The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Laughing on the outside, crying... Nah... Crying on the outside, laughing... No, no, that's not it. It's crying on the outside and crying on the inside! Cry! Cry! Cry!


Oh, Courtney Milan, you make it hard to review books. For all you ladies out there - if sometime in your lifetime your thoughts and ideas were dismissed because you were female, then this book is for you. However, if you delve deeper into the story, it isn't just women who are dismissed but men also. As always with Ms. Milan, this is not a simple romance book. Ms. Milan spellbinds me with the use of her words and thus she has once again created a very complex story, which is why I had a hard time writing this review. When I finished this very angst-filled story, I was overwhelmed and I wasn't sure I had read a love story. So, I had to sit back for a few days and ponder on what I felt about The Countess Conspiracy - and in the end I have come to believe that this is a strong love story, but it's a love story about more than just romance. This story also comes with a warning - this is a heavy-duty book, so you are not going to be breaking out in laughter at unexpected moments.

The Countess Conspiracy is a dynamic tale of how humans perceive one another and how they disregard each other based on those perceptions, regardless of whether they are male or female. This is a very absorbing story.

 We have Violet, our heroine, a scientist, a researcher who has hidden her thoughts and discoveries from everyone; however, she has been able to voice her opinions by using her longtime friend Sebastian as her "front." Sebastian, our hero, has loved Violet forever and as the story begins he has just told Violet that he can no longer stand in front of people and pretend the words coming out of his mouth are his. Not far into this book, Sebastian confesses his long-standing love for Violet to her. From there we journey down a long, bumpy, angsty road to our happy ending.

This is a many-faceted story - there are so many emotions evoked and so many characters doing the evoking. The relationships between all the characters are explored in depth and sometimes the agony exposed in these pages is mind-numbing. The relationship between Sebastian and his brother Benedict was just downright painful to read. As I said before, this is a heavy-duty book. There is no outside conflict; all the tension is within the many characters. Another character in the book who is the cause of tension is Lily, Violet's sister. Lily is one of those people who smile, who light up the room, who get what they want. They are always very, very sweet. How could someone not like them? However, those smiles hide a very self-centered, hurtful person. When she is finally confronted in this story, I disliked her so much, I wanted the confrontation to go on longer than it did.

These are not the only two secondary characters who drive this book. There is also Violet's mother. One of the few funny scenes is when Violet and her mother discover they are talking about two different scandals. When this happens you find out there is more to the mother than what you thought. Robert and Oliver from the two previous books in the series also show up. Even with these two, who were heroes in their own stories, their awakening to how they have treated Sebastian over the years is fascinating.

I could go on and on, but I won't. The Countess Conspiracy is a very complicated love story with a thorny heroine and a hero who isn't what he appears. Both of these people have been dismissed by those they love and those who love them. This is a thought-provoking story and I do recommend that you take your time and read - no skipping - read, then savor the words.

Time/Place: Victorian England
Sensuality: Hot!


A Midsummer Bride by Amanda Forester

December 27, 2013

Chemistry without the Spark

A Midsummer Bride is the first book by Amanda Forester that I've read and when I started to read it, I was very excited! Oh boy, I thought, this is going to be good! The story had elements which I enjoy. A smart, quirky heroine, Harriet, who loves chemistry and a supposedly socially awkward hero, Duncan, who is also Scottish and says "ye" a lot. I enjoyed the beginning, but it wasn't long before the story started to drag. I had to force myself to continue, which I did. This almost became a DNF - sigh.

Our main couple, Harriet and Duncan, could have been a great couple if they had been allowed to fully develop; however, every time they were center stage the scene would abruptly change and the focus would be on a different pair, who I can only assume will have their own story. You know, sometimes when a secondary romance is in a book the flow between the two storylines is seamless and they blend together smoothly. However, the change from one couple to another in this book was jarring and eventually I found it irritating.There was even a point when I had to check to make sure which pair was the main one.

The couple quagmire was not the only problem I had with this tale. Harriet was supposed to be a whiz with chemistry, but almost every time she did an experiment she caught something on fire. And, then there was the brash American routine. The honest American who just doesn't fit in with the silly British aristocratic women. The British women for the most part are portrayed as snooty vipers - I grew tired of the cardboard stereotypes and found it hard to believe that the English women would have been quite so loudly vocal in their hatred of Harriet. I was also irritated that Harriet would let these women continue as long as they did without striking back.

For me there didn't seem to be any cohesion in the story. It was all over the place - sailors are pressed, Harriet kidnapped, there are secret matchmakers, guys avoiding matchmakers, spies, mean women, horses, and an odd woman who wears a crown. There's a secret door which leads to horses and a fire that almost ruins a party, but the woman with the crown insists on partying on, even though the house is torched. The story has loose ends and a couple without chemistry. Then there is the hero, who must sell his estate and his secret horses because his mother (the woman with the crown) has gambled them away. He needs money, money, money. Harriet has money - tons of money. They love each other, they admit to each other that they love one another. "I love you Harriet." "I love you Duncan." But Duncan cannot marry Harriet because she's rich, even though he needs the money, he just can't do that to her! Sooooo, let me get this straight Duncan. You love a rich woman, she loves you, but you can't marry her because you don’t want her to think you’re marrying her for her money, but you’ve told her you’re not, that you love her…aaakkkk....there seems to be a ringing in my ears.

In the end I was disappointed in this story. The couple were not fully developed as a romantic couple, there was too much time dedicated to the secondary couple, and not marrying someone you love because they have money was just silly. The story was disjointed, slow, and a struggle to finish. Much to my disappointment, A Midsummer Bride didn't work for me.

Time/Place: Regency England/Scotland
Sensuality: Don't blink


Bye Bye 2013

December 25, 2013

"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.

Bonehead Heroes.
Otter from Animal House
They hold grudges, they seek revenge, they luv another, they find other uses for hand cream, they hate women, they treat women coldly, they are handsome even when they sneer, they will never marry, they jump to conclusions, they can never trust a woman because of their mother/sister/aunt/mistress, and they don't grovel well. Yes, those Bonehead Heroes who learned everything they know from the knees of Steve Morgan of Sweet Savage Love. Here are a few I ran across in 2013: From One Night with a Rake, by Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe, we have  *Nathaniel (aka Mr. Deceitful), one of those stubborn cavemen heroes. He never confesses his nefarious seduction plan at the end.  * Colin, from With This Kiss, by Eloisa James. He thinks he loves one woman while all the time our heroine is breaking her heart over him - then the light bulb goes off and he blunders after the heroine, and in my opinion she should have stuck with the nice guy.  *Richard, the Earl of Raleigh in A Taste of Scandal, by Erin Knightley. Oh, he's not the normal alpha bonehead. He's more of a lazy, selfish, careless bonehead. He never seems to care what others are feeling, especially our heroine.  

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."


Farewell Calder

Janet Dailey died on December 14, 2013 at the age of 69.  Farewell Janet.


Upcoming Historical Romance January 15 to February 14, 2014!!!!!

December 19, 2013

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

Annie Burrows

Portrait of a Scandal 
January 21, 2014


Catherine Anderson

Walking on Air
Valance Family series

February 4, 2014


Cathy Maxwell*

The Bride Says No*
Brides of Wishmore series

January 28, 2014

Christy English

Much Ado About Jack
Shakespeare in Love series

February 4, 2014


Darcie Wilde, debut*
no website that I could find

Lord of the Rakes*
February 4, 2014


Elizabeth Michels

Must Love Dukes
Tricks of the Ton series

February 4, 2014


Grace Burrowes

The MacGregor’s Lady
MacGregor Trilogy

February 4, 2014


Jade Lee

What the Groom Wants
Bridal Favor series

February 4, 2014


Jayne Fresina

Miss Molly Robbins Designs a Seduction
Sydney Dovetail series
February 4, 2014


Jillian Hunter*

The Countess Confessions*
Boscastles series
February 4, 2014

Juliette Miller

Highlander Mine
Clan Mackenzie series

January 28, 2014

Lauri Robinson

The Major’s Wife
January 21, 2014


Manda Collins*

Why Earls Fall in Love*
Wicked Widows series

January 28, 1014

Michelle Willingham

To Tempt a Viking
Forbidden Viking series

January 21, 2014


Sabrina Jeffries*

When the Rogue Returns*
The Duke’s Men series

January 21, 2014

Sarah Mallory

Lady Beneath the Veil
January 21, 2014


Scarlett Scott

Rebel Love, ebook
Hearts Temptation series
January 23, 2014
Tessa Dare*

Romancing the Duke*
Castles Ever After series

January 28, 2014


Wendy Soliman

Forgotten Heiress, h/o
February 4, 2014


Once She Was Tempted by Anne Barton

December 18, 2013

Oil paint doesn't dry fast!  And it smells!

Once She Was Tempted by Anne Barton is the story of Daphne Honeycote, the sister to Annabelle from When She Was Wicked. Once upon a time, these two sisters were impoverished and doing whatever they could to save their mother. Annabelle married a Duke, so everyone's problems were solved... well, almost. You see, when they were all struggling to survive, Daphne posed for two portraits. Those portraits were never to be shown in public, but, alas and alack, one of them has found its way into the hands of Benjamin, Lord Foxburn. Now Benjamin has become obsessed with this portrait, much like the guy in the movie Laura. To further complicate matters, he has jumped to the conclusion that Daphne has set her sights on his young friend, Hugh. Well, because he thinks Daphne is a loose woman and his young friend some kind of male innocent, he warns Daphne off, strongly. All the while, his Mr. Toad is in lusting mode. Anyway, it isn't long before the light bulb goes off and he figures out he's wrong on all counts and Daphne confides in this grumpy stranger that there is another portrait... oh, by the way, can Benjamin help her get it? And we are off on the road to romance.

This was an interesting book for me to read. There were some things that I just loved and then there were some things that I didn't love so much. I liked Daphne quite a lot. She was a nice person, almost too nice, and she was honest or as much as a romance heroine is allowed to be honest. Then she falls for Benjamin. Now, Benjamin was a grumpy-gus. He's a mean grumpy-gus because he went off to war and was shot in the leg and now his leg hurts and he walks with a cane and that makes him mad and he can never subject a woman he loves to a life with a guy with a cane. This poor-me attitude got on my nerves (and on top of that he reminded me of House, and I'm not a big fan of that guy). Granted, I didn't mind his sharp wit and dialog when he was aiming it at the nimcompoops around him. I always enjoy sarcasm. It was just the boo-hooing that made me want to reach in and trip him. But never fear, readers, because Daphne has been reading medical books! These are not modern medical books, of course. These are medical books from the 1800s (just makes me shiver to think of all that sage advice). Anyway, Daphne knows that massage and a little Vicks Vapo-Rub (1894) will do the trick. After a few evenings of Daphne massaging that nasty, naked thigh, alone, in a dark room, why Benjamin is up and at 'em in a jiffy.

Daphne and Benjamin made for a great couple, and except for the poor-me-I-have-a-ugly-leg routine there wasn't all that much angst going on. There were suspend-your-disbelief moments, the couple being together a great deal for one, and the oil paint drying fast enough to fool people for another. The story also seemed to slow down for me in the middle. However, having said all that, this was an entertaining read, even with a grumpy guy who eventually grows on you.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


Courtney Milan

The Countess Conspiracy is out!  Just ordered my copy!


The Devil Wears Kilts by Suzanne Enoch

December 9, 2013
Och, dannae fash yer'self!


The Devil Wears Kilts is the first in the new series Scandalous Highlanders by author Suzanne Enoch.  And what a rumbely-bumblely time we are in for if this book is any indication.

We are introduced to a bigger-than-life family - the MacLawry's.  I'm not sure that introduced is quite the word - maybe I should say the MacLawry family roars into Romanceville.  I loved all the MacLawry brothers and their English uncle Myles.  I'll probably even like their sister Rowena when she gets her own book.

This is the story of Ranulf MacLawry, the eldest brother.  He's one dynamic guy - like a bull in a china shop and he doesn't make any apologies for any breakage he causes along the way.  He has quite a roar; he's demanding, stubborn, and ruthless; and he doesn't back down from a fight.  When his sister runs away to London, he follows and charges into the household of the Hanover family.  And, it is there he runs right into a brick wall in the form of Charlotte, a very proper English woman who doesn't like brawling, loud-mouthed men.  From that moment on we are treated to a fun, exciting ride as these two people bump heads.  Both Ranulf and Charlotte have a mature quality about them.  Their encounters are filled with wonderful banter and steamy sensuality.  Because these two characters are a little more mature, they are also very sure of their desires and are not afraid to act on those desires.

I had a lot of fun reading this book and yes, it is heavy on the Scottish brogue.  However, I feel it was important for Ms. Enoch to use a heavy hand - the use of the brogue was needed to illustrate the great divide between Ranulf and Charlotte's world.

My quibbles - I was a little disappointed that Ranulf was so willing to change to fit into Charlotte's world.  I was glad when she realized she was wrong and she didn't want him to change, but I would have been happier if he had been the one who said, "this is who I am, take me as I am."  In the end it all worked out.  A few other quibbles - maybe we will hear more from the villains/bad guys in future books because that story thread just kind of drifted away - and, did I miss the solution of the stable fire?

Overall, Suzanne Enoch is at the top of her writing game with this story.  If you are a fan of her's you're going to be happy with The Devil Wears Kilts. The characters are exciting, the banter is clever, and the sensuality is hot!  Great beginning to what I hope is a wonderful series.

Time/Place: 1821ish England/Scotland
Sensuality: Hot!!


No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

December 6, 2013
Someone get me a piece of seven layer chocolate cake... dark fudge... puleese!


Hey, are you ready for a dark, brooding, angst-filled hero? It is the holiday season after all. Or maybe you're in the mood for a heroine who can ruin people’s lives? Well, this book is for you! This is not a happy happy book. This is a gloomy book... bring on the chocolate! After I put this book down, I felt drained, and that makes it hard to recommend, but I do. The author has delved deeply into her characters' psyches - we get to see what makes them tick. We may not like them, but they are there in all their imperfections.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is the third in The Rules of Scoundrels series by Sarah Maclean, and while it's not my favorite in the series, it is interesting for the harshness it reveals to the reader. We have Temple, a big big guy. He is also a ruined aristocrat, accused of murdering a woman years and years ago. In fact, he's accused of murdering his father's fiancée. He is a pariah, shunned by society, wandering through the shadows of London until he was rescued and found refuge in a gambling establishment called The Fallen Angel. For twelve years he made a fortune in this establishment by boxing. Recently, he was bothered by a young man by the name of Christopher Lowe, the brother of the woman he is accused of murdering. Christopher was buzzing around him like a gnat and - challenged him to a boxing match! You see, Christopher is a fool. He's lost all of his money and his dead sister's money as well. But wait a minute - is she really dead?

Ummm. Spoilers ahead! It seems that twelve years ago a sixteen-year-old Mara Lowe concocted a plan to save her from getting married to a horrible man three times her age. She thought if she made it appear that she was no longer pure, he wouldn't want to marry her. So, she drugged an unsuspecting and really nice guy, Temple, aka William, son of the horrible man. Who knew that she didn't know anything about the amount of drugs one uses to knock someone out? Then she was going to put some virgin blood in the bed and vanish. Who knew that there was way too much pig's blood and that Temple/William would still be in the bed looking like he was auditioning for the part of the director in Godfather with the horse's head in his bed? Blood was all over, all over the bed, all over him, and he had no memory of what had transpired. What was everyone to think when they discovered an incoherent man covered in blood and a missing heiress? Why, that he murdered her! But, they really can't do anything but shun him, because he's an aristocrat. Anyway, life as he knew it was ruined. And, poor little Mara did not know, at least at that time, what havoc she created. Of course, later she finds out that everyone thinks she's dead, but hey... what's a girl to do?

Time passes, he fights, she takes in orphans and hides, her brother gambles. Her brother loses all of her money, tries to fight Temple, Temple refuses - oh no, Mara must save her brother! What does she do? She puts in an appearance to Temple. To say that Temple is a little peeved is an understatement. He wants revenge. He doesn't care what kind, just revenge. He's so angry, he sees red, doesn't agree to her plan, so she drugs him and takes off again but leaves her address so he can find her. She has another plan. Maybe he will have calmed down by the time he wakes up again. Thus begins the story, filled with distrust, lies, secrets, half-truths, and two people falling in love in spite of everything.

I'm not sure I liked this book. I know I found both of the main characters strangely hypnotic in their awfulness. I had to finish it to see how this hate/love thing was going to end. I found myself getting irritated with both of the characters: Temple because of his revenge, revenge, revenge; and Mara, because she just couldn't tell Temple the whole truth. I was also occasionally bothered by the way the author had them answering their own questions or finishing a sentence in their heads. The truth was there for the readers because we were made privy to the unfinished sentence, but the characters were not. I found myself getting disgusted that I knew the truth but these two fools just keep dancing around each other.

In the end, these two characters agitated me and when I put the book down I didn't have one of those peaceful sighs. I think this is a strong book and if you are a fan of Sarah Maclean and this series you really need to read Temple's story. Just be prepared, because this is not an easy read.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot