Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean

January 28, 2015
Let me muse on that, again and again and again.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes books by different authors sort of blend in together? I had to keep reminding myself that this book was part of the Rules of Scoundrel's series by Sarah MacLean and not part of the The Wild Quartet by Miranda Neville. It just seemed to me that I could mix the stories together from either series and not be able to tell. Of course, that really doesn't have anything to do with my review, it was just a thought that crossed my mind while reading this story. I had numerous ponder moments while reading this story, much like the characters in Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover. Yes, there was a lot of brain activity going on, a lot of pondering and musing by Duncan (hero) and Chase, aka Anna, aka Georgina (heroine).

This has not been my favorite series by Sarah MacLean; we've had a couple of whiny heroes in it and the title of this one might lead one to think this is a light-hearted story - it's not. By the way, I am not overly fond of the "cute" titles that are flooding Romanceland these days. Not only do they misrepresent the stories, but some of them are really close enough to puns that they travel into groan territory. Catch a Falling Heiress, Earls Just Want to Have Fun, The Immortal Who Loved Me, The Nightingale Before Christmas, etc.

Now to our story. If you have been following this story you will know that there is a gaming establishment called Fallen Angels. There are four partners - Temple, Bourne, Cross, and Chase - and we've had all but Chase's story. Go no further if you haven't read any of these books! It was revealed in the last story that Chase was... wait for it... not a man but a woman! Yes, Chase is a woman disguised as a man. And, here I go again. I just have to say - again, I don't understand how these women in Romanceland can get away with pretending to be men for so long. Unless a woman is really really quite masculine I've never understood how they do it. Besides that we all know that women in Romanceland are not masculine looking. Oh sure they have wrap-around long legs, even when they are only five feet tall, but usually these women have curves - curves all over the place. So this disguised-as-a-man routine hasn't always been one of my favorite themes. At least this time she's not pretending to be a nine year old boy. I digress.

So, we have Chase the pretend guy who is the founder of the Fallen Angels and at times he pretends to be a "lady of the evening," sort of like Kitty from Gunsmoke. When Chase is a strumpet he becomes a she by the name of Anna, but in reality she is Georgina the sister of a duke. Now, Georgina made a mistake when she was sixteen. She laid in some straw with the stable boy, who she thought she luved, had a spot of whankee-roo, confessed her love, and watched as he grinned and walked away. Because of his cavalier treatment she can never trust another man. Not only that, but she finds out she is pregnant from the short encounter. So, she hides away with her child until she decides to reenter society. As luck would have it a cartoon of her scandalous past is broadcast in a scandal paper and now everyone is talking about her. Because of all the gossip it will make it harder for her to marry.  Somehow in her thinking she thinks that marrying a title will be of more benefit to her and her illegitimate child than being a sister to a duke. I never quite understood how she thought that a husband's protection would be any better than a brother's protection - but hey that's the plot. And, that is what she goes after with a unrelenting mind-set. Nothing can keep her from her goal of a guy with a title, even love. This stubbornness at times makes her unlikeable and often irritating.  Not only is she determined to find a titled husband, she is also not above using blackmail to do it. Over the years in her career as Chase she has documented files and files on people - secrets just waiting to be exploited. She is also not above using those secrets to seek revenge on people she perceives as ridiculing her in the past/present and future. She is an interesting woman and one that nobody wants to antagonize.

The most important thing to her is to see her daughter established in society, whether her daughter wants to be or not. Even if she was to fall in love with the richest, most powerful-lest, hunk-i-est manly man guy in the world. If there wasn't a title in front of his name, she wouldn't want him. Which leads me to our hero, Duncan, a powerful newspaper man, who coincidentally is responsible for the release of the scandalous cartoon. But that's ok, he's sorry. He is also similar in personality to Georgina. He is ruthless and occasionally vicious. In fact, he reminded me a little of William Randolph Hearst in his brutality, except Duncan is handsome. Together Duncan and Georgina make one volatile couple. There isn't any soft side to these two, which didn't bother me. What did bother me, what exasperated me was the constant, repetitive thought processes they gyrated through. I love you, who is Chase - I love you - I can't tell you - you love Chase more than you love me - I love you - I can't trust you - what are your secrets. In my opinion, trust and love walk hand and hand, you can't have one without the other. The constant thoughts of love or falling in love between Duncan and Georgina followed quickly by not trusting each other went on waaaaay too long.

Sometimes I read or see something that embarrasses me, even when it's not happening to me, and I had one of those moments in this book. For some reason Georgina decides that confessing her identity as Chase on top of a table in a room full of people is the way to save Duncan. Which was followed by one of those "I am Spartacus" moments with all of her friends yelling out that they are Chase. Not only was I embarrassed by this scene, I wondered how this was going to help her reputation or help her daughter's reentry into society.

Bottom line, I was not as enthralled with this story as I wanted to be. I was tired of the repetitive brain think, and Georgina/Chase/Anna's reasoning powers were beyond me. Duncan had issues with trust and not being able to catch on to who Chase really was - even after all the hints that whizzed by his head.  Duncan and Georgina/Chase/Anna annoyed me too much to enjoy this story.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


Here They Come!!!Historical Releases for February 15 to March 14, 2015!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

January 23, 2015
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! For: February 15, 2015 to March 14, 2015.
Cynthia Breeding

Sister of Rogues, ebook
Rogue series
February 17
Georgie Lee

A Debt Paid in Marriage
February 17
Hannah Howell

Highland Guard
The Murrays series
February 24
Hope Tarr

Claimed by a Rogue
The Claimed series
March 4
Isabella Bradford*

A Sinful Deception
Breconridge Brothers
March 3
Jane Ashford

Married to a Perfect Stranger
March 3
Jennifer McQuiston

Diary of an Accidental Wallflower
Seduction Diaries series
February 24
Julia Justiss

The Rake to Rescue Her
The Ransleigh Rogues series
February 17
Katherine Ashe*

I Loved a Rogue
Prince Catchers series
February 24
Lisa Plumley

Morrow Creek Runaway
Morrow Creek series
February 17
Madeline Hunter*

His Wicked Reputation
The Wicked series
March 3
Marguerite  Kaye

The Soldier’s Dark Secret
Comrades in Arms series
February 17
Stephanie Laurens

The Tempting of Thomas Carrick
Cynster series
February 24
Susanna Ives*

Wicked, My Love
Wicked Little Secrets series
March 3
Suzanne Enoch*

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid
Scandalous Highlanders series
March 3
Tracy Anne Warren

The Bedding Proposal
Rake of Cavendish Square series
March 3
Vicky Dreiling

What a Devilish Duke Desires
Sinful Scoundrels series
February 24


The Duke of Dark Desires by Miranda Neville

January 21, 2015
Finally, paydirt!

Yes, fellow romance readers, I believe Ms. Neville as finally hit paydirt.
My opinion - The Duke of Dark Desires just may be Ms. Neville's best story to date. And, am I glad. After Lady Windermere's Lover I was vexed. Yes, vexed! In fact, I debated whether to pick up this one. However, Ms. Neville lured me into her web and I'm glad she did.

This was a gem of a story filled with dark secrets, angst, guilt, revenge, lies, mistrust, and an occasional comic relief moment. Thank goodness we were given some laughs hither and yon, 'cause this story would have required some Valium without them. Was I ecstatic with everything in this book? Puleese, of course there were a few features I had problems with, but those were minor bumps in the road and we will talk about those later. First, let's talk about what I loved.

Let's begin with Julian Fortescue. We got us a hunk here, people! He has one of my favorite attributes - no, not that, although he does seem to have a pretty active Mr. Toad - he's has lonnngg black hair and startling sky blue eyesss. Startling blue eyes - what does that mean? Does that mean the blue is startling or are the eyes big and round? Somehow, I don't think our hero has Orphan Annie eyes. He also admits to being hairy - not sure how much though, and he is the proud owner of a roiling sac (sounds painful.) Beyond the physical, he is also a very complex guy. His mother has just dumped his three half-sisters on his doorstep and high-tailed it off with her new young husband. He has tried to maintain a distance from his sisters. One of the best things in the book is Julian and his sisters' growing relationship. The sisters each have their own separate personality. When they are first introduced into Julian's household they are resentful for being dumped on his doorstep, just as he is resentful for their being dumped. I enjoyed watching Julian and his sisters - Maria, Fenella, and Laura - test the waters of bonding. Fenella, my favorite, was a commanding secondary character and I imagine Ms. Neville had quite a time keeping her from taking over the book.

Then we have Julian's relationship with our heroine, Jane Grey, aka Jeanne de Falleron. There was a lot going on here. Jane/Jeanne's family fell victims to the Reign of Terror in France - her father, mother and two sisters. Jane/Jeanne's purpose in being in England is to look for the betrayer of her family and all she knows is that he is a Fortescue. Her alias of Jane Grey allows her to be a governess, which comes in handy because Julian Fortescue needs one. How convenient - yes, there are a lot of coincidences in this story. So, now she can try to find the Fortescue who sent her family to the guillotine. Of course, along the way she becomes entangled with her feelings for Julian's sisters, to say nothing of her reaction to Julian.

Ahhhh, Julian. Julian is a rake, he's a sensualist, he loves women and sometimes with Jane/Jeanne he gets really close to crossing the lines of boss/subordinate sex. In fact, when he interviews Jane/Jeanne for the job he hires her to be his mistress, while she thinks he's hiring her to be a governess. Well, it doesn't take long for Jane/Jeanne to catch onto Julian intentions - maybe it's that he puts her in the bedroom next to his. Jane/Jeanne is no shrinking violet, she tells Julian where he can get off and the relationship moves on from there. They become comrades of sorts, friends, and even though he still wants her, he pulls back on the intimidation. Then he finds out about her past life, some of the things she had to do to survive, and feels like a heel. Their whole unfolding relationship was incredible to read, because there is a secret we know that they don't. As we watch these two fall in love, we know that sometime, somehow the eggs, pie, stuff is going to hit the fan - and it does. In one glorious "oh nooooo" scene. Ah, the tension.

If I had a quibble with this story it was in Jane/Jeanne's belief that she was a whore because of the way she chose to survive. For me Jane/Jeanne was such a strong personality that I found the pity-poor-me routine out of character. When she accepted her horrible cousin's browbeating about a Falleron would die rather than submit, I wanted her to slug him - instead she was the one who was hurt. I thought the choice she made at the age of 15 was the right one. Her life choices were what made her a very compelling character, and there was a bit of that lost in her boo-hoo moment.

Except for a few minor hiccups, I loved this book. I loved watching the poignant scenes between Jane/Jeanne and Julian's sisters. The loss of her own sisters and her growing love for his three siblings was almost tear-worthy. Julian and Jane/Jeanne were an incredibly strong couple who fall in love. They are good for each other, they give each other courage to continue and they both learn to forgive. This is a must read.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

January 15, 2015
Anachronism: "something (such as a word, an object, or an event) that is mistakenly placed in a time where it does not belong in a story, movie, etc." Merriam-Webster.

I, like most romance readers, have seen tons of books loaded with anachronisms pass by my eyes. Sometimes we whine, rant, and throw tirades about them. Sometimes we just shrug our itty-bitty shoulders and move on. There are message boards loaded with discussions on the proper use of this and that. Whether they be the words used or the objects, or the event, it doesn't take too many anachronisms to stimulate romance readers into expressing themselves - unless - yes, I am throwing an unless into the pot - unless they like the book. And, that's the royal "they." I have tried to analyze why I find some books using anachronisms to be more irritating than others and I haven't really figured it out. Sometimes, I just like the story so much or the hero or the heroine that I ignore those nasty 21st century things. I have also read authors who write contemporary people dressed up in historical costumes and I have accepted those stories. I find it easier to accept those books if they have an element of humor in them; dark, angst-filled historical dramas filled with 21st century words, actions and objects are less acceptable.  If you haven't caught on by now, Say Yes to the Marquess was filled with dialog, thoughts, objects that were not of the time period portrayed. While I did appreciate most of the story and enjoyed the hero and heroine, loved the secondary characters, the 21st century reared it's unpleasant head one too many times. Sorry to say, I didn't enjoy this story as much as I wanted to.

Our romantic couple are Clio and Rafe and they have the advantage of knowing each other since they were young. Rafe has been in lust with Clio since she started budding, which could be a problem seeing as how she is engaged to his brother, Piers. So, poor ol' Rafe has gone his way, becoming the black sheep of the family, irritating his father, drinking, carousing - you know the standard ploy. He has also chosen as his career, boxing. I confess, I confess, I'm not a big fan of sports, any sports and if I was forced to come up with a list of sports I would actually watch, boxing would be on the very bottom. I do like Rhythmic Gymnastics - can't really see a manly man twirling a stick with a ribbon attached though. I digress. Rafe lust after Clio, but Clio is engaged to his brother. And, when I say engaged, I mean e-n-g-a-g-e-d - for eight l-o-n-g years.  I must admit when I found out how long Clio had been mildewing away I asked myself, "why?" My initial reaction to Clio's waiting was "Are you kidding me? Are you crazy? What kind of a doormat are you?" So, I had a hard time liking her namby-pamby ways.

Through most of the book Clio was two different people; she was the woman who let people walk all over her (which includes her insensitive sister Daphne) and the woman who has a dream - a dream where she is the owner of a brewery. I can only assume that a woman owner of a brewery would be mighty hard to pull off in Clio's time period. So, I respected the dream girl, but at the same time I was irritated with the subservient drudge. I think I would have liked Clio better if she had stood up to someone - anyone. I don't care who! There were so many people walking all over her, her sister, her brother-in-law, her fiancé and even Rafe. I would have loved to see her blast just one of those people.

On the other hand, I loved Rafe. There wasn't too much about him that bothered me; he was just a standard, guilt-ridden hero. If I had to pinpoint an issue I had with him, it would be that he didn't listen to what Clio was trying to tell him. Oh sure, he's aware that she's talking to him, after all her mouth was moving; he's just not hearing what she's saying. (Sort of like what happens every day at my house.) Rafe was a strong lead, I just wish the woman he fell in love with had been his match. 

My favorite people in the book were secondary characters, Bruiser and Phoebe. Bruiser seems to be Rafe's trainer, however, in some pretty comedic scenes he pretends to be a wedding planner. Even though the scenes with Bruiser were pretty unrealistic, they were also very funny. The other interesting character was Clio's sister Phoebe. She seems to be some kind of mathematical genius, maybe a little autistic savant, I'm not sure or maybe she's just socially inept. If Ms. Dare does chose to have Phoebe in another book I would hope she doesn't use a heavy hand with her. Right now she is a delightful character and if written properly her story could really be good.

One other thing, I grow weary of whankee-roo interruptus in my books. Please lock the doors before you proceed with your maneuvering!

For me this was an uneven read. There were parts that I enjoyed, and I loved Bruiser and Phoebe. I found Rafe to be charming and Clio to be weak. I also was irritated that I noticed the anachronisms, which is never a good sign.

Time/Place: 1820s England
Sensuality: Hot


What a Lady Demands by Ashlyn Macnamara

January 5, 2015
"You can do side bends or sit-ups, but please don't lose that butt." - SirMixaLot

Yes, yes I confess! I was surfing the Barnes and Noble website when the cover of What a Lady Demands caught my eye. It's really quite a cheesy cover but, hey, my eyes just couldn't look away from the firm butt packed in those tight white pants. So, what could a girl do? I bought the book. See, sometimes book covers do sell - you just never know.

What a Lady Demands is the second in The Eton Boys trilogy and it probably would have helped a bit if I had read the first in the series. There are parts of this story that are not meant for a standalone novel. There seems to be a large back story for our heroine, Cecelia Sanford, and that back story wasn't fully explored, so at times I had hard time understanding Cecelia's motivation. Because of this missing part I didn't have a clear understanding of Cecelia's need to hide from her brother, and that was irritating. It should not have been necessary for me to read the first story in the series to catch on to what made Cecelia click.

Nonetheless, I did like the Cecelia we are presented with in this book. She is an endearing character who has some dark secrets. (By the way, those dark secrets were more titillating than anything else and didn't really add much to the story.)

I found the first half of the book enjoyable; however, the last part of the story lost its sparkle when all the doom-and-gloom secrets are revealed. Between Cecelia and our hero, Lindenherst, there is plenty of guilt, angst, and lies hanging over their heads - maybe too much. Spoiler alert.

I believe I would have liked the second half of the tale better if Lindenherst hadn't been so stubborn and persistent with his revenge. I also had a problem with his treatment of his son. His demeanor toward Jeremy was not hero-like. He was cold, disproving, and unloving to the boy. At first, I didn't know if he was cold to the child because Jeremy had some kind of disability or, as I suspected, because Jeremy wasn't his son. For me it didn't matter what his reason; his treatment of a very endearing child was atrocious.

What saved the story for me was the relationship between Cecelia and Jeremy. Cecelia is able to break through Jeremy's wall of pain to the child beneath who is desperately seeking his father's love. I just wish Lindenherst had been more deserving of Jeremy's idolization. However, this story is a romance and the strongest chemistry should be between Cecelia and Lindenherst, not Cecelia and Jeremy.

Villains: Let's talk about the two men in this book who were villains - two villains - one for the hero and one for the heroine. The heroine's villain, Eversham, is a handsome, sensual sleaze ball and is truly a villain. The hero's villain, Battencliffe, happens to be his ex-friend and one of the Eton boys. Battencliffe is handsome, selfish and has a long way to go to become a redeemable honorable hero. He is also the one who Lindenherst is seeking revenge against. I also have to say that at one point in this book our true villain, Eversham, is leaning against a fence. Now, I admit I have a thing for guys in romance books leaning against things. I don't care if it's a wall, fence, fireplace, horse, chair, there is just something about that action that is very sensual. And, in this book when the author propped up the villain against a fence, my little heart went pitter-pat. Be careful, authors, when using a stance mostly reserved for heroes; it may make the villainy harder to grasp. As far as Battencliffe, I have to say the author has created a pretty intense bad boy for her next hero. He is hardly honorable, incredibly selfish, so it should be interesting to see how Ms. Macnamara does it.

Overall, What a Lady Demands was a story that could have been so much more. The first part of the story was lovely with a strong heroine and an angst-filled hero. What started as a strong beginning was lost in the revenge plot and an over-the-top villain in the second half. I was disappointed the second part didn't live up to the promise of the first. This could have been an outstanding romance if not for the revenge/blackmail distraction of the second part.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot