Monday

The Shocking Secret of the Guest at the Wedding by Victoria Alexander

November 22, 2014
"Mother the word that means the world to me."

http://www.victoriaalexander.com/

Let me get this off of my chest. I had problems with this book - it took forevvvvver to read. If my Nook was as cheap as a paperback it might have hit the wall. Besides the hamster-on-a-wheel plotline, there was another matter that I found irritating and it has to do with "possessive" words or the lack thereof.  There are three mothers in this story - three. Every single time those three mothers are thought about it is always "mother did this, "or" mother went there, "or" mother wore a hat, "or" mother kicked a horse." It is never "her" mother did this or "his" mother went there or "Teddy's" mother kicked a horse. Let me repeat, there are three mothers in this book! I had to read down through the paragraph/page/conversation to figure out which mother was being referenced. There are also fathers in the book, but only one has any children in the story so I could keep track of him.

Normally I love Victoria Alexander books. I love her sense of humor. Granted, there is a lot of 21st century vernacular in them, but that doesn't mean they aren't funny. Sadly to say the humorous moments in The Shocking Secret of the Guest at the Wedding were overshadowed by the lack of emotion from any of the characters in the book. I'm not sure what went wrong because at first glance this book should have worked.

Our hero, Jackson Quincy Graham Channing, a New York City banker finds out that his father isn't dead. Poor Jackson. For all of his 32 years he has been told that his father died before he was born. His mother and grandfather raised him - his life is all organized - he has a sort of fiancé - he's got a career - he's content. However, standing in the same room with him is his father - the one he thought was dead. To say his life is about to be disrupted is an understatement. It seems his mother has been keeping a secret; not only from him but from the man who is his father, Basil Channing. Needless to say Jackson and Basil are a little POed with Jackson's mother. Anyway, Jackson and Basil decide they want to get to know each other. They decide to go back to Basil's home in England, learn about each other and give Jackson the opportunity to become acquainted with the cousins he never knew he had.

In England is the Channing family, and they are also oblivious to the fact that Basil was married and fathered a child. They are also in the middle of planning a wedding with the help of our heroine, Lady Theodosia "Teddy" Winslow. Teddy is a wedding planner. Now, I had my doubts that a woman in that time period could be a wedding planner but I glossed over that. Anyway, Teddy is one of those stunning, long-legged, red-headed, lush heroines who instantly brings down stodgy heroes when they enter the room - and that's what happens in this book. That is also the only spark I could find in the book. I kept reading, plowing on, waiting for a connection, a spark - any kind of life springing off of these pages - but nothing happened.

Remember all those times we want our heroine and hero to talk to each other? Well Jackson and Teddy talk, they discuss, they plan, they harangue, they drone on and on and on. They have a pretend engagement - they love each other - Jackson wants to make it a real engagement - Teddy wants to be a professional, she can never marry - he loves her, he knows she loves him, she doesn't want him to know she loves him, she will be sad when he leaves on his adventure because she loves him. He talks to his father, she talks to her friends, her mother talks to her, his mother talks to his father. And let's not forget the Teddy's dead fiancé who shows up alive and well and in the mood for blackmail - which he has to talk about.

I never had a sense of any connection between Teddy and Jackson. They were just flat unexciting characters and Teddy was irritating in her "I want a career instead of a marriage with a man I love and who loves me" routine. I also never figured out what happened to drive Jackson's parent's apart; other than Basil wanting adventure, it was never fully explained. It also would have been nice if we had been able to see just how Basil and his wife were able to settle their differences. And, these were not just minor differences, these involved keeping a child from his father for 32 years.

Jackson is a beta hero and I usually love beta guys, but in this case he was more of a weenie than anything else. Maybe that could have been some of the problem. He just wasn't that dynamic. He was just all right, and heroes need to be more than just all right, even if they are beta guys.  The sensual chemistry between the pair was also missing. There are a few kisses and then some bed romping but it all seemed lackluster.

Sorry to say I can't recommend this book. Much to my surprise, it was a pretty bland offering from Ms. Alexander. Because of how much I love most of Ms. Alexander's books, this was a big disappointment. I'm not giving up on her; she's one of my auto-reads. It's just that this was a tedious read for me.

Time/Place: Bustle time in England
Sensuality: There is sex, however it's not sensual


Wednesday

Upcoming Historical Romances!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! For: December 15, 2014 to January 14, 2015.
Amelia Grey

The Duke in My Bed
The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels series
December 30
Bronwyn Scott

Playing the Rake’s Game
Rakes of the Caribbean series
December 16
Erin Knightley

The Earl I Adore
Prelude to a Kiss series
January 6
Jessica Peterson

The Millionaire Rogue
Hope Diamond series
January 6
Kathryn Albright

The Gunslinger and the Heiress
Heroes of San Diego series
December 16
Kelly Bowen, debut

I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm
The Lords of Worth series
December 16
Linda Broday

Texas Mail Order Bride
Bachelors of Battle Creek series
January 6
Margaret Moore

Bride for a Knight
December 16
Miranda Neville

The Duke of Dark Desires
The Wild Quartet series
December 30
*Rose Lerner

True Pretenses
Lively St. Lemeston series, ebook

January 13
Sara Luck

A Family for Maddie
December 30
Sherri Browning

An Affair Downstairs
Thornbrook Park series

January 6
Sophia James

Marriage Made in Money
The Penniless Lords series
December 16
*Tessa Dare

Say Yes to the Marquess
Castles Ever After series
December 30
Theresa Romain

Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress
The Matchmaker trilogy
January 6
Vanessa Kelly

How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy
Renegade Royals series
January 6

Tuesday

The Seduction by Julia Ross - Project A-Team

November 11, 2014
Rook to CoQ10 - No, no, that's not right - it's Rook to Queen's Bishop four.

http://www.juliaross.net/

http://www.jeanrossewing.com/
Oh Ms. Ross I wish you were still writing. You do know, Ms. Ross, that self-publishing has come along since your last book. That means you only have to argue with yourself when
you're writing.

A long time ago there was a wonderful writer named Julia Ross who also wrote some traditional Regencies under the name of Jean Ewing Ross. I am the proud possessor of all of these books and I keep hoping that someday all of her books will be released in electronic formatting. There are all kinds of new generations of readers who could the experience the joy of reading one of her gems. However, at this time Ms. Ross has joined the ranks of "whatever happened to." Sigh.

As I read The Seduction, I once again marveled at the length of older books and this one was written in 2002, so it's not alllll that long ago. What could have happened in such a short time to change the length of books? We, the reader are missing so very much by not being able to read a story that is fully developed. It is always nice to pick up a book in which the author has been given plenty of space to expand their story.

The Seduction was a wonderful journey into storytelling filled with a variety of intriguing levels, all intricately intertwined together. This is a magnificent book. Is it perfect? Of course not. There were some things I had issues with, but not the writing, and overall this is a golden oldie. The romance world is a little empty because the voice of Julia Ross is no longer contributing to it.

The Seduction takes its time telling the story of the infamous rake Alden Granville-Strachan and the "I've got a secret" widow Juliet Seton. Ms. Ross is great in setting the scenes in the lush Georgian time period - the language, clothing, and surroundings are so well-drawn one can almost taste the era. Alden is a very sensual man; he loves women while at the same time using them. He wears satin, velvet and lace, but there is never any denying that he is allllll male. In fact all the frou-frou of the day only enhances his manly sensuality.

At the beginning of the story Alden is losing big time in a card game. Now, he seems to have a ton of responsibilities, so why he is in there throwing away his estate is never fully explained, but he is. He is the sole support of an orphaned child which makes him seem even more frivolous. Into this set-up slithers our shady villain Edward, and a wager is made. The wager involves Alden seducing our young widow within a week and returning with a locket she wears around her neck as proof. Alden has no other option but to accept this wager and he's off to the country. By the way, Edward is a very sinister villain. He's like a spider spinning his web, trapping his unwary victims within. While he doesn't have garlic breath, he does have discolored teeth so if there was even an inkling of a thought for a future hero in him - don't even think it, the teeth give him away.

Anyway, Alden has a plan - sort of. He appears in Juliet's garden only to find that she doesn't really seem interested in him. So, this calls for drastic action and drastic it is. He spots a bee and once spotting that bee he remembers a childhood incident in which he almost died from a bee sting. Well nothing can get the attention of a woman faster than a man falling down in a swoon at her feet. So, he deliberately encourages the bee to sting him and it does and Alden swoon's at Juliet's feet. Now, contrary to what you might think, Alden is really an intelligent man, he's just desperate. Juliet is forced to take care of an ailing Alden until he recovers. As luck would have it, Juliet falls under Alden's spell almost from the beginning, but she's no push over - she resists him for a long time. Actually, they don't even kiss until almost the middle of the book.

The book seems to be divided into two parts. The first part is the seduction and it is thick with steamy atmosphere as Alden challenges Juliet to a Chess game that of course includes another wager. The narrative changes from seduction in the second half of the book to more intrigue as the characters in the book move as if they were in a chess game. Some of the characters are more sinister and some are just pawns in the overall outcome of the book.  There are numerous secondary characters, all weaving in and out of the tale - each adding their part to the story.  There is no rush to tie up loose ends; instead each thread falls into place. 

This is phenomenal storytelling. Now, I did mention before I had some issues and I did. I found Juliet a hard heroine to like, so it was really hard for me to cheer her on. Even before Alden's eventual betrayal she had quite a fish-wife of a mouth about her. She had an axe to grind with just about everybody and this grinding went on just a tad too long for me. However, there are some incredible moments with her in an asylum that are pretty powerful.  Overall, this is a well-written book by a wonderful author and I wish she was still churning them out.

Time/Place: Georgian England
Sensuality: Hot!!

The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane by Elizabeth Boyle

November 11, 2014
 

Wow, I'm on a roll!
http://www.elizabethboyle.com/

I love reading books with humor in them and now I've had two in a roll! How exciting!  When I found out our heroine was a twin, I thought I might have a problem (I hateesssss twin stories,) however, I'm glad to say that my twin phobia didn't kick in.

We have a grumpy "House" like hero, Wakefield. (By the way, not a big fan of House either.) In this case I found Wakefield's antics, or should I say the things that disrupt his life, to be highly amusing. Louisa, our heroine, barges into his house constantly. She's chasing her mangy cat, trying to clean Wakefield's house, firing cooks, hiring cooks, chopping gardens, hiring adorable kids - just being a very big busybody. Now, while I found this a tad bit much, I also found it over-the-top, slap stick funny. Her being in his house constantly without his permission was highly unbelievable, however, I really enjoyed the silliness of it.  Maybe it's because I am a big fan of heroes who lose control of everything that I found this story, while highly improbable, a pure joy. At least the moments Wakefield and Louisa were together. Most of this book is a light-hearted romance; it is only when some darker elements entered the story that I was less enchanted.

I think if the book had been a little bit longer some of the darker elements could have been developed more. Wakefield has some issues with the loss of his friend in the Napoleonic war, which I think distracts from the wonderful humor found in the book. It could be possible to have a cranky person shouting at do-gooders without there being some dark foreboding reason. Maybe they just don't like people, especially when they enter one's abode without permission and then never go away.  There is also a sequel for Lavinia, Louisa's twin - more will be explained about their mother in that one - I just wish that string had been tied in this one. Lavinia can have a different problem. It is because of the sequel that the ending seemed a little bit incomplete, which is too bad because I loved the story up to that point.  Also added into the mix was a romance or the beginning of a romance between an older couple, not sure if that one will have its own short story or be wrapped up in the next book. I am looking forward to the conclusion of both stories.

Would I recommend this book? You betcha! This was a light read, a light romance, and full of some amusing things. The hero is adorable even if he's irascible and that's because he is totally lost and out of control when it comes to Louisa barging into his life. The story between disagreeable Wakefield and the meddling, take-charge Louisa works, so if you want something that will make you feel good, I suggest The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane, part of the Rhymes with Love series.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot!!

Rendezvous by Amanda Quick - Project A-Team

November 11, 2014
I'm loving my Project A-Team project! So far only one dud.

http://www.krentz-quick.com/

It's been a long time since I've read any Amanda Quick books. I started to lose interest with her Arcane Society series and finally she just dropped off of my auto-buy list.  However, I
have a number of her older books and there are a couple of them that I have rated with an A. The one I chose to reread has one of those scenes in it that for some reason I always remember...the carriage ride. I'm not sure why the memory of that scene stayed with me all of this time, it's been used often enough in the passing years, however at the time I think it was fresh. And, when I finally read the scene again it was as I remember it...sometimes one’s mind doesn't remember things exactly as they happen. But fear not, my memory didn't desert me in this case. Although, this time I did wonder if their unclothed gyrations in a carriage would have been possible or even comfortable, but that's old age creeping up I fear.

Now to the rest of the book, Rendezvous was written in 1991 and as far as I know there wasn't a sequel, although there is a secondary romance going on. This secondary romance would have been better if it had been a sequel because we really don't know what's happening behind the scenes and I'm thinking that would have been quite fun.

If I remember correctly I could always depend on Quick's heroes to make up their mind pretty much in the first chapter that the heroine was for them. And, this is the case with our hero, Harry. Even though he a pretty uptight, stuffy olive and even though he's made a list and the heroine, Augusta, doesn't match any of the qualities on that list he makes up his mind almost right away that she's the one. The rest of the story is trying to convince her of that.

This is a fun read with just an occasional serious undertone wandering through. Mainly, it's a fantastic read as Augusta and Harry try to outmaneuver each other. In the beginning these two appear to be totally different than each other, he's judgmental, uptight, scholarly who doesn't want anyone flighty, volatile, impulsive - which is what Augusta is. She's also such a vivid, alive person it would be hard for anyone, let alone Mr. Stuffy, to resist her. One of the reasons I liked this couple so much, especially Harry, was that he doesn't try very hard to change her. It's like watching someone riding a wave - the wave is so powerful the surfer can't do anything but go with it. It was pure pleasure watching Harry get swept away. It was also a pleasure reading a book which was a little longer than ones that are currently released. It's sad that books seem so short now, and that authors aren't allowed to play with their story. Something else besides the length of this story is a winner, the written word. I could tell that I was reading a book that was written in the 90s, there was a lovely cadence to their flow - and they were fun! The banter between Augusta and Harry was a delight.

If there was any disappointment with the story it would be with Augusta's "I'm a Northumberland Ballinger" routine. I don't blame Harry being irritated with her, she announces it every time he turns around, I found it a tad wearing myself. The other thing that bothered me was her blind acceptance that her brother wasn't a traitor without even questioning whether he may have been. In the end both Augusta and Harry make some concession - however, Augusta makes the least amount and for some reason that made me happy.

I do recommend this book! It was a fun read and I smiled almost all the way through it. Augusta and Harry are a wonderful couple and it would be great to visit them again when they are older. If you've never read this book by Amanda Quick, you really should and hey it's in electronic format!

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Monday

Once Upon a Plaid by Mia Marlowe

November 3, 2014
Unanswered question depresses me.
 

http://www.miamarlowe.com/
I've been a fan of Mia Marlowe ever since she was Emily Bryan, so she's sort of an auto-buy for me. Some of her books have hit the spot with me and some have left me a little empty.
Once Upon a Plaid, while a sweet book, left me feeling out of sorts. I don't like to be out of sorts; I get grumpy and don't throw the stick for my dog when that happens.

Let's explore some of the things in Once Upon a Plaid that made me a Grumpy Gus. We have our hero, William, and our heroine, Katherine. I loved the introduction to this couple. The entire first chapter is dedicated to Katherine avoiding the manly-man William. He disturbs her, he makes her nervous, he makes the hair on her arms stand on end. It's not 'til the end of the chapter that we, the reader, learn that they are actually husband and wife and that they have been married for four years. I liked that surprise at the end of the chapter and was rubbing my hands together with glee at the thought of a marriage-in-trouble book.

Here's the problem: Katherine has left William because she has failed to provide him with an heir. She is terribly in love with him and she would sacrifice anything to give him what she thinks he desires - in this case, a child. They have been married for four years and in that time they have lost one child and she has had numerous miscarriages. It seems she is unable to carry a child full term. Now, because this is an historical novel the importance of having an heir of one’s own body is paramount. Katherine has decided that the best solution for William is that their marriage be annulled and William marry another. William on the other hand wants nothing to do with ending his marriage. He has arrived at Katherine's father's castle, through a raging snow storm with the intention of taking his wife back home where she belongs. He is deeply in love with Katherine. The problem with this couple is communication, especially with William. The loss of all of her children has been a heavy burden for Katherine and she seems to have suffered through all of the losses alone because William has been unable to communicate his pain to her. So, we are presented with a Balogh-like, angst-filled, suffering drama through a lot of the book. Also thrown in is a secondary romance, which was very sweet, between a servant, Dorcas, and the fool, Nab.  I thought Nab's character was one of the better ones in this book, very well-defined, and I was captivated by his story.  There is a third-dary story concerning Katherine's absent brother, Donald, and his pregnant wife. I actually thought this storyline deserved a novella; I would have liked to see Donald grovel a little. There is also a sub-plot with an evil nephew who stole a spear or something and then tried to storm the castle.

My disenchantment with the story was with Katherine and William. After a while I became really annoyed with Katherine vacillating between ending her marriage to William and then the next moment giving him big wet kisses all over his body, even his man nipples. I have to tell you that there were numerous door-slamming moments in this book by William as his wife is hot one moment and cold the next. There was a lot of whankee-roo interruptus. There was also a strong element of faith in this story, and I'm not a big fan of religious overtones in my stories. However, this was a historical and Katherine didn't have too much of anything else to cling to. But my biggest problem with this story was something I keep asking throughout the whole book, and it was left unanswered at the end. We have a woman who is unable to carry a child and this woman happens to live in a time period when medical science would have been unable to help give her the child she so desperately wanted. The solution at the end of the story was that William tells Katherine that he has nephews who can inherit so there isn't any problem and she shouldn't worry. Katherine is happy, William is happy, everyone is happy - we have our happy ending. But wait! Here is where my mind kicked in. I am assuming that Katherine and William are still going to have sex. Just because a woman is unable to carry a child full term doesn't mean she can't get pregnant. So, what does the future hold for Katherine? Years and years of one failed pregnancy after another? This is where the story failed me. There was never any mention of William using something to prevent Katherine's possible pregnancy. And, I would think that her loss of so many children would trigger some kind of warning bells that there was something dangerously wrong with Katherine's health, something that could someday be life-threatening to her. In the end, that was what kept looming in my head. I think I understand that Ms. Marlowe was trying to inspire us with surrogacy parent-hood and maybe that would have worked in a contemporary novel. I would have preferred that the ending show Katherine giving birth to a healthy child, but since that wasn't what the story was about then I would have liked William saying something about protecting his wife from future impregnation. For me, that was the void that should have been filled and that was why I was a Grumpy Gus.

Time/Place: 1529 Scotland
Sensuality: Hot