Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid by Suzanne Enoch

April 30, 2015
Do ye' ken? Anaither Scottish tale.

This is like a broken record in more ways than one. Suzanne Enoch latest Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid is the latest in the Scandalous Highlanders series. This one is about
Rowena, the sister in the MacLawry family. And, as we are told 500 gazillion times in this book she's a fierce highland lass. The hero of this story is Lachlan MacTier, Viscount Gray, who, by the way, just may be in the running for the Bonehead hero award.

I have enjoyed the other stories in this series and I especially loved Ranulf's story. That's a good thing, because let me tell you Ranulf was a big pain in the bahooky this time around. Yes, I know he's a controlling older brother who has all the responsibilities of his land, brothers, sister, neighbors, clan, wife and sheep on his shoulders. Yes, he is not the only controlling older brother I've ever seen in a Romanceland novel, but usually there is also a gentleness revealed just below the surface in most of those guys which seemed to be lacking in this presentation of Ranulf. That's too bad, because it was one of the things that darkened my enjoyment of this book. Though that wasn't the only thing that caused a shadow here and there.

Let's start with Rowena. She's very young. I mean really young and not just chronologically but she's really, really immature. She has always luved Lachlan, followed him around when they were wee bairns, ye ken. He has totally ignored her. She is like a mosquito buzzing around his head. Well, when she turns seventeen she decides to run off to London, which is actually Ranulf and Charlotte's story. Well, now she has turned eighteen and she's allll grown up and she has men tripping all over her and she is going to return to Scotland to attend her brother's wedding and she's going to bring her London friends with her and she's not going to talk with a Scottish brogue and she's going to like totally ignore that big oaf Lachlan. Rowena was a real irritating character; she was, like, totally into herself, she was like embarrassed of the sheep. Ehmagawd! Being a highlander was totally uncool. It wasn't till she was kidnapped that I had any fondness for her, but, by that time I had only a few chapters left.

Then we have Mr. Bonehead - Lachlan. For years and years he ignores Rowena - she is nothing but a big irritate in his manly life and then she shows up with her London friends and bumps on her chest! Now he sees her! She's got gazongas! She's a fierce highland beauty! She's fierce, fierce, fierce and he must have her! He must sneak into her bedroom at night and coerce her into a kiss! He must trip up all the other guys so he will be the only one left. He must navigate around his best friends in the whole world, her brothers, take her innocence and then lie about it.

I've read Suzanne Enoch since the beginning of time and I will always read her books. I love a lot of her stories; if I didn't I wouldn't still be reading her. However, every once in a while there is one book that doesn't live up to the rest of the books in the series and for me Mad, Bad, and Dangerous falls short.

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

The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor

April 30, 2015
Another book in Scotland

The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor takes place in a time period I don't believe I've ever read in a romance - during the reign of Queen Anne of Great Britain. This would be
right before the Hanover's moved in to take over the throne. Anne would be the last Stuart to sit on the throne - unless, of course, you actually look at the family tree and see all the Stuarts in the Hanover family. Anyway, that tussle between the Stuarts is the background plot in this book.

I will say this right up front: I really don't have a problem with books written in Scotland and that's a good thing because there seems to be a ton of them lately. I love the brogue, usually, although I recently started one by Amanda Scott and I was looking so many words up I couldn't continue. That particular book made me realize that there could be toooo much of a good thing or in that case tooo much brogue. But, back to The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor. This book is part of a series which I have not read, but I didn't need to read the others in the series to follow this one. Having said that, there were a number of people from the other books who did put in an appearance.

Here is the premise. Captain General Daniel Marlow aka the Jacobite Killer, has been sent to Scotland to escort Jacobite Abigail MacGregor to Queen Anne. Originally Queen Anne wanted Abigail's mother, Davina, to come but she's sickly so Abigail comes in her place. This may come as a surprise to you but there are a lot of secrets in this story. As it turns out, I didn't really buy in to any of those secrets and that turned out to be a problem for me. 

Secret number one - Davina turns out to be the oldest daughter of James II of England. For some reason she was secretly raised as a Catholic in a convent. At first, I thought she was an illegitimate daughter but her mother was Anne Hyde.  This would mean she was legitimate. Maybe if I had read Davina's story this would have made sense, but I didn't and this part of the story was just waaay over the top for me to believe. Why would you put one child in a convent, especially the heir to the throne, and raise the other children as Protestants? It just didn't make any sense. Then Davina sends her daughter to tell Davina's sister (the queen) that she (Davina) is just not interested in ruling Great Britain - no siree. Davina was happy with the sheep in Scotland.

Anyway, the queen sends her bestist captain general, a man who has slaughtered hundreds of Scots to bring back one girl annndd doesn't tell him the reason why. You would think that the "why" might be important for the captain general to know - maybe he would like to plan some strategies or be on the lookout for things that might evolve around this secret. I don't think it's ever a good plan to keep secrets from ones captain general. However, Queen Anne has been keeping other secrets from Daniel. It seems that Queen Anne's husband, George, fathered Daniel. Could be possible. But from what I understand of Prince George, he was devoted to Queen Anne, rather dull, not so very clever and not much of a ladies man. He was very much a shadow of Queen Anne. He also impregnated her seventeen times; only one of those children living to the age of eleven. None of that background history has anything to do with the story though, except for me. Knowing George's history I was unable to accept him as the father of Daniel. Besides that, I wasn't sure what that had to do with the story - other than the queen keeping it a secret from Daniel for years, it didn't really add anything to the narration.

There were some other things that were thrown into the storyline that didn't add anything. One of those things was the possessive woman/villain who wanted Daniel more than any guy in the whole world. She was dangerous. If there was any woman who so much as glanced his way, they would disappear or be injured or something horrible would befall them. When she was first thrown into the mix, I thought she might have a run in with Abigail, but nothing really happened there. In the end, she joined all those other villains who get shipped off to some-place-else, The Island of Misplaced Villains.

Now, about the romance. Well because Daniel kills Jacobites and Abigail has seen Jacobites killed and she hatessss the Jacobite Killer there might be a bit of a problem with these two finding their HEA. Hey, this is Romanceland! After pages and pages of I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I can't trust you, I can't trust you, I can't trust you, you lied to me, you lied to me, you lied to me, my eyes glazed over, my eyes glazed over, my eyes glazed over, they have a HEA. All the MacGregors, along with Queen Anne and Daniel have a picnic in Scotland - la la la.

This story was too much of a stretch for me to enjoy. I am a big fan of Historical Romance, not too much of a fan of Historical Fiction and this book touches too much into Historical Fiction for my taste. So, for me it didn't work - maybe others would enjoy it, because the writing is not bad. The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor just wasn't my cup of tea.

Time/Place: Scotland/Great Britain/roads 1709
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

A Good Rake is Hard to Find by Manda Collins

April 30, 2015
As Marlon Brando said in The Wild Ones "Mumble, mumble, mumble, I could slap you around to show you how good you are mumble, mumble, mumble, I'm someplace else and I don't even know you or nothing. Mumble, mumble, mumble."

I have never been a big fan of movies/television shows/books about motorcycle gangs, especially after seeing the classic, hysterically funny, The Wild Ones. (By the way, it's not supposed to be funny.) So, when I opened Manda Collins' latest regency series and found out that the series was about a curricle racing group of guys calling themselves the Lords of Anarchy, the first thought that popped into my head was, "how silly," followed closely by a groan and the strong desire to put the book aside. I didn't put the book down, I persevered, but there were times - even while reading it - I almost put it down. I found the romance clumsy, the story telling uneven and the curricle racing gang not really as dangerous as - oh, I don't know - a real bad guy group like Hell's Angels. The whole premise of a secret society curricle racing bunch of guys just didn't work for me. They were more horrible frat guys than anything else. They had some kind of ludicrous initiation. They had secrets, they raced, they boxed, they had orgies (I guess), and more secrets. Oh sure, they murdered someone, Jonathan, our heroines brother. They murdered him because he knew their secret or he knew they boxed or he was going to leave the club or something. By the end of the book, I still wasn't quite sure what the secret was or why he was murdered. And, the villains didn't receive an adequate punishment. They were shipped off to the Island of Misplaced Villains.

Lord Frederick Lisle aka Freddy. While I cringe when heroes are named Lance, Saber, Blade, Rod, Dirk, I also had a hard time accepting a manly man hero named Freddy. Usually, in romance books Freddy is the goofy side kick or obnoxious brother. When we are first exposed to Freddy, I had already formed an opinion of him based solely on his name. Should I have done that? Probably not, but I did. As the book moved along, he did become more masculine. However, I continued to have a problem with the name. 

We are also introduced to two other men in the beginning: the Duke of Trent and the Earl of Mainwaring and they are members of the opposing curricle racing club, The Four Horse Club or as they call themselves the FHC. Evidently, they are the good club, they must not race or box or womanize - right. Anyway, they are all friends of the dearly departed Jonathan Craven and they are suspicious of the manner of his death. They think the only way to find out how their friend Jonathan died is to have Freddy infiltrate the group. I thought infiltrate was rather an odd word to use, seeing as how Freddy's cousin Sir Gerald Fincher was the head of the Anarchy group and Freddy made no attempt to hide what he was doing.

Added to that storyline was Leonora Craven, Jonathan's sister. By the way she was also the ex-fiancĂ© of Freddy, and she's also suspicious of Jonathan’s manner of death and she must find a way to infiltrate the Anarchy club, so it's only logical that she pretend to be Freddy's fiancĂ© and they both will spy on the bad guys. Here's the thing: even with alllll the supposed secrecy and supposed nefarious things going on, the people in the bad curricle gang knew right away what Leonora and Freddy were up to. On top of that, Leonora and Freddy's idea of covert operation was just a manner of asking questions, and not very sly questions at that. So, the murder mystery wasn't mysterious, there wasn't any cat and mouse things going on. No thrills, no chills, no nothing.

Then there's the romance. While Eleanor might have been an interesting character. By the way, she has a secret reason for breaking her previous engagement to Freddy. I do have to ask why she became engaged to him in the first place since she had her "secret" before the engagement. Spoiler. Her secret is that she’s infertile. How does she know? She had a miscarriage and her golden vessel doesn’t work anymore, or so she's been told. However, she already knew all of this when she accepted his proposal and then later on broke the engagement because of it. Didn't make a whole lot of sense. 

Anyway, allll through the book we get to read how Eleanor cannot marry Freddy because she cannot give him an heir. She doesn't tell him why. However, I didn't really care because Freddy had about all the emotions of a wet noodle. Unlike other heroes who have problems containing their overactive Toad-guy, his Mr. Toad doesn't put in an appearance. Freddy is hardly ever excited, he just bland. There isn't any chemistry between Freddy and Eleanor - no spark - nothing.

This book took me a long time to read and I'm sorry to say I just really cannot recommend it. A lot of things didn't make sense, the bad guys weren't dangerous enough, the villain gets to have some vacation time in Europe, the mystery wasn't mysterious, the danger wasn't dangerous and the romance didn't have any sparkle.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Ho-hum hot


Ta-Ta-Dah! Upcoming Historical Releases!!!

April 20, 2015
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! For: May 15, 2015 to June 14, 2015.
Anne Gracie
The Spring Bride
Chance Sisters Romance series
June 2
Annie Burrows
A Mistress for Major Bartlett
Brides of Waterloo series
May 19
Blythe Gifford
Whispers at Court
Royal Weddings series
May 19
Bronwyn Scott
Rake Most Likely to Rebel
Rakes on Tour series
May 19
Cara Elliott*
Passionately Yours
Hellions of High Street series
May 26
Carol Arens
Wed to the Montana Cowboy
May 19
Caroline Linden*
Love in the Time of Scandal
Scandalous series
May 26
Elizabeth Hoyt*
Dearest Rogue
Maiden Lane series
May 26
Emily Greenwood
The Beautiful One
Scandalous Sisters series
June 2
Isabel Cooper*
Night of the Highland Dragon
June 2
Jane Godman
A Kiss for a Highlander
The Georgian Rebel
June 9
Jessica Peterson
The Undercover Scoundrel
Hope Diamond trilogy
June 2
Joanna Shupe*
The Lady Hellion
Wicked Deceptions series
May 26
Mary Balogh*
Only a Promise
Survivors’ Club series
June 9
Mia Marlowe*
Never Resist a Rake
Somerfield Park series
June 2
Stephanie Laurens
A Match for Marcus Cynster
Cynsters series
May 26

Four Nights with the Duke by Eloisa James

April 20, 2015
Ah, words...

In Four Nights with the Duke, Eloisa James proves that not only can she quote Shakespeare, she also can spout dirty words. That is what we have in this story: a hero, Vander, who has a potty mouth, and a heroine, Mia, who has an inferiority complex - big time. When I pick up a book by Ms. James, I can pretty much be sure I will receive a lesson in Shakespeare, but I can also be sure that somewhere in that book there is going to be some kind of bullying and some kind of insecurities. And, there was in this story - some of it worked and some of the issues didn't work. Four Nights with the Duke is also part of a series within a series - it is tied to the Desperate Duchesses.

I was perplexed by this book. One moment I was enjoying a character, laughing at some funny lines and the next moment I was trying to reach through the pages and throttle someone, mostly Vander. Here's what I loved. I loved the little epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. Usually, I skip over those but in this case they caught my attention and I thought they were rather amusing. You see, our heroine is a romance writer and at the beginning of each chapter is her working and reworking of her novels. They were pretty funny and I believe pretty close to some of the struggles that authors go through when writing. There were two secondary characters that were just delightful: Chuffy, the alcoholic uncle to our hero, and Charles Wallace, the young nephew of Mia. When those two were present in the narrative, regardless of who they were interacting with, the story just hummed. Where the book lost some of its glimmer for me was when Vander and Mia were connecting or not connecting.

Let's look at Mia. Mia has issues with her body, big issues. She sees herself as fat, but she is actually what my mother would have called voluptuous. Regardless of the skinny perception of beauty today, let me tell you that most men still like women with big bazookas. There isn't anything that will make a man's head whip around faster than a woman with giant mammilla’s. And, I think that every woman evvvveeeeer has to know those are what most men stare at when they are talking to a woman. So, for Mia to call her bosom ugly cabbages was baffling. Sure, she might have had some juvenile boys laughing at her when she was young. However, her perception of herself when she grew up should have changed. Since she was portrayed as an author, I can only think that her perception of things around would have been a little bit more enlightened. She should have had a stronger sense of how people reacted to her and she should have seen herself as she really was. A shapely petite woman with big assets. So, she was a little off - strong then weak then strong then weak.

I know, I know, there are women who are insecure - there are people who are insecure, but in Mia's case it was over the top (no pun intended) and it went on for way tooo long. And, it wasn't consistent with some of her other actions. She was secure in her writing, in her ability to raise her nephew and even in her blackmail attempt of Vander. I just grew tired of her belittling herself

Then we have Vander. Where do I begin? There were times when I liked him, but there were more times when I found his behavior atrocious. First of all he has a big potty mouth. He loves to talk dirty into our virtuous heroine’s ear. And, he has one of the biggest overactive Mr. Toads of the year. Nothing seems to deter the Toad-man from popping up, even for a woman who is blackmailing you into marriage. Nope-nope-nope. Why, what does Vander do when he's being blackmailed into marrying someone that he doesn't necessarily want? He rips the flap of his pants open and exposes his erector-set to Mia - that will show her. And, that was in the second chapter. Plus all the foul words that were coming out of his mouth - it was just bizarre. All the time he spouting his distaste of Mia, he's sporting a prodigiously enormous stiff Mr. Toad. In fact, he has one almost all the time in this book. He's crude, he's hateful, he's insulting, and he treats Mia abominably but alllll the time he wants drill her. It's a continuous drill, be mean, drill, be mean. The only time we get any relief from this guy is when he's talking to Chuffy or being nice to Charles Wallace. It is only with these two secondary characters that we ever get to see this bonehead hero have any humanity.

So the bottom line for me on this book: it's a toss-up. There were some fine moments between the characters in the book. The prose was excellent. Mia was humorous and strong when she was in her author mode. I could even understand some of her insecurity, at least for part of the time. However, her insecurity went on too long and wasn't always understandable. But the real irritant for me was Vander. When he was in his "hero" mode he was a real whanker and for the most part I found his actions toward Mia inexcusable.

Time/Place: 1790s England
Sensuality: Irritating


It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long

April 17,2015

Every once in a while Romanceland is gifted with a book that you don't want to end - and that is the case in It Started with a Scandal. This is another book in the Pennyroyal series by Julie Anne Long and it is a gem. The pacing in this book is a lesson in some genuinely exquisite writing skills. In fact, I enjoyed this book so much that I didn't make that many notes while reading, which is good, in a way. However, now I have to rely on memory - that would be my memory.

We have Lord Phillipe Lavay, a dispossessed Bourbon who has lost almost everything in the French Revolution. He is convalescing after someone assaulted him, which must have happened in a previous book, however I don't remember it. Evidently, it's not all that relevant in this story, except that it makes him grumpy. Really grumpy; he has temper tantrums and throws things and he just cannot seem to keep a housekeeper. Enter Elise Fountain.

Because Phillipe has run off two housekeepers already, his expectations for Elise staying aren't all that great. But Elise is determined; she needs this job. You see, Elise has a secret of sorts - at least a secret that she keeps from Phillipe. She has an illegitimate son. She has also been shunned by her family and fired from her last job. Upon being hired by Phillipe, she moves her son Jack into Phillipe's household and tells Jack to stay put. She neglects to tell her boss that her son is also living in his house. Because the house is so large and Phillipe is incapacitated, the chances of him running into Jack are minimal. At least that's her thinking. And it works, for a while.

As I said earlier, this book is filled with some wonderful pacing. What I love about this book is that everything is solved quickly. Yes, there is angst and there is a protagonist and many lies are exposed. Conflicts are handled right away with minimal problems. There isn't any long drawn out rubbing of hands or repetitious I'm-not-worthy moments. Phillipe and Elise are wonderfully strong personalities. Their characters are witty, charming and share a strong friendship. There are some great poignant moments in this book: Elise's realization of how much Phillipe's French estate means to him; the china that means so much to him because it is one of the things he was able to rescue from France. Elise making up songs about the ogre Lavay, which by the way she gets caught singing - funny moment. They amuse each other, they grow to like each other, both knowing that she is the housekeeper and he is the lord of the manor. And, it is all written with a gentle touch.

Jack. I think he might be one of the best children I've read in a romance book. He isn't an over-the-top precocious child character. He is written very realistically and seems as if he is actually six years old. The relationship he shares with his mother is lovely. Of course, we expect our heroine to have a strong affinity with her child, but the bond he forms with Phillipe is affectionate, endearing and humorous.

One of the things I love so much about this story is that it is a gentle love story. Please don't interpret gentleness as meaning weak, because it's far from being a weak story. No need to worry that you will be sweating tears and ripping your hair out because of all the high intense anxiety - there isn't any. Not that there isn't conflict; there is, it's just handled differently than most romances. Phillipe and Elise face almost all the bumps in the road with intelligence and a sense of rightness. The Redmonds and Everseas make an appearance, but do not overpower the story. On the down side, the ending hints strongly that I'm not going to get my wish in regards to Olivia and Landsdowne.

There is so much to It Started with a Scandal and it all revolves around some wonderful writing. I promise you will be captivated by this story and you, like me, will not want it to end. In fact, this is one that I intend to read again.

Time/Place: Regency Pennyroyal England
Sensuality: Hot


Scandalously Yours by Cara Elliott

April 9, 2015
Right - er - wrong, no, right.

Another author with another name. Scandalously Yours by Cara Elliott, who happens to have written under the name of Andrea Pickens looonnng ago. She was one of those authors who wrote those little Signet Regencies which I used to gobble up and I have to admit, this book reminded me a little of a Signet.

What we have here is the beginning of a series - the Sloane Sisters series. There is Olivia, Anna, and Caro. All of these sisters are rather outspoken women and not really looking for what other women seem to want - men. They seem to be ahead of their time by about 20 years or so. They are interested in politics and writing, they don't simper very credibly. Thanks to their anthropologist (I think) father they also seem to be aware of how men and women fit together. In fact, there is a highly amusing scene between the three sisters when they discuss a man's pizzle, along with a demonstration. I did chuckle when that scene came along. That scene and many of the other scenes involving the sisters is what makes this a hard book to review. I loved the sisters when they were together.

I also loved some of the other secondary characters in the book, namely our hero’s precocious son Scottie. Where this story fell apart for me was between the two main characters, our hero John and our heroine Olivia. They were more interesting apart than they were together. This story reminded me of Sleepless in Seattle. John is a widower and he actually loved his first wife. His son Scottie thinks that his father doesn't laugh enough and is on the lookout for a new wife for his father. Scottie also doesn't think too much of the women John is courting, especially one Scottie has nicknamed "the Steel Corset." Along with some help from Scottie's bestist friend Lucy they send an advertisement to a newspaper seeking a woman to fill the job of wife/mother.

Olivia, who writes under the pen name of the Beacon, sees the advertisement and just to be funny writes a sarcastic reply. She signs it "Lady Loose-Screw" but doesn't send the reply - however, her sister does. From Scottie's point of view this woman is the perfect candidate and he arranges to meet her. Scottie run's away to London, but his journey doesn't last long because John discovers his son’s plans and overtakes him on the road. After a bit of a tussle, they come to an agreement and set off to London together. John and Olivia meet, but he doesn't discover allll of her identities - she has more than one. The romance between John and Olivia was slow, without too much chemistry, and allowed me to reflect on other things.

Reflection number one. Olivia hops into bed with John, he loves her, and she loves him - although they haven't admitted it yet. So, is the ultimate point of a HEA marriage? Because at times in this story that seemed to be the only thing that the couple was aiming for. Then they admit their love, but still there is hesitation and then there was the out-of-the-blue thought from Olivia's brain that John might love another. Don't know why that bit of pondering was added to the story at the point it was added. It would have worked better in the beginning. It took too long for all the back and forth "should I - do I - will she - will he" to be solved.

Reflection number two. Some might claim a spoiler is approaching. When one's beloved son is kidnapped and one is following over hill and dale in hopes of ambushing the villains, does one take time out for a spot of whankee-roo? It always bothers me in romances that a parent/sibling/loved-one can think of hopping into bed with someone when in reality their biggest emotion has to be fear, not lust. Yeah, yeah, I've heard about the surge of endorphins or whatever when people are in battlefield situations or fighting. But having someone you love kidnapped has to be a totally different can of worms. Which is why for me, partaking in a loving, intimate, lust-filled moment when a child has been taken just doesn't work. In fact, I can't think of any romance book which has this plot in it (and there are tons) that this has ever worked for me.

Reflection number three. Right. There is a point in this book in which the hero replies to the heroine with the slang word "Right." This is not the first time in recent history that this word has appeared in an historical. My immediate reaction was to rant about the proper use of historically accurate slang. I had it all ready, you know the routine - all those authors who have been around forever and should know better. However, before I jumped into my rant I opened up my handy-dandy book called 1811, Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Yes, I own this book. I use it for research and it was first published in 1811. Guess what word was in that book? Go ahead, guess. Yep, right there in black and white was the word "right." And, the definition matched the use in the book. Well, color me red.

What happened? I guess I don't know as much as I thought I did and sometimes there is a difference between what "feels" correct and what "is" correct. Sometimes our gut reactions are nothing more than just guts. I think a lot of times, we the readers jump to conclusions concerning historical accuracy based on our gut. Which is ok, but the problem arises when we act on that reaction - does anyone remember that horrible argument a few years ago (another website) on the use of the word "flute." There was quite a lot of name calling and ridiculous reactions that were thrown around in that discussion. Accusations of the author’s incompetence was thrown out and all the while the use of the word "flute" was correct. That poor author never saw it coming. Recently, I read a review in which the reviewer was questioning the use of the word "f..." in an historical. My first reaction to that comment was “OMG are you kidding,” however I did resist the temptation of responding. For your information that particular word has been around long enough to have a Greek spelling - so that's a long time. Although the word we know in English speaking countries is probably from the Dutch form. But we are still talking 1400s, and, the definition is mostly the same as it is today. So, yes that word would have been used as it was in the book that was reviewed. For me I have learned a lesson. I am actually going to check things out before I start my rants on accuracy. It's easy to do: one just opens a book and reads.

Odds-bodkins, enough reflection. However, that is what happens when one isn't totally enamored of a book. Overall, I found the main characters to be lacking in chemistry, which made their "romance" seem to go on forever. I was entertained by the secondary characters enough to check out the two sisters when their book is released.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Ho-hum

Pleasured by Candace Camp

April 9, 2015

Och, it's time for Super-hump Sassenach man, ye ken.

I haven't read Candace Camp since days of yore when she was Lisa Gregory, and that's been a long time. The skills of a veteran writer are still very prevalent in Pleasured, but before I
begin with my take on this novel let me talk about Peter Jackson. I promise, I will connect the dots. I'm a big fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Love the adventure, love the story. But, I am not such a big fan of battle scenes, especially digitized synchronized battle scenes that go on and on and on. For all of you who have sat through these movies you will know that the battle sequences are quite lengthy. However, there is the magic of DVD and fast-forwarding, something not available in a theater. It's amazing how short those movies are when one is pressing the fast forward button on a remote control. Why do I do that if I love these movies so much? Well, my answer is, if you've seen one digitized synchronized battle scene with orcs you've seen them all. One can only take so much repetitious flying through the air, rhythmic elves jumping over dwarves before one becomes indifferent to the glut. And, that is what happened in Pleasured.

Of course, I did not have a remote control in my hand, but I did skip. What did I skip? Let me put it this way - Damon, our hero, had one of the busiest Timothy Toads I've seen in a long time. This guy was on alert from the moment he cast eyes on our heroine, Meg, to the very last page. And, when Meg finally caves in, OMG, the whacky-dack just filled the pages. Pages and pages. My eyes glazed over.

I'm one of those people who loves Scottish-based romances; never grow tired of all that brogue. I have to admit that Pleasured is vivid in its portrayal of Scotland. There is a strong sense of what was going on at this time period in Scottish history, especially with the land clearances. One of the things which I found interesting was the rendering of our hero Damon when he's allowed to show something more than how much his Timothy Toad controls him. A lot of English lords in Scottish romances are portrayed as the unknowing landlord. Usually they have an evil steward who has been doing things to the poor Scottish people without his knowledge or his approval. Well, in this book we do have an evil steward; however, Damon has told his steward to clear the land of people and told him to make it a productive land. He of course isn't aware of some of the really loathsome things his steward has been doing. So, it was interesting to watch Damon struggle with his aristocratic rights and what Meg wanted for the Scottish people. Because of the way Ms. Camp portrayed Damon's right-to-the land thought process, the antagonism between Meg and the rest of the Scottish people was a little bit more realistic, not the normal we-hate-you-because-you're-a-Sassenach. I thought the conflict in this story was well thought out.

Speaking of Damon's thought processes, he jumps to a number of wrong conclusions concerning Meg. You see, Meg is a healer who lives by herself. Because she has a nice little cottage, she doesn't seem to be starving and she has no visible means of support, he jumps to the conclusion that she sells herself. Because of his over-active Timothy Toad, he tries to set her up, thinking she will be honored. Not only does Meg not like him because he's kicking people off of the land, but now he offers her dishonorable employment. Which she flings back in his face with relish. They are off to a pretty rocky start. There are sparks that fly off of this couple from the very beginning; it is a constant entity hovering in the background. However, as I've said before, once they act upon their desires the spark or chemistry or blaze was overdone and I lost interest in watching these two maneuver around the bedroom.

A moment of reflection. I wonder why in Romanceland when we have a couple who have extra hot steam, can't keep their hands off of each other, that the first time they act on it, they insist on taking off all of their clothes. I can understand partial clothing. In fact I would prefer a half open shirt and some boots left on occasionally. It just seems to me that they start out in this frenzy, then take the time to remove all of their clothes and since I read mainly historical we are talking a lot of clothes. I would love to see the first time frenzy with the clothes on - just once.

Overall, while there were parts of this book I really liked, for the most part, the story was overwhelmed by all the cavorting conjugation. The characters had possibilities but when they crossed that line the story lost its appeal for me. Sometimes all the spark and sensuality gets lost in redundancy.

Time/Place: 1807 Scotland
Sensuality: Lots, but not sensual

His Wicked Reputation by Madeline Hunter

April 2, 2015
Another manly men series begins!
Get ready everyone! Here comes a three part series involving some high maintenance dark alpha brothers. There is Lance, the eldest brother who has recently inherited a dukedom from his dead e-v-i-l brother Percy. Lance has dark hair and dark eyes, which means that he's probably going to look at someone with his dark soulless eyes sometime in the future. He also seems to be the most troubled of the brothers, maybe it's the name Lance. I know I'd be upset if I was named after a long pointy thing. At least it's not Steele or Rod or Pierce or Saber. Lance is arrogant, bored, reckless and for most of this book he has a drink in is hand. All I know is Lance will be needing a really strong woman who can put up with his shenanigans.

The Second brother is Ives aka Ywain, he's a lawyer, he's thirty and has golden streaks in his dark brown hair. That means that at some future time the sun will glitter off of those golden threads while he's admiring the view. Throughout most of this story, he seemed to be the most responsible of the brothers, the wisest and the most controlling. His story is next.

But, let's not forget who this story is really about: Gareth Fitzallen, the youngest of the brothers. He also happens to be illegitimate - he is some kind of art expert and he has devilish eyes. He also seems to have quite a reputation amongst the ladies - his skills as a lover are legendary. Because of his knowledge of art, his brother Ives as asked him to investigate some missing paintings close to the property Gareth hopes to own. While in route to that property he almost runs down our heroine, Eva Russell. After running her into a mud puddle, he tries to apologize by helping her carry the bundle tucked neatly under her arm. She refuses his offer and becomes exceedingly nervous. Guess what she has under her arm? A painting. It seems that she and all of the village people have been "borrowing" items from what they assume is an abandoned property. Turns out it isn't abandoned, it's Gareth's house. (There is some rather humorous writing involved when Gareth's missing "stuff" starts showing up at his house. This all happens after Eva talks to the town people about the things they've borrowed.)

Now, about the painting under the arm. Spoiler ahead. Eva in her innocence, has been borrowing works of art that are in the attic, painting them and innocently selling the copies for a few pittance. One has to eat after all. She supports herself and her sister Rebecca this way. Of course, the works of art that are in the attic are the ones Gareth is looking for; however, he doesn't know they are there and Eva doesn't know they are missing. There is a mystery surrounding the art work which eventually gets solved, but the main attraction in this books is the wonderful relationship that develops between Gareth and Eva.

They develop a friendship first, then become lovers. However, their friendship continues to develop while they are lovers. Neither one of them believes all that much in love; oh they both know love is out there in the big wide world, they just don't have too much use for it. Gareth has seen what harm it did to his mother and he doesn't want anything to do with it. Eva wants security more than love, but she isn't adverse to the steamier side of relationships between a man and a woman. With their eyes wide open Gareth and Eva embark on an affair, all the while knowing that someday it will end. They establish pretty much at the beginning that they will remain friends when their affair is over. They have it all planned out pretty logically, but this is Romanceland and we know that their plans are not to be. 

This is a wonderfully developed romance. The whankee-roo escapades are hot; however, the first time Eva partakes, Gareth flipped her so many times I thought she might be trying out for the Olympics. Authors, please. Our couple does not have to assume every position ever created the first time out. Back, front, side, upside down, a leg here, a mouth there, an arm up down all around - flip - stop - start - flip. It was all very tiring. We also had some womb touching - which always makes me cringe, especially when it is written by a female author. Sometime I wonder if authors forget about those yearly examinations and certain other exams that walk hand in hand with those yearly things. Maybe some authors have never had their womb touched. Maybe they have never felt the pain or as my doctor says "pressure." Sometime I just might show my doctor what "pressure" feels like with my foot. Anyway, womb touching isn't something I'm very fond of, especially by something which is in all likelihood just hammering away. 

Onward. There are also some pretty fascinating secondary characters, which of course included the manly brothers. There is also the wonderful character of Rebecca, Eva's sister. I hope Ms. Hunter is going to explore her character a little more, because she was charming. Regardless of the bed gyrations, and womb touching, His Wicked Reputation is a good beginning to what appears to be a great series (I hope.) The characters are intelligent and appealing. It was nice to read about two lovers who were also friends and that makes for a great couple.  This is one time that I was sure in the end that these two would have a HEA. I do recommend this.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot