The Birthday Scandal by Leigh Michaels

October 30, 2012
Where’s Robert Altman when you need him?

Has anyone ever watched the Marx brothers' movie A Night at the Opera? If you have, remember the very funny scene where all these people keep showing up and are eventually crammed in this teeny tiny cabin? And, then someone opens the door and they all cascade out. Or have you ever sat through a Robert Altman movie? Think Gosford Park, Nashville, A Wedding, The Player. All those characters and conversations that must be followed. One of my all time favorite movies is Gosford Park and even with all those characters moving in and out of the scenes I am still able to follow along. There is a focus in it, something I can grab onto.

Why do I bring up the Marx brothers' A Night at the Opera and Robert Altman, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you. The Birthday Scandal. This is the first book by Leigh Michaels that I’ve ever read. While I may read future books by her, they will have to have the criteria of having just one main couple in them. You see, we have three couples, their father and their uncle to wade through. Let’s see, there’s Max and his wife Isabel and her sister Emma and her love interest Gavin, and Lucien, (Isabel and Emma’s brother) and then Chloe, the girl who is supposed to marry the father, but really is Lucien’s love interest and Dukes and Marquess' and Sleepy and Dopey and…oops, wrong story.

You might think that because there are three couples, there would also be three stories and there are. Sort of. The problem I had with these stories was that instead of being separate stories, they were ALL intermingled into one story. And, in that one story there wasn’t any strong lead characters that I could focus on. No, they all had equal space allocated to them. With all these tales weaving together, it was hard for me to keep track of who was doing what to whom. One moment I would be reading about Max and Isabel’s disastrous marriage and the next paragraph there is Emma snarling at Lucien. I don’t mind secondary love stories in books, if there is a strong principal love story going on. That wasn’t the case here; in fact, they all seemed to be secondary stories. I also read numerous anthology/novellas. Some of them are good, some not so much. But this book cannot be classed as an anthology/novella either. In those books, there is usually a separation of story-lines, but that wasn’t the case in this novel. 

There was just too much of a jumble going on, so much in fact that there wasn’t any room for any good character development. There were possibilities in this story, the author is a strong writer…the words are all there. It’s the construction of the book that caused me problems. There was just too much muddle for me to enjoy this particular book.  

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot! A lot of fingers in the pie hot!


On My Radar November 15 - December 14, 2012!!

October 25, 2012

Susan Carroll
no web site

The Lady of Secrets
Dark Queen series
Trade size paperback
Release date December 11, 2012

Lecia Cornwall

How To Deceive a Duke
Release date November 27, 2012

Kasey Michaels

What an Earl Wants
Redgrave Family series
Release date November 20, 2 012

Miranda Neville

The Importance of Being Wicked
Wild Quartet series
Release date November 27, 2012

Andrea Penrose

Recipe for Treason
Lady Arianna Hadley Mystery series
Release date December 4, 2012

Jillian Stone

A Private Duel with Agent Gunn
The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard
Release date November 27, 2012

The Title Caught My Eyes:

Carolyn G. Hart

What the Cat Saw
Release date October 2, 2012

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


Sweet Deception by Heather Snow

October 23, 2012
What's that about a rose by any other name?

With Sweet Deception, the second book in the Veiled Seduction series, Heather Snow continues on the path of being an author to keep an eye on.

Sweet Deception was a very enjoyable book with a really intelligent heroine, Emma.  Now, when I say an intelligent heroine, I'm not talking about the standard smart romance heroine, who is actually one big looby and spends the entire novel spouting how clever she is while all the time she does one stupid thing after another, to say nothing of all the idiotic misunderstandings she perceives.  Well, not in this case!  Nope, Emma is not a stupido, she is a brainiac...she is marvelous!  Not only is she brilliant, she's witty and she also cares for those around her.  And, she can see through any half-truths that a lying scum of a double agent stinking spy person might do.

Speaking of lying scum spies, let me introduce our hero - Derick.  Once again I applaud Ms. Snow.  She has created a bona fide anti-hero in Derick.  He's actually done some unforgivable things in the service of his country.  He's lied, cheated and bedded his way across Europe, he's quite close to being pretty sleazy.  And, there are no apologizes for what he's done.  One of the more amusing moments in this book is Emma's appalled reaction after she calculates how many women Derick has taken to his bed during his "country saving" career.

Derick and Emma made a great couple.  It was refreshing to read a story where there wasn't any big misunderstanding.  Even when Derick plays the secret-trust-unworthy-angst hero card, Emma sees through it all.  She never let's him get away with too much of anything.  I love this couple.

About the only thing I didn't care for between these two was the nickname Derick bestowed on Emma when they were young.  She's short, you know, and they grew up together and she followed him around.  So, he calls her Pygmy.  This nickname made me cringe.  For one thing it's too close to the word Pig to be charming.  Elf, teeny, shorty, dinky, wee, mini...all would have been better than Pygmy.

There were moments in the story that modern language/slang kept cropping up, but I chose to ignore it because I was enjoying the story so much.  Emma had the bad habit of putting the wrong word into a phrase.  Sometimes those idioms that Emma was destroying, while extremely humorous, had a bit of a modern flavor to them.  But, I can't prove that and, really, I don't want to.

Let's switch gears here and look at another aspect of this story.  There is a murder mystery going on in Sweet Deception and I found it engaging.  Even though I guessed who the murderer was at the very beginning, watching Derick and Emma race around to solve the mystery was an exciting ride.  And, for once the villain isn't shipped off to Australia, but actually pays for his crimes.

So, overall this was an excellent book, with just a few minor hiccups.  It keep me engrossed to the end and I found it hard to put down.  The main couple were a delight and I think you'll enjoy opening up this book.  If you like strong heroines, this series is for you.  This is a fun, interesting read and I recommend it.  In case you were wondering, it also works well as a standalone.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

October 16, 2012
Two days of bliss, 2,550 or so days of separation followed by two days of no grovel. Something doesn't calculate here!

Yes, Virginia, there are spoilers.  The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James is a hard book to review because I had different reactions to different things. And let me say right up front that a couple of my pet peeves/hot buttons were in this book... we will get to those later.

Let's start with the happy couple, James (hero) and Theo/Daisy (heroine), shall we. When this story begins, these two are teenagers. She's 17, he's 19, and they grew up together. They also had a strong friendship, treating each other as brother and sister. At least on Theo/Daisy's part. James had a bit of a problem focusing on the sister part when Theo/Daisy developed a chest. It isn't too far into the book that these two friends are forced to marry. There are a lot of issues that will interfere with a blissful marriage, but I will only mention two major ones: Theo/Daisy is painted as unattractive, an ugly duckling and has a complex to go with it. James is hiding the fact that he is entering this marriage to save his father from financial ruin. So, we have Theo/Daisy's insecurities and James' guilt over his deceit. Then entering the picture is love. It doesn't take this couple long to come to the understanding that there is more in their relationship than just friendship. They are in love with each other. They have two wonderful days together. I loved this part of the book, from the awkward stumbling first night together to their confiding their hopes and dreams together. In this part of the book I liked James; he was a true hero and never saw Theo/Daisy as the ugly duckling. And then disaster strikes. Theo/Daisy overhears something that breaks her heart and she kicks James and his awful father out of the house. 

And, what does James do? Well, he's nineteen, so he leaves, he sulks, he pouts... he doesn't fight for the woman/girl he loves. Nope, he becomes a pirate, ur, privateer. Not the dirty smelly kind with the rotten teeth, nah, the Johnny Depp/Errol Flynn/Gene Kelly kind. He's a good deed doer kind of pirate, sailing the ocean blue with his long lost cousin (insert suspend disbelief here), whom he runs into and also happens to be a pirate/privateer. Now, here is where the book lost me for awhile. He's gone for seven years cavorting around the world. In the beginning he had thoughts of Theo/Daisy, but then she just sort of vanishes out of his head. Hardly ever does he think of all the things that his friend, his wife, his love may be going through. He never ponders the humiliation his leaving must have done to her. He never gives a thought for what kind of hard life she must be living. Oh sure, he's fighting other pirates, but he's still free to indulge in what he wants. And, he does indulge in three mistresses during this time period. Now, we have arrived at two of my hot buttons: long separations and infidelity. Let's look at the infidelity first.

When he leaves Theo/Daisy he is nineteen, and his hormones are racing, so I actually expected him to have affairs. He waits two years to indulge his appetites, and I kept thinking that Ms. James might show us more insight into James' head. I also thought that maybe when the couple were reunited again there would be a good explanation for his behavior, even some major groveling, so at the time the mistresses were introduced I wasn't too upset. And, by the way, might I ask why three? Is that a magic number? Less then three makes the other women special and more than three makes him a horndog? Is that like kissing on the third date? Three, the magical proper number.

I mentioned the other hot button: long separation. This is the what disturbed me the most in The Ugly Duchess. I felt this separation was way too long. The couple were apart for way too much of the story. Maybe, if the last part of the book had been longer it would have made the separation palatable. It's not as if I didn't enjoy watching each of the characters develop into their own person, but they grew into two different people than the two who were in the beginning. Then they are together again and it only takes two days for them to forget/forgive and move on with their lives. I had a problem with this. Theo/Daisy was hurt deeply by James' actions or inactions and she deserved more from him than what she received. I feel more time needed to be dedicated to the reunion part of the book. So, I was disappointed in the way their reconciliation was handled. I really wanted more of a grovel from James; even if he hadn't committed adultery, he left his wife, never contacted her for seven years. She could have been dead for all he knew. I just thought there was too much of a rush toward the happy ending in this book. Maybe I would have been more satisfied if Theo/Daisy had given James a harder time getting back into her good graces and her bed. 

But, in the end, I found The Ugly Duchess hard to put down. I was really interested in what was going to happen to this couple. I was eager to see how Ms. James would resolve their problems. I loved the beginning, the young couple were a joy, I didn't care for the resolution to Pirate James/Jack's homecoming...he had it way too easy. And, the resolution of the many issues that seven years' separation created deserved more time. In the end it's given a rather cavalier treatment. So, I did like a lot of this book, just wish there had been a more satisfying ending.

Time/Place: Regency England/the ocean blue
Sensuality Rating: Hot!!


Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Married by Heather McElhatton

October 12, 2012
Poop doesn't make me laugh

I have discovered that I am not a big fan of "Chick Lit," if that in fact is what this is.  I didn't care for Sex and the Single Girl when it was on television and I usually avoid reading books of that genre.  However, I was attracted to the title of this novel and had heard this was a hilarious book.  As it turns out it seems that I do not find the continual references to body excrement funny.  I only made it to page 99 before the constant snarky comments from the heroine finally became too much.

I was very disappointed and probably in the minority.


Tempting the Bride by Sherry Thomas

October 8, 2012
Don't run away mad!  Your may get run over by a horse!  You may lose your...oops, too late.

I love Sherry Thomas!  I've thought her voice was magnificent ever since she made her appearance four years ago.  However, when she introduced the Fitzhugh family series I knew I was in for a rough ride.  You see, this series was jammed packed with my numerous pet peeves and triggers.  But, I thought - hey - this is Sherry Thomas, she can pull it off.  So, I held my breath as each story in the series was released.

It's been an interesting journey because most of the characters in the series haven't been all that likeable.  Ms. Thomas was able to redeem the previous characters enough to satisfy me.  Now we come to Hastings (hero) and Helena (heroine).  Insert sigh here.

As I read Tempting the Bride I felt as if Ms. Thomas was channeling Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love.  Such an unpleasant, bickering couple who seemed to be auditioning for their own realty show.  All that negative name-calling I hate you stuff was really t-o-o much.

Supposedly, Hastings fell in love with Helena when they were young.  She was his dream girl, which doesn't say too much of him if she was his dream.  Yipes!

Helena.  Helena is one of the most selfish, hateful shrews I've read in a long time.  She doesn't have a rotten childhood so there's no excuse for her actions.  She's in love with Martin the married man, a wuss if ever I saw one.  She has pseudo sex with him - that's when you do everything but "it."  Because our heroines must be pure!  Anyway, she is told repetitively to stay away from him.  Her family goes through all kinds of gyrations to keep her and their reputations from harm.  But she disregards it all.

Banter.  I enjoy couple who banter; I love that snappy come back.  I can only assume that the conversations exchanged between Helena and Hastings were supposed to be bantering, but to my ears/eyes it came across as downright hateful.

Horses.  Watch out for those horses.  They show up at the most convenient plot turns.  Tempting the Bride is divided into three sections: "the I'm mean and nasty and I run into a horses hoof," "the after the horse hoof collision amnesia," and "I remember I hate you despite the horse."

The best part of the book is "the after the horse hoof collision amnesia."  The writing in this part is wonderful.  It's filled with vivid colors and scenes.  We are introduced to Hastings' illegitimate child, who I think is autistic.  All of the relationships and characters during this part were a joy to read.  There is even an interesting book within a book story in this section which is quite fascinating.  I just wish this section had been longer, but we all know that horse hoof amnesia can't last forever.  We then have the return of the mean girl and the call you names hero.  He does apologize for the name, so that must make it ok.  Just like a reality show.

I was disappointed in Tempting the Bride.  For me it was the weakest in the series.  The characters were too mean-spirited for way too long.  Ms. Thomas is an author of whom I have high expectations but in this case, they were not met.  The plot line had a disjointed, rushed feel about it.  Sorry to say Tempting the Bride didn't work for me.

Time/Place: Late Victorian England
Sensuality: Hot


The Way to a Duke's Heart by Caroline Linden

October 3, 2012
The first words out of my mouth must be - don't give up on The Way to a Duke's Heart! Yes, it starts off slowly and I confess that I almost gave up on it. However, I'm glad I kept on reading, because the payoff was delightful!

This is a very satisfying conclusion to The Truth About the Duke series and we finally get to learn what that truth is.

The Way to a Duke's Heart is the last in the deLacey brother trilogy, the eldest rapscallion, Charles. Charles is teamed up with Tessa, a very different type of heroine. And, let me say this about Tessa - when I started to read Tessa's character, I was concerned that I wasn't going to be particularly fond of her. She was cold, remote and prickly. A lot of times she was prickly for no particular reason that I could see. However, somewhere along the way I found that I had softened toward her, dare I say even grown fond of her.

Charles, on the other hand, I liked from the very beginning. Even though he was painted as being a bad boy, a bit of a rake, he had a gentle soul that was considerably bruised from his past.

When these two finally get together, they make quite a charming couple. They both have issues and secrets - but they turn to each other, confide and against all normal Romanceland patterns they do not have any big misunderstandings. And, much to my surprise, there was only a small token "I'm not good enough," but that was over quickly.

But, it wasn't only the romance in this story that's entertaining... no siree. The solution to the mystery surrounding the deLacey's birth had a bit of a nice twist to it which I found very interesting. And, let me say something about loose ends: I am usually of the opinion that loose ends need to be tied. However, there is a major loose end in this book that is left dangling. I'm not going to spoil it but here's a hint - it involves Charles and his past and something he doesn't know. I was actually pleased that Ms. Linden didn't resolve it, because just as in real life, not everything is tied up in a nice neat bundle.

There was also a lovely, poignant moment when Charles realizes that he is/was as much to blame for what happened to him as his father was. But, it is too late for him to make any atonement because his father is dead.

So, I do recommend this story, even with the slow start. In the end it is quite magical.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot!!