The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After by Julia Quinn

June 26, 2013
The Bridgerton's are back!

If you are a big Bridgerton family fan, then The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After is for you.  The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After is a nice collection of second epilogues on each of the Bridgerton novels.  Before you go out and buy the book, only three of the selections are new, the rest you may already have. However, it was nice having the complete collection in one work and it was also nice revisiting one of my favorite romance families. Now, if you are like me, you may not remember each one of the characters or their stories, but Ms. Quinn has included a Cliff's notes of sorts at the beginning of each story along with the novel title the epilogue goes with. 

I actually enjoy having all of these epilogues lumped together in one group. Some of them were better than others and a couple of them were stand-outs.  One of my favorites, the epilogue for
To Sir Phillip, With Love, was even in first person.  We all know that I'm not a big fan of first person, but this one was written in such a way that I didn't notice I was only seeing things through Amanda's eyes. Well done, Ms. Quinn - just don't get in the habit of doing first person.

While the rest of the epilogues were good, there were three other stand-outs that really delivered quite an emotional bunch. Francesca and Michael's epilogue from
When He Was Wicked. Francesca desperately wants a child and being surrounded by a family of people who produce like rabbits compounds the problem even further.  The heart-warming moment in this book is not between Francesca and Michael, but between Francesca and her mother, Violet. This scene was a true mother-daughter moment and very close to a tear-jerker. 

The next one was Gregory and Lucy's epilogue from
On the Way to the Wedding. In the process of delivering her ninth baby, something goes wrong and Lucy almost dies. Well, this is a romance story so we pretty much know that she's going to make it. However, on the way to waiting for her to wake up, there is a wonderful scene between Gregory and his eldest daughter. Another very touching parent-child moment. 

And, the last stand out was about Violet, the Bridgerton matriarch. This one is entitled
Violet in Bloom. While I might have said this was a stand-out, it doesn't necessarily mean I loved, loved, loved it. We get to see flashbacks of Violet's childhood and her first encounter with Edmund Bridgerton, then the moment they fall in love, then his death, then her dancing with a mysterious stranger, and finally her 75th birthday surrounded by all her family. I enjoyed seeing her and Edmund when they were young, but all of that was tempered by the fact that I knew he was going to die. And, then we get to see him die. So, while it was a powerful epilogue and a stand-out, I'm not really sure I like seeing my romance characters as mortals.

Overall, this is a fast, fun read with some very dramatic epilogues. And, if you love the Bridgerton families then I do recommend you read this book.  The epilogues are for
The Duke and I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, An Offer from a Gentleman, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, To Sir Phillip, With Love, When He Was Wicked, It’s In His Kiss, On the Way to the Wedding, Violet in Bloom.  Now, I want to go back and read the books again…but I really don’t have time.  I do think it’s sad to say goodbye to such an entertaining family.  Or is it goodbye?

Time/Place: Variety/England

Sensuality: Warm/Hot


On My Radar July 15 to August 14, 2013

June 24, 2013

Jo Beverley

Seduction in Silk
Malloren series
Release date August 6, 2013

Celeste Bradley

And Then Comes Marriage
Wicked Worthington series
Release date July 30, 2013

Manda Collins

Why Dukes Say I Do
Wicked Widows series
Release date July 30, 2013

Caroline Linden

Love and Other Scandals
Release date July 30, 2013

Maggie Robinson

Lady Anne's Lover
The London List series
Release date July 30, 2013

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

How to Pursue a Princess by Karen Hawkins

June 24, 2013

Yes, I confess - I have always loved books by Karen Hawkins.  She is one of the few authors
who can write funny, and that's important in an angst-filled world.  So, I was looking forward to How To Pursue a Princess.  However, my joy soon changed to frustration.  Let's take a little jaunt into the plot line to find out why.

A matchmaking duchess is hatching a scheme to bring her god-daughter, Lily, and the lonely widower Huntley together.  Lurking at the garden gate, much to her chagrin, is Prince Wulf of the pretend county Oxenberg.  I hatessss pretend countries.  Well, our Wulf has always dreamed of a red/gold-haired lass who will love him for himself and not his money.  And, when I say dreamed of red/gold hair, I mean actually had a vision kind of dream.

Well, who should happen to have red/gold hair?  You guessed it, Lily and she's in need of a husband, a wealthy husband.  Someone who will save her family from ruin.  Too bad the prince has this stipulation about his money, ‘cause they fall in love.  But he's pretending to be poor, so Lily can't have the man she wants.  She must choose the stick-in-the mud widower Huntley.

There is the set-up.  Wulf is rich and pretending to be poor.  He wants Lily to trust him, even though he's lying through his teeth.  Trust him, everything will work out.  I'm not sure how he thought Lily's money problems were going to work out, but hey, it's all about trust!  Of course, Wulf has a plan to make Lily love him so much she will overcome her need to save her family and marry him.  It is time for Wulf to reveal his middle-school brain.  He is going to pretend interest in another woman, Emma, and make Lily soooo jealous she will have to admit her love for him.  After all, it's all about trust and finding someone who will love him for himself and not his money.  What do you say ladies, he's the kind of guy I'd want to marry! Not! Jealousy has never been one of my favorite romance themes, but sometimes it blends seamlessly into the story.  In this case, it overwhelmed the story.

I did like the secondary characters.  The duchess, her companion Margaret, Wulf's curse-casting gypsy grandmother, and the gazillon pug dogs were all fun. When they were on the pages I had a good time.  I also thought the secondary romance between the stick Huntley and Emma, who had loved him forever, was more interesting than the primary love story.

I also had a jarring moment in this book.  Oh, I remember the days when a manroot was a manroot.  A big purple-headed manroot, but a manroot all the same.  Now those were scary days.  Yikes!  But now we have the "C..." word (rhymes with rock).  It's everywhere, and honestly I don't mind its use - as long as it fits, and not just in the heroine.  In this story, it came barreling out of the blue.  One minute we are having a sweet tender love story and the next moment we are face to face with a giant hard "C..."  It just felt as if it must be time to throw in a bit of a titillating moment.

So there you have it.  How to Pursue a Princess didn't totally work for me.  I had a big problem with a hero who demanded trust but didn't do anything to earn it.  I don't see how a marriage based on manipulation can ever work.  And I missed Ms. Hawkins trademark humor.  We still have our HEA, all the right couples ride off into the sunset together and the duchess retains her matchmaking crown.

Time/Place: A House Party in Regency England
Sensuality: Last minute hot


The Mad Earl's Bride by Loretta Chase

June 18, 2013
We have us a winner!

You know how it is.  Sometimes you forget.  You read book after book - some are good, some are not.  Occasionally, they all start blending together.  Then you pick up one and you are
reminded just how special some authors are.  That's what happened to me in the case of The Mad Earl's Bride, by Loretta Chase.  Originally published in the anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss.

With this delightful tale, Loretta Chase has taken the small book format and made it seem as if it were a full-length story.  And, we are even blessed with a visit from Dain, Jessica and the ever goofy Bertie Trent.  It was great seeing those characters again, and I have to say I have grown quite fond of Bertie.  There are some hidden depths to that guy.

Gee, I wish this book had been full-length.  I really wanted to hang out with this couple just a little longer.  Gwendolyn and Dorian were wonderful characters, with a keen sense of humor.  They were so well written, it is still hard for me to believe this was a short story.  If I continue I will be gushing, so I will stop.

But one more thing.  Thanks Tracy! (Tracy's Place)  If not for you, this would would have remained under my radar and then I would have missed my favorite book this year!

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot
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One Night with a Rake by Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe

June 17, 2013
“Gonna find her - Gonna find her - Gonna find her - Gonna find her -
Yeah, I've been searchin'
A-a searchin'” -
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
I had a good time with this fast moving story.  The second offering in the Royal Rake series, One Night with a Rake by Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe hit the right spot.  To refresh your memory this is the series about the race to impregnate a woman/women/wife by the three unmarried royal dukes, Clarence, Cambridge and Kent, after the death of the heir apparent, Princess Charlotte of England.

This book comes with a few warnings.  First of all there is a lot going on here.  Let's see, we have our hero, Nathaniel, who cannot shame his sister or father and has some kind of traitorous cowardly act being held over his head.  That will force him into seducing our heroine, Georgette, and somehow her being impure will disgust the degenerate Duke of Cambridge.  We all know that the Duke of Cambridge will find disgust with her and not marry her.  However, her parents, who have a marriage of convenience, are pushing, pushing, pushing her into it.  But, you see they are afraid that Georgette might get in trouble because she is allowed to wander the London slums rescuing women from a life of degradation, so, they decide to let Nathaniel live with them and watch over Georgette.  They do this because he was once engaged to Georgette's sister, who is now in the grave.  Everyone is sad because her sister was such a nice person and she's not.  Anyway, Nathaniel has to seduce Georgette because he doesn't want his family to live in shame and he does feel bad the whole time he's doing it.  Don't forget the sidekicks. There is the reformed street-walker-turned-lady's-maid who borrows her lady’s perfume and is in love with the big lummox footman, who is in love with her and thinks she deserves love, love, love.  He also thinks she shouldn't be putting things in her mouth...well, maybe.  There is also a murderer who is killing off people in the bad part of town and is mad at Georgette because she's always putting her nose into his business.  Don't forget the secret paper that will prove Nathaniel isn't a coward.  That secret paper is in a secret place that only our slimy blackmailer knows about.  Of course, there are the guys from the other book who might know something.  Let me see, did I leave anything out?  Maybe.

The other warning: if you are a historical accuracy stickler, if you have spasms when things are zipped instead of buttoned or the word "flute" upsets you, then this book may not be for you.  Not that there were any zippers in this one.  However, for the royal dukes of England to be wandering the English countryside, scouting for worthy local candidates in which to deposit their royal seed – tbbbt - not going to happen.  During this time period there were a gazillion small European countries, all filled with tons of minor nobility.  There were boatloads of blue-blooded nubile daughters to choose from. 

Then, there was the problem of Georgette's parents inviting our bachelor bad boy Nathaniel to reside with them.  Just "watch" over our daughter for us, keep her out of trouble.   Pu-lease.  Obviously, these people have never read a romance novel.  While I'm talking about the oblivious parents, I also found it hard to believe that they would let their daughter run all over London's stews and never once thought about locking her up in the country.

However, even with all of these impossible story threads, I had a great time reading this book.  The reason?  I loved Georgette and Nathaniel.  I found this couple to be just simply delightful.  The continual exchange of clever dialog between these two was a real treat.  Even with Nathaniel’s deceit, they worked well together.  Don't get me wrong, they were both strong, stubborn people, and occasionally Georgette crossed into TSTL territory.  However, I didn't mind, it all seemed to balance out.  She may have done outrageously stupid things, but then he would do some cave-man- throw-over-the-shoulder thing and it would all work out.  There was plenty of funny mind-talk going on inside both Georgette and Nathaniel.  Also entertaining were the secondary characters of the maid and footman.  There was another story about the parents that began, but didn't seem to go anywhere.  It might have been interesting, but then, how many secondary characters can you have in love in one book?

The murder mystery was a fun little diversion, but I don't believe it was a necessary addition to the love story of Nathaniel and Georgette.  They would have been just fine without it.

I do have one thing about Nathaniel that didn't sit well.  By the end of the story, he still hadn’t confessed his deceit to Georgette.  They were a consolidated couple, but that particular thread didn't get tied.  I'm not sure why it wasn't, but in the end, it would have made Nathaniel a more honorable hero.

Overall, this was a fast book with a fun couple.  So, just ignore some of the things you know couldn't possibly ever happen, kick your shoes off, put your feet up, get some decaf coffee and relax.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James

June 10, 2013
Out of control Mr. Toad alert!
Yes folks, Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James comes with a warning.  You see, our hero,
Gowan, comes equipped with a giant, humongous, massive, and at times insensitive to delicate newbies, Mr. Toad.

Once Upon a Tower is part of Ms. James' Fairytale series, this one based on the Rapunzel story, which was never one of my favorites. The thought of a 180 pound guy using my hair as a rope always transmitted stinging little needles all through my scalp. All that yanking of ones head never made any sense to me.However, Ms. James' version of being imprisoned in a tower, waiting for rescue was somewhat altered. You see, both our hero, Gowan, and our heroine, Edie, are imprisoned by the structure of their worlds. Some of those walls were created by others and some they built themselves.

As always with Ms. James we get an education into the high-falutin' world of Shakespeare.  (By the way, Shakespeare gives me a headache.)  However, in this book not only do we have Shakespeare to contend with but classical music as well.  We are inundated with both and while I admit I enjoy a good symphonic tune, nothing irritates me faster than some pretentious person spouting out their better-than-thou education.  So, I had a few groan moments in this story as yet another instruction in sophistication was brought up.  I digress.

Gowan is looking for a suitable wife he can pencil into his busy schedule.  And, he thinks he's found her in the person of Edie.  Quiet Edie with the shining eyes and glowing cheeks.  Yes, she's just the woman for him.  Of course, he's not aware that those shining eyes and glowing cheeks are due to our heroine having a high fever.  Her quiet reserve because she's sicker than a dog and the fact that she's moving through the evening in the fog of illness.  I thought this was a good beginning to the story and was looking forward to some fun discoveries.  But ‘twas not to be.  The first half of this book is the courting of this couple, or the non-courting because Ms. James has created two of the most self-absorbed people I've seen in a long time.  Gowen is a micro-manager type - everything goes through him - he's got his fingers in every pie on all of his estates.  No one at any of his homes can think for themselves.  And, he is so absorbed in his work, that he has a tendency to forget Edie. 

Did I forget to mention that Edie plays a cello?  She doesn't just play the cello, the cello is her life.  She is a virtuoso, a true artist, and she marries a guy who has no understanding of this kind of passion, especially in a woman.  And, this mismatched couple are off to a rocky start.  But the big problem and I do mean big, is the intimate side of their marriage.  Edie, of course is an innocent, but Gowan has also avoided all contact with the opposite sex throughout his young life.  And, though he seems to be older in the book I believe he is actually in his early 20's in this story.  What we then have is a very young couple who stumble around in the dark.  Neither one of them know what to do and on top of that Gowan's Mr. Toad is gargantuan.  His Timothy Toad is not only colossal but seems to have the ability to last f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  So, while Gowan is merrily thumping and bumping the evening away, Edie is staring at the ceiling wishing someone would end her misery.  But does she say anything to Gowan?  Does she gently tell him his continual hammering with his giant protrusion is causing her insides to fall out?  Nope, on the advice of Layla (her step-mother), she fakes her enraptured moments - if you get my drift.  So, all the while Gowan thinks he is a he-man because he has brought his wife pleasure, patting himself on the back for a job well done.  Of course, you know he finds out and when he does there is an explosion of gigantic proportion - dare I say a tad bit t-o-o dramatic.  In fact, by the time we reach the end of this book, everyone has overreacted.

There is also a secondary story about the rocky marriage of Layla, Edie's step-mother, and Edie's father.  I thought Layla was silly, sophomoric and selfish.  Edie's father was rigid and uncomfortably obsessed with his daughter.  I didn't care for either of these two supporting characters.  They were both extremely unlikeable and, for me, proved a distraction from the rest of the book.  On top of all of that, Layla also has an overreact moment when she's confronting Gowan.  It was an insert speech here minute.

Sorry to say, this story didn't work for me.  It began in a promising enough way, but was soon weighed down by high-brow learnin' and the spouting of some extremely selfish people.  The Fairytale series has been a hit and miss for me. I think some of the problem I've had with Ms. James' Fairytale series is that unlike her other series' we haven't been able to watch her main characters develop though the process of numerous books.  And, I miss that.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


Ruined by Moonlight by Emma Wildes

June 4, 2013
Ok, so I didn't see the "read me first" sign.

Well, color me happy!  Now I can sleep at night.  Yes, I have returned from the way-back machine after reading Ruined by Moonlight, the first book in the Whispers of Scandals series by Emma Wildes.  Who'd have thunk it?  There is a little bit of information on the continuing storyline set-up for A Most Improper Rumor, things were made a little clearer to me.  I didn't change my opinion as to the mystery who-done it thread.  Nope, I still think ruining the pretty-popular-women of the ton is pretty silly.  The kidnappings/murders were a teansy-weensy farfetched if all a villain was doing was proving a point.  Of course, I don't know what the point was or will be, because as I said it's a continuing mystery.   

Nonetheless, I was able to view the beginning of the Ben/Alicia romance and now I love this couple even more.  Once again, they were my favorite storyline in the book.  Just watching Alicia work her wiles on Benjamin was great fun.  I'm not sure why, but I love romance books that have men who have planned their life out to the last toenail.  It's always so much fun to watch their well thought out plans turn to dust due to the woman they thought would fit into their stratagems and then she doesn't.  That's what happens to poor Ben when he is confronted in the very beginning of the book by his wife’s demands.  Ben is stunned when told by his wife that he will be denied access to her bed until they get to know each other better.  First of all, Ben was oblivious, he had no idea there was a problem.  Secondly, he had no idea how one gets to "know" ones wife better.  Watching him flounder was a masterpiece of amusing writing.  The Ben and Alicia story was full of everything needed to make a great romance; sexual tension, a dawning of love and a gradual earning of respect for each other. 

As in A Most Improper Rumor, there is another couple, Elena and Ran.  I will say I liked this couple better than Angelina/Christopher from A Most Improper Rumor.  While Elena/Ran seemed to be more of an a-typical romance couple, because they never met before, we are given the opportunity to watch as they test the waters.  You know, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly a young historical nubile woman will give her permission to experiment with pre-whankee-woo to a complete stranger.  Well, not a complete stranger, someone they have known for, oh, a day or so.  I guess I have become so used to it in romance novels that I don't think about it anymore.  But anyway, Elena is the protected daughter of an aristocrat and she is very willing to further her education.  I thought the way Elena and Ran worked together to solve their problem (being kidnapped) was well written.  There were no name callings or suspicions or the "I hate you, kiss me" routines.  I found Ran's attitude about being forced into the inevitable to be very believable and I liked him a lot for it. 

As I've said before about the other book, the mystery is the weakest part of the story.  I knew who the help-the-villain-stooge was long before the ending, but I didn't have a problem with that. The rub was the stooge’s motivation.  A big puleese came out of my mouth when it was revealed.  While the villain-helper stumbles innocently into that role, their reason for the contact with the villain seemed silly to me.  

Overall, this was an enjoyable read; I liked both couples - especially Alicia and Ben.  I'm really looking forward to more stories with those two characters and I think Ms. Wildes has created a pair that she shouldn't drop anytime soon.

Time/Place: Regency Romance
Sensuality: Hot!!