The Baron's Betrothal: On-Again, Off-Again, On-Again by Miranda Davis

February 28, 2013

Let's have some fun!
Before I start out with my take on The Baron's Betrothal: On-Again, Off-Again, On-Again, I have to say that when Miranda Davis published her first book last year I was very impressed.  There are some debut authors who do just ok and I'll read again...but then there are others who are superb and it's very exciting to read their work.  I loved The Duke's Tattoo; it was clever, fun, and the characters were memorable.  I also voted it has one of my top books from 2012.  So, when I marked The Baron's Betrothal: On-Again, Off-Again, On-Again as a must read, it was with a bit of trepidation.  When authors start off with such a tremendous bang, I'm always anxious about the next book they are going to release.  I'm happy to say that Miranda Davis' writing in the second book lived up to my hopes.

Now, before you get too excited, I was not as "in love" with this story as I was with the first.  One of the things that gave me pause was the length of, according to my Nook, over 700 pages.  Now, I don't know how that translates into paper, but when I saw the 1 out of 798 at the bottom I gave a little "yikes."  I jumped in anyway and was rewarded with some wonderful characters in the form of Clun, our big big big hero, and Elizabeth, our spunky, peppy, enchanting heroine.  Clun doesn't stand a chance.  Now, the "mighty coincidental" gimmick to throw these two together is that Elizabeth is hiding from her fiance, Lord Clun, whom she has never met.  She picks his estate to hide away on because who would ever think to check for her at her fiance's place.  Made sense to me.  So, who just so happens to pay a visit to his estate?  You guessed it.  The fiance himself, Clun.  When these two meet, it's fun.  He catches on to her identity right away and plays some pretty dastardly tricks on her.  But those tricks made me chuckle.  Of course, she finds out and more sparks fly.  I loved this part of the book, but then they traveled back to London and it was at this point that the story started to drag.

The book seemed to take on a two-book ambiance.  The beginning, which was fast, clever, and delightful, had me smiling through all of it, but when they journey to London the book slowed down.  It was also during the London part that our enchanting couple who seemed so right for each other were separated.  Even when they were together, they were apart... so the story lost some of its charm for me.

Overall, I liked this story, liked Clun and Elizabeth.  They were a great couple, at least when they were together.  There are some wonderfully poignant moments, especially when Elizabeth returns to London and her father doesn't even know she's been gone  Clun's reaction to Elizabeth's pain at this time was beautifully written.  There is also a horrible mother (Clun's) who was simply fascinating in her cruelty.  Sent shivers down my spine.  I just wish that the momentum at the beginning had carried all the way through the book.  Nonetheless, Miranda Davis has become an auto-buy for me and I am definitely looking forward to the third in the series, His Lordship's Last Wager: A Regency Romance between Bitter Enemies.

By the way, the chapter headings are a treat.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


On My Radar March 15, 2013 to April, 14, 2013

February 22, 2013
Elizabeth Boyle

And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake
Rhymes with Love series
Release date: March 26, 2013

Suzanne Enoch

The Handbook to Handling His Lordship
Scandalous Brides series
Release date: March 26, 2013

Heather Snow

Sweet Madness
Veiled Seduction series
Release date: March 26, 2013

Anna Randol 

Sins of a Ruthless Rogue
Sinner series
Release date: March 26, 2013

The Title Caught My Eye:
Suzanne Palmieri, debut

The Witch of Little Italy
Release date: March 26, 2013

For a more complete list of upcoming books go to Hey Delia.


The Importance of Being Wicked by Victoria Alexander

February 20, 2013
We got us a winner!

If you are a Victoria Alexander fan, you are in for a treat. At last, we have Winfield's story, and what a delight it is! The Importance of Being Wicked is one of Ms. Alexander's better books.

Present is a master manipulator heroine, Miranda, one of the Hadley-Attwater and the oh-so-charming Winfield Elliott, Viscount Stillwell. You may remember him as a secondary character from What Happens at Christmas and his own short story prequel Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements. By the way, for those of you who haven't read it, Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements is in the back of this book. Put Miranda and Winfield together along with Ms. Alexander's snappy dialogue and you have an entertaining book.

I enjoyed almost every moment of this story. I liked both Miranda and Winfield. Win was one of those heroes who is painted as being wicked, but he isn't really. He also has an inflated picture of himself as able to charm most women, but when he comes up against Miranda he turns into this befuddled guy who just cannot say the right thing. Watching him trip all over his feet was highly amusing. There is one scene that I found very funny, if a tad bit embarrassing for him. There is also a wonderful moment - Miranda standing up for herself in a scene that you won't want to miss.

There were so many things I liked about this book. I liked the slow build up of the romance. And, let me tell you it was slow; there was no jump into bed on the second page for this couple. They don't even kiss until half way through the book. I also found myself enjoying their conversations. It was refreshing to read conversations that were more than just fillers, but actually let us see the character development through their chit-chats. It was also a nice change to have a dead husband who wasn't a clod, even if he did take credit for things that Miranda did. There wasn't any dark deep angst for Miranda to get over; she loved her first husband and she loves Winfield. There were also numerous fights between Miranda and Winfield; however, they were not the "I hate you" kind of fights that populate romance books, but more along the line of one-up-manship fights.

If there was a moment that annoyed me, it was the misunderstanding toward the end of the book concerning Miranda's love for her first husband. I thought Winfield's little temper-tantrum was a little out of character and didn't add anything to the story. However, it was over quickly and we could move on to a very lovely ending.

This was a delightful story of a not-so-wicked hero and a heroine who finds herself. If you ignore the number of times the word "wicked" was used I think you'll enjoy this book. I do recommend it, and you probably don't have to read any of the others in the series. This is a fun stand-alone.

Time/Place: 1880's England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

How to Entice an Earl by Manda Collins

February 13, 2013
Lordy, lordy,'s time for a group hug!

I love historical romance novels.  Always have, always will.  I've read them for a l-o-n-g time, so it would be fair to say I've seen my fair share of lords and ladies.  Some of them correctly titled and some of them not - some of them correctly addressed and some of them not.  Even though I have a copy of Jo Beverley's nobility title "how to" instructions, I do not keep it by my bedside...nor do I easily spot incorrect titles.  All that is leading up to my take on the third in the Ugly Duckling series by Manda Collins, How to Entice an Earl.

I have read the previous two in this series, and I found them charming.  Even with the "group rescue" in the last one, I was looking forward the Christian and Maddie's story.  Or should I say Lady Madeline Essex and Colonel Lord Christian Monteith aka Earl of Gresham.  And, here is where I ran into some problems.  There was a plethora of lords and ladies in this story.  There was Cecily, Duchess of Winterson; Juliet, Lady Deveril; Lord Fielding, Lord Lawrence Tretham, the Duke of Endover, Lord Phillip Byrnes, etc.  It was Lady Madeline this or Lord James that, Lord Snool said this to Lady was very distracting.  I was almost to the point where I was going to start counting the number of times the title Lord or Lady was used, but decided against it.  So, when I finished the story, I analyzed my reaction to all the lording.  I'm sure it's not the first time I've been inundated with aristocracy.  Although, I have to say I was thrown out of the story right from the beginning because the title waving was in the very beginning of the story and the use of it seemed awkward.  But, I might have overlooked all the lords a leapin' if I had liked the heroine better.

Maddie, disguised during the day as a mild-mannered plain stubborn girl also has the ability to turn into a super heroine.  Super Maddie, able to sneak in and out of her house, go to dens of iniquity, make friends with prostitutes, dress in sleazy clothes,leap tall buildings, and capture killers.  Along with her trusty sidekick our hero Christian, who just cannot say no to this rash woman.  Maybe it's because she let's him imbibe of her "Lucy and Ethel" at parties.  There were just too many things about Maddie that were far-fetched.  How she can do her super heroine fetes was beyond me, she still lives with her parents for Pete sake.  And, these are not the normal standard absentee romance parents, these are strong in-your face what are you doing parents.  She claims to be concerned with her reputation, however, we are supposed to believe she can leave the house without proper chaperon, hop into a carriage with Christian and attend a tawdry party with lascivious people and at that same party partake in a big wet kiss with Christian and not have anyone find out about it. 

I didn't quite understand the family dynamics of this story, especially since the parents were painted so strong one moment and then left in oblivionland the next moment.  And, while I'm on the topic of parents, the back story of the abusive-but-only-when-he-drinks father was also a distraction.  I'm not sure why it was in this story.  It seems he had/has a mistress and some children by her.  And by the way Maddie and her brother used to play with these children when they were young.  But, I didn't see any connection with this particular story.  Maybe this made Maddie the super heroine she is today.  I can only think that this side family is going to show up in their own series.

I was disappointed in How to Entice an Earl.  While Christian had a promise of being a nice hero, Maddie was quite close to being a TSTL heroine.  She was not a "different" heroine, but reckless, stubborn and just might have multiple personalities.

Time/Place: Regency England


One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

February 8, 2013
Pooh on you Dorothy Parker and your glasses, passes and men!

Yes, that old saying about men not making passes at women who wear glasses was laid to rest in Sarah MacLean's latest, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover. Having been stuck with glasses since the third grade, this book struck a chord with me. And, it brought back a memory of me playing an angel in a Christmas pageant when I was a teenager. I had a wonderful Romanesque dress, great giant wings that sparkled...and glasses. Playing one of the shepherds was Steven...the cutest boy ever. Well, because angels can't be sexy while wearing glasses, I decided to leave them off. Everything went great, until all of us decided to leave the stage at once. Let me tell you, giant sparkly wings and shepherd crooks don't fit together very well when there is a mad scramble to exit through a tiny door. If only I had my glasses on. Oh, vanity where is thy sting? You know of course, if this childhood trauma had been a romance novel the ending might have been different. As it was, cute Steve laughed and I was doomed to hide my face in shame for the next couple of weeks. Glasses - probably also responsible for smothering my acting career. So, I could identify with the heroine of this book, especially the scene with the mask. Been there. 

If the heroine hadn't worn glasses, I still would have loved her. Pippa was a wonderful heroine; she considered herself odd. She is intelligent, and I mean by intelligent...she is one of those brainiac people who know all the names of everything, but doesn't have any idea when it is the proper time or place to use those terms. Or, for that matter, choosing the proper person to expound one's knowledge. All of her brainy innocence led to some pretty amusing moments for me and startling moments for our hero, Cross. She drew him in much like a Venus fly trap, only without the viciousness and the dead flies. Pippa, with all of her faults, was a remarkable character and I enjoyed almost every moment she was on the pages of this book.

Then we have Cross, Mr. I'm Not Worthy. What I found interesting with Cross was that even though he keep repeating over and over that he wasn't worthy of Pippa or anyone for that matter, I didn't find it too terribly irritating. I'm not sure why, unless it was because even though he kept saying it, he was helpless to prevent being drawn into Pippa's web. The only time I was bothered by his "poor-me" was toward the very end of the story. For some reason, that particular boo-hoo scene seemed to be more of a page stretcher-outer, as opposed to any real enhancement of plot-line or character development. But on the up-side, it led to a delightful grin-inducing marriage proposal.

And, by the way. This book has so much sexual tension in it, you could cut it with a laser. To say nothing of the actual first bedding scene. Yipes! Sizzzzzzle. Although, it may have been just a teeny-weeny too long (no pun intended), but oh well. All I can say is, Cross has a lot of stamina.

I'm glad to say that One Good Earl Deserves a Lover is a vast improvement over A Rogue by Any Other Name. This is the second book in the First Rules of Scoundrels series and even with the goofy title I highly recommend this one by Sarah MacLean. 

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


When She Was Wicked by Anne Barton

February 6, 2013

Giant chest on cover alert!
When She Was Wicked is the first in the Honeycote series for debut author Anne Barton, and it's a charming beginning. This is a tale of two people from different worlds, sort of. Our heroine, Anabelle, is a seamstress and the only support of her family (mother and sister). The mother has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and any money Anabelle has earned has gone for her mother's medication. This leads us to Anabelle's other occupation: extortion. And, what better place to hear gossip than in a dress shop where a seamstress is pretty much ignored while clientele talk about all kinds of sex-capades. 

Well, Anabelle is desperate; she overhears something and sets out to blackmail a duke. This time she has picked the wrong pigeon, and she ends up getting caught by our hero, Owen, Duke of Huntford. Instead of throwing her in prison, he makes her pack up her things and come live with him and design gowns for his sisters as a punishment. Included in this punishment is paying her back rent, providing food for her family and bringing in another doctor to look at her mother. Some punishment. In the process, they fall in love. The end.

I loved the beginning of the book, I thought Anabelle was a nice change from standard heroines. She was smart, strong, and for the most part able to take care of herself. She also wants more out of her relationship with Owen than he's willing to give. So, she is walking a very thin line: she will not be a mistress, she wants to be a wife. She is very much aware she is not trained for some of the complexities built into his social class. He is also aware of these differences and even when it is discovered that her grandfather was/is a viscount, it doesn't change anything.  Owen stills does not accept Anabelle as his social equal.  So, their struggle with their differences was an interesting process to watch.

Where the author lost me a little was with some implausible scenarios.  I know this is a work of fiction, but there is a fine line between fiction and fairytale.  I found it hard to buy into Anabelle attending a high society weekend party as Owen's sister's companion. This included her being at the table with all of the invited guests, some of them her clientele from the dress shop. I'm not sure if that would have been acceptable in that time period. I suspect she would have been given the "cut direct" big time, and that didn't happen.  One of the other things that had me raising my eyebrows was when she is tricked into attending a ball, she is in the middle of the ball room and Owen approaches her, bypasses everyone, stands before her and what does she think?  Why she thinks he is going to ask her to be his seamstress.  Puleese. Do you really think a duke is going to make such a public display?  Just to find a seamstress.  All eyes are turned on him as he walks past everyone, his family, his friends, her family, society gossips - just to employ someone.  My smart heroine took a nose-dive into stupidville at that point.

The chapter sub-titles were fun and I read all of them (usually I skip chapter headings). The heroine was a strong woman, who while a little naive sometimes, for the most part didn't let people walk all over her. Owen was a little weaker; it took him a little longer to make up his mind. Overall, this was a good read, nothing too complex, nothing too exhausting, and I will be checking out Ms. Barton's next story in the series.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Medium Hot


What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander

February 1, 2013

A farce! A farce! My kingdom for a farce!

I am a big fan of those fast-paced, nonsensical, screwball comedies that came out of Hollywood in the late 30’s early 40’s. His Girl Friday, My Man Godfrey, Lady Eve, Theodora Goes Wild, His Favorite Wife, The Awful Truth, Libeled Lady, etc. All of these movies have one thing in common: great accelerated dialogue. Sometimes the banter goes by so fast you might miss it. Are these movies dated? Sure. Are some of them silly?  Sure. Do they still make me laugh? You betcha.

So, when I read the plot-line of Victoria Alexander’s What Happens at Christmas, I rubbed my hands together with glee. I know Victoria Alexander can write fun dialogue and the idea of our heroine hiring a group of odd actors to impersonate her family had all the makings of screwball. Well, what’s that saying about if wishes were fishes we’d all have mercury poisoning, or something like that? Anyway, my hankering for a fun-filled frolic was not to be.

There be spoilers ahead matey. Evidently our heroine, Camille, is constantly getting into trouble, so the idea of her trying to impress a prince with a fake family isn’t too bizarre. And, she’s talked her twin sister into going along with her. By the way, the prince in this story comes from a county with a “nia” ending. Groan. So, she’s got this fake family, and fake servants and of course none of these people do what they are supposed to do. The set-up for this part of the story could have turned into something hysterical. There is even an actor/butler who psst's to get attention. However, this part of the book wasn’t allowed to flourish. What half of the book evolved around was the reuniting of our beloved couple, Camille and Gray.

Camille and Gray grew up together; they were the bestest of friends. And then one day, Gray decided he loved Camille, so he told her. Well, timing doesn’t seem to be Gray’s strong suit. He told her on the eve of her wedding to another man. Camille’s reaction was what one would suspect from a practical (or shallow) person: he didn’t have the means to support her. Or at least that’s what she told him. Camille didn’t seem to be able to think on her feet. Gray’s feelings were hurt and he left to find his fortune. Camille, on the other hand, didn’t understand why Gray never returned to her. After all, he said he loved her. What did it matter if she was married to someone else? So, according to Camille, she was heartbroken. Our intrepid couple are left to wander aimlessly for 11 years, heartbroken. Never, ever, able to forgive. For 11 years.

Of course Gray returns, after 11 years, and delivers a basket of goodies to Camille’s house. He instantly catches on to what Camille is doing, which isn’t hard because her fake sister walks into the room he’s standing in and mistakes him for another actor. He decides that he will also pretend to be someone just so he can be around Camille. Camille is mad at him, the sneak, she can never forgive him, you see he broke her heart after all…11 years ago. She hates him, she hates him, he broke her heart. How dare he tell her he loved her right before she marries someone else. Camille tells her sister that Gray broke her heart, she tells her mother, she tells Gray, he tells his friend, his cousin tells him, he tells his cousin (Win, Lord Stilwell) that she broke his heart, he tells her sister that his heart was broken, she tells the dog, (I lied, there isn't a dog) Win tells her she broke Gray's heart. How can it be? He broke my heart, how could I break his? Not only do we get to read all of the conversations about the dreaded heart breaking, we also get to delve into their minds. What do you suppose Camille and Gray are thinking about? Their broken hearts, over and over and over. Alllll those years, broken. You know, Bobby Crogan broke my heart in the 1st grade and I was able to move on. But not Camille. I think there might be a mental health issue with someone when they can't move on.

As often happens in romance novels, eventually, the feuding couple have frenzied sex, rip each others clothing off, buttons flying, hair pins dropping, papers scattering, things falling to the, hot, hot whankey-poo. And, then they talk…No, no, no…don’t talk…don’t talk…don’t bring up the broken heart again!!! AAARRRGGGG, too late. Once again, Camille tells Gray he broke her heart. This time instead of being a mopey Joe, he slams out of the room. (After he puts his pants on.) Then, poor crazy Camille, maybe she was too hard on him, maybe 11 years is too long to hold a stupid grudge. Camille. I wanted nothing more than to reach through the pages of this book and punch her.

It wasn't only Camille and Grayson I had a problem with. Toward the end of the book Camille's dead father shows up very much alive. I think it was supposed to be funny, but it was just odd.

This could have been a fun book. The zany people were there just waiting in the wings, wanting to partake in some great screwball comedy. Twas not to be. The Camille and Gray romance didn’t connect. They didn't have much chemistry and, more importantly, they didn’t fit into the rest of the story. And by the way, Win, Lord Stillwell, who has his own book, The Importance of Being Wicked, is very charming and funny in this book. But, you don't need to read What Happens at Christmas to find that out. Usually, I enjoy reading a Victoria Alexander book; however, in this case it just didn't happen.

Time/Place: England, 1886...bustle time
Sensuality: Some Heat