Thursday

The Duke That I Marry by Cathy Maxwell

January 10, 2019
I must be really smart or maybe I’ve just read too many romances

http://www.cathymaxwell.com/

In Cathy Maxwell’s The Duke That I Marry, I spotted the villain as soon as he appeared on the page. He hadn’t even said a word. Since I don’t read too many mystery books, it must be the ton of British mystery shows I watch. After thousands of Poirot, Marple, Frost, Sherlock, Vera, Barnaby, and my latest obsession, Shetland with Jimmy Perez, it’s hard to hide the villain.

Anyway, the story begins with a betrothal being broken by Willa Reverly. She believes she is being ignored by her fella, Matthew Addison, Duke of Camberly – and she is. Since his ascension to the title he’s had a lot to take care of, and attending to his fiancée is not at the top of his list. But Willa gets his attention fast by sending him a note breaking off their engagement. Well, he needs her money, so he drops everything he’s doing and dashes off to the city. Matthew is quite a smooth talker when it comes to the ladies, and it isn’t long before he has Willa back into his good graces. Their engagement is back on.

Well, Willa’s actions did one unforeseen things – it sparked Matthew’s interest and made a few things start to twitch. All of a sudden Mathew wants Willa. Given Matthew’s past interest in another woman, this portion of the story seemed a little hurried. But, anyway now Matthew wants Willa and he is more than eager to make her his. Willa, of course, wants love in her marriage. After some really horrible advice from her mother about bleeding, size, and dying in childbirth, Willa is not all that excited about her wedding night. And, unlike numerous Romanceland first times, Willa’s first time is a disaster. While some people may not care for the actions of the groom, I thought it was a refreshing change from most of the romanticized versions which are written in novels. I thought the wedding night was both sympathetic and realistic. It gave both Willa and Matthew a chance to grow, adjust, respect each other, and finally love each other.

Overall, while this story didn’t blow me away, I did like it. I found both Matthew and Willa to be interesting characters. They both were complex characters with many flaws, and that’s what made this story good. We get to watch both characters accept their flaws, and grow with them. I did have some quibbles with Matthew’s sisters. I thought they were rude, overbearing, selfish women who didn’t care whether they hurt Willa or not. I also thought that the mystery, blackmail, and villain were the weaknesses in this story. While I’m not giving this a rousing recommendation, I do recommend it.


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Wednesday

When A Duke Loves a Woman by Lorraine Heath

January 9, 2019
Reality Check – Nah, this is Romanceland

http://www.lorraineheath.com/

When a Duke Loves a Woman is Lorraine Heath’s second book in the Sins for All Seasons series. So far, this series seems to be about the Trewlove family. Ettie Trewlove is the matriarch of the Trewlove clan. Ettie seems to have had a soft spot for children left on her door steps. Over the years she has taken in a number of them and raised them. They have formed a family. Those children are now grown and form a group of future heroes and heroines. They are: Beast, Aiden, Finn, Fanny, and Gillie. We were introduced to the gang in the previous story, Beyond Scandal and Desire. That story was Mick Trewlove’s tale. This is Gillie’s story.

Gillie has made a life for herself in the Whitechapel district of London. With a little encouragement from her family, she has become the proud owner of a tavern by the whimsical name of The Mermaid and the Unicorn. That name is a reflection of Gillie’s personality.

The story begins with Antony Coventry, Duke of Thornley, aka Thorne being attacked by a group of thugs in Whitechapel right outside Gillie’s door. What’s a duke doing in Whitechapel you may ask? Well, it seems that his betrothed, Lavinia, left him at the altar.  Don’t hate her - she did leave him a note. The note said she had some old business to finish, or a problem from her past to settle, or angst to recover from. Whatever it was could only be done in Whitechapel. Whitechapel, a place where aristocratic women can hide out and not stick out like a sore thumb. Because he’s a hero, Thorne took off after her. He followed her to Whitechapel, but cannot locate her. He’s searching for her when thugs come across him, rob him, and proceed to beat him up. By the way, Lavinia’s book is next. Anyway, the attack is going on in the alley behind Gillie’s tavern. Gillie charges into the fray, and chases the attackers off. But Thorne is in pretty bad shape, so Gillie drags him into her tavern to tend to his wounds.  Oh, by the way, Gillie is six feet tall, has short hair and wears trousers.

As we all know, I’m not particularly fond of heroines dressed in trousers, but this time it works. Gillie is different. She is a complex heroine. She has feminine and masculine qualities, she is vulnerable and strong, she is brave and cowardly. Gillie is also the character who is more fully-developed.

While Gillie may have a tavern in Whitechapel, that doesn’t mean she’s not a respectable woman. She is. Even though she has a mother and a bunch of alpha-male brothers, she is an independent woman – and that’s just the way she wants it. She has done almost everything on her own. Everyone in Whitechapel respects her and her wishes. Now she has a strange man in her bed and she is fighting to save his life. She is also trying to keep his presence a secret from her family and friends.

Thorne and Gillie are instantly attracted to each other, but they actually resist for a long time. Thorne and Gillie are an interesting couple. One of the main things I found so fascinating was the immense class separation between them. He’s a Duke, she’s an owner of a tavern in Whitechapel. I was quite eager to find out just how Ms. Heath would accomplish a HEA. Would she end up creating some kind of silly solution or would it be a satisfying ending? It was alllll very nerve-racking for me. Realistically, the difference between Gillie and Thorne’s worlds should have been so huge it couldn’t work. However, by the end of the book I was cheering Gillie and Thorne on – make it work! Make it work! Make it work!! They made a great couple; both were kind, loving people who had a great deal of love to spread around to others. 
 
When Thorne recovers his injuries, he knows it is time to return to his home. Before he leaves Gillie’s tavern, he persuades her to help him find Lavinia. That gives both of them an excuse to be together.

Thorne is a typical manly-man hero of Romanceland. But what Thorne has in abundance is loyalty. He is loyal to his fiancée, and loyal to Gillie’s wishes. There is also a wonderful secondary character by the names of Robin. Robin is a delightful young boy, an orphan who has been taken in by Gillie. Thorne takes Robin under his wings and forms a great relationship with him. There is some really great aawwwwwww moments between Robin and Thorne.

There is of course, the requisite appearance of Gillie’s family. After all we have to have a check-in of Mick to see how he’s doing. And, we have to get to know alllll the future heroes better – Finn is next and he’s holding a grudge. The appearance of Gillie’s brother almost set off my Ick-o-meter. Spoiler. Even with allll of Thorne’s care in preventing a baby, Gillie still ends up expecting. She does not tell Thorne. That’s not the moment which raised my eyebrows though. All of her brother’s, except Mick, propose marriage to her. Ick. Now, I know, I know, they are not related by blood – but they grew up as sister and brothers. While I think the marriage proposals were supposed to be cute, for me they were kind of icky.

Overall, while this was not the bestest book I’ve ever read, I loved the characters, I loved Heath’s solution of class division, I loved the secondary characters, and I loved the Trewlove family. This was a very satisfying read and I highly recommend it.

Time/Place: England 1871

Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Goodbye 2018!!! Hello 2019!!

December 26, 2018

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne..."


Bet’cha didn’t know that song was so long (there's more) and sooooo Scottish.
 

Is it possible that another year has gone by? It seems like we were just welcoming 2018 into the world not too long ago. Well, now it’s time to say farewell to 2018 and I have to admit that I’m really not sorry to see it go. Too-de-loo! As I look back on the number of books I’ve reviewed this year and I notice that there were fewer. Why is that? Simply put, I didn’t finish as many as I usually do. Yes, I picked them up, then put them down. As far as books go, this year has been underwhelming. Here’s hoping next year will sparkle – finger’s crossed.

And now for my wrap-up of things book-ie. Much to my surprise and displeasure the end of one of my favorite review magazines came to a close in May/June of 2018. It was founded by Kathryn Falk and originally was called Romantic Time Reviews. Then it changed its name to Book Reviews. Then one day it went to all digital – I should have seen the writing on the wall at that time. Then this year it was announced – out of the blue – that they would no longer be publishing. I miss that magazine. I found numerous authors by reading the pages of this magazine. I used it as one of my sources, now I have to do a lot of digging through other sources and not all of them are correct. But, I’m still plugging away through numerous library sources, publishing houses, and author sites. Anyway, sorry they are no longer around.


This year I also started numerous reading projects and author gloms. There was the All About Romance Project, the DNF Project (which I seem to have forgotten I was doing, and must be returning to). I also glommed authors Kelly Bowen and Julia Justiss.This year also saw the return of Betina Krahn and Miranda Davis, something which made me very happy. I also did some traveling in my Wayback Machine.


Voices we have lost this year. Although not a romance author, this year we lost Phillip Roth – but thankfully he left a lot of material behind for us to enjoy.


Debut authors who have crossed my radar. Oyinkan Braithwaite, Rena Rossner, Vee Walker, Caryl Bloom, Katrina Carraso, Arif Anwr, Kelli Clare, Tracy Clark, R.F. Kuang, Taylor Bennett, Emma Berquist, Melissa Ostrum, Allison Temple, L. J. Haywood, Gwendolyn Clare, Joy McCullough, Tomi Adeyemi, Lindsey Harrel, Lynn Blackburn, Julia Sonneburn, Angela Surmelis, Melissa Albert, and Richard Lawson.


2018 Outstanding Books. This year we had some slim-pickens. I had to travel in the Wayback Machine to find some of these. I was delighted that some of my old beloved books stood up to the test of time. Anyway, these are the books which made me smile, made me laugh, made sigh, and brought a tear to my eye in 2018. Thanks to all of you authors who brought these gems to me. In no particular order.
1.    Someone to Care by Mary Balogh, 2018
2.    Come Back to Me by Josie Litton – AAR Project, year, 2001
3.    A Most Unconventional Match by Julia Justiss, 2008 – part of glom
4.    The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie, AAR Project, 2005
5.    A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen, 2018
6.    His Lordship’s Last Wager by Miranda Davis, 2018
7.    Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath, 2018
8.    A Good Rogue is Hard to Find by Kelly Bowen, part of glom, 2015
9.    The Lady in Red by Kelly Bowen, part of glom, 2018
10.    Last Night with the Earl by Kelly Bowen, part of glom, 2018
11.    The Governess Game by Tessa Dare, 2018
12.    His Convenient Marchioness by Elizabeth Rolls, 2017


Disappointing Books of 2018. Now to the dark side. If this were a perfect world I wouldn’t have to have this list, but it’s not. I’m sure there are some books on this list which other people loved, or were best sellers, but for whatever reason they didn’t work for me. Maybe sometime in the future I might read it and I will love it – but not this year.  Maybe the editing was distracting, maybe the theme didn’t ring true, maybe I didn’t think there was any chemistry between the heroine and hero.  Sometimes the anticipation doesn’t live up to my expectations, sometimes I expect more from some authors than what they deliver. Whatever reason, these are stories which disappointed me. It doesn’t mean I will never read that author again, in fact I have some author’s who appear on both lists. So here goes, for whatever reason, in no particular order:
1.    Heartless by Anne Stuart, 2018
2.    A Devil of a Duke by Madeline Hunter, 2018
3.    A Match Made in Bed by Cathy Maxwell, 2018
4.    Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd, 2000
5.    My Fair Lover by Nicole Jordan, 2017
6.    Surrender to the Highlander by Linsay Sands, 2018
7.    Eleanor’s Hero, aka Boxing Day by Jill Barnett, novella, 1997
8.    Redeeming Lord Ryder by Maggie Robinson, 2018
9.    Seduced by a Scot by Julia London, 2018
10.    How to Tempt a Rogue Without Even Trying by Ava Stone, 2018
11.    Born to be Wilde by Eloisa James, 2018
12.    Society’s Most Disreputable Gentleman by Julia Justiss, 2018
13.    Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh, 2018
14.    What Ales the Earl by Sally MacKenzie, 2018


Now on to my prestigious awards.
No More Wire Hangers – Time for the 2018 Mommie Dearest Award

Here’s what a book needs, in order to be nominated for this honor. There must be a horrible family member; age does not matter. Gambling brothers, self-centered sisters, spoiled children, conspiring mothers, oblivious fathers. Anything with might cause some boo-hoo moments for either the heroine or hero. And, we never seem to run out of dysfunctional family members.
1.    From A Most Unconventional Match, by Julia Justiss we have Hal Waterman's family who cannot bear to be around a stuttering Hal. Hal is such a wonderful character, and his horrible family only adds to the sympathy we feel for him.
2.    The maniac, abusive grandfather from The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie. He has all five of his granddaughters under his thumb. Thank goodness he falls and is incapacitated, giving Prudence a chance to find a husband.
3.    Everyone but the heroine from Seduced by a Scot by Julia London. I have never seen so many horrible family members filling a book as I did in this story. There were no laughs to be had here. It was a very traumatic read.
4.    The father from An Earl Like You by Caroline Linden. This father is so awful that he blackmails the hero into impregnating the heroine. The heroine happens to be the daughter of the horrible, blackmailing guy. Oh sure, he’s also has marriage as part of the blackmail scheme, but the whole thing was just tooooo creepy.
5.    The controlling sisters from His Convenient Marchioness by Elizabeth Rolls. They really try to control Hunt’s life – but they are no match for him.
6.    And the winner is Clarissa from The Wedding Gamble by Julia Justiss. Now, technically Clarissa isn’t a relative of the heroine Sarah. Clarissa is a future heroine, but in this book she is a spoiled, temperamental, shrew and she’s horrible to her companion Sarah. Clarissa was a horrible person, and probably tooooo horrible to be given her own book.


2018 Steve Morgan Bonehead Award. 

How many times have we groaned because the hero is such a schmuck? He cannot forget his first love, he’s unfaithful, he’s jealous, possessive, and uses cold-cream instead of being a man with slow hands – if you get my drift.
1.    Brandon from Nicole Jordan’s My Fair Lover. He doesn’t believe in love or marriage because of his parents. He’s a boo-hoo, eat worms kind of sulky guy. But he thinks he should make the heroine fall in love with him. He plays games, he tried to make her jealous, but he still can’t love with her and it is his decision whether they use birth-control or not.
2.    Hugh Deveraux from Caroline Linden’s An Earl Like You. Sometimes you don’t have to be a possessive, cream-user to be a bonehead hero, sometimes you just have to have a Romanceland plan. In this case Hugh must pay his father’s debt. First of all, he doesn’t tell his family about the amount of the debt. But the real bonehead moment is when he decides to take up gambling to get out of debt. What weird thinking, it’s as if he has a giant bone in his head.
3.    There are a couple of boneheads in The Wedding Gamble by Julia Justiss, the heroine and the hero. It’s unusual to have a female in this category, but in this case, we have a heroine who just cannot forget her first luv. Eventually it is the hero who steps to bonehead center stage. Nicholas has a bonehead moment. He’s supposed to be smart, but when his mistress shows up at his wedding he doesn’t see any problem. He doesn’t communicate with his wife, make her feel better, tell her that he didn’t invite his mistress. Nah, he just skips right along into oblivious land.
4.    And then we have Brandon from Heartless by Anne Stuart. You know I have always enjoyed Ms. Stuarts ride-rough-shod-over-people heroes except in this book. This guy ignored the “no” word and moves right on into a forced seduction. Time for a change.
5.    Bonehead heroine! Bonehead heroine! In Cathy Maxwell’s A Match Made in Bed, our heroine Cassandra had a crush on Soren when she was a little girl. And then he broke her little heart and she can never, ever, forgive him. Even when she grows up, she holds a grudge – she hatesssssss him when she’s eleven and she hatesssssss him forever.
6.    And the winner of the 2018 Steve Morgan Bonehead Award is Kerrich, aaarrggghhhh. Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd shows all of it's 18 years of age. For a moment I thought I was in the Wayback Machine and had been transported to ripped bodice days of yore. This guy has to find an orphan so he can pretend to be nice and Queen Victoria will like him again. He also must find an ugly woman to be his pretend governess, because pretty women just won’t leave him alone – he’s just that wonderful. But the topper moment is when he confesses he didn’t use a sheath because he wanted his ugly-not-really-governess-heroine to get pregnant so she would be forced to marry him. Sigh, my hero.


Sidekicks, aka Secondary Character, aka Supporting Cast of 2018

The one thing about all romance books is that they must have a hero and heroine. Those are the characters who carry the entire book, but sometimes there are other people in the book who draw our attention away. Sometimes they are just great supporting characters and their just being there makes the book even better than it is. Their importance to the story cannot go unrecognized, and sometimes they are even rewarded with their own stories. Here are my nominations for great supporting characters of 2018:
1.    Gavin from Seduced by a Scot, by Julia London. Gavin was one of the few things I liked about this story, I had a lot of sympathy for this teenage boy who was left behind – his name might hint that he may have his own book when he grows up.
2.     Eleanor, Duchess of Worth from Devils of Dover series by Kelly Bowen. Eleanor played an eye-catching eccentric who made me laugh. She was especially good in her son’s book; A Good Rogue is Hard to Find.
3.    Rosamund and Daisy from The Governess Game by Tessa Dare. Yes, they are children and we all know children steal the show. That is true in this book. What wonderful characters, and what great chemistry between them and the hero.
4.    More children steal the show: Eula from Tempting the Laird by Julia London and Georgie and Henry from His Convenient Marchioness by Elizabeth Rolls. “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today! Kids! Who can Understand anything they say?”
5.    Tormod. Sometimes there are secondary characters who actions are very stupefying. In the case of Tormod from Surrender to the Highlander by Linsay Sands, it might have been handy for the hero, who was looking for a murderer, if Tormod had told someone about the secret passages.
6.    The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse series by Miranda Davis is notable for the chemistry between the four mail friends, which we got to read about in His Lordship’s Last Wager. Great dialogue.
7.    Arthur. Arthur from Betina Krahn’s A Good Day to Marry a Duke. Arthur was a total oblivious man. Afraid of women and more interested in bugs and flowers than anything else. He was such a sweet supporting character and he stole my heart.
8.    Sometimes the only chemistry in a book is between the secondary “friends” and the lead character. That is the case in A Devil of a Duke by Madeline Hunter. Dukes, Dukes, Dukes, friends forever. The book sparkled when the Duke friends were on the pages together.
9.     And the winner is King. Here is a great example of a secondary character who does more than just support. He almost takes over when he appears in the books he’s been in. He’s everything an alpha male should be, mysterious, dark, domineering and sensual. He is a fascinating character who Kelly Bowen has created, and has appeared in two of her series'. I hope she gives him his own story soon.


Garlic Breath Award of 2018. 

Now it is time to recognize the villains in the story. Sometimes villains are hard to spot in books. But, sometimes authors are not quite so subtle. They paint the villain with recognizable markers, such as crooked, yellow teeth, usually accompanied by bad breath. Sometimes that bad breath has a garlic odor. I myself have no problem with garlic. In fact, I like garlic on my bread and pasta. But in Romanceland garlic seems to be evil. Sometimes I pick my villain nominations because they are hard to spot, and sometimes I pick them because they are so glaringly obvious. Let’s have a look at this year’s crop of bad guys.
1.    The dread pirate Louvel from Nicole Jordan’s My Fair Lover. Yes this book appears to have had numerous things about it which caught my eye, Louvel really wormed his way in. He was everything which was vile – he had a grudge against the hero. He was an abusive, psychotic killer. A down-right creep, and I’m not sure why he was allowed to live with his long suffering, victim, mistress at the end of the story.
2.    The silly villain from Surrender to the Highlander by Linsay Sands. You know how sometimes the villain takes time to explain why they’ve done what they do? Well in this case the heroine is the one who takes the time to explain to the villain why the villain is killing people – a very silly part of the book.
3.    There is nothing subtle at all about this villain. The menacing villain of Adam Levire, the Marquess of Valence. This guy is so abusive he has caused his wife to fake her own death. Now he is engaged to be married again and his supposed dead wife must stop him. This villain is written creepily realistically and it works. This villain we love to hate. Very memorable. From I've Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm by Kelly Bowen.
4.    In The Wedding Gamble by Julia Justiss we had more than one villain. We have an old-fashioned evil mistress, a standard slimy villain, and a few mean family members who could be on either this list, or the Mommie Dearest list. An example of some stereotypical villains.
5.    The villain/s of Josie Litton’s viking series treks through three books before the big reveal. The biggest villain in the book does come as a surprise. Great job for such an old series.
6.    Not all villains are killers. Sometimes a villain can be found in smooth-operators; which is what happens in Julia Justiss’ book A Most Unconventional Match. Maybe it’s because this slime-ball reminded me of one of my favorite slimy character actors from the movies, George Sanders. If you’ve never heard of George Sanders, I suggest watching the old movie Picture of Dorian Gray or The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – George is at the top of his game in those films and the “villain” in this book is like him.
7.    And the winner is: the Duke from Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean. Ms. MacLean introduces a very creepy father in her new series. I'm looking forward to the paths these characters will be traveling down to get to their HEA. What is the hold he has over his children? And, is the one son a villain or a hero? Only time and new books will tell just what that hold is. Interesting character. Yes, some villains can be interesting.

The 2018 Gus Award. 

Oh, those lovable critters who come bouncing in to steal a scene. Sometimes they curl up at the fireplace with our brooding hero; sometimes they save our heroine; sometimes they are there for comic relief. The Gus award is named after the adorable dog in Jill Barnett's Dreaming - Gus happens to be the funniest thing in that book. This year we had a few, but memorable scene stealers. Here are my nominations for 2018:
1.    Laddie, the dog from Surrender to the Highlander by Linsay Sands. Laddie is one of those big slobbery dogs that seem to populate Scotland. Laddie is there to help solve the murder, but not participate in alllll the conversation.
2.    Fergus, from His Convenient Marchioness by Elizabeth Rolls. Now, Fergus is another one of those big lovable dogs who also happens to have some scene stealer competition from two adorable tykes.
3.    And the winner is Raven from Believe in Me by Josie Litton. As it happens Raven is a bird who can talk to humans. Raven is an all-around helpful bird. Raven also spews mysterious wisdom. How can that be, you may ask. Well, Raven is actually the bird part of human shape-shifter. Animals can’t always be perfect.

Welcome to the 2018 Timothy Toad award. 

There is something common in all Romanceland novels which often catches our attentions. It is that appendage which always seems to control our heroes. Some are as big as trees, some our purple, some have supporting buddies, some even talk to the heroes. Sometimes they do odd things which draws our attention to them. Regardless of what they do or say, there are some Timothy Toads which just cannot be forgotten.  Here are my 2018 nominees for this year’s prestigious award:
1.    From Believe in Me by Josie Litton a twitching toad. This year I noticed there were less giant scary toads running around the heroine’s bedroom. Instead I what I saw was an increase in twitching and the Timothy Toad in this book seem to have an abundance of twitching going on.
2.    The innocent Mr. Toad from Born in Sin by Kinley MacGregor. While this guy may have been pretty big, he was also innocent. That innocence leads to a pretty funny consummation scene.
3.    In Ava Stone’s book How to Tempt a Rouge without Even Trying there was an overabundance of twitching performed by Mr. Toad’s willy-whankee-doodle. I guess if something male twitches in a book that means we are supposed to feel the sensuality. A twitch does not mean there is any chemistry between the appendages and orifices involving the hero and heroine.
4.    Sometimes a romance novel just quietly moves along. The characters grow and evolve, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes out of the blue a giant Timothy Toad rears it’s giant bulbous head without any warning. Sometimes it’s attached to a bonehead hero and shouldn’t be in the book. Sometimes it can be very jarring. This is what happened in The Wedding Gamble by Julia Justiss.
5.    In Madeline Hunter’s A Devil of a Duke, we get to hear about a rake's toad. We are told over and over and over again about his past life. He is a prime example of a Timothy Toad who should have fallen off years ago.
6.    In Heartless by Anne Stuart, we are once again given a Mr. Toad who doesn’t understand the word no. This giant protrusion is no longer welcome in romance books of our time.
7.    And, the 2018 winner of one of the biggest ewwwww moments which involves food and a gigantic Mr. Toad. From Surrender to the Highlander by Lynsay Sands is a truly icky moment in which Mr. Toad participates in. Even closing my eyes cannot make this scene go away. There was just toooo much information given which involves jam, jelly, oral conversation and a third party noticing stuff oozing from an orifice.

And now for a special moment from 2018, well actually it is from 2005 – I just reread it this year. One of my favorite heroes showed up in The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie. Yes Gideon. While Gideon may have been irritating, arrogant and obnoxious, he was a wonderful, funny character and I loved him. He made a great hero.

So goodbye 2018. Hopefully, 2019 will bring me some new authors I can turn to for distraction. Keep on writing all you auto-buy authors and keep those toads a-twitching.

Thursday

Holy Peanut Butter Balls! Upcoming Historical Romance Releases!!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! January 15, 2019 to February 14, 2019. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.
**Book by an author who is either new to me or has fallen off of my list.

Historical Romance

Annie Burrows
http://annie-burrows.co.uk
A Duke in Need of a Wife
January 15 – paperback, February 1 – ebook

Cheryl Bolen
http://www.cherylbolen.com/
Last Duke Standing
Lords of Eton series
January 29

Christi Caldwell
http://www.christicaldwellauthor.com
The Governess
Wicked Wallflowers series,
February 12

Jane Feather
http://www.janefeatherauthor.com/
Tempt Me with Diamonds
London Jewels series
January 29

Jenni Fletcher
http://jennifletcher.com
The Viscount’s Veiled Lady
Whitby Weddings series
January 24

Jennifer Ashley*
http://www.jenniferashley.com
The Devilish Lord Will
MacKenzies and MacBrides series
January 15

Kristin Vayden
http://www.kristinvayden.weebly.com
Escaping His Grace
Gentlemen of Temptation series
January 29

Laura Lee Guhrke*
http://lauraleeguhrke.com/
Governess Gone Rogue
Dear Lady Truelove series
January 29

Laura Martin
https://www.harlequin.com/shop/authors/13149_laura-martin.html
Courting the Forbidden Debutante
Scandalous Australian Bachelors series
January 15 – paperback, February 1 – ebook

Linda Broday
http://www.LindaBroday.com
The Outlaw's Mail Order Bride
Outlaw Mail Order Brides series
January 29

Laurie Benson
http://lauriebenson.net
His Three-Day Duchess
The Sommersby Brides series
January 15 – Paperback, February 1 – ebook

Liz Tyner
https://www.liztyner.com/
To Win a Wallflower
January 15 – paperback, February 1 – ebook

Lynsay Sands
http://www.lynsaysands.net
The Wrong Highlander
Highland Brides series
January 29

Marie Force
http://marieforce.com/
Duchess by Deception
Gilded series, debut historical
January 29

Meriel Fuller
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/672834.Meriel_Fuller
Rescued by the Viking
January 15 – paperback, February 1 – ebook

Merry Farmer
http://merryfarmer.net
The Accidental Mistress
when the Wallflowers were Wicked series
January 18, kindle, adult

Sara Bennett
http://www.sara-bennett.com/
Reckless
Mockingbird Square
January 29

Shana Galen
http://www.shanagalen.com
To Ruin a Gentleman
Scarlet Chronicles
January 15, ebook

Valerie Bowman
http://www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com
Mr. Hunt, I Presume
A Playful Brides series, novella
February 8

Historical Fiction
Madhuri Vijay
https://madhurivijay.com/
The Far Field, debut
January 15

Marie Benedict
http://www.authormariebenedict.com
The Only Woman in the Room
January 15 or January 9

Marius Gabriel
http://www.marius-gabriel-author.com
The Parisians
January 17
Mary Calvi
https://www.marycalvi.com/
Dear George, Dear Mary, debut
February 12
Stephanie Barron
http://www.stephaniebarron.com
That Churchill Woman
January 29
Susana Aikin
http://www.susanaaikin.org/
We Shall See the Sky Sparkling, debut
January 29

Whitney Scharer
http://www.whitneyscharer.com
The Age of Light, debut
February 5

Monday

Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh

December 17, 2018
A cornucopia of characters can be overwhelming – even from the best

https://marybalogh.com/

I always look forward to Mary Balogh’s books. She’s always been one of my favorites. From the very beginning in 1983 with The Masked Deception, I knew she was special. Her books were always fuller, deeper, and more involved than most of the rest. She can handle tricky, controversial subjects with a quiet, subtle hand. Is she a Goddess? Well, yes! Does she sometimes not succeed? Well, yes – sometimes even Goddesses trip over words.

I was so excited when Someone to Trust came out. It was the first book I read when the new books hit the shelves. This story happens to be one of her more quiet romances and, much to my sorrow, it didn’t have the sparkle I have come to expect in a Balogh story. In fact, at times I found the narrative exhausting. Why is that, you may ask. Well, my little Petunia’s, every character in her Westcott series is in the book. The story seemed as if it were one gigantic epilogue, but instead of butterflies flapping we have snowflakes falling.

Someone to Trust begins where Someone to Care ends. It also happens to be set in the wintertime around the holidays, hence the snow. This story's romantic pair are Colin Handrich, Lord Hughes, and Lady Elizabeth Overfield. And, they get lost in the shuffle. Even though there is a pedigree chart in the front of the book, it only helps a little. For me, all those characters together were one big noisy clutter and trying to keep track of them gave me a headache. Let’s see, we have Eugenia, Dowager Countess of Riverdale. She is the grandmother of Camille Cunningham, the wife of Joel Cunningham. They are the parents of Winifred, Robbie, Sarah, and newborn Jacob. Camille was a Westcott, which means her siblings are Harry and Abigail Westcott. Those two haven’t had their stories, yet. Their mother is Viola Kingsley - notice the last name is different, (see Someone to Care). Viola recently married Marcel Lamarr and we are celebrating their marriage when this story begins. There is also Anna Archer, aka Westcott, aka Duchess of Netherby; her husband is Avery, Duke of Netherby. They have a child, Josephine. Then we have Alexander Westcott, Earl of Rivendale (he’s legitimate); he is married to Wren who is the sister of Colin – our hero. Wren has a birthmark on her face. They have a gooey child by the name of Nathan. All of these people are talking and having snowball fights – but wait there’s more! There is Lady Jessica Archer, half-sister to Avery and daughter of Louise. There is Boris, Ivan, and Peter. There is Michael, Mary, Matilda, Althea, Estelle, Bertrand, Louise, Sleepy, Sneezy, and Sleezy. Oh, and don’t forget Sir Geoffrey Codaire, but he’s not at the party. Also not at this party are Colin’s family, Lady Hodges and his sisters – they show up in a later section of the book. These are not the only people who populate this novel – there are just waaaay tooooo many for me to remember. Whenever, any of these people were introduced we also were given a brief wrap-up of their story. All of these characters overwhelmed the narrative and I was not able to enjoy Colin and Elizabeth’s romance.

Colin and Elizabeth’s romance is buried in the plethora of characters who move through the pages of this story. The main theme of the book was an age difference – she’s the eldest by nine years. But that was buried under the chaos. Let's not forget Colin’s horrible mother, who should never have been forgiven. She was a vain creature who thought only of herself. She was emotionally and psychologically abusive to mostly Wren, but Colin was also occasionally on the receiving end of his mother’s actions.  For some reason Ms. Balogh chooses to sugarcoat Lady Hodges' character at the end. As far as I’m concerned, Colin and his sister Wren should never have had anything more to do with their mother. Why they would ever expose their future children to this woman was beyond me. As I’ve said before – just because people are related doesn’t been they should be part of the family.

Anyway, bottom line. I was disappointed in this story. I was overwhelmed by all of the characters who made an appearance in the book, both past and future ones. All of these supporting people distracted from the main couple, and I was not able to find any spark between Elizabeth and Colin. Normally, Ms. Balogh’s quiet books have a chemistry between the hero and heroine which is burning just below the surface. For me, there was no burning, yearning, or desire between Colin and Elizabeth. Sadly, they were hidden beneath too many people for a romance to develop.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Mislaid

Friday

Traverlers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl by Victoria Alexander

December 14, 2019
Look into my eyes - you're going on a journey.. 
a long journey...

https://www.victoriaalexander.com/
Travelers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl is another story in Victoria Alexander’s Lady Traveler’s Society series. This is also a book which, for me, turned out to be hard to review. As a comedy adventure story it was fantastic, but as a romance it doesn’t quite work.

This story had a great set-up for a romance tale; I just wish there had been more romance. Sidney Honeywell writes articles for a newspaper under the name of Mrs. Jordan. They are wonderful articles about her adventures in Egypt. She has quite a fan club: in fact, she has earned the name of Queen of the Desert. Here’s the problem: while Sidney is well-read on Egypt – she can even decipher hieroglyphs – she has never been to Egypt. She has been using her grandmother’s journals for her stories. Her grandmother actually did travel to Egypt. Oh yes, besides having never set foot in Egypt, she’s also never been married – so she’s a widow with a wall to breach. Everything about her is a lie. And, there is someone out there who knows she is lying, he just knows it. He just needs to prove it. Enter our hero Harry Armstrong, the Earl of Breton.

Harry, unlike Sidney, has been to Egypt and he has written about his experiences there. The trouble is his writing is pretty much academic – in other words, pretty boring. He can find no one who will publish his work. Publishers also think his work is boring. So, Harry is just a tad bit jealous, except he doesn’t see it as that. He finds the writing of Mrs. Jordan to be intolerable and has dashed off a number of letters to Mrs. Jordan’s publisher. Mrs. Jordan has answered his comments, but not very nicely. Her replies have only infuriated him further. He challenges her to a trip to Egypt knowing in his heart that she will fail, because he believes she’s making it all up (and, she is – sort of). Once she falls flat on her face in Egypt he will expose her for the fraud he believes her to be. She accepts, except she really hasn’t. Unbeknownst to Sidney, aka Mrs. Jordan, her elderly friends from the Traveler’s society have accepted in her name. Yes, Gwen, Effie, and Poppy, are back and they are even more outrageous than they were in the previous books. After some pretty funny scenes it is decided that Sidney, Harry, Gwen, Effie, Poppy and a reporter by the name of Daniel will journey to Egypt for a two week exploration. Daniel, by the way, is out to make a name for himself, and he doesn’t really care how he goes about it.

It isn’t long before it becomes obvious to Harry that Sidney has never traveled anywhere. She displays a wide-eyed, innocent excitement even when she’s boarding the ship bound for Egypt. By the time they reach Egypt, Harry is no longer interested in proving her a fraud. Now, he only wants to help her with her adventure and protect her from snoopy Daniel.

I liked all of the characters in this story, even the sort-of villain Daniel – even when his moment of being a villain happened, I found him to be quite funny. He was the first whiney villain I believe I’ve ever run across. There were loads of funny dialogue, bickering, being in the wrong place, silly rescues, and mayhem – there was just no romance. Because of Sidney’s inexperience in traveling to foreign countries there were moments she turned into a TSTL heroine. She jumps into some situations that any thinking person would avoid. She thinks nothing about walking through an Egyptian street at night with a strange man.

I do recommend this story, just not as a romance. I thought it was great fun, the characters made me chuckle, but there were just too many interruptions by the three elderly women for any kind of chemistry to blossom between Harry and Sidney. On the other, hand this story was full of well-developed, quirky characters who made me smile. And, even though Daniel was kind of a weasel, I thought his attempts at rescue and being a villain pretty funny. There is one scene in particular when Daniel and Harry attempt to rescue Sidney from a harem which is quite amusing. The chemistry between Daniel and Harry in that scene made me chuckle. So, go ahead and read this story, just don’t expect to see very much romance.

Time/Place: England/Egypt 1892
Sensuality: Mislaid

Wednesday

The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

December 5, 2018
Even an adventure can be a quiet tale.

https://juliaquinn.com/
The Other Miss Bridgerton is part of the Rokesby series by Julia Quinn. This series is connected to the Bridgerton series, but it is about the generation before the characters we all know and love.

The Other Miss Bridgerton was a delightful holiday treat, but it could be read any time of the year. Our heroine is Poppy Bridgerton and she is a mighty curious person. Our hero is Andrew Rokesby, aka Captain Andrew James, and he is on the receiving end of Poppy’s curiosity.

I loved Poppy. As I said before, she is a curious person. Some people might classify that as nosy but there isn’t anything negative about her snooping. She’s just a unique person who doesn’t quite fit in. She has an inquiring mind, she’s open to adventure and she isn’t always careful as to where that adventurous spirit might lead her. For instance, her curiosity might get her transported to a pirate ship.

You see, one day Poppy wanders into a cave which turns out to be where some privateers have hidden their loot. Unfortunately for her, two of the privateers – Laurel and Hardy – discover her, bundle her up in burlap and take her aboard their ship with a rag stuffed in her mouth. The rag is there because she just keeps talking, talking, and talking. They take the rag out of her mouth once she’s on board, however, she won’t shut up – so, they put it back in her mouth. Then they leave her and try to decide who is going to tell the captain. By the way, they aren’t really named Laurel and Hardy. It just seems as if they are.

The ship sets sail and by the time the captain is reluctantly told about their captive guest, it’s too late to return her. Captain James is not a happy camper. He is on a secret mission, he has a deadline and much to his chagrin he discovers he has a Bridgerton on board. Even more upsetting to him is that his older brother is married to a Bridgerton. He has a big problem. Not only does he have a mission to complete, he has an innocent woman to get back on shore without anyone finding out. He tries to keep his distance, but it isn’t long before Poppy wiggles under his skin.

The romance slowly builds in this story. A lot of the scenes in the book are more sensual then sexual and it’s a slow burn until their relationship finally explodes. There isn’t a ton of token whankee-roo scenes – which is nice for a change. We have two likeable characters who have a tender relationship which slowly blossoms before our eyes.

I enjoyed this story quite a lot. While it didn’t contain some of the bells and whistles of some of my favorite Julia Quinn stories, it was a very charming story, filled with humor, banter and lovely dialogue. The characters worked together, the romance slowly bloomed from friendship to lovers to a couple who respected each other and one we have no doubt will last a long, long time. A gentle story, which I recommend. 


Time/Place: 1700s English Channel
Sensuality: Warm