The Viscount and the Vixen by Lorraine Heath

December 29, 2106

The Search for a Good Book continues
When one is in the middle of a dry spell, when your auto-buy authors are either not writing,
switched to contemporaries or not living up to ones expectations, what does one do? Well, they can either turn to their old books (which I have) or they can read a new author in hopes of finding someone to fill the void. I’ve been reading my old books and now it’s time to find some new ones. I picked Lorraine Heath’s The Viscount and the Vixen. Lorraine Heath may not be a new author, but I’ve never read her – maybe I keep getting her mixed up with an author from the old days, Sandra Heath. I don’t know why, I’ve just never picked up any of her books, 'til now.

The Viscount and the Vixen
is part of the Hellions of Haversham Hall series, however I don’t believe you have to read any of those to appreciate this one. There didn’t seem to be any left-over mystery to be solved or villains lurking about. The characters seemed to be pretty well-developed, so this one appears to be a stand-alone.

There are four main characters in The Viscount and the Vixen – Locke (our hero), Portia (our heroine), Marsden (Locke’s father), and Linnie (the ghost of Marsden’s dead wife). There are quite an assortment of storylines going on in this book. There is Locke protecting his father, hiding him away from society, making sure he doesn’t injure himself. Why's that, you may ask. Well, this is because Marsden is a little bit off – he wanders around the house, he lives in the past sometimes, and he talks to his dead wife. From what we are led to believe, she talks back. We really never get to see her, except through Marsden’s eyes. This, for me, led to a disappointment later on. We will talk about that later.

Then we have Portia, who is running away from something – she seems to be in danger, she’s desperate, and she has a big secret. This secret leads to another issue I had with the book.

There were a lot of things to like in this book and a couple of things which fall into the category of “If I had written this, I’d have done it this way.” But hey, I didn’t write the book, so that means I can be disappointed.

Here’s the premise of the story. The wily, off-balance Marsden advertises for a wife for himself. His son finds out and becomes outrageously upset, but it is too late because our desperate heroine Portia arrives on the scene, contract in hand. Locke jumps to the conclusion that she’s a mercenary slut and saves his father by marrying her himself. (Which is what Marsden planned all along.) From here on it’s a tale of Locke and Portia having sex one moment and Locke striking out at Portia the next. He likes to call her names, a money-grubbing w…, a no-account woman, and then they have sex, then he calls her names again, then sex. You get the idea. There was so much sex in this book I had to do some skip reading. I also did some skip reading when the father reminisced about his sex life with Locke’s mother. Maybe this was supposed to be funny, but it touched off my ick-o-meter.

For me this was an ok read with glimmers of good writing – but there was a certain unevenness in the story-telling and a couple of things I wish had been done differently. Spoilers ahead! Portia isn’t really a widow, but a runaway mistress. She’s running away because she’s pregnant and the man who is the father will probably put the baby in a baby farm (which I gather means it will die). So, Portia’s desperation in selecting Marsden as a husband is because she is protecting her baby. She believes that since Marsden is hidden away, she will be also. However, Locke steps in and she can no longer keep a low profile. Here’s the problem I had with this storyline. First of all, I found it irritating that we the readers were kept from knowing the secret. I don’t think the story would have been any less tense if we had been let in on it – in fact, I think us knowing the secret would add to the tension. If we had been let in on the secret we would be wondering all through the book just what Locke’s reaction was going to be. (I guessed what it was from the beginning.)

The other problem I had with the protecting-the-baby theme was that when we finally meet the ex-lover/villain he just didn’t seem all that bad to me. In fact, he actually loved Portia. I guess I’m used to some sociopathic villains turning into heroes, ala Anne Stuart’s edgy guys (and that’s just one author). I never knew in this book whether he was as bad as Portia says – he just never exhibited a scary villain personality.

Then we have the ghost. If Marsden is in fact talking to the ghost of his wife – why didn’t we, the readers, get to see it? I would have enjoyed the ending more if the ghost had been visible. As it was all we get to see is what may be the ghostly lip prints on a dead man’s cheek. While that may make for a pretty poetic scene it was a depressing ending.

Overall, for me this was an ok read. Sometimes there were moments of loveliness but those were followed by disjointed storylines and a hero who couldn’t make up his mind whether Portia was a good girl or a gold digger (while all the time he doing the wonka-donka all over the place). I probably will not check out the rest in the series.

Time/Place: 1880s England
Sensuality: Hot


Jumping Jehosophat! Upcoming Historical Romances!!!!!!!!!!! 2017! Yipes!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! January 15, 2017 to February 14, 2017. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.
Beverly Jenkins
Old West series
January 31
Carol Arens
The Cowboy’s Cinderella
Paper-January 17, ebook-February 1
Eloisa James*
Seven Minutes in Heaven
Desperate Duchesses series
January 31
Heather Hiestand
I Wanna Be Loved By You
The Grand Russe series
February 14
Jane Bonander
The Scoundrel’s Pleasure
The MacNeil Legacy series
February 14
Joanna Shupe
The Knickerbocker Club series
January 31
Kelly Bowen*
Between the Devil and the Duke
A Season for Scandal series
January 31
Kerrigan Byrne 
The Duke
Victorian Rebels series
February 7
Lynsay Sands
Falling for the Highlander
Highlanders series
January 31
Maggie Robinson*
Schooling the Viscount
Cotswold Confidential series
January 31
Margaret Moore
A Marriage of Rogues
Paperback-January, 17 ebook-2-1

I have to ask - What's with the hat and just how old is this guy?
And, is she like a Stepford wife robot?
Marguerite Kaye
The Harlot and the Sheikh
Hot Arabian Nights series
Paperback-January 17, ebook-February 1
Mary Balogh
Someone to Hold
Westcott series
February 7
Mary Wine
Highland Vixen
Highland Weddings series
February 7
Michelle Styles
Sold to the Viking Warrior
Paperback-January 17, ebook-February 1
Sarah Mallory
The Duke's Secret Heir
Paperback-January 17, ebook-February 1
Virginia Heath
Miss Bradshaw's Bought Betrothal
Paperback-January 17, ebook-February 1

Unmasking Miss Appleby, by Emily Lane

December 28, 2016

Oh those manly-men - sort of.

Do your know how we often whine about our heroines dressing up as men? Or maybe it's just me who whines. Well in this story we have a case of our heroine Charlotte Appleby doing just that. (Not whining, pretending to be a man). Except in this case, thanks to a malevolent faerie godmother, Charlotte actually becomes a man - she gets everything a man has; that includes a Mr. Toad and his dangly parts. All of these hangy-down things on her body make for some humorous moments. You see, Charlotte is a pretty innocent woman, even more so when confronted with her newly created man-parts. It's an interesting twist to an old plot-line. In case you haven't guessed - there is a paranormal aspect to this story.

Charlotte Appleby wants to escape the drudgery of her relative's house. She wants something more, but being a woman it's hard for her to get out from under. Her choices are pretty limited. Then on her twenty-fifth birthday she finds out she has a faerie godmother - a real faerie godmother. She can make a wish - of course a number of these wishes come with strings attached; her godmother is a little tricky. Anyway, after reviewing some of her options, she decides she wants the ability of transform her appearance. (That's not the one I would have went for, but it's not my story and I don't have a faerie godmother). Charlotte's priorities are to find something she can earn money at. The only way to earn enough money to live is to change into a man - which she does. She becomes Christopher Albin. She becomes the secretary to Marcus Langford, the Earl of Cosgrove.

Marcus is a widower and there are rumors flying about his wife’s demise. Someone is trying to damage his reputation by spreading those awful tales. On top of that, someone is throwing things through his window and leaving poop on his door-step. So, there's a lot for Marcus to contend with and he needs a new secretary because the last one was in an "accident." He hires Christopher/Charlotte and soon they are looking for the scoundrel/scoundrels responsible for all the hubbub.

Unmasking Miss Appleby was written very well; the mystery and the romance flowed together smoothly. There was a well balanced mix of humor and drama. It doesn't take Christopher/Charlotte long to become attracted to Marcus, but because she's in a man's body she doesn't act on it. This also leads to some pretty funny moments. Her newly acquired Mr. Toad is a mystery to her and because her Mr. Toad is springing up every time she's around Marcus, she must come up with a solution. Her solution is to turn herself back into Charlotte and pretend to have information for Marcus. This information she actually received while she was Christopher. Marcus shows up at the mysterious Charlotte's flat only to find out that she will only give him the information if he has sex with her. What's a guy to do? He needs the information, so he sacrifices himself and has a pretty good night of whankee-roo. Though he does feel guilty later - sort of. So, as Charlotte her inch is scratched, as Christopher she is Marcus' friend and as the bear she scares bad guys. You got it?

If there was anything I had a quibble with it was that we didn't really get to see Marcus' POV for a lot of the book. It wasn't until Charlotte is revealed that we actually are let in on his brain-think. I thought his reaction to the Charlotte reveal was a tad bit excessive considering he didn't react all that much when he found out Christopher/Charlotte could turn himself/herself into a bear, dog, and a bird. Of course, he thought it was Christopher turning into animals, not Charlotte. Although why it didn't dawn on him that if Christopher could be a dog, he could also be a woman.

This was the first book by Emily Larkin that I've read and I liked it well enough to read the next in the series when it comes out. I do recommend this book and if you like a little paranormal in your romance, you'll like this one. This isn't an overpowering paranormal/fantasy book, just a little spattering of faerie dust for your enjoyment.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot


Goodbye - Farewell 2016!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 19, 2016
"Hello, I must be going.
I cannot stay,
I came to say
I must be going.
I'm glad I came
but just the same
I must be going.

For my sake you must stay,
for if you go away,
you'll spoil this party
I am throwing.

I'll stay a week or two,
I'll stay the summer through,
but I am telling you,
I must be going."
- Animal Crackers (Groucho Marx)

Farewell 2016

Goodbye my dear Jo Beverley and Roberta Gellis. We will remember your voices through the words you have left behind for us.

Some debut authors who have crossed my radar: Abbie Roads, April Hunt, Cat Sebastian, Anna Bennett, Lexi Eddings, Emma Hornby, Melissa Marino, Lisa Jones Baker, Jessica Linden, Brianna Labuskes, Laurel Blount. Congratulations.

This has been a tough year for books which I consider outstanding. There have been weeks and weeks when I've had to retreat to my oldies but goodies pile. As we all know, memory sometimes plays tricks on us but sometimes our memories of good old books work. So, thanks to some hefty support from my older books here is my Outstanding Romance Novels of 2016 - in no particular order.

1. Tessa Dare - Do You Want to Start a Scandal
2. Julia Quinn - It's in His Kiss - 2005
3. Julia Quinn - Romancing Mister Bridgerton - 2002
4. Julia Quinn - The Viscount Who Loved Me - 2000
5. Julia Quinn - The Duke and I - 2000
6. Anne StuartShameless - 2011
7. Anne Stuart – Ruthless - 2010
8. Anne Stuart - The Houseparty - 1985
9. Elizabeth Hoyt - Sweetest Scoundrel
10. Madeline Hunter - Tall, Dark and Wicked
11. Laura Lee Guhrke - And Then He Kissed Her - 2007
12. Eloisa James - A Gentleman Never Tells
13. Lisa Kleypas - Marrying Winterborne
14. Elizabeth Hoyt - Duke of Sin
15. Madeline Hunter - The Wicked Duke
16. Marguerite Kaye - Strangers at the Altar
17. Eva Leigh - Temptation of a Wallflower
18. Courtney Milan - Her Every Wish
19. Jo Goodman - If His Kiss is Wicked - 2007
20. Eloisa James - My American Duchess
21. Loretta Chase - Dukes Prefer Blondes
22. Grace Burrowes - The Laird - 2014
23. Karen Ranney - My Beloved - 1999

Disappointment List. Before I even begin, let's make sure we understand that whether you like a book or not depends on many things. You may even love a book and then 15 years later have thoughts cross your mind, like “what the crap was I thinking! Is this a classic or isn’t it?” Maybe you’re just not in the right mood, or maybe the book just stinks. Whatever the reason, its allll very subjective. I may not like a book which everyone else in the entire book world loves, loves, loves. Will I stop reading an author who has made my disappointment list? Just look at the authors on this list, a number of them were on both lists. So much for favoritism. These are my disappointments and not anyone else's. In no particular order.

1. Julie Garwood - The Wedding - 1996
2. Julie Garwood - The Bride - 1989
3. Cathy Maxwell - A Date at the Altar
4. Sarah MacLean - A Scot in the Dark
5. Julia Quinn - On the Way to the Wedding - 2006
6. Anne StuartBreathless - 2010
7. Mary Jo Putney - Once a Soldier
8. Cathy Maxwell - The Fairest of Them All
9. Jo Goodman - All I Ever Needed - 2003
10. Ashlyn MacNamara - To Lure a Proper Lady
11. Sally MacKenzie - How to Manage a Marquess
12. Stacy Schiff - The Witches (yes, I know it's not a romance - don't care)
13. Kasey Michaels - A Scandalous Proposal
14. Jo Goodman - Let Me Be the One - 2002
15. Tracy Anne Warren - Happily Bedded Bliss
16. Grace Burrowes - Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight - 2012
17. Grace Burrowes - The Duke's Obsession Bundle - The Heir – 2010, The Soldier – 2011, The Virtuoso - 2011
18. Elizabeth Hoyt - Duke of Pleasure


Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt

December 8, 2016
Just three more to go.

Yes, my little Petunias, according to Ms. Hoyt's website 2017 will see the end of the Maiden Lane series. According to her there will be two novellas and a full-length novel. Then I shall be in tears, because I love Maiden Lane - not necessarily the Ghost of St Giles - but the lane itself was such an fascinating place. Anyway, it's not over yet so I will save my whining for later.

In the Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt we have as our hero Hugh Fitzroy, the Duke of Kyle and our heroine Alf. If you remember Alf correctly you will remember she is a woman masquerading as a boy and she been jumping from building to building in a number of books. I haven't been all that interested in her, because the woman aka boy disguise isn't one of my favorite story lines. In the Duke of Pleasures, that story line isn't as irritating because of the way the author has written it.

You see, Alf has been walking around as a boy almost her entire life. One of the problems she has is imagining herself as a woman. I found this to be an interesting way of looking at a standard Romanceland cliché. It could have been intriguing and that, my dears, is my top complaint about this book. It was a "could have been" book. Much to my disappointment this was not one of my favorite books by Ms. Hoyt. For me this book lacked a "completeness." Alf and Hugh were ok, but their characters were not as developed as other Hoyt characters. This book was 261 pages, but the actual story ended on page 234 - the rest was just previews/upcoming/miscellaneous. Even though this book was 234 pages long, for me it had the feel of a short story. It just seemed to me to be a "tired" book.

Then there were the reappearance of the Ghost of St Giles and the return of the Lord of Chaos. I thought maybe we'd seen the last of the Ghost a few books ago, because really it was time for that guy to retire. But guess what - spoiler ahead - not only is Alf a disguised boy during the day, at night she is roof-hopping as the Ghost. We also have (once again) a hero who is the smartest spy in the world but cannot see a woman dressed as a boy when she's standing right in front of him.

Maybe there was just too much going on in this book for the characters or story line to be fully developed. Alf is trying to be a spy and save orphans; in fact there are two orphans she visits. She works for the oblivious Hugh, who has two sons. One of these sons hates his father and the other one has screaming nightmares (never really explained). Hugh is trying to find the Lords of Chaos and at the same time thinking about marrying the friendly widow Lady Jordan, who steals the diary of Hugh's wife and can cypher code. She gives the diary back after she has removed some pages because the boys are just tooooo young to understand, but when they get older and ask, then she will let them see what a whore their mother was - sounds like a sound plan to me. Then there is Raphael de Chartres, who has a scarred face and has been keeping his eye on Alf, but he's really interested in Lady Jordan. The last time we saw him he disappeared into the dark woods. Oh yeah, then there are the Lords of Chaos - a filler if ever there was one.

I think this was my most disappointing Elizabeth Hoyt read. There was just nothing which drew me in. There wasn't any trademark Hoyt vividness. I did not become enthralled, entranced, or fascinated with the main characters. The characters were just ok and not what I have come to expect of Ms. Hoyt. As I said before, this book has a tired feeling. Bummer.

Time/Place: 1700s Maiden Lane
Sensuality: Don't remember, think it was hot.