A Most Improper Rumor by Emma Wildes

May 30, 2013
Mr. Peabody, it's time to get into the way-back machine!
This will teach me to read the second book in a series first.  Now I'm going to have to go back and read Ruined by Moonlight.  Why?  Because, not only do we have a continuing husband and wife romance thread, we also have a continuing secret villain thread.  This really wasn't a stand-alone book, at least not for me.

So here is the low-down.  There are two couples in A Most Improper Rumor - Christopher/Angelina and Ben/Alicia.  I believe Christopher and Angelina were supposed to be the main romance couple.  Let me say this, Ben/Alicia stole the show.  Ben/Alicia were introduced in Ruined by Moonlight and they seem to be detectives of sorts, along the line of Nora and Nick or Tommy and Tuppence.  As I was reading this book, I found that my favorite parts were when Ben/Alicia were in it.  I think it would be kind of interesting for a strong romance couple to continue on from one book to another.  This might mean their characters would have to wander down into romantic suspense territory, maybe even have a TV series.  Whatever the future brings for Ben/Alicia, they were a very strong couple and I really enjoyed their interactions with each other.  It was great fun to watch as they worked together to solve the mystery and at the same time recognize their growing love for each other.  I cannot express strongly enough how much I enjoyed Ben and Alicia!

On to some things I didn't enjoy so much.  Let's start with Christopher/Angelina.  Even though the plot revolved around them, they were relegated to second banana.  I found myself not really caring about them or their problems.  I'm not sure why, they were an ok couple, but I was more interested in the Ben/Alicia storyline.  The story opens up with Christopher/Angelina in bed with each other and he's confesses he loves her.  While I thought that this was an interesting way to begin a story, it also took away the tension that usually accompanies a romance.  The tension in the story was created by outside forces and those forces, in my opinion were the main weakness of A Most Improper Rumor.

What are those outside forces?  In this book they were two murder mysteries.  You see, Angelina was rumored to have murdered her two husbands, she was a social outcast.  No one liked her.  Of course, that's all a lie.  Someone is out to ruin all the pretty popular women of the ton and that person is our continuing villain.  We also have a villain-stooge, someone who was helping the continuing villain.  I had no idea who the villain was behind the main threat, ruining popular women, still don't.  I have to say as far as murder/mystery/thriller set-ups go; this one seems a little feeble.  What kind of a rube sets about to destroy pretty people in some really far-fetched ways?  So, the explanation when it comes better be really good.  The other helper stooge-villain I spotted right away, although I'm still not sure about this person’s motive.  I wish I had not read this book out of order, I suspect there were some details that were needed to help the mystery feature of this story.

There was also another character, Mrs. Dulcet, a worldly woman who seems to have some kind of a past with Ben.  I don't believe it's the kind of past Mrs. Dulcet wanted.  She seems to be some kind of a covert person and she was also very fascinating.  I see a novella in her future.  I'm looking forward to seeing more of her in future works.

I will be picking up the next in the series, mainly because I want to see where Ben and Alicia relationship takes them.  The best part of the story was Ben and Alicia working together and me getting to watch.  Even though Ms. Wildes is a strong writer with a clever voice when it comes to romance, she seems to be just a little weak as far as the mystery element in the story.  It's a nice change to have a relationship develop through a series of books instead of that mad rush to the end.  I wish I could have given this story a higher rating, I loved Ben and Alicia, but I just could not find any enthusiasm for the suspense ingredient of A Most Improper Rumor.  And yes, I will be catching up on this series immediately!

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Level: Hot!!


On My Radar...June 15 to July 14, 2013

May 28, 2013

Adrienne Basso

How to Be a Scottish Mistress
Release date July 2, 2013

Cecilia Grant

A Woman Entangled
Blackshear Family series
Release date, June 25, 2013

Sabrina Jeffries

What the Duke Desires
The Dukes Men series
Release date, June 18, 2013

Julie Anne Long

It Happened One Midnight
Pennyroyal Green series
Release date, June 25, 2013

Maggie Robinson

In the Arms of the Heiress
Ladies Unlaced series
Release date, July 2, 2013

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


Captain Durant's Countess by Maggie Robinson

May 23, 2013
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…

And sometimes a plot line is there just so we can have gratuitous sex.  In Captain Durant's Countess, Maggie Robinson has introduced a plotline that requires some pretty fancy footwork.  Yes, we've seen this set-up before in romance novels.  It's just that accepting money for impregnating another man's wife might seem a tad bit sleezy to some.  I must admit that it isn't one of my favorite romance themes.  It triggers so many of my hot buttons. However, I'm always willing to accept the plot and see how the writer handles the situation. 

It seems our heroine Maris isn't too lucky in her choice of a husband.  Oh sure, Henry's a nice guy and all.  Maris and Henry are friends.  Even with the great age difference, Maris has grown to love Henry.  You see, Henry has a slight problem.  He is no longer able to salute anything, if you get my drift.  He wasn't always that way, or at least that’s what we suspect since he had a daughter.  The daughter, Jane, is now dead.  I'm also assuming he had a wife, although not too much is said about her.  Of course, you know, Henry’s problem means that Maris has never experienced any wild whankey-woo.  Except, that is, for the occasional hand puppet show performed by Henry, if you get my drift.  There is that itsy bitsy affair Maris had with David.  “Who is David?” you ask.  Well, he is the nefarious villain of the piece.  He is also the person who Henry holds responsible for Jane's death.  Also, Henry doesn't know about David and Maris.  We know that David is evil because he somehow caused Jane's death, he had an affair with Maris, he is blackmailing her and he wants to spend his inheritance, kick the servants out, visit brothels and hang out at Almacks. Henry, who seems to be fairly intelligent, decides the only way to stop this evil nephew is for Maris to have an heir.  We all know that Henry's Mr. Toad hasn't been working for a long time.  His solution is to hire a good toad deed doer, one he knows is in working order.  Ta-dah!  Enter our hero, Reyn.

When we first meet Reyn we know right away his Mr. Toad is the inflatable kind.  You see, Maris is off on a TSTL journey to find Reyn and ask him why he's not doing what he's promised.  Where do you think she finds him?  Why in a brothel, of course.  Boy o boy, does she get an eye-full.  Not only is his Timothy Toad working, but it's humongous and probably angry, aren't they all.  Now, we also know that Reyn is a rake, a rogue, immoral and a profligate. Why?  Because at the moment Maris barges in on him he is whipping a needy woman's behind.  Of course, he is a hero, so he isn't enjoying it.  Because he is not the villain, he volunteers to have a medical examination just to make sure that his Mr. Toad hasn't picked up any special little insect.  And, let me say this, while I thought Maris insisting he be tested before any foraging was done was humorous, I also thought it was mighty 21st century thinking.  Anyway, after some arm twisting, Maris and Reyn are soon embarked on baby making.

In the past, I have enjoyed Maggie Robinson's stories and I was looking forward to reading this one.  We all know that no matter how objective we try to be, reviews can be very subjective.  I'm saying that because, as I said earlier, this story just happened to push a number of by hot/rant buttons.  Let's start with Henry.  Even though all of the baby business is Henry's idea, even though he strongly encourages Maris and Reyn in their endeavors, it is still infidelity.  I'm not a total stickler with the infidelity issue in romance novels.  It all depends on how it is written.  Sadly, in this case it had the feel of being sordid.  The problem I had with this was neither Maris nor Reyn wanted any part of this idea.  Maris especially had some strong moral debates going on inside her head.  In the end she is forced to accept the inevitable and, I believe that is what I have the strongest objection too...the forcing.  There wasn't anything to balance that struggle, there wasn't any really good reason for Henry to force the issue.  What we get are some really hot encounters between Maris and Reyn, however, for me they were uncomfortable. 

Aside from that hot button, I also had some problems with circumstances being brought up and never finding out why, who or what.  For instance: why are the male servants called John? What is in those treasure boxes?  What's with the emerald?  Whose jewel is it?  Was it stolen?  Are there more gems?  Why did Henry die so suddenly? Why isn't Reyn’s reading problem explored more?  Henry seemed like such an interesting man, I wish his characters backstory had been more fully developed.  Finally there is David, the villain.   David actually has a wife and child.  A wife and child we find out about almost at the end of the story.  The resolution to the villain David's story thread was wrapped up too neatly and too quickly.  I don't have a problem with numerous threads in stories, if there is a reason for them, if they are developed and if they are tied up at the end.  Otherwise, they are just distractions.

While I applaud Ms. Robinson's tackling of the historical-surrogate-child-without-the-baster plotline, I was a little disappointed in Captain Durant's Countess.  The story had a bit of a disjointed rushed feel about it.  Maris and Reyn had possibilities that were never totally explored and I was expecting more depth to this story.  Of course, this doesn't mean I’m giving up on this series, it's just means this particular book didn't work so well for me.  Lady Anne's Lover will be coming out in July of 2013 and I will be keeping my fingers crossed.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot Hot


What a Lady Needs by Kasey Michaels

May 14, 2013
Whew, I can now breathe a sigh of relief.
Here's how my brain works.  I've been reading romance novels for a l-o-n-g time and I have multitudinous authors who I have read from the very beginning of their careers.  I have

become very loyal to these authors.  We have grown old together.  But, as we all know time marches on, my taste changes, their taste changes (or doesn't).  And, what happens?  I start losing interest in their books.  This makes me very sad, because these authors are like old friends.  What do I do when my favorite authors start to fade?  Well, my routine has always been to continue to buy their books, but just not read them and then one day I just stop buying them.  Ms. Michaels is/was one of those authors, one of my auto-buy authors and I was becoming concerned.  Her Romney Marsh series was not one of my favorites and her first book in the Redgrave series, What an Earl Wants, almost became a wallbanger for me.  So, it was with some trepidation that I began reading What a Lady Needs.  However, it didn't take me long to realize that Ms. Michaels was back at the top of her game.

I enjoyed What a Lady Needs, oh sure it's not perfect, but the couple in this story blended together really well.  Dare I use the term "adorable" when speaking of them?

I liked both Kate and Simon.  When we were first introduced to Kate in What an Earl Wants, I thought she had all the earmarks of a future TSTL heroine.  Even though she had those characteristics, those moments when she might run into a burning building or confront someone who was holding five guns.  You all know what I’m talking about; they usually happen right after the hero tells the heroine not to move.  Do not fear gentle readers, with Kate all those moments were believable and I found myself cheering her on.  Kate was a fun character, smart, loyal, tricky and usually one step ahead of the hero.  She was a force to be reckoned with and our charming hero Simon never had a chance.  Actually, from the moment Simon met her, he accepted his fate...although he didn't let her know right away.

For once in a romance we have a couple who worked together.  They were honest with each other, and even when Simon tried to hide something from Kate, it didn't do any good because she always found out.  She was one sharp woman and I just loved her.  This was also one time I was able to buy into the independence of a woman in a particular time period; Kate was authentic in her uniqueness.

There was a return of some characters from the first novel.  Trixie, Adam, Richard and Valentine all put in an appearance.  This time the secondary characters didn't overwhelm the story.  I do have to say that Adam was starting to get on my nerves.  He needed to be either funnier or maybe turn to the dark side.  Speaking of the dark side, we also had the return of the secret society, those people with flowers in their lapels.  There won’t be an end to the mystery of the secret society any time soon, even though their members were dropping like flies.  Maybe there won’t be anyone left or just maybe there will be only one person left and that person will be the “master”.  Anyway, unlike the last book, the secret society did not overwhelm the story and neither did the sex.  In fact, if you blink in this book you might miss it.

Overall, I found What a Lady Needs to be a vast improvement over the last Redgrave story.  Kate and Simon just may be my favorite romance couple this year.  And, I won't be saying goodbye to Ms. Michaels any time soon.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality:  Sensual but don't blink

Beauty and the Blacksmith by Tessa Dare

May 14, 2013
Welcome back to Spindle Cove

The Spindle Cove series is one of the best series' around currently.  I don't think I've enjoyed a continual storyline quite so much since Julia Quinn's Bridgerton family flew in.  However, I
did have a problem with Tessa Dare's latest, Beauty and the Blacksmith.  That problem was the length of the story.  Much to my disappointment, Beauty and the Blacksmith was published as a novella aka short story, so there wasn't much in the way of rich narrative.  And, that's too bad because this story just screams for more details. 

You see, we have an unlikely couple pairing - one between the beautiful aristocrat Diana Highwood and the local blacksmith Adam Dawes.  I found the pairing of these two from totally different classes very intriguing.  However, there just wasn't enough time allotted in this book to make their relationship work (without a very big stretch of the imagination, that is).

The set up for Adam and Diana's romance was pretty funny.  When the story begins, Adam was hammering away on some of Diana's broken jewelry.  He was shirtless and sweaty and muscle-ly and Diana was discretely drooling.  You see, this wasn't the first time Adam had to fix one of Diana's jewels.  She'd been secretly breaking them just so she could hang around ye ol' anvil and feast her eyes on all that manliness.  I do have to say that Adam was drool worthy - he was one hot blacksmith.  The chemistry between Diana and Adam fairly steams off the pages.  Both characters are great, but their story really needed to be longer.  There wasn't enough of this tale to make it really outstanding.

Overall, Beauty and the Blacksmith makes a nice addition to the Spindle Cove series, it just wasn't as special as I wanted for the characters of Diana and Adam.

Time/Place:  Spindle Cove 1800s
Sensuality: Hot

Where the Bodies are Buried by Chris Brookmyre

May 7, 2013
Who'd have thunk English had so many variables.

I don't know whether it is an advantage that I've never read a Brookmyre novel before or

not, so, I'm starting out fresh with Where the Bodies are Buried by Chris Brookmyre.  This is the first book in the crime series involving the characters of Catherine McLeod and Jasmine Sharp.  McLeod is in the police force of Glasgow Scotland and Jasmine is a out of work actress who is also a wet-behind-the-ears private eye.

This was an interesting read; some parts grabbed me and some parts frustrated me.  From the very beginning we are buried in murder and mayhem.  There are two parallel stories going on at once, McLeod's and Sharp's.  And Brookmyre seems to have a talent for connecting unlikely dots.  There were a gazillion mysteries and none of them seemed to be related to each other, but in the end they were all woven together...and there is even a surprise ending.  I had no idea it was coming, and I wanted to go back and reread just so I could find all the clues that were set out for me.  However, I didn't because I have other books staring at me and calling my name.

There were parts of this book that were exciting, and moved at a pretty fast clip.  However, there were parts that slowed down to a snail's pace and I had to force myself to continue reading.  I liked both the main characters, although I thought the Jasmine character was a little young to be doing what she was doing.  But then, she didn't do it very well, so maybe that was all right.  The thing I liked about her was that she wasn't the most secure person around, which I found both irritating and fun.  It was probably a good idea for Brookmyre to make her not quite so savvy when it came to being an investigator; which leaves a lot of room for development in future books.

The other character, Catherine McLeod, is more mature, more wise to the ways of the world, and made a great contrast to Jasmine.  However, they didn't really meet until the last part of the book.  I hope in future books, they are together more. I'd like to see how they play off of each other.

Now, on to getting lost in the book.  When I watch foreign films I always watch with subtitles so I can understand what's being said.  There were times in this book I wished I had subtitles to translate for me what just came out of some character's mouth.  You see, this takes place in Scotland, so there were plenty of aboots, cannae, and ye ken's around.  However, on top of the Scottish brogue is an abundance of what I can only assume is underworld Scottish slang, although the police were saying it too.  The dialogue, while it added color/colour to the book, also slowed me down.  I'm not saying the author should go back and change it to my kind of English, I'm just saying my brain had a hard time translating.  There was also a wee matter of remembering who was who. I got lost trying to remember which background character did this and which did that, which one was a criminal and which was a cop, which one is a good cop and which was a bad cop, who is the head of what crime family, who is looking for whom...and they're all speaking Scottish or Scot-English or Scottish cant or English cant.  I did have to chuckle a few times because I found myself getting frustrated with trying to keep track of all the talking people.

And, after that whine, I have to say for a crime story it was pretty good, I didn't figure out who it was...that might be because I couldn't keep track of everyone.  And, I love the surprise at the end of the book.  I will be reading the next in the series and hoping that the slang doesn't swallow me up.  I am interested in following Jasmine and Catherine.

Time/Place: Present day Scotland
Sensuality: Kiss
Violence: Graphic


A Most Scandalous Proposal by Ashlyn Macnamara

May 1, 2013
Come in out of the rain!!!  Puleese!
I've never been a big fan of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.  I always found the second sister to be rather irritating, in fact a lot of Jane Austen characters irritate me.  All that silly catching-colds-because-they-were-in-the-rain business sometimes can be annoying.  Ashlyn Macnamara's debut novel, A Most Scandalous Proposal, has a bit of a Sense and Sensibility flavor about it (although there wasn't any rain-cold illness).  We are led to believe that the main romance in A Most Scandalous Proposal is between Julia and Benedict, however the romance between Julia's sister, Sophia, and Rufus was given almost as much exposure.  When the author chose to combine the St. Claire sisters' love story into one book, the formulating of any in-depth character development was stymied.  What could have been a great romance turned out to be a tolerable read.

I liked the male leads in this story, especially the considerate, wise Rufus who falls for the annoying if-there-was-a-downpour-I'd-stand-in-it Sophia.  Sophia is the secondary female, and has been in luv with the pseudo villain of the piece, Clivesden.  This infatuation can only be based on good looks, cause this guy is a real anyone could love this smirking rotter is beyond me.   And it took the exasperating Sophia forever to discover how wonderful Rufus was and drop Clivesden.  Rufus was a missed opportunity for some great character development.  There are things that are hinted at from his past, but we are never really given the chance to see what they are.  I wanted to see what Rufus was all about. 

The other romance in the book is between childhood friends Julia and Benedict.  I do like stories of childhood friends who discover at some point that they are in love with each other.  Once again, because the two stories were bouncing back and forth, Julia and Benedict were not fully developed.  I have to say I didn't care for Julia that much either.  She happens to be one of those heroines who is never going to marry for love.  Not her!  She's not going to fall in love, even if someone loves her back.  Even if that someone would do anything for her.  Julia was too stubborn...too hard and I really couldn't sympathize with her boo-hooing routine.  She will never, ever love the person she marries...wha, wha.  I wasn't actually sure why, although I believe it had to do with her atrocious parents.  And, by the way, her parents really deserve the Mommie Dearest award. 

The other problem I had with this story was the construction.  There were diffidently two stories, which doesn't bother me if those stories are put together well.  These stories had a jolting quality. They were abrupt in the way they went back and forth between the two sisters.  There just wasn't any smooth blending.  

And then there were the mean people.  This book was full of mean, nasty people who I think were supposed to be funny.  However, for me they all seemed to be bullies.

A Most Scandalous Proposal had all the ear marks of a could-have-been-great romance, if only more time
had been spent developing the characters.  And, because of the could have been, I'm not ready to give up on this particular author.  I will be checking out her next book and hope that there is only one couple to keep an eye on. 

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot