On My Radar Late June, 2012...Early July, 2012!!!

May 29, 2012
Christina Brooke

A Duchess To Remember
Ministry of Marriage series
Release date June 26 2012

Loretta Chase

Scandal Wears Satin
Dressmakers series
Release date, June 26, 2012

Elizabeth Hoyt

Thief of Shadows
Maiden Lane series
Release date, June 26, 2012

Laura Navarre

By Royal Command
Release date, July 2, 2012

Karen Ranney

A Scandalous Scot
suspected Scottish series
Release date, June 26, 2012

Sherry Thomas

Ravishing the Heiress
Fitzhugh series
Release date July 3, 2012

The Title Caught My Eye
Gigi Levangie Grazer

The After Wife
Release date, July 10, 2012

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


Rules of Engagement by Stephanie Laurens, Kasey Michaels, Delilah Marvelle

May 27, 2012
Oh, the different levels of annoyance!


An anthology.  Well, yes we all know I keep reading anthologies and keep getting annoyed.  However, Rules of Engagement just may get a special award for pushing my irritation button.

Usually, when one buys an anthology there is one author in the group who is the reason for the purchase.  In this case it was Kasey Michaels.  As an added bonus there were stories by Stephanie Laurens and Delilah Marvelle.

Well, I was in for a surprise because I hadn't read anything about this book before hand and with a Nook, reading the back blurbs while standing in a book aisle is no longer an option.

Annoyance number one.  Stephanie Laurens.  Ms. Laurens used to be an auto-buy author, but after years of her novels being populated by dominating, he-who-knows all, his opinion is the only one that counts men - yes, I'm talking about Laurens tyrant heroes - her alpha guys who run over the heroines with their giant sized boots.  So, I eventually quit buying her books and gave up, hoping that she (Ms. Laurens) would create a heroine who would kick the hero in his giant package.  So, when I purchased Rules of Engagement, it was with the expectation of reading another despot hero but being part of a anthology I just figured it would be short and maybe Ms. Lauren had changed in the preceding years.

Well, Jason (our hero) is a standard control freak hero. He was so annoying as he walked all over our heroine - in fact there might not have been a heroine.  So nothing new.  And, do you know why it was nothing new?  Because it was a reprint of a 1995 full length story.

Which leads me to annoyance number two.  While I was struggling, slogging and skipping over all the non-communication between the hero and heroine in The Reason for Marriage, I noticed that I was on page 200 and the ending of the story was no where in sight.  Please when will this story end?  By my Nook calculation there were 326 pages, so I began to doubt I was reading an anthology.  I had to check to make sure.  Yes, there was Ms. Michaels' and Ms. Marvelle's names.  Those lucky authors were allotted five chapters each.

Somehow, I felt I had received the royal shaft.  And, not the good kind.

What saved this anthology was Kasey Michaels' contribution, The Wedding Party.  Not only is it a short story (and I do mean short), it also happens to be a prequel to her Redgrave siblings' series.  There seems to be four very strong-willed characters, Gideon, Valentine, Maximillian and Kate.  And, they are coming to a store near you soon.  However, this story was about Bailey and Alana, one of the cutest gosh-golly couples I've read in a long time.  They are also very young and both very innocent.  It was a very charming story, I only wish it had been longer.

Unlaced by Delilah Marvelle is also allotted five chapters.  This story started out great...it was about an older couple in their forties and I found them to be very interesting.  However, somewhere along the way it disintegrated into a stupid misunderstanding and along with that was a distracting secondary story.  Given the time constraints of Unlaced, there just wasn't enough space for any true character development of the secondary plot-line.  So, I think it was a mistake to squeeze them in and if I had been asked, I would have recommended Ms. Marvelle just focus on Mark and Magdalene.  They were great characters or they could have been. 

So what do I think about Rules of Engagement?  I do not mind publishing companies using anthologies to introduce new authors or new series.  I don't even mind the reprint of old stories - doing that gives an author a chance to find a whole new audience.  I also enjoy finding new authors when I read anthologies and I am enjoying the recent trend of series' introductions in these books.  However in this particular case, the introduction of Ms. Laurens' l-o-n-g long story in this anthology diminished the creative possibilities of the other two authors.  All three authors are gifted, and I'm sure that Ms. Laurens has a short story laying around somewhere; I just wish it had been used.

Reason for Marriage by Stephanie Laurens- 14 chapters, Nook numbering 228 pages out of 326.  Time/place: Regency England, sensuality rating: Hot.  Rating D

The Wedding Party by Kasey Michaels - 5 chapters plus an epilogue.  Nook numbering 46 out of 326 pages.  Time/place: Regency England, sensuality rating: Hot.  Rating B

Unlaced by Delilah Marvelle - A prologue plus 5 chapters.  Nook numbering 45 pages out of 326.  Time/place Regency England, sensuality rating, Hot.  Rating B-


How to Dance with a Duke by Manda Collins

May 21, 2012
Don't read two books at once. It slows the process of finishing them.

It took me forever to read How to Dance with a Duke, and that was because at the same time I was listening to the audio of Game of ThronesBig mistake!  Talk about mind/mood switching.  And, my the way was any one else disturbed by the graphic sex scene of a thirteen year old girl in Game of Thrones or is it just me?  I'm also getting a little irritated with the convenient argument of "oh, they did that in that time period."  Really.  And, that makes it ok to insert gratuitous underage forced seduction sex now because?  It's a fantasy book?  The audience is different?  Whatever the reason, I found that particular passage, offensive.  But, that's a rant for another time.

Back to How to Dance with a Duke, a debut novel by Manda Collins which was a pleasant read.  Nothing really earth shattering.  Ms. Collins writing reminded me a little of Sabrina Jeffries pretending to be Amanda Quick.  And, my apologies for comparing one author with another, but I couldn't help it.

I enjoyed both the hero, Lucas and the heroine, Cecily.  There were parts of their relationship that were fun, peppered with some entertaining dialogue.  And, when that happened I had a great time reading How to Dance with a Duke.  However, there were also parts that just sort of meandered.  The book had a little bit of an uneven feel about it. 

There were times in the book when I became annoyed with Cecily, and I didn't really understand why she couldn't admit to loving Lucas.  Out loud, that is.  She knew she loved him, but just the saying of those magic words somehow opened her to being hurt.  Here's the deal: people who fall in love may get hurt whether they admit they are in love or not.  So, admit it.  Then, there was the promise on Lucas' part of withholding sex if Cecily didn't show affection for him.  Thought that was a little jerk-er-ish.  The story also lacked any strong character development, but relied instead on an outside mystery to be solved.  Sort of.  But, before we can solve the mystery of the missing brother we have a romance, and some silly husband hunting.  Somehow, I  thought that finding one's missing brother should take priority over matters of the heart.  And, then there was Cecily's father.  We actually never get to met him, but he's always talked about.  Granted he was in some kind of comatose state, but I would have liked to have at least stared down at him at some point. 

While a lot of the book meandered along, and sometimes the characters did things that didn't make sense, the author actually shows some promise.  I was quite interested in Cecily's step-mother and her sisters...thought their stories would have made a wonderful tale.  I also think that more time should have been spent on building the relationship between Lucas and Cecily, they were a lovely couple and deserved more word space.

So, bottom line - this is a charming story, and it will pique your interest in the next two in the series.  Ms. Collins shows promise and I will be picking up the next in the series.

Time/Place:  Regency England I think.  I know it's England for sure
Sensuality Rating:  Hot


Monica Jackson has passed away.

How sad that we have lost another lovely voice.


Beguiling a Beauty by Sherry Thomas

May 15, 2012
Pet Peeve: a major or principal annoyance or complaint.
Spoilers galore!
You know, I'm not really fond of the term "Pet Peeve" so I'm changing it to "abrasive subject matter moments."  Those are subject matters that, over the years, I've come to avoid when reading a romance novel.  And, over the years, that list has become quite lengthy...you know the ones I mean: infidelity, secret babies, women disguised as men, women disguised as...etc.  Well, it just so happens with the introduction of the Fitzhugh series, Sherry Thomas has managed to tap into three of my "moments."  One for each book. I think she did it deliberately.  She probably said, now what can I write about that will irritate SidneyKay and trigger all kinds of presumptive wall banger (not the good kind) moments?  I'm sure it is all part of the great conspiracy to make me sweat.  The first one, Beguiling the Beauty has a heroine who disguises herself.  The second story will be about the Fitzhugh brother who is married to a sweet woman (Millie), while loving another.  And, the third story appears to be about the youngest sister, who may be having an affair with a married man.  None of these are my favorite plots.  However, I suspect in the hands of Sherry Thomas, instead of hitting a wall, they will wind of being on my keeper shelf.  It always boils down to how well an author writes.

This was a hard book for me to review, because there were moments of wonderfully brilliant storytelling, but populated within those sparkling words were some very unlikeable characters.  Even the secondary ones.  Actually, there were two people I liked, Millie (the trod-upon wife) and Hastings (the snitch rake).  They will show up in later books.  How do I know this, you may ask?  Because, Sherry Thomas strewed their stories throughout Beguiling a Beauty - almost stealing the show from the main entertainment of watching our hero (Christian) and our heroine (Venetia) stumble their way to a HEA.

See, I'm starting to get sidetracked and by the way this happened quite a lot in Beguiling a Beauty.

While I admire Sherry Thomas' voice and recommend this book because I think that the entire series is going to be amazing, I also must throw in a warning.  I could not find it in my heart to like Venetia or Christian.  Of the two, Venetia was the more sympathetic character, even though she had the hare-brained idea of disguising herself as a German countess and seeking revenge by making Christian fall in love with her then dumping him.  I thought the plan was rather childish.  However, she does realize not too far into the hide-n-seek game that it isn't the wisest decision she's ever made.  But it's too late when she has her epiphany.

My main problem with this book lies with wishy-washy, fickle, jump-to-the-wrong-conclusion Christian.  Christian induced numerous frowny faces on me.  While he's in his twenties, he is struck dumb by Venetia's beauty...I forgot to say, she is the most beautiful woman in the world.  Anyway, he's love-struck, obsessed, cannot think of anyone but her, until a chance meeting with her husband, a stranger to Christian by the way.  Nevertheless, the husband makes some kind of comment about Venetia destroying his life (the husband) or some such prattle and Christian believes him.  All of a sudden, the great beauty, the love of his life is now the great Whore of Babylon.  And this is based on what?  Christian has never said boo to Venetia...no sir...but he jumps quickly into the muddy waters of wrong conclusions.  However, he is never able to forget her, he is still obsessed with her, still in luv with her.  And, still able to bad mouth her in public.  Which is why Venetia seeks revenge. 

Next we have Christian boarding a ship with a disguised-as-a-German-countess Venetia (she always wears a veil.)  And, what does fickle Christian do?  Why he falls for the German countess of course.  For one entire week they have sex, sex, and more sex.  Oh by the way, she can't get pregnant because she never did when she was married.  Anyway, Christian luves, luves, luves the countess...but then she leaves when the boat docks and he can't forget her Until he happens to see Venetia again.  The most beautiful woman in the world, who he loves, must have, obsesses over.  And then the truth happens.  He finds out that Venetia and the countess are one and the same.  Oh, the humanity.  Now, he turns into Mr. Sulky guy, you did me wrong, I hate you, I hate you.  I really had no sympathy for this man and felt that Venetia deserved someone better.  Maybe if there had been more moments of shared camaraderie I would have liked him better.  Because when they were together talking honestly, sharing their love of science, they were a great couple.  As it were, those moments were few and far between.

So, I had a hard time rating Beguiling a Beauty.  It was filled with some wonderful writing, but I never felt Christian was given enough book space to redeem himself and become a true "hero."  Most of the his time was spent obsessing or jumping to the wrong conclusion.

The next book is Ravishing the Heiress, Millie's and the Fitzhugh brother's story.  One of my favorite plot-lines is "the marriage of convenience" and that is what this one will be about.  However, mixed into that will be one of my least favorite themes, "not able to forget the other woman."  I am, however, looking forward to reading how Ms. Thomas is going to meld them together.

Time/Place: Late Victorian England
Sensuality Rating: Hot


The Proposal by Mary Balogh

May 10, 2012
Step aside Avengers! Make way for the Super Angst Battalion!
Yes, Mary Balogh has started her new series, The Super Ang...er, Survivor's Club series.  We have Sightless Guy, Walks with a Crutch Man, Scar-on-Face Fellow, Stammer Bloke, Desolate Woman and the leader of the Battalion, Everyone-Thinks-I-Killed-My-Wife Gent or X-Gent for those who know him. And, then we have our hero, Middle-Class-Dour Man.  So, we are in for some future laugh-filled installments from Ms. Balogh.

Our heroine is Gwen.  For those of you who are keeping track, you may remember her.  She's Neville's sister, you know, from One Night for Love...remember, he's Lauren's cousin.  You know her from A Summer to Remember.  Of course you know her, and she knows the Bedwyns.  Remember all the Slightly stories.  And of course there was Miss Martin school in the Simply stories, which brings us to Claudia, which brings us to Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough, who shows up in this book, The Proposal. I now have a headache.  Oh yeh, Wulf puts in an appearance, too.

If any of you have ever read a Mary Balogh's book you know that they are usually filled with deep soul searching written with a fine melodic hand.  And, sometimes that melody is extraordinary and sometimes it is way too heavy.  This one is on the heavy side.  There is no outside drama going on, no villains, no kidnappers, no blackmail, no spies.  Nothing on the outside to build any tension.  All the tension is inside Dour Hugo and Smart Gwen's minds.  Their separate minds.  Their minds that never shut down, they are always bubbling up with reasons for this and that and why this won't work and why that won't work.  On and on.  Occasionally we are given glimpses of some funny banter, but the "middle-class," I'm not good enough, you don't fit in my world, woe is me routine of Dour Hugo went on w-a-y too long.  This is one time, I wish that Ms. Balogh had been a little less insightful and given these two characters something else to do besides think. 

This was a slow read for me, dare I say laborious.  I love Mary Balogh and think she's one of the best examples of romance writing around, but this one missed the mark for me.  Ms. Balogh can write some of the most romantic feelings, some of the best tear-jerkers in the business, some really hot sex scenes and some very tender moments.  But this one had very few of those moments and two characters I didn't care about.  And, I wanted to.

Hopefully, the next in the series will be more what I have come to expect from Ms. Balogh.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Warm


Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

May 9, 2012
Hopping on the bandwagon.

And now for some words of wisdom from my compatriots in Romancevilleland, Melissa and Delia.

Since it seems that every romance reviewer has an obligation to chime in on 50 Shades of Grey, and as SidneyKay doesn't read contemporary, we offered to provide a guest review for her. And, yes, for those two or three who haven't read the book, here be spoilers!

Delia: I read very few contemporary romance novels, and I usually hate jumping on any bandwagon that meanders by, but there has been just too much said about this novel to not pique my interest on what the commotion was all about. The factors that influenced me to read the book were 1) the effect of a blatantly BDSM book on the romance community at large; and 2) why so many mainstream (non-romance) readers are making this such a popular book.

In the first arena, I have to admit that I don't really relish BDSM in general, but I don't have anything against reading about it. Anyone can tell you, I am not easy to control, so I don’t find it all that alluring. The way I see BDSM, it's not just about the control the dominant has over the submissive, but also the power the submissive has over the dominant. I'm not going to get into that whole argument here. I know some didn't like the book because at some point Christian causes real (not pretend) pain to Ana, and she doesn't mind. That was not, to me the problem. I am realistic enough to think that if characters (male and female) are into that, well, that's the way it is, and pain is acceptable. After all, that's where romance has been heading for a while. We all thought we'd get to it with Hart Mackenzie in The Duke’s Perfect Wife, but Jennifer Ashley kind of wimped out. No, what drove me crazy was how poorly written the whole book was. Come on, ANOTHER version of the contract? Can't she just be reading the changed parts? Why do we have to rehash the whole thing yet again? I thought I was back in college reading business law! And yes, I skipped over sections of repeat contract. Heck, I skipped over most of the contract the first time. It became just wasted space to fill out the book. ("See? Just cut and paste and change a few words and add a bit of dialog." I don't think the movie that, yes, will be done, will repeat the contract several times.) The only question in the whole book is whether Ana will continue to negotiate titillating contracts until they reach the signing point.

The book is filled with "Really?" moments. It started out hitting me over the head with the oh-so-subtle Ana falling at Christian's feet when they first meet. Really? Her last name is “Steele?” Really? Really? Foreshadowing and symbolism and THIS is all you can do? Her family is OK with some rich guy buying her a new car? Really? My father's, heck, my husband's first reaction would be "what's he trying to buy?" She can take off huge chunks of time during finals? Really? Her family and friends are cardboard stand-ins. People to reflect the main characters, but no one ever questions her as to what she is doing. And BTW, Christian smirks constantly! Smirking is not a habit I associate with romance heroes. I read smirk and I think "slap his smart-ass face."

And there is the second point. Is this romance? I know the huge portion of those who read believe, yes, it is. They are the ones who always thought romance was nothing but soft-core porn for women. Good romance novels offer strong character development, well-constructed plots, finely researched backgrounds and continuity within series. There is symbolism to provide meaning, foreshadowing to provide suspense, and the opportunity to enjoy a good story or to discuss the finer aspects of motivation. There is emotion and the prospect that, even though things can get rough, a happy continuation is possible. (Note: Not so much as a happy ending, but that life will continue for the main characters better than before.) I haven't read erotica, but I would hope that the emotional aspect that hallmarks the various genres of romance I have read still exists there, too. So the difference between romance and porn is the emotional journey versus physical gratification. I think 50 Shades is trying to add emotion into its journey. Ana is basically a blank slate of sexual experience, previously holding herself back, and Christian is freeing her by binding her (bam! there's symbolism, hitting me over the head again). But it's a stretch for me. While we are told that she is smart, she's a wide-eyed blow-up doll. For all of her thinking and musing on Christian and his needs, her head is full of air. Finally, toward the end, we got a hint of why Christian is the way he is (spoiler: He was abused! Surprise!), although we get no details. That's the next $10, like the old cliff-hanger movies on Saturday mornings.

So, is it romance? I think it's what people who don't read romance think romance is: poorly written tripe with a side of hot sex. I think romance readers who think this is romance think this is the next big thing and want to be riding the wave. I think I'll pass on the next two volumes and wait until the surf has cleared out all the debris to offer a better written version of the next thing.

Melissa: I decided to try out this book since I am an active romance reader and writer and some of my own writing has been labeled with the erotic brush by SidneyKay. I will even admit to being a major Twi-hard to show that I am willing to enjoy a good story though it is poorly written. This book is not just badly written, but there is no story, just uncomfortable situations and orgasms. Instead of character development or growth, we have stalker boy Christian altering contracts repeatedly with TSTL Ana, who went from virgin to BDSM multi-orgasmic girl in seconds.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude in any fashion. I don’t mind erotica, bondage, domination in the bedroom, and spanking. But this story loses erotic appeal when Christian demands Ana’s submission not only in the bedroom but in everything, including him monitoring her eating habits and essentially stalking her. After Ana tumbles into his office, ala Bella, he randomly shows up at her workplace to buy various bondage materials. This is the first of many uncomfortable scenes, when Ana should be calling the police rather than being flattered at the awkward attention. And the most distressing aspect of this book is Ana’s confusion and the discussions over her physical pain. How is this erotic? She was a virgin. How warped is her perception of sex after this experience?

Each of us is allowed our own opinion and for me, I cannot understand the appeal of this book. The most disturbing aspect of this phenomenon is statements by women that this book has improved their sex lives. I’m all for erotica, which I agree can add some spark to our lives, but this book is not erotic. What does it say about society that women are seeking to be submissive in their everyday lives much like the heroine in this book? Last time I checked that behavior was deemed abusive.

Thank you Melissa and Delia for the look into a book I strongly suspect I will not be reading.  I'm thinkin' maybe a low grade on this one.


Much Ado About Rogues by Kasey Michaels

May 4, 2012
"Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep  Cheep cheep cheep Cheep cheep
Cheep cheep cheep  Cheep cheep cheep Cheep cheep
Cheep cheep cheep  Cheep cheep cheep Cheep cheep
Pick a little, talk a little, cheep!"
- Meredith Wilson
If any of you have ever seen the play/movie Music Man, you may remember that rather irritating song Pick a Little, Talk a Little.  Well, that is what we have here my fellow readers.  We have talk, talk, talk.  We do not have a "failure to communicate." And, I never thought I'd say this about a romance novel, I wish we had a failure!  Oh, by the way I do make movie references and I do have spoilers!
Much Ado About Rogues was a hard book for me to review, mainly because I'm a big fan of Kasey Michaels.  Many of her earlier works are some of my favorites, especially those with touches of humor in them.  This book is also the third and final in the Blackthorn brother trilogy.  And, I was very much looking forward to reading it.  In the end though, I would have to say this book does not live up to the other two in the series.  Or my expectations.
Let's talk about my expectations, shall we?  One of my expectations when buying a romance book is that they contain at least a minimal amount of romance.  Call me silly, but there you have it.  Yes, I like romance in my romance novels!  This one, sad to say, had barely a scent of any.  Oh sure, there was a couple.  We have Jack (hero) and Tess (heroine) and they have a past, problems, and secrets.  Jack's a hunk, and Tess is one of those plain-never-looked-in-a-mirror-heroines.  So, you would think with all the standard plot devices around this couple there would be romance.  There wasn't.  There was no chemistry, no sexual tension, nothing.  Oh, there was sex, and plen-ty of it.  But, gee-willikers it was tedious.
For me, this book seemed to focus on the one-step-ahead of the master of intrigue, Tess's father.  There were loads of discussions of mysterious messages, hidden treasures, puzzles to solve, tricks to prevent, disguises to uncover, deceptions, intrigues, who, what and where's.  And, we have to talk, talk, talk all of it out.  Any moment I was expecting someone to shout out, "it was Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with a candlestick!"  While I will admit that some of this was well-written and interesting, it wasn't what I wanted.  I wanted to see some sparks between Jack and Tess; some romance.
Then there was the epilogue.  If any of you saw Lord of the Rings, you may remember the epilogue, or should I say, ep-i-logues.  While, I'm a big fan of Lord of the Rings, I still remember the person sitting behind me groaning as one more ending appeared on the screen.  And, that's what we have in this book, epilogues with a capital S.  One rather inane and confusing almost-epilogue was Cyril’s long winded explanation over the “why” of his marriage.  And, why did we have to go to the United States just to come back to England? 
So, even though I am a gigantic fan of Ms. Michaels, this story disappointed me and is the least favorite in the series.  I found some of the discussions in the book fascinating, but there were way t-o-o many.  And, most important, where was the romance?

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Lots of sex, just not hot!