Lady Anne's Lover by Maggie Robinson

August 29, 2013
"You and me, we're gonna be pardners
You and me, we're gonna be pals
You and me, we'll do and dare alike
We'll share what there's to share alike
That goes for money, pleasure or gals
You and me will be the greatest pardners, buddies and pals."
From the Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin movie Pardners.

Hopefully, the marriage in this book doesn't go the same way that the Lewis and Martin partnership went.  Lady Anne's Lover is the last in The London List series by Maggie Robinson.  Our heroine is Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont, a nineteen year-old on the run from her sexually abusive father.  With the help of Evangeline from Lord Gray's List, Imaculata has managed to land a job as a housekeeper in the remote wilds of Wales.  She thinks she will be perfectly safe with some old codger, but as it turns out there is no old codger.  Nope, just a drunken one-armed man who turns out to be our hero, Gareth.  Even though Gareth spends his time drowning his sorrows in whatever alcohol he can get his hands on, it doesn't take him long to see through her disguise (she's an aristocrat who doesn't know the first thing about cooking or cleaning, so it isn't really that difficult).  Anyway, Gareth's home is falling down around his ears...he needs money and he needs it fast.  Anne (Imaculata) has money but no access to it - she either needs to come of age or marry.  She solves her problem by suggesting to Gareth that they marry and in short order the banns are being read.  Of course this is a romance novel so things are not as simple as that last sentence implied.  Anne isn't too keen on marriage or men; she wants her money and her freedom.  She also wants a marriage of convenience.  Gareth feels sorry for himself - he lost an arm and a fiancée - so now he drinks.  And, this is not a small drinking problem; if he were in this time period he would be called an alcoholic.  He has promised Anne that he will not drink, but still proceeds to imbibe ale because as all people with a drinking problem know, drinking ale isn't really an issue.  He also has agreed to the marriage of convenience but plans on seducing Anne anyway.  We also have the complication that the village people blame him for the death of his former fiancée, the town floozy.  So, yes there is also a murderer meandering through the pages of this story.

Before you think that this is some dark, angst-filled book, let me assure you that the lighthearted moments far outweigh the darker side, and that's what makes this book a pleasant read. I enjoyed the moments Anne and Gareth were together. Their dialogue was genuine.  They are both imperfect people who form a perfect partnership.  Even when Gareth falls off the wagon, (and he falls with a bang), the resolution is quick and reasonably painless. 

Did I have any quibbles?  Sure. I'm not a big fan of vast age differences and there was one in this story - she was nineteen and he was thirty-three.  However, at times, she seemed the more mature of two.  I also thought the resolution of both the murder and her father was glossed over, almost an afterthought - getting those loose ends tied before the last page.  Her father especially, deserved more punishment than he was actually given.

Overall, this was a nice ending to a pleasant series.  I'm looking forward to Maggie Robinson's moving forward from the Regency time period to the Edwardian with her next series, Ladies Unlaced.  Love the Edwardians.

Time/Place: Regency England/Wales
Sensuality: Hot


On my Radar September 15, 2013 to October 14, 2013!!

August 27, 2013
Jennifer Ashley

The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie
Mackenzie Family series
Release date: October 1, 2013

Lily Dalton, debut

Never Desire a Duke
One Scandalous Season series
Release date: September 24, 2013

Karen Hawkins

How to Entice an Enchantress
The Duchess Diaries series
Release date: September 17, 2013

Madeline Hunter

The Counterfeit Mistress
Fairbourne Quartet series
Release date: September 24, 2013

Mia Marlowe

Plaid Tidings
Spirit of the Highland series
Release date: October 1, 2013

Kasey Michaels

What a Gentleman Desires
Redgrave Family series
Release date: September 24, 2013

Maggie Robinson

In the Heart of the Highlander
A Ladies Unlaced series
Release date: October 1, 2013

Word Wenches
Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Patricia Rice, Nicola Cornick, Joanna Bourne, Anne Grace, Carla Elliott, Susan Fraser King

Mischief and Mistletoe, anthology
Release date: October 1, 2013

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


Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

August 21, 2013

Who Knew this was a Twilight Fanfiction...not me!
When I first spotted Wallbanger in a list of upcoming releases it caught my eye and it stayed
there.  I thought the title rather funny, so I put it on my list to read.  It wasn't until I was over half way through that I found out it was a so-called fanfiction book and a Twilight fanfiction to boot.

I'll be honest; I'm not sure how I feel about fanfiction books or even if I know exactly what they are.  I looked it up on Wikipedia and I'm still a tad confused - but here's my definition - someone loves a book sooooo much that they either continue the saga; change the ending; change the place or time-period; or add zombies to it - as in the Pride and Prejudice zombie book.  I would not consider this strictly a copyright issue as in the copy-paste-Janet-Dailey-Nora-Roberts debacle, but rather taking someone else's idea and tweaking it.  It’s a thin line and somehow I feel I'm the one being taken advantage of.  But in Romanceland, Detectiveville, Fantasytown, Science Fiction Village, etc., how many original stories are left?

Wallbanger supposedly was based on that great American series, The Twilight Saga.  I must admit, I never read any of the books, I have only been privileged to see one of the movies and that movie did not make me want to read any of the books.  I don't remember seeing such bad acting since Jack spit over the side of the Titanic.  And the dialogue was embarrassing enough to make me groan, and not in a good way.  Sorry all of my friends who went to the midnight showing.

Having never read the Twilight Saga, I can only judge Wallbanger on it's own merit, which is what I did.  By the way, there's nary a vampire or werewolf in sight.  What we do have is Caroline, an interior designer who has just moved in to an apartment with her cat, Clive.  It is while Caroline has just bedded down for a good night's sleep that she is introduced to her next door neighbor, Simon, aka the Wallbanger.  As it happens, Caroline's walls are quite thin, and Simon has an active sex life.  And that begins our story (which is written in first person, by the way).

This story was totally different from the books I normally read.  It had a looser writing style than what I am used to.  It had more of a pretentious Sex and the City thing going.  It also is classified as erotica but other than an increase in potty mouth dialogue, I wouldn't say there were any more bedroom scenes than there are in, say, an Anne Stuart or a Carolyn Jewel book.

I found some of the dialogue funny and the cat's actions occasionally humorous, but Wallbanger suffered from what I call the "Jerry Lewis Syndrome," which is not knowing when enough is enough.  While I found the initial sexual innuendos funny, I soon became tired of them.  Then we have - antici - pa - tion.  There is a difference between building tension and dragging something out by the use of constant interruptions.  I was so tired of waiting for Caroline and Simon to have whankee-roo that when it finally happened it lost its impact and then there were pages and pages of never ending in-out-in-out up-down-up-down.  I just wanted it to end. Making the story even longer was a silly romance story about Caroline and Simon's four friends.  This didn't contribute too much of anything but length to the book.

I realize this may sound like I didn't like this book, but there were some things I enjoyed.  I enjoyed the trip to Spain and the well-written romance during that time period.  There was also a fun use of text messages that I thought was a refreshing way to tell a story.

In the end, I believe Ms. Clayton has talent, and I wish her the best of luck.  But for me what could have been a good book suffered from lack of editing out portions which were not needed.  The jury is still out on how I feel about fanfiction, I wish I had been warned before I purchased the book though.  And, that in itself says something.

Time/Place: Modern San Francisco/World
Sensuality: Scorcher


Why Dukes Say I Do by Manda Collins

August 20, 2013
"Green acres is the place for me.
Farm livin' is the life for me.
Land spreadin' out so far and wide.
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.
New York is where I'd rather stay.
I get allergic smelling hay.
I just adore a penthouse view.
Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue.
...The chores.
...The stores.
...Fresh air.
...Times Square
You are my wife.
Good bye, city life.
Green Acres we are there."

Why Dukes Say I Do by Manda Collins is the first in the Wicked Widows series, and I suspect that they aren't really wicked.  I also suspect that the killing we are witness to in the first chapter is to be what connects this series.

Our heroine is Lady Isabella Wharton, a widow and an escapee from an abusive marriage.  She is also the god-daughter to a conniving woman, the Dowager Duchess of Ormonde, who isn't above blackmail to get what she wants.  What she wants in this case is for Isabella to traipse out to the country, and drag the  dowagers recalculate grandson, Trevor, the current Duke, to London.

When Trevor and Isabella meet it is two worlds clashing.  Isabella is a city girl who thinks Trevor is a county bumpkin.  Trevor is a hard-working country gentleman who thinks Isabella is a town fribble.  The both hate each other's worlds immensely.  Entering into Trevor's hatred of the city is also his blindness to the fact that his sisters are growing up.  One especially is a seventeen-year-old who he has isolated from the big bad London world. (Although, I thought while reading this book that there had to have been thousands of young ladies that never made it to London and probably lived full and productive lives.)

The story was an interesting study of two opposites who learn to respect each other and eventually grow to love each other.  Because I was enjoying how well this couple was working together I was a little thrown by a silly misunderstanding that happens after they are married.  The misunderstanding went totally against the trust that Trevor and Isabella had built and in my opinion was a distraction to the storyline.

Also a bit of a distraction were the mysterious threatening notes that Isabella was receiving.  I think the story could have been a strong story without the outside interference.  And by the way, I knew who it was right away and when the big reveal happened it was a bit over dramatic for my taste.

For the most part, I enjoyed the romance between Trevor and Isabella - their budding relationship was a treat to watch.  That part of the book had a smooth, gentle flow.  When the mystery appeared that flow became a frenzy.

I would encourage Ms. Collins to leave some of these peripheral elements out of her stories because I believe she could have a strong voice amongst authors who can write about relationships, such as Mary Balogh or Lisa Kleypas.  I for one would enjoy her story without the mystery.

P.S. Authors, be careful what names you give to your characters - choosing to name a character Moneypenny will only throw a reader out of a story and may make them start singing "Goldfinger, he's the man...the man with the Midas touch..."

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

And Then Comes Marriage by Celeste Bradley

August 13, 2013
Oh the pane!

Arrrggh.  There be spoilers ahead.
I was innocently strolling along one day, minding my own business when a friend asked me, "Have you read the latest Celeste Bradley yet?"  Knowing my tricky friend as I do, I knew this was not some idle question.  I was immediately suspicious.  "No, I replied, but I have it in my queue to read."  Cryptically she murmured, "I'll be interested in what your opinion is."  Uhmmmm.  What could she mean?  What was in this book that she was waiting to see how I would react?  So, I cautiously opened  And Then Comes Marriage

Twins.  I hatesssss twins!  Could that be what it? Was this what I was supposed to see?   Nah, my friend didn't remember that I hatessss twinsssss.  Anyway, we have two juvenile acting men, Castor and Pollux Worthington, who happen to be twins.  Oh, that wacky Worthington family.  There are eight of them by the way, ten if you count the parents, but parents don't usually get their own story.  There's Calliope, Lysander, Atalanta, Orion, Elektra, Daedalus and their parents Iris and Archie.  As you can tell Iris and Archie are big fans of mythology.  Iris also runs around quoting Shakespeare.  I hatessss Shakespeare.  Anyway, the Worthingtons are a ramshackle lot.  Archie and Iris are oblivious parents who are lucky they lived in Regency England and weren't under the watchful eye of some parental authority, because these siblings were on their own. 

Next we have our heroine, Miranda, the repressed widow, who when we are first introduced to her is following Pollux Worthington’s tight bum.  Little does she realize it's not Pollux's bum she's stalking, but Castor's.  She also has no idea that Pollux, who has befriended her, is a twin or from such a raucous family. She just knows that Pollux is starting to make her twitch in places that never twitched before.  So, she's sort of shadowing him, or the man she thinks is Pollux.  Unbeknownst to her, she has stumbled across the twins and one of their inventions.  A steam engine of sorts.  It seems that our frivolous tight-butted twins are fledgling inventors.  Well, as anyone with any knowledge of history knows, steam engines were not the most reliable of things...they had a tendency to blow up, which is what this one does.  Because Miranda is drooling over Castor's tightly encased rear-end, she isn't aware she's in danger until it's too late.  But do not fear fair readers, she is saved by Castor, whom she thinks is Pollux.  Because she thinks Castor is Pollux, she invites him back to her home and they kiss and she is ecstatic.  Castor on the other hand thinks he has found a loosey goosey and is rubbing his hands together in glee.  The book at this time was pretty entertaining, because Pollux and Castor both end up courting Miranda.  Neither Pollux nor Castor is aware that the other twin is courting Miranda and Miranda isn't aware that there are two of them.  She calls them Mr. Worthington, so I didn't have my usual twin masquerade problem with this story.  In fact I thought this part of the story was pretty clever.  Eventually the twins discover they are both interested in the same woman.  After some 'should we shouldn't we' moments, they fess up to Miranda.  They also inform her that she must decide which one of them she wants.  This isn't as simple as it seems, because on top of the twins competing to win the fair maiden, there are other threads going on in this plot-line.  The brothers have a wager with each other, Castor has a secret wager with the Prince of Wales, and Atalanta, our twelve-year-old precocious child, is on a mission to protect her brothers.  At this point, the story had the feel of a screwball comedy.  The irresponsible brothers were taking turns courting Miranda, fighting over her like two dogs with a bone.  Siblings running here and there, butlers sneaking in and out.  While I knew Miranda would eventually choose Castor, for a while I wondered if just maybe she might choose Pollux.  The twins were featured almost equally in the beginning of the book, so there was a slight question as to which direction Ms. Bradley was taking with our hero. (I use the term hero loosely.)

Then the book took a dark turn and I thought I had been transported back to the days of Sweet Savage Love.  Miranda is getting closer to making a choice.  Castor, who has been stalking her, misunderstands what he sees.  He bursts into her bedchamber and in a fit of jealous rage has his way with her.  But, that's ok 'cause she explodes into glorious, rapturous, liberating, splendor - not once but a number of times, against the bedpost (ouch) and against the window pane.  Yes folks, I said a window pane, a glass window pane.  Now, I don't know about you but at my house glass window panes have been known to break.  Apparently Regency England glass was made of sterner stuff.  Stuff that doesn't break when someone is thrown against it and then pounded again and again on their  journey to Multiple Climaxville.  This rather long scene completely stopped me.  I'm not sure what the intent of the scene was. I suspect we were supposed to see Castor let loose his wild animal essence and free Miranda from her dull, depressing world.  However, all I could see were glass shards flying all over the place and cutting off things that are needed to fill out a dress.  Or, maybe we were going to see just how much Miranda trusted Castor not to hurt her.  Call me crazy, but being bounced against a glass window would trigger all kinds of fear issues with me.  But as distressing as this scene was, it was nothing compared to what was coming down the road.


A Visit to Lunch Hour Love Stories

August 7, 2013
Sometimes small is good!

I was in the mood for some fast reads, so I paid a little visit to the Lunch Hour Love Stories website to see what they were up to.  I found four historical books there, three by authors that for one reason or another I haven't read in a long time. The four authors were Karen Hawkins, Danelle Harmon, Barbara Samuels and Virginia Henley.

Let's start with Danelle Harmon's The Admiral's Heart.  I stopped reading Ms. Harmon in 2001, not because I wanted to but because she took some time off from writing.  And, now she has returned to the scene republishing her old books and giving us this tiny little treat of a story, The Admiral's Heart.  Of the four short stories that I picked, this by far was the best of the lot and I'm hoping for some new full-length ones from Ms. Harmon soon.  The Admiral's Heart is only 43 Nook pages long, but it's a satisfying read nonetheless.  It's not very complex - hey, at 43 pages don't expect War and Peace.  But the couple, Pippa and Elliott, are cute; the love scenes sensual; and the ending lovely.  This is part of Harmon's de Montforte series, but you won't need to read those to follow along.  Although, after reading this short story, you may just want to read the others anyway.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


Then we have my old standby Karen Hawkins with The Lucky One, which is part of her Wicked Widows series. This story comes in at 105 Nook pages and it is pretty standard fare.  This one has a lovely widow hiding out with her precocious daughter at a hotel owned by a devastatingly handsome, self-made man.  Why the lovely widow Catherine chose a public place to "hide" is beyond me, but hey this is a romance, not a murder story so it doesn't have to make sense.  Catherine and James go together really well, the sexual attraction is almost immediate and there is a pretty hot floor scene.  But the best part of the book is the little girl Lily; she almost stole the show.  I did have a problem with Catherine's self-absorption with her art, almost to the point of ignoring her daughter and maybe in a longer book I wouldn't have liked Catherine half so much.  Overall, this was an adequate read.
Time/Place: Regency England 

Sensuality: Warm/Hot


Next up is Barbara Samuels.  A long time ago Ms. Samuels happened to write one of my favorite historical books, The Black Lyon (1999).  Then in the year 2000 she stopped writing historical romance so I quit reading her, but still hoped she would return to Historicalville
someday.  Anyway, The True Story of Mattie Groves caught my eye because I saw the word medieval...turned out that actually meant ghosts and reincarnation and a medieval murder being solved by a modern day archeologists or whatever she was.  This story has sort of a Gothic feel with our heroine, Rose, experiencing things as she treads through dark, dank rooms.  We also have a mysterious, gloomy, glaring hero, Robert.  Although there was supposed to be a connection between Rose and Robert, both in current times and medieval times, I think the book was just too short for any true emotion building.  The True Story of Mattie Groves was just a little disappointing to me, but I'm still hoping for a Barbara Samuel's historical someday.  This story came in at 137 Nook pages.
Time/Place: Current Scotland (sort of)
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


Then we have Scandal by the Ton by Virginia Henley and it didn't take me long to remember why I haven't read any of her books since A Woman of Passion in 1999.  Although, I think I liked Ms. Henley's rewrite of the history of Bess Hardwick and George Talbot.  In Ms. Henley's version, Bess and George actually like each other, unlike the real-life couple.  Scandal by the Ton is full of actual historical characters and for the most part they are horrible people.  In fact all the characters in this story, whether they are based on real people or not, are appalling.  The mother is a Snow White kind of mother - doesn't want to be old and is nasty.  The grandmother pretends to be deaf and says salacious things.  The heroine, Julie, is almost as bad; she insults people, she writes a secret scandal sheet, and she runs around all over London without any chaperone. She's only 18, by the way.  The hero, Royston, is the typical older Henley hero.  He's studly and overwhelms women with his male essence and bulging pants.  Yes, I understand this is a "short" story, but it had the feel of a literature project.  The phrases were stilted, the plot unbelievable, and the characters in the book were just awful.  Comes in at 363 Nook pages.
Time/Place: Early Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling

August 5, 2013
Free the house elves!!!

In case you don't know it the author of The Cuckoo's Calling is actually J.K. Rowling and i confess that is the only reason I bought this book.  Even though The Cuckoo's Calling was
getting rave reviews, it was just not on my radar until the news broke that Ms. Rowling was using the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith.  Now, some people might say 'so what', but you see, Ms. Rowling and her Harry Potter series hold a special place in my heart.  Oh sure, when my daughter told me I should read Harry Potter my reaction was a snooty 'Isn't that a kids book?'  That will teach the snoots of the world.  Let me say, I have never experienced the overwhelming excitement those novels engendered.  Whole families were standing in line just to get a book.  A book!!  There were Harry Potter happenings all over the place; it was all great fun - so if Ms. Rowling is going to write another novel, I'm going to be there to support her efforts.  Now, in no way do I think The Cuckoo's Calling is going to be the phenomenon that Mr. Potter was, but I could envision a Masterpiece Theater Mystery series in the future.

On to The Cuckoo's Calling.  If you like crime/mystery novels then this is one you don't want to pass up.  This story is filled with some well-developed characters, and that includes the supporting cast.  First of all, there is Cormoran Strike, a down-on-his-luck private investigator.  This PI is not some suave, charming, wink-wink guy - no - this man is a big, gruff, hairy veteran of Afghanistan, he's missing one of his legs, and when we are introduced to him he has just broken up with his girlfriend, moved out of their apartment and is living in his dumpy business office sleeping on a cot.  Cormoran may be big and hairy but he's also brilliant - his brain is full of wonderful deductive reasoning.  By the end of this story, I promise you, you are going to be rooting for Strike.  Rowling has given Strike quite a background story, one that you will want to follow in future books.

Then there is Robin.  The character of Robin is not quite as well-developed as Strike, but I suspect she will one day be a very powerful sidekick.  When Robin is introduced to us, she has just become engaged and she is happy, happy, happy.  She thinks she has found what she has always wanted, until she is sent to Strike's office as his temporary secretary.  Robin soon realizes that investigating is the excitement that she has always wanted in her life.  The relationship between her and Strike is one of friendship and dependency and growing respect.  And maybe in future books romance, but in this one they just complement each other.

The murder mystery part of the book is just that, a mystery, a puzzle that was put together right in front of me but I didn't see the answer until the very end.  Full of quirky, well-rounded individuals, I kept suspecting one person then another.  It was a great ride to the conclusion. 

Overall, this book is a very satisfying read and I highly recommend it.  Thought-out the book, we become immersed in the sometimes bright, sometimes gritty world Rowling has created.  Ms. Rowling is once again at the top of her form with her wonderfully vivid descriptive prose - you can almost smell the places and things in this world.  You really don't want to miss The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling.

Time/Place: Current Time England
Violence: Mild