The Christmas Story by Julia London and The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

March 26, 2012
Two little in-between snacks while we are waiting for the meal.
One thing I'm enjoying about my Nook is the wonderful little in-between short stories that are coming out.  I just recently read Julia London's The Christmas Story, which was released in November of 2011 and Courtney Milan's The Governess Affair, one of the longest prefaces I've ever read.

So, let's start with Julia London's novella first.  The Christmas Story is part of her Hadley Green series and we get to meet Declan's little sister Eireanne and Henry Bristol, a horse breeder from the United States.  This is a mostly enjoyable book about two people who like each other from the start, then slowly fall in love.  Or as slowly as a 100 or so pages will allow you to fall.  It was nice to visit with all the Hadley Green characters, especially Mr. and Mrs. Shay.  I loved their bickering.  What I found to be a bit of a silly irritation was the secret letters that kept showing up and two even sillier characters, Molly and Mabe.  I am hoping that those two don't get their own full book. I'm not sure I could put up with their shenanigans for an entire book.  Another mistake I made while reading this book was to purchase Courtney Milan's The Governess Affair and read it, then go back to The Christmas Story.  I lost the momentum of the book when I did this - that will teach me.

Overall, this was a good story and a fast fast read.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm
Then we have Courtney Milan's The Governess AffairOMG!  I had to keep reminding myself that this was a short/novella story.  It seemed so much more than that.  And, if you are looking for a story in which the hero and heroine are not aristocrats this one is for you.  This story is the set up for her new series Brothers Sinister.  And, if the full length books are anywhere close to this one we are in for a treat.  I am rubbing my hands in anticipation.

Hairpins.  Ms. Milan must have a thing for hairpins. She used them for Smite Turner's agony, which also happens to have been one of best tear-jerker moments of last year.  This time around they bring to us one of the best-te-st, delicious-e-ious sensual bedroom scenes I've read in a long time.  Oh, Hugo, you are my hero.  And, Serena you're not bad for a heroine either.  These are two very strong characters and the banter/conversation/dialogue between these two was just wonderful.  Let me say this once again: I was amazed that all this wonderful storytelling was packed into a short story.

I only had a couple of throw-me-out-of-the-story moments.  One had to do with the infamous belt.  For a short time I wondered about the accuracy of including a belt as part of Hugo's wardrobe, because I thought that belts for this time period were used for decoration, for uniforms and such.  But to keep a man's pants up, I'm pretty sure that it was the sexy suspender and or lovely braces which were used.  And then the sexy suspender was covered by a vest.  And, don't forget the stirrups that were added to the bottom of a man's trousers.  Just so you can shiver at all the male manliness of the time period I have included a fashion plate of an 1830's hunk.  Maybe Hugo had custom-made pants.  Remember, this was called the Romantic Era and for some reason big ballooning mutton sleeves, tight waist for men and women, big old hats and such were thought of as romantic.

  The other thing that threw me out for a few seconds was what was contained in Hugo's pants.  Combined with the misreading of a word, I had a startle moment.  What I read was Serena had trouble with her "hands" meeting when quipping Hugo's Mr. Toad.  Of course, I had to hold my hands up.  I gasped.  Yipes!  That's one big Mr. Toad.  I looked back at the text.  Silly me.  It's "hand," she had trouble circling his Mr. Toad with her hand.  Wipe the sweat off my brow.  For all of you who have a scientific mind like I, the answer is, a cap from a 32oz bottle of Listerine Whitening Pre-Brush Mouthwash.  At least that was one thing in my household that prevented my forefinger and thumb from meeting.  You know I always have to investigate.

Back to The Governess Affair.  I checked the author's website but I could not find where this was going to be put into printed form anytime soon.  Which is a shame, because this is a wonderful little love story and a great lead in to what I suspect is going to be one humdinger of a series by Courtney Milan.

For fashion info on this time period:

Time/Place: Romantic Era England/Early Victoria
Sensuality Rating: Hot 


On My Radar Late May Late June, 2012

April 25, 2012
Elizabeth Boyle

Along Came a Duke
Rhymes with Love series
Release date May 29, 2012

Cecilia Grant

A Gentleman Undone
Blackshear Family series
Release date May 29, 2012

Jayne Fresina

The Most Improper Miss Sophia Valentine
Suspected series
Release date June 1, 2012

Karen Hawkins

The Taming of the Scottish Princess
Hurst Amulet series
Release date May 22, 2012

Erin Knightley, debut

More Than a Stranger
Sealed with a Kiss series
Release date June 5, 2012

Sally MacKenzie

Bedding Lord Ned
Duchess in Love series
Release date June 1, 2012

Donna MacMeans

The Casanova Code
Rake Patrol series
Release date June 5, 2012

Deb Marlowe

Unbuttoning Miss Hardwicke
Release date May 22, 2012

Julia Quinn

A Night Like This
Smythe-Smith series
Release date May 29, 2021

Cheryl Ann Smith

The Scarlett Bride
School for Brides series
Release date June 5, 2012

The Title Caught My Eyes:
Janis Susan May

Timeless Innocents
Release date June 11, 2012

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


The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley

April 24, 2012
So, hey, did I miss something?
You know I love the MacKenzie brothers.  What a bunch of drool-worthy guys.  All that virile manhood in one room is enough to make any woman melt into a puddle of goo.  So, it was with great anticipation that I waited for Hart's story, because he's the leader of the pack.  And, we get to learn his big dark secret.  We also get to learn why Eleanor dumped him all those years ago.  Ergo, I waited...waited...breathlessly.  Here it comes!  Here it comes!  There it goes.  Wait a minute, wait a minute, did I miss something?  The reason for the break-up must have been traveling at the speed of light, because it went right past me.  I asked a fellow Romanceland voyager, did we learn Hart's deep dark secret and the reason for the break-up?  That fellow traveler smiled sheepishly and said no.  So, much for Hart's leaving women breathless.  That is the big dark secret isn't it?  I guess - we will never know because it was all kind of glossed over.

And, the reason for the break-up that I've been eager to learn.  Could it be that Eleanor found out that Hart had a mistress?  Nah, she's alright with that...all men have/had mistresses, that didn't make her angry.  Could it be she found out about his deep dark secret of kinky winky?  Nope, not really in fact some of that kinky winky stuff sounded rather interesting to her.  No, it's the way he treated women.  Oh.  W-e-l-l, that explains everything.  Let's just say that the reasons that could have made someone break an engagement were not the reason that engagement was broken.  The reason was...I don't know what the reason was!  I'm so confused!

There were also a number of other, shall we call them fizzle-out scenarios.  The nude photographs that were mysteriously being sent to Eleanor...fiz-z-z-z-z-z-le.  The Irish assassins...fiz-z-z-z-z-zle.  However, even with all the fizzzzzles and unanswered questions, in the end I liked The Duke's Perfect Wife.  I loved Eleanor.  She is/was the perfect mate for Hart.  She was a strong, opinionated, intelligent woman and I can't ever see her letting anyone walk all over her.  And, let me tell you living with a MacKenzie man would leave you with a lot of footprints on your body.  These brothers require a super-woman, take no prisoners type and that's what Eleanor was.

Hart on the other hand was, well, Hart.  What an interesting man we are presented with.  So much baggage, so many things that are hidden under the exterior.  Makes me tired just thinking of all those problems.  And, even though the sex-kink-wink part was white washed, there were still plenty of other control issues that Hart had to overcome in this book.  So, watching him being confronted by things that were out of his power was all very interesting.

And then there's Ian.  This was not Ian's book, but he was the scene stealer, the pivotal element around which this book spun.  I find Ian such a compelling character; he is so engaging, I hope he shows up in more of the stories.

I'm looking forward to the next books in the series and understand that Ms. Ashley is writing a short story for Inspector Fellows, so that should be fun.  In the end, while I was disappointed that some of the big reveals weren't big, I would recommend this story and say that it is a great addition to a wonderful series.

Time/Place: Victorian England
Sensuality Rating: Hot!


The Devil has Dimples by Pepper Phillips

March 20, 2012
Yipes!!! Slipped under the radar.
Ah, the publishing world, what a strange and mysterious place.  And, it seems as time passes there are going to be more and more books that I'm going to miss just because it's getting harder to find them on a list.  Well, it almost happened again with The Devil has Dimples, a little gem of a book.  Or should I say ebook.  A self-published ebook.  A self-published ebook in first person and also a contemporary.  And, no this isn't some kind of twilight zone SidneyKay must be a pod person thing.  I actually liked this book.

It was a very charming book with some very unique southern characters in it.  There is also a faster moving mystery to be solved...the mystery of who Sara's father is/was.  You see, our heroine, Sara, finds out that she's adopted and that her natural mother has died, leaving her an antique shop where she has to stay for six weeks.  This all comes has a bit of a surprise to Sara; the parents she thought were her parents aren't, so she is determined to find out who she is.  Sara has never felt that she belonged with her parents, or as it turns out, adoptive parents.  So, there are a lot of things going on in her search for her father, because along the way she also searches for clues to her real mother's life.  And, let me tell you that there were a number of surprises awaiting Sara.  There are also a number of people who are hostile to Sara and don't want her finding out all of their secrets.  Almost everyone in the town of Boggy Bayou is disrupted by Sara's arrival.  Especially our hero.

Enter Grant, our hunk, so handsome his smile will blind you. He has a butt you can bounce nickels off of, he's an attorney and he lives in the building that Sara's real mother owned...right across the hall way.  He's got his problems: he's angry with his father, doesn't like his step-mother and has been dating the queen of psychotic romance women almost forever.

There are a lot of sparks flying all over the place, a lot of humor, and southern small town quirkiness.  You can almost hear that slow, southern accent dripping off the page.  It was mighty enjoyable following Sara in her search for herself.

Now, there were some things that threw me out of the story (see it happens in contemporaries).  Sara's real mother, Maudie, is supposed to be sixty-six, which if my calculations are correct would put her in high school in the middle 60's.  Now, she hung around with a group of girls who called themselves the, they are all about the same age.  Well, one of them mentions that Lash LaRue was the hottest movie star of her day.  Well, my mind immediately said, "I don't think so."  You see, my children, Lash LaRue made what are lovingly called B-Westerns.  I vaguely remember the Western Theater on Saturdays.  My brother and I would sit and watch these old cowboy movie reruns and yes, I think Lash LaRue was in some.  However, Lash's heyday was between 1941-1950, so, when someone who was in high school in the 60's says Lash LaRue was the hottest movie star in her time, it throws me for a loop.  If she had said James Dean, Cary Grant, Sal Mineo, Troy Donahue, Paul Newman, Jeffrey Hunter, Rock Hudson, Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, or even Peter Brown, then I would have been more accepting.  Maybe Lash LaRue was big in the south. 

Another throw-out-of-the-moment scene was when Sara is looking at a photo of the Six-Pack, not just any photo, a "sepia" photo.  Now, for all of you who don't really know me in real life, photographs just happen to be one of my specialties and I can see an old "black and white" photo from the 60's being what Sara had in her hands, but a sepia? That would have been a photo from the late 1800s or early 1900s, unless there was some really bad chemicals being used to develop that photo. Or maybe it was one of those horrible Polaroids.  There are a couple of other odd time-not-feeling-right moments in the book, but these are just minor quibbles.

Overall, I thought this was a fast-moving, enjoyable book, even with Birds are tweetin', Butterflies are a flittin', Hummingbirds are a hummin' happy happy ending.  This is a feel good book, it will make you smile, maybe even laugh.  It's sprinkled with a bit of poignancy and a lot of pretty good writing.  I hope Pepper Phillips is intending to write some more books, because I think there is some room for her out there in Bookland.

Time/Place: Current Time, Boggy Bayou
Sensuality: Not quite Hot!


Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville

April 17, 2012
A standard Romanceville arranged marriage?  Not really.
I love marriage-in-trouble romance stories!  And, I've had a hankering for one. Confessions from An Arranged Marriage hit the spot.  A lot of the time, this story reminded me of some of the older traditional romances, the ones before Mary Balogh, by such authors as Mira Stable, Rachelle Edwards, Margaret Sebastian, Iona Charles, Freda Michael, and Sandra Heath - only this one had sex in it.

What made me think of older romances was our hero, Blake.  He has a mistress you see.  So what, you say.  A lot of heroes have mistresses.  Yes, yes, my dears, but this hero does not drop the mistress as soon as the heroine appears.  I find it interesting that in more current romance novels, the hero has been celibate for a year or so when the heroine first steps into his line of vision and he can never think of another woman for the rest of the story.  So, it didn't bother me that Blake doesn't dump his mistress right away.  In fact, I found it more realistic than the no-sex-in a year routine.  And, it was a nice change, added a little bit more tension. 

Unlike a lot of the more modern historical romances, you don't necessarily like this couple. Both Minerva and Blake were interesting characters and they both came with some baggage.  It was very fascinating watching all that baggage unravel.

Let's start with Minerva.  Minerva has political aspirations.  Or as much aspirations as a woman of that time period could have. She wants to be the great hostess for her husband.  She wants to be the woman behind the great man, maybe even the woman behind the next prime minister.  So, she's ambitious and she wants an ambitious man.  Now, did it throw me a little that she was only 19?  Not really, I think that some women in that time period had influence in the political arena.  Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire comes to mind, although, she may have been a little older than 19.  I also try to remember my 19-year-old political mind and I believe I was pretty involved in the whole process.  I was also a little idealistic, just like Minerva's character.  So, I bought her political neediness.  And, you could also see her immaturity peeping through in her snobbery and inability to accept the flaws of others.

And, let me tell you Blake had a lot of flaws.  He is handsome (this is a flaw for Minerva), loved by most women, loves horses, loves to drink...he's an all round ne'er-do-well.  He does his bad-boy-rake routine with gusto. 

By the way, these two people don't like each other.  At. All.  And, it's not one of those pretend dislikes, while all the time secretly  He thinks she's boring, selfish, and tedious and she thinks he's a womanizing horse-mad idiot.  They were made for each other.

Things happen, they are forced to marry, he has a secret, she misunderstands.  All those things which happen in other books; however, the way Ms. Neville slowly has this couple solve all their problems was a treat.  It wasn't a quick fix, and there were times I wanted to yell "tell her now," but I liked the pacing of Ms. Neville's story and I wouldn't have done it any other way.

When the story was over, these two people love each other and I was pretty sure that their marriage would last.   My biggest complaint with the story was the political doo-dah (I have lost my youthful zeal) and the long explanation over what bill was being passed and why. I like Blake, could feel my eyes glazing over.  Overall, I would recommend this story.  Confessions from an Arranged Marriage takes its time slowly building the romance, and I savored every minute of it. 

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Hot


The Seduction of Lady X by Julia London

April 13, 2012
Someone pass the Valium...Pul-e-e-s-e!
The Seduction of Lady X is a difficult book to review.  There were so many things in this story that I really liked, however, coupled with that were such moments of doom and gloom that I found myself saying, "Oh not again" and wanting nothing more than a happy pill.
In case you didn't catch on, this is not a frolicsome book.  It is filled with unrequited love, big misunderstandings, depressing unattainable desires, martyrdom...and things just keep getting worse and worse.  If there was ever a book that defined bleak, this is the one.  Oh, and there is abuse thrown in.  The abuse is there because we have to loath the husband, you see our hero luves the wife.  We don't want lusting after a married woman to distract from the sainthood of the hero.
The plot is this: there is a horrible drunk man who needs an heir. He is married to the lovely, singing-to-the-birds, bright smiling sunny woman Olivia, aka Lady X.  She, of course, is barren or so her brute of a husband thinks.  Living with them is her spoiled eighteen year old sister who happens to be pregnant and isn't telling who the father is.  Well, of course the brutish husband's reaction to this comes as no surprise - he wants to kick the sister out.  Or is it just kick?  Enter our knight on the white horse - the too good to be true - luved the heroine forever - Mr. Martyr Harrison Tolly, aka Harry, aka Tolly.  Oh yeah, he's illegitimate.  Anyway, because he's loved our sunny-smiling heroine forever, he sacrifices himself and proposes marriage to the spoiled selfish sister.  That's the beginning...and things go downhill from there.  This was all kind of a Mary Balogh angst-ridden book.  There were just so many roadblocks thrown in the way of Tolly and Olivia, after awhile I could only giggle and beg, ple-a-s-e not again.
Even though I knew from the back blurb who the hero and heroine were, I thought it would have been interesting if the hero had married the sister while all the time loving the other sister.  Now, that would have been real angst!  But, Ms. London didn't go in that direction.
You may think I didn't like this book - you'd be wrong, although "like" would not be the word I'd apply to The Seduction of Lady X.  I'm not sure you could "like" this dark story; however, you could be fascinated with it, similar to watching a car wreck.  Or reading The Grapes of Wrath; good writing, depressing book.  And, that's what this one was, good writing, but the book is so full of despair I wondered how we were ever going to get our HEA.
So, would I recommend this book?  Yes, but be warned that you need a Margarita by your side along with Tiny Tim singing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" in your iPod.  I have great respect for Julia London, and believe that with this book, she has ventured into some very intense writing.  She succeeded in bringing lots of pathos to this story, but be prepared to be emotionally drained when you put the book down.
Now, someone go out and get me some chocolate.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Almost Hot


The Title Caught My Eye: The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields

 March 11, 2012
A romance book, a romance book! My kingdom for a romance book!
I’ve had a number of epiphanies while reading The Truth of all Things.  One of them is I’m not particularly fond of the killing off of sympathetic characters.  I also came to the conclusion that I will probably never read murder mysteries with the same enjoyment with which I read romance.
Another epiphany!  In order for me to appreciate a book, I absolutely must have brain speak!  Doesn’t matter how well an author can write, if I can’t see inside those little noggins I am uncomfortable.  I must must must know what’s going on!  I don’t care if it is a mystery or if the author is trying to create another enigmatic Sherlock Holmes – never liked Mr. Know-it-all-without-any-personality Sherlock Holmes all that much anyway.  Although, the one main character in this book, Grey, did smirk occasionally.  I guess that means something, not sure what. It must have been up to me to insert the meaning.
Let’s look at those characters shall we?  We have three main characters: Deputy Marshal Archie Lean, the mysterious Sherlock Holmes wanna-be; Percival Grey; and Mrs. Prescott.  There are also a gazillion secondary characters, who are hard to keep track of and divided up into victim-suspect categories.  Just don’t become attached to any of them.  I wish I could talk about the three main characters, about their personalities, but I can’t because this is the weakest part of the book.  And, that’s too bad, because all three of them could have been so much more.  I didn’t know who Archie Lean was, whether he was Grey’s stooge or whether he was a Columbo type.  He has a wife and son in the book, but they are cardboard characters who are occasionally brought out from the backdrop to say something.
Grey is too mysterious, too stoic – he needed to have some kind of life pumped into him.  It wasn’t until almost the very end when I was allowed to see something of his character.
The best of the three is Mrs. Prescott and that is because she reveals her weaknesses.  She’s a strong woman, maybe a suffragette, and intelligent to top it all off.  I’m also assuming she may be Grey’s love interest in future books – only because she kisses him…once.
The strongest part of the book was the murder mystery interlaced with some historical facts on the Salem witch trials.  If you are a fan of the Salem trials, you’ll love this book.  Mr. Shields has included some of the actual transcripts of the trials and other historical facts surrounding those trials, a time period when people seemed to have lost their common sense.  There was also a travelogue of Portland, Maine, and some other irrelevant history of the surrounding area – which could have been left out of the book and in its place some character building would have been nice.  Oh, well.  It was the travelogue that made me put the book down a number of times.  We also have Native American prejudice thrown into the narrative.  I found it to be an irritant to the overall tone of the book.  It was almost as if the author wanted to show how much he knows, so he put as much into this story as he could instead of just focusing on telling us a mystery.
The momentum picks up in the second half of the story; I just wish it had not slowed down so much in the middle.  Every author has a rhythm that is unique, and every reader has a melody that flows through their ears better than some.  In the case of The Truth of All Things, I was not able to appreciate the melody; I'm sure others will.

Time/Place: 1890's New England, United States
Sensuality Rating: None

A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare

April 4, 2012
Road trip!  Road trip!  And what a delightful one it was!

From the very first pages of A Week to Be Wicked, I was smiling.  And, I kept on smiling throughout almost the whole book.  Also, let me introduce you to one of the most preciousssss couple ever, Minerva and Colin.  Kind of turns one's stomach doesn't it?  But they were.  They just made me smile and occasionally a chuckle would escape.  I had a great time reading this book.  Now, don't think that this was a laugh riot all the way through because it isn't.  There are some tender moments, some heart-rending and a few misunderstandings.  But they all blended seamlessly into the energy of the book. 

One of my favorite "enjoy the writing" moment was when the hero is trying to come up with a word describing the heroine's beauty.  I found myself wondering how much work Ms. Dare had to do to come up with that moment - I thought it was a very creative piece of writing.

I loved all of the wonderful stories Colin made up and how eventually Minerva became part of them.  The Tallyho/You're Cracked routine was funny and, at one point, tender.  The mathematical sex talk made me chuckle.  If you are one of those women who have walked with your nose buried in a book, you are probably going to identify with Minerva and cheer for her and Colin in their mad race to Scotland.

Did I love everything in the book?  Silly you, of course not.  I could have done without the heroine's self doubt toward the end of the book.  And here's why - in my mind, she had already established herself as a very strong woman, so, there was no need for the pathos to happen when it did.  It seemed out of character.  Maybe earlier in the book...but hey!  Just a minor hiccup, didn't distract from my total enjoyment of the story.

There was also a secondary story going on, which was an obvious lead into the next in the series and may have been a bit of a distraction.  But those times were short.

This is the second or maybe third (if you count the novella) in the Spindle Cove series, and this is by far my favorite.  This book will make you smile.

"Ease on down, ease on down the road
Come on, ease on down
Ease on down the road
Don't you carry nothing
That might be a load
Come on, ease on down
Ease on down the road" - The Wiz, Charlie Smalls

Time/Place: Regency England roads/barns/farms/inns/dens of iniquity
Sensuality: Hot


At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran

March 2, 2012 
Not a DNF but back to the TBR pile.

There must be something wrong with me.  Everyone is giving this book a glowing review and I'm having trouble with it.  I'm not liking the heroine and after the fifth day I couldn't go on.  So, because I have a great respect for Meredith Duran's writing, I'm putting it back into my TBR pile for a later date.  Maybe I'm distracted by all of the books I ordered this month.

On to something lighter.