More Than a Stranger by Erin Knightley

June 29, 2012

Three's a crowd
More Than a Stranger is Erin Knightley's debut novel and it is a lovely entree into Romanceland.  The book has two charming main characters with a few interesting secondaries thrown in.

The beginning of this book kept me engrossed.  I even chuckled at Evie's first letter to Benedict.  I loved the correspondence between the two teenage protagonist/love-buds, and I would have enjoyed more of a glimpse into that background.  But, twas not to be, because our hero, who by the way is awfully young...our hero must go off and be a spy.  Yep, he must spy for his country and cut all ties with every one including our heroine, Evie.  So, Evie, is heartbroken at 15/16.  And, then years later he is on the run and decides to hide out at his friend, Richard, country home.  Well, you see Richard is Evie's brother and much to the surprise of Richard and our hero, Benedict, the family is still there at the country home.  So, even though Benedict is struck numb by Evie's beauty, he decides to lie to her and pretend he is someone else and not the person who wrote all those letters years ago.

Now, some of this book I really liked.  I liked that Evie fell in love with Benedict, Benedict the spy, not Benedict the letter writer.  And, I loved that Benedict had some major guilt feelings about all of the lies he was telling just so he could remain close to Evie.  They had a sweet romance.  However, where this book fell short for me was that even though there should have been all of this tension it was for the wrong reason.  Oh sure, there was all the tension of Benedict's lies, but there was no love/sexual tension between Evie and Benedict.  At least I didn't feel any.  And, I think some of that might have been due to Richard.

Yes, Richard the brother.  Richard is Benedict's best friend and all through the book he is there.  He's like a third wheel; whenever Benedict and Evie are together, there's Richard.  I don't have anything against males bonding; I like that in books.  However, the very strong friendship bond between Richard and Benedict was more apparent to me than the growing love between Evie and Benedict.

And, while we are talking about Benedict, once again we have a spy who makes me wonder how England survived as long as it did.  He's rather ineffectual as a spy, in my opinion.

There is a character in this book who I thought had possibilities and that was the listens-at-keyholes Beatrice.  I thought she was delightful. In fact, the family in this story seems like a real family and when they were in the book I enjoyed it.  What kept this book from being extraordinary was the romance - Benedict and Evie just didn't connect for me.  Having said all that, I do believe Ms. Knightley has possibilities, and I will be picking up her next work. 

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Sweet


On My Radar Late July, Early August

June 27, 2012

Liz Caryle

The Bride Wore Pearls
Fraternitas Aureae Crucis series
Release date, July 31, 2012

Manda Collins

How to Romance a Duke
Ugly Ducklings series
Release date, July 31, 2012

Juliana Gray, debut

A Lady Never Lies
Affairs at Midnight trilogy
Release date, August 7, 2012

Mia Marlowe

Touch of a Scoundrel
Touch of Seduction series
Release date, August 1, 2012

Heather Snow

Sweet Deception
Veiled Seduction series
Release date, August 7, 2012 

The Title Caught My Eyes
Ben Aaronovitch

Whispers Under Ground
Peter Grant series
Release date, July 31, 2012

For a more complete list of upcoming books, take a look at Hey Delia!


Along Came a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle

June 22, 2012  
Gush-o-rama alert!
 Yes, you are about to hear some gushing!  Squeal.  What a joy it was when I opened Ms. Boyle's latest book, Along Came a Duke.  At first, I wondered if I would be able to like the hero.  The Duke of Preston, our hero, is painted as rather a foolish fellow.  And, along with his friend, Roxley, who seems to have a strong liking for the drink, I thought, "what a couple of buffoons, and these are the heroes?"  However, by the time Preston and Tabitha have a rather lengthy dinner, I found myself being charmed by Preston.  A word to Ms. Boyle - I'm really interested in how you plan to change Roxley into a hero.

Along Came a Duke is loaded with some fully developed characters, and a wonderful romantic couple.  Even though Preston seems like such a fool, by the end of the story I understood his foolishness and thought he was a strong hero.  I also enjoyed the banter between he and Tabitha.  Made me smile.  And, without spoiling too much, watch for the wildflower scene.  What a very romantic moment.

Our heroine, Tabitha, or Tabby as Preston calls her, holds her own against this charmer.  She's just as much fun as Preston is.  And kudos to Ms. Boyle for writing that wonderful dinner scene in the very beginning.  In just one night we get to watch these two people fall in love.  (Of course, they don't know that's what is happening.)

There are some wonderful supporting characters, and I'm looking forward to their stories.  Also hoping that Ms. Boyle is going to pen a tale about Aunt Hen.  And, then there's Mr. Muffin, an Irish Terrier.  Mr. Muffin is sure to be in the running for the Gus Award.  You see, he loves feathers.  He's not really particular where those feathers may be located.  Makes no never mind to him, which leads to a very funny scene in the park.

So, I do recommend this story and if you are a fan of Ms. Boyle's you are in for a treat. 

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Mostly Toasty


Unbuttoning Miss Harwick by Deb Marlowe

June 18 2012
Come out, Come out where ever you are or maybe stay where you are because you're high maintenance.
Unbuttoning Miss Harwick is the first full length story I've read by Deb Marlowe and I was impressed with her turn of phrase.  I wanted to like this book, it had so much promise, but in the end there was just one thing standing in my way.  The hero.  Braedon.  What a grumpy, nobody likes me, guess I'll go eat worms kind of guy.  How our heroine, Chloe Hardwick, could put up with this guy, Ill never know.  Oh sure, he didn't want to get hurt, you see he had his feelings hurt as a child over and over and over by his psychopath brother.  So, he protects himself by becoming this cold, cold man.  He isolates himself from everyone and everything.  Especially love.  He builds a collection of stuff just so he and he alone can enjoy it.  He spends 3 quarters of the book shutting people out, turning people off and having his eyes turn cold.  BBRRRR.  He even manages to trample on the feelings of his young nephew, jumps to conclusions about this young nephew - who by the way he didn't know existed.  And the reason he is a Mr. Meany-guy to his nephew.  Well, his nephew is the spitting image of Braedon's psychopathic brother.  So, of course the nephew must be a psychopath also.  But, let's get him a puppy, because we all know how psychopaths and puppies get along. 
This gloomy-gus routine went on and on. After awhile I just wanted to hear a different tune.  And, the poor heroine, Chloe.  Oh sure, she had her problems too, but hers were always overshadowed by Mr. Woe-is-me.  She just wanted to be free!  Free!  In her little cottage by the sea.  Run Chloe!  Run to that cottage by the sea!  Dump the Mr. Mopey!  Gee-willikers, I did not like this guy.
And then there was Braeden's bizarre sister Mairead.  I'm not quite sure what her problem was.  I always had the feeling that I was supposed to know, maybe there had been a prequel or something.  I looked and could not find one.  So, I'm not sure why her storyline was added.  Evidently the psychopathic brother harassed her, not sure, wasn't too much detail.  And, there is some kind of separation from her husband, not sure why, except someone has a temper and may have got the wrong impression when they saw her with another man.  I wasn't sure, things were never made clear.  But, she's going to give her husband a party.  That will show how much she loves him, nothing says love better than a huge surprise party with lots of people in the house.
Then, we have another sub-plot of the magical mystery sw-ord.  There is a lot of time spent on intrigue and hub-bub surrounding this enchanted sw-ord.  However, it does nothing to enhance the love story.  In fact, it is a bit of distraction away from the two main people in the book.
So, what started out as an interesting story turned into a depressing tale of a Mr. Humbug.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating:  Warm Warm


Timeless Innocents by Janis Susan May

June 14, 2012
"My name is Talking Tina and I don't think I like you." Twilight Zone
There are a number of things that trigger my creepy-o-phobia button: clowns, ventriloquist dummies, talking dolls, basement stairs, attics. Remember the Twilight Zone episode with Tina the talking doll? Is it black and white? Yep. Is it old? You betcha. But, it's one of my favorite creepy shows/movies. Nothing says creepy better than doll eyes staring back at you. And, that's what we have in Timeless Innocents.  Lot's of little bitty eyes.  Doll eyes.  Ooooooo.

I read this book because of two things - the title caught my eye and I read a review stating it was one of the scariest books ever. Now, while I did enjoy reading this book because it was spooky in a Twilight Zone sort of way, the scariest book ever written in my opinion is still Stephen King's It

This is a short book, a fast read and mildly eerie. I wasn't terribly scared and I knew where almost every plot-line was going, so there weren't too many surprises. Except for maybe the ending. Anyway, this is similar to the feel of Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock, both of which I am a big fan.  Creepy with just a bit of humor thrown in and nothing too terribly spine-chillingly scare-the-applesauce-out-of-you, don't go to sleep with your lights off, put a brick on top of the book so things don't crawl out of the pages and stab you in the eyes while you sleep, type of thing.

So, go ahead, take a chance and read Timeless Innocents.  I promise you won't be too scared.  Bwah ha ha.

Time/Place: Current United States
Sensuality: None


Bedding Lord Ned by Sally MacKenzie

June 13, 2012
Can I hear an Aaawwww?
When I want to wipe the dirt from my feet, cleanse my romance world from any dark fantasy, or just know I'm going to get a fast-paced, lighthearted read, I just turn to Sally MacKenzie. Yep, Ms. MacKenzie is starting a new series, the Duchess of Love trilogy and nothing says sweet better than the title of this new series. And, by the way, there is a prequel to the series and it's free!!!   Oddly enough, it's called The Duchess of Love.  I do recommend that you check it out, it will only take one setting to read and you will get a bit of a background story about the “Duchess of Love.”

Anyway, the Duchess (Venus, not the Roman Goddess) has three sons, Ash, Ed (Ned), and Jack. And these three are in need of much help in the luv department. Ash is married, but separated; Ned is a widower; and Jack is a trickster rake. Bedding Lord Ned focuses on, you guessed it, Ned. Poor pitiful Ned. His wife has been dead four long years and he just can't move on, plus he holds himself responsible for her death. She and their child died of complications during the birthing process. Sounds like a laugh riot so far, huh? Don't worry peeps, there is laughter in this book. You see, there's a scene stealer cat, Reggie, in this story and it seems that Reggie is a bit of a kleptomaniac. He keeps gathering things belonging to humans and storing them under Ned's bed. One of the things he steals is our heroine's (Ellie) red silk under-drawers.

And from the moment Ned finds those silk things his mind and his Mr. Toad can think of nothing else but Ellie. Ellie, who just happens to be one of those mousy heroines who also happens to have grown up with Ned, his brothers, and Ned's first wife, Cicely. And guess what - she has luved Ned forever and ever. Bet you didn’t see that coming. And, let me say this about that. Ned has to be one of the biggest blockheads ever. Can't see the forest for the trees kind of blockhead.

This is a fun read; there are tons of inner thoughts from both characters that should bring a smile to your face. There are also some great secondary characters. I especially loved one of the over-enthusiastic women, Miss Wharton. I found her to be rather sympathetic and am hoping Ms. MacKenzie is thinking up a happy ending for her. 

For the most part, I enjoyed this book, although I did start to become irritated with Ned’s bullheadedness. There also seemed to be a bit of disconnect between the Ned and Ellie; she hankered, he ignored.  He ignored, she hankered. For w-a-y too long. Also, if you are looking for hot bedroom scenes, about the only ones in Bedding Lord Ned are between the parents and in the minds of Ned and Ellie. Ned has tons of visions of the red silk undies, which then create scads of problems with controlling his Mr. Toad. There are inflated Mr. Toads all over the place, but no bedding of Ned. (Well, almost no bedding.)

There is absolutely no new ground broken; however, this is a light-heartened, charming, quick read. Enjoy. You won't need any tissues for this one.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Warm


A Night Like This by Julia Quinn

June 11, 2012

Grab those ear plugs, it's time for another Smythe-Smith musicale!

It's time for the second installment in Julia Quinn's Smythe-Smith series, A Night Like This.  A Night Like This is written to run concurrently with Just Like Heaven, the first in the series.

I was a little apprehensive when I picked up the latest work by Ms. Quinn, because I've been sadly underwhelmed by her last few books, especially Just Like Heaven.  However, about half way through this story I began to relax because, as it turns out, this was a delightful book filled with charming characters, especially the two leads.  I was also glad that the secondary characters are being allowed space to develop, and for the most part those secondary characters added to the story.  I'm really growing quite fond of the younger Smythe-Smith's.

I do recommend this story.  It is filled with fun dialogue and an utterly adorable Beta hero, Daniel.  He is bedazzled - stunned - stupefied when he first sets eyes on our heroine, Anna.  From that moment onward, he is obsessed with winning her.

I smiled almost all the way through this novel.  Now, I'm sure that the narrative is filled with Ms. Quinn's 21st century vocabulary but if it was I didn't notice because I was enjoying the story w-a-y too much.

There are a couple of quibbles.  Aren't there always?  Our hero has two attempts made on his life.  We learn who is responsible for the second attempt, but I don't recall ever learning about the first attempt.  And, I have no intention of rereading the book to find out.

The other quibble was with the villain.  I don't believe his being in the storyline added anything to the plot or the romance.  In fact, his being there was a bit of a distraction from the lovely flow that Ms. Quinn had already created.

Next up (May 2013) in the Smyth-Smith Quartet is Hugh's story - I'm looking forward it!

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Almost Hot


A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant

June 6, 2012 

OooH, I hates math, you shark-livered varmint!
I loved Cecilia Grant's debut novel, so I was looking forward to this one.  And, what did I get?  Well, in A Gentleman Undone I got something totally different than what I'm used to.  We have a gentleman who is not an aristocrat and we have a mistress who is really a mistress.  And, she likes sex.  And, she's had multiple partners.

Cecilia Grant's second book truly proves what I thought in her debut story: she knows how to put words down on paper.  As I said before, this story is different.  It is also dark and at times sad.  And, about two thirds of the way through I wondered just how the author was going to resolve the story and still have a HEA.

Will and Lydia - two people with really depressing pasts.  Lydia's past we've seen before in other romance novels - the tragedy of her youth that led her into prostituting herself, and the guilt she has placed on herself for her parents' deaths.  However, she also is a woman who knows what she is and she isn't ashamed of the sex that she's had in the past.  Also, in a little bit of a romance taboo moment, she does not stop having sex with the man she's with the moment Will comes into her life.  In fact, she continues to be another man's mistress long after she and Will become associates, then friends.  I found this aspect of the story and the way the author handled it to be very fascinating.  There was some nice writing there, as Lydia struggles with her growing love for Will and the realization that she cannot continue with the life she has led so far.

Then there is Will.  He also has guilt he's carrying around.  He blames himself for another's death and in this case he might be correct.  This is also a heartrending moment, when he realizes how he's contributed to his friends death.  I loved Will.  He is a Beta hero, always trying to do the right thing for everyone.  In this case, he is trying to raise money for the widow of the man who died.  He's also trying to get money for a shipping venture, another promise he made to a friend.  However, he has no money and the only way he can think of to solve that problem is to gamble.

And, this is where the two meet.  Their first encounter is a wonderfully written prelude to a great love story.  Now, I do have a quibble.  I became lost with the amount of time that was spent on how to play cards and calculate the odds, which happens to be Lydia's specialty - she's a wiz at card counting.  But, anytime math, counting, or percentages rears their ugly heads, I tune out.  My eyes glaze over and I hear a strange humming in my ears.   So, I was not able to appreciate what I'm sure was some good writing in this part.

This is a very character-driven book.  The main couple are not your standard romance couple.  They are both deeply complicated, not always likeable and an odd mix of honorable and dishonorable.  A Gentleman Undone is a roller coaster ride, very emotional and very dark, but I do recommend it.  Just have some tissue near by.

Sensuality Rating: Hot


On My Radar June 26, 2012

June 6, 2012

OMG!! How could I forget!  The long awaited:

Elizabeth Elliott

The Dark Knight aka The Assassin
sequel to The Warlord (1995)
Release date: June 26, 2012 WE Hope

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

June 6, 2012
What is a fantasy?
A fantasy is a ninety year old man who can still get an erection without the benefit of Viagra.  And that ladies and gents is what we have in A Game of Thrones, a book and a dvd I just finished.  Not only can the 90 year old Walder/Waldo/Walter/Whoever of Wasffghtuf still get an erection, he plans on buttering his toaster with some honey from his 15 year old bride (not main character).  EEWWWW.

Yes, my little lambs, I do read other things beside historical romance and I have a few thoughts/opinions I’m going to share with you about A Game of Thrones.  The reason for the initial reading is I started to watch the HBO series and decided that I wanted the little details I knew they had left out…and, so began my journey into a bleak Fantasy land.

Having read romance for years and years, I’m used to all kinds of things, and it takes a lot to surprise me.  However, as much as I was enjoying some of the intricate story lines in this book, there were some things that I found disturbing on a number of different levels.  One of those levels is censorship.  I am against censorship in all things, in all forms, however, if I had a thirteen year old child/young adult who wanted to read this story, I would have to mull it over and hope that my child was well adjusted before ever giving my permission.  There were so many things in this story that I found offensive, who knows what effect those things would have on a younger person.  You know those younger people…their brains are still developing…those hormones are banging into each other.  They are out there seeking, seeking, seeking, and they just might be reading Fantasy books.

Yes, this story is conceived in the Fantasy genre, and in my mind that translates to Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.  Books full of magic, wizards, dragons, loyalty, adventure, creatures, far-away lands, but in this book we also have darkness, bloody intestines, gore, eating hearts, slitting throats, walking dead, raping, pillaging, etc.  And names.  Gordo son of Gramlie.  Fragon son of Fregffudi.  Grumpy son of Hoffenpepper from the village of Lfdusfghghambshire in the North under the shadow of the mountain of Doom.  But none of that is what I object to.  Even though guts may be disgusting and the names may be silly, they are rather commonplace in the world of fiction books/movies.  Even the profusion of the “C” word (male and female) only managed to raise an eyebrow and elicit a sigh before I moved on.

No, what I found disturbing was the attitude toward sex and the smell of quiet racism wafting through the pages.  There is gang-rape, the forced seduction of a thirteen year old girl, the sexual abuse/manipulation of another thirteen year old girl, teenagers with adult brain thinking, and racism that is cunningly hidden beneath Fantasy world words.

What’s that I hear coming down the turnpike?  You say the author was trying to be authentic, he was basing his characters age on historically accurate medieval times.  You know they were married young in those days, by cracky.  Oh, really.  Has anyone really looked at a pedigree chart?  Some people were married young, and some people were not!  This book is being sold as fantasy, not nonfiction!  Why do we need to have realism?  If this were truly historically accurate, we wouldn’t populate the book with dragons and zombies now would we?  I do not understand the need to proliferate an adult fantasy with teenagers being forced into sexual submission by grown men.

Daenerys.  Daenerys happens to be one of my favorite characters in this book, but she is forced to marry the savage “big” brute Drogo.  She does not want the marriage, she does not want to have sex, she is very much afraid.  She says “no” all the time Drogo is disrobing her.  While I was reading this scene, my mind could not erase the fact that this was a thirteen year old girl, saying no.  And, let me tell you this was a graphic scene.  What made it even more disturbing was in the end she placed his fingers inside of her.  Now, this is real fantasy.  Nothing says pedophile more than this scene.  By the way, HBO hired a 25 year old actress to play this part.  I found it interesting that HBO of all people whitewashed this scene by having someone who doesn’t look thirteen playing the character.

Sansa.  Someone give me a gun.  Can anyone say TSTL?  As much as I loathed this character, she also has a number of things to put up with.  In future books, she will have a psychotic fiancĂ© who wants her to disrobe in front of old men, a slimy older man shoving his tongue down her throat and a sociopath scarred older “Hound” keeping her a prisoner, threatening her, lusting after her while still making friends with her.  Can anyone say Stockholm syndrome?  In A Game of Thrones, she is responsible for her father dishonoring himself right before he’s beheaded.

Drogo.  Another character I liked, even though gang-rape was okey dokey with him and his dark skinned, almond-shaped eyed savage followers.  You know they are savages because they are dark skinned and they will be saved by the whitest of white women ever, Daenerys.  She makes speeches about freeing the slaves, in between eating hearts and birthing dragons, that is.  Only through her will they, the dark skinned, almond-shaped eyed savages, be civilized.

I have to ask.  Is this the way of all Fantasy novels, this obsession with forced underage sex?  It was all very disturbing.  And, for the most part it seemed to be there for the purpose of titillation only; there was usually no reason for the “insert rape here” scene.  Most of the book had a bit of a misogynistic feel about it.

After everything I’d heard about A Game of Thrones, I was very disappointed.  And, I will admit, there were characters in the book I was drawn to: Arya, Jon, Tyrion, Daenerys.  I enjoyed the way the book moved from one point of view to another.  I enjoyed the creation of the different worlds and cultures, though most of them get destroyed.  But, I have to ask.  Where is the balance between good and evil?  This is such a bleak story, no happy endings, no heroes or heroines.  The ones you like get whacked.  You can’t trust anyone, there’s blood and gore all over the place.  Where is this story going?  Is there something I’m supposed to learn from it?  Watch what you do, you may not like the consequences. Never trust a eunuch.  Shouldn’t there be some good moments somewhere along the line?  All the books in this series are quite lengthy, but are all those words going anywhere? 

Even if this book didn’t contain way t-o-o many women being degraded, I would still have to ask, what is the point?  And, is there ever going to be a conclusion?  None of the story lines seem to have an ending.  There is only so much depressing stuff I can read before I quit reading. 

In the end, I liked the HBO series better than the book.  Usually, I prefer the written word to a movie because normally too much is written out or changed. In this case the reworking of A Game of Thrones is a good thing.

Sensuality: None.  However, what passes as sex is graphic.