Her Every Wish by Courtney Milan

March 31, 2016
Well, that didn't take long!
Actually because of some do-dah at B&N yesterday, it took longer to download Courtney
Milan's latest, Her Every Wish, than it did to read it. This is the latest in her Worth series and I have to say even though this is a very short book, it is an amazing story. I confess I wanted it to not end, but end it did and there might have even been some birds tweeted and butterflies flitting - even a rainbow in the sky. I'm always amazed when an author can pull off a really good story in a limited space and Ms. Milan seems to excel with short stories.

There is some heavy duty characterization going on in this book. Everyone, including the secondary characters, are vibrant, interesting and make the reader want more of them. There were a couple of characters in this book, the woman with the flower in the lapel and the red-haired little girl who had really small parts, but who I also wanted more of. But, the main characters of Daisy and Crash are enchanting. Daisy and Crash have a past, but due to a misunderstanding they are not on the friendliest of terms. That all changes when Daisy turns to Crash for help in making her dream come true. We get to watch these two as they help each other achieve their dreams. There is a strong element of feminism in this little story, an encouragement to not only women but men that one can achieve their dreams. Without giving too much away, I was glad that Daisy's initial dream didn't come true because she found another way to have it.

In the end, this was a delightful story, jam-packed with interesting characters, and hidden behind the romance a message of strength. I do think that Courtney Milan may be skating close to sermonizing in this book and it made be wonder if this genre was the proper venue for it. But if not here where? Anyway, there are a lot of messages in this book and if you don't enjoy messages mixed with your romance, this short story may be a problem for you. But if you are a fan of Ms. Milan's writing dig in.

Time/Place: England 1866
Sensuality: Hot


Let Me Be the One by Jo Goodman

March 25, 2016
We have another super hero - ta ta dah - Cryptic Girl.
There be spoilers ahead. What's that old saying by Henry Wadsworth? "Into each life
some rain must fall." Well, my little Petunia's, the same runs true of books - "Into an author glom project a stinker must appear." Doesn't have quite the gentleness on the ear as Wadsworth, does it? Oh well, I gave it a try. So I must face the facts, sad as they may be: I finally have tripped over a Jo Goodman book which leaves me nonplussed. This books begs for a punch line like, "What's the difference between a DNF and perseverance?" I don't know, time, money, headaches, yawns - you take your pick.

In case you haven't guessed by now, Let Me Be the One was not my favorite Jo Goodman book... dare I say - book. Let Me Be the One is the first in the Compass Club series and was published in 2002. It seemed that it took for-ev-er to finish this story and there were times I almost put it down, but being the first in a series I decided to drudge on. It all boils down to a few words, which I can string out. Those words would be: no chemistry between the heroine, Libby Penrose and the hero, Brendan, the Earl of Northam (North to his friends). On top of that we have one of the most self-loathing-I-don't-deserve-love-guess-I'll-go-eat-worms heroine I've ever come across. I'm-a-bad-person Libby was very tiring, very depressing and excruciating to read. Can you tell I didn't like her? Not only was she constantly beating herself up, but she was also constantly leaving cryptic messages around. Dire predictions of what might happen if our hero would fall in love with her. "You would do so much better to leave me in peace - I cannot be a virgin for you no matter how you make me bleed - don't trust me - don't love me - I will not allow you to save me." There were waaay to many self-loathing cryptic remarks out of Libby's mouth; this book almost hit the wall. Then we have our hero - Brendan.

Poooooor Brendan. He seems to be a Beta hero, but it's hard to tell. I know he falls in love with Cryptic Girl and goes around making excuses for her and trying to understand why she is the way she is, especially since she's nottt tellllling himmmm. See, I'm getting mad at Libby again. Back to Brendan. Brendan is kind of - looking for a word - looking for a word - I have it! Boring! Yes, I said it! Boring! He's not interesting! He has no sense of humor - well who could with Libby around? But this guy wouldn't know a joke even if W.C. Fields was standing next to him. When it comes to the sex scenes in this book, (and let me tell you there are tons of them), they are mostly skimmable. Two people, one self-loathing and one boring having whankee-roo is just not readable - especially when Cryptic Girl says depressing things while humping and bumping. If anyone could deflate a Timothy Toad it would be her.

Even as much as I found Brendan and Libby to be really really annoying, I thought the plot could have been interesting - if only there had been two different leads. Libby's past, the mysteries of her past, the villains, the Gentleman Thief, her father, her friend, his friends - all of that could have made for some good reading. But, the story failed. The villains are easy to spot and the solution to the various problems is done in a rush - leaving for me some glaring questions. What about Libby's son? What about her father? What about Isobel, her friend? Those ends were not tied, they just faded away - forgotten.

For me this book was a huge disappointment. The writing was choppy and hard to follow. The hero was weak, flat, boring. There wasn't any spark between the main couple. The biggest problem though was with the horribly depressing self-derisive heroine. If this were a standalone book, I'd say pass on it - but it's the first in the series. So, enter at your own risk, just be prepared for Cryptic Girl.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Wake Me When Its Over


Zionks! Upcoming Historical Romance Releases!!! April 15 to May 14, 2016!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!!  April 15, 2016 to May 14, 2016. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.

Ann Lethbridge

More Than a Lover
Rakes in Disgrace series
April 19, paperback - May 1, ebook
Anna Harrington

How I Married a Marquess
Secret Life of Scoundrels series
April 26
Annie Burrows

In Bed With the Duke
April 19, paperback - May 1, ebook
Celeste Bradley

I Thee Wed
Wicked Worthingtons series
May 3
Elisabeth Hobbes

The Blacksmith’s Wife
April 19, paperback - May 1 ebook
Eva Leigh*

Temptations of a Wallflower
The Wicked Quills of London series
April 26
Jane Beckenham

To Love a Thief
Steel Hawk series
April 26
Jo Goodman

The Devil You Know
May 3
Joanna Shupe

The Knickerbocker Club series
April 26
Lenora Bell

How the Duke was Won
The Disgraceful Dukes series
April 26
Lorraine Heath

The Earl Takes All
The Hellions of Havisham series
April 26
Lynna Banning

Printer in Petticoats
Smoke River series
April 19, paperback - May 1, ebook
Mary Balogh*

Only Beloved
Survivors’ Club series
May 3
Sally MacKenzie*

How to Manage a Marquess
Spinster House series
April 26
Stephanie Laurens

A Buccaneer at Heart
Adventurer’s Quartet series
April 26
Valerie Bowman

The Untamed Earl
Playful Brides series
May 3
Victoria Roberts

Kill or be Kilt
Highland Spies series
May 3


Happily Bedded Bliss by Tracy Anne Warren

March 17, 2016
Someone get that boy a big can-opener!

Happily Bedded Bliss is the first book in Tracy Anne Warren's Rakes of Cavendish Square. Don't let that fool you though, because the heroine is Lady Esme Byron and she is the
youngest sister of the Byron's - another series by Ms. Warren. I'm not sure why author's feel the need to say it's a different series when some of the same people show up in it. I guess because the series name is changed that makes it fresh, but really does it? Not unless it's taking place on Mars.

In this story we have a delightful heroine in the form of Lady Esme Byron. She is nineteen and her whole life is in front of her. She loves nature, she loves to draw, she loves animals - in fact she has a ton of them. Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds - she's like Snow White. She is also a vegetarian, something rare for the time but not unheard of. Well one day while she is out wandering her family's land, sketchbook in hand, she stumbles across a man coming out of the water. A naked man. She is stunned. Because she is hidden from view, he is not aware of her presence. He decides to take a nap in the woods - naked. I guess he doesn't know about all the creepy crawly things which inhabit dirt/grass/leaves. Things which crawl into crevices. I digress. Anyway, after he has fallen into a peaceful sleep (even with insects crawling), Esme whips out her sketch pad and draws him. When he wakes up, he becomes aware that someone is there, but Esme's dog Burr leaps out from cover so he thinks it's just the dog and dresses. He goes his way and Esme goes her way, humming.

Well, there's a house party at the Byron's and any astute romance reader can see the writing on the wall. There is of course the jealous woman at the party who bangs into Esme causing Esme's sketch pad to drop to the floor. Guess what page the sketch pad falls open to? Yep, the naked guy. Well it turns out that this isn't just any guy. No siree. It seems our plucky Esme has chosen a notorious man-slut to sketch - someone who's Mr. Toad should have fallen off long ago - none other than Gabriel Lansdowne, Lord Northcote. Well, evidently Esme's pretty good at drawing because everyone recognizes Gabriel. Since the Byron brothers have convenient forgotten their rakehell days they become incensed and immediately storm into the countryside estate Gabriel is vacationing at. They pounce on him. They insist he make everything right with their sister. He has no idea what they are talking about. They pounce again. He doesn't have any idea who their sister is. They pounce again. Then they start to listen and realize that even though Gabriel is a long way from being an innocent, in this case, he is. But that doesn't really matter - he must marry their sister to avoid a worse scandal. So, two perfect strangers are wed. All of this takes place by Chapter 11. In the rest of the book we get to watch these two people who don't know each other as they stumble over numerous bumps in the road toward their HEA. Some of that stumbling works and some does not.

Isn't it funny how sometimes you like the heroine, sometimes you like the hero and sometimes you like them both. My favorite books are the ones that allow me to have a fondness for both characters. This book was not one of them. I thought Esme was a sweet character - she saved animals after all. She was gentle, kind and understanding. She was a tad bit naive but still managed to have a backbone. While she may have viewed others through rose-colored glasses, she was also quick to punish those who trespassed against her good will. When she is forced into this marriage, she wants to make it work and she puts all of her nineteen years’ worth of knowledge into it. Did I happen to mention that our hero Gabriel is thirty-three? A very experienced thirty-three. I can count on my fingers. That's fourteen years difference and it shows.

Gabriel. Gabriel is the one with the angst-filled problems. He's arrogant, cavalier toward women, very experienced and can never trust or love a woman. Granted his uncle, who was his guardian, treated him cruelly, and took away his dog when he was young. This traumatized Gabriel so much that he just couldn't become attached to something else - it all gets taken away. Then there was the girl he fell in love with who crushed his teenage heart, so he could never luv again. So he just wallows in self-pity hopping from one bed to another, never allowing anyone to touch his cold heart. Until that fateful day when one of his friends suggests that love has entered Gabriel’s marriage; what was once a glorious marriage is suddenly gone. Esme cannot understand what made her husband turn into a cold stranger. Then after a night of heavy duty whankee-roo she wakes up to an empty bed. Not only an empty bed, but Gabriel has vamoosed to London leaving her alone to deal with some pretty nasty servants and an equally nasty uncle. She doesn't allow Gabriel to do this to her. She eventually follows him to London and pushes her way under his skin. But then Gabriel turns into this maniacal jealous guy. So far Gabriel has two points I counted against him - abandoning his wife and then turning into a jealous moron. But that wasn't everything, there was also an "almost disturbing essence" about him and that had to do mainly with the amount of experience he had as opposed to the lack Esme had.

My third point against Gabriel - can openers. This is what I found disturbing about Gabriel - his experience or should I say the way he used his experience to do a subtle control over Esme. It seemed to me he really didn't care that Esme was an innocent. Oh sure, he wanted to make sure her first time was pleasurable, in fact he went to a great deal of trouble to see to that.  You see, he was the owner of a massive Mr. Toad and he knew that Esme's wee little tunnel of love just would not be flexible enough for his super-dooper gigantor Mr. Toad. So, he needed to do some rooting around. He preceded to tip, dig, dive, plunge, spread. First with one finger, then a second joined in, followed by his big old thumb - all he needed was a can-opener. I'm surprised he didn't find the kitchen sink in there. Was it any wonder Esme was a tad bit sore the next day. Now, I am perfectly aware that romance heroes do a lot of puppet shows with their fingers but it seemed to me that Gabriel introduced Esme to a whole world of experience really fast, even after the first encounter. Of course Esme said over and over and over again how much she loved this part of her married life, but when I combine his experience with his subtle control with the age difference, it all came a little bit too close to setting off my ick-o-meter.

Bottom line, this book had possibilities. The heroine was sweet and lovable. But the hero was controlling and arrogant; he also had a ridiculous jealousy explosion and I hatesssss jealous heroes. So I give the heroine a B+ and the hero a D.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot!!

And, my little Petunia's for your edification. Here is an example of an ancient speculum. Open up and say cheese. 

Makes me tear up.

If His Kiss is Wicked by Jo Goodman

March 17, 2016
So many authors, so little time.
Once again I'm being sucked into reading an author which I for some reason have ignored. This is the third book of Jo Goodman's I've read and I have to say this one pulls out all the stops. Oh sure, I knew Jo Goodman was out there but as I said in one of my earlier reviews I thought she did only westerns and I'm not a big fan of those. But I have checked out her backlist and found many many many books which fall neatly into my little reading niche. If His Kiss Is Wicked is the third in the Grantham series and was published in 2007. This is the story of Emma Hathaway and Restell Gardner, the step-brother to the Earl of Ferrin (One Forbidden Evening.)

Editorial comment: Restell - yum. What an incredible hero! He was handsome - ignore the mustache and beard on the front cover, once again the description in the book doesn't match the cover. Although if you look closely at the hair you will see that it is blonde. Whine, whine, whine. Enough about covers - back to our wonderful hero. As I said before, he was so handsome, in fact I'm guessing he was intimidatingly handsomeeeey - those good looking guys make me stutter. Restell is intelligent, can read people like a super hero, is kind, and most importantly he has a wonderful sense of humor, a lot of which he aims at himself. I loved this guy and I especially loved his interaction with our heroine, Emma. The dialogue between those two was so much fun to read. But the story isn't all about having a laugh a minute; it's no screwball comedy. There is also some very complex character building going on. And, not only in the two main people. There is a lot of subtle characterization going on, especially in the secondary character of Marisol. More on her later.

Emma. If there was any weakness in this book, I would have to say it was with Emma. I loved Emma. I loved how Ms. Goodman wrote her. The pain she goes through after she is attacked and beaten is so very realistic. Her reaction to her fear, and her impatience with that fear was another piece of great writing. She is a strong woman, she is complex and she is a fighter. But I had just a minor quibble with her. She was portrayed as a scrapper and as someone who was very perceptive - so why did she put up with her cousin Marisol for so long?  I wanted Emma to stand up to the sly Marisol lonnnng before she did. I don't believe it's written anywhere that one must love one's cousin just because they are one's cousin.

Marisol. It took be a while to decide whether I liked Marisol or not. One minute she's a flitty-flappy beautiful woman who everyone admires and the next minute she saying something snide, something so subtle that one doesn't know whether one has been insulted or not. Ms. Goodman did a magnificent job of writing Marisol. I was never sure with her what was going on. Spoiler. She is actually quite creepy.

Red-herrings. Once again there are numerous red herrings in this story. We are led down a lot of paths on our way to solving a rather complicated mystery. But I say - if you go with your gut reaction you will know right away who the villain is. You just won't know why.

Overall, I loved almost every nuance of this story. I thought Restell and Emma were a wonderful couple. They brought out the best in each other. By the way - Restell's marriage proposal was a big sigh moment. This is/was some great storytelling, wonderful words, fine characters and the only complaint I had was Emma's blind-spot when it came to Marisol. High recommendation.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

One Forbidden Evening by Jo Goodman

March 10, 2015
Libraries! What would we do without a convenient library in our romance?

Yes, in One Forbidden Evening we have a heroine who must go to the library. Of course our hero is there slouched in a chair. All heroes slouch in the library chairs which have been

placed in the dark corner of a library. How they can read a book in the dark baffles me.  When Cybelline meandered into the library I found my mind wandering. You know heroines wander into dark secluded libraries a lot? In fact I bet libraries might be at the very top of the list of trysting places in romance books, (if there were such a list). I wonder just how many books have a library scene in them. A gazillion? I'm thinking that would make some meticulous person (not me) a wonderful project in their spare time. All one needs do is start going through romance books and record all the library scenes. Once the number is tabulated one could even make a list (we all love lists) of their favorite library scene, their most romantic library scene, their most erotic library scene, etc.  I'm not saying the use of a library is a bad thing; actually I think it's one of the better plot devices used to maneuver our couple into each other’s arms. I vaguely remember a library scene in which the heroine was angry with the hero and she rearranged all of his books by subject matter. I don't remember what book it was from, but I remember thinking it was funny. I’m done wandering now.

On to One Forbidden Evening, 2006. This is the second in Jo Goodman's Grantham series and yes it was published in 2006. I loved the first book so much I decided to check out the others in this series and I may take a look at her other historicals. Another author to read in between waiting for new books!

There was a lot to like about One Forbidden Evening. First of all, the witty dialogue between almost all of the characters in this book made me smile. Ms. Goodman seems to know her way around a word or two. She has also managed to take a plot device I don't particularly care for and make it into something that didn't irritate me. That would be the disguise plot line, in fact this book has two people pretending to be someone else. Our heroine pretends to be someone else in the very beginning of the book and our hero pretends to be his best friend in the rest of the book. But that's ok, because the people who really count know the truth of the identities – those people would be Cybelline (heroine) and Ferrin (hero). 

When the story begins, a recently widowed Cybelline is having a pretty hot dream about a man (we assume it's her husband). This dream is too much for her and she decides she must scratch that itch, with a little encouragement from her aunt and maid she does. She shows up at a costume party dressed as Boudicca – dyed red hair, spear and everything. She also has someone in mind to scratch that itch. Unknown to our hero Christopher Hollins, the Earl of Ferrin, Cybelline has been watching him for a while. She's heard of his reputation and believes he would be easy to seduce, plus she believes he wouldn't be interested in pursuing her once they've had their encounter. Oh silly girl, this is a romance. But even if it weren’t taking place in Romanceland, I would think that most men would not easily forget a woman who is the aggressor - at least not for a while. So after some really hot whankee-roo on the stairs (ouchy) she departs leaving Ferrin determined to find her. But, Cybelline has left more than just the party, she's fled into the countryside with her daughter.

It does not take our hero long to figure out who she is and where she has raced off to. He follows her. Now here is where the book took a nose dive for me. There is another reason he's off to the country - helping his friend Wellsley improve his reputation. You see, Wellsley's grandmother is concerned about Wellsley's reputation. She thinks the only way to improve that reputation is for him to marry. But Wellsley doesn’t want to be forced into a marriage of his grandmother’s choosing. Thrown into this is the fact that Wellsley is in love with Ferrin's sister, but Wellsley thinks Ferrin's parents don't like him because of his reputation - so for some reason the solution to all of this is for Ferrin to pretend to be Wellsley and go off to the country and do good things - I guess. This whole Wellsley/Ferrin pretend disguise thing was very silly, didn't make too much sense and was distracting to the rest of the story. I didn't get it.

Anyway, Ferrin is in the countryside pretending to be Wellsley. Cybelline is there and of course she knows he’s not Wellsley and he knows she’s Boudicca. But before they confess to each other that they know who is who, they do some circling and baiting. There is also a little bit of a mystery plot going on. After Cybelline’s husband committed suicide, she started receiving threatening letters from his lover. A lover she had no idea existed and one who blames her for her husband’s death. Also included with these threatening letters are correspondence which her husband (Nicholas) sent his lover. Not only is she frightened, she is also hurt by Nicholas’ betrayal. As the story progresses, the threats start to include Cybelline’s daughter. Phewwww, there's a lot going on in this book. The mystery surrounding Cybelline's marriage/husband was a nice bit of discovery. There are clues all over the place but you have to read carefully to catch them because Ms. Goodman tries to lead you down the wrong path. Don’t follow the Red Herrings. And, that's all the hint I am going to provide.

This book also contained a rather silly villain resolution, but I wasn't as irritated with that as I was with Ferrin’s strong-arm techniques in the bedroom. I found myself becoming rather annoyed with Ferrin's compulsion to have Cybelline plead for her pleasure. I'm not sure why he felt the need to do that over and over again. Cybelline has let Ferrin read some of the letters, so he knows what a jerk-face Nicholas was, how Nicholas used her but still Ferrin insists upon Cybelline’s begging. I found Ferrin's demands of Cybelline not only disturbing but degrading - especially since he was supposedly falling in love with her.

Overall, I found most of the book a pleasant read. I was enchanted with Ms. Goodman's use of "the Word". The dialogue was fun, the characters were well-rounded. I would have given this a much higher rating but for a few things: I didn't buy into the Wellsley/Ferrin switch reasoning and Ferrin's bedroom antics were unsettling.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot