Goodbye 2015 - Hello 2016

December 28, 2015

"So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a hand print on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend..."
Stephen Schwartz - Wicked

Dedicated to the bestest uncle. You are the hand print on my heart and my inspiration. I will miss you dearly. Goodbye, Uncle Jim.

Farewell 2015. This year in romance saw the return to historical romance of two authors who had left to journey into other genres: Lisa Kleypas and Eva Leigh, aka Zoe Archer. This year has gone by in a flash and a number of times I had to turn to some old classics for some good reading. My A-Team Project came in handy this year. I was also excited this year to find Grace Burrowes and her amazing huge backlist.

We bid farewell to some of the authors we lost this year: Jackie Collins, E L Doctorow, Kate Kelly, Tanith Lee, Colleen McCullough, Terry Pratchett, Ruth Rendell, Ann Rule, Bertrice Small.

Welcome to some debut authors who crossed my radar: Marissa Campbell, Lila Bowen, Kathleen Kimmel, Rebecca Adler, Jean Flowers, Anna Harrington, Anna Bradley, Susanne Lord, Cheryl Hollon, Eileen Richards, Mitchell Kriegman, Cynthia Tennent, Renee Graziano.

Outstanding list! These are my favorite books that I've read this year. Not all of the books on this list were published in 2015, they just happen to be ones that I've read this year. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Courtney Milan, Once Upon a Marquess - 2015
2. Grace Burrowes, The Traitor - 2014
3. Grace Burrowes, The Captive - 2014
4. Grace Burrowes, Daniel's True Desires - 2015
5. Eva Leigh (aka Zoe Archer), Scandal Takes the Stage - 2015
6. Meredith Duran, Luck Be A Lady - 2015
7. Loretta Chase, Last Night's Scandal - 2010 (Project A-Team)
8. Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible - 2005 (Project A-Team)
9. Jo Goodman, A Season to be Sinful - 2005 (Project A-Team)
10. Elizabeth Boyle, Love Letters from a Duke - 2007 (Project A-Team)
11. Elizabeth Boyle, This Rake of Mine - 2005 (Project A-Team)
12. Elizabeth Boyle, Something About Emmaline - 2005 (Project A-Team)
13. Victoria Alexander, The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress - 2015
14. Julie Anne Long, It Started with a Scandal - 2015
15. Madeline Hunter, His Wicked Reputation - 2015
16 Susanna Ives, Wicked My Love - 2015
17. Isabella Bradford, A Sinful Deception - 2015
18. Miranda Neville, The Duke of Dark Desires - 2014

Disappointment List. Now it is time to talk about books that were a big disappointment for me this year. Remember these books may not necessarily be bad; in fact some of them might even be "ok." But we are talking disappointment, and in some instances they are pretty big disappointments. Some authors I hold to a higher standard than others; I expect more from some than others. Sometimes a book just doesn't live up to all the hype, it doesn't meet my expectation of that hype. Maybe it's the unlikeable characters in the book who disappoint. Does this mean I will never read another book from that author again? Of course not, just look at some of the authors who made my list. And remember, these are my disappointments. In no particular order:

1. Amanda McCabe, The Demure Miss Manning - 2015
2. Lisa Kleypas, Cold-Hearted Rake - 2015
3. Julie Anne Long, The Legend of Lyon Redmond - 2015
4. Sally MacKenzie, What to Do with a Duke - 2015
6. Elizabeth Boyle, The Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress - 2009 (Project A-Team)
7. Sophia Nash, The Kiss - 2008 (Project A-Team)
8. Caroline Linden, Love in the Time of Scandal - 2015
9. Julia London, The Devil Takes a Bride - 2015
10. Julia London, The Trouble with Honor - 2014
11. Jade Lee, 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake - 2015
12. Anna Campbell, A Scoundrel by Moonlight - 2015
13. Paula Quinn, The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor - 2015
14. Manda Collins, A Good Rake is Hard to Find - 2015
15. Mary Reed McCall, Beyond Temptation - 2005 (Project A-Team)
16. Mary Reed McCall, On Sinful Pleasures - 2006 (Project A-Team)
17. Sabrina Jeffries, If the Viscount Falls - 2015
18. Jillian Hunter, Forbidden to Love - 2015
19. Julia Quinn, The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy - 2015


Kazaammm! Upcoming Historical Romances!!! January 15 to February 14, 2016

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!!  January 15, 2016 to February 14, 2016.   

Beverly Jenkins

Silver and Gold series
January 26
Candace Camp

Secrets of the Loch series
January 19
Christy English

How to Wed a Warrior
Broadswords and Ballrooms weries
February 2
Elizabeth Boyle*

The Knave of Hearts
Rhymes with Love series
January 26
Eloisa James*

My American Duchess
Desperate Duchess by the Number series?
Her website is unclear.
January 26
Georgie Lee

A Too Convenient Marriage
The Business of Marriage series
January 19 - paperback
February 1 - ebook
Grace Burrowes*

Will's True Wish
True Gentlemen series
February 2
Katy Madison

Want Ad Wife
Wild West Weddings series
January 19 - paperback
February 1 - ebook
Kelly Bowen

Duke of My Heart
A Season for Scandal series
January 26
Kerrigan Byrne

The Hunter
Victorian Rebels series
February 2
Kimberly Nee

When I'm With You
Sebastiano series?
February 2
Laura Trentham

A Brazen Bargain
Spies and Lovers series
January 26
Lauri Robinson

Saving Marina
January 19 - paperback
February 1 - ebook
Madeline Martin

Enchantment of a Highlander
Highlander series
January 19
Mary Wine

Highland Spitfire
Highland Weddings series
February 2
Mia Gabriel

Savage Nights
Savage series
February 2
Nicole Jordan

The Art of Taming a Rake
Legendary Lovers series
January 26
Rachael Miles

Jilting the Duke
The Muses’ Salon series
January 26
Sally Orr

To Catch a Rake
The Rake’s Handbook series
February 2
Samantha Harte

Her Outlaw Heart
February 2
Sophia James

Marriage Made in Rebellion
The Penniless Lords series
January 19 - paperback
February 1 - ebook
Theresa Romain

A Gentleman's Game
Romance of the Turf series
February 2


Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan

December 21, 2015
A plethora of angst! Send in the clowns (funny ones, if there are such things).
Just finished Ms. Milan’s latest book Once Upon a Marquess, which is the first in her Worth Saga series. Here’s the thing. I read the stuff in the back of the book and it says there are
going to be seven full-length books in this series plus some novellas. Now I know from experience that Ms. Milan is a slow writer, she even admits that she is. So, what does that mean to me? It means that I will probably be in an assisted care unit by the time the last of these books hit the shelves/electronic formats. Oh, puleese Ms. Milan write a little faster, ‘cause I don’t think I will be able to remember all of these characters in seven years.

I am a big fan of Courtney Milan for numerous reasons. Number one, I believe she is one of the authors who have guided the publishing world down a different path. I’m sure they were kicking and screaming all the way, but hey, things change. I think what makes her so different was that she was very public about the path she was going down. She is one of a number of authors who have proved that the term “self-publish” is not to be looked down on. I bet she will never hear that snide out-of-the-side-of-the-mouth comment, “Oh, you published it yourself.” On top of all that, she is also a marvelous writer. So, I am always excited when she has a new book out there and always disappointed that I can zip through one in a day, sometimes a few hours, depending on if someone is nattering in my ear.

On to Once Upon a Marquess. While I am thrilled that Courtney Milan has started a new series, this particular one was not quite as spectacular as some of her other books. The main reason for this is that it had the feel of a prequel. There was an awful lot of setting the stage for stories that are to follow and that in turn gave short-thrift to the romance between Christian and Judith. I’m not saying that these two characters were not fully-developed – they were – it’s just that the romance seemed a little rushed, especially as we moved closer to the end.

One of the issues I had with Christian and Judith was that they were loaded down with problems. Oh, the angst. This story is filled with angst. Let’s look at some of the angst. When Christian and Judith were young, he was just 21 she was still a teenager, they fell in love. Christian had/has some kind of mental challenge, he was OCD or something; not quite sure what the problem was. He counts beads to calm down. When he was a child, his father wanted to put him in an asylum but his mother prevented that by giving him laudanum. As you might guess the laudanum brought with it more problems and he became an addict. So he’s an opium addict on top of being OCD or something. It was his best friend Anthony who he credits with saving him from his addiction. By the way, Anthony is Judith’s older brother. So, everything should be hunky-dory. What could be better than Christian being in love with his best friend’s sister, Judith?  Welllllll let me tell you kiddoes, Anthony and his father are accused of being traitors to their country. Who should their accuser be but Christian. That kind of puts a screeching halt to the romance, especially when the father commits suicide and Anthony is transported, then Anthony’s ship goes down and he disappears. This leaves Judith hating Christian and Christian with a gi-normous guilt complex – plus the OCD and the opium addiction. And, that’s just the beginning. Anyone know a good joke?

More angst. Now, eight years have gone by and Judith needs help. You see, she is the sole support of her family. Her father is dead, Anthony has drowned/disappeared; she had a fight with her sister Camilla and Camilla has disappeared. She has another sister, Theresa, but Theresa also is challenged. Theresa is either autistic or something, maybe a tad bit spoiled.  She takes everything quite literally and adopts cats – lots of cats. Then there is Benedict, the youngest brother. He’s being bullied at Eton, he’s been beat up and is now home refusing to go back. Judith has been taking in money by creating mechanical clockwork things. In fact, she’s quite talented. She’s always been ashamed of this talent because people look at her oddly. The only person who never thought she was odd was Christian, but she hatesssss him. But now she needs his help. She has been sending money to her sister Camilla (even though she doesn't know where she is) and that money has disappeared and the solicitor will not tell her where the money is. Christian seems to be the only person who can scare the solicitor into talking, which is why Judith has turned to him for help. Here is the run down so far: Christian feels guilty because he accused the luv of his life’s father of treason, which caused the father to kill himself and the brother to disappear and Christian feels guilty and Judith will never love him and he tells jokes to lighten the tension and Judith can’t find her one sister and the other one adopts cats and doesn’t help around the house and her younger brother is being bullied and beat up and her friend is starving. And, now we are ready for chapter two.

There was a lot going on in this book. Both Judith and Christian had enormous burdens on their shoulders. And, in Judith’s case there was no one at all to help her. Oh sure, she as a friend, Daisy, but Daisy has her own problems (novella coming). Besides that Judith and Daisy never talk about real problems, they always make up stories about the Queen coming to dine. It is a day to day struggle for these two girls to provide for their families.  Anyone here ever seen The Joy Luck Club? I loved that movie, but I cried all the way through the stupid thing. And, that was because there was just one heartache after another – on and on and on. There was no relief. That is what this book is like. Just one more dump on Judith. Spoilers of sorts: There is an enormous fight between her and Theresa. She’s finds out that Benedict is hiding something very very very important from her. And, there is a BIG portrayal – not Christian, but someone else. It’s never ending sadness.

I think that Theresa was supposed to be the comic relief, but I had a problem with laughing at her antics. They just seemed to be more of a burden for Judith than anything else. There was a very poignant sister make-up scene.

Now you might think I didn’t like this book. Well, you would be wrong. This was a very powerful book and a very important part of the series. It establishes what is to come and there is a slight cliff-hanging ending. What makes this story so hard to review is that I found Once Upon a Marquess emotionally draining, but still one that should be read. So, I do strongly recommend this book, but just be prepared to be bombarded by some really tense emotion. This may be a book that should be read after the holidays, maybe with a stiff drink in one hand and a joke book in the other.

And now a word from Woody Allen: “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”

Time Place:  1866 England
Sensuality: Hot


The Traitor by Grace Burrowes

December 16, 2015
Ms. Milan will just have to wait!
While waiting for Courtney Milan's book to hit the stands, I opened another Grace Burrowes book, The Traitor. I was so enthralled by this story that when Ms. Milan's book came out, I didn’t stop what I was reading but continued to read The Traitor.

What a fascinating book, with one of the most interesting heroes I've read in a long time. The Traitor is Sebastian St. Clair, aka Girard. If you've read The Captive you will remember Girard as someone who tortured the prisoners who were captured by the French during the Napoleonic War. When I put The Captive down, I wondered just how Ms. Burrowes was going to change Girard into hero material. And that my kiddoes is what makes The Traitor so engrossing. Does Ms. Burrowes succeed? Mostly. There still were some moments in the book where the Girard/Sebastian metamorphosis didn't quite reach acceptable levels. His reformation was painted pretty realistically. While he could never be a pure Sir Galahad, he could be someone who fought in a war and did things in that war that were not honorable but in the end, his actions saved lives.  Besides that the heroine, Millie, supported him so much that we, the readers, could do nothing but forgive him. Warning: a glowing book luv fest is about to begin.

Is this the best romance novel I've ever read? No. Are there problems in this book? Of course. Did I find this a fascinating read? Yes. And, that was because this is one of the best tries at rehabilitation of a hero character that I think I've ever read. When I read about Girard/Sebastian in The Captive, I thought that Ms. Burrowes might make Girard/Sebastian into a more palatable character by making him a double spy or something - but she doesn't. She doesn't sanitize his character or give him an unbelievable reason for doing what he did during war. What we get in this book is a man who is trying to move on from his past mistakes but the other people in the world are not as forgiving. A wonderful study in what makes people tick.

Then we have Millie. Millie is a true companion to Girard/Sebastian. She is supportive of him and eventually very protective of him as she stands up to his tormentors. The love story in this book is well written. These two talk to each other, they support each other, and they become friends and eventually lovers. They also marry about half-way through and without too much of the “I'm-not-good-enough” fare that we are usually handed in romance books. There was also an almost hanky moment in this story which involved an animal - a cat, Peter. First of all Girard/Sebastian’s reaction to the cat was priceless, but the tear-in-my-eye moment came when Millie is reunited with Peter. You see, Peter is the only thing left of Millie's old loving aunt. He purrs. He purrs loudly. Peter has brought comfort to Millie in her time of need. When they are reunited, Millie stands in a room with her nose on Peter's head crying and looking at Girard/Sebastian with great weepy eyes. How can a hero resist putting the cat in the carriage and bringing him home?

If there was anything that didn't work too well for me it was the scene with Wellington and his men at dinner where all the antagonists face Girard/Sebastian. It was a bit of a stretch. Overall, while I may not have been completely won over by Girard/Sebastian, I thought this was a great read. It traveled down a path that few romance books go down – trying to heal wounds that cannot be healed. I knew at the end of this book that Girard/Sebastian and Millie would have a HEA and that when I closed the book the relationship would last. I still had misgivings that the society they lived in would not be accepting of them when I closed the book, but with their strong relationship and a cat that purred loudly, they had a chance.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


One Rogue at a Time by Jade Lee

December 14, 2015
"In 'artford, 'ereford and 'ampshire 'urricanes 'ardly hever 'appen."

One Rogue at a Time is the second in the series Rakes and Rogues by Jade Lee and once again we have a title which doesn't have anything to do with the story. Oh sure, the hero is a rogue, but "one at a time" doesn't make sense as far as the context of this story. I liked this story better than the first in the series, 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake, but it still lacked enough emotion to give this book a wow factor.

This story started out with promise, some interesting dialog and quirky secondary characters. We even have a secondary character, Lady Eleanor, who I disliked immensely in 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake put in an appearance. This time around she wasn't quite as obnoxious as before, but she's still an unlikeable character. I suspect someday we will see her starring in her own book, she's going to have to do some big time groveling to evolve into a heroine. Now, to the main couple Maybelle/Bluebell Ballenger and Bramwell Hallowsby.

As with the book, these two had promise in the beginning. In fact, Maybelle/Bluebell was a strong female character through most of the book. I liked her a lot. Her dreams of becoming a lady, her realization that her proper language was not proper, her interaction with the countryside peasantry were all very poignant.  But Marybelle is more than just a boo-hoo sad heroine, she's strong, smart and has insight into what makes the people around her tick that is quite winning. She is a wonderful heroine; too bad the man chosen to be her hero isn't up to her standards.

When we are first introduced to Bram in this story, he comes off as a pretty detached character. He is an illegitimate son a duke, he is not recognized by anyone in higher social statuses, even his half-sister makes him come in the back door. So, he has developed quite a rock hard shell. The trouble with Bram's shell is that it seems to have soaked into his soul and he is a pretty callous guy. His immediate thought upon seeing Maybelle/Bluebell is mainly focused on how he can get into her knickers. It doesn't take him too long before he succeeds. Present in this story is one unforgettable OOPs scene created by his magic fingers. While this scene may have taken Maybelle/Bluebell into orgasm schorgasm heaven, unknown to Maybelle/Bluebell it leaves her no longer innocent. Bram does not tell her he slipped up. Bram doesn't come off looking very heroic in this scene. While Bram does have reasons for all the angst that he carries with him, for my taste he could have been a little bit kinder sooner.

In the end this book is a standard yarn with a callous hero. While his reason for his callousness is spelled out for us in this book, there wasn't a good balance between his tenderness and his cold-heartedness for me.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


Dukes are Forever by Anna Harrington

December 8, 2015
Waffle - could be something with maple syrup on it, or maybe it's vacillating, or maybe it's maple syrup, or maybe it's flip-flop or...

Funny, how different authors handle the revenge plot. Maybe one shouldn't read revenge plots one right after another, because it's only natural to compare. In the case of Dukes are Forever, Edward Westover is seeking revenge on the man who killed his brother and wife. Oh sure, it was a drunken accident, but it is something that Edward just cannot let go of.

Edward has bought all the debts of our heroine's father. And, her father being the stinker that he is, has signed over guardianship of his daughter Katherine to Edward. Well, Edward thinks that Katherine is a child. Imagine his surprise when he goes to the family estate with a doll in hand and instead finds someone with a bosom.  Then we travel into unexplained territory.

Katherine. Why does Katherine love her father? Never, ever has this man shown her any kind of affection. He has basically deserted her and her mother. He's cruel toward her, only coming around to sell off items in the home, and now he's sold her. I'm not sure why she felt the need to try make herself worthy in his eyes.  I don't believe it's written anywhere that you must love your parents, that you must let them walk all over you and degrade you. She had been abandoned by him a long time ago; I was disappointed that she still needed his affection. She was just too needy. Not only was she needy when it came to her father, she was also rather wishy washy when it came to Edward. Let's be honest here, Edward did not treat Katherine kindly. In my opinion he was just one step above her father. But Katherine kept vacillating between being angry at him and lusting after him.

Then there is Edward's trust issue. Not only is he out for revenge, he finds it hard to trust women. Why? Because another woman broke his leddle heart and married his brother. Sure, she's dead now. Sure his brother is dead now. Sure they were killed by Katherine's father. But that doesn't matter because she broke his heart and he can never trust another. But he wants to seek revenge for the woman who made him distrust women. Doesn't make sense. He also instructs, no, he demands that Katherine not communicate with her father. Katherine being the namby pamby person who wants her father to luv her, even though he's a dog, sends her father some money. So, after Edward seduces Katherine and they humpidy-pumpity into orgasmic heave-an, Edward finds out that she has sent her father some money. What does Edward do? Well, he sends Katherine to some place called Greymoor. I'm not sure where this place was, but it was straight out of a Gothic novel, with moors, wind, and a German housekeeper named Lutz. I'm not sure why this became part of the story, except maybe to show us what a bonehead Edward was. Edward keeps her there, almost under lock and key. He is verry verry angry. She betrayed him! He can never trust her again! Anyway, Katherine's not there long because Edward has been shot and she's knows herbs and she will be able to save his life. Yes, Katherine knows the secrets of using herbs for medicine. How she acquired that knowledge is never fully explained, but all the villagers have been running to her for a long time.  She's been on her own since she was twelve, so she’s evidently a child prodigy.

Edward and Katherine were the two flip-floppiest people I've seen in a long time. She's angry with him, she lusts after him, she's angry with him, she wants him, she's mad at him, oh boo-hoo, he's a war hero, she's mad at him. Why can't her father love her, she must be a horrible person, nobody luvs her. He can't trust her, he wants her, he can't trust her, maybe she didn't lie to him, she lied to him, she's so beautiful, she sent her father three coins, she betrayed him.

In the beginning this story had possibilities, but the two main characters degenerated into a waffling woman and a distrustful bonehead. This was a disappointing read for me.

Time/Place: Regency England and the moors, don't forget the moors!
Sensuality: Hot


The Captive by Grace Burrowes

December 7, 2015
The Joys of Glomming.
Glad I finally read Grace Burrowes. The Captive is another well written romance by Grace Burrowes and I wish I had discovered her when she was beginning. I am slowly going to delve into her other books, though, starting with this series..and her last one book in another series...I need to look at that pedigree chart...and...OMG, I need a raise! It's so exciting finding a new great author.

I have to crown Ms. Burrowes with laurels because she took one of my least favorite plot-lines; revenge - and turned it into something compelling. Was this a perfect book? No, but close enough to make me do a happy dance.

The person seeking revenge in this story is, of course, our hero, Christian Severn, Duke of Mercia. He has been captured by the French and for four months has endured torture. So, he is not in the best of humors when he is finally released and makes his way back to England. He especially remembers one captor, Girard. Girard is the one Christian is really itching to get his hands on. But before he can do that he must recover, but he's not really doing that very fast. In fact, he's hiding himself away in his home in London. Enter Gillian.

Gillian, the Countess of Greendale, is a widow. She is also the cousin of Christian's late wife Helene. This is also another reason for Christian to be mad. while he was in captivity his wife and son died. His daughter Lucy is still alive, though she is being totally ignored by her father. And, that is why Gillian arrives on Christian's doorstep in the mood to berate him for his parental neglect. It isn't long before it dawns on her just how ill he is and being a gentle soul, she decides to help him on the road to recovery, then she'll badger him into going to his daughter. When he is well enough to travel, Gillian goes with him. A friendship develops, then love, but Gillian is not so happy with the revenge idea of Christian's.

Gillian and Christian were both very strong characters and it was hard not to feel sympathetic for them, although I will have to admit that Christian occasionally pushed the envelope for me with his need for revenge. The secondary characters were also well-developed. Lucy was charming and, unlike many fictional children, she was age appropriate. There were also two adorable dogs who go a long way in comforting a silent child and irritating a grumpy but loving father. Parents have to learn that dogs are supposed to sleep on beds. But the really really fascinating person was the villain, Girard. We get to see glimpses of his anguish, which is a good thing considering Ms. Burrowes has made him a hero of his own book. And, I'm looking forward to that read to see how she saves him. 

Quibbles. The first quibble I had with this book was Gillian's lack of chaperone, which was a small one. But, there was a voice in the back of my head mumbling about her being in his household without benefit of a chaperone. And, we all know that servants don't count. The other quibble I had was the duel, Gillian's violent reaction to the duel and the rush to the end. But that was also a minor quibble. Overall, I loved this book and am really excited that I found another author to put on my auto-list.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot