The Counterfeit Mistress by Madeline Hunter

March 31, 2014

He's back! The return of the Handsome Stupid Man aka Bonehead Hero.
Yes, Madeline Hunter's The Counterfeit Mistress sees the return of the Handsome Stupid Man, so named by our spunky heroine, Marielle, in the first book of Fairbourne series.

The Handsome Stupid man is really Gavin Norwood, Viscount Kendale and he is still following Marielle around. Under his breath he refers to her as a bitch. Wow, I thought, that's a tad bit harsh, what did she ever do to you? Because my memory of the first two books has faded, I don't recall why he's so angry with her. I was hoping for some kind of clarification that would justify his anger, but it never came. The only thing I could deduce was that at one time a French woman betrayed the army battalion he was serving in, resulting in a semi-massacre of that army unit. Of course, you know what that means! That means a-l-l women are suspect and not to be trusted. So they must be followed from place to place because they are up to something - especially Marielle. She's doing something nefarious - what it is Gavin doesn't know, but she's probably a spy. Why does he think that? I don't know, I guess because she doesn't check in with him whenever she goes hither and yon.

You know, I do get mighty tired of bonehead heroes who can't trust women because they are under an assumption another woman did something wrong. And, by the way, I don't believe in the other two books it was ever proven that the unknown French woman actually was guilty. Maybe she'll make an appearance in the next book, because there are still plenty of distrustful men left in this series. 

Actually, Gavin is a little bit correct in his assumptions; Marielle is up to something. What she is up to is one of the many convoluted plots in this story. Here is my take: she is smuggling prints out of England delivering them to France, because there is a bad guy in France she wants to bring down. Everyone knows just how powerful political cartoons can be, and how dangerous. There are people being killed just to stop these prints from leaving the country. But she's up to more than just that - she actually is the engraver of those prints, but she doesn't want anyone to know that. And, is she who she says she is? Is there someone in France who is locked up and she trying to save? Is she going to do all that on her own? And, does she still have time to seduce Gavin? You betcha!

Gavin. This guy also has a plot going on. Besides following Marielle around and jumping to conclusions, he is also searching for the traitor responsible for the murder of his army friends. He's formed a private militia and he's doing all these secret, nefarious things like invading France without anyone being aware. Except that is for the home office and his omnipresent-friend/ex-friend who keeps warning him about things.

I couldn't decide whether this story was a spy story, an adventure story, or a romance. There were too many things going in different directions and when I found out what Marielle was up too, my reaction was, "You're kidding me." Gavin and Marielle were strong secondary characters; however, having their own story weakened them. I was especially disappointed in Gavin. His treatment of Marielle after sex bordered on the Steve Morgan school of charmers. Gavin was very cold-blooded when it came to any whankee-woo. His character bothered me so much that I was awakened in the middle of night and had to write down my thoughts on him. He's portrayed as a darkly mysterious man, occasionally clever, but there was something missing. What was missing was his essence. His character was just a shadow. I felt as if I was just reading words and not connecting to any substance.

I loved Madeline Hunter's medieval stories and when I read the first one in this series I was anticipating some great moments. However, this particular tale was very convoluted and the characters did not live up to the promise they exhibited in their earlier appearances.

Time/Place: England early 1800s
Sensuality: There was sex


Falling for the Highland Rogue by Ann Lethbridge

March 27, 2014
Ok, so I'm a Romanceland Snob

I've been reading romance for a l-o-n-g time and I have to admit that I have a prejudice against certain publishing houses. You see, when I was a wee baby I started reading what I considered romance books. They were books like Forever Amber, My Cousin Rachel, and Rebecca - not technically romance and none of them had too much of a HEA. I've never considered Mr. DeWinter someone a sane woman would want to spend the rest of her life with. Then one day I stumbled across a whole row of books at the library from an author by the name of Heyer and there was no turning back.

Now, I'm sure it was just coincidence and not some wish-fulfillment but around the time of my search for more book similar to Ms. Heyer's there was an explosion of paperback books. We now call those books traditional regency. I had a particular fondness for Fawcett and Signet books. I found many of my favorite authors among those.
It was wonderful! But the best was yet to come because lurking in the wings was The Flame and the Flower. When that book burst onto the scene Romanceland was changed forever. Now, things have changed since then; we've seen many an author come and go. The style of writing has changed. I don't think I could make it through the pages of The Flame and the Flower without cringing now; however, I'm awfully glad it appeared on the scene.

So, where is this going, you ask. I'll tell you. Somewhere in all this joyous book reading I became a
snob. For some reason, I never became too fond of Harlequin books. I don't know if it was the strict guidelines they put on their authors or the fast pace at which they published. Sure, I know some of our high profile authors got their start there, but for me these books always seemed to be more formula than other romance novels. I know, I know, romance books are all formulas… pet peeve coming on… I’m always offended when someone says all Romance books have the same format, and before I get sidetracked, really - don't all popular genres have formulas? A HEA does not necessarily mean formula. Anyway, back to Harlequin. Never read many of their books. Which leads me to Falling for the Highland Rogue, by Ann Lethbridge.

I've never read any of Ms. Lethbridge's books, so I'm new to this series - maybe I should have read the others, but I was able to grasp the plot-line without too much trouble. As I said before, I've read romance a long time, so I'm pretty familiar with the
"formula." Right at the beginning, I had to double check to see if I was reading a Harlequin because I was presented with a totally unexpected hero and heroine. The hero, Logan Gilvry, is uncommonly handsome, ultra smart and extremely cagey... and young. That age was one of the things that would later irritate me. He's 21, however he must be some kind of savant because he seems to have almost super-hero abilities to read people and know just what their next move is going to be. Because of these abilities, I had a hard time remembering that he's just a babe in the woods. However, for most of the book he is a wonderful hero, even though through most of it he is manipulating those around him. Maybe he's so worldly wise because he's never had sex. Yep...he's white...ur...pure as the driven snow. He's never ventured into the valley of whankee-woo. Oh sure, he kissed a girl and somehow that kiss damaged him forever and ever - which isn't saying a lot since he's only 21 - not a very long forever.

So, then we have the other side of the coin - our heroine Charity - not so white. In fact, she was at one time employed in a brothel but she was such an awful strumpet she was purchased by a really nasty gangster, our villain, Jack. I have to say that Jack is a really impressive bad guy - there isn't any possibility that this guy is going to show up as a good guy in a later book. He is spine-chillingly creepy. The scenes that take place in the dark underworld that Charity inhabits are wonderfully vivid. There is a great sense of danger and for Charity there is a sense of hopelessness. The money she is squirreling away to get away from her sordid life is poignant, especially because we as the reader know she is never going to be able to leave her dark world behind. At least not in the manner she dreams of.

I would imagine that a number of readers will not find either Charity or Logan to be very likeable. There is a continual dance between these two as they try to outmaneuver each other. In fact, Charity is such a dark character I kept wondering how Ms. Lethbridge was going to rehabilitate her. And, this is where this book lost some of its punch. The first portion of the book was well-developed, with some exciting (even if they were unlikeable) characters. Then, in the last five or so chapters, things started to fall apart and I was face to face with my old Harlequin prejudice... except in this case it wasn't just a prejudice. The ending was weak - people who hated each other suddenly were dancing with the butterflies. There was just a very unsatisfying rush to a happy ending and no good explanation as to Charity's past and Logan turned from a
super-know-it-all to a jump-to-the-wrong-conclusion guy. Bottom-line, I thought the first part of the book was a well-developed and exciting book. It just didn't hold up so well in the last part.

Time/Place: 1820s Edinburgh Scotland

Sensuality: Hot


Upcoming Historical Romances! April 15, 2014 to May 14, 2014

March 21, 2014

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

Alison DeLaine
A Wedding by Dawn
April 29, 2014
Amanda Quick
Otherwise Engaged, h/o
Ladies of Lantern St. series
April 22, 2014
Ann Lethbridge
Return of the Prodigal Gilvry
The Gilvrys of Dunross series
April 15, 2014
Caroline Linden*
It Takes a Scandal*
Love and Other Scandals series
April 29, 2014
Gayle Callen
Redemption of the Duke
Brides of Redemption series
April 29, 2014
Gina Conkle
Meet the Earl at Midnight
Midnight Meetings series
May 6, 2014
Jo Goodman
In Want of a Wife
May 6, 2014
Karen Ranney
The Witch of Clan Sinclair
Clan Sinclair series
April 29, 2014
Laura Lee Guhrke*
How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days*
An American Heiress in London series
April 29, 2014
Lily Dalton
Never Entice an Earl
One Scandalous Season series
April 29, 2014
Lisa Plumley
Notorious in the West
April 15, 2014
Marguerite Kaye
Unwed and Unrepentant
Armstrong Sisters series
April 15, 2014
Nicole Jordan
Secrets of Seduction
Legendary Lovers series
April 29, 2014
Olivia Drake
Abducted by a Prince
Cinderella Sisterhood series
April 29, 2014
Rowan Keats
When a Laird Takes a Lady
Claimed by the Highlander series
May 6, 2014
Sara Luck
Hearts Afire
April 29, 2014
Stephanie Laurens
The Masterful Mr. Montague
Casebook of Barnaby Edair series
April 29, 2014
Sue-Ellen Welfonder
To Love a Highlander
Scandalous Scots series
April 29, 2014
Terri Brisbin
Yield to the Highlander
MacLerie series
April 15, 2014
Theresa Romain*
To Charm a Naughty Countess*
The Matchmaker series
May 6, 2014
Valerie Bowman*
The Unexpected Duchess*
Playful Brides series
April 29, 2014
Victoria Alexander*
The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride*
April 29, 2014


Heir of Uncertainty by Alyssa Everett

March 18, 2014
Warning...don't read the ending first.

Yes, yes, I am an end-reader-first person, have been for a long time. See traumatic reason. So, along came Heir of Uncertainty, sort of a Gothic-Regency love/mystery story. We have Lina, our heroine, who is a widow of two months and pregnant, and our hero, Win, who may inherit Lina's estate if the child she is carrying turns out to be a girl. There is also Lina's sister, who suffers from asthma (I think); Win's young daughter, Julia; and his wonderful brother, Freddie. There are a young doctor, a shady lawyer, a disapproving magistrate and other numerous town folk. You see, there have to be lots of secondary characters because among their group is a murderer. And, that is where reading the ending of the book comes in. Spoiler alert! Skip to the next paragraph if you don't want a spoiler! You see, right away I spotted someone I thought might be the murderer and I thought nah, would the author do that? Yep, she did. The person I thought might be the murderer turned out to be the murderer. What this did was create a tension on my part to see if the author was going to come up with a good reason for the murderer/killer to do what they did. But in the end I was disturbed with the choice of killer and the reason for their actions. And, without giving too much away, the identity of the murderer was handled in an almost casual manner. Lina exhibited hardly any emotional trauma at all to the big reveal and in reality it would have devastated her. 

I liked the first half of the story better than the last part. My favorite character in the story was Freddie, who seems to have had Asperger’s Syndrome. I thought he added a lot to the story and his relationship with Win was both real and touching, and at times rather humorous. In fact, when Win is with his brother and daughter, the storytelling is wonderful. There is some nice character development between these three characters. Where some of that development falls apart is between Win and Lina. Their romance seems a little rushed to me. And, it is rushed - she's been a widow for two months before Win shows up and then it's only a matter of time before they are having sex, falling in love, proposing marriage, doing the I'm not good enough routine, fighting and getting back together. Plus solving a murder along the way.

This story suffered from what a lot of old Gothic novels suffered from... is it a romance or is it a mystery? Sometimes those Gothic novels worked and sometimes they didn't. I think the biggest problem I had with this one was the romance between Win and Lina just didn't work for me. Where Win and Lina worked was when they were dealing with the other people who inhabited the book, but as a couple there didn't seem to be too much chemistry between them. 

Overall, there were some things about this book that I liked; I especially liked Freddie and Win. They felt like real brothers and the emotions Win was suffering because of his brother were beautifully written. I loved Freddie. I was disappointed in the romance portion of the story. There didn't seem to be too much chemistry. And I was uncomfortable with the fast HEA after what should have been some pretty devastating disclosures.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

A Sparkling of Christmas Magic by Elizabeth Rolls, Bronwyn Scott, Margaret McPhee

March 18, 2014

Ok, so I'm a little behind.  

A Sparkling of Christmas Magic is a sweet anthology with a couple of pretty good short stories in it.

First of all, my favorite in the group is Christmas Cinderella, by Elizabeth Rolls. It revolves around a handsome rector, Alex, and Polly, the new schoolmistress. Polly is, of course, Cinderella and she has the requisite nasty relatives that all Cinderella's have. She just doesn't have the singing mice. Anyway, our Polly is a delightful, spirited heroine and the perfect match for a surprisingly lusty rector. I'm always a little taken aback to realize that men that stand behind pulpits also have Mr. Toads. Except for the I'm-not-worthy moment, this was a fast moving love story with plenty of chemistry. And, for a short story, the characters were surprising well-developed.  Fun read. I also loved the wonderful relationship between Polly and her students.

Regency England
Sensuality: Warm


Finding Forever, by Bronwyn Scott, is the next story in the book and my next favorite. It is the story of Catherine, who is returning home from years spent in Paris. She has turned into a stunning woman and she has returned to stake her claim on her childhood infatuation, Channing. She's always been in love with Channing, but things are not what she has always thought. She soon becomes disillusioned with Channing. Instead her eyes and heart fall on his older brother, the enigmatic Finn. Finn seems to have always loved Catherine, but he has been aware of her infatuation with Channing and has remained quiet. It only takes one kiss for all of that to change. This was an interesting story, a sort of triangle, because Channing also reveals his feelings at this time. I think this book probably deserved a full-size book treatment, because these three characters would have been a lot better if their feelings could have been explored more. But overall, it was a nice story; just wish it had been longer.
Regency England
Sensuality: Warm

The last story in the book is The Captain's Christmas Angel, by Margaret McPhee. This is my least favorite story out of the three; however, it is a pleasing story. We have Sarah, who had an unfaithful husband, so she has the opinion that men cannot be trusted. Then we have Daniel Alexander, who is adrift in the ocean and has some big secrets. So, Sarah falling in love with a stranger with secrets may not be the wisest thing. Of the three selections in this book, this had the feel of a short story. There was a rush to fall in love and a rush to a HEA...could have been better in a longer format.
Atlantic Ocean
Sensuality: Warm


Wicked Little Secrets by Susanna Ives

March 13, 2014
Tented trouser alert!
It may not be a good sign when you decide to ponder for a day or two what you've just read, and then you forget the story, the plot and the characters.  You know what that means?  It
means that one must go back and try deciphering ones notes. 

When I began to read Wicked Little Secrets it wasn't too long before I knew that I wasn't going to take anything too seriously in this story...not even the plot.  What I had opened up to read turned out to be a farce.  There is an abundance of characters, some more developed than others, and occasionally I lost track of who was who and why they were important to the tale.  Some of their reason for existing wasn't told till the very end when all the strings were tied.  I'm not sure how fond I was of all the directions I was led down.  However, having said that, I'm also going to check into more of Susanna Ives writing, because I found this book different from the usual angst-filled drama.  The humor in the book was a tad bit exaggerated and it should be, ‘cause it’s a farce.  However, while I smiled through most of the book, I didn't break out into any hysterical laughter.  I do commend Ms. Ives for dipping her fingers into comedy.  It takes a brave author to do is soooo subjective; what works for me may not work for others.  What others think is hilarious, I think is disgusting.  Aside from the comedy, certain plots in this book worked better for me than others.  There may have been one too many things going on and not enough time given in the book for these events to make sense.

Let’s see what we have.  We have Vivienne, our heroine, who is living with her bible thumping aunt.  Their neighbors are Vivienne's childhood friend Lord Dashiell and his wacky uncle.  By the way, Dashiell is a rake.  When we first met him, he is being screeched at by his theatrical mistress, while his aristocratic mistress looks on.  His theatrical mistress is throwing a fit, tossing his antiques and artifacts around.  It is at this time that Vivienne finds out Dashiell has returned home from one of his adventures and runs next door, charging into the chaos of the mistresses, artifacts and rake.  Of course, she leaves behind the weekly "let's read the bible" group at her aunt’s house, which incidentally has just been entertained by Lord Dashiell's uncle exposing himself to them...naked. 

Anyway, Vivienne is engaged to a stiff-neck two-faced rich man who expects her to be socially acceptable and not a hoyden.  Which of course is what Vivienne is.  Vivienne had a tendency to irritate me…one moment she’s letting people walk all over her, the next moment she’s jumping into dangerous situations.  She’s naïve, but wants adventure.  She wants excitement, she’s stubborn…she has all the characteristics of a TSTL heroine.  Now, because this is a farce some latitude must be given her when she follows people down dark alleys and has conversations with the madam of the brothel she's wondered into...but it did get tiresome. 

Then there is Dashiell, a rascal.  He has a quick wit and he has some funny dialog.  He is, however, a rake.  How do we know he’s a rake?  Because he tells us he is…over and over and over.  He’s also has one of those “not good enough” attitudes.  However, all that doesn’t matter because his next door neighbor is Vivienne, who also happens to be his childhood friend.  Much to his chagrin his childhood friend has sprouted some spuds on her chest and his Mr. Toad is activated and he just cannot control him.  Dashiell had so many erect poles he could open up his own campground.  Yes, he wants her, but he can never have her...never, never, never.  So, he goes on these long journeys all over the place because he must resist...he must.  He's just not...good enough.  Yes! A hero who isn't good enough...

Then there is the blackmail plot.  Vivienne's aunt is being blackmailed by someone or at least that's what Vivienne thinks.  But who?  It's the guy who wears blue.  But who is he? Well, what would any self-respecting adventure craving TSTL heroine do to find out?  She'd follow the guy in blue.  She'd follow him through the dark, dank streets of London, through places where cut-throats hang out on street corners and prostitutes sale their wares.  Of course, Dashiell follows her...almost everywhere she goes.  Just to make sure she doesn't get into trouble and of course through all of this, Timothy Toad is talking to him, encouraging his rakish ways.  In fact this couple have a great deal of trouble keeping their hands off of each other.

Added into all this folderol is Vivienne's father, who we never meet; her horrible prig of a fiancée John; her aunt; her aunts bible study friends; Dashell's crazy uncle; his crazy cousin; the blackmailer; the prostitutes; the mistresses; art thefts; a lawyer who may be dirty; Frederick the bird; mysteries; twists and turns all over the place.  As I said earlier, there was a lot going on...maybe just a tad bit too much. 

Overall, parts of this story worked and parts didn't.  I liked when Vivienne and Dashell were engaged in dialog.  I didn’t like so much the chasing all over scenes and jumping from one disaster to another.  I was lost with some of the convoluted plots, especially the art thievery.  There was almost too much in the story to take in and that is where it failed for me.   This is an outrageous farcical tale, and that works, even if the farce starts to head into “Jerry-Lewis-never-knows-when-to-stop” territory.  Then, there were moments in the book that were wonderful and full of very vivid descriptions...I could tell that the author had to have toiled long and hard to create them.  One of the first of such scenes takes place in a brothel which Vivienne had just barged into.  That scene was a treat to read.  Finally, even though I thought there was just too much going on...too many tangled plot-threads, Wicked Little Secrets makes me want to check out the next book coming from Ms. Ives nimble fingers.

Time/Place: Late 1800s England
Sensuality: Hot Suggestions!


The Bride Says Maybe by Cathy Maxwell

March 5, 2014
It’s tough being beautiful… boo hoo!

The Bride Says Maybe is the second book in The Brides of Wishmore series by Cathy Maxwell. I admit up front that I started to read the first book in the series, The Bride Says No, and didn't get very far before I put it down. The reason - I didn't like the secondary character of Tara, the spoiled snot sister of Lady Aileen. Bet you can't guess who the heroine of The Bride Says Maybe is? Go ahead, give it a try. Yep, it's-all-about-me Tara. Gee-willikers, I didn't like our heroine. She was written as an extremely beautiful woman, but it's all on the outside. Anyone, who yells and then hits a dog is in my black books for a long time. Just because the dogs were a little over enthusiastic in their greeting was no reason for her to strike out as she did. So, it took me a long time to see any good in Tara. The story is slow in showing any transformation. It does come, but almost too late. I would have liked to have learned about the reason she is the way she is just a little earlier. You see, for one thing, people leave her. Even though she's beautiful, they just leave her. So, she doesn't really see herself as a worthy person. And, honestly I didn't either. She needed more redeeming then she was given in this story.

Then we have Breccan, our hero. He's one of those big gentle heroes. He's very self-conscious about his size, which is one of the reasons he has to have Tara. He thinks that if people see this gorgeous woman by his side, they will think better of him. Which, once again for Tara, means someone wanting her for her beauty. So, the whole relationship was one big conundrum.

Breccan was a wonderful hero, too good for the Tara at the beginning of the book. Because Breccan was obsessed with Tara in the beginning, I thought this might be a quick jump-into-bed story, but that's not the direction Ms Maxwell took. The obsession slows down and a romance blossoms slowly as these two people get to know each other. Tara eventually turns into someone who is beautiful inside and out and Breccan realizes there is more to Tara than her gorgeous surface.

I was surprised at how fast I read through this story - it was a one day read. This isn't my favorite Cathy Maxwell book, but it is a pleasant fast read with a huggable hero and a heroine who eventually is rehabilitated. And, by the way, the dogs are wonderful characters. I suspect they are based on real-life pets.

Time/Place: Early 1800s England/Scotland

Sensuality: Hot

The Countess Confessions by Jillian Hunter

March 5, 2014
In the the the beginning...

I usually like Jillian Hunter books, especially her older ones, but for me The Countess Confession was just passable. When it started, I thought, "oh this is going to be fun." Emily, our heroine, seems to always be getting in trouble and Damien, our hero, is trouble. He's a Boscastle, he's a spy, he's a manly man. But about halfway through the book, they are hopping into bed with each other and I thought, Hey, wait a minute, isn't that a little too soon? Then I looked down at the page count, noticed how far into the book I was and was surprised. I was surprised because even halfway through the book at bed-jumping time, it still had the feel that it was just getting started. In fact, all the way through the book I kept waiting for a middle and it just never happened.

Damien and Emily were could-have-beens. They could have been great characters, but their development just never went anywhere. The plot meandered all over the place after the initial promise of a good story. I was greatly disappointed. And, by the way, why would our hero ask a question when someone’s tongue is wrapped around his Mr. Toad? It was like being in a dentist chair and being asked, "how's your vacation?" I could only hear Emily replying, "Flaaaaggg blmoxo slup." That wasn't really her reply, but seriously, her mouth is occupied - she cannot answer - so don't start a conversation.

There is a moment toward the end of the book when Damien is telling Emily why he loves her and that was a nice touch. If only the rest of the book had been that good. Bottom line, this is not my favorite Jillian Hunter book - I didn't care about the heroine and hero, they just were not interesting... and they could have been.

Time/Place: England early 1800s

Sensuality: Hot but boring