The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

July 31, 2014
"Pain is a black ink. Enough of it and you can blot out a man's soul." The Suffragette Scandal, by Courtney Milan
All I can say is wow. Courtney Milan has presented us with a wonderful book in the form of The Suffragette Scandal and this one is the last full-length story in her Brother Sinister series. For those of you who think the last book in a series usually gets short thrift, think again. The Suffragette Scandal is a fully-developed, wonderful love story filled with some really dynamic prose. I loved this story and I am overwhelmed with the way Ms. Milan writes about women/men/people who have dreams. Those wishful thinkers out there who oftentimes want the impossible, but in her books the impossible becomes achievable; she makes them come true. A lot of the time it seems as if she's writing about a parallel universe where our dreams do come true. I digress. 

The Suffragette Scandal is a compelling story about Frederica Marshall, aka Free, our really strong heroine. When I use the word 'strong' to describe Free, I have to say that it doesn't come anywhere close to actually depicting  her. Free is the publisher of a newspaper for women, about women, and written by women (except for one man). She believes in equal rights for women, starting with voting rights. She is not afraid of a fight and she does go into places that a lot of women wouldn't even venture. She puts her life in danger, however, she is not a TSTL heroine. She is a true heroine and not just an in-search-of-a-hero heroine.

Then we have our hero, Edward Clark, aka Edward Delacey. What a fascinating character. He's everything a hero isn't - he lies, he blackmails, he's a master forger, and he's got tons of secrets. I also thought he had the bigger part in this story, but that didn't take away from Free because a lot of what he was doing revolved around her. His back story is outrageously poignant; it's really a miracle he turned out as well as he did. It also gives an excellent reason for his feelings of "I'm not worthy," which may have gone on for just a little too long for my taste. 

Together Edward and Free make for a complicated couple, and it was a joy to read this book when they were together struggling with and against each other. In the end, there is the feeling that like all real marriages, this one is going to be a work in progress and a partnership between two people who love each other.

I admire Ms. Milan and realized with this book more than any other she's written that she likes to challenge people. She touches on subjects that not everyone may be comfortable with in their romance novels. I'm not overly fond of reading a romance novel with a hidden agenda or where an author is promoting his or her point of view, and I found myself marveling part way through this book that a very strong point of view was being expressed, but I didn't mind. Maybe that's because I agreed with it, or maybe Ms. Milan's skills are so good she has taken historical romance to another level.

The Suffragette Scandal didn't disappoint and is a fitting companion the rest of the novels in the Brother Sinister series. This story is filled with some wonderful prose and a magnificent couple, especially Edward, who is one of the best heroes I've read in a long time. 

Time/Place: 1877 England
Sensuality: Hot


Upcoming Historical Romance releases for August 15 through September 14, 2014

July 21, 2014
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't Historical see Hey Delia!!! For: August 15, 2014 to September 14, 2014. *Author's name linked.  
Alison DeLaine

A Promise by Daylight
August 26
Amanda Forester

A Winter Wedding
Marriage Mart series
September 2
Anna Campbell

What a Duke Dares
Sons of Sins series
August 26
Annie Burrows

Lord Havelock’s List
Spin off from novella Governess to Christmas Bride
August 19
Beth Williamson

The Fortune
Malloy Family series
September 2
Carla Kelly

Marco and the Devil’s Bargain, h/o
Spanish Brand series
September 1
Darcie Wilde

The Accidental Abduction
September 2
Elizabeth Essex

A Scandal to Remember
Reckless Brides series
August 26
Grace Burrowes

The Laird
Captive Hearts series
September 2
Lecia Cornwell

What a Lady Most Desire
Temberlay series
August 26
Liz Carlyle

The Earl’s Mistress
MacLaclin Family and Friends series
August 26
Lorraine Heath

Once More, My Darling Rogue
Scandalous Gentleman of St. James series
August 26
Lynna Banning

The Lone Sheriff
August 19
Mary Jo Putney

Not Quite a Wife
The Lost Lords series
August 23
Margaret McPhee

The Gentleman Rogue
Gentlemen of Disrepute series
August 19
Michelle Styles

Saved by the Viking Warrior
Viking series
August 19
Monica McCarty

The Arrow
Highland Guard series
August 26
Rosanne Bittner

Desperate Hearts
September 2
Sabrina Jeffries

How the Scoundrel Seduces
The Dukes Men series
August 19
Samantha Grace

In Bed with a Rogue
Rival Rogues series
September 2
Susan Wiggs

The Maiden of Ireland
August 26
Victoria Roberts

My Highland Spy  

Highland Spies series
September 2


Bride of a Scottish Warrior by Adrienne Basso

July 18, 2014 
Lairds and Tartans and Brogues..oh my!
Dinna fash yerself. Yes, this is a deep-in-the-highlands-of-Scotland story and yes, there's lots and lots of Scottish brogue; however, Bride of a Scottish Warrior, by Adrienna Basso, hit the right spot. It was actually quite refreshing and a lot of fun to read a Scottish romance again. I suspect a lot of this was due to Ms. Basso's prose. Bride of a Scottish Warrior was a fast, easy read with no surprises. If you're looking for a light-weight Scottish tale, this book is for you.

There's a gentle heroine, Grace, a widow but not a virgin widow. There is a big, big, strong, brawny hero, Ewan, who is one sexy guy. And big. He also happens to be illegitimate, however, because he fought for Robert Bruce he has been rewarded a home of his own - way up in the highlands. When he gets to his new home he finds the castle is falling apart and his people are starving - but he's our hero, he's got a plan. He starts the long process of rebuilding. While all of his hard work sees results it isn't enough for anyone to survive the winter. Following his dominating mother's strong encouragement, he's off to search for a bride with money. He goes hither and yon searching for a bride, but all the nobles turn him down because he's illegitimate. Feeling depressed, he stops at the stronghold of his friend Douglas McKenna. Och! As luck would have it the non-virgin widow Grace is Douglas' sister and she has taken refuge there.

Why has she taken refuge there, you may ask. Well, her first husband has died under some mysterious circumstances (or not so mysterious) and there is a fight going on as to who should be the next laird. Grace has decided to seek refuge with her brother first, but then go to a convent, and she has no intention of ever getting married again. Of course we know that's just silly thinking on her part; this is romance, after all. After some sneaky maneuvering by her brother, Grace and Ewan are soon on a road trip to the convent. A very long road trip.

This book is loaded with a bit of everything. We have a road trip, a wild boar attack, a convent under siege, an evil brother-in-law, brawny sweaty men without shirts, a mother-in-law from hell, witchcraft accusations, monks, priests, and the scourge. All packed into 200 pages or so. This book isn't any heavy-duty angst filled story. There is nothing new, nothing ground-breaking; there are no surprises. However, I still enjoyed every minute of it and even though it is a standard Scottish yarn, the hero was a wonderful hunk who would have done anything for his lady love. This was a refreshing story that made me happy. It was as if I was with a trusted old friend. 

Time/Place: Scotland 1314
Sensuality: Hot


The Wicked Gift by Courtney Milan

July 17, 2014
And now for a cleansing breath.

So, Courtney Milan released a whole bunch of 99-cent books over the weekend and there was one in that group I hadn't read. So what the hey, you can't beat 99 cents (well maybe if it were free you could). Anywho, after my traumatic experience with The Black Lyon it was great to read The Wicked Gift, which just so happens to be a short story and also the prequel to the Carhart series (Proof by Seduction, 2009, and Trial by Desire, 2010).  As with all Milan's books, there is some great writing; I especially love how her short books never seem slapped together and the characters are always fully-developed. That is true with this one as we meet Lavinia Spencer, who is poor and survives by running her family's lending library/book store. She is the full support for both her father and her fifteen year old brother. For a while, she has been mooning over one of her customers, William White. Unbeknownst to her, he's been mooning over her, watching her from the bookshelves. And guess what - neither one of them are aristocrats! William is a poor bookkeeper who can barely pay rent. While there may be what seems to be a little coercion on William's part, don't let that stop you from reading this lovely tale. 
William and Lavinia fit together really well. They complement each other and they teach each other lessons on honor, trust and letting go. This story also made me want to reread the sequels, which I just may do.
P.S. For those of you who have a younger brother, I think you will be able to identify with this story.
Time/Place: England 1822
Sensuality: Hot

The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux - A-Team Project

July 17, 2014
An A-Team project failure!
I knew it was too good to last!  The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux was originally released in 1980...and it shows.  I just couldn't complete this story.  I was taken aback at the amount of violence displayed toward the heroine aka victim in this story and that abuse is perpetrated by the so called hero.  Not only does he rape her (and I do mean rape), he backhands her, he has sex with a serf (actually his wife in disguise, I guess that makes it ok), and he's wayyyy out of control with the jealousy.  All the time his bride, who is 17, is trying to figure out just what she did wrong, just what she can do to make it up to him, what she can do to make him happy, what she can do to get back in his bed. Aarrgh.  I have an idea, use one of those broad swords and give him a whack.  By the way he's 30.

Even though this book is a product of 1980s, I can't believe that we even considered it any kind of romance.  While this is not Ms. Deveraux's first book (it was her second), it has all the ingredients for a Romance 101 class.  Bodice ripper is too kind of a word for this story.  Bottom line, if you like rapist-heroes this book is for you.  I cannot recommend The Black Lyon.

Time/Place: Medieval England - Edward I
Sensuality: Depends on you what you consider sensual


Courtney Milan's latest!!

Courtney Milan's The Suffragette Scandal is now available!!


Lady Windermere's Lover by Miranda Neville

July 14, 2014

Say, kiddoes, what time is it?

It's Bone Head Hero Time.
It's Bone Head Hero Time.
Let's give a rousing cheer,
'Cause Bone Head Hero is here...
(sung to the tune of Howdy Doody)

In case you might not have guessed, Lady Windermere's Lover has one of the biggest Bone Head Heroes I've come across in a long time, and on top of that he's supposedly in
Intelligence or something. Not only is he a Bone Head Hero, he is also a Bone Head Friend.

Let's start with Damien, our bone head. On his 21st birthday, he and his friends, Julian, Marcus, and Robert, get drunk... very very drunk. They enter into a card game at which time Damien loses his mother's ancestral home. Damien passes out and his drunken friend Julian packs Damien's incoherent behind into a carriage and makes sure he gets home safety. In the meantime, the remaining drunk friends proceed to lose ye' ole family estate to someone else. And, what does Damien do? Well, of course he blames his friends, especially Julian. For years and years he holds a grudge against Julian because he's a spoiled rotten idiot who blames everyone else for his problems. Years pass and this whiny guy is forced to marry Cynthia, a mill owner's niece.

Of course, she's not good enough for him; she's frumpy, she's dumpy, and OMG, she doesn't know French... Oh no, not that!!! You see, the perfect woman must know French, especially if her husband is in the diplomatic service. (What this diplomatic service entails is never really made clear to me. I do know he brings dirty pictures back from Persia when he returns.) Anyway, Damien resents that he is forced to marry Cynthia and treats her abominably in the two weeks they are together before he high-tails it to a foreign country. He shows no kindness to her, he talks over her, he treats her as if she's an idiot, he beds her without any finesse and then he's off. Unbeknownst to him, Cynthia becomes pregnant from their brief horrible encounter and then she loses the child. She writes him, but the letter never gets to him. So, he never knows she was carrying his child or that she lost it.

Now, for some reason Cynthia accepted all the crap Damien did to her for those two weeks. The reason we are given is that she fell head over heels for the buffoon... he's soooooo handsome, like a Greek God. Argh!!! However, his callus reaction to the loss of the baby wakes her up. Of course, she doesn't know he didn't get the letter and the letter he did get was about her having a cold and he did send her a letter in response to the "indisposition" he thought she had. So, we have a really big misunderstanding on Cynthia's part to get over because she thinks he knows and he doesn't. Surprisingly, this was one time I understood them not talking to each other about this particular misunderstanding. I was actually interested in how the author would resolve that problem. I just wish it had been sooner in the book. 

Mostly I liked Cynthia. I thought she was too good for Damien. She is a kind person, always taking in needful downtrodden women, orphans, and kittens. In her husband’s absence, she has shed her dumpy appearance and now is a beauty, which kind of bothered me because that would mean she was a beauty all along. She has also taken to padding the redecorating bills so she can support the poor downtrodden women and children. See, she is kind. She also has taken to hanging with Damien's once upon a time friends, especially Julian. She has a plan to use Julian to irritate Damien and Julian has a plan to irritate Damien by using Cynthia. There's a lot going on in this book.

Anyway, after a year in foreign parts being a diplomat Damien is back and immediately jumps to the conclusion that Cynthia is having an affair with Julian. You see, Damien sees them kiss, so all the rumors must be true. And even after Cynthia tells him the truth he doesn't believe her. That doesn't stop him from trying to seduce her, though. You see, she is no longer frumpy but has turned into a "pocket Venus," so his manly urges are out of control. They are so out of control he puts hashish in an incense burner to lower her resistance to him. What a nice guy! Nothing like drugging a woman to get her to respond to him. So, while his wife is becoming mellow from hash, he's talking dirty French to her... nothing turns him on faster than spouting smutty French. Arrgh. I. Did. Not. Like. Damien.

Damien wasn't the only thing in the book that I stumbled over. Normally, I like flashbacks but the ones in this story jolted me out of the narrative flow. There was also some kind of intrigue going on with works of art that I lost track of and I wasn't quite sure in the end if the loose ends of that particular thread had been tied. But, the main problem I had with this book was Damien. He was an infantile, obnoxious, insufferable, condescending clod who didn't deserve any of his true friends and definitely not Cynthia. It took him forever to believe Cynthia and that was only because Julian told him they'd never had an affair. And, then she's kidnapped.

I had issues with this book! The hero was horrible and there wasn't enough grovel time for him to redeem himself. And, what happened to the downtrodden women, kids, and kitten? Don't know. What about the villain? Don't know. Those loose ends need to be tied or there should be a hint that they are going to be tied in a future book. The fourth book in the series concerns Julian. I haven't decided whether I will read that one or not.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase

July 7, 2014
Different strokes...

Once again I believe I have landed in the minority.  I am forced to ask if I read the same book as everyone else.  It is at this point I must step back and wonder - did I have a problem with Vixen in Velvet because I hold Loretta Chase to a higher standard than I do other authors?  After all, Ms. Chase produced one of my absolute all time favorite books, Lord of Scoundrels.  So yes, my expectations for Vixen in Velvet were high.

When my new books came this month, I jumped for joy - it was a squeal moment - and immediately opened Vixen in Velvet.  And, yes I was disappointed, however, I would have had the same reaction if I had never read any of Ms. Chase's sublime stories before.

One of my biggest problems with this story was I just couldn't connect with the main couple, Leonie and Lisburne.  When the story began I had the feeling I was missing something - it was as if I had stepped into a story without a beginning.  I found myself wistfully comparing the main characters of Leonie and Lisburne to Dain and Jessica from Lord of Scoundrels and found the former lacking.

Whenever Leonie and Lisburne were together, even though the dialogue was witty, I never had a sense of the inner workings of their minds.  Some of that was because of the space allotted in the book to the secondary romance between Swinton and Gladys.  The other giant space user was the vivid descriptions of the fashion of the day.

Yes, I know our heroine is one of the owners of a house of fashion.  She lives and breathes fashion.  I'm also very much aware that historical romance books are filled with detailed description of clothing and hair styles.  And, this author seems to be fond of the styles from this particular time period.  While I admit to an appalling fascination with the over-sized sleeves and hats - the exaggerated hair of the 1830s, I often find myself asking: Would a man (say our hero) really find this overblown style lovely?  Would one of our manly male heroes really find a woman dressed in feathers and giant sleeves attractive?  Would our hero recall in vivid detail every stitch, tuck and color of every ensemble our heroine is wearing?  I know if it were up to my husband we would all be wearing white blouses with ruffles or, as he says, those white puffy shirts.  I found the never-ending fashion descriptions littered throughout this book a tad bit tiresome.

While I liked Leonie and thought she was a strong female character - her love of her dressmaking business was admirable - this story suffered from being an historical romance.  As happens in most historicals, in the end she and her sisters will have to give up their business.  Ms. Chase did find a way for the sisters to still be part of something they love, even if it isn't on the same level as it once was.

Incidentally, I always feel sorry for the superfluous people who populate romanceland.  Once our heroine marries our hero, she drops her business, friends, servants, and any orphanages she may have funded.  I've always felt sorry for all those dedicated servants who befriend all those disguised heroines who are on the lam only to be left behind when our heroine/princess/missing heiress finds her one true love.  I digress.

Now let's talk about Swinton and Gladys.  They are secondary characters, and they are the type of secondary characters who not only steal scenes but almost overwhelm the entire story.  Actually, Swinton and Gladys deserved either their own book or a novella.  They are fun, interesting characters: I actually found them more so than the main couple.  I was more interested in what they were doing than Leonie and Lisburne.  However, both couples suffered from my inability to feel what they were thinking.

Unlike most of Ms. Chase's books, it took me a long time to finish this story.  In fact, I almost gave up, but I forced myself to finish.  Vixen in Velvet is one of those novels which proves different stokes for different folks.  Bottom line for me, I felt that too much time was devoted to fashion description and the secondary characters.  In the process the main characters of Leonie and Lisburne were overshadowed and weakened.  In the end the romance was lost in the shuffle.

Time/Place: 1830s England
Sensuality: Hot