The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

November 28, 2013
What a prologue!

I held my breath through this book! This story has one of the best prologues I've read in a long time; it reminded me of a fairytale. I loved it, which is why I held my breath, because when something catches my interest right away, I'm always a little nervous that at some point in the story the bottom will drop out. Much to my glee that didn't happen. Oh, sure, there may have been a few bumps, but for the most part I loved this book.

The Luckiest Lady in London takes place in the Victorian era and is a prequel to Private Arrangements, Sherry Thomas' debut novel. (By the way, that doesn't matter and if you are like me, I don't exactly remember Private Arrangements, although I think I liked it.)

In this story, we have Louisa Cantwell, a plain Jane on the hunt for a rich man, and who better for that part than Lord Felix Wrenworth - the "perfect gentleman." At least on the outside, this handsome man is perfect, but underneath he is a seething cauldron of problems - he is what I would call "a high high maintenance" guy. I think he'd give me a headache, but Louisa eventually cracks through the shell that surrounds him.

When they first meet, they are both pretending to be something they are not and they both see through each other right away. Louisa is a nice person. She is almost a martyr girl, but not really - she's just trying to marry someone who can take care of her family and, really, what's wrong with that? Felix, on the other hand, is a more complicated character and some people may not like him. He plays a lot of games, he hurts Louisa deeply, he is a tad bit obsessive, but in the end we are rewarded with a wonderful grovel, a very poignant awakening, and someone who will be a better person because of the woman he falls in love with.

It's interesting to me that I before I read this book, I read Romancing Lady Stone, a book filled with a plethora of sex, and I found it boring. In this story we again have lots of sex (not as methodical as RLS), but it becomes another character. Almost all of the bedroom scenes are different, all of them expressing what is going on with this couple. They were more than just hot graphic filler; they were meaningful statements of Louisa and Felix.

I highly recommend this book. It's a wonderful story filled with humor, poignancy, a delightful heroine, and a very complex guy. You'll smile, you'll cry and in the end you'll sigh.

Time/Place: Victorian England
Sensuality: Hot!!!


Romancing of Lady Stone by Delilah Marvelle

November 27, 2013
Fairytales can come true, they can happen to you, if you're young at heart... blah blah blah.

Up front thoughts. Romancing of Lady Stone, by Delilah Marville, is a story that has its up and downs, ins and outs... all in glorious descriptive technological form. Yes, you won't need to open a biology book anytime soon, dear readers, because this story is filled with pages and pages of what goes in where. Which is too bad because even though I like hot passages in my books, after numerous pages of detailed instructions, the adventures of Mr. Toad's whankee-roo loses its drama and turns into a yawn fest. And, this is too bad because the characters of Lady Cecilia and Konstantin Levin had possibilities. Some good character development was lost in the plethora of bump and grind.

Romancing of Lady Stone, a novella, is part of the School of Gallantry series, which I have not read (and as much as I thought Cecilia and Konstantin had possibilities there weren't enough to make me want to read more in the series). What I did like in this book was that the heroine was 10 years older than the hero and she had four children, one of them a 21-year-old son. This son is the reason Cecilia is traveling through Russia without an escort. You see, her son has eloped with his mistress to Russia and is hoping to marry her, so Cecilia must stop this from happening. Along the way, she is drugged, robbed, dumped into a carriage. When she wakes up, she is resting on our hero Konstantin and it is instantaneous lust time. I don't have a problem with this in books, if I can see that this couple have a connection beyond the whankee-roo. They could have connected and they almost did, but in the end didn't. 

While I like older women and young men stories, I am always concerned by what I know will eventually happen when that older woman reaches the age of oh maybe 49. Then there will probably be no more banging against the wall or bumping all over the floor, unless it is his head because she's going to be having night sweats! And hot flashes! And mood swings! And she will have to increase her intake of Black Cohosh!! It will be horrible, but not for him, cause he will only be 40, he will still be able to salute the flag if you get my drift. So, watch out, Cecilia, because someday you're going to scream and run the other way when you see Timothy Toad headed in your direction.

Now, on to other problems that sort of threw me out of this story. There was the creepy guy in the mask who is going to give Konstantin money, and who also likes to watch from dark corners while some energetic panting is going on. I'm not sure why this was added, unless it has to do with The Whipping Society series Ms. Marvelle is going to publish. Besides that extremely unpleasant moment, the Duc de Andelot character was just downright disturbing. I suspect he will show up again.

Russia. I know that authors who write historical novels do research, but I am reasonably sure (maybe) that during this time period the naming process of patronymics was in use in Russia. Maybe not everyone, but I'm sure aristocrats used this "son of" naming format. Another thing about dragging the family back to Russia to live in peace and without scandal is there was a revolution ahead and I had a hard time separating what I know historically is going to happen to this family's continued life expectancy. 

Overall, fast read, nice couple, creepy masked man, improper Russian references threw me out of story, and way too much sex.

Time/Place: 1830s Russia/England
Sensuality: Scorcher


Historical Release Addendum ... Courtney Milan

According to Ms. Milan's website, her latest will be released around December 17, 2013...Maybe

Courtney Milan

The Countess Conspiracy
Brothers Sinister series
Maybe December 17, 2013


Upcoming Historical Releases!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up!  For more Upcoming Releases that aren't Historical see Hey Delia!   For: December 15, 2013 to January 14, 2014. 

Alison DeLaine, debut *

A Gentleman ‘Til Midnight*
December 31, 2013


Alyssa Alexander, debut*

The Smuggler Wore Silk*
Spy series

January 7, 2014


Anne Stuart*

Never Trust a Pirate, h/o*
Scandal at the House of Russell series

December 3, 2013


Bronwyn Scott

Secrets of a Gentleman Escort
Rakes Who Make Husbands Jealous series

December 12, 2013


Christina Brooke

The Greatest Lover Ever
Westruthers series

December 31, 2013


Connie Mason*
Mia Marlowe

Between a Rake and a Hard Place*
Royal Rakes series

January 7, 2014

Diane Gaston

A Marriage of Notoriety
Masquerade Club series

December 17, 2013


Edie Harris

Wild Burn
Wild State series, h/o

January 7, 2014

Elizabeth Boyle*

If Wishes were Earls*
Rhymes with Love series

December 31, 2013


Joan Johnston

Montana Bride
Bitter Creek/Mail-Order Bride series

January 7, 2014


Joanna Chambers

Enlightenment series, h/o

December 24, 2013


Jodi Thomas
Jo Goodman
Kaki Warner
Alison Kent
Boots under Her Bed, anthology

January 7, 2014

Juliana Gray

How to Master Your Marquis
Princess in Hiding series

January 7, 2014


Kate Bridges

Rancher Wants a Wife
Mail-Order Weddings series

December 17, 2013


Kristen Callihan

Darkest London series

December 17, 2103


Lori Austin

The Lone Warrior
Once Upon a Time in the West series

January 7, 2014


Louise Allen

From Ruin to Riches
December 17, 2013


Samantha Grace

One Rogue too Many
Rival Rogues series

January 7, 2014

Sophie Barnes

The Scandal in Kissing an Heir
At the Kingsborough Ball series

December 31, 2013

Vanessa Kelly

Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard
Renegade Royals series

January 7, 2014


In the Arms of the Heiress by Maggie Robinson

November 21, 2013
Ta - da!! Wut! Not a Regency?

In the Arms of the Heiress, by Maggie Robinson, is the first in the Ladies Unlaced series, and if the rest are like this one, we are in for a treat! We are also introduced to the time period around the Boer War which puts this in a little more modern era - 1903. We have cars and electricity, but we also have long dresses, corsets and stringent moral standards. For those of you who identify with clothing, this is one of my favorite times - it is also the time of an interesting device known as the S-bend corset. That device made a woman's chest move forward and her butt move backward, hence the S. The Gibson Girl was also around. But we are not here to talk about butts, but a charming book.

We have a very delightful heroine in the form of Louisa Stratton, a sort of liberated woman. Or at least her idea of what liberated is. She has escaped from her strict family with her only traveling companion, her maid Kathleen, who also happens to be her only friend. She's rather reckless: she loves driving her car, barreling all over the country, seeing the world. Her family disapproves. In fact, her aunt would have her declared mad if she could. Which is why Louisa has invented the perfect husband, Maximillian Norwich. He does everything, he's charming, brave, handsome, intelligent and true gentleman...too bad he's not real. That is also a problem when Louisa is called back home because her aunt is seriously ill. What's a girl with bogus husband to do...well, she goes to Mrs. Evensong's Agency, an agency that fixes things. Mrs. Evensong finds a counterfeit husband for Louisa in the person of Charles Cooper. And, here's where the fun begins. Charles Cooper isn't anything like Maximillian Norwich. Oh, sure, he's handsome, if you can see past the thing he wraps around his head because he's got a problem with his one eye. He's also a little smelly, because he's been living in drunken squalor since his release from the army. He is a veteran of the Boer War; more specifically he was one of the guards at a internment/concentration/refugee camp where he had seen and participated in pretty horrific things. However, through most of the book, this part of Charles' life is seen as a backdrop and doesn't distract from the growing relationship he has with Louisa. 

So, anyway, Charles accepts Mrs. Evensong's offer, accepts money and becomes the pretend perfect husband. This part of the book, where Louisa and Charles are playing at husband and wife, was perfect. The humor was great, their characters were wonderful, and the sensuality was hot. And, it isn't too long before Charles tells Louisa he is in love with her. Too long! Yipes! He's known her for 2 days and he tells her! The time element in this tale was amazing. This couple have only known each other for a day before they are falling in bed with each other. It's a only a matter of days before they are actually "in" love with each other, however - as a reader I didn't notice how short the time period was. Ms. Robinson does an excellent job of expanding 24 hours into something fulfilling. Watching these two people fall in love was delightful.

Did I have some quibbles? Yes, I did. There were other things going on in this book...tons of other things. There's the maid, her beau, the prune aunt, the corrupt cousin, the licentious neighbor who Louisa gave her virginity to, the old family doctor, the old family banker, the housekeeper, the butler...and all of them could be trying to do away with our hero or maybe our heroine. Someone is hitting our hero on the head. Poisoning him, shooting at him, putting things in the horse blanket...destroying our heroine's plants - oh no not the plants! Anyway, there is this little distraction, which I didn't actually mind, but what I did mind was the conclusion to all these nefarious happenings. It seemed to me that no one was really punished - everyone who did anything to the heroine seems to be forgiven, except for one person, there's really no retribution. Oh, you poisoned someone but you’re sorry so I'd better never hear you've done something like that again, you bad person, you. So, the wrap up of all the villains who weren't really villains was troublesome for me.

I do recommend In the Arms of an Heiress. I loved both the heroine and hero. Their love story was enchanting. I was really impressed with the way Ms. Robinson made time seem longer than what it actually was. Regardless of the villains not actually being villains, I think we have a wonderful series to look forward to and I think this is one book you probably don't want to miss. 

Time/Place: 1903 England

Sensuality: Hot!


Sins of a Wicked Princess by Anna Randol

November 13, 2013
"Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo."

I'm wishing, I'm wishing... I'm wishing. I'm looking, looking. Where is that book that is going to knock my socks off? Where is my next wow coming from? Which leads me to Sins of a Wicked Princess, the third in Anne Randol's Sinner's Trio series. I'm tired. When is that war with Napoleon ever going to be over and when can allllll those English spies return home? When can allll those Princesses from Lackaslavia ever unite their homeland again? And, when can all those peasants from Lackaslavia ever go back to their little cottages under the mountain? You know the cottages I mean, the ones on top of the iron ore that's being mined. Well, that's what we sort of have in this book, a princess who is fighting to have her homeland restored to her. Granted she hasn't been there in awhile, she doesn't even know if she has any people to rule...but by golly, she's going to give it the old college try. But first she must steal some papers from our nefarious villain and she does that with the help of Ian Maddox, aka the Wraith. Also along for the ride are numerous secondary characters: there is Apple, a street urchin; Gregory, Juliana's brother; Eustace; Leucretia; Constantina; her aunts; Canterbury, the valet/butler; Wilhelm, her maybe future husband (who by the way has a blind daughter back home); Abington, the drunken sidekick; and Sleepy, Dopey and Doc.

You know, I didn't necessarily dislike this book. In fact, there were some parts that I enjoyed. I liked both the heroine (even though she's a princess) and the hero (even though he's not worthy.) They were both strong characters and there was plenty of witty dialog between the two of them. Ian was charming right from the beginning and I had no problems liking him. Juliana, on the other hand, was a little harder to like. She has all of these grandiose plans for getting her country back that almost border on TSTL, but somehow worked in the end. 

There were also some parts in this book that were slow and I had to force myself to continue through. It's not a good sign when I put the book down and do needlepoint. For me, there just seemed to be one too many plots going on and one too many people to keep track of. And, the three aunts were interchangeable; I kept having to check back to see which one was which.

I had one other quibble with this book. Ian and Juliana are instantly attracted to each other. In fact, Ian had an almost constant puffy Mr. Toad; I'm surprised he was able to maneuver through most of the story. He's out there scaling walls, picking locks, climbing out windows...all with this giant protrusion. Surprised he didn't trip over it. Anyway, he is captivated by our heroine, but as we all know, he isn't good enough. No, not he - he is the scum of the earth, the dirt beneath her fingernails, he is not worthy, not worthy. He must stay away from her, from the temptation, the distraction she presents. So, what is one of the first things he does? Why, he climbs into her room, takes his clothes off and precedes to take a bath in her water...right in front of her...while she watching his big old Mr. Toad flapped around. And, that was how he stayed away from her through most of the book. I thought it was rather silly that he kept saying he should avoid her one minute, then the next minute he's biting her ears.

Overall, I would have to say Ian and Juliana were not enough to save this story for me. It seemed to me that Sins of a Wicked Princess couldn't decide whether it was a romance or and adventure story. I lost interest in the adventure part of the story half way through the book and the romance wasn't strong enough to make it work for me as a romance. I found the solutions to their many problems to be a suspend-your-disbelief time. While I liked the secondary characters of Apple and Abington, the others were all flat. So, what started out as promising, ended by disappointing me.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot and an out of control Mr. Toad

The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

November 5, 2013
And now for some Snidely Whiplash moments.

Everything I learned, I learned from Bullwinkle J. Moose. For those of you who don't know who Snidely Whiplash is, or Bullwinkle Moose, I cry for you. Actually back in the days when cartoons were cartoons there was a wonderfully funny "kids" show, Rocky and His Friends, later The Bullwinkle Show, mixing satire, puns and irreverent humor. On this show were numerous characters, including Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman, Dudley Do-Right, Snidely Whiplash, etc. Snidely Whiplash was an evil villain; he liked to tie Nell Fenwick to the railroad tracks! Well, in this book we have a Snidely Whiplash moment, but we'll talk about that later.

The Sum of All Kisses is another in the Smythe-Smith series. This time we get to watch Hugh, the friend of Daniel Smythe-Smith. Now, we get to learn a little bit more about the duel between Daniel and Hugh which led to Daniel's banishment and Hugh's leg injury. The Smythe-Smith series has been an uneven series for me; I didn't care too much for Just Like Heaven, but I did enjoy Daniel's story in A Night Like This. I liked Hugh a lot in this story, and I thought his character was pretty well-developed. He's a math genius of sorts, or at least he has a brain that remembers numbers. His mind is always processing, processing, processing and while that may shout out intelligence, it also creates a problem when he tries to communicate. Sometimes his mouth just cannot move as fast as his mind, making his social skills just a tiny bit awkward. Especially when it comes to Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, a cousin of Daniel's and a member of the musical Smythe-Smith family. Hugh and Sarah don't like each other. Hugh thinks Sarah is over-dramatic and Sarah blames Hugh for ruining her life. You see, the year Sarah came out there were fourteen eligible men and because Hugh challenged Daniel to a duel, her chances in landing one of those fourteen men never saw the light of day. Sarah is also a tad bit selfish, so these two just do not get along. So, watching these two first avoid each other, then be forced to endure each other was pretty amusing.

Hugh and Sarah are together a lot in this story, so there was plenty of humorous banter between the two of them. Sarah's younger sisters also play a big part in this story. Watching Hugh develop relationships with these sisters was charming, although there was a point when I thought the sisters might take over the book; Hugh and Sarah's romance came awfully close to getting lost in the sibling clamor. However, one of the more poignant moments in this story happens because of some sisterly turmoil. Sometimes in a Julia Quinn novel there is so much banter, witticism, and humor that we miss some of the subtle angst moments. But in this book there is a moment when Hugh is prevented from performing his manly duty because of his leg injury. We get to see past the banter to the tortured man underneath. That scene was very well done by Ms. Quinn.

Now, on to the Snidely Whiplash moment, a moment that diminished my overall opinion of this book. First of all, leading up to that moment is the overreaction of Daniel when he finds Hugh and Sarah in a compromising situation. Then the exposure of what I can only think of as a "silly" agreement between Hugh and his father. But when we journey down the path to Hugh's father turning into this over-dramatic, crazy tie-my-son-to-a-bed Snidely Whiplash person, I couldn't do any think but ask... "are you kidding me?" It was sooo over the top, so ludicrous, I kept thinking there had to have been another plot line to choose from. I wish that part of the book had been edited out because it detracts from all the wonderful storytelling that came before it.

Overall, I loved the story of Hugh and Sarah. They were a bickering, bantering, fun couple. Sarah's realizations about herself were wonderful to read and Hugh's struggle with his disability was some of the best character development I've seen Ms. Quinn do. I will even admit that I enjoyed the book so much that I will overlook that disturbingly cartoonish Snidely Whiplash moment at the end of the story.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


Behind the Shattered Glass by Tess Alexander, The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

November 4, 2013
Sometimes cleansing one's palate is overrated.

Ok, I don't know why I keep reading genres other than romance. I guess I like to think I can
still sit with a 500-page tome and still enjoy it. Well, maybe not. So, this week I listened to the audio book of The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike and in my off-time I read Behind the Shattered Glass by Tess Alexander. Maybe one shouldn't try two books at the same time. Maybe if one of the books is a pretentious piece of ...fiction, then that reflects badly on the other because it puts me in a bad mood. Maybe...maybe...ponder...ponder.

Let's start with the pompous piece of fiction, The Witches of Eastwick. The reason I decided to reread this novel was because of Halloween. I was getting in the mood for Halloween by watching tons of paranormal movies and one of them happened to be The Witches of Eastwick. Yes, The Witches of Eastwick, with the glorious, gorgeous trio of Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Let us not forget the wonderfully hammy presence of Jack Nicholson and the cherry-spewing, over the top Veronica Cartwright. Veronica's performance was truly award-winning (tickle, tickle). I love this movie; it's a tremendously campy movie. Then, there's the book. I remember reading this book when it came out in 1984 and my memories of it are really vague. I'm only left with two recollections: I didn't want to read it again, and when the movie came out, the only thing that was recognizable were the names of the main characters. So, while I'm enjoying the movie this time, my husband asked me a question (he does that a lot when I'm trying to watch movies). In this case, there was something in the movie he didn't quite understand and because I didn't recall any of the book my answer was...maybe the explanation is in the book. Libraries. You know libraries carry this cool invention called "audio" books. This means that someone reads a books to you, so while you're working, running, walking, you can plant some ear plugs into ye' old ear and listen while you go about your business.  Which is what I did with The Witches of Eastwick, and  and that may not have been the best choice.  You know sometimes the written word doesn't translate very well when it drifts through sound wave and pounds against your ear drums.

Now, I have to ask, because I really want to know.  When one takes a writing/literature/composition course, is one encouraged to cram as many descriptive words into a sentence as possible? Is a novel which is full of overblown adverbs, adjectives, and descriptors the only to to write a "great" novel, or even be considered a piece of worthy literature? I love words. I love written words - but g-o-l-l-y, sometimes they sure are trite.  Here comes the "maybe" word again. Maybe, just maybe I was groaning (not the good kind) and rolling my eyes because I was listening to the words instead of reading them. Maybe, one's body automatically twitches when one hears verbose dialog...maybe the effect is less when one reads flowery print. Whatever the case, I couldn't continue listening to all the superfluous babble. The characters were horrible, nasty, and unlikeable; the dialog was dated, pompous, and inflated. This happens to be one of those times I prefer the movie to the book. Sure it's a trip to ham city, but it still makes me smile. Bless all those screenwriters.
Time/Place: 1960s USA
 On to Behind the Shattered Glass. I decided to read this book based on two things: the cover and the lovely title. Those are logical reasons as far as I'm concerned. I probably want to look into that reasoning a little more. Before I could jot down my thoughts on this one, I had to take a breath and closely examine my thoughts. I wanted to make sure that my feelings about this book were not being prejudiced by Eastwick. And, they weren't.

 This is the eighth book in the Lady Emily series, and the first one I've read. Having never read any of the other Lady Emily books, I think may have been a disadvantage for me. I suspect that I would have liked the book better if I had been able to watch the characters grow. Both Lady Emily and her husband Colin are from the previous books and perhaps their personalities have been more fully developed in the preceding stories, I don't know. For me, they were flat. There didn't seem to be any chemistry, although the author did insert some suggestions of bedroom antics. I found both Emily and Colin tedious. Actually, Colin was almost a secondary character. But, then, this isn't a romance story, it's a mystery. However, the mystery was also lacking in substance.

The book did have an interesting layout though. The story is told from two different viewpoints, the upstairs and the downstairs (can anyone say Downton Abbey?). The upstairs dialog is done through first person (I hatessss first person) and the downstairs is told through third-person narrative. Even though first person makes me groan, I actually liked the way this tale flowed. I just wish there had been more texture to the story.

I also had a problem accepting the future matrimonial relationship between an Earl and a servant. This plot-line was sooo improbable, and the solution was really a stretch. Sometimes the HEA isn't plausible, no matter what fairy tale you're reading. I occasionally think that the happy ending should be two people who don't end up together. He should marry someone of his own class and she should go on to school, become a world-renowned artist. Then one day she will pass him and his family on the street, direct a tender smile his way and just move on.

Overall, this book was okay - nothing exciting, not bad, just so-so. I probably won't venture into Lady Emily's world again, but I don't mind if you do.

Time/Place: Victorian/Edwardian England