"Of all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm I've ever done,
Alas! it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all."
Goodbye 2013. It seems like just yesterday I was bidding adieu to 2012...where did this year go? There were some pleasant surprises in different genre's this year...Suzanne Palmieri’s The Witch of Little Italy was a joy. And it was nice to visit with the Bridgerton family again. So, let's take a look at some of the books that caught my eye for one reason or another.
First, let's bid a fond farewell to some voices that will be missed: Carolyn Andrews, Barbara Michaels (aka Elizabeth Peters), Francis Ray, Janet Dailey, and Tom Clancy.
Congratulations! All that sweat and tears have finally paid off. Now, you need to remember all those people you promised to dedicate a story to. Debut authors: Tammy Falkner, Laura Anderson, Ashlyn Macnamara, Jennifer McQuistan, Victoria Morgan, Anne Barton, Marie Claremont, Lily Dalton, Ellie MacDonald. and Suzanne Palmieri. I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that showed up on my radar.
Now, for my outstanding books of the year. These were some of my favorite reads so far this year...in no particular order.
1. Elizabeth Hoyt, Duke of Midnight
2. Jill Barnett, Bewitching - 1993
3. Jeannie Lin, The Lotus Palace
4. Caroline Linden, Love and Other Scandals
5. Robert Galbraith, Cuckoo's Calling
6. Loretta Chase, The Mad Earl's Bride
7. Suzanne Palmieri, The Witch of Little Italy
8. Victoria Alexander, The Importance of Being Wicked
9. Sarah MacLean, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover
10. Sherry Thomas, The Luckiest Lady in London
11. Suzanne Enoch, The Devil Wears Kilts
12. Maggie Robinson, In the Arms of An Heiress
On the flip side are the books that were some of my most disappointing of the year. A couple of the books I couldn't finish, and some were disappointing because I was just expecting too much. These are my disappointments. In no particular order.
1. John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick - 1984
2. Jennifer Ashley, The Wicked Deeds of Daniel MacKenzie
3. Katherine Ashe, I Married the Duke
4. Celeste Bradley, And Then Comes Marriage
5. Virginia Henley, Scandal by the Ton
6. Eloisa James, Once Upon a Tower
7. Sally MacKenzie, Surprising Lord Jack
8. Marie Brennan, The Natural History of Dragons
9. Victoria Alexander, What Happens at Christmas
10. Jennifer Ashley, A MacKenzie Family Christmas
11. Delilah Marvelle, Romancing Lady Stone
Now to the awards! No more wire hangers!! Yes, who can resist the Mommie Dearest award? Almost every romance book has a villain/villainess mother/father/sister/brother/aunt/uncle/cousin. These, of course, are not the real villain/ness of the piece, just someone who has made our heroine/hero miserable - made them run away, made them never want to marry, gambled them off in a card game, given them the ugly hand-me-downs, lied to them, hidden that rendezvous letter from them, locked them up. There is never a shortage of dysfunctional relatives to go around. Here is my list of repellent relatives for 2013: *Lady Clun, a woman incapable of loving her son, from Miranda Davis' The Baron's Betrothal. *Aunt Viola from Surprising Lord Jack by Sally MacKenzie. Her sin? Keeping our heroine from a loving family. We have some really atrocious, title-hunting *parents from A Most Scandalous Proposal, by Ashlyn McNamara. Georgette's silent, *oblivious parents from One Night with a Rake by Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe. Go ahead, Mr. Lascivious Lord, escort our daughter all over town! And the awful, wonderfully macro-managing father, *Isiah Redmond, from It Happened One Midnight, by Julie Anne Long. This is a character I find fascinating and deserving of his own story.
Now for the winners! Coming in at a close second was the uncomfortably possessive father from Eloisa James in Once Upon a Tower. He sent chills down my spine! And, number one is the tyrannical father, **Sir Clement Carnell, from A Little Folly, by Jude Morgan, a superb traditional regency. Sir Clement wasn't in the story for very long, but domination of his children, even after his death, is the building block for a wonderful story of a brother and sister finding strength in being their own persons.
|Otter from Animal House|
And the winner is... **Yates Elliston from The Conquest of Lady Cassandra, by Madeline Hunter. Yes, Yates had to have been trained at the Steve Morgan School for Boneheads. He has all the making of an old bodice-ripping hero. He holds grudges, jumps to conclusions, doesn’t trust, and isn't a gentleman in the bedroom - a downright distasteful guy.
What is it about those secondary characters? What is it that makes them jump off the pages and steal the scenes? Why do they scream for their own books? (Then, what happens when sometimes they get their own book and they’ve changed? Is the author more relaxed when writing them for the first time?) Why do we love them so? Well, here are some of my memorable ones for 2013: Technically, *Stephen from Bewitching, by Jill Barnett, isn’t really 2013, but from 1993. What a wonderful moment when Stephen is dumped on his uptight-perfect-everything-in-it's-place brother's door-step. Yes, Alex goes through so many emotions when he is faced with his mentally challenged brother, who he didn't know existed - it's a wonderful moment and it's poignant as those two bond. *Lily, the precocious child from the short story The Lucky One, by Karen Hawkins and Holly Crawford. The story may have been short, but her time on those pages made this novella worthwhile. *Piffkin, the valet from What a Gentleman Desires, by Kasey Michaels - love his scene-stealing humorous moments. *Douglas, the brother from Love and Other Scandals, by Caroline Linden. All I can say is: Ms. Linden must have brothers. Watching *Huntley and Emma from How to Pursue a Princess, by Karen Hawkins, was more fun than the main romance. *Obnoxious Uncle Taran Ferguson was a great nuisance from The Lady Most Willing, created by the joint forces of Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway.
While I loved the blind character of *Phoebe from Duke of Midnight, by Elizabeth Hoyt, it is **Apollo who jumped out of the pages, screaming for his own book. So much angst! He is the winner of the most memorable secondary character this year.
Garlic Breath Award. Ah, the villains! You may recognize them in a romance novel because their favorite food item seems to be garlic and some of them may even have yellow teeth or sometimes they have both. I'm not sure why the need to identify villains with those descriptors. I myself have been known to partake of some delicious garlic bread and a big helping of Alfredo. Nonetheless, whenever some guy with a big stomach who has garlic breathe shows up, you can just bet that he is our villain. I myself prefer smooth, handsome, charming villains. Regardless, here are some that were chillingly memorable this year: *Constance, Then Comes Marriage, by Celeste Bradley. Yes, bad people can be women and sometimes their villainy doesn't make sense, as is the case here. Why she thought she had any rights to her brother's house was beyond me; she's a sister, not a widow. So, I guess she's a silly villain. Speaking of silly, we have the *Silent Slasher from Surprising Lord Jack, by Sally MacKenzie. Just the name makes me quake, but not with fear. What a silly moniker! It was distracting and I thought I might be reading a script for a Monty Python movie, but it wasn't funny. Then we have the *dramatic, over-the-top, this-is-why-I'm-killing-people villain, Mr. Stanhope-Jones from Stroke of Midnight, by Olivia Drake. We are treated to a Snidely Whiplash moment at the end; I could almost see him stroking his mustache (if he had one.) Get a grip.
My favorite villain was smarmy**Clivesdale from A Most Scandalous Proposal, by Ashlyn Macnamara - he's a real whanker and on top of that, the heroine is interested in him. In this case, there was no garlic, but he's a villain nonetheless and a mighty fine one at that.
Gus Award. Maybe it was just the books I've read this year, but there seemed to be a shortage of cute, adorable, scene-stealing animals to choose from. But, I found one! From 1995, Bewitching, one of my all-time favorite stories, has a wonderful furry creature by the name of **Beezle. He loves to chew on hair and keeping drunk secondary characters under control. He's also the rather laid-back familiar to our joyous witch, Joy.
And now the award you've all been waiting for. Yes, it's time to name our Mr. Toad recipient for 2013! Judging is always hard, so to speak, when it comes to Mr. Toad. There are so many big, floppy, purple-headed Toads flipping off of romance pages, it sometimes is just too much to keep track of... but I do. And for 2013 we have a lovely group of flappers, starting with: *Wulf, Karen Hawkins hero from How to Pursue a Princess. You know, sometimes we think Mr. Toads are gentle creatures, just floating along minding their own business in a traditional romance sort of way, and then out of the blue (and I do mean blue), they are labeled with the "C" word (rhymes with pock, sock, rock). It was a startling moment for me and probably for Wulf's Timothy Toad as well. *Then there was the moment we boarded the way-back machine and were transported back to the good ol' days of bodice rippers and *Royston and his pant-bulging Mr. Toad, from Virginia Henley in Scandal by Ton. *Gowan, the proud owner of the gargantuan Mr. Toad, from Eloisa James' Once Upon a Tower. It's not his fault that he can last forever and ever, much to the chagrin of our heroine who just wants it all to be over. After all, his name isn't Mr. Sensitive. Then there are the disgusting Mr. Toads, and they are disgusting because they are ready anytime, anyplace, even under laudanum-induced dreams. I guess it's really not Mr. Toad's fault that his owner *Colin, from Eloisa James' With This Kiss, thought he was humping and bumping someone else. Then we have a Mr. Toad who is big, big, big, even when restful - oh, the eye-full *Jamie Campbell's Timothy Toad gave in The Last Debutante, by Julia London. Don’t forget the *shy Mr. Toad from Surprising Lord Jack, by Sally Mackenzie. This little fella was the only reason we knew this was a romance, and even then the only time he made an entrance was when Jack was hiding behind palm trees. The toad with the most stamina (isn’t there always one) belongs to *Cross from One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, by Sarah MacLean. Our heroine was able to have a gazillion climaxes because of this handy dandy fellow.
Drums Please! Ta ta ta da! The winner is, **Castor's Timothy Toad from Celeste Bradley’s And Then Comes Marriage. This Mr. Toad was multi-talented, and maybe that's because he belonged to someone who seemed to be multiple-personality. It's really not his fault that his owner is an obsessive, dangerous man... even though Timothy enjoys the benefits of bouncing off walls. He even has lovely scenic views when his owner throws the heroine against pane glass windows. Yep, this Mr. Toad's quite a guy! Why, he even is one of those multiple-climax kind of guys, always there when you need him and often when you don't. So, congratulations, Castor, for having a toad who is right there when you require him, regardless of which personality you are that day. And, thanks to all of you for making some of my reading very eye-opening - for making me gasp, sputter, and chuckle. Love you guys.
So, goodbye 2013. It’s been a pleasant year. This year I was pleased to find Danelle Harmon had reentered the romance arena again. I was also a happy camper when Sherry Thomas released another historical; I thought we had lost her to another genre last year. This coming year I'm hoping to see another book from Miranda Davis and looking forward to Suzanne Palmieri's May 2014 release, The Witch of Belladonna Bay. I'm also wondering what Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) has up his/her sleeve.
“So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all."