Wednesday

Why Earls Fall in Love by Manda Collins

February 26, 2014
"Now, sir. We'll talk, if you like. I'll tell you right out, I am a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk." - Maltese Falcon
 

http://mandacollins.com/
Why Earls Fall in Love is the second in the Wicked Widows series by Manda Collins and I will say right up front, I was disappointed in this one. I was looking forward to the second one in the series; I wanted to see where Ms. Collins took her mystery plot and what she had in store for Georgina and Dominic, the Earl of Coniston (Con for short). However, there were numerous TSTL moments, I was distracted by some things, and there were an awful lot of conversations going on in this story.


A distraction. This is my problem, not the author... sort of. I have noticed lately that a lot of authors in romance books have a tendency to justify the hero's lustful thoughts by adding something about the heroine's brains in the next sentence. You know what I mean, the hero sees the heroine and immediately his brain is measuring her legs to see how far they will stretch around his body. I don't mind that, in fact I think that it's probably a pretty accurate reflection on what a real guy actually thinks. What is starting to irritate me is somewhere in the same paragraph the author will add something about the heroine's great brain or her sparkly personality or that she love dogs, cats and orphans. Now, I don't know for sure, but I strongly suspect that most male authors do not add a "justify the lust" line. Have you ever been in a meeting that has both men and women in it? It's usually a woman who will begin her sentence with "don't get me wrong, but..." I have always felt that leading phrase somehow weakens whatever is following and that's how I feel about adding something about the heroine's brain/personality/charities. It somehow weakens the hero's feelings that were expressed in the beginning. For me it implies that his lustful thoughts are somehow wrong, and I don't think they are.

So, here's the plot. Lydia (a Wicked Widow) is a paid companion for Lady Russell. She is also being blackmailed/threatened by a mysterious person because she and her two friends, Perdita and Isabella (the other widows), eliminated Perdita's husband. Now, don't get me wrong, but all of these ladies'/widows' husbands were stinkers and deserved whatever end was given to them. But the widows are all receiving threatening notes from a nefarious person. Enter into this hubbub our hero, Dominic, or Con as his friends call him. He was at one time engaged to Perdita; however they broke that off and now his lustful eyes have turned to Georgiana, and besides that he doesn't trust her to watch his beloved aunt, Lady Russell. And, that distrust lasts probably about three pages into the book. Of course Georgiana, or Georgie, doesn't like Con at all. She can't stand the man, she thinks he's a worthless fribble... and that lasts about one chapter. It doesn’t take Georgie very long at all to confide in Con. First of all, she's seeing her dead husband or someone who looks like her dead husband and she's also tripping over dead bodies and following strange people down deserted hallways. One of the interesting things about this book is that Georgie and Con trust each other almost from the very beginning. He never doubts her word at all when she says her dead husband is standing outside her window.

Words. You know, words are a funny thing. I don't know how many times I've heard other romance readers say something like, "if only this couple had talked to each other, I would have liked this book a lot better." Why, I myself have been known to spout those thoughts out loud... Oh, those silly misunderstandings, if only they had talked to each other. Well, I got my wish. Georgie and Con talk to each other... talk, talk, talk. When they are not talking to each other they are talking to others. Georgie talks to Con about her husband, he talks to Archer about Georgie, Archer talks to Perdita, Perdita talks to Georgie, Georgie talks to Lydia, Lydia talks to Clara about Georgie. Georgie talks to Lady Russell about her husband, Lady Russell talks to Georgie about her husband and gives her a necklace. Lydia talks to Lady Russell, Lady Russell talks to Con, Con talks to Archer, Archer talks to Perdita, Perdita writes to Isabella. Isabella shows up. She talks to Georgie. Georgie talks to Mary and Lettice and the guy who looks like her husband. Mary talks to Georgie. And the killer talks to Georgie while he/she is trying to kill her. I wanted them to stop! Stop the conversations!!
 

Distraction number two. Chemistry, or lack thereof. Even though there was plenty of communication in this story, I felt the couple Georgie and Con lacked any chemistry. There just wasn't any spark between the two, which is why when it came to the Big Bang moment I was distracted. It seems we have a very talented hero in Con. In fact, he should probably try out for Cirque de Soleil. He's an amazing guy. While he's got his head buried in the Valley of Whankee-roo, he can pin the heroine down with one arm and at the same time insert numerous fingers and one tongue in that said valley. It's not as if those digits aren't doing anything, heck no. They were delving and digging and thrusting all over the place. It just seemed rather busily crowded to me - I just kept wondering how Con could keep track of everything that was going on down there. What a busy place. I suspect it was noisy, too. Eeewwww.

It's not a good sign for me when I can be distracted as easily as I was in this story. Besides being distracted, there were other moments that didn't work for me either. There is the blame game surrounding a stolen bracelet and how easily Lady Russell turns on Georgie. There is the character of the spoiled Lydia being extra snotty in her conversations with Georgie and the silly set-up with the bracelet. There are a couple of TSTL moments with Georgie, especially the jumping into the carriage with the killer (who she suspects)  and on top of that Con is just standing there and watching her jump into the carriage. 

Sorry to say, I could not connect to this story. The dynamics that were present in the first of the series were just not there in this one. I wanted to like this story, I opened the book with the intention of liking it, but in the end it didn't work for me. Maybe next time.


Time/Place: Early 1800s England
Sensuality: Warm!!

Friday

Upcoming Historical Romances! March 15 to April 14, 2014

February 21, 2014
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up!  For more Upcoming Releases that aren't Historical see Hey Delia!!!  For: March 15, 2014 to April 14, 2014.

Anne Gracie
http://www.annegracie.com/
 

The Winter Bride
The Chance Sister series
April 1, 2014
Bronwyn Scott  
http://www.bronwynnscott.com/
 

London’s Most Wanted Rake 
Harlequin series
March 18, 2014
Carla Kelly
http://www.carlakellyauthor.com/

The Wedding Ring Quest
Harlequin series
March 18, 2014
Elizabeth Essex 
http://www.elizabethessex.com/
 

After the Scandal
Reckless Brides series
March 25, 2014
Eloisa James*
http://www.eloisajames.com/
 

Three Weeks With Lady X*
Connected to the Duchesses Series
March 25, 2014
Jennifer McQuiston
http://www.jenmcquiston.com/
 

Moonlight on My Mind
March 25, 2014
Jo Beverley*
http://www.jobev.com/
 

A Shocking Delight*
Rogues World series
April 1, 2014
Julie Anne Long*
http://www.julieannelong.com/
 

Between the Devil and 
Ian Eversea*
Pennyroyal Green Series
March 25, 2014
Kasey Michaels*
http://www.kaseymichaels.com/
 

What a Hero Dares*
Redgrave Family series
March 25, 2014
Kate Bridges
http://www.katebridges.com/
 

Welcome to Wyoming
Harlequin series
March 18, 2014
Louise Allen
http://www.louiseallenregency.com/
 

Unlacing Lady Thea
Harlequin series
March 18, 2014
Mallery Malone
http://mallerymalone.com/


Devil’s Angel
Paperback: April 1, 2014

Ebook: April 9, 2014
Maya Rodale
http://www.mayarodale.com/
 

Wallflower Gone Wild
Bad Boys and Wallflowers series
March 25, 2014
Meredith Duran*
http://www.meredithduran.com/
 

Fool Me Twice*
Rules for the Reckless series
March 25, 2014
Paula Quinn
http://www.paulaquinn.com/
 

The Seduction of Miss Amelia Bell
MacGregor’s Highland Heirs series
March 25, 2014
Rose Lerner*
http://roselerner.com/index.html
 

Sweet Disorder*, ebook
Lively St. Lemeston series
March 18, 2014
Stefanie Sloane
http://www.stefaniesloane.com/
 

The Wicked Widow Meets Her Match
Wicked Rogue series
April 1, 2014
Vanessa Kelly
http://www.vanessakellyauthor.com/
 

Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom
Renegade Royals series
April 1, 2014

Vicky Dreiling
http://www.vickydreiling.com/
 

What a Reckless Rogue Needs
Sinful Scoundrels series
March 25, 2014

Wednesday

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

February 19, 2014

Hyperactive Mr. Toad Alert!
http://tessadare.com/
For all of you who have ever been to a midnight showing of Harry Potter/Star Trek/Twilight and been surrounded by people with pointy ears or even been the person dressed up as a

favorite character, then you just might identify with certain aspects of Romancing the Duke. I'm not saying that I have ever gone the Trekkie - Twi-hards - Potterhead route, but I think I know some - and you all know to whom I'm speaking - and you all may be able to identify with some of the characters in this story. I myself found the troupe pretty amusing and could see some people I know doing some of the things the "fans" did in this story.

First of all we have Izzy, who is the daughter of a famous novelist. Now there are a couple of things about this famous novelist to remember. First of all, he died leaving her with nothing and secondly, his novels were so famous that they have a following of of die-hard fans. Even fans who reenact things/people in those books. By the way, I bet you could substitute those Vulcan ears for Middle Earth Faerie ears if you wanted to. But, back to this story. Down-on-her-luck Izzy inherits a castle. Well, there's something rotten in Denmark because when Izzy arrives at this broken down castle it is only to find the owner is still living there. And as it happens, the owner is a pretty surly Duke, who also happens to be blind... part of the time... except in the mornings.

So what should any self-respecting heroine who hasn't eaten in awhile do? Well, she should faint into the arms of the blind guy (Ransom) who's trying to throw her out of his moth-eaten castle. A surly blind guy, who has been feeling sorry for himself for awhile and has let a few things go, the castle for one, and his mail for another. Anyway, somehow this female shows up on his doorstep claiming she owns his castle and he's never sold it. After a few days of him trying to get rid of her while still lusting after her, he caves in and allows her to stay. They both have a steak in the run-down castle and they need to find a solution to the problem, which lies hidden in the pile of mail Ransom has neglected. And that's basically the plot that was created to throw these two together. Sure, it's a stretch, but, hey, this is fiction for Pete's sake. If you want something that's an accurate read, let me see... (tapping my finger to my chin)... haven't got a clue on what to read for accuracy.

Now, let me say this about this book: relax. I don't want to hear the old whine about historical accuracy (I realize I am sometimes the one doing the whining). Just go with the flow and enjoy some fun writing with some rather charming characters. If you want historical accuracy pick up a history book, although I have come to believe the words historical and accuracy are a contradiction in terms. I'm getting side tracked. So, anyway, just go with the flow and relax, I think you'll enjoy this read. And, there is a fun salute in this book to those of you who may get involved in fan-groups.

This book does come with a Mr. Toad alert. There were moments in the beginning of the book, when Ransom comes awfully close to forcing his attentions on Izzy, but then Izzy caves in pretty quickly. And then we are treated to some pretty inventive hijinks. I was almost afraid I was going to be treated to some bondage, which by the way I'm getting tired of reading in my romance books. But enough about me! Ransom and Izzy are pretty active and do everything except swing from the chandelier while boinking. Or maybe they do that too. I must confess I did skip over some parts. Sometimes there is just too much woo-hoo.

This is a fun book, not to be taken too seriously, with two delightful leads. Just because this is a fun book, doesn't mean it is a slapstick comedy; there are some angst-ridden moments and painful confrontations with both Ransom and Izzy's pasts. I thought the silliness and seriousness of the story balanced each other out nicely. If you are reading this book for historical accuracy, you'll be disappointed, but you won't be disappointed in the lovely story of two people who need each other and end up finding love.

Time/Place: Run-down castle in England - Regency or close enough
Sensuality: Hot and Inventive


The Lion's Daughter, Captives of the Night, The Last Hellion and Lord of Scundrels by Loretta Chase

February 12, 2014
Cut to the Chase
http://www.lorettachase.com/

So anyway, at some point during the winter that never ends while I'm stuck inside, roads are closed, businesses and schools are shut down, and I'm stuffing high-caloric comfort food down my throat, I decided to pull out my favorite comfort book - Lord of Scoundrels, by Loretta Chase. Written in 1995, this book always makes me feel good and as years go by it has held up very well. I do believe it is my all-time favorite romance book.
 

Now because winter isn't going away, I decided to read the connecting books. When Ms. Chase first wrote these books it was not with the intent to have a series as we know them today. Nonetheless, they are connected. They are The Lion's Daughter, Captives of the Night, The Last Hellion, and the novella The Mad Earls Bride. Except for The Lion's Daughter the books' timelines run simultaneously - give or take a few months here and there. The Lion's Daughter takes place ten years prior to the others in the series.

If you want to read them in order, the first would be The Lion's Daughter (1992). And, if this had been the only Loretta Chase book I had ever read, it might have been the last of hers I would have picked up. Luckily for me, I had been reading her traditional regencies, so I was aware of how very good her writing was/is. It's not as if The Lion's Daughter is a bad book, it isn't; it just has the feel of an author's first book. The kind of first book in which an author wants to cram as much action/adventure and subplot into approximately 300 pages as possible. This is a road trip book, and if you've ever wanted to visit Albania then this book is for you. All the wandering through the landscape of Albania makes this book move at a snail’s pace and limits the development of much of the chemistry between our hero, Varian, and our heroine, Esme.

Before I go any further let me talk about one of the villains of this piece, Ismal. Ismal turns into Comte d'Esmond in Captives of the Night and becomes the hero of that book. However, here is an example of why bad boys don't always make good heroes. It's hard for me to think of Ismal/Esmond as the same guy...he's really horrible in The Lion's Daughter and no epiphany of any kind could make this obsessive thug anything but a scary man.

However, in this book our hero, Varian, is a typical romance rake. He has no money and spends most of his time living off of others,and he also has the problem eyesight of numerous romance rakes, you know the stigmatism that causes one to mistake a girl for a boy. Which leads me to our little Esme.

Oh, little Esme, she is small for her age, which is eighteen. And, that right there sent shudders down my spine... I have a problem with young heroines, especially when the heroes are ten years older. Anyway, she's small and in Romanceland that means when you put a pair of pants on you will be mistaken for a nine-year-old boy, which is what she does. And then that nine-year-old boy proceeds to run all over Albania getting into one jam after another - sometimes with Varian and sometimes not. Of course, Varian is concerned because he thinks he's got a hankering for boys, then when he finds out she isn't a boy and is just small, he thinks he has a hankering for little girls. Then when he finds out she's eighteen, he breaths a sign of relief. Now it's ok to have lascivious thoughts about his fellow traveler. By the way, there is a nine-year-old boy, Percival, wandering through Albania with a secret chess piece... just too much going on.

I was disappointed in this reread. There were too many convoluted plots going on. Too many outside conflicts to meander through. This book had too many secrets to wade through, too many ends to be tied and it just wasn't any fun. Too too too.


Time/Place: Albania, England 1818
Sensuality: Hot


 

Then we have Captives of the Night (1994) - talk about no fun. This is a book full of depressing, sordid characters, the biggest one being Francis Beumont. Francis is a horrible guy: he steals, he lies, he murders, he runs brothels, he spies, he does drugs, anything any villain has ever done in any romance book, Francis has done it better. He also just so happens to be married to Leila, our heroine. After one terrific fight, he is murdered and she is
suspected of doing the deed. As luck would have it the government wants to keep things under cover. They don't want some of the things Francis has been doing to get out so they send their top spy/agent in to do what he can do to keep things quiet. That would be Compte d'Esmond, aka bad guy Ismal Delvina. 

Well, Esmond has a few secrets himself, other than being one of the villains from the previous book. He's been drooling over Leila for a while, ever since he was sent to investigate her husband. 

I have to say that as I read Captives of the Night, I found it hard to reconcile the wonderful writing from Lord of Scoundrels with it. Captives of the Night relied heavily on the mystery/murder story and not very much on the romance. If fact, I didn't think Leila and Esmond had any chemistry at all. The murder mystery was sort of interesting, however everyone in London had a reason to see Francis dead, so there were a lot of suspects who kept jumping up. When the real murderer is revealed, I had one of those Agatha Christie moments. You know what I mean, there is one sentence in the beginning of the book which indicates who the killer is and you are supposed to remember that to the very end. You are led down one path to another, red herrings all over the place and then he/she confesses and you go - wait a minute - wait a minute - who?

Maybe one of the problems I had with this particular book was I was not able to like either Esmond or Leila. Just having read The Lion's Daughter, Ismal/Esmond was still fresh in my mind and the thought of him being hero material was a really big stretch for me. And, except for her outrageous beauty, I never saw any reason for Esmond to be in love with Leila. Maybe he found her temper tantrums seductive, because she did throw quite a lot of them. I suspect that maybe these moments of door slamming and vase breakings were supposed to be an indication that she was feisty and maybe a little slap-stick. But those moments didn't work for me; I just found them irritating. Then we have the secondary characters - they were all good and bad...even colluding to do murder and getting away with it. There weren't too many people in this book that I had any sympathy for.

Time/Place: England/Some France 1828
Sensuality: Hot


 


It was at this point I began to wonder if my comfort books were really comforting.

Then came Lord of Scoundrels. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! This book makes up for all the pain I went through reading the two previous. And once again let me say - this one is my all-time favorite romance.

 From the moment Jessica Trent walks into that shop and disrupts Sebastian Dain’s well-ordered, debauched life, I had a smile on my face. Sure I've read this book billions of times, but with each reading I find new things and remember old words and lovely dialog.

The bantering between Jessica and Dain is some of the best ever written. Their reaction to each other is so vivid, I could almost see it playing out as a screwball comedy from the 30's. This book is a gem - it just sparkles...I'm so happy.

However, there is more to this book than funny writing. Dain is a very complex character; underneath all that bombastic bravado is plenty of pain and fear. He is just wonderful to watch as he struggles to keep the upper hand with Jessica. His fear of losing her turns him into a wonderfully befuddled hero. One of the best moments: "I'm losing her, he thought and his hand came up, instinctively, to reach for her and draw her back. But he reached for the coffeepot instead. He filled his cup and stared helplessly at the dark liquid and saw his black future there..." Awwwww. When he finally connects with his son, Dominick, it is both amusing and poignant. He sees so much of himself in this screaming helpless demon child, he can't do anything but take Dominick into his arms...even if Dominick throws up on him.

Almost everything in this book works, but especially the chemistry between Jessica and Dain - I just love this book.

Time/Place: England/France 1828
Sensuality: Hot


 


What do you do when you've written what is considered one of the top romance novels? What do you follow up with when that novel keeps winning awards and topping list? Well, you keep on writing. In 1998, The Last Hellion came out. I am pleased to say that even though this story does not reach the same plateau as Lord of Scoundrels, it's still a fun read. At this point, after reading four of Ms. Chase's books in a row, I have to say, she excels at comic writing, not so much in the angst department. 

Actually, The Last Hellion seems to be a muted copy of Lord of Scoundrels, but I didn't really mind. Once again we are presented with a couple who exchange barbed one-liners and call each other names. Some of those names were actually quite funny. I loved it when he uses her last name a lot of the time when talking to her.

In this book we have, Lydia Grenville, a newspaper reporter of sorts. And on the side she's writing a romantic serial under an assumed name. Our hero is Vere, the Duke of Ainswood. You must remember him from The Lord of Scoundrels when he gets in a drunken fist fight with Dain. 

For the most part, this book is fun stuff. When our couple are first introduced, he is rushing in to save someone he believes is a damsel in distress. Of course, he's wrong. That damsel ends up knocking him on his butt, and from then on she has piqued his interest. 

Ms. Chase was wise to choose a reporter as a profession for Lydia, because then she doesn't turn into a TSTL heroine, but has a reason to be where she shouldn't be. And, she usually is in places where she shouldn't be with Vere close behind trying to rescue her. His rescues usually don't work. I did have to stretch my disbelief a bit, that in 1828 there would really be a woman news reporter...but hey, this is fiction after all. While there may have been female reporters in the 1820s, I have a feeling they would have been a great deal more restricted in their movements than Lydia. But that's just a minor bump.

The ever funny, stumbling Bertie Trent puts in an appearance, as do Dain and his wife. It was nice to see all of them in the book, and it was also nice that they didn't take over the story.

I loved all the adventures Lydia led Vere on. Vere had his moments also. You know there's nothing better than a debauched rake with a tender spot. There's some awfully poignant moments in this book involving Vere. Especially touching are the scenes in the very first chapter between Vere and his nephew Robin. Almost a tear in the eye moment.

Vere and Lydia make a marvelous couple and their dynamics are great to watch. I could have been just as happy if the back story for Lydia hadn't been added toward the end of the book; however, the rest of this story was a lot of fun and a delightful follow-up for Lord of Scoundrels.

Time/Place: England 1828
Sensuality: Hot 


 

Also a part of the Scoundrels series is a little novella called The Mad Earl's Bride, which was first published in 1995 as part of an anthology called Three Weddings and a Kiss. Somehow I missed it on its first time around, but I was able to read it last year and loved it. My review on that book is here.

And it's still snowing, blowing and cold.