Wedding of the Season by Laura Lee Guhrke

January 26, 2011

"Now, whe
n I die,
now don
't think I'm a nut,
don't want no fancy funeral.

Just one like ole king Tut."
We are about to reflect upon a pet peeve moment. Sometimes when one reads historical novels, one stumbles across history that authors tamper with for one reason or another. Usually, unless you are Virginia Henley, the author includes a page or two saying something like, yes, I changed this or that because I wanted to blah blah blah. And, when the author does that, I can live with it and not worry about it. However, in the case of Wedding of the Season, one of my favorite authors failed in her duty to me. I'm not sure why the dates of Tutankhamun's discoveries were changed. Maybe it was to keep it in the Edwardian era, not sure. However, since I happen to love history and have always been fascinated by Tutankhamun, this tampering threw me out of the story. So, I am including a brief history of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb.

Howard Carter (credited with finding the tomb) was obsessed for years in his search for the relatively unknown pharaoh, especially after some cups and a piece of stone bearing Tutankhamun's name were pronounced as unimportant by Theodore Davis (private sponsor). This moment of stupidity on Davis' part happened around 1907. After years of looking, a war, and an ultimatum from the guy with the big bucks backing the dig, Lord Carnarvon, Carter's water carrier stumbled across the stairs leading down to the tomb on November 4, 1922. The mostly intact tomb was not opened until February 16, 1923, and Egyptology hasn't been the same since. (By intact I mean that although the tomb had been broken into, all the good stuff was still there.) And, I wonder what ever happened to the water carrier? That is the brief history. And if you want to learn more watch for that wacky Dr. Zahi Hawass (one of my favorite talkers). In Wedding of the Season, our hero goes to Egypt in 1896, and the stairs are discovered in 1901. Plus, Beatrix keeps referring to the pharaoh as King Tut... got on my nerves...

Maestro, music please:

"You've got to give a little, take a little, and let your poor heart break a little. That's the story of, that's the glory of love."

Now, let's explore Wedding of the Season, the first in the Abandoned at the Altar series. I will say up front that this story was painful to read. Not because of writing or because of the history malfunction, but because these two people, Beatrix and Will, were really hard to like. Their story is one of two people who love each other, but neither one of them is willing to give in or change for the other. They expect the other person to do all the giving and changing, so, because Beatrix refuses to go with Will to Egypt, they break their engagement. After six years, Beatrix is engaged to Aiden (our next hero). However, just weeks before the wedding, who should show up like a bad penny? You guessed it - Will.

Now, you might think that after six years these two people might have had a change of heart; maybe they realized they were wrong all those years ago. Nope. Not these two, they still want the other to do the giving up. So, it is a constant, constant, constant struggle... you change, no you change, no you give everything up, no you give everything up, you don't trust me, you're irresponsible. I have to admit that I found both arguments (Beatrix and Will) to be strong and realistic. I also admit that I agreed with Beatrix in her desire for security and being grounded. And, I also admit that while I was reading some really strong writing, I just couldn't see any resolution to their dilemma. Oh, there is a solution and it's touching, but it doesn't quite solve the problems that these two people raise throughout the book. I doubt their future happiness.

This is not a light read, and if you are like me you will become involved with the torturous love story contained within these pages. Some great writing, just very painful and for some readers, this pain may go on way too long before it's resolved.

I am looking forward to Aiden's story. He was written as a stuffed shirt in this book and we all know I love my stuff shirts.

Time/Place Edwardian England
Sensuality Rating: Hot


The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway

January 19, 2011

Three for the price of one or one for the price of three or for the price of one you get three... whatever. Yes, we have an anthology.

Well, I guess it's an anthology, but unlike a lot of anthologies the authors blend their voices together better than most I've read. I also had a thought when I was reading this: wouldn't it be fun if there was a contest in which three authors wrote an anthology and they didn't sign their names and we as the readers had to guess them. And the winner got a trip to, oh I don't know, London or Paris or Hawaii. Of course, probably the publishers wouldn't agree, but I think it's a swell idea.

Anyway, back to The Lady Most Likely. Three authors contributed to this book: Julia Quinn, Connie Brockway, and Eloisa James. Great authors and actually three pretty good short stories with only a few minor hiccups.

The set-up for the story is a house party for the purpose of getting a bride for Hugh Dunne. With the help of family friend Georgina and Hugh's sister Caroline/Carolyn a list is compiled of eligible women from which he can choose. Of course, if you've read romance for very long, we all know that no one on that list is going to end up as Hugh's bride. For you see, Caroline/Carolyn has also invited M-E-N.
The first story, by Julia Quinn, is about Gwendolyn Passmore and Hugh's friend Alec. Alec is there as an escort to his spoiled sister Octavia. I thought Ms. Quinn did an excellent job of showing us how sometimes shyness in a person is mistaken as snobbery. Which is the case with Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn has two problems, she's extremely beautiful and she's extremely shy. And Alec, who has no interest in marriage (do any of them), falls instantly in love with Gwendolyn. This was my favorite of the three. I thought this couple had amazing chemistry, especially for a short story. Alec and Gwendolyn were both nice people, and they belonged together. The hiccup in this story - well sort of - this is the only story Octavia is in and I was hoping someone would smack her. Her shenanigans needed a bigger book.

Sensuality Rating: Warm
The next story is by Connie Brockway and it is about Captain Neill Oakes and Katherine Peyton. It was at this point that I noticed that what I thought was a small party seemed to have grown, however I didn't want to go back and reread the previous story. But, all of a sudden there seemed to be more characters, and then there was Captain Neill Oakes... where did he come from? Oh, he's a neighbor of sorts. Ok. Anyway, Kate and Neill have luuuved one another for a long time. He ran away from her when she was sixteen, but he lusted for her when he was ten... but he wasn't good enough for her... and had to prove himself by going off to war... which he did. Now he's back and Kate's got him! Anyway, this couple is also great together and it's another fast paced story, with some Brockway humor thrown in.

Sensuality Rating: Warm
The last story in the group is by Eloisa James, and I would recognize her writing even if she chose not to sign her work. Do you know why? Because every book she writes has something about Shakespeare in it. Yes, I know that's what she teaches and it's sort of her trademark, but there are times when Will gets on my nerves. I digress. This is Hugh and Georgina's story. Georgina and Hugh have been friends forever. She's been married before and is never going to get married again! I never understood the reasoning behind that -it had something to do with people you love dying or some sort of silliness. There was also a hint in the story that her husband may have been gay, but it never was made clear and it didn't enhance the story any. I loved Hugh. He was such a rough character, loved his horses, had no time for anything else but horses, and I loved the explanation that is finally given for that. But, Georgina whined too much about never marrying for a short story... all the time she spent whining could have been put to better use. Like more sex. This was my least favorite of the stories.

Sensuality Rating: Almost Hot

Overall, this is a fast paced, light-weight, well-written book. If you can ignore the silly ending, you'll enjoy the rest of the book. This is a good anthology.

Time/Place: Regency England
Overall Rating:


Attack of the TBR pile: How to Wed a Baron by Kasey Michaels

January 17, 2011

Red Herring Alert!
For those of you who don't know what a red herring is, let me explain. Red herrings, normally found in mystery/suspense stories, are something thrown in that purposely distracts the unwary (aka stupid) reader from the real issue.

Why, you may ask, am I talking about red herrings and How to Wed a Baron in the same sentence? While the book is supposed to be a romance, it is actually first and foremost a road-trip suspense, mystery, thriller story. Yes, my fellow Romanceland readers, the love story takes second seat to the suspense. Actually, it takes a third seat. The heroine, Alina, and love are greatly over-shadowed by our hero Justin. In fact, she is relegated to secondary character.

Justin, Justing, Justin!
When Justin made his appearance in How to Beguile a Beauty, he almost stole the show. In that book, I found his bantering to be a great source of amusement and I suspect Ms. Michaels had a hard time keeping his character from taking over the book.

Well, now Justin's back with his own story! Now we get to see the other side of Justin - and what a side it is! You see, Justin's more than a pretty face; he is also a ruthless, dark, cold-blooded assassin. And I do mean cold-blooded; he has been serving his country in that capacity for years and when it comes to disposing of people, he show's no remorse. I found his character to be totally engrossing, which is a good thing. However, it's also a bad thing because this is a romance with two people in it.

The romance plays a secondary role to all the skulduggery that's going on. There are assassins, spies, evil monarchs, chases through the countryside, hiding in a caravan of Romany. This is a romance in which the characters, especially Justin, fall instantly in love with each other. So, there is no growing. And, of course, he is not good enough for her. Then there's Alina, who can see the good in Justin...she must have some eye-sight, because Justin keeps his good side well hidden and we the readers can see that he is really a scary, ruthless killer. And I for one wondered how Alina could see what she saw.

There were two secondary characters - Stefan, the cocky Rom, and Wigglesworth the humorous foppish valet who were the comedy relief.

How to Wed a Baron was difficult to review, I loved the dangerous hero; because of him I found it hard to put the book down. However, I found the romance weak.

This is a good book that's light on romance, has a complex suspenseful plot and a terribly complicated, tortured hero.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Hot

P.S. Watch out for the red herrings - there are many in this story and they are very complicated.


Attack of the TBR pile: How to Tame a Lady and How to Beguile a Beauty by Kasey Michaels

January 11, 2011
There was a revolt in my house!!!

Well, just the other day while strolling past my TBR pile, I was attacked by an avalanche of books. I think they got tired of collecting dust. It seemed as if I was fated to look at them. As I was picking them up, I noticed that I had an awful lot of books that I absolutely had to have but I am absolutely not going to read. I don't know why; maybe I read the reviews, or the back blurbs and changed my mind, or maybe I'm just supporting struggling authors... who knows. Some of those will become a donation. I also noticed that I have a number of series, so, I closed my eyes and picked one and here we go.

It is the Daughtry series by Kasey Michaels, starting with the second in the series, How to Tame a Lady (from 2009), then How to Beguile a Beauty (2010), How to Wed a Baron (2010).

Let's begin with How to Tame a Lady, shall we? This is the story of Nicole and Lucas. First of all Nicole is overwhelmingly beautiful, however, let me say this about that: this is one of the most irritating, head strong, silly, immature, selfish, manipulative heroines I've read in a long time and she is a teenager to top it all off! This girl irritated the crap out of me. And, she was created that way on purpose. I can only assume she's supposed to be funny. Although there were some humorous moments between the two luv birds, mainly she's just over the top spoiled. The problem with that is it reflects on the hero. He loved her from the beginning and hardly any of her antics got on his nerves. In fact, he did a lot to encourage her. I couldn't help but wonder if he would feel the same after they'd been married over 20 years. At one point in the story Nicole reminded me of Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and we all know how well that marriage grew over the years. I really had a hard time seeing Lucas still hopelessly in love with Nicole after a while.

Something else that I noticed was the lack of adequate chaperon for this silly girl. In fact, the family encouraged her and Lucas in their sensual trip toward the HEA. I was really glad when the end of this book came. I got quite tired of Nicole wanting fun and freedom. It was all about her, her, her.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Almost Hot

Now on to How to Beguile a Beauty, Lydia and Tanner's story. Lydia is Nicole's twin sister and the difference between the two is night and day. And, I'm glad I didn't throw the entire series against the wall. This one actually helped me understand Nasty Nicole better.

Digressing with a true story: Once upon a time in a grocery store, I happened to see a mother and her two daughters. There was one walking beside the cart and another riding inside the cart. I looked at the one walking. She was a sweet little girl about eight or so. She had brown hair, brown eyes and had the look of a ballet dancer. Then I looked at the girl in the cart. OMG!!! I've never seen anyone with violet eyes before, unless you count Liz Taylor, but this little girl had them - along with black curly hair and Yes! she could have been Liz Taylor's stand-in when she was a child. The girl, probably seven or so, was absolutely gorgeous and didn't seem to be aware of the stalker woman staring at her. Can you imagine having a sister that looked like Elizabeth Taylor? Think of all the trauma your ego would go through...and then they grow up and become more beautiful. Anyway, my mind started wandering to the older sister who was pretty and what it must be like to have such a beauty for a sister. My mind instantly traveled to Romanceland, all the dynamics that these two had and would have when they grew older. And that brings me around to How to Beguile a Beauty, because that is what this tale explores - and explores very well.

Even though this is a love story and there is a hero, this is mostly Lydia's story and how she works her way out from her sister's shadow. This had some very touching parts in it, especially when Tanner tells Lydia he loves her. I loved this book so much more than Nicole's story. And, in this case I could see this marriage working out after 20 years.

There is a great best friend, Justin; I enjoyed eavesdropping on his and Tanner's conversations. The only problem I had with this book was once again the chaperon duties left a lot to be desired and the suspense thing seemed a bit rushed. It's my opinion that the suspense was a bit of a distraction to the really strong writing that Ms. Michaels did for Lydia's character. Loved Lydia.

Next up will be Justin's story in How to Wed a Baron.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Almost Hot


Memories Schmemories, Continuing Saga Update!! The Sun and the Moon by Patricia Ryan, 2000

January 5, 2011
The Sun and the Moon is the sequel to Silken Threads, and it is another good book, just not as good as Silken Threads. Something else for all of you Hitchcock lovers - about halfway through this book it started to sound familiar... a woman with a bad reputation is asked to spy on someone... she goes to the castle... she must get in the cellar... something is going on in the cellar... she must get the keys... she must seduce the bad guy, even though she loves the good guy. Sound familiar? Think "Notorious." Yes, The Sun and the Moon was inspired by Hitchcock's "Notorious." Not one of my favorite Hitchcock movies and that turned out to be a problem for me.

I didn't like the way Phillipa is used by the men in this book. I didn't like the way Ingrid Bergman was used in "Notorious" and I still didn't like it in this book. However, Phillipa and Hugh are both very strong characters and it was nice to be in the medieval time period again. Patricia Ryan is very good at setting up the feel of that time period, except for the over use of contemporary language. That jolted me out of the narrative and this time I wasn't able to forgive as much as I was with Silken Threads. One word especially - spy - kept irritating me. Every time I saw that word in this tale it just kept getting bigger and bigger till it consumed the whole page. Now, I tried to do some research on that word, because it just sounded so James Bond-age. I did find that it may be from the mid 13th century Frankish word espier or maybe spehon, and that the term spy-glass was around in 1706, so the use of it in this book may be correct; however, it's one of those words that I think authors should have care when using. Because, whether right or wrong, it threw me out of the story and I spent the time doing research on the stupid word instead of reading the story!

By the way, even though I'd read the book before, I'd forgotten who the real villain was... and I never saw it coming.

Anyway, if you do read Silken Threads (it behooves you to do so), you should read this one also. Just be prepared. It isn't quite as good as Silken Threads. AND, I still wish Patricia Ryan was writing historicals.

Time/Place: Medieval England
Sensuality Rating: Almost Hot