The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long

October 9, 2015
Spoiler: They lived happily ever after...uh, then they died.

Many spoilers ahead. In case you don't know it by now, alllll those heroes and heroines who had happy endings in allll those historical romance books you've been reading over the years are now no longer with us. Of course, they never were because they are fictional, but that's beside the point. So just so you know, they are allll dead.

Where to begin - where to begin - ponder. Once again I find myself in the minority. I am confessing now, I am one of those people who did not care for The Legend of Lyon Redmond. In fact when I was finished with this book I was deeply disturbed. We should be able to explore these disturbances because I made a plethora of notes while I was reading.

I will also get this out of the way: I stumbled over a number of typos, in this case words that were missing. I even had an entire page that was not there. So, somewhere, someone wasn't watching-editing-whatever or doing their job. Did I call customer service? No. I really don't have time to deal with the person on the other end. But my electronic copy was a careless representation of an author's hard work.

Now, back to The Legend of Lyon Redmond. I confess, I confess! I wanted John, Lord Lansdowne to get the girl. Of course, I knew that the author probably would never go in that direction. I was anticipating that with this book I would be presented with a very very good reason for Lyon and Olivia being together besides the fact that was what the original outline said. Sometimes an author's initial intentions at the beginning of a series doesn't always work when that series ends. Characters and dynamics take over occasionally and the direction of the story changes. The path originally intended is lost and a new one begins - but then the author still goes down the old path. For me, going down the old path of Olivia and Lyon being together didn't work.

The Legend of Lyon Redmond is partly told through the use of flashbacks. I have nothing against flashbacks, sometimes they work sometimes they don't. In this case they sort of work because we get to see a very young Lyon and an even younger Olivia falling in teenage love/lust. It overwhelms them. I was unable to find anything in their relationship but the lust part. I was never able to comprehend any insight into why they love each other or for that matter why they like each other. While we do get to see how Olivia thinks, we hardly ever get to see Lyon's introspective. Maybe if I had been able to see more of Lyon's thought process I would have liked it better, but he was pretty much a closed book.

So, anyway Lyon and Olivia fall in love/lust at a dance. They are bowled over. They cannot think about anyone or thing but each other. They are also very young. It is Tony and Maria at the dance, only there aren't any Jets and Sharks to do the tap dancing. Then we get to see more of Ton...ur...Lyon and Olivia meeting in secret and the relationship moves from touching each other’s hands to touching other things. But never the final binga-bang. Lyon decides to tell his father, Isaiah that he intends to marry Olivia. Isaiah, being Isaiah, says if you do, I will cease all monetary support. Lyon walks out on his father, stalks over to Olivia's place, throws pebbles at her window, and then proposes. Contrary to what he believes will happen, Olivia starts asking question -wayyyyy beyond her years by the way. Questions such as: What will we live on? What will we eat? Where will we live? Who will be our friends? What about our families? Well, evidently that isn't the response Lyon wanted and he becomes really enraged. He stomps off and out of Olivia life in a fit of spoilt-boy temper-tantrum. In the next five years he becomes many things, a pirate, a privateer, an owner of a plantation, a spy, an owner of an estate in Cadiz - he becomes wealthy. Does he attempt to contact Olivia through the years? Does he remain faithful to Olivia? Does he expect her to remain faithful to him? No, no and yes. What a guy.

I never understood why he would hold a grudge for so long. Especially over something so mundane, so logical. And, because I was never given the ability to follow Lyon and his exploits through those five years I was not inclined to like him. I will say this though - I was not upset that he couldn't keep his Mr. Toad inside of his trousers through those five years. I think it's unrealistic to expect a person to remain celibate for five years, especially when supposedly they have moved on. But, what irritated me was that our heroine, Olivia mooned, daydreamed, withdrew, didn't so much as glance at another guy through that time period. Then when she finally breaks free of her boo-hoo-I-cannot-live-without-Lyon mood and becomes engaged to John and dares to "kiss" him, Lyon lashes out. Lyon makes his grand entrance and has the nerve to berate her for "kissing" her fiancé once...once! Uhggggg, I did not like Lyon.

What is love all about? At no time in this story did I ever discover just why Lyon and Olivia loved each other. Oh sure, I understood the mad crazy lust hormone part, but love...nah. Didn't see it. I especially didn't see Lyon as loveable, he was actually quite a bonehead.

Cadiz.  Lyon kidnaps Olivia and takes her to his big old house in Cadiz where there are waterfalls, beaches and swimming holes. You can run naked in all that water, sand and rocks. You can have mad passionate crazy whankee-roo there! Who cares if you’re engaged to someone else? Who cares if that someone else is the nicest person ever? Not Olivia, that's for sure. She does occasionally feel bad, 'cause she knows what it's like to be hurt and she would never ever ever want to do that to someone else. But who can resist Lyon in the water hole? Not Olivia. Of course, there is a fly in the ointment. After weeks and weeks of humping and bumping in the water Lyon tells Olivia he is sending her back to England. Without him. If she really really really wants him she must fight for him. Fight for him! OMG, is there a ringing in my ears? Why should she! You remember her, Olivia, the girl you left behind. You know the one you didn't say boo to for five long years! She has to fight for you! AAAAkkkk! Why!

By the way, did anybody do anything to prevent any kind of disease or baby-boo-hoo during Cadiz? I don’t remember any Lyon spills on the sacred stomach.

John. Now Olivia has returned to England after her little water escapade. John is one of the nicest secondary characters we've been introduced to in Romanceland. He could have been a wonderful hero. But since he's so nice, I guess it's ok to just step all over him. If Olivia had told John as soon as she saw him that she needed to break their engagement I wouldn't have been so revolted. But that isn't what she did. She waited until she is front of everyone in Pennyroyal, after John has said yes he will take this woman to be his wife, to drop her bomb shell. I cannot tell how much I detested this part of the book. If I hadn't been so close to the end, this book would have hit the wall. But the damage had already been done, and this horribly painful book moment will join some other memorable horrible-feel-bad book moments in by brain.  This left an unpleasant taste in my mouth, but there was more to come.

The epilogue. Yes, there was an epilogue in The Legend of Lyon Redmond. It takes place in the future and we have a contemporary woman visiting England finding her roots - in the cemetery. She is descended from the Redmonds, she also meets a man who is descended from them and through their conversation we get to hear about what happened to all of the characters we had grown to love in Pennyroyal - well almost all of them - not John. Anyway, it seems they all die. Who would have thunk it? A HEA doesn't mean people die, it means they just fade Douglas MacArthur. Not only do all the Pennyroyal heroes and heroines die but we also find out that one of the main secondary characters has been murdered at some point in the past. What? Why? What? I sputter. I thought epilogues were supposed to resolve everything.

To say I was disappointed in this book, the last of the Pennyroyal series is an understatement. I was disturbed by Olivia's callus treatment of John. I didn't find anything redeeming about either Lyon or Olivia. The ending was distasteful to me in so many ways. While I enjoyed most of the books in this series, for me this final story wasn’t on par with the rest of them. While others may be happy that Lyon and Olivia are finally back in each others arms; for me, there were just too many backs that were stabbed on the way to those arms. I found this book distressing.

Time/Place: 1820s England
Sensuality: Hot


The Unsuitable Secretary by Maggie Robinson

October 7, 2015
Things that go bump in the night.
No, no, no. The Unsuitable Secretary does not have any supernatural ghosts bumping into things during the night. The Unsuitable Secretary presents us with a virgin couple who make up for lost time. They are the ones that did all the bumping.

Sir Thomas Benedict Featherstone aka Tubby needs help. Digression time: I eventually grew tired of the name Tubby. Anyway, he has grand plans! Grand ideas! He was filled with an abundance of excitement when it came to these grandiose schemes. For some reason he wanted to open a starving artist commune of sorts. His thinking was that it would just be simply glorious to get all these artist in one place! Creating and not worrying about how they are going to buy their next brush, let alone their next loaf of bread. I guess getting a job was out. But Tubby was a little scattered, he just had tooooo many plans. What he needed was a secretary, someone who could organize and someone who wasn’t afraid of saying no. This was why he found himself at the Evensong Agency being interviewed by a rather scary Mrs. Evensong.

Digression time: I'm not sure why Tubby felt the need to help starving artists, especially when there were other bits of humanity around for him to try to help. But, that's what he wanted. But, I was puzzled, and I didn't think his need was fully explained. If it had been I might have been a little bit more sympathetic to his cause. Because his need to support artists wasn’t ever fully explored, I looked at Tubby as kind of a bumbler throughout the entire book. He seemed to be someone without direction. He was not the kind of hero I'm used to seeing in romance books. He wasn’t as much of a nitwit as Bertie from Lord of the Scoundrels, but he came awfully close. He was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, the world was his oyster. Just a whistling-tune kind of guy. Whatever intelligence he exhibited went right out the window when Harriet sauntered into the room for the first time. Tubby was no longer able to function as a talking, walking, thinking person. Was this a bad thing? Nope! I actually thought it was refreshing to have a hero who was a bit of a stumble-bumbler. Sometimes it’s nice to see a man who has no claim to being a super-duper-stud-alpha kind of guy. Tubby was adorable in his fumbling and tripping over the wrong words. He may not have known anything about the bedroom, but he was more than eager for Harriet to break him in. It doesn't take too long before he was asking Harriet to be his mistress – of course he doesn’t do that right either. By the way, are you irritated with the name Tubby yet?

Harriet. Harriet has one of those horrible fathers who crop up in romance books. I didn't quite understand what his problem was, but he seems to have a boat-load of demons. He didn’t think Harriet should be working. He'd been drugging her in hopes that she wouldn’t be able to do her job. Harriet doesn't understand what's happening to her - yes, she was recovering from an appendectomy, but she also knew that she should be well on the way to recovery and she wasn’t. She never ever considers that her horrible father would be drugging her. Sure he’s an overbearing, nasty, curmudgeon, but he was her father and the thought never crossed her mind. Digression time: just the thought of having any kind of an operation in 1904 makes the hair on my neck stand up on end.

Back to the father. Even though her father has a job, it doesn't seem to be enough to support her twin brothers and herself. Her father constantly berates her for going outside to work, especially for someone with the reputation that Chubby has. Eventually one night she stands up to her father and receives a stunning slap across her face. Thank goodness Ms. Robinson had her leave that house and not stay around to become a Romanceland self-sacrificing martyr. It was at this point that I really liked Harriet.

This was a charming book. Harriet and Chubby were fun characters who embarked on a journey of discovery together. I do mean discovery. They try out everything they can. Was it a perfect book? No, however, I found it to be a pleasant read and found myself smiling a lot through it. There were moments that the book slowed down and there was the Harriet-I'm-not-good-enough rigmarole, which I found tiresome. Overall, I do recommend this story, it's a spicy-sweet story, nothing earth-shattering and nothing "wow" inducing, but a nice way to pass the time on a cool autumn night by the fireplace.

Time/Place: 1904 England
Sensuality: Sweet/Scorcher 


The Prince and I by Karen Hawkins

September 29, 2015
I yam what I yam an' that's all that I yam!

Tautophrase. While you may never have heard of the word tautophrase, I bet you've heard a tautophrase. Let me run through some: It ain't over 'till it's over, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, tomorrow is tomorrow, facts are facts, and a win is a win. According to Wikipedia a tautophrase is a phrase or sentence that repeats an idea in the same words. Which leads me to one of my all-time, least favorite phrases of modern time: "it is what it is." I cannot tell you how much I loathe that phrase. Every time I hear it, all I can see is someone’s shoulders shrugging. I've always felt it was a rather defeatist phrase - a just-give-up-there's-nothing-anyone-can-do-about-it phrase - too bad, sorry, a shrug of shoulders. I really don't like to hear it. So, when the hero of one of my historical books says it I am really thrown out of the story. I am tossed out firstly because I hatessss that phrase. Secondly would someone from I am assuming the 19th century say that? Thirdly, would someone from Oxenburg in the 19th century say that? Nyet! I tried finding any reference to "it is what it is" origins and all I was able to find was that the first time it showed up in writing was 1949. That of course does not mean a prince from Oxenburg would not have that phrase in his vocabulary, but I doubt it and it has such a modern cadence to it that I could do nothing else but stop my reading. But, hey it is what it is.

The Prince and I, by Karen Hawkins, is the second in The Oxenburg Princes series and is loosely based on the Robin Hood story. In this case our heroine, Murian (get it, Murian-Marion-Murian), is Robin Hood. She's the one who robs from the rich to give to the poor. Her band of merry men are mostly widows who have been kicked out of the castle which once belonged to Murian's husband. They all live hidden right under the bad guy’s nose in some run-down cottages in the forest. How the villain of this piece is never able to find them is beyond me. They have fires in their fireplaces in those cottage, how can you not see the smoke coming over the top of those trees? They also have the prince and his men taking wagon loads of building supplies daily to their little hidden place in the woods. All I can say is that the villain’s trackers should have been fired.

Anyway, Murian holds up Prince Gregori Maksim Alexsandr Romanovin and his feisty grandmother's carriage one evening. (Everyone calls him Max by the way.) Also, grandmother Natasha is a stubborn, outspoken elderly person who I think is supposed to be there for comic relief. She refers to herself as a Gypsy and goes around scaring people by casting spells and curses.  There is also a plethora of accents: Murian has a high-class Scottish burr, while her followers have a lower-class burr. Then there is Max and gang's Russian/Oxenburg/Romania accent - it gets to be a little confusing.

If you are looking for a heavy-duty historically accurate book, this one is not for you. There is a cute romance and funny secondary characters with thick accents. The entire read is light and fun. If you don't have a problem with modern language creeping into the story you will find this an enjoyable read, but if you are a historical stickler you might want to pass this one by and avoid the pain it will cause your verra wee brain.

Time/Place: Sometime after some war Scotland, maybe early 1800s
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

September 29, 2015
Oh what a tangled web we weave, blah blah blah.

We certainly have a deceit in When a Scot Ties the Knot, by Tessa Dare. What we have in this book is a heroine, Madeline Gracechurch, who has to come up with a fiancé really fast. She needs to get her father off of her back. He's trying to force her into wedded bliss so he can enjoy his own. So, she invents a fiancé who is off fighting in the war. For years she keeps this letter campaign up, she is even given a house in Scotland to live in by a relative. She kills off her pretend fiancé so she can be totally independent, goes into mourning and then one day who should show up on her door but her pretend fiancé. Well, he's not so pretend and he most certainly isn't dead and he's here to claim her has his wedded wife. Oh dear.

I'm rather fond of pretend fiancé/fiancée/husbands/wives scenario. It makes for a fun story, usually. I like Tessa Dare. I like her humor and I was looking forward to reading this one - however. There were a few stumbling blocks for me, the biggest being the age of the heroine, Madeline. When Madeline first embarks on her plan she is 16 years old, a minor. At this age Madeline would really have no rights of her own, she would definitely be under her father's authority. How a 16 year old could have a fiancé who her father would agree to without the father ever having meet him was a really big stretch of the imagination. Then while still very young she is given the land in Scotland to go and live in. That was also a big stretch. If her father had been portrayed as a mean, creepy guy maybe I could have bought into this a little better, but he's not. He just seems to be neglectful. But even with him being unaware of what his daughter is going through, I just couldn't buy into his approving of someone he's never ever been introduced to. I wish her age had been bumped up a few years, it would have made the whole scenario a bit more palatable. Then there were the letters. If it was all pretend anyway, why even bother to write letters to a fake fiancé. I guess we wouldn't have a story then, but there were a lot of stretches in this story.

Even though I didn't buy into the 16-year-old letter writer part of this story, I did like the older Madeline. I thought she was a wonderfully quirky character. She has pet lobsters, oh not because she likes lobsters, but she is supposed to be illustrating their life cycle (up to 31 years for a male and 54 years for a female). She is a highly talented illustrator. She has dreams of illustrating and has a patron who might get her a job illustrating for a dictionary. She wants that job, she needs the money, the independence - that job would be the answer to her prayers. Because she is a single woman, her patron thinks she will have an easier time getting that job - she won't have all those little kiddies hanging on her skirt, you see. But who should show up to ruin it all - her dead fiancé, her pretend dead fiancé, and he wants one thing. He wants marriage.

Captain Logan MacKenzie is an orphan. He's done well for himself in the army, but he wants something else. He wants a place he can call his own, a place where he can take his rag-tag group of soldiers who followed him and give them a home. Most of his men were originally from Scotland and it is the time of clearances so most of his men don't have a place to go. Because the name Madeline invented for her fiancé actually belonged to a real man, Logan has been getting her letters for five years. He sees his chance: he threatens her with revealing her secret unless she marries him. It will be a marriage of convenience for both of them. She grudgingly agrees. What she doesn't know is that Logan has cherished each and every one of those letters. He has fallen in love with the woman who has corresponded with him for those five years. I did enjoy watching Logan and Madeline grow into being friends and then lovers.

When the Scot Ties the Knot will make many of Ms. Dare's fans happy campers. I found it to be another pleasant read, which had a number of "could have been" moments in it and one too many stretch of the imagination moments. It isn't one of my favorites by Ms. Dare.

Time/Place: 1817 Scotland
Sensuality: Warm/Hot 

Scotsman of My Dreams by Karen Ranney

September 29, 2015
GGAG Alert!! Gigantic Girth and Growing!!

It's been awhile since I've read a Karen Ranney book. I don't know why, she's not one of my auto-buys and this one was receiving good reviews, so what the hey. I'm always on the lookout for a good read. While Scotsman of My Dreams wasn't a super-duper-fantastical read, I did find it apleasant one.

What we have in this book is a grumpy Gus hero who is feeling sorry for himself. Yes, Dalton used to be a man about town, a rake (a real one) and he didn't have a care in the world. He was also bored, bored, bored, so what better thing to do than have a grand adventure. His idea of a grand adventure was to journey to the United States and join the fighting going on at that time called the Civil War. What a good idea, huh? Not only did he think it was a swell idea, but his group of idiot bootlickers thought it would be fun too. So, they followed him to the United States and when they arrived they flipped a coin to see who would fight for the North and who would fight for the South. See isn't that a fun idea? Well, it isn't long before Dalton's eyes are opened to the cruelty which is war. He loses many of his friends along with his eyesight. Or most of his eyesight. So, now he's back in England wallowing in self-pity; he can't see, he's guilt-ridden because of his idiot friends who followed him into war only to die. I'm forgetting a very important part of the plot. It seems that the reason our hero Dalton is blind is because someone tried to kill him while he was off fighting for the North in the United States Civil War. The last thing Dalton saw before he passed out was one of his friends, Neville Todd aiming a pistol at him. Well since this is romance, Neville has a sister, Minerva. Ta ta ta dah.

Minerva is looking for her brother; he seems to have disappeared. Most everyone thinks he's dead, but not Minerva. She knows there is only one person who can tell her where Neville is, and that one person is Dalton. However, Dalton refuses to see her because he's wallowing. That doesn't deter Minerva. She breaks into his house and forces an audience with him. She blames him for everything that has happened to Neville, she hatesssss Dalton, but as it soon turns out not enough to avoid his bed. Which leads me to a short rant and a discovery of my own double standards. Minerva isn't a virgin and I really don't care, but she was relieved of her golden gate years ago by her footman/carriage guy, whatever he is. His name is Hugo and he's still in her employ and also helping her break into places. He appears to still have feelings for her, she doesn't appear to have anything but friendship for him at this point - only fond memories of some wonderful passion. Here's where my double standard crept in. I was uncomfortable with her being his employer and having a one-time passionate relationship with him. It dawned on me that I was more uncomfortable with her still being his employer than I am when it is a male having a passionate relationship with one of his employees. I'm going to have to sort that out, maybe after so many years of reading, I'm used to a male employer being a user of his subordinates, than a female employer being a user of her subordinates. Don't know, haven't arrived at any conclusion other than the relationship between Hugo and Minerva made me uncomfortable.

While we are talking relationships, in the beginning of this story I didn't sense any strong chemistry between Minerva and Dalton. Maybe that was due to the fact that it wasn't until chapter twelve that they were together for any long period of time. Long. Let's talk about long things, shall we. I had an OMG moment in this book. In fact, I pinned a note that said OMG. Plus this moment was a biggggg (and I do mean big) distraction. It became a yardstick moment. I'd say ruler moment, except a ruler wasn't big enough. Dalton seems to be the proud owner of a mighty big Mr. Toad. Not only did Minerva's forefinger and thumb not touch while encircling this gigantic beam, but his Timothy Toad seems to be nine sprayed fingers long! Now, I don't have big hands by any means, in fact my ring finger is a size five but when I sprayed nine of my fingers out I had to find a yardstick because I came up with a whopping 12 and 1/2 inches. That converts to 31.75 centimeters. This proved to be a really big distraction to the story. I kept asking myself why, oh why do authors insist on writing about such humongous hero handles? Here's the deal: a woman's love canal is between 3 to 4 inches long. Granted, it does expand to accommodate things that come knocking, but really 12 1/2 inches, that's a lot of expanding, a lot of arousing. Yes, it does expand to expel little children, but usually that takes hours and hours of pain to stretch that much. Plus, that's expelling, not oh baby bring it on. Authors, please... If you don't want me reaching for a yardstick make those hero handles normal. They don't have to reach up to the sternum to satisfy! Talk about heartburn!

Back to the story. Except for the major distraction of Toads and yardsticks and sternums I found this a pleasant read - not incredibly fantastical, but pleasant. The chemistry between the couple was lacking in the beginning and then when they do become involved another subplot came along and diluted the chemistry that was starting to form. They were apart too long to begin with, which lessened the time allotted to romance. This is a standard romance, nothing earth-shattering, maybe something for a plane ride. It was ok.

Time/Place: 1860s England
Sensuality: Yikes


Historical! Historical! Historical! Upcoming Historical Romances!

September 18, 2015
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! For: October 15, 2015 to September 14, 2015.
Alissa Johnson

A Talent for Trickery
The Thief-takers series
November 3
Amanda McCabe*

The Demure Miss Manning
October 20
Anna Bradley*

A Wicked Way to Win an Earl
Sutherland Scandals series
November 3
Anne Barton

One Wild Winter's Eve
Honeycote series
October 27
Carla Kelly
Georgie Lee
Ann Lethbridge


It Happened One Christmas
October 20
Eva Leigh*

Scandal Takes the Stage
Wicked Quills of London series
October 27
Gayle Callen

The Wrong Bride
Highland Wedding series
October 27
Grace Burrowes*

Daniel's True Desire
True Gentlemen series
November 3
Jane Shoup

Spirit of the Valley
Green Valley series
October 27
Leigh Greenwood

Forever and Always
Cactus Creek Cowboys series
November 3
Lisa Kleypas*

Cold Heared Rake
Cold Hearted Rake series
October 27
Lorraine Heath

Falling Into Bed With a Duke
The Hellions of Havisham series
October 27
Louise Allen

His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish
Lords of Disgrace series
October 20
Lynna Banning

Smoke River Family
October 20
Olivia Drake

Bella and the Beast
Cinderella Sisterhood series
November 3
Piper Huguley

A Treasure of Gold
Migration of the Heart series
November 10
Sabrina Jeffries
Karen Hawkins

What Happens Under the Mistletoe
October 27
Valerie Bowman

The Irresistible Rogue
Playful Brides series
November 3


What to Do With a Duke by Sally MacKenzie

September 16, 2015 
Curses and Friends and Gossip – Oh my!

What to Do With a Duke is the first in Sally MacKenzie’s new series called Spinster House. While I was not all that enthralled with her last Naked series, I like Ms. MacKenzie’s humor enough to pick up her latest.

What we have in What to Do With a Duke is a curse, a cat, and a spinster or a should I say a trio of spinsters.

The curse is that all of the Dukes of Hart will die before the birth of their heir, unless the curse is broken by “true love.” The curse must be true because when this story begins it has been going on for 200 years.  So, it comes as no surprise that the current Duke of Hart, Marcus, is in no hurry to walk down the matrimonial isle. However, he is lonely, blue and sad. He doesn’t know what the problem is, but something is missing in his life – except matrimonial-minded women. These women keep throwing themselves at him in the hopes of entrapping him into the bonds of marriage. Which is what happens when this story begins. Another woman has tried to trap him, she is caught with her clothes half off and him standing over her. Her outraged father tries to force him into marriage, but Marcus says a firm no, nope, never and in so doing creates a small scandal. It is at this time that Marcus and his two friends, Nate and Alex, decide now would be a good time to take a hike. Before they do Marcus receives word from his estate that he needs to choose the next spinster of Spinster House.

Now this is part of the story that is a little confusing. There is a house on Marcus’ property that was established by the same woman who put a curse on the Dukes of Hart. I’m a little unclear as to why she established this house, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the curse, but there is a magical cat that lives there. In between licking its hind quarters, the cat communes with people and walks around the house as if it owns it. Anyway, back to the Spinster House. For some reason there has been a spinster living in the house for 200 years. Not the same spinster - that would be silly because there’s no such thing as a 200-year-old spinster. I think. Anyway, for some reason the Dukes of Hart must be the ones who choose which spinster lives in the house. In the past there has always been only one woman interested in living in that house, so Marcus believes that he won’t be at his estate all that long. Then he and his friends (future heroes), can go traipsing off for a walk through the countryside. Enter Catherine, aka Cat.

Poor Catherine lives in a house with nine other siblings, or most of them since two of them are married. Even though Catherine has been raised in a loving family, she is tired of sharing space with them. She is tired of the noise, the sharing of a bed, the disorder. She can’t write her great novel because of the constant cacophony. She wants the Spinster House. Who should arrive on her father’s doorstep? Well, you see Marcus must talk to the Vicar (Cat’s father) before he can choose the spinster. Well, Catherine jumps at the chance to become the spinster of Spinster House. Marcus doesn’t have a problem with it either, less work for his brain to do. So they agree, however there is a fly in the ointment (or should I say “flies”). Two of Cat’s friends, Jane and Anne, want to be by themselves also. I’m assuming we will find out when their books come out what their reasoning is. Now Marcus has three women to choose from for the Grand Spinster job. It is written in a contract somewhere that they must draw straws to choose who will be the spinster if there is more than one applicant. Cat wins the draw. It is at this time that Cat finds out what friendship is all about, because her friends turn into vicious harpies. They become frenemies and start some really nasty gossip about Cat.

There was a lot going on in this book, a lot of humor but also a number of things that irritated me.  Let’s start with Cat. Even though she is surrounded by a crowd of people, she is really a self-centered person. She has no conception of how her leaving the loving, affectionate family will upset her younger siblings. She has never let on how much she wants to leave, so it comes has quite a shock when she announces it at the dinner table. Her lack of perception makes her a very unlikeable heroine. The only saving grace at this point is that when she finally moves into the Spinster House, she is unable to do any writing because of the quiet. Spoilers ahead. While we are talking about Cat, let me just say this: she turns into one of those heroines who cannot marry the hero. At first it’s because she wants to be alone, but then it’s because if she does he will die. The curse only works if there is marriage and a baby. I found Cat to be a very tiresome character.

Speaking of tiresome, let’s turn our attention to Marcus. Yes, Marcus the cursed Duke who can never hold his heir because of the curse. He is doomed, doomed, doomed. Of course he could marry for love, but he doesn’t know what that is, even when it’s staring him in the face. He is downright depressing. But that doesn’t stop his overactive Mr. Toad from erupting every time Cat enters the room. No sirree, Marcus’ trousers were constantly tented. And, while we are talking about tents, let’s talk about a “c” word which rhymes with rock. Let me say right up front, I am not offended by this word. I’ve read enough romances to become almost immune to the word.  But here’s the problem: Marcus thought about his “c” a lot. Everywhere he went it was up – all the time. But did it ever get to do anything? Nooooo. Did the heroine ever notice it? Noooooo. Was there enough sensuality in the book for this troublesome creature to blend into? Nooooo. It was like a sore thumb just flopping around in the breeze and didn’t really have a purpose. Except it did concern Marcus – a lot.

What’s with all the heroines writhing around? Almost all the heroines in the romance books I’ve read lately are writhing. The word even looks odd. Someone needs to hold these poor ladies down. How can any of those poor heroes find any orifices with all the squirming that’s going on?

Gossip. There was some really mean and explicit gossip in this book. There were all these supporting characters who were asking mighty explicit questions. I think that maybe they were supposed to be humorous, but I had to raise my eyebrows and question the kind of questions coming out of the mouths of these women from this time period. Sure there were busybody, in-your-face women in this time period, but I think they hid their words behind other words. Words that would have the same meaning but not fall so harshly on one's ears.

Finally, yes finally, I am almost done with my rambling. We have a stupid misunderstanding, jump to the wrong conclusion moment in this book. It is the heroine who jumps to the wrong conclusion and throws a tantrum. She jumps to the wrong conclusion about the woman who caused the scandal in the beginning of the book. It was silly and not needed. One last thing – where’s the epilogue? Yes, we believe Cat and Marcus love each other and that the curse is broken and that he won’t die. But, gee-willikers we need to have it in black and white right in front of our faces. I needed to see a baby bouncing on Marcus’ knee to be satisfied.

I was disappointed in What to Do With a Duke. There wasn’t any chemistry between Marcus and Cat. Marcus was overly concerned with his Mr. Toad and for no particular reason because he seemed to be the only one who knew he had one. The “I can’t marry you” routine became tiresome. The secondary female friends were mean. Not even the humor in this book could save it for me.

Time/Place: 1817 England
Sensuality: Cardboard