in the remaining pages. This time everything shifted to Harry's leg. He went into a "poor-me-I'm-half-a-man" mode. My thought on that was, "you have to be kidding me. You have a limp because you're one leg is shorter than the other and you're poo-hooing." His reaction was wayyyy over the top for what his injury was. And, then he had the nerve to say he wouldn't be able to dance because of his shorter leg - I thought OMG are you serious, put a wad of paper in your shoe for Pete's sake.

This isn't a bad book. It's just filled with selfish characters and an almost doormat heroine. It was a slow-paced story without too much conflict; in fact there wasn't too much to the story at all.  The use of "I love you" was overwhelming and took away some of the much-needed tension from Gus and Harry. Even though she was a bit of a doormat, I kept rooting for Gus. I just hope in the third book Gus slugs a few people.

Time/Place: 1768 England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Friday

Ta-ta-dah! Upcoming Historical Romances

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! For: April 15, 2015 to May 14, 2015. 
Victoria Alexander*


The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress
Millworth Manor series
April 28
Sophie Barnes

Lady Sarah’s Sinful Desires
Secrets at Thorncliff Manor series
April 28
Kelly Bowen

A Good Rogue is Hard to Find
The Lords of Worth series
April 28
Valerie Bowman

The Unlikely Lady
Playful Brides series
May 5
Linda Broday

Twice a Texas Bride
Bachelors of Battle Creek series
May 5
Anna Campbell*

A Scoundrel by Moonlight
Sons of Sin series
April 28
Cara Elliott*

Sinfully Yours
Hellions of High Street series
April 28
Lorraine Heath

The Duke and the Lady in Red
Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James Place series
April 28
Julia Justiss

The Rake to Reveal Her
Ransleigh Rogues
April 21
Rowan Keats

What a Lass Wants
Claimed by the Highlanders series
May 5
Jade Lee*

50 Ways to Ruin a Rake
Not Quite Ladies series
May 5
Jeannie Lin

A Dance with Danger
Rebels and Lovers series
April 21
Julia London*


The Scoundrel and the Debutante
The Cabot Sisters series
April 28
Sarah Mallory

A Lady for Lord Randall
Brides of Waterloo series
April 21
Victoria Roberts

Kilts and Daggers
Highland Spies series
May 5
Lauri Robinson

A Fortune for the Outlaw’s Daughter
April 21
Joanna Shupe*

The Harlot Countess
Wicked Deceptions series
April 28

Wednesday

A Sinful Deception by Isabella Bradford

March 17, 2015
"A secret is a kind of promise.... It can also be a prison." Jennifer Lee Carrell

http://www.isabellabradford.com/

I haven't read Isabella Bradford since she was Miranda Jarrett, and I think that is about to change. Can you say Glom? In case you haven't guessed, I liked A Sinful Deception. I liked almost everything about this delightful book!

Here's what makes this story a great read - Geoffrey Fitzroy and Lady Serena Carew. These two are not complex, complicated people. They are drawn pretty realistically. Their romance develops slowly and was a pure joy to read. There was some really lovely writing in this story.

The story starts in 1771, which means that we have gigantic, lush dresses with hoops, satin, silk, lace and on our head we have lace, flowers and powder. Think Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Reynolds, and a young Marie Antoinette. This is one of my favorite time periods, (even with all the smells that must have permeated the land). Visually this had to be a vivid, lush time period - if you had money.

Geoffrey. On the surface, what we have in Geoffrey is your typical rake who seems to have plowed a few fields, stuffed a few olives, swabbed a lot of decks, poked some pumpkins. In fact, he's one of those Romanceland rakes.  I found myself wondering how he arrived at the age of 25 and still had his overused Mr. Toad attached to Bert and Ernie. In this story it all starts with a glance from across a crowded room (sounds like a song). He spots this gorgeous, sensual, exotic woman and is instantly enthralled. He must have her. However, he knows she is an innocent, so that is a problem. You see, marriage is a word that hasn't found its way into his vocabulary. But he can dance with her. His brother, Harry, bets him that he won't be able to persuade her onto the floor. It seems that Serena is a tad bit aloof. Because Geoffrey has tons of women falling at his feet every day, he doesn't think he will have a problem with this one. Much to his surprise she all but ignores him. This only makes him more intrigued. He knows she spent her childhood in India and he's just returned from there, so reaching down into his bag of tricks he pulls out some Hindi words. Those words work. He wins his bet, but by the end of the evening he is no longer interested in anything but Serena. He’s not interested in marriage, however, that doesn't prevent him from courting her. He never considers why he's courting her; all that he knows is that he wants to be with her. I loved watching a completely out-of-control, lust-filled rake fall in love.

However, he hasn't taken into consideration the reaction of Serena's grandfather. Her grandfather doesn't have a very high opinion of Geoffrey's family. The fact that Geoffrey's father is a duke doesn't matter one bit to her grandfather. You see, Geoffrey is descended from a French woman who was a mistress to a king and that is unacceptable to Serena's grandfather - big time.

Serena. Serena has a secret. As secrets go, it is a doozy. We the readers know from the very beginning what that secret is. Spoilers ahead, sort of. Serena is posing as her dead half-sister, her dead legitimate half-sister, her dead white legitimate half-sister. Unbeknownst to her pure blood stickler English aristocratic family, Serena's father had numerous Indian mistresses. His favorite one was her mother. Serena was the only survivor of a deadly fever which infected and killed everyone in her father's household - including servants. She was thirteen at the time, and when she was rescued by some British soldiers, she's mistaken for her sister. She decides not to correct them.

All through the book we witness her struggle with the fear of being discovered.  She's the apple of her stickler grandfather's eye and beloved by her aunt. The secret was a very intense part of the story; we know that sometime it's going to explode into the air. We just don't know when and we don't know how everyone will react. The secret was very well done.

Secondary characters. The Sinful Deception was loaded with a cast of great supporting characters, from Selena's dreadful villain Uncle Radnor to Geoffrey's strong willed father, the Duke of Breconridge. Let's talk about the duke. I found him an irritating, but at the same time, fascinating character. He was/is determined that one of his sons will give him a grandson. In the process, he doesn't seem to care about whose feelings he dumps on or who he has to brow-beat to achieve his goal. His treatment of Gus (heroine from A Wicked Pursuit,) was just dreadful. He is controlling and abrasive to his sons. However, underneath all of his bombastic actions is a calm, silent caring. Because of his determination to have a male heir to continue his family’s legacy I had my doubts when I read his calm reaction to Serena's secret. I had a feeling that anyone who so dictatorial in his need for a male scion to carry on a family linage would be less than happy when their son married a woman of mixed blood. But hey, what do I know? However, Breconridge just didn't seem all that flexible to me.

I did have an almost ewwww moment in The Sinful Deception. All I'm going to say is spit, Timothy Toad and hands.

Overall, this was a delightful book with a gentle yet intense love story. Geoffrey and Serena were a great couple and I'm looking forward to the third book in the series. I'm also going back for the first in the series!

Time/Place: 1771 England
Sensuality: Hot

Monday

I Loved a Rogue by Katharine Ashe

March 16, 2015
“Well, I can't forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving”
  - Harry Nilsson

http://www.katharineashe.com/

I Loved a Rogue, by Katharine Ashe, is the final book in the Prince Catcher's series featuring the Caulfield sisters. This is the one where there is a prophecy about finding a prince who knows something about the magical ruby ring the sisters wear around their neck. They've been passing that ring from story to story looking for the prince who is "ring-wise." There are a lot of story-lines in this book, a lot of twists and turns and numerous loose ends. Some of those loose ends are tied and some aren’t. I found the mystery surrounding the parentage of the sisters intriguing and I enjoyed all the different paths I was led down. There were so many things going on that the romance part of the book got lost in the shuffle.

Yes, I found the romance between Eleanor and Taliesin weak and toward the end of the book I grew tired of Taliesin's repetitious walk awaysssss. I started to wonder why Eleanor continued to hold out for this guy - one moment he's encouraging her to love him and the next moment he's walking out that door. This walking-away-I'm-not-good-enough-routine was quite annoying.

Not only was the hero exasperating but a number of the secondary characters were also grating. Robin Prince, a maybe future hero except for the fact that he kept things from the heroine - important things - which would have helped her in her search for her birth parents. He also wasn't above blackmailing while at the same time professing his love. Then there is his irritating younger sister who tries to trick Taliesin into marriage. However, this plot line seems to have just sort of faded into the margins. Taliesin said he wouldn't marry her and everyone accepted that and the story just moved on. Martin Caulfield, the sister’s legal father, in the beginning of the book seems to be a loving parent. However, it is revealed later on in the story that he knows some of the secrets of their parentage and he hasn't shared it with them. The evil relatives. Eleanor's evil aunts, uncles and cousins make an appearance, are nasty to her, lock her up and drug her. Then there is a sentence or so dedicated to them getting their just deserts.

Let's not forget the prophecy - I think it was wrapped up. I believe I know who the "prince" was, but I wasn't clear. And, we find out about the ring, but that was just sort of ho-hum. Overall, the suspense and all the twists and turns were superb. "These boots were made for walking" guy Taliesin walked out one tooooo many times for me. There were too many things left hanging and villains who simply disappeared from the pages. Maybe if the story had been simpler it would have worked better for me. As it was, I liked the paths we are led down regarding the sister's parentage. However, the romance was weak and the secondary characters for the most part were like a clamorous ringing in my ears.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm

Beyond Tempatation, Sinful Pleasures, The Templar's Seduction by Mary Reed McCall - Project A-Team

March 9, 2015
Ivanhoe chose the wrong woman.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Reed-McCall-Author/180541880768

When I decided to reread books that I gave high marks to, I didn't take into consideration that they might have been part of a series. Surprise - surprise - in the case of The Templar's Seduction (2007), it turns out that it was a part of the Templar Knights series. The other two in this series are Beyond Temptation (2005) and Sinful Pleasures (2006). So, I thought - hey, I haven't read those two and because I loved The Templar's Seduction so much I bet I'll love the other two just as much. Sigh. Well, as it turns out I didn't love the other two as much.

I'll be honest, I've never been fond of Templar stories nor some of the romantic tales that have spread surrounding them. Somehow the nobility of the order portrayed in literature doesn't quite match history. If you put finance, nobles, warriors, tax exempt status, and vows of poverty all together there just has to have been some corrupt things going on. We are talking about a group of men who owned the entire island of Cyprus at one time for Pete's sake! And, unlike the noble warriors portrayed in Indiana Jones: the Last Crusade, they didn't live for thousands of years.  From the fictional book Ivanhoe to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the Templars have been widely romanticized. And, while much of the history mentioned in these books about King Philip IV of France and his grudge against the Templars is true, when it comes to making someone into a hero we don't always make the right decision. For me, they were a group of soldiers/nobles who had the backing of the pope, and for a while they were the flavor of the month. And then they weren't.  Hey, by the way Sir Walter Scott, Rebecca was the better choice for Ivanhoe.

Now on to Beyond Seduction, the first book in the series. The very first chapter in this story introduces us to the hero of the book and the heroes of the future books. There are four knights on the run from the French Inquisition: Sir Richard de Cantor, Sir John de Clifton, Sir Damien de Ashby and his wild brother Sir Alex de Ashby. Wait a minute, you say, there are four guys and only three stories - what the hey! Well, I'm not sure but poor ol' John seems to be around just to create problems for other people. As far as I know he never earned his own book. Anyway, it is decided in the beginning of the book that the four knights will split up and in so doing will have a better chance of escaping the inquisition guys.  Beyond Seduction is the story of Sir Richard de Cantor and Lady Margaret.  Sir Richard's problem that he's running from is his insane wife, Eleanor. You see, he fell in love with her and then after a while discovered that she was some kind of psychopath (along the lines of the wife in Jane Eyre.) Except in this book they don't lock her in the attic, although they do lock her up. There also seems to have been a child who died and Richard feels the guilty because of that. So, he feels guilty because of his child, and he doesn't seem to be very supportive of his maniac wife. He runs off to do penitence with the Templars. So, he's contrite, he's anguished, he's remorseful - he's sorry and he's headed back home to Eleanor.

Well, Eleanor's in a bad way. Not only is she still a tad berserk, she's also dying. But hark, her cousin Margaret, aka Meg, is there to take care of her. Meg also has made friends with all of the people in Richard's castle, even the birds. Also, she blames Richard for Eleanor's condition and honestly I sort of agreed with her on that score. But Meg is also guarding a dark secret - she isn't innocent, no sir. She once loved a man, Alexander, who left her broken hearted and went off to fight with the Templars and was killed. She had a child of that union, who also died.

There's plenty of angst all over the place - all that guilt, all that doom and gloom and just waiting for the wife to die so our hero and heroine can fall in love. The problem with this book was that even with all the miserable back stories going on I couldn't connect with any of the characters. They were all cardboard people just moving through the books narration. You would think with alllll of the torment coming off of the pages, there would also be some kind of emotion along with it, but there wasn't. In the end, I just couldn't care about anyone in this story.

Time/Place: 1307 England
Sensuality:Warm/Hot




Now, on to Sinful Pleasures. It is Damien de Ashby's time to be angst-filled. Damien is being tortured; however, if he agrees to a proxy marriage he can be released. Ok. Well, who is the wife? Lady Alissende de Montague. Here's the thing - it seems that at one time Damien and Alissende were lovers...really hot lovers! But because Damien didn't have any land Alissende turned her back on him at a tournament and broke his heart, so like all men with broken hearts he joined the Templars. Now, in order to save his skin, he must marry the woman who spurned him all those years ago.

Well, of course Damien is holding a grudge against this woman.  He's never ever going to touch her again and that lasts about one tenth of a second. His Mr. Toad is constantly on alert in this story. In fact, Mr. Toad was rather irritating. All I can say is that Alissende must have had some pretty strong mojo going because there were all kinds of lances, shafts and spears in this story and not just at the tournaments. By the way, I'm not a big fan of jousting, fencing and sword-fights in books - I fast forward through those parts in movies and that's visual, so you know I skip them in books. Anyway, Damien just cannot control his magic wand and you would think with all the years of celibacy he would have learned how to control it.

It doesn't take too long in this book for Damien to forgive Alissende and for them to take care of Damien's control problem. There is also the over the top scene in the King's court toward the end of the book. The resolution in this story was highly unlikely, and I found the treatment of KIng Edward II in both books interesting. In Beyond Temptation, Edward seems to have a gentle yet wise persona. In this one he is more of an egotistical dictator. I thought it would have been nice if the gentle persona had been carried over to this book. By the way there was a court appearance at the end of Beyond Temptation which was just as highly implausible as this one.

Sinful Pleasures was better than Beyond Temptation. The characters were not as wooden, but it was still just an ok read.

Time/Place: 1307s England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot




Then there was The Templar's Seduction, one I recall giving a really high mark to and one that now I opened with trepidation. Remember dead Alexander from Beyond Seduction, the one who seduced Meg, fathered a child and ran off to die with the Templars - well, guess who isn't dead? Guess who is the hero of his own book? Yep, here he is Sir Alex de Ashby, brother to Damien and he is about to be hanged. But wait, some bad guys have stepped and noticed that he bears a striking resemblance to one Robert, the late Earl of Marsten, whose wife Beth is holding on to a castle that everyone in England wants. So, here's the plan: Alex is going to go to the castle and pretend to be Robert and if he doesn't the bad guys are going to murder Sir John de Clifton, who seems to be in the books to be held as ransom.

What we have is a Return of Martin Guerre/Sommersby tale, except it's not the shoes that aren't the same size in this book but Mr. Toad. Beth is suspicious almost immediately that this man isn't her husband, especially when she see how big he is. But then she shakes that off, thinking it's her faulty memory or something. However, she continues to have nagging thoughts all through the book. Regardless of those unrelenting voices in her head she falls hard for Alex/Robert. While I like Beth a lot, it is Alex/Robert who is the most fascinating character.

Alex/Robert continually struggles with himself throughout the book. He must save his friend by using Beth, but at the same time he is falling deeper and deeper in love with Beth. This is where honor walks into the book. In the previous books and in the beginning of this one, I was less than enthused about Alex's sense of honor. He's a user of women and he left one after seducing her to go off and fight. You would think that his deception in this book would make me dislike him even more. However, Ms. McCall allows him to at last have true honor by showing us how much his falsehoods are costing him. Alex was a very compelling character and Beth forgives him really really quickly.

There is also another court scene to pull all the impossible pieces together, only this one is in front of Robert the Bruce. As with the others, this scene was over the top dramatic and really not plausible at all. For me the author created too much of a problem for our couple and the resolution was highly unsatisfactory. However, having said that I will say that I still like this story, although I can't give it the high marks I did the last time I read it. Even with the dynamic hero, the quick acceptance of the heroine and the overwrought ending dampened my enthusiasm.

Time/Place: 1307s England/Scotland
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Wednesday

Farewell Bertrice

Bertrice Small
December 9, 1937-February 24, 2015. One of the grand ladies of romance has died at the age of 77. She created one of romance most memorable characters in the form of Skye O'Malley and was the author of over 50 romances.