Monday

Love Letters from a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle - Project A-Team Sort of

June 29, 2015
The saga continues.

http://www.elizabethboyle.com/

Love Letters from a Duke. Time has moved on a few years, and now it's time our outrageous teenagers from A Rake of Her Own have their own stories. This one centers on Felicity Langley, aka "Duchess." The reason for the nickname isn't because she is actually a duchess, it's because she's rather controlling, bossy, imperious, etc. However, it is her intention that she land a duke for a husband and after conferring with her handy-dandy Bachelor Chronicle journal she has decided on the Duke of Hollindrake. When this story begins, she has been writing to the duke for four years and she has grown quite fond of him. She has been able to share her dreams and darkest secrets with him. They have become friends. Unbeknownst to Felicity, through some kind of misunderstanding she has been corresponding with the duke alright; however he's in his 80s and he has hatched a plan of his own. He is pretending to be his grandson because he wants his grandson married and settled down, so he sees nothing wrong with flaming the fires. Then he dies and his grandson, Thatcher, finds out what his grandfather has been up to. Thatcher arrives on Felicity's doorstep with the intention of telling her the whole story, but he isn't prepared to handle this imperious whirlwind miss. Felicity mistakes Thatcher for the new footman and he doesn't ever have the chance to correct her. From that point on it's a game of spider and the web. Felicity fascinates Thatcher. At first he doesn't tell her who he is - well, because he can't get a word in. But as time goes on, he falls deeper and deeper under her spell and then he's afraid to tell her. He doesn't want to lose her. He is jealous of himself, because she wants so badly to marry the "Duke."

This is another fun book. Felicity and her sister Thalia have "barrowed" the house they are living in. They lie, pick locks, pick pockets, do all kinds of spy things their absent father taught them. They are full of wise sayings which were taught to them by their nannies while growing up. The nannies, by the way, were actually their father’s paramours, so their education has not been what one would call normal.

I would have to say that this is sort of a screwball comedy with some pretty amusing secondary characters floating in and out of the scenes.  Furthermore, there is nothing I find funnier than a befuddled hero. Thatcher just cannot say or do the right thing, and his timing is atrocious. I will have to say that there are some poignant moments, especially when Thatcher reads the correspondence between his grandfather and Felicity. He learns a great deal about his grandfather, he begins to see his grandfather in a different light and there is just a touch of melancholy when he wishes things could have been different between he and his grandfather. He also learns what kind of a woman Felicity is through her letters. He sees her wants and desires and makes them his own.

All in all, Felicity and Thatcher were a great couple. The arrival at the HEA was just a little over the top, but it made me smile and I do recommend this book.

Time/Place: 1814ish England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

This Rake of Mine by Elizabeth Boyle - Project A-Team - sort of.

June 29, 2015
Another brilliant idea!

http://www.elizabethboyle.com/

I had an epiphany while rereading Something About Emmaline. I was reminded that that story was part of a series - the Bachelor Chronicles. Well, I remember liking some in the series but not all of them. I believe the reason I didn't care for all of them was I found the plethora of characters confusing. Well, I thought, if I can reread a book I like to see if it still holds up, why not read some books I wasn't too keen on to see how they stand up to time? Especially if the reason for my initial reaction was due to the fact that they are a part of a series and I became lost. So, I decided to reread the entire Bachelor Chronicles.

The second in the series is This Rake of Mine (2005). The plot revolves around Jack and Miranda. You may remember Lord Jack Tremont from Something About Emmaline. He was the freeloading friend of Alexander and he loved to drink. In that book he drunkenly mistakes Miranda for his mistress and kisses her. They are caught in a compromising position, her engagement is broken and she is disowned. Jack, on the other hand, once he is sober doesn't have a clear recollection of the incident. He knows he did something horrible because his friends are cutting him. He also recalls the kiss, just not the woman. It is one of the most memorable encounters he's ever had. However, when he tries to rectify his mistake, he is informed that Miranda is dead.

Because the world is so unforgiving to Jack, he soon finds himself ensconced in the country involved in a little skullduggery. Miranda on the other hand is not dead. She is living incognito as a teacher at Miss Emery's Establishment for the Education of Genteel Ladies. All that's left of their encounter is one silver button, which Miranda has kept as a memento.

Years pass. Jack has been unable to forget the encounter. He has been able to carve out a living at his aunt’s estate by participating in some nefarious operations. Now, the two of them are about to have their second encounter. And, what a fun one it is.

After all those years of hiding, Miranda has inherited some money and is about to set out to claim it. Accompanying her on this journey are three outrageous students - twins Thalia and Felicity Langley, and their cousin Pippin. These girls are full of preposterous matchmaking schemes and plans. In fact, these three secondary characters stole every scene they were in, but I didn't mind because they turned this story into more than just a romance book. It was full of well-rounded characters who were a delight. There was smuggling, secret passages, ghosts, over-dramatic teenage girls, witty dialogue, pirates, and shifty servants. It was just a lot of fun.

Jack is an adorable character. When I view This Rake of Mine as part of a series, it really works. Ms. Boyle does a wonderful job of creating a wonderful romance while all the while constructing future worlds for some really interesting secondary characters. And, doing that almost seamlessly. I think I'm finding out that there are some series which might work better together if they are spaced closer together. So, far I'm enjoying all of the characters that are in the Bachelor Chronicles and that's because I'm not trying to remember who they are.

This Rake of Mine is a wonderful addition to the Bachelor Chronicles; we will see how well the rest of the series works.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

The Kiss by Sophia Nash - Project A-Team

June 29, 2015
"Am I blue, am I blue
Ain't these tears in my eyes telling you
Am I blue, you'd be too
If each plan with your man done fell through"


http://sophianash.com/

After rereading The Kiss by Sophia Nash, all I can think of was that I must have been in the mood for boo-hooing in 2008. A-g-o-n-y. When I read The Kiss in 2008 I gave it a very high mark; however, I have found that it now contains one of my least favorite tropes: "I love you but I cannot marry you." Oh, the pain.

The characters in this book were so full of moaning, groaning, poor me, that I really wanted to scream at the pity party that was going on. Someone send in the clowns, oh wait, I don't like clowns either. Someone send in the Marx brothers.

Georgina was the steward's daughter, and her best friends when she was growing up were Anthony, the future Marquis of Ellesmore, and his cousin Quinn. These three did everything together, they were the bestest of friends and had many adventures. However, there was a dark side to their friendship, or should I say a many-faceted emotionally-layered side to their friendship. Georgina loves Quinn, Anthony loves Georgina and is jealous of Quinn. Quinn thinks of Georgina as a dear friend. Somehow during one of the threesome's many adventures, Georgina is seriously injured - she is crippled or her leg is twisted or something. Anyway, she limps. Quinn takes the blame, even though we find out later it was really Anthony who was at fault. Because Quinn is blamed for Georgina's injury he is banished, goes off to war, falls in love, marries and in so doing breaks Georgina's heart. Boo-hoo. Somehow, Anthony talks Georgina into marrying him and on their wedding night dies from an overdose of some kind of drug - after the marriage has been consummated - or so Georgina thinks.

Well, the villain of this piece is Anthony's mother - a Disney villainess if ever there was one. I could see those black tentacles just slithering around her. So, she forces Quinn to go out to the country estate to evict Georgina from Anthony's home. She doesn't believe Georgina and Anthony were really married. Just so you know, Quinn is now the Marquis of Ellesmore, his wife is conveniently dead and he has a nine year old daughter. Well, Quinn has never been overly fond of Anthony's mother so his intention is never to kick Georgina out, just to see what is going on.

When Quinn arrives not only does he find Georgina but a bevy of other widows ensconced at the estate. These women are members of the Widow's Club and all have books of their own. After reading The Kiss, I probably won't go back and read the others because I was just too irritated by the poor-me-I-can't-marry-you-because-I-love-you routine - although I can go to bed with you, not use any protection and then turn you down over and over and over again when you propose. This trope is used too much now and I grow weary of it.

The other problem I had with this story was I wasn't sure what was up with Quinn. Spoiler - while everyone believes he was really really in love with his wife, it is revealed that while that may have been true in the beginning of their marriage, it didn't take long for his feelings toward his wife to cool. It is revealed later in the book that she betrayed him with his cousin Anthony and that his daughter probably isn't biologically his. So, his feelings for his wife have gone down the tubes, to say nothing of his feelings for Anthony. When he is confronted again with his longtime friend Georgina he is also confronted with all kinds of warring feelings - guilt, love, friendship, passion. For me, Quinn was toooo much of a cool customer. It took him too long to admit any of his more tender feelings for Georgina. And then there's Grace.

Grace is one of the widows. She also happens to have had her feelings stepped on in the previous book when she fell for the hero of that book. Now, supposedly she is Georgina's friend. However, she reminds me of a frenemy. First of all, she came across to me as a pretty bland woman who has a hidden sharp tongue. Most everything she said to Georgina had some kind of a gibe attached to it - something like "oh what a lovely yellow dress, yellows not your color is it?" She didn't say that, but she could have. Anyway, she has her eyes set on Quinn. She does question Georgina over Georgina's feelings for Quinn - but anyone with half a brain could see that Georgina and Quinn were in love with each other. But Grace disregards these signals and slithers into Quinn's life. I found her to be a pretty shallow character and could feel no sympathy for her when Quinn and Georgina finally made their feelings for each other known. I also have to question Quinn's ability to maneuver swiftly from one woman to another. His motto is "when one woman turns you down, take up with another."

In the end, The Kiss didn't live up to my recollections - the poor-me-I-love-you-too-much-to-marry-you was irritating. There was too much boo-hooing and angst. This was actually quite a depressing book.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Do-da, do-da. Upcoming Historical Releases - July 15 to September 14, 2015!!

June 22, 2015
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! For: July 15, 2015 to August 14, 2015.
Alyssa Everett*

The Marriage Act
July 27
Amelia Grey

The Earl Claims a Bride
The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels series
August 4
Beth Williamson

The Gem
Malloy Family Book
July 21
Bronwyn Scott

Rake Most Likely to Thrill
Rakes on Tour
July 21
Carole Mortimer

Griffin Stone: Duke of Decadence
Dangerous Dukes series
July 21 
Cheryl St. John

Sequins and Spurs
July 21
Grace Burrowes

Tremaine's True Love
True Gentlemen series
August 8
 
Hannah Howell

If He's Noble
Wherlocke series
July 28
KJ Charles

A Fashionable Indulgence

Society of Gentleman series
August 11, 2015
Lauren Willig

The Lure of the Moonflower
Pink Carnation series
August 4
Lauri Robinson

The Bootlegger's Daughter
Daughters of the Roaring Twenties series
July 21
Lillian Marek

Lady Emily's Exotic Journey
Victorian Adventures series
August 4
Lynsay Sands

The Highlander Takes a Bride
July 28
Meredith Duran*

Lady Be Good
Rules for the Reckless series
July 28
Sabrina Jeffries

The Art of Sinning
Sinful Suitors series
July 21
Sherri Browning

The Great Estate
Thornbrook Park series
August 4
Sophie Jordan

All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue
The Debutante Files series
July 28

Beyond Innocence by Emma Holly - Project A-Team

June 15, 2015
G.G.A.G. Alert - Gigantic Girth and Growing.

http://www.emmaholly.com/

Yes little petunias, erotica or erotic or romantica or whatever, was not invented with 50 Shades of Grey. It's been around for eons - can anyone say Sappho. Yes, from John Wilmot to Alexander Pope to D.H. Lawrence, it's had a long and colorful existence. So when 50 Shades came along, I have to say I was a bit surprised that book seemed to be some kind of "new" thing. Romance novels have always had many sensuality levels and many authors who are exceedingly talented in writing "hot." Anya Bast, Rhyannon Byrd, Lora Leigh, Diane Whiteside, Maya Banks, Ally Blue, Lorelei Brown, Opal Carew, Sylvia Day, Lauren Dane, Shayla Black, Shiloh Walker, on and on and on. Among that group is an author by the name of Emma Holly. Ms. Holly has been writing for quite a while; it appears her first book was written in 1998. She also has written mostly contemporary and even has a book with the interesting name of Velvet Glove. In 2001 and 2002, she published two historical novels: Beyond Innocence and Beyond Seduction. I read both of them, and in 2001 I gave Beyond Innocence an A. Now we will explore that book again and see just what time has brought us.

First of all I will say this: there isn't any of what I would call kinky stuff in this, no back-door deliveries, no triple plays, although there is a tie me up scene (boy are they getting tiresome). Then I have to remember this was published 15 years ago before everyone was seeking out bedposts.  Just because there isn't any kink-key stuff don't form the idea that there isn't anything hot in this book because there are lots and lots of really scorching delights to behold in Beyond Innocence. Thank goodness there is also a plot line and some mighty fine narrative, because my eyes did start to glaze over after pages and pages of dippity-doo.

Here's the plot. Freddie, the younger brother of our manly-man hero Edward, Earl of Greystowe, has been caught in a scandalous situation - with a footman. Now, being a man of his time Edward thinks it is all part of attending Eton and participating in some of their traditions. His mind does not want to accept that Freddie might be gay. Edward loves his brother and decides the only way to hide the scandal is for Freddie to marry and marry right away. But, Edward needs a truly innocent girl/woman in order to do that - someone who is not only physically innocent but doesn't know too much about any sexual thing. Enter Florence.

Florence is really an innocent, almost too much of one. Any double entendres just go right over her head. I would have to say, she had a circle for a mouth - a perfect o, which in this book could come in handy. Florence is quickly taken in by Edward and his Aunt Hypatia as the perfect wife for Freddie. Thrown into this mix is also Edwards’s scary, conniving mistress, who he uses for a while after he meets Florence. You see, he just cannot fight the overwhelming Timothy Toad activity which flares up alllll the time after he encounters Florence. Eventually, he breaks it off with his mistress because he just doesn't feel good about their relationship - she does not take the break-up very well and viciously spreads more rumors about Freddie. So, hoping to have the rumors die down Freddie, Edward, Hypatia, and Florence vamoose to the countryside.

The dynamics in this story were pretty interesting - we have three people - Edward, Freddie, and Hypatia - who are all using Florence for their own reasons. Florence and Freddie develop a wonderful relationship, a close bond, but because Freddie is what he is the physical side to their relationship is null. Florence doesn't understand this and it makes her pretty insecure with her powers of attractiveness. On the other hand, Edward can't control his over-the-top obsession with Florence, so he comes off being rather abrupt and cold toward her, which she doesn't understand either. Hypatia is constantly guiding her toward Freddie, but all the time Hypatia knows what a lie a marriage between Freddie and Florence would be. So, when Florence's blinders are finally ripped off it is heart-rending and very dramatic scene, it's painful to watch. In this one scene, the author paints Florence's pain so vividly, we the readers can feel it.

Where the story fell apart for me was when Florence fled, seeking help from Edward's discarded mistress and her insane aunt. Edward's inability to separate Florence from the dastardly duo was flimsy at best.

The times have changed moment. I would imagine when I first read this book I found the exposure to the overabundance of sex daring. However, with the passing of time this type of thing has become common place and a little boring - so, as I said before, my eyes did glaze over and my brain shut down and I did skip a few pages. There was also a raised eyebrow or two because of Edward's gigantic Mr. Toad. It was so big that Florence could barely wrap her small hands around it. Yikes! It was mentioned numerous times that Florence had really small hands, which was disturbing. And, that leads me to a question - which would you rather have: a freakishly large Mr. Toad or itsy-bitsy hands? When I look at my hands, and they are relatively small and I make a circle and I don't touch my fingers - ouch. You are going to put something that large where? My oh my. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that part of the body dilates that much unless there is a baby's head coming out. Regardless of some odd physical visions by this reader, Beyond Innocence is still a good read even if I can't give as high a mark as I originally gave it alllll those years ago.
Time/Place: Victorian England Sensuality: Scorching Hot

Something about Emmaline by Elizabeth Boyle - Project A-Team

June 15, 2015
Time for a cleansing breath

http://www.elizabethboyle.com/
So, it's time to pull out some old books which I gave a high grade when I read them yearsssss ago. The first one I chose to give another try was Something about Emmaline. My memory is really hazy when it comes to this book. All I remember is the first time I read it, it made me smile - maybe even laugh. I think I always give a higher nod to books that make me laugh. This story has an amusing set-up. Our hero, Alexander Denford, Baron Sedgwick, is tired of marriage minded people. Everywhere he turns he’s tripping over some nubile girl with wedding bells on her mind. And, if she doesn't have them, her mother and even his grandmother has plans to see him wed. What's a fella to do? Well, he and his drink-too-much buddy Jack come up with a foolproof plan that will stop all of these women from bothering him. He pretends to have a wife, Emmaline. He makes up a story about his sickly wife who can never make an appearance in society - why she's almost at death's door. But not completely because he has to keep her alive to keep all the women away. And, it works - or at least he thinks it works. Little does he know that he and Jack were overheard when they were coming up with their grandiose scheme.

Just when Alex is all comfy in his no-women-bothering-me-dream-world, he starts getting bills. Bills from carpenters, drapers, painters and dressmakers. It seems that his fake wife Emmaline is spending his money. It's not long before he's off to London to confront the imposter and the fun begins.

This story is mostly light fare, with some pretty funny dialogue. Not only is the banter between Emmaline and Alex fun, but there are also some pretty humorous scenes between Alex and Jack the moocher. In fact Jack has a book of his own, This Rake of Mine. I should also mention that Something About Emmaline is the first book in the Bachelor Chronicles, although I felt as if I was supposed to know one of the couples in this book - Malvina and her husband - but I didn't.

I loved Emmaline. She was a strong woman and had quite an interesting past. She's a liar, a thief, a highwayman, a con artist - but even with all those devious secrets she's keeping from Alex, I found myself rooting for her. I also was on the edge of my seat wondering how Ms. Boyle was going to resolve all of Emmaline's problems so that she and Alex could have their HEA.

There were a couple of surprises in this book which I didn't see coming and a maybe just a little bit toooo pat of a solution to some of Emmaline's problems. But here's what there wasn't - there wasn't any over-the-top villain, just two unpleasant people who are put in their places. There's no kidnapping, no evil father, no tying to a bedpost to gain trust, no long I'm-not-worthy moments. The book is full of some great supporting characters and while this book is not as hysterically funny as I remember it, it still made me feel pretty good.

So, if you are in the mood to smile I suggest you go out and find a copy of Something About Emmaline. I think it just might make you grin.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden

June 8, 2015
Secondary Character-o-sis strikes again!

http://www.carolinelinden.com/

I believe it must have been time for authors to drink at the same watering hole again. Once more we have characters who were secondary characters in previous books and now it's their turn and they don't live up to the promise that was shown in the previous book. Not only do they not quite live up to what I was expecting, but one of them, Penelope, is a really immature fishwife who I wanted to reach into the book and bop a few times. I often found myself feeling quite sorry for poor ol' Atherton. By the way, Atherton made medical history - he is one of the few heroes who has a wet noodle for a backbone.

Now, it isn't his fault he has a wet noodle instead of bone. He has a horrible horrible horrible father. This father abuses his entire family - wife - daughters - son. Not just physical abuse, but psychological abuse as well. So, our hero is a pretty damaged guy. For the most part the wet-noodlism isn't because he's a coward. No, he does a lot of backing down and kissing of feet to protect those who cannot protect themselves. He actually could have been a decent hero if his harpy of a heroine hadn't made him look so bad. 'Cause we can't have our heroes ripping into our heroines anymore - that was old school romance. But if Atherton had attended the Steve Morgan School for Romance Heroes he would have smacked Penelope, then vamoosed to the arms of his mistress. But, twas not to be. Sigh.

Penelope. What a stubborn, blinders-on type of woman. She is the kind of person who sticks their fingers in their ears and sings la la la la just so she cannot hear what someone is saying. She does that to Atherton over and over and over. When he explains things to her, she doesn't accept what he's saying, she always wants more. When he tells her why he did some of the things he did in the past - la la la la. When he tells her about his father - la la la la. My mother is this way because - la la la la. My sister did this because - la la la la. For once we have a hero who talks, tells secrets, tells what is making him tick - la la la la. It doesn't matter what he says - it's just never enough for this sullen, cranky, griping, petulant Penelope. There was one moment when she finally stood up for the hero. The scene between her and his father was great, but it was not soon enough. There wasn't any point in this story that I ever felt Penelope was going to ever stop haranguing Atherton. Oh sure, they confessed their love for each other, but all I could see for ol' Atherton was a future with a tyrannical wife.

Dissolution of villains. Spoilers! Nothing like a surprise heart attack to solve everyone's problem. One moment you're there blackmailing, threatening, abusing and the next moment someone else says you had a heart attack and you are dead. And, we the readers don't even get to see you keel over - no we get to find out the same way the hero and heroine do - a servant tells all of us. But, there are two villains in this book and the other one disappears. I'm assuming he will show up in the next book. Hopefully, we get to see his demise.

I was disappoint with Love in the Time of Scandal. I loved the other two books in the series and was expecting the same with this - twas not to be. Maybe next time. Maybe next time I'll like the heroine - la la la la.

Time/Place: 1822 England
Sensuality: Hot/Warm