Monday

The Knave of Hearts by Elizabeth Boyle

February 29, 2016
"That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet" - unless you add an S.
 

http://www.elizabethboyle.com/
The Knave of Hearts is the fifth offering in the Rhymes with Love series. Lavinia Tempest

is the heroine of this book; you may remember her twin sister Louisa from The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane. Our hero is Alaster Rowland who has the unfortunate nickname of "Tuck.”

Authors, if you are listening/reading/whatever. Granted I am not published and you are, but gee willikers puleese check the pharmacy shelves before anointing your characters with nicknames. I had a hard time with the regrettable nickname of Tuck. Sure, it’s missing that last little letter S, but every time his name was mentioned all I could see was a round white product dipped in witch-hazel which is shelved right next to Preparation H. I digress.

Hopefully, you have your thinking cap on because the timeline of this book runs simultaneously with the previous book, and that book was published in 2014. I did not have my cap on, so I had a hard time remembering what was going on with the sister whenever she was mentioned in this book. Even though I have a somewhat faulty memory, and even though I liked this book, I think I prefer The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane to this one. Oh sure, this one had an adorable couple but the story was missing some of the sparkle of the other book. However, all is not lost. There is still some strong writing from the talented pen of Ms. Boyle - enough that everyone should be happy.

I liked the lead-in to this story. The fact that the heroine is sort of narrating her tale is a fun piece of inspiration and a bit misleading, which is also fun. I also enjoyed the banter between Louisa and Lavinia. I liked Tuck (that name!) and Lavinia's time together. I didn't find Tuck to be as knavish as he's supposed to be. Sure, he has a bit of a drinking problem, but after everything is explained away that seems to be his only problem. It is his alcohol consumption which causes a rather amusing dance floor pile-up. This pile-up creates an enormous scandal for an already tainted Lavina. Our poor sot Tuck is oblivious to the wreck his bumbling initiated. When he is awakened the next day to the fiasco he caused, he embarks on a hair-brained plan to restore Lavinia's standing in society. While I found his alcohol stumbling amusing, I did wonder at the end of the story if he had conquered this problem. I enjoyed the antics of almost all of the characters in this book. There were just a couple of things that prevented me from giving this story a higher rating.

I didn't buy into the villain’s motivation. I didn't understand it. I felt as if I was missing something. The villain just didn't work for me. So you see, my little Petunias, it's not just the heroine and hero who make a story work, but also the villain. I was also disappointed in the explanation given for the abandonment of Lavinia and Louisa by their mother. When I finished reading the The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane I was hoping that the loose ends would be tied up. I wanted to have a better understanding into why this woman would leave her children and a husband who adored her. It could be that the scene of Lavinia standing at a window watching her mother leave was drawn so vividly for me I just could not forgive the mother. I’m not sure, in the end there was just not enough of an answer; I was not allowed any kind of a forgivable closure and that was what I was looking for.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book and I do recommend it - just not as much as the one with Louisa as the heroine. 


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Tuesday

Holy Cannoli! Upcoming Historical Releases!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!!  March 15, 2016 to April 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.
 
Alexandra Hawkins
You Can't Always Get the Marquess You Want
Masters of Seduction series
April 5
Amanda Quick  
Til Death Do Us Part
April 19
Amy Sandas
Luck is No Lady
Fallen Ladies series
April 5
Caroline Linden*
Six Degrees of Scandal
Scandalous series
March 29
Diane Gaston
Bound by One Scandalous Night
The Scandalous Summerfields series
March 22, April 1 ebook
Ella Quinn
Three Weeks to Wed
The Worthingtons series
March 29
Jane Goodger
How To Please a Lady
March 29
Jo Beverley
The Viscount Needs a Wife
Company of Rogues series
April 5
Julia Justiss
Forbidden Nights With the Viscount
Hadley’s Hellions series
March 22 paperback, April 1 ebook
Julia Quinn*
Because of Miss Bridgerton
Rokesbys and Bridgerton series
March 29
Kasey Michaels*
A Scandalous Proposal
The Little Season series
March 29
Kate McMurray
Ten Days in August
March 29
Lynna Banning
Kathryn Albright
Lauri Robinson
Western Spring Weddings
March 22, paperback, April 1 ebook
Manda Collins
Good Dukes Wear Black
Lords of Anarchy series
April 5
Marguerite Kaye
The Widow and the Sheikh
Hot Arabian Nights series
March 22 paperback, April 1 ebook
Patricia Rice
Magic in the Stars
Unexpected Magic series (Malcolm/Ives)
March 29, ebook
Terri Meeker
Dancing with Billy the Kid
In Time series
April 5
Theresa Romain
Favors the Wicked
Royal Rewards series
March 29

Thursday

My American Duchess by Eliosa James

February 19, 2016

What did women do before AZO?
http://www.eloisajames.com/
Yes, while reading Eloisa James' latest book, My American Duchess, my mind did wander
down ye ol' bladder infection trail - I blame Eloisa. After all, I've learned a ton of stuff about history from romance books. What did women do without AZO or antibiotics?


Spoilers Ahead.

Regardless of me wandering down a medical history path, I loved My American Duchess and I highly recommend it. It seemed to me the book was written in two sections: before and after the wedding.  I have heard others talking about how much they enjoy the before the wedding portion, but I found the after the wedding part of this book totally amazing. Ms. James has given us a wonderful view of a romance which continues after they walk down the aisle. Watching this couple as they sort through their feelings and journey over some bumps was awesome.

Our heroine, Merry Pelford, has been engaged before. In fact when this story begins she is in the act of accepting her third proposal. She thinks she is in love. But, Merry is rather young and falls in love rather easily. It is only after she becomes better acquainted with her fianc├ęs that she becomes disenchanted with them. It’s understandable that this should happen before the wedding. One would not want to be stuck with someone incompatible forever – would one?  Anyway, because she has broken off a number of engagements she has earned the rather scandalous reputation of being a jilt. So now she has arrived in England hoping her luck will change and she will find a man who will love her for herself and not just her vast wealth. She thinks she has found him in the person of Lord Cedric. He is a prince charming. When this story begins Cedric is in the process of proposing to Merry. However, it isn't long after Merry's acceptance of Cedric's proposal that Cedric is off to the card room, leaving Merry behind - alone.  Well Merry wanders out onto the balcony to ponder her feelings and stumbles across a stranger. A handsome stranger. Merry and this stranger embark on a slight bout of flirtation. They banter, they laugh, and they charm each other. Merry is disturbed by her reaction to the stranger, especially since she thinks she is in love with Cedric. Merry isn’t the only one affected by this encounter; the stranger is enchanted with Merry. Well, the stranger turns out to be Octavius Mortimer John Allardyce, the sixth Duke of Trent and also the twin brother of - ta ta ta dah: Cedric. Oh dear, what a conundrum.

The only reason Trent is at the party is because he is chasing after his brother Cedric. You see, Cedric as absconded with the family heirloom ring which is to be passed down from one Duchess to the next. That means it should go to Trent's bride not Cedric. Cedric has only done the stealing to irritate Trent. For some reason Trent and Cedric have a rather contentious relationship. More on that later.

Gush! Someone stop me from gushing! The more I write my thoughts down the happier I become with this book. All kinds of feel-good descriptive words come to the forefront: amazing, wonderful, fun, fascinating, and wonderful. I will be the first to admit, I usually am a little skeptical of glowing reviews. But I really do think this is a wonderful book with two delightful people finding their way to a HEA. Merry is a charming heroine. We get to see her grow and understand herself. She is such a natural woman, unassuming and really not made for a pretentious society. But in the end she finds her place. Trent on the other hand is one of those stuffy guys who is bowled over by the brightness of Merry, he just cannot resist her. It was wonderful watching his inner struggle with love - and boy did he resist. One of the things I liked about Ms. James' book was the pacing. Trent was befuddled for just the right amount of time before he was able to admit his love for Merry. He was such a stuffed shirt and Merry was just right for him. In fact Merry and Trent were a wonderful couple, they brought out the best in each other.

It was also during Trent and Merry’s married life that I wondered how women used to handle bladder infections. I was concerned for Merry’s health, because if anyone should have developed a bladder infection during the first few days of her marriage Merry should have. If you read this book, you will figure out what I’m talking about. I feel for you, Merry. Zowie!

How I wish that I could give this book a higher rating. I loved every minute of Trent and Merry’s scenes. The marriage portion of the book was an amazing piece of writing. But I had an issue with Cedric.

Cedric and Trent. I loved Trent. But, Cedric and Trent brought out the worst in each other. I found Cedric to be a very irritating character. At first I found his obnoxious behavior rather humorous, but then he became almost hateful. I believe he was deliberately written to be irritating. He found all kinds of things wrong with Merry. He was embarrassed by her lack of town bronze, he was embarrassed by her outspokenness, and he wanted her to change to fit into his lofty ideas of society. Cedric treated Merry atrociously and it didn't take Merry long to come to the conclusion that she had made a big mistake. This part was ok with me. I understand Ms. James writing of Cedric as a weasel. But somewhere between the middle of the book and the end Cedric had some kind of epiphany and turned into a fairy-godmother of sorts, working his magic to bring Merry and Trent together. We the reader are not party to any of Cedric's do-gooding, we just get to read a letter at the end where he refers to it. I would have liked to have been a party to Cedric's redemption. It would have been nice to see Trent and his brother arrive at some kind of understanding. As it was, I felt as if I was missing something. The book would have felt more complete if we had been allowed in to see the brothers arriving at some kind of sibling back-patting scene. An aw-shucks moment would have been appreciated. Maybe Ms. James plans to have this scene in another book, don't know. The problem with that is by the time the other books comes out, I will not remember what's going on.

Gush alert! For me, My American Duchess is one of Eloisa James' better books. While the writing in the beginning part of the book is wonderful, nothing can beat Ms. James’ take on Trent and Merry’s marriage. There is some superb writing in the marriage part!


Time/Place: Early 1800s
Sensuality: Hot!!

Wednesday

Lady Jenny's Christmas Portrait by Grace Burrowes

February 10, 2016

It's official! My brain is frozen!
http://graceburrowes.com/
I thought I could do it. I thought I would be able to wrap this series up before I started something new. But twas not to be. I started the last book in the Windham series, Lady Jenny's Christmas Portrait and I found myself skipping to the end. This was not a good sign. So, I decided to put the book aside and take a break from the Windham family. I will be returning to the book at a later date, but for now I want to be fair and judge it on it's own merits.

Now my brain must thaw.

Lady Eve's Seduction by Grace Burrowes

February 10, 2016

I'm having Burrowes Brain Freeze
http://graceburrowes.com/
Now it is time for the next to the youngest Windham daughter, Evie/Eve, to take center
stage. As with all of the other Windham siblings, Evie doesn't want to get married. You know after reading seven books in this series in a row I have to confess I am puzzled. Yes puzzled. I don't understand why these children don't want to get married. In every book it is made abundantly clear that their parents Percy and Esther have a loving relationship. Furthermore they are great parents, even with all the schemes and butt-in times, they are still a great example of a family which is built on love. So, I have to ask why the children are so resistant to the idea of finding someone they could build a great relationship with. In fact, that could have been one of the tension building moments in the books - trying to find a mate who could live up to the standards set by their parents. But I am not the writer.


Anyway, we have Evie/Eve. Evie has a secret (don't they all). This secret turns out to be quite a good secret as opposed to some of the silly secrets from the previous books. As with most of Ms. Burrowes books, if you read some of the fine print closely enough you will be able to decipher just what the secret is. We know in the beginning of the story that Evie was thrown from her horse a number of years prior to this story, we also know that she was terribly hurt and had problems walking. She also is a little leery of getting back onto a horse - but there is another darker secret, one that makes her feel unworthy of marriage. As the tale develops we find out that her eldest brother Bart knew the full extent of her disaster. Spoiler. We also find out later in the story that before Bart died, he imparted this information to his friend Lucas.

Lucas and Evie/Eve have been delightful secondary characters in the previous books. One could always count on there being some bickering, bantering and insults between these two when they were in a scene. Their chemistry worked really well in the other books, and I was looking forward to seeing it in this book. As often happens when interesting secondary characters get their own book, sometimes what made them so enjoyable is lost. Lucas and Evie both suffered in the move from secondary to main character. I didn't see as much bantering in this one as I expected, so I didn't enjoy Lady Eve's Seduction as much as I wanted to.

Lucas' blind spot. Lucas may be one of the slower heroes I've seen in a while. It was very obvious from the beginning of this story that his cousin Anthony was up to no good. Anthony used delaying tactics all the time when Lucas would ask for something. He was evasive in his answers. He said disparaging things about Evie. He also seemed to lead a rather rakish life with a boatload of illegitimate children. Lucas' attitude toward all of these illegitimate offspring was a little cavalier. Lucas didn't seem to care whether Anthony was spreading his joy all over, nor did he view this as morally corrupt. I expect at least a frowny face from my heroes when confronted with such behavior. Especially since Lucas' character wasn't written as a degenerate. There were warning bells all over the place that pointed to Anthony as the villain, but Lucas just never caught on. He believed everything Anthony told him. When the ending came I wondered why there was even a villain. There was no retribution, Anthony just disappeared off the pages and ended up on the Island of Misplaced Villains. 

On the other hand, I did like the way Ms. Burrowes handled Evie's big secret. Evie's emotional baggage was truly something which would scar a lot of women. Her struggles with this dark trauma were realistic and Lucas' handling of it was gentle and kind. In fact most of the book did an excellent job of painting Evie and Lucas as friends first, lovers second. When Evie and Lucas are the main focus this story really worked; where the story lost some of its momentum was with the secondary plots of taking the niece away from her father, Dolan, and Anthony's villainy. I didn't understand the necessity for either of these plot-lines and thought that they were a distraction from the main focus of the story, Evie and Lucas.

The horse race.
Groan - not the good kind. I don't know if this ever happens to you, but sometimes I become embarrassed by things around me that don't have anything to do with me. Maybe there is a character in a book, in a play or a movie who does something silly - or should I say something is written for that character to do which is ridiculous. I have found myself embarrassed for that character. It's an odd feeling, being embarrassed for something which isn't real but there it is. Well, it happened in this story. This embarrassment surrounded a horse race. A horse race involving Lucas, Dolan, Anthony and Evie. I found the whole thing so idiotic I finally had to skip over it. That caused me to bypass a couple of chapters. I don't like to skim over parts of the book I'm reading, you just never know what you might miss. Anyway, the whole Dolan, Anthony, Lucas thing had me grinding my teeth every time they were in a scene together, then they are thrown together for a race/duel/bet with bad guys drugging horse jockey's and then Evie getting into the race. It was just really silly and I wish that there hadn't been any outside plot-line going on.


Overall, I think if I had allowed more time to pass between each book in the series I probably would have liked Lady Eve's Seduction better. As it is, one takes a chance when one gloms an author; not only does one spot patterns, one also sees a sameness in the characters. When characters become interchangeable they also become less exciting as a series progresses. That is/was what is/was happening for me with the Windham series. While I liked Lucas and Evie, I didn't care for the secondary sub plots. I also think in the case of the Windham's, there needs to be a little bit of a space between each book. While I may not recommend this book with a resounding wow, I give it a "decent" recommendation; I also recommend you not glom this series.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot  

Thursday

Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight by Grace Burrows

February 4, 2016

Another sister takes the stage.
http://graceburrowes.com/

Now we come to Louisa, the brainiac of the Windham family and I think she is the third daughter. Louisa sees numbers; she can calculate numbers in her head. She is really really smart, however she is also a woman so she hides her smart head from the male population of England. She is really not interested in tying herself down to one of those male nincompoops. Besides that, she has a secret.

Then we have Sir Joseph Carrington. He was injured in the war - he limps. He also has two adorable little girls. He's rather a bumbling father; he's a tad bit uncomfortable with his daughters. That doesn't mean he doesn't love them - he does. He's also looking looking for a wife. He also raises pigs, which really doesn't have to do anything with looking for a wife - unless you don't like pigs. Have you ever been in the vicinity of a pig farm? P-U. Not only does he raise pigs, he talks to them (they don't answer back, that would be a different kind of story). He also doesn't care to have a title and he's also got a secret!

Louisa and Joseph get along together right away. They are perfect for each other - the end. Not really, but it should have been. About half way through this story I started to wonder in what order this book was written - not the order it was published, but written. You see for me it has the feel of the three books from the brother's trilogy. There was hardly any conflict, no real tension and it started to drag in the middle.

I do not mind when a romance is developed slowly; in fact some of my favorite books have full, well-rounded romance. Romance that takes a lonnnng time can be very enchanting. Louisa and Joseph could have been a wonderful couple if they had been allowed to have the book all to themselves. Oh sure, we needed to see Percy and Esther and Joseph's daughters and maybe some of Louisa's siblings. This is quite a large connected series. But we didn't need to see Prinny, his stooge Hamburg nor the Duke of Wellington. Prinny and Hamburg have these lonnng conversations about creating an Earldom for Joseph. For me, these were filler and proved a distraction to my enjoyment of the romance between Louisa and Joseph.

I wish Louisa and Joseph had more space dedicated to just them. The story started out well and I liked Louisa and Joseph. I thought their conversations were wonderful. They had the makings of a wonderful romance couple. But then their well-rounded development was overtaken by the silliness of inserting Prinny and Hamburg.  Even Wellington was silly. Sad to say my great expectation in the first few chapters didn’t pan out.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Wednesday

Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal by Grace Burrowes

February 3, 2016

Evil mother time
http://graceburrowes.com/
It's time for the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Moreland to have her story. Maggie Windham, the eldest daughter of Percy, Duke of Moreland has a problem - someone stole
her reticule and she really needs to find it. I mean really really needs to find it. So, she turns to Benjamin Hazlet, an investigator of sorts. He's really the Earl of Hazelton, but he doesn't want anyone to know that - not sure why. Anyway, he's helped the Windham family before so he's trusted - sort of.


Here's the deal. I liked Ben. I liked him a lot. He's a generous, loyal man. He has great camaraderie with his cousin and partner Archer. In fact, all of the secondary characters were great. The relationship between Percy and his Duchess Esther is expanded. When we first met Percy in The Heir, he was a very domineering, hard-headed man. But through the following books, he's become quite a loveable despot and he truly loves his Esther and allll the children that have come into their life. So, I've become quite attached to Percy and Esther. Ben and Archer are also well-developed characters. Their friendship is genuine, their dialogue witty. Everyone in this story is delightful - well almost everyone.

Maggie I. I found Maggie to be very irritating. There were so many things about her where I didn't understand her motivation and it became downright frustrating. Someone has stolen her reticule/purse. Now, that person didn't steal that purse because they liked the bead work. No, there was something inside of that purse the thief wanted. If I were a detective I would want to know what was inside the purse which caused it to be stolen. Ben's no dummy. He knows there was something in the purse which was the reason for it to be stolen. But, he doesn't know why. Do you know why he doesn't know why? Because Maggie won't tell him. Spoilers ahead. Maggie has a sister who has been communicating with her and it was those letters which were stolen. Now this sister is in danger, so it would behoove Maggie to let someone know that this sister is in danger. She knows her sister is in danger and she has a perfectly trustworthy hero who would help her - if she'd only tell him the truth. I don't understand why Ms. Burrowes elected to keep the missing correspondence a secret for so loooong. Maggie could have told Ben right from the beginning and there still could have been tension, they still could have searched for the sister. So, that secret of a very important, lifesaving piece of information was irritating.

Maggie II. Maggie has grown up with the love and support of her adopted family. Percy, her biological father and Esther, her adopted mother have always been there for her. Maggie's siblings have always been there for her. The Windham family is a strong family, they've been through a lot together, and they do not suffer fools lightly. So, for Maggie to separate herself from this strong family because she is protecting them from her evil blackmailing crazy biological mother was another source of annoyance. There was too much hand wringing by Maggie for me. I didn't buy into her martyrdom or the reason for it. She caused her own loneliness; she was a boo-hoo woman who I just could not feel sorry for.

I would have really liked this book a lot if only Maggie had been written differently. She was her own worst enemy, keeping secrets from people she shouldn't have and endangering a young girl’s life in so doing. I was disappointed in the direction Maggie's character was taken. Everyone else in the book outshone her and most importantly, the hero deserved someone better. 

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot

Tuesday

Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes

February 2, 2016

How many sisters does it take to make a series? 
Five, of course.
http://graceburrowes.com/
According to Ms. Burrowes' website, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish was written after most of the other Windham family stories had been accepted for publication. In fact as the first of the brothers, Westhaven, was hitting the stores, Ms. Burrowes was writing this Christmas story. And, in my humble opinion, I like Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish better than the brother trilogy. It's not as overworked as the first three.

This is a stranded-in-a-snow-storm story, only this one includes a little baby by the name of Kit. If you find the joys of being a mother romantic, then this story is for you. Whether you like babies or not, this story is a sweet entry into Windham family. While it is a bit of a stretch for the aristocratic unmarried, unchaperoned Lady Sophie Windham to be traveling on her own, it's still a pleasant read and a very suitable Christmas holiday release.

Lady Sophie is traveling late to join her family, along with her servant. Now this servant is a very young girl, who just recently has given birth to a baby. This servant is not the mother type - she abandons her baby in Lady Sophie's arms. She just disappears into the night, leaving her baby in the care of a befuddled Lady Sophie. Sophie knows nothing about the feeding and care of a child, so she is rather panicking when this story begins. Coming to her rescue is Wilhelm Lucifer Charpenter, Vim for short. Vim knows about caring for little babies. How does he know that? I really don't know, that's never fully explained, but he knows how to change diapers.

Diapers. You know how when you’re glomming an author you sometime find their patterns. Well, with Ms. Burrowes there seems to be some item in each of her books which she becomes obsessed with. She mentions it over and over and over. There's her stock in lemonade, her apple tarts, Darjeeling tea, menstrual cycles and in this book it was nappies/diapers. We get to watch our hero and heroine changing nappies/diapers over and over. Which considering the fact that this story's plot revolves around a baby, it isn't a surprise that there would be diapers. It's just that dirty diapers are not usually at the forefront of a romance novels. This would also be before disposables, so it would have been quite stinky. Plus Kit is learning how to eat solid food, and if memory serves that was a very odoriferous time. But it is over the dirty stinkin' nappies that our couple fall in love. Ah, romance.

While our couple is falling in love with stinky Kit, they are also falling in love with each other. There wasn't too much of any conflict, no outside villains, just two people who seem to be right for each other struggling against that rightness. By the way, throw away all those historical accuracy ideas you may be looking for in this story - they aren't there. You just need to go with the flow and enjoy a pleasant, joyful holiday book. Speaking of holiday. The three brothers show up in this book and it seemed to me that maybe they were supposed to be the wise men. They did give Sophie gifts. But I could be wrong. Also I liked the brothers better in this book. That can only be because they didn't slow the story down.

Overall, this was a sweet story and just right for Christmas - but it can also be read any other time, if you want. It was also just the right length.

Time/Place: Snowy Regency England
Sensuality: Hot