Goodbye Jo

May 24, 2016

Today I found out that Jo Beverley had passed away on May 23rd. This makes me sad. Jo
was one of my favorite authors. It seems as if we have been together in the changing Romanceland from the beginning. She is the first author I ever wrote a fan letter to and much to my surprise she responded. In 1996 she wrote a book entitled The Shattered Rose. When I first read this book, I didn't like it. Years passed and I reread it and fell in love with the wonderful writing which Ms. Beverley brought to her books. The Shattered Rose is now one of my favorite poignant stories. She is also responsible for a wonderful character by the name of Rothgar. Rothgar is the older brother from her Malloren series, and she saved him for last. She created a clever campaign prior to the release of his story in 2000, sending out buttons with the words Waiting for Rothgar printed on them. This button has been pinned to my bookshelf for years - it always makes me smile. Ms. Beverley is also responsible for writing one of the longest, smartest, detailed, accurate how-to-name-your-aristocrat paper that's out there.  And, who can forget her Company of Rogues? Jo Beverley created a world filled with rogues, rakes, spinsters, heroines and loyal friends. We will miss the voice which created an amazing fantasy world for us to lose ourselves in. So I say goodbye Jo, I will miss you.

For Jo - "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of  these is love."


Holy Cannoli! It's that time Again! Upcoming Historical Releases!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! June 15, 2016 to July 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.
 Adrienne deWolfe

 Devil in Texas
 Lady law and the Outlaw series
 ebook (kindle)
 July 12
Alissa Johnson

A Gift for Guile

Thief-Takers series
July 7
Amanda Forester

If the Earl Only Knew

Daring Marriages series
July 5
Anne Gracie

The Summer Bride
Chance Sisters series
July 5
Bronwyn Scott

Unbuttoning the Innocent Miss
Wallflowers to Wives series
Paperback - June 21, ebook July 1
Harper St. George

The Innocent and the Outlaw
Outlaws of the Wild West series
Paperback - June 21, ebook July 1
Johanna Lindsey

Make Me Love You
July 5
Louise Allen

The Unexpected Marriage of Gabriel Stone
Lords of Disgrace series
Paperback - June 21, ebook July 1
Mary Jo Putney*

Once a Soldier
Rogues Redeemed series
June 28
Maya Rodale*

Chasing Lady Amelia
Keeping Up With the Cavendish series
June 28
Meriel Fuller

Commanded by the French
Paperback - June 21, ebook 

July 1
Stephanie Laurens

The Daredevil Snare
Adventurers Quartet series
June 28


Strangers at the Altar by Marguerite Kaye

May 17, 2016

"Yeah, I've been searchin'
A-a searchin'
Oh, yeah, searchin' every which a-way
Yeah, yeah
Oh, yeah, searchin'
I'm searchin'
Searchin' every which a-way
Yeah, yeah"

Yes, I've been searchin' for something to read. My bright idea was to turn to other top rated reviews. I found numerous top rated reviews at AAR, however I read historicals so I had to

whittle my list down, then I had to shrink it down even further to the ones I hadn't already read. This left me with a grand total of two books - woo-woo. The first of my two books was Strangers at the Altar by Marguerite Kaye, written in 2014. This was my first Marguerite Kaye book and it turned out to be pretty enjoyable. I may read more of her books, although I have to say that I find some of the titles in her library to be a little silly, if not downright irritating. But that's life in Romanceland.

Strangers at the Altar was/is a marriage-of-convenience story - nothing better than a good story about a contracted marriage - especially in Romanceland. This one was about Ainsley McBrayne, a widow who has been left without any funds by her worthless husband. She’s at her solicitor’s office trying to break the trust. She has exploded into a wonderful conniption-fit when we are first introduced to her. Who should be in the next room with troubles of his own? Innes Drummond – our hero. After listening to her rant, he comes up with a plan. He follows her when she storms out of the office.

His plan. Since he has to marry to get his inheritance, he thinks that a marriage with no strings attached would be a simply mar-ve-lous idea. It doesn’t take too much arm-bending for Ainsley to agree. They both need money, neither one of them want any romance, they think their marriage-of-convenience will just be the cat’s meow. What a deluded couple.

I liked this couple. Right from the beginning they know where they stand with each other. It doesn't take too long before they are great partners. They talk to each other, they are very open with each other, and even Ainsley's secret (of course she has a secret) isn't a secret for very long. In fact when Innes finds out that Ainsley is an advice columnist he helps her. Even though Ainsley is a widow, her knowledge of some aspects of married life are a little bit innocent. Can you say Missionary? Innes helps her expand her knowledge. These scenes between Ainsley are not only funny but very sensual.

The tension in this story is not created by an outside force, but from the fact that neither Ainsley or Innis want to be in love. It's quite a struggle. Innis puts up more of a struggle than Ainsley - he is a little bit more closed than Ainsley.  He doesn't always ask for help when he needs to. He's just a wee bit stubborn. For the most part, Ms. Kaye has created a nice balancing act between the antagonists and their struggle not fall in love. I loved the relationship which developed between the two.

Names. The names Ainsley and Innes gave me a headache. Tooooo many I,S and N's for me.

The secondary characters were also a joy. I especially liked Ainsley's friend Felicity and was hoping there may have been a sequel with Felicity as the heroine, but I couldn't find any. I'm hoping Ms. Kaye makes room for Felicity in her writing schedule. I think Felicity would be a challenging character for a full length novel. She's not a typical heroine.

Was this a perfect novel? No. I had a bit of an issue with Innes being stubborn just a little toooooo long. Yes, I realize he didn't want to fall in love, but he could have admitted his love just a little sooner. I also think his grovel needed to be just a tiny bit longer. Other than that I thought this book was a pretty good read and though I'm not giving it as high a rating as the one at AAR, I think this is one that isn't to be missed. I had a smile on my face when I finished.

Time/Place: 1840 England
Sensuality: Hot


How to Manage a Marquess by Sally MacKenzie

May 12, 2016

You talkin' to me?

When I picked up How to Manage a Marquess by Sally MacKenzie I had my fingers crossed. I had issues with the first book in her new Spinster House series, What to do With a Duke. But because I found Ms. MacKenzie's earlier writings to be fun, I hadn't given up on her. So I was hoping that this book would be the light at the end of the tunnel I was looking for. Sigh. 

Spoilers litter this review.

Concurrently. I'm not sure how I feel about books which have story lines running concurrently. A number of those books I have liked. But looking back on the books I liked, I believe most of those were published close together. In the case of What to do With a Duke and How to Manage a Marquess there is a spread of a whole stinkin' year. In order for those books to work for me I needed to read them closer together. Maybe some of you would be able to remember why that couple was leaving the room or why they've been gone for an hour or what they were whispering about, but I couldn't. This was an issue for me in this book. The previous hero, Marcus, was still a big part of the storyline - but, gee-willikers it's been a year! I didn't know what was going on and I'm didn't go back and reread just so the light bulb would go off. Anyway, I thought the whole rehash of Marcus' plot line made for a disjointed story. Since there are three books in this series, I suspect the next story about Jane and Alex will be just as problematic.

Family curses. In the previous story we learned about a 200 year old curse which claims the life of all the male Dukes of Hart once their wife is sprouting. You would think that the line would have died out by now - wrong. No those guys just keep plugging away. You see there was a codicil to that curse. If the heir falls in love the curse will no longer be valid. But, this book wasn't about the Duke of Hart or the curse or the breaking there of. Nope this book was about Nathaniel, Marcus' cousin. Once upon a time Nathaniel promised his mother (on her death bed) that he would watch out for Marcus and never let him die. Now, why his dying mother extracted this promise from her son was not clear to me, but she did. That wasn't the disturbing part of this curse. The disturbing part was Nate. You see Nate takes his job seriously. Real seriously. He's right there following his cousin around day and night, night and day. He's making sure that Marcus wasn't poking spaces that should be left un-poked. One might even say Nate was in Marcus' space - all the time, everywhere Marcus goes, everything he does -there's Nate. Nate was a real oppressive presence in Marcus' life. I found Nate to be more than a little irritating. I just wanted to throw something at him, shout at him - leave that 30 year old Marcus-guy alone. Get off of his back!

Family curses continued. I had a hard time stretching my belief with this curse. If the time period for this story had been placed in the medieval era or even the early 1600s I might have bought into it. But we are talking 1817 and for me this particular curse just didn't work. This story was a Regency romance not a Regency Gothic romance or a Regency paranormal. I think for the curse part to have worked in this book, Ms. MacKenzie should have been a little bit heavier handed with the supernatural atmosphere. I like spooky stuff, the unexplained, ghosts, spirits, witches, stuff etc. I know I've read other books where there were Regency hero and heroines who were affected by a 300 year old curse and those stories worked - but this one didn't. I can't explain it except to say it must have been the writing.  This time around the curse part of this story didn't work for me.

Mean, nasty people. When I read the first book in this series I had an issue with the supposed friendship between the three women: Jane, Cat and Anne. They were supposed to be friends, but they treated each other abominably, they were nasty, catty and mean. They were not what I would ever consider a friend. I was hoping in this book we would see something likeable in Anne, but it was not to be. She was a brat. She was horrible to everyone; not just her friends, but her father, her father's fiancée, and the hero. Anne was one unpleasant person and I could feel no sympathy for her, even when I should have. But she isn't the only horrid person in this book. In fact it would be easier to say there were two characters in this book who were enjoyable. Those two characters would be seven-year-old Stephen and five-year-old Edward.  This book is full of unpalatable people; from Anne's unfeeling, selfish father to his unpleasant, rigid fiancée Eleanor to a house full of oblivious relatives.

Nosedive time. There came a time in this book, (which I was struggling to finish) that it took a real nosedive. Almost a wallbanger moment - so to speak. Anne and her father have lots of obstacles. They don't get along, they don't talk and when they do it's more along the line of sniping. Anne knew her father wanted to marry a much younger woman; in fact this woman, Eleanor, was a year younger than Anne. There were some really harsh feelings between all three of these people. But do not fear, there's a party they were invited to. On the journey there, Anne's father had all kinds of time to talk to her - he didn't. Maybe he was a little put off because every time he tried, she bit his head off. She was a little off-putting. We arrive at the party. Eleanor's entire family was at the county party, plus our hero. There was this biggggg family dinner. It was at this dinner that her father decides to announce his engagement to Eleanor - without telling Anne. Without giving her any kind of warning. Anne is hurt, outraged, livid. Oh by the way, her father also announces that Eleanor and he have been a little precipitous in celebrating their wedding vows. He makes a public announcement that his fiancée Eleanor was with child. Anne precedes to get roaring drunk and throws-up all over our hero. My ears are still ringing from this WTF scene. First of all Eleanor was a widow of about two months! That's some pretty salacious quick work there. Secondly, how embarrassing - how scandalous - how historically inaccurate would a public announcement of an unwed woman being pregnant be? I couldn't believe this scene. From the surprise announcement to the pregnant shout out to the drunken throw-up, it was a wallbanger moment. Do you see why I didn't like any of these people? Shall I go on?

Unchaperoned. I had another WTF moment when Anne traveled back to her home with the hero and no one was chaperoning her except her soon to be step-brothers: a five and seven-year-old. It was unbelievable. Just one more thing to add to my growing list of OMG moments.

The magical big "C". Once again there is an overabundance of the "C" word (rhymes with rock). I have no idea why that word is used soooo much in this story. Saying C___ a million gazillion times didn't mean it's hot or sexy or passionate. It's not as if Timothy Toad did anything, except in this case - talk. Yes, Nathaniel's Timothy Toad talks to him - all the time. It urges him on, encourages him to seek shelter in the nearest wet cave. But that's ok, because you see Nate talks back to his Mr. Toad. He tells him to shut up, he tells him his hopes and dreams and reads him bed time stories and they play the piano together. I made some of that up. However, I hear that they are going on the road - the Marquess of Haywood and his amazing talking "C" Toad.  Haywood can join those other greats: Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, Jimmy Nelson and Farfel the wonder dog, Sherry Lewis and Lamb Chop, Edgar Bergan and Charley McCarthy, Wayland Flowers and Madame, Senor Wences and his hand.  By the way, when the big bazooga moment happened, I had to reread the paragraph to actually make sure it had occurred.

There were so many things in this book I had a problem with. Badly written woman-getting-drunk-not-funny-scene; nasty, horrible characters; a stretch of historical accuracy which even I could not overlook; an unfeeling father and a snotty daughter; a I-can't-marry-because-I have-to-follow-my-cousin-around-and-make-him-miserable hero; the overuse of the c-rhymes-with-rock word and last but not least a talking Mr. Toad.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Don't Blink


Temptation of a Wallflower by Eva Leigh

May 6, 2016

But it ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it. - Jack Kerouac

A bit of reflection. After all of these years, one would think it would not be necessary for romance authors to defend their writing. Alas and alack, there is still a stigma applied to not only romance writers but romance readers as well. Over the years I have had to defend what I read many times. Even now when someone asks me what I'm reading, I hesitate just a little before I answer. Having experienced the "oh one of those" looks numerous times, I have become weary of having to explain myself to another pretentious nincompoop.  Some of my favorite smug comment I've heard are: "I only read mysteries, romance books are too formulaic for me." Really, a mystery novel doesn't have a formula? OMG, has anyone ever read an Agatha Christie novel? "Oh, don't romance books always have happy endings?" You have a problem with happy endings? You big bonehead! Actually a romance novel empowers women and according to Maya Rodale the heroine of a romance novel doesn't have to die because she has an orgasm (Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Hester Prynne, Clarissa Harlow, etc.) At the end of a romance a woman is not punished because she is a woman who has found herself and her HEA. What does this have to do with Eva Leigh's Temptation of a Wallflower? Well, when you read this novel and look beyond the romance - beneath the words you will find a very heartfelt defense of romance writing.

Lady Sarah Frampton, daughter of the Duke of Wakefield is a spinster. She is also known as the "Watching Wallflower." She is pretty much content with her life and not really interested in being tied down to a husband. But Lady Sarah has a secret - she writes. She writes erotic novels. These novels are very very popular in England; everyone reads them. She is known as "A Lady of Dubious Quality" by the public No one knows who the author of these stories is, they don't even know if the author is a woman or a man. And, Lady Sarah wants to keep it that way. If anyone found out that Lady Sarah was the author, she would be ruined and her family would be ruined right along with her. But Sarah cannot give up writing; writing is the air Sarah breathes.

As I read this story it became very clear to me that Lady Sarah's need to create was/is a reflection of Ms. Leigh own thoughts on writing. There was just too much of an emotional tie between Lady Sarah and her books for it to be otherwise. Ms. Leigh gives us some pretty  compelling words throughout this book. Well done Ms. Leigh. Lady Sarah was a wonderful character. I had only one minor quibble with her. I had a slight "suspend belief" feeling through-out the book regarding the extent of Sarah's carnal knowledge. She was an innocent, never been touched, and obtained alllll of her knowledge through books. Those must have been some books' Plus she seems to have quite a lot of freedom for a Duke's daughter. 

Then we have our hero Jeremy Cleland. Now, Jeremy is a vicar. He's a vicar not because he wants to be but because his horrible domineering father, the Earl of Hutton, demands it. In fact the Earl has plans for all of his sons: the first one, of course, is the heir; the second is in the law profession. Everything this autocratic man wants his sons to do they do. Jeremy is really under his father's thumb. Which is why when he is called to London by his father, he doesn't waste anytime jumping on the closest horse and galloping to town to do his father's bidding. What does his father want him to do? Well, being the moralistic bonehead that he is, the Earl of Hutton wants Jeremy to find out just who the Lady of Dubious Quality is. Well Jeremy doesn't see the need to find out and besides that he's been leafing through the latest novel by that same lady. He's been putting that book to good use - all by himself - in the darkness of the vicarage - if you get my drift. Jeremy's father threatens him with cutting off his funds, so Jeremy caves in. He is off to find the author of the salacious novel he so enjoys.

Shortly after this episode Jeremy and Sarah are at the same house party. They are instantly attracted to each other. The plot moves along, they keep secrets from each other, they go to a eye opening masquerade, separately - in disguise and are instantly attracted to each other again. Each thinking they are meeting someone new. Guilt trip, guilt trip! They feel as if they are betraying Jeremy and Sarah when all the time they are Jeremy and Sarah but they don't know they are Jeremy and Sarah. Anyway they have all kinds of convoluted thoughts about betrayal. Then Sarah finds out that someone is trying to find out her identity (the author identity, not the masquerade identity). She comes up with a solution - she will marry Jeremy. After some pondering Jeremy agrees, if only he can forget the woman from the masquerade. Also, he must find the Lady of Dubious Quality. Ooooo what a tangled web we weave....

Neither set of parents are all that enthused about Jeremy and Sarah getting married. Sarah's parents order her out of the house and Jeremy's father is upset that their marriage might interfere with Jeremy finding the Dubious woman.

Regardless of what the parents think they marry. With that marriage comes a freedom that both Sarah and Jeremy have been looking for. They even get to experiment using the erotic book Jeremy has in his keeping.  Let me point out to you what that last sentence actually said. Jeremy uses the techniques he learned from his one erotic book to bring his innocent bride Sarah to a screaming, shrieking smorgasbord-orgasm.  Remember who wrote that book? Sarah, the same inexperienced woman who is gyrating in the bed. It was actually sort of funny. Anyway, they fall in love, but they both have secrets. These secrets are what add to the tension of the book. We the readers know that sometime all of the truths are going to come out. They do. And, let me say this - it was very painful.

Watching Sarah and Jeremy grow, make decisions and fall in love was a treat. There were some painful moments but those didn't drag on for too long, and it was interesting to see how the author resolved them. The entire book was full of some pretty well developed characters. My minor issues: I do wish Jeremy would have stood up to his father just a little bit sooner and I had a slight suspend-belief issue with an innocent Sarah pulling off best-selling erotic novels. Other than that Jeremy and Sarah were a delightful couple. I also believe the author has put a lot of herself into this book and if you love romance novels at all this is one you don't want to pass up. I do recommend Temptations of a Wallflower.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot