The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean

January 26, 2016

Road Trip! Road Trip!
To be or not to be, that is the question. Or is the question, do I write a review right away or
wait awhile and let it simmer. I have to say, if I had written my review as soon as I closed my book I would have gone down the road of glowing sunshine, butterflies and roses. But, I allowed myself to think about The Rogue Not Taken for a while and recalled some things about the story I didn't particularly care for.

My initial thoughts were that if you liked the movie, Romancing the Stone, you would like this book. Because that's what we sort of have here - a hero who is obnoxious and a heroine who is on a journey, but out of place. Really out of place. However, there are some things the book misses which the movie doesn't. For all of his obnoxious-I'm-right-alpha moments Jack Colton is never deliberately cruel to Joan Wilder. That is the biggest difference between Jack Colton and Kingscote, the Marquess of Eversley. That is also the main problem I had with this book. If events or big reveals had been placed differently, I think this book would have worked better for me.

Oh, woe is me. This was a hard book to review and I am torn, tortured and tickled all at the same time. First we have our heroine, Sophie. She belongs to a family with four other sisters, the Talbot family. The sisters have been crowned with the nickname of the Dangerous Daughters by society. Their father has been raised up from laborer to being granted a title. Of course titles don't really mean anything unless one is born into them, right? All those titled ladies and gents seem to have forgotten that at one time most all of them were granted a title, unless of course they were born on the wrong side of royal blanket. Even on the wrong side, they received titles - can anyone say Monmouth/Cleveland/Richmond/Berwick and on and on. The English aristocracy is peppered with illegitimate ancestors.

Anyway, nobility seems to have a pretty short memory and the Talbots have an awfully hard time being accepted into the high-falutin-hoity-toity society. Of course, even if they were accepted, they would still have all the scandals that the daughters, Seraphina, Sesily, Seline, Seleste and Sophie court. Except Sophie doesn't actually court scandals. In fact she doesn't want to have anything to do with the hubbub which her sisters create. She hates the city and dreams of the simple life she used to have. She remembers living a pretty bucolic life and dreams of opening a book shop, marrying the baker and raising children. She hasn't learned that you can never go back.

So, one evening Sophie is wondering through a garden and stumbles across her oldest sister’s husband attending to another woman. Something inside of Sophie boils over and she ends up shoving the guy in a pond. He doesn't take kindly to her or her sisters or her family. All her sisters are looking at her askance. She decides to get out of town - vamoose. How does she do that? She disguises herself as a young footman - that would be as in "a boy." Oh no, not the old girl-with-giant-bazoogas-dressing-up-like-a-boy-and-no-one-will-recognize-me routine. Yes, that is exactly what happens. All the men in London fail to see this woman dressed up like a boy except for Mr. Potato head himself, our hero, Kingscote. (They call him King for short.) Anyway, she eventually ends up with King and the two embark on a pretty crazy road trip. He tosses her out, she sells his carriage wheels, she drinks with his drunken friends, he gets mad, she gets shot by a highwayman and saves a woman and two children, he saves her life. While all of this is going on they bicker, fight, insult their way across the country, getting on every inch of each other’s nerves.

I liked parts of this book a lot. I thought it was fun. There were also some poignant moments, especially when Sophie is talking about her dreams of being married to the local baker. But, I had two problems: her family and ta ta ta dah King. I thought her family was rather selfish in the manner which they took advantage of Sophie. And, an event toward the end of the book when she does a pretty sneaky thing just to help them did not sit well with me. But, then that was a minor hiccup compared to our Bonehead hero. Here's the deal, because I have read a gazillion romances I know that even when a Bonehead hero is being a piece of guano, I know he's really down deep a knight in shining armor. How do I know that? Because I'm programmed to know that. I know that because that's what I've read in a gazillion romance novels, but sometimes those magical words of redemption are not in the book. Or, the words are in the book toooo late or they are not there long enough or the reason why our hero smells is just plain silly. Well, all of those reason were in this book.

While I enjoyed some of the banter between Sophie and King, there was a point when King was just downright hurtful. There was a time in this story when Sophie told King her dreams and hopes. Their relationship should have gone beyond saying mean hateful words just because one can. But instead of stepping forward, they stepped backward.  King was out for revenge. He wanted his father to know that he was the last of the Eversley family. There would not be anyone to pass anything on to. King would be the last! No spewing seed out for him, by golly. That would show the old man. Yes, the old man wronged him when he was just a wee pup. His father is responsible for killing the only woman King could ever luv. Or at least that’s what he thinks. Guess what we have in this book? We have a giant wrong conclusion. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! He has avoided his father for years. All he had to do was talk to his father and he would have discovered he was wrong. In his need to hurt his father, he ends up including Sophie in that pain. He is needlessly cruel to her. So, it was a step back in the relationship and a little bit of old bodice ripper books with Steve Morgan, Brandon Birmingham, Clayton Westmoreland, etc. in it.

The scenes with the father and her family were toward the end of the book. Everything up to that point was fun and I had been enjoying the story immensity. I think these scenes should have been sooner in the story and maybe King would have had more time to restore himself in my eyes - but there just wasn't enough time. Anyway, bottom line - I don't know. I liked the silliness of the road trip, the fun, the over the top running all over and getting into trouble, but I didn't care for her family showing up at the end and King was never given a chance to repair the insensitive damage he inflicted.

Time/Place: Road Trip Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Bonehead Hero:


Yippedy-Dippedy! Upcoming Historical Releases!

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

Amelia Grey
Wedding Night With the Earl
The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels series
March 1
Anna Harrington
Along Came a Rogue
The Secret Life of Scoundrels series
February 23
Bronwyn Scott
Rake Most Likely to Sin
Rakes on Tour series
February 16 – paperback
February 23 - ebook
Carol Arens
Wed to the Texas Out
Walker Twins series
February 16 - paperback
February 23 - ebook
Christine Merrill
The Secrets of Wiscombe Chase
February 16 - paperback
February 23 - ebook
Elizabeth Michels*
The Infamous Heir
Spare Heirs series
March 1
Emily Greenwood
How to Handle a Scandal
The Scandalous Sisters series
March 1
Gayle Callen
The Groom Wore Plaid
Highland Weddings series
February 23
Isabella Bradford*
A Reckless Desire
Breconridge Brothers series
March 1
Karen Ranney
An American in Scotland
MacIain series
February 23
Katharine Ashe
The Rogue
Devil’s Duke series
February 23
Kimberly Nee
Stolen Promise
The Mordainia series

February 15
Maya Rodale
Lady Bridget's Diary
Keeping Up With the Cavendishes series
February 23
Rebecca Halsey, debut
Notes of Temptation

February 16, 2016
Shana Galen
I Kissed a Rogue
Covent Garden Cub series
March 1
Terri Brisbin
The Highlander's Runaway Bride
A Highland Feuding series
February 23
Tracy Anne Warren*
Happily Bedded Bliss
The Rakes of Cavendish Square
March 1


Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase

January 18, 2016

Get past the title.

In the latest Loretta Chase book we are faced with the problem of beauty. I like to call it the Liz Taylor syndrome. I've talked about this before and the reality is that most of us can't
work up that much sympathy for beautiful people, but I would imagine that some people who are knock dead gorgeous do have a not-worthy complex. Although their lives might seem to be perfect to an outsider, they want to be viewed as more than just this perfectly beautiful person. They probably also have a tendency to not trust people who they befriend. I'm sure a lot of "why is this person my friend" might creep into their thoughts. If your outside beauty is all that is talked about, I'm sure it would have some kind of effect on what you are as a person. I would also think that when great beauties age, they would feel even more alone  because now they are losing the one thing that drew people to them. Anyway, we have a great beauty in this book, Lady Clara Fairfax, and she wants to be more than just a pretty face. Which is why she is involved in a charity which helps young women find meaningful employment. Given the time period this couldn't have been all that easy.  This story reminded me a little of Oliver Twist, it had the feel of the stews of London. Even some of the shady characters in this story were reminiscent of Fagin, Artful Dodger and Bill Sykes. Ms. Chase did a fine job of presenting us with some of the more gritty elements of the brutal dark side of London's underbelly. There were some pretty memorable secondary characters in this story which Ms. Chase chose to leave behind in that dark place. I thought it was an interesting path to go down and I was grateful that there wasn't a butterfly-bird chirping ending for some of the supporting cast in this story.

Then we have Raven Radford, a barrister, who is trying to clean up some of the criminals in London. One of those criminals being Jacob Freame, the same one Clara is trying to rescue a young boy by the name of Toby Coppy from. She comes to Radford hoping he will help her in locating Toby, Radford turns her down. However, that doesn't deter Clara from making herself into one of the biggest pest Radford has ever encountered. Clara has made a promise to Bridget Coppy. Clara is determined that she will find Bridget’s young brother. Nothing is going to stand in Clara’s way, especially an obnoxious barrister.

Dukes Prefer Blondes could be divided into two stories. The first one is mostly Clara and Radford seeing who can come up with the most zingers. They have strong chemistry, they are clever and their dialog is pretty entertaining. The first half is a wonderful tug of war between Clara and Radford. Then they marry. The feel of the story changes. We now have a romance couple who are married before the end of the story. Ms. Chase invites us in to view our couple struggling to make their marriage work. Thrown into the mix of two newly married people who must learn to give and take is a big outside force. That outside force is Radford's sudden elevation as heir to a Dukedom - something he never wanted. He likes being a barrister, and is disheartened to learn that he will have to give up his career to eventually become a Duke. He isn't a happy camper. Clara on the other hand has been trained since childhood to fill the role of a Duchess and she is there to give him the support he needs along with a few suggestion on how he can have everything he wants.

This may not reach the perfection of Ms. Chase's classic Lord of Scoundrels - silly, nothing will ever reach that height. But, Dukes Prefer Blondes is a very entertaining story with a delightful couple. Clara and Radford are more than just a couple who are good at funny repartee, there is also a great deal of growing together, of learning how to give, and how best to support each other.  This is one HEA which rings true.

Time/Place: 1830s England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

PS: For your edification a 13-year old Ava Gardner and a 14-year old Liz Taylor.

The Duke's Obsession Bundle by Grace Burrowes - The Heir - The Soldier - The Virtuoso

January 11, 2016

"Atsa fine I'll have a nice cold glassa lemonade."  
- Chico Marx, Duck Soup
After finishing the wonderful Captive Love series by Grace Burrowes, I decided to delve into her debut series about the Windham family. According to her website, Ms. Burrowes was/is quite a prolific writer and had 20 or so books under her belt before she became published. That's a boat load of books and connected characters! I'm very happy she's been published. Here's the deal - the first three in the debut series needed an editor or a writing buddy or someone to say, "whoa, I know all of your words are like babies you've given birth to, but really, you need to cut some.”

Let's do some exploring of these three books, The Heir, The Soldier, and The Virtuoso, starting with The Heir.

Rubbing my hands together and chuckling with glee I started to read The Heir. The Heir
begins with a bang, especially when one considers the hero is bonked over the head by the heroine. Knocked out cold. Yes, our heroine, Anne Seaton clobbers Gayle, Earl of Westhaven over the head because she thinks he is abusing a housemaid. Now, this could be a problem. You see, she's his housekeeper and one should probably not knock ones employer out. Not good for employee/employer relationships and all that. Anyway, Anne realizes she may have been mistaken and decides to play nursemaid to Gayle. Maybe he won't fire her if she helps him recover.  Once he is awake and on the slow road to recovery, a romance slowly starts to take place. Of course there is always a rough road to romance and this one is no different.

Gayle is hiding out from his father's manipulations. His father wants grandchildren and he doesn't really care how he goes about it. Even going so far as to employ Gayle's latest mistress into becoming pregnant.  Anyway, Gayle is hiding out at his estate. As you may know, in Romanceland both the male and female leads have to have problems and a manipulating father seems to be Gayle's. Anne is the one with the biggest problem because she has a secret - a bigggg secret. Be warned, this is one of the pattern's I found in the Windhams series. It is always the female lead who has the dark deep secret, the one that is more troubling, and the one that makes all of these women skate close to being TSTL.

As much as I loved the Captive series, I could not find it in my heart to love these three stories. The Heir started out well and I was thrilled. In the beginning I loved the hero and heroine, but then something happened about three fourths of the way through. The story just kept going and going and going. When I perceive a story has reached its ending but it keeps on going, then I find myself becoming irritated with things that only a few pages ago were acceptable.

Lemonade. Let's start with the lemonade. Just how many lemon trees were growing on Westhaven's estate? Every time you turned around Anne was breaking out the lemonade. This is Regency times for Pete sake, it's not as if one has a container of Country Time instant lemonade handy. We are talking real lemons. Squeezing and squeezing and squeezing tons of those little yellow things. I used to watch my dad make lemonade. It takes tons of lemons to make just one pitcher of lemonade. The amount of lemons Anne had to go through must have been phenomenal. She must have had some mighty strong digits - they came in handy later. Let's move from the oral fixations of lemonade to the romance irritates.

Trust and hy-po-cri-sy. A lot of times in romance novels trust and hypocrisy walk hand and hand. Oh no! Say it ain't so! Yes, my little petunias, I say trust and hy-po-cri-sy! Anne has trust issues, and, she should, because her brother is a real piece of work. But she can't seem to trust her employer, Gayle, who is a nice guy and with whom she falls in love. Even though she's falling in love with him, even though she's allowing him intimacies, even though she allows him to brush her hair, even though she spreads her wings wide - she cannot trust him. It was a continual lovely scene followed by I can’t' trust you. It went on waaaay toooo long.

And, what's with a servant allowing her employer to brush her hair? If you are looking for any kind of historical accuracy, look elsewhere. The lines between servant and master are nonexistence and this story stretches a lot of boundaries. But, I can allow for historical inaccuracies. I can believe a relationship between servant and master. I read Julia Quinn after all. But there was tooo much of a struggle to get to the end. There was just too much churning of the same things over and over again. The not knowing when to end was too bad, because there were some mighty lyrical words in this book. But those find words were overshadowed by one too many chapters.

On to the next in the series, The Soldier.  

Be warned: I had numerous digressing moments when I read this story. This tale is about Devlin St. Just, the illegitimate son of Percival Windham, the Duke of Moreland and the half-brother of Gayle from The Heir. For our heroine we have Emmaline Farnum who lives on the Rosecroft estate and is a guardian to Winnie, the previous Earl of Rosecroft's by-blow. Through some kind of legal maneuvering, which we didn't get to read - thank goodness - Devlin is now the new Earl of Rosecroft. By the way, the old Earl of Rosecroft was the villain in the last piece.

As with the other book, our heroine, Emmie has a dark secret and she cries all the time and she is tired and has unexplained bruises which have nothing to do with the story. She makes apple tarts and lemonade. Oh no - not lemonade! She also thinks she is a proper guardian for the six-year-old Winnie. Winnie, for some reason, is a wild creature. Digressing question: if one thinks one is a proper guardian for a - say, a six-year-old, would said proper guardian leave that child with a perfect stranger? A male stranger? Of course, they have dinner together for about an hour or so and he does have big thighs, so I guess it's ok to leave a child with somebody one doesn't know.

By the way, the estate Devlin's father maneuvered for him was pretty run down - thanks a lot dad.

The Soldier is almost a carbon copy of The Heir. It started out good, then just kind of ran out of steam and the same old song and dance routine of trusting someone enough to confide in came into play. So, we had another woman who has her hair brushed, cries and doesn't trust someone but is willing to jump into bed with that person.

On to another distraction. I call this my touchy-feely distraction. I confess: I do not come from a touchy-feely family, and none of my friends are touchy-feely. When I come across it, I think "oh isn't that nice." But in this book there were some eye-brow raised moments. One of them involves Devlin and his brother. Devlin's head on his brother's lap and his hair being caressed. Touchy-feely. Odd. But another one came into play with Devlin's friend Douglas and the rubbing of the lotion. It just had an odd feel about it. I like buddies in books. I like the male comrades who would do anything for their friends. But most of those guys don't touch each other. That's a whole different kind of romance, one I don't have anything against by the way. It's just this time it didn't feel right. Even when we are talking about shared war memories. I think back to two of my friends who were in a war together - one was a sniper and one awarded a Purple Heart. So, these two friends had some pretty intense things happen to them. With all of the pain they shared and the bond that was between them, they were not touchy-feely; they didn't have to be. The presence of their friendship, the support they gave each other became the "touch" between them. 

While The Soldier once again had wonderful language, the story went on too long and everything that made it good was lost. The conflicts just kept on churning. The heroine cried and was tired and made lemonade and apple tarts and just could not confide to the man she loved.

The Virtuoso

On to the third brother, Valentine. Valentine plays the piano, he is a virtuoso, hence the title The Virtuoso. However his hand is swollen and painful. He has been told by his doctor that
the hand needs to rest, so he goes off to a run-down country estates and starts doing physical labor. How that "rests" his hands I was never able to figure out. It must be the cream that our heroine made and rubbed on it. Her name is Ellen, Baroness Roxbury and guess what. She has a dark deep secret. A guilty secret. Something she blames herself for. Something which when it is revealed I had a "you have got to be kidding me" moment. "How could you possibly blame yourself?" AAArrrgh.

This is basically a repeat of the other two books, except the names are different. Although, there wasn't as much lemonade in this one. But there was a lack of historical feel about it, a lack of proper space between the main characters. And, we have a friend unbuttoning another friends pants in this one. Not sure why, doesn't add anything to the story.

Adding things to stories. I am of the opinion that unless one is going to use something later on in the story, its presence in the book is a waste of time. It's filler. If it doesn't add to the atmosphere, the smell, the time period, it isn't necessary to add it.

Our couple Valentine and Ellen shared a kiss a year before the story begins. It is a kiss which neither of them can forget. And, it seems to have lessened the 19th century principles of these two people. There is a certain 21st century easygoing feel to this book. They bare their feet, roll up their pant-legs/dress and splash around in a pond. While the conversation between them was lovely, the scene was improbable and my eyebrows went up. Ellen was a hot and cold person when it came to propriety. He couldn't use her given name, but they could make love in the open air.

There were a lot of characters in this book, and that was a tad bit overwhelming. As with the other two books, the ending was in the wrong place. The guilt trip, the angst, the boo-hoo went on waaay too long. The couple was engaging and their language was lyrical, but then they are thrown into a situation that is problematic historically and all that loveliness gets lost.

Bottom line. I'm very glad I started with the Captive series and True Gentleman series and not this one. I know from reading those two series that Ms. Burrowes can write up a storm, but The Heir, The Soldier and The Virtuoso were a miss for me.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot
The Heir - The Soldier - The Virtuoso


The Laird by Grace Burrowes

January 6, 2016
Still glomming.

The Laird is the final book in Grace Burrowes' Captive Hearts trilogy. I have to say, I really liked The Laird, although the dark subject matter does not lend itself to "liking."

The Laird brings back to us Michael Brodie, who was a secondary character in The Captive and The Traitor. If you have read either of those two books, you will know that Michael Brodie is one of the most loyal friends/compatriots ever. He served his country faithfully during the Napoleonic Wars and then some. He stayed long after the war had ended to protect Sebastian St. Clair. Now he is no longer needed and it is time for him to go home to Scotland and the bride he left behind nine years ago, Brenna. Brenna, on the other hand isn't all that eager for the return of her husband - thank you very much. He did leave her rather precipitously, he didn't communicate with her during those years. He left her to fend for herself and at the same time keep the family estate in order. To say she's a tad bit miffed is putting it mildly. So, Michael has a lot of groveling to do.

One of the good things about this book is that Michael and Brenna already have established a relationship. Brenna has been living at the Brodie castle/estate/whatever since she was eight years old. She came as the intended bride of Michael and the two of them develop a friendship, which eventually turns into a crush. She was married to Michael when she was sixteen - so, she's pretty young and her understanding of how life works is just being developed. She is devastated when he leaves her to go off to fight in the war. And, now he has returned and she resents him. She resents so many things; his leaving, his return, his silence, his expectations. Brenna also has a secret, a dark secret and the main plot of the story revolves around that secret. Spoilers ahead. Brenna's secret is that as a child she was sexually abused by someone at the Brodie castle. Brenna's abuse has left her scarred. She is like most victims of child abuse - silent and guilt ridden. This part of the story was portrayed pretty realistically. All the feelings that victims have were spelled out for us to read. Ms. Burrowes did a wonderful job of showing us just what abused children go through and how it affects some of them as adults. It was all done with a pretty sensitive touch.

The villain of the piece, (who everyone should spot right away) was also written with quite a lot of insight. Because of how charming this man is, he has been allowed to prey on a plethora of innocents. He knows how to approach a child, he knows how to shift the blame for his actions from himself to them. When he is finally caught, I had a bit of an issue with trying to make him a little bit more sympathetic. But hey, that's me. I was glad when he bit the dust and jumped up and down with joy at his demise.

Brenna and Michael both have some dark issued to overcome, Brenna more than Michael. Their second chance at love is beautifully written. Michael catches on quite quickly as to what Brenna's problem might be, he just doesn’t know who caused the problem.This was a tender, touching, delicately written romance and I would have given it a "blow-me-away" rating if not for one thing. 

Michael has a young sister, Maeve; a stubborn young sister. She has been shuttled here and there throughout her young life. Now, she has been sent to the wilds of Scotland to be with a brother she doesn't know. She is ignored, she is friendless and she is resentful of being where she is. She is alone. She needs a friend. Enter our villain. She is just the type of child our villain can manipulate - he excels at it. She does fall under his spell. Here is the thing. Brenna knew just what kind of danger this man did, she experienced it at his hands when she was young. She tries to protect Michael's sister by putting all of these restrictive perimeters on her. As we all know, putting perimeters on a head-strong, rebellious, lonely child does not work. Never once does Brenna tell anyone what the villain was capable of and that is what I have an issue with. I don't care if this was a romance and there needed to be some kind of tension. Brenna waited tooooo long to tell Michael and in so doing she put Maeve in danger.

Overall, this was an absorbing story with a great cast of characters. The story line was a tough tale to tell, but I think the author did a brilliant job of bringing it off. My one qualm - the heroine should have spoken up sooner.

Time/Place: 1800s after Napoleon/Scotland
Sensuality: Hot