On My Radar Late February, Early March

C.S. Harris

When Maidens Mourn
Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries
Release date, March 6, 2012
hardcover: 9780451235770 

Madeline Hunter

The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne
Fairbourne Quartet (new)
Release date, March 6, 2012

Leigh LaValle

The Runaway Countess
Release date, March 6, 2012

Caroline Linden

Blame it on Bath
deLacey series
Release date, February 28, 2012

Julia London

The Revenge of Lord Eberlin
Secrets of Hadley Hall series
Release date, February 21, 2012

Sarah MacLean
A Rogue by Any Other Name
The First Rule of Scoundrels series
Release date, February 28, 2012

Mia Marlowe

Touch of a Rogue
Touch of Seduction series
Release date, March 1, 2012

Sophia Nash

Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea
The Royal Entourage series (new)
Release date, February 28, 2012

Lynsay Sands

The Husband Hunt
Madison Sisters series
Release date, February 28, 2012

The Title Caught My Eye:

A. Lee Martinez

Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain
Release date, March 5, 2012

Sarah Bowers

The Needle in the Blood
Historical fiction.  A tale of the Bayeux tapestry
U.S. release date, March 1, 2012

For a more complete list of upcoming releases see Hey Delia!

Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke

January 30, 2012
It's the dreaded Ministry of Magic.  Wait a minute.  What's that you say?  Oops, it's the Ministry of Marriage series.  And It's not dreaded.  Unless, of course you don't want to get married.

And in Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke, AKA Christine Wells, our hero Constantine does-not-want-to-get-married.  Our heroine, Jane, isn't exactly keen on the idea of remarriage either.  However, these two really do not have any control over their own destiny.  The Ministry of Mag Marriage does.  Whoever they may be.

Thanks to a fellow romance lovers recommendation I was able to enjoy Heiress in Love, which was published in 2011.  So, I missed it first time around.  This story had a lot going for it.  Interesting enough, it also had numerous irritating moments.  Let's explore these ups and downs, shall we?

Here's a short synopsis of the plot.  The Duke of Montford is guardian to a flock of children.  We don't know why he is.  We don't know their backgrounds.  And, at least in this book, we never find out.  I was actually hoping that Montford was the hero of the book, but n-o-o-o, twas not to be.  Throughout the book he remains an enigmatic figure, mumbling and grumbling about the e-v-i-l-s of love/passion.  While he is doing this, he is also casting heavy lidded glances aimed at Lady Arlin (a fellow Ministry of Mag Marriage member).  We don't know why; I'm assuming they have a past.  We are never told.  But hey, this story is not about them!  It is about the poor homeless or-ph-ans/lost waifs that Montford has collected.  Fast forward - the homeless or-ph-ans are grown and the meddling ministry has turned its attention to them.  We don't know how this group has the power to do this, we are never told.  But, any who, they are all about to be married, whether they want to be or not.  I think there are five of these homeless ones, so that means five stories.

Plot continues...Jane, Lady Roxdale has recently been widowed.  Her husband was Frederick, and he is a Romanceland typical "bad" husband.  Poor Jane, of course she never never never ever wants to get married again!  Ever!  Silly girl, resistance is futile.  She obviously forgot about the magical meddling ministry of marriage.  They're not really magical, however, they are meddling.

Then we have Constantine, you may recognize him from other books.  He's the devil-may-care, ne'er-do-well seducer of servants, a disgrace to his family.  Scandal follows him where ever he goes.  He's a gambler, a drunk, a womanizer.  Yep!  He's our hero.  And, he most definitely doesn't want to get married.  You see, he was betrayed and no one can trust him and he can't trust another woman to trust him because he was betrayed.  Scratch head here.

Oh by the way, did I forget to mention that Jane's first marriage to faithless Frederick was arranged by the ministry?  So, you see, we are dealing with people whose cognitive powers are just a little off.  I'm talking the ministry here.  Of course you know what the ministry is up to?  They are arranging things for the poor or-ph-an Jane.  Again.  Run, Constantine!

We are now ready for chapter four.  That might be an exaggeration, however that is only part of the storyline.  There is more!  There is Luke, the six year old scene stealer with the "who's his father" mystery.  We have a not-up-to-any-good neighbor and childhood friend of Constantine and Frederick - Trent.  By the way, Trent can fence and we are treated to some hippity-hoppity fencing scenes.  We have a mill that's losing money and country folk losing their homes and dams breaking and floods and...Well there is a lot going on in this book.

Now you might think I didn't care for this book.  Well, you would be wrong.  There were parts of this story that I liked a lot.  I enjoyed both Jane and Constantine.  The slow growth of their relationship was a pleasure to read.  I especially liked their bond with Luke.  It was both humorous and poignant and Luke seemed like a six year old child.

So, I was pretty much enjoying the book, watching as the love story unfolds, ignoring Constantine's occasional temper tantrums.  And then we have an out-of-the blue moment - a misunderstanding!  The hero goes down the "you don't trust me" road.  How does he know Jane doesn't trust him?  Because of the look on Jane's face.  Excuse me!  You're throwing a fit because of the way someone looked at you!  Well, for Pete’s sake, try telling her the truth.  But no, what we are treated to is an "I'm leaving because you don't trust me, even though I haven't explained anything to you-it's all about blind trust!  Trust!  Trust!"

So, that took what had been an enjoyable read up to that point down a notch.

There were also problems with Jane jumping to the wrong conclusion and running after Constantine when, in my opinion, he was the one at fault.  That whole jerk hero thing toward the end of the book got on every inch of my nerves.

Overall, this was a good book.  At least the beginning was; it wasn't until the Mr. Jekyll side of Constantine was revealed that Heiress in Love lost some of its appeal for me.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Hot


How the Marquess was Won by Julie Anne Long

 January 25, 2012

Welcome back to Maiden Hall...uh...Spindle a minute!  Wait a minute!  Pennyroyal Green, yes, that's the one!  Welcome back to Pennyroyal Green!

Ah, yes this is the one with the feuding Redmond/Eversea families.  Even if they play only secondary characters in How the Marquess Was Won, this is still their town after all.

Sometimes when an author writes an "outstanding, best of the best-tist, I love this story" book, my expectation/anticipation barometer ascends.  So, when I am presented with a good story and I enjoy that said good story, I can still be disappointed if it doesn't live up to my expectations.  And, that's what happened in this case.  What I  Did For the Duke was one of my favorite books from last year.  I loved it!  There was some supend-castic writing in that book; and while I enjoyed How the Marquess Was Won, there was just something a little off about it.

I thought both Julian and Phoebe were wonderful characters...heck, I was even intrigued by Phoebe's antagonist, Lisbeth Redmond.  There was a lot going on behind the facade of each one of these individuals; it was just that we weren't allowed in too deeply.  We are told Julian is frivolous, but he didn't seem so to me.  Everything in Julian's character is a reflection of the society around him.  It is the outside world that mimics what he does; he doesn't ask them to, they just do.  And, while this makes for some pretty funny scenes in the book, we are not allowed much access into Julian's psyche.  Why is he the way he is?  Why does he let the ton continue their silliness?  And then there is Phoebe, a "plain" woman who spent some of her childhood in Seven Dials.  Not too much is made of this. In fact, when Julian finds out about it, it doesn't really seem to bother him that much.  And, that was puzzling to me, considering he was such a calm, everything in its place kind of guy.  I would have thought this would have played a bigger part in his class-conscious mind, but it didn't.

The character I thought was pretty true to form, pretty much what I perceive an aristocrat of the time period to be, was Lisbeth (secondary.)  She was rather narcissistic, which was very understandable.  It would be hard to be terribly pretty and have people worship you because of that beauty, and then not expect things to go your way.  I see future heroine material in Lisbeth, if she is allowed to mature a little. She could also go the other way and make a terrific villainess.  I actually was hoping that Phoebe would have been the one to knock Lisbeth off of her pedestal instead of Julian. 

And then there is Jonathan.  What a scalawag.  I'm hoping we have a future book with him in it also.

My favorite character in this book was the cat, Chrybdis.  He provided me with some laugh out loud moments.  The paw swiping at the idiot twins.  And the extremely hysterical rescue by Julian and the silly inspiration created by the ton to pay homage.  I knew when Julian walked into Whites with a cat attached what the results would be.  It was all quite amusing.

How the Marquess Was Won was an entertaining read.  There was fun and there was drama.  The dialogue was clever, even if there were the usual editing problems, (which I chose to overlook.)   I liked all of the characters, even the goofy so-called villains.  It's just that this one didn't pull me up to that higher level.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Sort of Hot


A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant

January 19, 2012

Hot Diggidy Dog!  
I just love writers who can write!

Somehow, and I don't know how, A Lady Awakened slipped by my radar. A word to debut authors - insist your publisher release your book before the end of the year so you can make the "best of" lists. And, if I had read this book last year it would definitely have been on my "best of," but I'll save it for the end of this year. 

Cecilia Grant - remember that name, because she is a really an amazing author. The way she blends her words together was a pleasure to read. I even have a favorite sentence from this book: "He ought to have stayed.  He thought his attachment to Sussex had only to do with his attachment to Mrs. Russell, and he'd left when that tale had come to its end.  But was he no more than the sum of his sentiments?" What a lovely sound that last sentence makes..."But was he no more than the sum of his sentiments?"  And, this book was chock full of delightful words. Yep, that Cecilia Grant is one humdinger of a word put together-er. Heck, there's even a plot.

Now, the plot is something that's "been there, done that." You know the one I mean - a widow, Martha, needs a baby and she needs the baby n-o-w so she can save the sheep, lambs, pigs, cows, peasants, servants, teacher, preacher, land, kitty-cats - oh just everyone. Well, who should stumble into her range of vision but the ne'er-do-well, rascal, studly, scoundrel but misunderstood-heart of gold rake, Theo and his Timothy Toad. Of course, he agrees to stud duty (he is a man after all) - and we are off on another romance story. However, and this is a big however, in the hands of Ms. Grant this story is anything but run-of-the-mill. These two characters were amazing. And, for once in a romance book we actually get to watch them grow into better people. We are not told, we are not given a rush job, we get to read e-v-e-r-y gritty moment of their coming together. Now, I will admit, in the beginning Martha is not the most lovable of heroines...but she grows on you. Theo is an appealing rake right from the beginning, but he also has a lot of growing to do.  The best thing is, we get to watch his transformation into a better man.

Let's talk about the s-e-x in this book. The sex was almost a secondary character in A Lady Awakened. Unlike other novels, the first time was not mind-blowing-better-than-ever-orgasmic-over-and-over was dreadful. And, it may have been some of the worst sex I ever read in a romance book. Unlike other romance books, the heroine does not explode every time Theo's around. In fact, she hates even the thought of a dangling, ugly, smelly Mr. Toad coming anywhere near her. Martha was a tad bit rigid you see, just a tad. The sex, just like Martha and Theo, goes through some wonderful metamorphosis, until finally these two people grow to love each other and then we have some really sensual hot scenes. I loved watching the changes.

Now, was this a perfect book? No, there were times when I thought the opinions, desires, saving of the land-people-lambs-etc. was just a little too modern. And there was a gathering around a table to give the bad guy his comeuppance scene that was a little silly. However, none of these minor quibbles could distract me from totally enjoying this wonderful book. This is an author and a book you don't want to miss.  Remember Cecilia Grant and her debut book, A Lady Awakened.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Hot


This Duke is Mine by Eloisa James

January 16, 2012
Shallow is as Shallow Does

By the way, there are definite major spoilers in this one!  I suspect when Eloisa James pulled up a chair and dipped her pen in some ink to write This Duke is Mine, it was not with the intent to spark heated discussions among members of the romance community.  Let me tell you, when I started to read this book, I found my distaste-o-ramater going off.  On the other hand, there were also  moments that caused me to reflect on the world of romance.  And, I'm not sure that this is a good thing when entering the world of escapism.

So, let's take a look at This Duke is Mine and some of the things that had me wondering if I was going to finish this book.  Most of the problem surrounds our heroine, Olivia.  Let's put a few facts on the table, Olivia is a twin to Georgina.  Olivia is fat, Georgina is skinny...and they both have issues with how they perceive themselves.  Georgina is going to be inspected for possible wifey duties by the mother of our hero, Quin (this is the tie in with The Princess and the Pea.)  Olivia is going to go with Georgina for support/chaperone/whatever.  And while there Olivia will fall in lust with Quin and vise versa.  Nothing there to be offensive...maybe.  Oh wait, I forgot one thing.  Rupert!  Rupert is Olivia's fiance.  They have been engaged or promised since childhood...however, before they can be an official couple Rupert is going off to fight against the French and become a hero.  Now, it is with Rupert that the problem arises.  Rupert is a nice guy, he's honest, he's sweet...he also suffered some brain damage when he was born.  He didn't receive enough oxygen, so, he is what we would call now as mentally challenged.  All of this is made clear in the first few 50 or so pages.  Now, I will be honest...if I put myself in Olivia's shoes I would have a few qualms about spending the rest of my life with someone like Rupert.  However, what I cannot accept and what I found totally distasteful was Olivia snarky, sarcastic, belittling comments about Rupert.  They were just downright nasty.  She reminded me of some of the bullies that inhabited the high school halls of my old alma mater.  Every chance she had, she made some kind of disparaging comment - mainly to her sister.  I believe the comments were supposed to be funny, but they were not.  I love sarcasms, quips and banter.  Nothing better, and I even enjoy seeing people taken down a peg or two.  However, those people usually can take care of themselves...they are not some innocent guy who just can't see things the way others can.  I was surprised that someone who has some insecurities herself would be so cruel when it came to the shortcomings of others.  She is fat after all.  You know how I know she's fat?  I'm told she's fat 500 gazillion times over the course of this story.

There was a wonderful scene between Rupert and Olivia.  It was a consummate-non-consummate scene.  He was just not able to perform - however - they sat on the bed and talked.  And, he recited this little poem that was just lovely.  Olivia was very understanding and I thought "oh good, she's finally winning some points with me."  However, the next scene she is with her sister giggling about Rupert and his "stalk of celery."  She lost her points.

Rupert's portrayal in this book also had me pondering.  Not only is he represented as being dim-witted, he is also physically repulsive.  He has a nose like a potato and a fat mouth that doesn't close.  I can only assume that he drools.  I'm not sure why it was necessary to paint him as a physically ugly person, but it made me wonder.  Our we in Romanceland really that shallow?  Must all of our heroes be handsome?  And, although Rupert wasn't the hero in the book, (maybe he should have been) - what if he had looked like Brad Pitt?  Would that have made any kind of difference?  When was the last time in a romance book the hero had a paunchy stomach or thinning hair?  Or even was not as smart as our heroes must be?  I know there are some out there - mostly on Laura Kinsale's bookshelf - but aren't those great!  Maybe it's time to take a look at what makes a hero.

Back to the This Duke is Mine.  Was there anything in it that I liked?  Well, actually yes.  When they finally were all together (except Rupert) and Quin's mother was testing the women.  There was some wonderful bantering between his mother and's funny when the protagonist are evenly matched.  I also liked the Georgina character, she seemed to have more depth then her sister and I was hoping that Quin would chose her...of course, he didn't.  Quin was a typical hero, with some baggage that made him into a rather cold character - unless he's looking at Olivia's giant melon's then he's hot.  However, I did enjoy the middle of the book.  And, then they go to France to retrieve Rupert.  The French trip seemed odd, and didn't really fit with the rest of the story.  Almost as if it had been added just to up the word count.

By the end of the story, Olivia had redeemed herself - sort of.  However, her redemption came through the guise of others, not through anything she did.  She is given permission by her sister to become Quin's love match.  She never at any time approached Georgina and said "Hey, I'm in lust with this guy.  I know you are supposed to have him, but you are not really interested in him."  But no, it is Georgina who says all of that.  And, then there is Rupert.  He dies.  So, once again Olivia does not have to make amends to anyone.  She is off the hook, foot-loose and fancy free.  Rupert's death was another issue with me.  I thought it was a mistake to kill off Rupert.  I would have been happier with everyone involved in this story if there had been some kind of confrontation between Rupert, Olivia and Quin.  Instead we have a weird French farce baker thing thrown in - what was that all about?

So, yes, I was disappointed with this book and the disappointment was mainly due to the very unlikeable heroine.  The writing, the words, the secondary characters were all good.  The second half of the book is what saved The Duke is Mine from a lower rating.  The heroine was too much of a closet bully for my taste.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Hot


Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke

January 10, 2012 
What a nice beginning for 2012!

Spoiler's ahead. If you are a fan of Laura Lee Guhrke, Trouble at the Wedding will not disappoint.  This story takes us to one of my favorite time periods - Edwardian - love - love - love the clothes from that period.  Thank goodness we do not wear the swan-bill corset anymore, although I think the Gibson girl silhouette is interesting.  This is also the era of the so-called "dollar Princesses."  A time period when English estates were having financial troubles and one of the solutions was to marry wealthy American heiresses to replenish their coffers.  If you're interested, Jennie Jerome (Churchill), Consuelo Vanderbilt, Mary Leiter, Cornelia Martin, May Goelet and Nancy Langhorne Shaw (Astor), were some of these women.  And, in most cases their marriages were not happy, both partners finding interest elsewhere, if you get my drift.  This habit was also responsible for lovely weekend parties of discreet door knocking.
Anyway, that's what we have in this tale.  We have our extremely wealthy American heiress, Annabel, who is about to marry an aristocratic chinless English earl.  Now, there is a catch with the heiress. She may be rich, but she does not fit in with Mrs. Astor's elite 400.  No siree, she's from the backwaters of Mississippi.  Her daddy just happened to strike gold.  And, even though this is a work of fiction, one can only imagine what her life would have been trying to break into the New York elite snob society of the day. (Probably not too much different than today.)  This vulnerability is one of the strong components in the story, and it's also one of the reasons I loved Annabel so much.  She is a smart, strong woman, but she's been hurt in the past.  She wants to fit in s-o much, however, she is a little bit blinded to what it is she is trying to fit into. It just takes Annabel some time to realize that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.  I was little puzzled as to why she decided that she would be more accepted in English aristocracy than she was in American so-called aristocracy.  After-all, her background isn't exactly upper-crusty.  Which brings me to something else I liked in this book.  I was pleased with Miss Guhrke's portrayal of Annabel's background. Yes, she's from the Mississippi backwaters!  Yes, she says "sugar" and drops her consonants.  But at no time did I feel the need to laugh at her because of where she came from.  In fact, the southern/backwater theme was very nicely written.  I was glad that Ms. Guhrke didn't fall into the "let's make fun of the country yokel because they're yokels" writing. I'm not fond of stereotyping, unless, of course, it's the elite we're poking. 
Then, we have Christian, our hero.  He's a duke and he needs money.  And, in this book, he almost plays second fiddle to our heroine.  Now, he has numerous weights he's carrying around.  He was married before and for some reason, he blames himself for her death.  Didn't quite understand that, but I excuse him for being so young when he was married.  However, you would think after a few years he would shed some of his guilt. Evidently not.  Anyway, as I said before, he needs money - fast!  So, he is hired by Annabel's uncle to break up the wedding between Annabel and her chinless earl fiance. Being the scoundrel that he is, Christian agrees - then, he sees Annabel - and falls for her immediately.  I chose to believe he falls in love with her immediately, however, his love for Annabel isn't always that convincing.  I'm not going to go into too much detail except to say that there are some twists and turns in the plots.  Some things I didn't see coming.  There is a nice balance of poignancy and humor.  In fact, the first wedding scene is both funny and sad at the same time.
This is a delightful addition to the Abandoned at the Altar series, with an especially strong heroine who has a very vulnerable side.  Usually, I am drawn to the heroes in the book.  While I found Christian to be delightful and I enjoyed his humor, it was Annabel who stole the show.  There was also a point when I wanted to knock their heads together, and tell them that they loved each other - but I didn't.  When all is said and done, if you have been enjoying this series, you won't want to miss this Trouble at the Wedding. Great addition!!!

Time/Place: Edwardian England
Sensuality: Sort of Hot


The Price of Temptation by Lecia Cornwall

January 5, 2012
How many footmen does it take to unscrew a light bulb?
Well, none if they are in a historical novel...cause they didn't have light bulbs in Regency England.  (We are not counting Humphrey Davy's invention.)  Anyway, we have the latest by Lecia Cornwall, The Price of Temptation.  And, this story starts out pretty strong.  It's a story of two people, Evelyn and Sinjon, who are held in disdain by those surrounding them.  The meet, find solace in each others arms, fall in love - the end.  Spoilers ahead. 

Of course, along the way she is accused of harboring a traitor, her husband.  Or knowing where he is.  Or knowing whether he's dead or not.  Bottom line, she seems to be blamed for almost everything her husband did.  And then we have our hero, Sinjon, aka Sam, the footman.  You see, he is also accused of nefarious crimes.  He may be a rapist, a traitor, a coward, a murderer.  But none of those things stop the head spy-master from sending him off on a mission to spy on our heroine, Evelyn... disguised as a footman.  He's disguised as a footman, not Evelyn.  You know, saying it that way sounds kind of silly, but it all made sense when I was reading it.  And, hey, what says romance more than spies, traitors, cowards, rapist, murderers?

Now, don't get me wrong, I liked both Evelyn and Sinjon/Sam.  I thought Evelyn's metamorphosis from a scaredy cat to a tough cookie was great.  And, she is the one who approaches Sinjon/Sam about a "relationship."  I just wish at some point in her evolution she would have stood up to her three horrible sisters.

I also liked the strong sense of how servants were/are treated - as if they were/are invisible.  I actually enjoyed eavesdropping on the domestic household in this tale and I wish there had been more of it.  Sinjon/Sam blending in with the below-stairs people was so well done, that when his disguise was penetrated I felt sorry for him. Speaking of the disguise part, normally I don't care for disguise/lies, but in the case of The Price of Temptation, this plot-line is where the center of the tension was for me.  Forget about finding the missing husband, or clearing Sinjon's name, I was more intrigued by the tension created knowing that at some point his masquerade was going to be revealed.  The longer his disguise continued, the more I became apprehensive about the reaction of the people who had come to care for him. I found myself looking at the page count, thinking - OMG when is it going to happen?

Where the book fell apart for me was with the two villains.  We race all over clearing up the problem with the husband, and then we have to solve the other villain's hold over Sinjon/Sam.  This was all done in the last few chapters; it seemed to me to be t-o-o busy, t-o-o fast.  Maybe just one villain would have sufficed.  And, the magical flag worship made me cringe. I kept wondering if soldiers in that time period would react in the same manner.  They almost seemed as if they were from the Dark Ages instead of Regency.

Overall, this is a good book, a fast read, with some interesting characters; nothing earth-shattering, but charming and nice.

Time/Place: Regency England, Napoleon/Louis France
Sensuality Rating: Hot