The Secret Duke by Jo Beverley

Wigs and warts and glasses...

I'm always thrilled when I get to visit the Georgian world of Jo Beverley's Mallerons, especially when Rothgar shows up. However, even Rothgar's presence couldn't save The Secret Duke from being tedious.

First of all, and this is just me, there were like fifty kazillion of my pet peeves in this book... Perhaps I exaggerate, but there were several. There was a pirate (or a fake pirate), there was a silly revenge plot, mistaken identities (lots of them), and disguises out the wazoo. But since I have so many pet peeves, I can usually get past some if the book is good. In this case, both the hero (who I should have liked) and the heroine were boring. And, you would think with all of the hiding, disguising, and evil sleazy people in this book it would be somewhat exciting, but, sad to say it wasn't. I forced myself to slog through this book; I couldn't face another DNF. But, this book took way too l-o-n-g. I just wanted it to be over.

I have a great respect for Ms. Beverley. I just wish this series could have ended on a high note. I suspect that we probably haven't seen the last of the Malleron family.

I hope not, anyway.

Time/Place: Georgian England
Sensuality Rating: Warm


Patience by Lisa Valdez

Mathew's amazing Mr. Toad!

After I read Lady Jane, I confess I started reading Patience by Lisa Valdez and I discovered something about myself. Books about female submission and male domination (or S&M or M&M or PM or whatever it is) are not my cup of tea. Oh sure, I've read Erotica Romance before, and I even have some auto-buy authors in that genre. I also remember liking Lisa Valdez's first novel, Passion, five years ago. However, I couldn't get past Mathew Morgan's domination of Patience Dare.

I also had a problem with Mathew's giant Mr. Toad. His Mr. Toad swelled, pulsed, throbbed, twitched all over the place. He ached, he was formidable and at times Mr. Toad was even corpulent. Mathew's thick Mr. Toad could even stop and start in the middle of his eruptions! But, I pressed on, past all of the dripping and weeping and salivating... until that moment when Mr. Toad was jammed down Patience's throat spewing out his "hot glutenous seed." It was at this point that I got the giggles. I just couldn't take it anymore... and by the way, what happened to Ms. Patience's gag reflex? I know when I'm in the dentist chair having poly-ether gunk squirted in, I gag.

I wish Lisa Valdez all the best in her career as a writer and I'm sure that some people will like this book and it will probably be nominated for some awards. But for me it was $7.00 down the tube and a DNF.

Time/Place: Victorian England
Sensuality Rating: Purple Scorching


Memories Schmemories Part V, Lady Jane by Norma Lee Clark, 1982

Eons ago when I first starting reading romance there were two publishers that I always bought - Signet and Fawcett Regencies. Somewhere along the line, I started to lose interest in the traditional Regency and focus mainly on the bigger historical books. Well, let me tell you after rereading Lady Jane by Norma Lee Clark, I am reminded why I read these little Regencies so much. Packed into 214 pages is some very amazing writing and some eye-opening surprises (along with a teensy-weensie font.)

Normally, when one thinks of the old traditional Regencies, one thinks of a world filled with aristocrats, balls, the ton etc.; however, not all of the books written in the 70's and 80's were like that. And, this one is different. This one is a little darker. Jane Coombes is a 14 year old servant employed in the household of the Montmorency family. Yes, I said 14! (I had to adjust my ickometer for that one.) Along the way, Jane is almost seduced by Jasper Montmorency, loses her job, tries to find a job, is tricked by the Montmorency butler, Leach, and is brutally raped by him. And, this is no romance pretend rape, no hero lurking in the doorway to stop it. She is eventually rescued by Lady Stanier and whisked away to Kent, where she becomes a part of the Payton household. This book spans 7 years of Jane's life, and along the way we fall in love with her.

Most of the story is told through Jane's eyes, with an occasional POV from two men, Sebastian and Jasper. There are two parts to this book, I call them Sebastian's story and Jasper's story. I loved the character of Sebastian more than Jasper and, not to give too much away, Sebastian's part is a hanky-read. And unlike other romance books, Jane loves both men equally, without any of that "I never knew what I was missing till you."

So, if you can get past the young ages in this book, you're in for a treat. Just be warned this is not the same ol' same ol' Regency of the 90's... this is what traditional Regencies were all about in the beginning.

Norma Lee Clark, aka Megan O'Connor, wrote 15 romance novels. She died at the age of 75 in 2002.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Surprisingly fairly warm


Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

Another debut author (or at least an adult debut; Sarah MacLean has written a Young Adult novel).

I've been seeing a pattern this year. I'm loving my debut authors and not loving my auto-buys so much. And once again the artist for the cover misses the mark. Oh sure, the heroine has a big chest; however, like most normal people she also has the hips to match. When I looked at the cover I was concerned that she might just fall over. And, what's wrong with her oddly positioned hand?

Anyway, this story had a number of elements about it that could have gone wrong, but Ms. MacLean didn't allow it to go that far. The heroine could have been one of those silly girls that was constantly getting in trouble, but she wasn't. You see, she's drawn up a list of things that she's never done... and she's chosen Mr. Rake, Gabriel St. John to help her do them. Yes, this plot has been done before, but don't let that stop you from reading this book. Even though there were times when Callie came awfully close to being silly, I also found myself identifying with her, and that doesn't happen often in romance books. This is a very character-driven book and there are some great secondary characters. There's also a sympathetic mistress. Gabriel has a twin brother and an illegitimate sister and Callie has an interesting bookish brother Benedick (can you say sequels?)

This is a fast paced book, couldn't but it down... and even when it started to go into silly waters, it didn't stay there. I am looking forward to more books from this author!

Time/Place: 1823 England
Sensuality Rating: Hot

Memories Schmemories Part IV, Entwined by Emma Jensen

No website, check out book list at:

Sad to say, Emma Jensen is one of those authors who is no longer writing. She wrote 13 books, and won numerous awards, starting with traditional Regency and progressing to longer historical books. Whenever you picked up a Emma Jensen book, you knew that you would be getting a book with plenty of witty dialog and humor in it.

I would say that if you want to read one of Jensen's books, Entwined is probably one of her best, although I remember some of her Regencies being pretty humorous. This story has two wonderful characters: the hero, Nathan, is scarred and partially blind, and Isobel, the heroine, is loaded with the typical loathsome family (at least the men). Her father and brothers are selfish drunken guys and Isobel is close to being a martyr. Also, for those of you who cringe when they read "och" and "dinna fash yourself," be prepared for some Scottish slang. However, there is also some wonderful Gaelic in this book; I just wish I could hear it instead of read it. I love hearing Gaelic, but I digress.

Nathan was incredibly sexy and he fell in love with Isobel at first smell. Everything about him is based on scent, sound and touch. He can only see Isobel in a vague blur... and at the end of the book he does not miraculously regain his sight. Isobel was a strong heroine. She has a wee bit of temper and isn't afraid to stand up to Nathan. One of my favorite parts was the continual bantering between the two main characters. I love witty dialogue. (This is not the same as I love you, I hate you dialogue.)

There is a secondary murder plot going on and the thought crossed my mind that maybe this was one of the first of those "friends who spy for their country" books. This was written in 1997 and I'm not sure when that phenomenon flooded the publishing world. Some of the secondary characters obviously are intended to have their own books, but the main thrust of the story is the romance between Nathan and Isobel.

The weak parts of the book are Isobel's father and brothers. They are important to the plot in the beginning, because they are the reason she marries Nathan. However, the brothers show up later and I'm not sure why... that plot-line doesn't seem to go anywhere. I also felt the ending was just a little rushed. I would have liked to see things tied up a little bit neater... However, now that I've read this book, I feel the urge to read some of her others and ignore my growing TBR pile (but I won't.)

So, if you've never read Emma Jensen, take the plunge - try this one or one of her traditional Regencies: Best Laid Schemes, A Grand Design, His Grace Endures and Fallen (a sequel to Entwined)

Time/Place: Regency England
Rating: or Couldn't make up my mind
Sensuality Rating: Hot


Desires of a Perfect Lady by Victoria Alexander

Ta da...The winner of my first 2010 Snooze Award goes to Desires of a Perfect Lady.
After reading this book, I went back to the first book in her series and was surprised to see that I liked it. Because, after reading this book, I was seriously considering crossing Victoria Alexander off my auto-buy list. This book did have a major impact on the creation of the snooze award, an award that hadn't even crossed my mind before...that must be some sort of honor.

Well, citizens, let me tell you, I really had a hard time getting through this one. It is a very bad sign when one keeps putting a book down and drifting off for a little nap.

I really thought I'd enjoy this one, Sterling Harrington is one of my all-time favorite type of hero. A stuffed shirt. Love stuffed shirts and I did enjoy his interaction with his mother. However, there was no chemistry between he and the heroine, Olivia. Plus, this was another "on the road" treasure hunt book, however, you'd think with all of the moving around and hunting there would be something...some little spark of excitement...after all we go to Egypt, Venice and London. Pass by all the other countries in between.

There is everything in this book, adventure, villains, my favorite type of hero and...nothing, it just didn't go anywhere...Once again, the hamster in wheel syndrome.

I guess, since I liked the first one, I'll read the next one...but this one...

See, I even nod off when writing about it.

Time/Place: Victorian Everywhere
Sensuality: Weak Hot


In For a Penny by Rose Lerner
Romance reader alert!! We have struck gold!!!

Don't let the absence of heaving bosoms, naked limbs or bare chests on the cover fool you - this is a romance novel. And what a romance novel it is! The back blurb says: "the grit of Dickens and the true-to-life, breathing characters of Austen." And, for once the back blurb is correct.

It is always an exciting moment for me when I find a debut author who can write, and let me tell you Rose Lerner is a major talent. All of the characters in this book are well-rounded; however, they are not the typical people we find inhabiting a lot of romance novels today. In fact, they all seemed to have a little bit of a bite to them and they did remind me of Charles Dickens' characters. Oh sure, the author occasionally throws in a modern word, but I was so engrossed with this story I didn't have time to care.

The hero, Nev, isn't the brightest bulb in the box, and occasionally he reminds me of a frat boy. The heroine, Penelope, more closely resembles current romance standards, but I loved her. These two are worlds apart; he's an aristocrat and she's from the working class. He needs money, she has it. A standard plot, but to watch them struggle toward that HEA is truly an amazing journey. There are a lot of misunderstandings, but after each one the couple became stronger. At one point, they had so much to overcome that the heroine wanted to run away, and I can't say that I blamed her.

In For a Penny is a charming, witty, touching, and at times the struggle may make the reader a tad bit apprehensive... I know it did me. Watch for a wonderful scene with Nev and cutting up food, and I'm not going to say anything else, except it was a "aww" moment.

The book felt a bit rushed at the end, some loose ends not tied, but overall this a wonderful, wonderful book and Rose Lerner is an author to keep your eyes on.

Time/Place 1819 England
Sensuality Rating: Hot


Provocative in Pearls by Madeline Hunter
Well, I liked Ravishing in Red better than Provocative in Pearls. And, once again the first part of the book was slow. As I said before, I think Madeline Hunter is one of the better writers of Medieval romance around, but when she journey's into Regencyland sometimes there is a clunker, but what author hasn't had a clunker. And, this book isn't a clunker, I just liked Ravishing in Red better ...and here's why...

When we are reacquainted with the heroine, Verity aka Lizzie, we find out the mystery surrounding her character. You see, she faked her death to avoid staying married to Grayson. Now, I found this storyline a bit distasteful, because she didn't really seem to take into consideration what her death would mean to those she left behind. And, I wasn't really sure what she hoped to gain by faking her death. When found again, she shows hardly any remorse for the pain her deception may have caused. So, I didn't really care for her until the second half of the book.

Grayson was ok, but I found both he and Verity to be pretty manipulative when it came to sex, and let me tell you there's plenty of that in this book.

Then at the end of the book a number of plot-lines come to a screeching halt. We see a number of the manly men jumping on their horses to rescue Michael, but we don't get to be in on the rescue...he's just there in the carriage. The last we see of the character Colleen, she's walking away from Grayson with a tear in her eye...why? I don't know. I could speculate, but I'm lazy and I like to be told things in my romance novels. There are the e-e-v-i-l Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, they get a good talking to and just sort of disappear. I'm betting that there was some sort of editor chop-i-tis involved in Ms. Hunters work. It's too bad that there is such a thing as word count in the publishing world...sometimes.

Also, let me dwell a little on the secondary character Castleford. He has made an appearance in both books and I find myself becoming quite fascinated with him. He is portrayed as a complete whore-monger and a drunken one no less. So, I am really looking forward to his transformation into the hero in the fourth book, Dangerous in Diamonds. A lot of times those transformation don't work, so I'm keepin' my fingers crossed.

Even though I liked the first book better, I am hooked on this series and looking forward to the remaining ones.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot!