The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan

July 29, 2013
Guess who's coming to dinner

Courtney Milan is one of my new favorite authors.  I say new because she's only been
published for four years.  I have a great admiration for her for a number of reasons, one of them being that she was brave enough to say to her publisher, 'You've got to be kidding,' and striking out on her own into self-publishing, especially when she was doing so well with her publishing house.  The other reason is she always delivers well-developed books that are character-driven reads.  In the case of The Heiress Effect, she has done that again.  However, I have to say I'm not as in love with The Heiress Effect as I have been with some of her other works.  The main reason I wasn't as fond of this book as her others was that it seemed to be more of a morality tale than a romance.  Oh sure, there was a couple (actually there were two couples), but their problems took center stage and romance a back seat.

Let's examine the main couple, Oliver and Jane.  Oliver is illegitimate and the half-brother of Robert from The Duchess War.  And Oliver has a grudge.  Because of who he is, he has always been bullied and now he wants to get back at everyone.  The way to do that is with power, so he wants to be a politician - he wants to be someone who makes the rules.  In order to do that, he curries the favor of those who bullied him when he was young.  To put it bluntly he kisses a--, he's a brown noser, and when he does find the woman he will marry she will be a quiet, "stand by your man" kind of gal.  He is actually quite a weak man looking for an equally weak woman.

Enter Jane Fairchild, and weak is the last thing one could say about her.  She is strong, she is smart, and she's rich.  Because she's rich, she has been courted for years; however, Jane doesn't want to get married, so she has adopted a facade over the years to drive these men away - she's loud, brutally honest, and her clothing is a disaster.  When she enters a room all eyes turn toward her and for all the wrong reasons.  She insults people right and left, and pretends innocence in these killing remarks.  Over the years, she has made some pretty powerful enemies, one of these being the Marquess of Bradenton.  Bradenton just happens to be one of the bullies from Oliver's past - and he promises Oliver his support if Oliver will destroy Jane.  Because Oliver is kissing Bradenton's butt, he considers it.

I was actually fascinated watching Jane and Oliver as they worked through their problems.  They are both very complex characters.  One of my favorite reoccurring lines was, "Jane was exactly the sort of woman he wanted.  Someone exactly like Jane, but totally opposite." In the end, because of Jane, Oliver becomes a worthy hero.

Now, we come to our secondary characters, Jane's sister Emily and a young barrister, Anjan Bhattacharya, who also happens to be Indian.  Everyone in this book has a problem.  Emily’s problem is she has epilepsy and this is 1867 and if you are not aware a person with this affliction often ended up in an asylum and, after years of quacks treating her, she is pretty close to being put there.  Then we have Anjan and I guess his problem would be that he's Indian (India) trying to live in a white society in 1867.  I was a little disappointed that the relationship between Emily and Anjan wasn't given a more realistic treatment.  Oh sure, there is prejudice but not as much as there would have been in 1867.  I can only imagine the hatred this couple would have evoked in this time period.  As Spencer Tracy said in his final film speech : "As for you two and the problems you're going to have, they seem almost unimaginable,..." For me Emily and Anjan, as a couple, didn’t work so much.  The problems they and their children would face were viewed through rose-colored glasses.  I would have liked to have seen at least one of them acknowledge the probable bumpy road in their future together.  I didn't have a sense as to whether either of them was strong enough to weather the storm.

Overall, this was a very strong book and I do recommend it.  The story is well-developed with some very complex characters.  I had a minor problem with the secondary romance being sugar-coated, but overall I think this is a satisfying contribution to the Brothers' Sinister series and I'm looking forward to Sebastian's story.

Time/Place: Victorian England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


On My Radar August 15 to September 14, 2013

July 26, 2013

Katharine Ashe

I Married a Duke
Prince Catchers series
Release date: August 27, 2013

Frankie Y. Bailey

The Red Queen Dies
Detective Hannah McCabe
Release date: September 10, 2013

Mary Balogh

The Arrangement
Survivors Club series
Release date: August 27, 2013

Anna Lee Huber

Mortal Arts
Lady Darby Mysteries
Release date: September 3, 2013

Jeannie Lin

The Lotus Palace
Release date: August 27, 2013

Anne Stuart

Never Kiss a Rake
Scandal at the House of Russell series
Release date: August 20, 2013

For a more complete listing of Upcoming Releases see Hey Delia!!!


Stroke of Midnight by Olivia Drake

July 23, 2013
TSTL heroine meets Clark Kent

There was so much jumping to conclusions in Stroke of Midnight that for a crazy moment I thought I was at a track meet. Where to start where to start? I decided to read this book after hearing some good things about it, and besides that I liked the cover. However, turns out this story is a great example of how different humans'  tastes can be.

 Let's begin with the plot. Our heroine, Laura, was at one time in love with our hero, Alex. He is an aristocrat, she is common folk. Then, as luck would have it, a set of really expensive jewels is stolen. A pair of earrings from this set show up in Laura's father's desk drawer. Alex jumps to the conclusion that her father stole the jewels and he accuses him of the crime. Now, this is based solely on finding them in the drawer. No one else is questioned. So, somehow Laura and her father escape prosecution by high-tailing it to Portugal, where they hide out for 10 years.

Fast forward 10 years. For some reason Laura's father returns to London. We don't know why. He is murdered. We don't know why. Laura returns to London. We do know why - she is going to find the killer. And, she has some suspects in mind. She has jumped to the conclusion that the Duke of Haversham has stolen the jewels, (we don't know why he would steal them, but Laura believes he was having an affair with the Duchess of Knowles, the woman with the missing jewels.) We don't know why Laura believes they were having an affair. But then maybe if it wasn't the duke it was his beautiful conniving daughter, Evelyn. Why would Evelyn steal the jewels? Well, she seemed to be some sort of rival of Laura, so because she wanted to to make Laura look bad, she steals the jewels and makes it look like Laura's father did it. At least that what Laura thinks.

So, Laura is off to London to find the killer. She has no money, she has no place to stay, she is a social outcast, but somehow she's going to break into society and prove the duke or his daughter stole the jewels and killed her father. No money, no home, nobody likes her, but her big problem is - what if she's recognized? Everyone will know why she came back to town. Her biggest worry is how she is going to keep people from recognizing her. The solution - why, she's going to wear glasses and keep her head down. It worked for Clark Kent didn't it?

Anyway, after escaping a creepy Bow Street runner, racing through London, our disguised heroine decides to do some window shopping. After all, a girl with no money should start picking out what she can wear to the society balls. But wait - who should she see? Why it's Alex, our hero. You remember him, he accused her father of thievery, he's responsible for all the dreadful things that happened to Laura and her father. But, she is worried that he might see through her disguise, so she jumps into the nearest carriage with a crest on it. Who should be in that carriage but Lady Milford, the local matchmaker. Well Lady Milford gives Laura a pair of shoes... I wasn't sure if I was in Oz or a Cinderella story. With a knowing twinkle in her eye, Lady Milford sets Laura up as a companion to Lady Josephine. Josephine is our old lady with dementia who says funny things. Any guesses as to whose aunt she is? Yep, Alex.

So we get to watch as Laura jumps to wrong conclusions, goes to places she shouldn't be and all the while Alex tries to stay one step ahead of her. He's trying to keep her from investigating because he's got a big secret. By the way, the woman with the missing jewels is his godmother and he's given his word to her that he won't tell anyone about something that she did. We don't know what. I thought Alex's choice of people he treated with respect was very questionable. Honoring his promise to his deceitful godmother over Laura, the woman he supposedly loved, was pretty dishonest.

Laura on the other hand was not only a TSTL heroine, but had all the earmarks of an immature juvenile TSTL heroine. There is one scene where she jumps to the conclusion that just because Alex and her arch rival Evelyn are talking to each other they are up to something. So, she decides that she is going to show them. She sets them up to be found together in a bedchamber by the neighborhood gossip. That will show them. I didn't get it. I thought it was a silly moment and made for a truly unlikeable heroine. And, by the way, it didn't work because Alex, who must have been a psychic, was on to her and didn't step into her devious plan.

I didn't enjoy this story - I found both the heroine and hero irritating, and their thinking was so convoluted it was laughable - and not in a good way. I guessed right away who the villain was, but not the reason behind the villainy. And, let me tell you when the reason is revealed it is truly a remarkable melodramatic, over-the-top confession. In the end I was disappointed, wishing for more than what I actually received.

Time/Place: Early Victorian England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

July 16, 2013
Watch out!  It's the flexing finger hero!

You know keddoes, about half way through A Woman Entangled, I noticed that our hero,
Nick, was having trouble with his hands. Every time our heroine Kate said something or smiled or even moved, Nick's fingers curled, flexed, tensed. It was at this point that I had the fleeting thought of keeping track of how many times his fingers curled, but because I'm lazy and didn't want to go back to the beginning and start counting, I resisted temptation. Just be warned, fellow readers, this guy has some really twitchy appendages, at least on his hands.

Now on to the book. I was very excited when A Woman Entangled was released. I have been very impressed with Cecilia Grant's writing, especially her book, A Lady Awakened. Through her writing, she has managed to energize some old plot lines, so I was looking forward to being led down an interesting path when I opened this story. Well, it didn't take me long to find a character I hated and loved at the same time.

Let me introduce you to Kate Westbrook, a really hard heroine to like. Kate wanted more than what she had. She wanted it more than anything in the world; it's sort of an obsession with her. You see, her father was born into aristocracy, but because he fell in love with an actress and then married her, his noble family turned their collective backs on him. However, Kate's parents have provided her and her siblings with a loving household. The Westbrook’s actually reminded me a little of the Bennett family, except the Westbrook’s cared for each other. But Kate wants more. She yearns for a life that she doesn't know the first thing about. She has created all of these fantasies about how wonderful it would be to be accepted in her father's old world. She is ashamed, she is resentful, she is embarrassed, she is sad, she is jealous of the wealthy elite world of which she can never be a part. Like all heroines, she has a plan, a purely selfish plan, but a plan nonetheless. Unbeknownst to her parents, she has been in communication with her father's family over the years. Just little notes, a best to you note here, a congratulations note there. She just knows that someday his family will say, "sure come on over and have some grub with us." Well, that moment happens, not the grub part, but along the lines of "come over and see my magnificent home" invite. Imagine her chagrin when her aunt explains to Kate that she is good enough to be a companion. Kate's world does a little collapsing at this point. Eventually, her vision clears and she realizes that not everything that glitters is gold. Kate is a really unlikeable person. Most of the problems that she faces are those that she has created for herself. Only occasionally does she show any redeeming qualities and those are with her sister Rose and her new friend Louisa. I think I would have liked Kate better if it hadn't taken her soooooo long to see the beauty of her own world. Then there is her treatment of the finger guy, Nick.

Nick, our hero, also has problems. If you've read the other books in this series, you will remember Nick as the third brother, and he has cut his brother Will out of his life. Remember Will married the courtesan - evidently that isn't good for one's family or career. So, Nick spends quite a lot of pages grumbling about the loss of business due to his brother's action - accompanied by an occasional twinge of guilt. Throw into all of this angst his past/present association with Kate. Kate, who I forgot to mention is beautiful with a capital B. Nick and Kate have a past of sorts; you see, Nick made the mistake of falling in love with Kate, then attempting to propose marriage to her. Little did he know that he wasn't good enough for Kate. He is a mere working man, a barrister just starting out. She wanted a lord, so she dumped all over his feelings. However, he has moved on, sort of. Over the years he has become a permanent fixture in Westbrook family's household - like a brother. Of course, we who have read countless romance novels know that brother thing never works out. But for me, as a couple Nick and Kate worked better as friends than a romance couple.

There was way too much time spent on exploring Kate's self-indulgent dreams and Nick's guilt that this couple didn't have time to build any chemistry. The whanky-roo when it shows up, while exuberant, seemed out of place. And supposedly innocent Kate exhibited no signs of shyness while participating in the big bounce. In the end, I didn't care whether they ended up together or not. I was really more interested in some of the secondary characters in the book: Vi, Kate's brash sister; Kate's friend, Louisa; and Lord Barclay. The Westbrook's had a number of interesting siblings and I'm hoping the author spends more time exploring this family.

Overall, I love Cecelia Grant's writing and I do recommend all three books in the Blackshear series. It's just this one had the weakest couple.

Time/Place: Early Victorian England
Sensuality: Hot, not sensual


Courtney Milan Release!!!!

The Heiress Effect is out!!!!


At the Duke's Wedding by Maya Rodale, Miranda Neville, Caroline Linden and Katherine Ashe

July 10, 2013
Novella: a fictional prose narrative that is longer and more complex than a short story; a short novel.

At the Duke’s Wedding is a compilation of four short stories/novellas by Maya Rodale,

Miranda Neville, Caroline Linden, and Katherine Ashe.  This anthology comes with a Yikes moment.  When I opened the book in my Nook, my eyes were immediately drawn to the total page number of 963 – turns out that equals something close to over 500 pages in paper.  That’s still a pretty sizable undertaking for something classified as “short.” The stories run concurrently and take place at the wedding of the Duke of Wessex.

The first story in the batch was That Rogue Jack by Maya Rodale.  Jack was the typical cardboard romance rake, who only seems to like his yellow-wheeled phaeton.  He’s an irresponsible rascal who for some reason has been given the job of picking up the wedding ring - the family heirloom wedding ring.  Why the groom didn’t do this, I don’t know.  Needless to say, the ring comes up missing.  Jack’s heroine is Henrietta, the staid companion of the standard romance old-woman-who-says-snarky-things-and-everybody-loves.  Jack also pulled Henrietta’s hair when they were young; now he just wants to pull other things.  This story was all over the place – wagers – sex – misunderstandings – drinking – sex.  It was a basic Regency romance story, nothing special, and a couple I didn’t care for.

P.S. I Love You by Miranda Neville was the retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac.  Why Ms. Neville chose one of my least favorite pieces of classical literature is beyond me.  She must not have received my memo.  There are no honorable men in Cyrano and there are none in Ms. Neville’s version.  I wish just once, the heroine in this story would catch on to these two guys right away.  Anyway, unlike Cyrano – the ugly guy gets the girl.  He’s doesn’t have a big nose, but he does have a hero scar.  And, we get to have more gratuitous sex.

When I Met My Duchess by Caroline Linden may have been my favorite story in the book.  This couple didn’t deliberately set out to hurt anyone.  The tale is about the Duke of Wessex, who is engaged to the nice quiet sister, but falls in love with the outspoken-hated-by-her-parents older sister.  In this story we have some really nice people who try to do what is best – try to resist temptation but eventually fail.  (Thank goodness they didn’t hop into bed with each other until after the engagement was broken.)

How Angela Got Her Rogue Back by Katharine Ashe is a time-travel story.  Angela is zapped back in time and ends up at the Duke’s wedding being saved by Lord Trenton Ascot.  Lord Ascot, by the way, has been appearing to Angela in visions saying things like, “come back to me.”  There is a mystery that only she can solve, the dilemma being that when she solves the mystery she will be returned to her time period and never more be with her soul mate, Lord Ascot.  Actually, I would have enjoyed this story more if it had been longer.

Overall, the stories are sweet, but nothing exciting or new.  Most of the main characters lacked chemistry, which made the sex seem out of place.  Only one couple from When I Met My Duchess had any spark.  Even though this book was 963 Nook pages, it had a rushed feel about it.  I like the idea of four authors writing about the same event from various perspectives. I just wish there had been more substance in this really big book.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

It Happened One Night by Julie Anne Long

July 3, 2013

Deja Vu
I had one of those moments.  One of those, "I know I've read this before" moments.  How can that be?  In fact, I almost put the book down because I thought I'd read it before.  But, the leeddle voice in my head kept saying, "It's new, it's new, it's new."  So, I kept on reading.  Nonetheless, it was familiar enough for me to start looking for the "other" book with a similar scene in it.  It was a distraction and I wasted some precious time wracking my brain.  And, my brain is something that shouldn't be wracked.  For those of you who are interested, the scene is in the very beginning of It Happened One Midnight.  Jonathan, our hero, has been called into the den for a talk with his father Isaiah.  If you've read the Pennyroyal Green series, you should recognize Isaiah Redmond, the brow-beating-ruthless-micro-manager father of the Redmond clan.  Anyway, this scene in which he hands out his ultimatum to Jonathon was really familiar.  Enough about similar stuff. 

This time, in Pennyroyal Green, it is the youngest Redmond sibling, Jonathan, who takes center stage.  Joining Jonathan in the journey to romance is Thomasina de Ballesteros, or "Tommy" as she is called by others.  Tommy/Thomasina happens to be the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Greyfolk.  Tommy has a strong desire to know her father; she has a dream to be part of his life.  In fact, when we first meet her she is outside her father's house spying on him, wondering what book he's reading, letting her imagination run wild, all the time clutching a medal/memento, the only thing of his that she has.  This memento is very special to her; it holds all her childhood dreams of family in it.

It is while Tommy is watching her father that Jonathan puts in his appearance.  And, what a dynamic appearance it is!  When Jonathan makes his first appearance, he is in the shadows.  The only thing we see is the red glow of his cigarette.  He had been silently watching Tommy as she watched her father.  It was all very sexy.  I know, I know, cigarettes are stinky, they make the breath of our heroes smell...but sometimes they can be used to set a tone and they certainly did in this scene.  This scene created a incredibly sensual Jonathan.

Jonathan and Tommy are a delightful couple. Their dialogue is fun to follow.  When they are together just talking, this novel  shined.  For those of you who like their romance couples to fall in love instantly, you will be disappointed.  Jonathan and Tommy take their time, they become friends first and then they slowly accept the fact that they have fallen in love along the way.  I became quite absorbed in finding out how they were going to resolve all their differences and find their HEA.  Did I find some of the resolution a little bit too neat?  Did things fall into place just a little too easily?  Yes, to all of those questions; however, it was a fun ride to get there.

Was this a perfect book?  What do you think?  I did have a few "pu-leese" moments.  First of all, the orphans.  Tommy saves orphans and she coerces Jonathan into helping her.  So, they turn into a Lone Ranger/Tonto/Cisco Kid/Robin Hood couple running in and out of places, climbing walls, fooling the bad guy.  It was all a little too much and the children were just a little too saccharine.  Although, I must admit one of my more favorite scenes was Jonathan being cooped up with one of the children for hours and hours - pretty funny.  There was also a scene where Tommy starts ripping her clothes off as they walk across a bridge.  My first thought was "oh no, not a puppy."  Thankfully it was just her precious medal that dropped into the water.  So, she was ripping off all of her clothing to dive into the water to rescue her medal.  My question to that was, does a metal medal float?  Wouldn't it just sink to the bottom?  How would she know where to jump in?  Plus all those clothes she was shedding, how long would that really take? 

One other thing about two of the characters in this book, Isaiah Redmond and the Duke of Greyfolk.  I find Isaiah Redmond to be an absolutely fascinating character and I wish that authors would explore writing stories about some of the older characters in their books.  I think there is a great story to be found in the character of Isaiah.  The Duke of Greyfolk on the other hand, turns out to be a very unkind, loathsome person and shatters Tommy's dreams of having a family.  While this turned out to be painful for her, it also helped her face reality and she became a better person.  I was pleased that the author didn't have a zippedy-do-dah reunion between Greyfolk and his daughter.

Even though there were moments where I was thrown out of the story and some 21st century language/slang that the author used, I still enjoyed this book.  The couple worked well together, their banter was fun, and it was great being at Pennyroyal Green again.

Time/Place: Regency England/Pennyroyal
Sensuality: Hot