The Proposition by Judith Ivory...A-Team Project - 1999

May 29, 2014
Once upon a time...

There was an author who wrote some masterful romance books. Then she became one of those "whatever happened to..." authors. Judith Ivory, aka Judy Cuevas, wrote 9 novels between the years 1988 and 2006. I haven't read all of her books, but the ones I've read are just a little bit different from standard, rushed, current romance novels. They are a little richer, a little fuller, and a lot distinctive. Then Ms. Ivory vanished from the writing world. There are internet rumors of divorce and health issues, even a rumor of her writing under the name of Laura Florand (the Florand rumor is untrue - Ms. Florand appears to be a tiny bit younger than Ms. Ivory and she seems to be proving herself a remarkable author under her own name). After rereading The Proposition - 1999, I realized just what a wonderful voice Romanceland is missing. If any of you have never had the privilege of reading one of her books, I suggest you begin with The Proposition. What a pleasure it was to read this story again.

The Proposition is based on the Pygmalion myth which George Bernard Shaw used for his play Pygmalion and which was later was used for the musical My Fair Lady. Occasionally I was reminded of Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd, especially the twin brother characters. In this case, Edwina/Winnie, our heroine, is Henry Higgins and Mick, our hero, is the Eliza Doolittle character, so there is a bit of role reversal.

Let's begin with the main characters, starting with the heroine, Edwina/Winnie. Winnie is one sharp cookie; she's adopted her father's linguistic skills and from that extremely talented expertise she has managed to eke out a living. While she is a strong woman, she also has some weaknesses. She is almost six feet tall, she refers to her body type as a pear, she has a big nose and freckles - she views herself as a great gawking female whom men do not find attractive. She was ignored as a child and has grown into a lonely, unloved woman who has the tendency to blame herself for this condition. She also over thinks everything and is not a spontaneous person.

Then there's Mick. What a wonderfully different kind of hero. He considers himself London's best rat-catcher, he and his trusty ferret and rat dog. He originally came from Cornwall, is the eldest of fourteen children and has quite an interesting accent. Even though Mick is poor, he manages to send money to help support the family he loves. Most people would consider Mick's poverty depressing, but he has developed an interesting view of life. He enjoys what he does, he loves his siblings, and he has learned to live life to the fullest. Mick is the furthest thing from an angst-filled hero that you are ever going to come across in a romance novel. His character is a pure joy to read. I just loved Mick. Later in the book there is a wonderful scene when Mick and Edwina/Winnie go back to his old neighborhood. It is a very subtle scene, with numerous undercurrents going on and one of them is his realization that he doesn't belong in his old world anymore. Oh sure, he still manages to talk to his old friend and tell his jokes, but he knows he can no longer be one of them and he is forced to ask himself the question of what does he do now. If he can no longer be London's best rat-catcher just what can he be... and how can he ever keep Winnie?

Fairytale ending. Yes, this story has an old-fashioned fairytale ending and while some readers might groan and complain at the ending, that it's a bit of a stretch, I think it was perfect and Ivory's prose makes it just right. Maybe in the hands of a different author it would seem a bit silly, but Ivory's ending is the only way this story could end. Speaking of endings, I was never happy with the ending of the musical My Fair Lady. I always thought the incredibly skinny Audrey Hepburn returning to the outrageously older Rex Harrison a cringe-worthy finale. Stay with Freddy! Stay with Freddy! I often wondered just what she was supposed to do in the Higgins' household now. And, get your own shoes old man!

This is a full, rich book, jam-packed with wonderful writing and a great romantic couple. While the sex is limited, the sensuality is abundant. This is a magnificent book and one I must remember not to put in a dark corner of my shelf again! It deserves to be amongst my Desert Island Keepers. This is a feel good book.Not a slap-stick, screwball comedy, laugh-riot book, but one that when you put the book down, you will be just a little bit happier and maybe you may think that fairy tales do come true. 

And, they lived happily ever after.

Time/Place: 1890s England
Sensuality: Hot 

Glad I Said Maybe

It appears as if Courtney Milan's next book will be out the middle of July, 2014.  We'll seeeeeee.  At least that is what her website says.


A Matter of Scandal by Suzanne Enoch...The A-Team Project

May 26, 2014
What was I thinking?
Here's my brainstorm. The other day I was looking at my walls and walls and walls of

paperback books and wondering. Wondering, wondering... why am I saving these bulging piles? Am I ever going to read them again? In most cases, probably not. Some of these books - I just have no idea what's in them! It's time to do some weeding. Of course, there are some that will stay, for instance: my entire collection of Mary Balogh's books from the beginning of time. But with others I will have to be more systematic in my selection, so, I decided to look at the database I maintain (yes, you heard me) and pull out all the books I've ever graded with an A and start there. You must understand that while I graded some of these books with an A, at the time I didn't write down the why I did. The thought occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, there might be a book or two in the group that didn't deserve an A and that would be the starting point to deciding whether to keep that book or not. 

The first A book I selected was Matter of Scandal by Suzanne Enoch, which was written in 2001. Not only did I give this book an A, I gave it an A++. An A++!!! Man this book must really really really be good, I thought. Probably the bestest book ever! Well kiddoes, I must have been going through some kind of hormonal change in 2001, or maybe there was some kind of odd smoke in the air. After rereading Matter of Scandal I have to say while it was a joy to reread, it wasn't an A++ grade. Let's take a fresh look at Matter of Scandal.

First of all, if you are looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud, Matter of Scandal will hit the right spot. There is an especially funny carriage ride involving our hero Grey and a group of girl students. Here's the plot: Greydon Brakenridge, Duke of Wycliffe, hatesssss women, they get on his arrogant nerves, they are only good for one thing and other than that they are useless beings. He has been called to his uncle's estate because his uncle is having money problems. Grey's aristocratic solution is to raise the rent on all of the estate's tenants. One of those tenants happens to be a... wait for it... girls' school. He hatessss girls too. They are just tiny women lying in wait for the time they can land him or any male in awful matrimony. While Grey is rubbing his hands together in glee anticipating the reaction of the headmistress of the school to the tripling of rent, little does he know that the headmistress of the school is Emma Grenville, the same unknown woman he passed on the road on his way to his uncles house earlier... and that woman intrigued him.

As we might expect, Emma is not a happy camper when she receives notice of the rent increase and she storms to the estate to protest. When she finds out who is actually behind the increase, sparks fly. It is instant, uncontrollable lust when Grey and Emma meet. In the beginning of this book, whenever these two are together it is a fun war of the sexes, each trying to outmaneuver the other and eventually backing themselves into a situation which will cause a scandal. 

The dialogue between Grey and Emma is extremely witty. They are supported by some really well-written secondary characters in the person of Tristan, Grey's friend, and five young female students from the academy. The young teenage girls in Matter of Scandal were perfect; they were written with intelligence that wasn't beyond their years. I loved when Grey and the girls interacted. When I was reading these funny parts of the book, I could understand my original rating. Where the rating started to go down was when Grey and Emma finally caved in to their attraction. I had a problem with Emma, who was painted with a strong sense of right and wrong, surrendering that righteousness knowing that it could ruin her and in ruining her also lose her means of livelihood. 

I also wish that Grey had not left Emma alone to face up to the horde of unhappy parents. Granted, he tried to get there and had some what I think were supposed to be slapstick moments charging off to save his lady love. But in the last portion of the book, the flavor of the story had a subtle seriousness added and that part of the book didn't work for me. I would have liked to see the wager that Grey and Emma had contracted to play out to the end. Instead it is interrupted by the rumor of scandal for Emma. 

Overall, I found Matter of Scandal to be a highly enjoyable book, maybe not quite up there with the best of the best always to be remembered as a classic piece of literature, but still a fun read. However, I will have to change my rating because when the scandal makes its appearance the tone of the book changes and I think I would have liked it better if it could have maintained the mad, funny, war of the sexes until the end.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


Historical! Historical! Upcoming Historical Romance Releases!!!

May 23, 2015

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't Historical see Hey Delia!!! For: June 15, 2014 to July 14, 2014. *Author's name linked.
Adrienne Basso*

Bride of a Scottish Warrior
Scottish series
July 1, 2014
Brenda Joyce

A Sword Upon the Rose
Scottish Medieval series
June 24, 2014
Candace Camp

Secrets of the Loch Series
June 17, 2014
Carol Arens 

Rebel Outlaw
June 17, 2014
Celeste Bradley

With This Ring
Worthingtons Series
July 1, 2014
Christina Brooke

The Wickedest Lord Alive
July 1, 2014
Diane Gaston

A Lady of Notoriety
The Masquerade Club series
June 17, 2014
Elizabeth Michels

How to Lose a Lord in 10 Days or Less
Tricks of the Ton series
July 1, 2014
Gaelen Foley

The Secrets of a Scoundrel
The Inferno Club series
June 24, 2014
Grace Burrowes*

The Captive
Captive Hearts series
July 1, 2014
Jessica Peterson

The Gentleman Jewel Thief
The Hope Diamond series
July 1, 2014
Kaki Warner

Where the Horses Run
The Heroes of Heartbreak Creek series
July 1, 2014
Loretta Chase*

Vixen in Velvet
Dressmakers series
June 24, 2014
Lynsay Sands

To Marry a Scottish Laird
An English Bride in Scotland series
June 24, 2014
Margaret Moore

Castle of the Wolf
June 17, 2014
Mary Balogh*
The Escape
Survivors Club series
July 1, 2014
Miranda Neville*

Lady Windermere’s Lover
Georgian series
June 24, 2014
Sara Mallory

The Scarlet Gown
June 17, 2014

How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Guhrke

May 16, 2014
It's tricky title time.
Yes, I know, I know... most authors don't chose the titles that eventually get published for

their books. And, I suspect in the case of How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days that this might be the case. I wish that whoever created the title would have made it fit the story just a little better. You see, when I look at this title I'm inclined to think that it's going to be a light-heartened funny romp, which it wasn't. I blame myself. I know Laura Lee Guhrke's writing and usually her books border on serious, which was one of the reasons I was looking forward to reading this one. I love Ms. Guhrke's writing but was hoping for a comedic turn of phrase... oh well. Don't get me wrong, this story is not a doom and gloom, angst-filled romance. There are some sweet, fun moments - just not as many as the title implies.

Enough about the title, on to the book. This is the second in the American Heiress in London series and it revolves around Edie, Duchess of Margrave, and her husband, Stuart. Yes, yes it is one of my favorite story lines - a marriage of convenience. Here's a synopsis of the storyline: Stuart is in Africa, he's injured badly by a lion - flashback - flashback, Edie proposes a marriage of convenience to Stuart - he goes away forever and she maintains her freedom. He agrees, he leaves, she blossoms, she fixes his estates, she loves her freedom, he gets mauled, he returns, he wants a real marriage, she doesn't, she is not a happy camper, he bets her he can win her love in 10 days, he does, the end, sort of. In between those capstones there is some pretty well-developed characterization along with Guhrke's seemingly effortless writing.

Of the two main characters, Stuart is the one I was drawn to. I liked him a lot. Although, in the beginning he is painted as being a ne'er-do well, he is actually quite a nice guy. He's charming, sensitive, and pretty astute when it comes to figuring out what someone’s problem really is. In this case it is Edie's secret that he must solve. I did have a problem with Edie. She is a hard heroine to like. She is stubborn, distrustful, and for all of her sterling abilities in managing various estates and people, she is unable to actually see what a nice man Stuart is. Granted, she was physically abused and molested when she was younger, which causes her to panic at the thought of any kind of cohabitation with her husband. The problem I had with Edie was that for me she seemed to be such a strong, self-reliant woman that her reaction to Stuart's touch was a little bit out of character, and it went on for t-o-o long. I also wish that she had told Stuart her story. There could still have been some tension created - however, Stuart guessed what her problem was about half-way through the book so there wasn't a big misunderstanding. It still would have been nice if she had been the one to tell him, but either way it did add to Stuart's conundrum of how he was going to win his wife’s love and trust.

There were sometimes in the story that I thought the balance of storytelling was a bit off. There were moments of light-heartened manipulation from Stuart which struck a discordant note with me because I, the reader, knew of Edie's traumatic past and those moments just didn't go together... for me. Even with that quibble and the goofy title, I find How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days to be a satisfying read and a lovely addition to the American Heiress in London series.

Time/Place: Late Victorian England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot


It Takes a Scandal by Caroline Linden

May 12, 2014
We got us a hobbled hero!

It appears that Caroline Linden is on a roll. I loved the first book in this series, Love and Other
Scandals, and I was pleased that the second book in the series, It Takes a Scandal, turned out to be a worthy successor.

This book follows the Weston family (who were introduced in the first book), mainly Abigail. Abigail is a quiet woman who knows her own worth and she is not willing to settle for anything less in a relationship than love. That's probably because she has grown up in a household that has affectionate parents. Yes, affectionate parents in a romance novel! I was very excited when it turned out that not only are her parents loving, caring parents, but they also are in love with each other. Thank you, Ms. Linden, for creating affectionate Romanceland parents. Not only are the parents charming, but Abigail's sister Penelope and brother James seemed as if they were real siblings. Ms. Linden seems to have an affinity for drawing wonderful families who are real. Along with all the squabbles that arise within a family, there is still a wonderful close relationship between all of them. I loved the Weston family. Didn't much care for Milo the dog, but the family was charming.

This story could have been a standard rich American girl (Abigail) saves down-on-his-luck, reclusive, gloomy Gus English guy (Sebastian), but it wasn't. First of all, Abigail was determined to pull Sebastian out of his gloom. Secondly, all I can say is... Sebastian. What a wonderful hero Ms. Linden created in Sebastian! Sebastian is something we don't see in a lot of romance books, a beta hero. Just because he's a gentle man doesn't mean he's not strong. After all, he's put up with slander, ridicule, and snubs for years. To top all that off, he was injured in the war and now walks with a cane. Not only is he lame and without a penny, but he's been accused of stealing money and murdering his mad father. Except for the being lame/broke part, none of the other things are true. But, he has maintained his distance from the people around him, until Abigail. Then everything changes. He falls for her like a ton of bricks. He tries to maintain his distance, but Abigail is a pretty strong-willed woman. She won't let him hide. Eventually, he realizes if he wants to be with the woman he loves, he must somehow prove that he is worth Abigail's love.

Abigail and Sebastian are a wonderful couple; they play off of each other really well, each making the other person stronger. This is more than just a lust-at-first-sight story, although the sexual tension is pretty hot; Abigail and Sebastian like each other. There are some pretty poignant moments in this story when Sebastian is doing little things for Abigail that just made me go awwwww. It was because of these little special touches that I had a irritating/frustrating hiccup moment with the heroine. Without giving too much away, Sebastian has to leave for a couple of weeks and during that time his old friend shows up and is instantly smitten with Abigail. He puts the moves on her and she, much to my dismay, sort of responds. My thought was hey, Sebastian is such a nice guy, you can't wait two weeks for his return? But, that was a minor bump in the road in an otherwise wonderful book.

So for all of you who enjoy a good romance with some wonderful, well-developed people and an especially lovely hero who will steal your heart away, this book is one you don't want to pass up. Great job Ms. Linden!

Time/Place:1820ish England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot 

The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman

May 5, 2014
An Awe-Inspiring Timothy Toad Alert!

Once again I seem to be in the minority in my disappointment with a book. This time it happens to be The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman. Let's analyze what happened, shall we? I picked two books this month just because I'd never read the authors before. I was actually looking forward to this one quite a lot, having read many wonderful things about it... and it happens to be one of my favorite types - comedy. I love books that can make me smile, I love to laugh and chuckle and wipe the yuck-yuck tears from my eyes. Imagine my glee when the first couple of pages had me guffawing right out loud. The introduction of our heroine (Lucy) behind a bush feeding lines to her shy friend (Cass) was priceless. But what made it even better was it was written in such a way that I had no trouble visualizing the scene. Was it a parody of Cyrano? Sure it was, but unlike the Cyrano narrative, the victim (our hero) figures out pretty quickly that the voice he's hearing is not the one he wants to hear. So, I was rubbing my hands together ready for more chortles. If only the comedy had been allowed to flow without interference.

I was having a good time reading The Unexpected Duchess until I started noticing that Lucy was really a rude person. Not a rude person in the manner of Elizabeth Bennet, but more along the lines of Housewives of New Atlanta-York-Mafia-Wife-Amish-Idiot-why-are-we-watching-these-horrible-people reality shows.

Here's the plot, sort of. Derek has promised his dying friend, Swift, that he will marry Cass. There is a slight problem with that - Cass has luved Julian forever, but she is too shy to let Julian know. But that doesn't really matter because Julian is engaged to her cousin, the self-centered Penelope, which is a problem, but that may not be a problem because Julian is off fighting in the war and hasn't responded to anyone’s mail. Oh dear, what will Cass do? Well, Cass won't do anything because she's shy. However, her two friends Lucy the rude, blunt girl, and Jane the standard bluestocking girl, are there to help her. With Cass' permission Lucy manages to insert herself into every opportunity that Derek manages to create. Of course Derek is attracted to the feisty pushy Lucy, he just doesn't admit it. Derek must resist temptation, he must because he is an honorable man and we know that because he is honoring his friend's dying wish. Too bad Lucy doesn't know Derek is honoring his dying friend's last wish, I bet she'd leave him alone to court poor shy Cass who is worried about her missing in battle forever luv Julian.

And now a word from Derek's brother Collin: Our brother Adam, along with Donald, Swift's brother, and Rafe have disappeared in France. Collin is off to find them. Derek wishes he could go but he must honor Swift's dying wish. 

Back to the wish fulfillment. He must marry Cass, but he wants Lucy, really wants her and she wants him, but she can't do that to Cass... What's a girl to do, what's a guy to do? Why, challenge each other to a duel... a witty dialogue duel... at a ball... in front of the cream of society... just like Cyrano's witty put downs. It was at this point I groaned, never been a big fan of those public witticisms. I find them embarrassing to watch and read. They are one of the many things I don't like about the original story of Cyrano, but I thought maybe there wouldn't be too many. Twenty, oh no not twenty! That's how many clever things Derek had to come up with to win his bet. At the ball. In front of people.

And now a word from Derek's brother Collin. He has found Adam, but not Donald or Rafe. Derek wishes he could be there with him, but he can't because he must honor his promise to marry someone he doesn't care anything about. Spoilers ahead.

So one day while Lucy and Derek are yammering at each other she mentions the fact that Cass is in luv with Julian. Julian! Wait! You don't mean Julian Swift do you? My dying friend, the one I made a promise to! Yep, that's the one. So now Lucy insists that Derek marry her bestist friend Cass. It is the honorable thing.

Let's have a talk about honor shall we. How can a hero be honorable to Julian, Cass, or even Lucy when his big over-sized fingers are busy creating roo-hoo in Lucy's wham-o-meter? Derek had a very strange idea of honor. And, so did Lucy.

Maybe if Derek can interest some other fellow in Lucy that will solve his problem. Sure it will. Yes, by golly another character is introduced so that we can have some Cyrano fake letter writing moments because this guy is a stutterer and can't write. Then we all of us are off to Brighton: Cass, Jane, Garrett (a cousin), Derek, and an aunt.

Now a word from Collin: I am bringing Adam home, but still can't find Rafe and Donald. Derek still wishes he was there, but he must marry Cass.

Now Lucy agrees, yes, Derek must marry Cass... but first let's have wild crazy sex. It was during this scene that I had one of my laughs. I don't think I was supposed to, but I just couldn't take it anymore. Between the "I want you, I want you, I want you" and the flipping I just couldn't take it anymore. There was flipping, I want you and plowing, I want you, flipping, milking, I want you and flipping, I want you. For a while I thought maybe Derek was either going to get a summer job at a circus or flip pancakes at IHOP.  I do admit that Derek's Mr. Toad was mighty impressive. He lasted through a back flip, followed by a stomach flip, followed by a back flip...really talented and he wasn't once distracted by Derek's clever repeated shouting of I want you.

Now a word from Collin: Adam's home.

After the flip-flop episode there was still more to come. There's the upset parents, the Julian lives moment, the Queen moment, and the Prince moment, and the "You had me at 'Your Grace' moment."  Yes, it was a Jerry Maguire, pull-me-out-of-a-historical-romance moment. If all of this book had been a slap-stick, off-the-wall farce, the movie reference wouldn't have thrown me out of the story. But it wasn't.

Here's the conundrum. The beginning of this story was funny, and I do admit that I am interested in the secondary characters of Jane, Garrett, Julian and Cass. I am tempted to read the next in the series and I probably will. However, what started out as a chuckle-filled read with two clever antagonists descended into immature behavior by a rude woman and a man with an interesting definition of honor.

Time/Place: 1815 England
Sensuality: Hot


Harlequin Enterprises to be sold!

Just received this from RWA:

"Torstar to Sell Harlequin to News Corp. On Friday, May 2, Torstar Corp. announced that it is selling Harlequin Enterprises to News Corp. for 455 million Canadian dollars (in cash). Harlequin will become a division of HarperCollins Publishers (a News Corp. subsidiary) and remain headquartered in Toronto.

According to HarperCollins President and CEO Brian Murray, “The Harlequin name and rich heritage will be preserved independently, with the aim to leverage capabilities to bring the book-reading public more choices. Harlequin’s business has grown internationally, and will give HarperCollins an immediate foothold in 11 new countries from which we can expand into dozens of foreign languages for authors who choose to work with us globally.” Yet to be answered are questions on how this acquisition will affect future book contract terms (such as royalty rates and rights), library lending policies, continuation of series lines, and acquisition of new authors/works.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and the approval of Torstar’s Class A shareholders, and the parties expect to close the transaction by the end of September."

For more information: