Saturday

Congratulations to Beverly Jenkins!!!!

http://www.beverlyjenkins.net/
Beverly Jenkins has been awarded the 2017 RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. This is one of the highest honors RWA bestows on authors. This award is presented to a living author in recognition of significant contributions to the romance genre. 

Beverly has been in the business of blood, sweat and tears (that's writing) since her first book Night Song was published in 1994. She specializes in 19th century African American life and has over thirty published novels to date. Born in Detroit, she graduated from Cass Technical High School and attended Michigan State University where she majored in Journalism and English Literature. 

Congratulations Ms. Jenkins!!!

Wednesday

The English Duke by Karen Ranney

April 26, 2017
“This is like Déjà vu all over again.”

https://karenranney.com/

A few months ago I was musing over why Karen Ranney isn’t one of my auto-buys. I just might have stumbled across an answer to my pondering.

To say I was disappointed with Ranney’s latest book, The English Duke would be an understatement. Sure, sure, the story started out with a smart, savvy, strong heroine by the name of Martha. On top of that we have a stoic, manly, avoid-all-humans, scientist hero, Jordan Hamilton, the Duke of Roth. While the language in the story may have been a little stilted, I thought – “Oh it will get better.” Then, because my brain is sooooo agile, I started noticing something. Something familiar. Ummm.

A pet peeve moment. I do not like becoming distracted by a sense of familiar. I don’t like it when I feel I should know someone I’m introduced to or that nagging sense of being in a place you think you've been in before or that book you just know you’ve read before. Why does this bother me? Because I have to find out just why something seems the same and when I do alllll that searching I am not focused on the book I’m holding in my hands. Well, my little Petunia’s I started to have that feeling with this book. And before anyone says anything, it was not because allllll romance books are the same – they are not. No this was something else, something in the plotline.  Something. Nagging. Ummm.

We have our heroine, she has a terrible sister. A spoiled sister. A conniving sister. Our hero has a friend, a shady character. His friend is attracted to the horrible sister. They were in cahoots. They do hanky-panky – heavy on the hank. The secondary characters were so familiar. I knew I had read something similar before, but where? Was it possible that some other author was doing a little plagiarism? Then the light bulb went off. This secondary theme was almost an exact replica of the secondary theme from A Scandalous Scot written by – Karen Ranney. (And, by the way I know “exact replica” is redundant). Maybe if I had read the story in 2012 I might not have noticed the sameness, but I read A Scandalous Scot in January of this year. (I didn’t like the secondary characters then either). I was perplexed as to why Ms. Ranney would make these secondary stories so similar. An author cannot plagiarize themselves can they? Nah – maybe – don’t know. But they can certainly reuse old ideas or become lazy. I was very disappointed when I found this recycled theme.

Not only was I treated to a reused secondary story, there was also a drugged hero having dream-sex with the heroine scene. Only it isn’t a dream. The evil conniving sister finds out her sister has had her first humpy-bumpy. She has a plan. I could see the writing on the wall, or at least the page. We were going to go down the sex mix-up-marriage-martyr road. The strong sister was going to be a martyr and the hero was going to be in angstville.  And, the evil sister was not going to get her just deserts.

I could go no further. I closed the book. What a disappointment. My illusions have been shattered.


Time/Place: 1871 England
Sensuality: Questionable 
 

Tuesday

The Vicar's Daughter by Deborah Simmons

April 25, 2017

http://www.deborahsimmons.com/
One of my favorite books, The Vicar's Daughter, has been released electronically! While I do not approve of certain publishing companies refusing to give the rights back to authors - I do think this is a wonderful chance for new readers to experience an utterly delightful story. 

So, if you haven't read this book, puleeeese do. This is a wonderful story.

And, Harlequin this is why I get very mad at you - give the rights back.

Friday

The Truth About Love and Dukes by Laura Lee Guhrke

April 21, 2017
Do opposites really attract?

You know when I read a romance novel, I often ask myself “would this relationship really
work?” Would a stuffed-shirt aristocrat really go for a wild-eyed suffragette? Would a Pankhurst thumping suffragette really go for an “I’m-better-then-you-I-rule-the-world" man? We live in such a fantasy world in Romanceland, sometimes I think we believe that these relationships would work. We rely heavily on the author to “make it so.” When I picked up The Truth About Love and Dukes by Laura Lee Guhrke, I pretty much thought that no matter how different the hero and heroine were, in the end I would be sure they would have a believable happy ending. You see, Laura Lee Guhrke excels at writing complex characters which match up. So, I started reading.


The book starts out promising. Henry Cavanaugh, Duke of Torquil, is a little peeved because his mother has sent a letter to Lady Truelove (a gossip advice columnist) asking for advice. You see, his mother is in love with a man much younger than herself and that man is an artist – gasp. Well, Henry is a tried and true top-drawer aristocrat. His word is the law, his hand is iron, and he jumps tall building in a single bound (oops, wrong guy). Dressed in his most threatening ensemble, he rushes down to confront Lady Truelove only to be greeted by Irene Deverill, the editor of the newspaper. First of all he is shocked that it is a woman who has control of the paper, then he is shocked because she refuses to retract the story or give his mother’s correspondence to him. He would probably be even more shocked if he knew what we the readers know – she is Lady Truelove. She doesn’t back down. The newspaper is her baby and I say that in the most strong words I can. She has taken over the family’s crumbling paper and made it into a success – she loves what she’s doing. This is not a standard Romanceland device created to make her look spunky. No, the author has created a strong woman who actually believes in what she’s doing. She. Loves. Her. Work. She is also a suffragette and that too is written in such a strong way I’m not really sure it works in a historical romance. And, for me this is where I start running into problems. Both Henry and Irene have stronnnnggggg convictions. While I may not agree with some of Henry’s bulldozing techniques, he is a responsible man who cares for his family and the people who are his responsibility. He is a landowner in a changing country, he knows there are people who depend on him just to survive.

The Truth about Love and Dukes was an interesting study in two different dynamics, two different ideologies. There was a constant battle between the two, but all the while the hormone monkey was playing with them. The lines are drawn so realistically that for me I had a hard time accepting that this couple would have a happy ending. The only way I could see for a historical Romanceland happy ending was for one of them to give in, to dilute their beliefs. In the end they both do some giving. But I was not a happy camper and here’s why.

My muddled reasoning. For almost the entire book, whenever Irene and Henry are together I felt as if I was watching a debate team. It was a constant battle between the two of them – over and over. That is of course between protected humpy-bumpy (if you get my drift). I grew tired of the constant battle of ideologies. Maybe I was in a bad mood, maybe I had outside stress weighing me down, maybe I should have put the book away for another day – but I didn't. It wasn’t until almost the very end when Irene ripped into Henry about his standards that I started to enjoy the book. That was when she turned from a constant, nagging, I’m-on-my-soapbox woman into someone who made sense – and was right in what she said. I think what really bothered me was that Irene and Henry were so far apart in their beliefs, I had a hard time believing even with their giving/taking at the end that they could ever have a good partnership. I say that because even though we like to see opposites attract, I really think a good partnership/marriage/whatever must be based on having something in common, a sharing of ideas and supporting those ideas.

Bottom-line. I was disappointed with The Truth About Love and Dukes. Laura Lee Guhrke has always been a solid writer for me, but in this case I don’t think she succeeded with the complex issues she was trying to bring forth. For some people, this will be a fantastic read but for me the couple were too far apart in their beliefs and the constant haranguing continued for far too long.

Time/Place: 1892 England (the later mutton sleeves and soft bustles)
Sensuality: Hot


Thursday

Hokey Smoke!!! Time for Upcoming Historical Releases!!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! May 15, 2017 to June 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.
Annie Burrows
http://www.annie-burrows.co.uk/
The Debutante’s Daring Proposal
Regency Bachelors series
paperback - May 23, ebook - June 1
Bronwyn Scott
http://www.bronwynnscott.com/
Marrying the Rebellious Miss
Wallflowers to Wives series
paperback - May 23, ebook - June 1
Eva Leigh*
http://evaleighauthor.com
From Duke Till Dawn
London Underground series
May 30
Jane Goodger
http://www.janegoodger.com/
The Bad Luck Bride
June 13
Jenni Fletcher
http://jennifletcher.com/
The Convenient Felstone Marriage
paperback - May 23, ebook - June 1
Jo Beverley
http://www.jobev.com
Merely a Marriage
May 30
Jo Goodman
http://www.jogoodman.com/
A Touch of Frost
June 6
Johanna Lindsey
http://www.simonandschusterpublishing.com/johanna-lindsey/
Beautiful Tempest
Malory-Anderson Family
June 11
Julia Quinn*
http://www.juliaquinn.com/
The Girl With The Make-Believe Husband
Bridgertons Prequel
May 30
Kathryn Albright
http://kathrynalbright.com/
Lauri Robinson
http://laurirobinson.blogspot.com/
Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove
paperback - May 23, ebook - June 1
K.C. Bateman
http://www.kcbateman.com/
A Counterfeit Heart
ebook - May 23
K.J. Charles
https://kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com/books/
An Unnatural Vice
Sins of the Cities series
June 6
Laurie Benson
http://lauriebenson.net/
The Unexpected Countess
paperback - May 23, ebook - June 1
Lorraine Heath
http://www.lorraineheath.com/
Affair with a Notorious Heiress
Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series
May 30
Madeline Hunter*
http://www.madelinehunter.com/
The Most Dangerous Duke in London
Decadent Dukes Society series
May 30
Margaret Brownley
http://www.margaret-brownley.com
A Match Made in Texas
Match Made in Texas series
June 6
Mary Wine
http://www.marywine.com
Highland Hellion
Highland Weddings series
June 6
Sally MacKenzie*
http://www.sallymackenzie.net/
When to Engage an Earl
Spinster House series
May 30
Terri Brisbin
http://terribrisbin.com/
Claiming His Highland Bride
Highland Feuding series
paperback - May 23, ebook - June 1
Victoria Alexander
http://www.victoriaalexander.com/
The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels and Other Gentlemen
Lady Travelers Guide series
May 23

Friday

Memories Schmemories, A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas

April 7, 2017
I see hordes of crazed villagers with their pitchforks

http://www.lisakleypas.com/

Before I get tied to a stake by some irate Kleypas fans, I insist on letting everyone know that Lisa Kleypas is one of my favorite authors and has been responsible for some truly swoon-worthy heroes. But, come on guys - not every single one of her books is extroadinalicious! I would have to say if there is a Kleypas book which you could check out of the library it would be A Wallflower Christmas. Yes, I know that books written for the holidays are fast, short stories usually created to add joy and cheer to our holiday season - blah - blah - blah. But for me, this story was not one I will remember or even want to.

Here's the good thing about this book - we may breathe a sigh of relief because it seems that after a couple of years of marriage and a few scattered children, our Wallflowers and their husbands are still humping and pumping.

Why even bother? Why would one even bother writing about a new hero and heroine when most of the book is being taken up by characters from the previous books? I would have been perfectly happy with the previous couples. I'm sure Ms. Kleypas could have put some tension into the story. After all, she tried to put some silly plotline about Lillian (of all people) doubting Westcliff's fidelity. Puleese. How goofy was that? But she didn't ask for my advice about how she should write her itty-bitty holiday story - so we have the romance between Rafe Bowman and Hannah Appleton.

Rafe Bowman is Lillian's brother and the son of that horrible, cold, hard Mr. Bowman. I still want a better explanation as to why the Bowman father and mother are the way they are. Rafe wants to be a partner in his father's business. Not sure why - he's doing fine on his own. I can only assume that he is in need of some pats on the back from his overbearing father. I really wish Ms. Kleypas had come up with some kind of story about these parents. I tried to understand them, but failed. I also couldn't understand why the Bowman siblings allowed their father to get away with his tyranny for so long. Anyway, Rafe is struck by the lust-bunny when his eyes fall on Hannah. Which doesn't say all that much for the character of Rafe considering that he is courting the woman Hannah is chaperoning. There's numerous scenes of Rafe attempting to seduce Hannah and not with honorable intentions. Rafe is pretty cavalier in his treatment of both women. I'm not really a big fan of a hero assaulting one woman while all the time he is thinking about marrying another. Not all that Christmassy, I'm thinking.

There is also Kleypas' trademark heavy throbbing, bumping and finger puppet shows. Page after page. When we are not watching Rafe and Hannah moan and groan we get to see allllll the Wallflowers crash against the wall. This book was a pretty short book made even shorter by me skipping over the plethora of boinking.

While I understand the need to check-in on favorite characters from a series and this should have been a nice holiday treat, it wasn't. It was rushed, had a dishonorable hero, a silly secondary plot surrounding trust, and a father who is not explained. Even though this is part of a series, I really don't think it adds anything to the Wallflowers and I really cannot recommend it.


Time/Place: 1840s England
Sensuality: Boring

Memories Schmemories, Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

April 7, 2017
Oh no doctor! We have a case of Lastbookitus

http://www.lisakleypas.com/

Scandal in Spring, the last book in the Wallflower series (sort of.) Being the last book in the series it suffers from that dread disease called Lastbookitus. There are no known cures.
The only one I know of is if the author would slow down and not be in a hurry to start their next book, or in this case turn to the dark side and write a contemporary romance. It may also suffer in comparison because it follows Devil in Winter. In this case the hero, Matthew, isn't as strong of a character as Daisy. And, I have come to believe that the heroes have to be as strong, if not stronger, than the heroines for the book to work and for the couple to balance each other out.

Poor Daisy. Daisy was such a wonderful secondary character in the previous Wallflower books. She was whimsical, funny and charming, but she loses what made her great in this story. Maybe some of the reason she seems weak to me in this story is that there may be too many of the other Wallflowers hanging around the pages. Yes, yes, I know that everyone wants to see what their favorite Wallflower is doing before the series ends - but hey, that's what short stories are for. Because we have so much wallflower catching up to do in this story, the romance between Matthew and Daisy suffers - this story has a rushed feel to it.

Matthew has a secret. Yes, our hero has a secret. First of all Matthew has been in luv with Daisy forever; he is almost a member of the family. He's at their dinner table a lot. The Bowman's horrible father has favored Matthew over his own children, so it's only fitting that the Bowman siblings should resent Matthew. He has been taken under Mr. Bowman's wing, eaten at their table and he seems to be exactly like Mr. Bowman - a cold, domineering man. But it's all a facade. As I said before Matthew's got a secret, actually he's got more than one secret. He has always loved Daisy, but has hidden that behind a cold facade. Because of the Kleypas male hormone thing that's been quite a struggle for him. But there is another secret! A horrible secret! He's not worthy! He's not worthy! It's so bad that when the reveal happens, you have to backtrack and read it over again because you miss it. You will find yourself scratching your head and asking, "This was the horrible secret?" I know I did. One paragraph - the secret is revealed, second paragraph - the Wallflowers help, third paragraph - the secret is solved. Another plotline which was supposed to add conflict but was handled so quickly that there wasn't any. So, why was it there?

Bottom line, this was almost the weakest book in the series. I was extremely disappointed that a great secondary character like Daisy didn't get her fantastic book. And, I wish Matthew had been just a little stronger. I also still want to know just what makes the entire Bowman family tick.
 

Time/Place: 1840s England
Sensuality: Hot

Memories Schmemories Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

April 7, 2017
The Wallflower saga continues.

http://www.lisakleypas.com/
 For a look on my thoughts concerning Devil in Winter see my old review. My mind has not been changed since then - still one of the best. You also get to read my review of another of Kleypas' better books Then Came You.

Memories Schmemories, It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas

April 7, 2017
Nothing better than a stuffed-shirt.

http://www.lisakleypas.com/
Now we come to the second official entry in the Wallflower series and one of my favorites: It Happened One Autumn. One of the reasons this book is a favorite is because our heroine,
Lillian, and our hero, Marcus, rub each other the wrong way right away. What a fun couple. He is this uptight, priggish, snobbish lord and she is a free-spirited, acerbic, doesn't-give-a-hoot woman. As I've said before, there's nothing I enjoy more than seeing an uptight prig take a fall. Let me tell you, Marcus really puts up quite a struggle in this story and it's all very delicious.  Was this a perfect book? No. Did I have some issues with it? Yes. But even though there were some hiccups in the road for me, this was my second favorite book in this series which says a lot considering that the Devil in Winter is in a class of its own.

So, we have an interesting hero in Marcus. First of all, he doesn't tower over people. He's shorter than most of the heroes who inhabit Romanceland. But, he is written with such a strong personality he's a match for all other heroes. Anyway, Marcus is a coooool guy. He's a look-at-me, I'm smooth, I don't get rattled, nothing upsets me - until Lillian barges into his well-ordered life.

I liked Lillian a lot. Was she a little bit over the top? Yes, but she had to be to counterbalance Mr. Level-headed Marcus. She was a whirlwind. She is loaded with schemes, dreams, and brilliant ideas, and she charges into things without really thinking. Even though she is this loose cannon, she doesn't see herself as such. She even thinks she would be a good partner in her father’s business, but she really hasn't got any business savvy. She's a too up-front, in your face kind of woman to fit into the covert world of business. She also doesn't suffer fools. She doesn't think too highly of the aristocratic world her mother wants her to be part of. In fact, she deliberately tries to irritate Marcus.

But, don't feel too bad for poor old Marcus. He doesn't care for Lillian. He considers her to be nothing more than a gold-digger - except, of course, she's got the gold but she's digging for a title. I guess she's a guy-digger. Or at least her mother is. Which leads me to another thought. Lillian's parents. Her mother is a social climber and her father is a wily, strong-willed business man who doesn't seem to care for his children. The Bowman parents put in an appearance as secondary characters and every time they showed up I found myself wondering more and more what made them into the couple they were. There are things that are hinted at but nothing is ever fully explained. I wish Ms. Kleypas had written a short story on this couple, not as they were when they were young, but what they were in these books. And, why they got to the point they were at. Interesting married couple who could barely stomach each other, but we never know why. Nor are we ever given a gentler glimpse of them.

The other secondary characters. The rest of the wallflowers put in a strong appearance in this book, Daisy especially, which is another oddity. Why is that an oddity? Well, since I've already read these books I know that Evie is the heroine who has the really strong book later on in the series. If ever there was an example of a strong secondary character not getting the book they deserve it is Daisy - but that will come later. In this book the Wallflowers once again demonstrate how wonderful a true friendship-bonding between women can truly be.

I've also arrived at the conclusion that no matter how strong the heroine is in any book, it is the hero who I zero in on. He can make or break a romance story for me. I can only think of a few romance stories where the two leads are on equal footing (Jessica Trent and Sebastian spring to mind). In this story even though Lillian's presence is felt throughout the entire book, Marcus is the one who overpowers it. He is the stronger of the two. Now, having said that I also believe that this pair really works as a couple. They balance each other out - he needs her irrelevance and she needs his grounding and together they make for a great couple.

If there was one weak part in this book it was toward the end when Lillian is kidnapped. Because the guy who does the kidnapping is our next hero, he can't be portrayed as being alllll that bad. So, I'm not sure why this scene was added. As I've been reading a lot of Ms. Kleypas books, one right after another, I've notice that in most of her books she adds things which in the end don't add anything to the book. They appear, they get solved, they disappear. All they do is take up space.

Overall, I liked this book. I thought it added immensely to the series and introduced a wonderful hero in the form of Marcus - too bad there is a Vincent. Highly recommend this story.
Time/Place: 1843 England
Sensuality: Hot

Thursday

Memories Scmemories, Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

April 6, 2016
It's the official Wallflower beginning.

http://www.lisakleypas.com/
So now on to the Wallflower series. The first book in the series is Secrets of a Summer Night and in this story we get to actually see what brings the four wallflowers together. I have to
say that all four books in this series portray female friendship at its best. In this story we have the absolutely gorgeous woman Annabelle Peyton. She is so beautiful she could burn your eyes out, but she's a wallflower. While Annabelle might be the most beautiful woman around, she is also poor. So, she'd make a perfect mistress for some landed aristocrat but not a wife because these guys need cash flooding into their great estates. At a ball Annabelle befriends three other wallflowers, Lillian and Daisy Bowman (American heiresses) and Evie Jenner (painfully shy daughter of Ivo Jenner). The women decide to join forces in finding husbands starting with the beautiful but poor Annabelle. (By the way, Jenner is also a connecting character).
 
There is a house party, of course. Well, Annabelle has set her sights on an aristocratic guy, along with all of the other women at the house party. Also at this house party is a man who Annabelle finds totally irritating, Simon Hunter. Simon Hunter is the local butcher's son who has made good. But, he's the butcher's son so, Annabelle considers him beneath her touch. And, he thinks that Annabelle would make a wonderful mistress. So, they irritate each other, but they can't seem to keep away from each other.

Even though I was less than impressed with Again the Magic, I have to say that Lisa Kleypas can write some pretty yummy heroes. Sure they are for the most part possessive alpha-males, but geewillikers they are hot hunks who have tender caring protective nice guy sides. I just wish Ms. Kleypas would let us into her heroes' brain thoughts a little bit more, because I think she shorts us when it comes to how they think.
 

Fun scene and typical Romanceland throw-them-together-somehow. There's a cute scene where the girls play a game of rounders in their knickers. They think it's private and once again the American girls lead the charge with the "we do this kind of thing in America all the time" explanation. For all of you who have never read a history book or a biography on the 1800s in America, I don't think we would really see a bunch of American women playing rounders (baseball) in their skivvies - in public. I've always thought our ancestors were just a little bit more Methodist/Presbyterian/Puritanical in their upbringing. But hey, this is Romanceland and how else are we going to get some hunky heroes seeing their heroines without their clothes on.

Hey, by the way, all of you guys with no money - you don't have a chance of ever becoming a Kleypas hero. You either have to have a title or tons of money. This might also be one of the areas in the book I had an issue with. Simon is accepted everywhere. He hangs out with all the cool guys, his best friend is a lord, he's powerful, rich, can dance, and is fun. So, why can't Annabelle marry him and solve all of her problems?

As I continue to write this review, I keep asking myself why did I like this story so much - because I did. But reading my words I'm thinking - man is this a silly story. The heroine has to marry a rich aristocrat, she has to keep her brother in an expensive school, and she has to think of a way to get her mother away from an evil man. Then there is the hero is wants Annabelle, has wanted her for a long time but wants her as his mistress - so he is willing to wait until she's desperate enough to come running to him begging for him to take her. Doesn't really sound all that appetizing when spelled out that way, does it? But it is. Even though there isn't anything we haven't seen in Romanceland before, Ms. Kleypas has magically put all of the words together in a way that we actually care what happens to Annabelle and Simon.

As in some of the other books in this series, there were plotlines which didn't go anywhere or were solved rather quickly. The whole evil lord and Annabelle's mother should have been better developed or left out of the story completely. It didn't serve any purpose, it didn't enhance the story, it didn't make the hero see the light of love - it was just there and then it wasn't.

Also, as with the previous book we have an awful lot of whankee-roo, unprotected whankee-roo. Don't these people care about the consequences of their actions. Now, if I hadn't been reading allllll the books in the series I might have thought that this book had the normal amount of Romanceland sex in it, but I'm not reading them years apart, I'm reading them one after another and my ears are ringing from all the humping-pumping, sweaty, throbbing paragraphs.

I am at a disadvantage here because I read these books out of order and I know one of my favorite Kleypas books (Devil in Winter) is in this group, so I'm predisposed to like this one. And, I do like this one. I like Annabelle and Simon - I thought their dislike of each other, their snobbery, their misreading of each other’s character was fun. Were there moments when I rolled my eyes at some of the Wallflowers' actions? Yes. But I think it helps the series that we are getting to know this whole group of women pretty well before we march into each individual story. Also, once again, we are shorted on the hero's brain think.
 

Time/Place 1843 England
Sensuality: Hot

Memories Schmemories, Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas

April 6, 2017
It's Ugly American time - sort of.

http://www.lisakleypas.com/

Once again I am in the middle of glomming an author, but this author I have read before. I've also read all of her historical books before but I felt as if I needed to revisit some of my old memories. After my recent reading of Devil in Spring, I wanted to refresh my palette by rereading Devil in Winter. Then, because that book had tons of characters from other books, I decided - What the Hey, I'll just read the entire Wallflower series. Not only did I reread the entire series, but the two outside books which connect to it: Again the Magic (almost a prequel) and Mine Until Midnight (also the first in the Hathaway series).

Let's start with Again the Magic - and its Ugly American time. An ugly American refers to perceptions of loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens mainly abroad, but also at home. And, while our Americans in this book may not have been loud, the book was certainly a monologue of how American ingenuity is going to save those poor decaying English people and the entire nation of Great Britain (those poor boobs.) In fact, there was so much overbearing flag-waving in this book that I was embarrassed.

This book is connected to the Wallflower series through the sisters of Marcus, Lord Westcliff from It Happened One Autumn. While mainly about the eldest sister, Aline, there is also a secondary romance threaded throughout the story about the second sister Livia.

When this story begins we find that Aline is in love with the stable boy John McKenna. Her father is a you-must-marry-an-aristocrat tyrant. Though if I were to be really honest about stable-boys and daughters of the aristocracy I would have to say in the real world for a stable-boy and a lady to marry would be something that would never happen. Reality check. Their worlds would have to be sooo far apart that any kind of a marriage would be a disaster from the very beginning. What would they find to communicate about? Would he be able to even write or read? Would she be able to cook or clean? But, this is Romanceland and there is always America to send a stable-boy to. And, we allll know there wasn't ever any kind of class division going on in the U.S. of A.

Anyway, Aline and John have sort of grown up together. Sure, she's in the big house and he's in the stable mucking horse poop - but they hang out with each other. They talk, dream, find secret places to escape their respective  worlds. John seems to have a better handle on class separation than Aline, but as they grow older those pesky hormones start to awaken. Aline starts to get a bumpy chest and John just turns into a typical teenage boy who cannot control those harmonica-hormone urges. Soon a young Aline and John are sneaking out to secret places to do finger puppet shows. They are partaking in moist, throbbing afternoons all over the place (and not discreetly) until someone sees them and tells Aline's mean old dad.

Now Aline is faced with a dilemma - she must pretend to John that she is a cruel girl/woman - that she was just stringing him along. If she doesn't her father is going to ship John off to some horrible place, so she lies to John. John is heartbroken. He thinks Aline is a cruel girl who has betrayed him. He is still shipped off, but somehow lands in America where the streets are lined with gold and he eventually becomes rich. (My ancestors must have missed that street.) Anyway, John becomes a powerful man and he joins forces with another rich guy, Gideon Shaw. Years pass, Gideon and John land on the shores of Great Britain to help out with Britain’s economy. But John has never forgotten Aline and he has vowed revenge. Oh no, not the revenge plot! I hatesssss revenge - but in this case it doesn't last long. It's silly while it last, has a fast solution, doesn't further the plot, and I have no idea why the author added it to her story. Page filler maybe, but why would one need a page filler when one is writing about two couples instead of one couple. Yes, we have John and Aline and Gideon and Livia. The revenge is forgotten and the pages are filled with scene after scene of hot, sweaty, throbbing, humpedy-bumping.

My eyes crossed. We no sooner get done with John and Aline bouncing in the bed, on the floor, against the wall, than the names are changed and it's Gideon and Livia doing the happy-happy. When that's over it's time to hear about how very inventive Americans are, then it's time for more hoinky-doinky.

This was a full length novel, but had the feel of a rushed short story. It was filled with things that didn't go anywhere. There was John's revenge plot, didn't go anywhere. Gideon is a drunk, but he's cured. Aline was burned badly in a fire, she's keeping it a secret from John - but John doesn't care. There wasn't any character development and if this story didn't have Ms. Kleypas' name on its cover I never would have guessed it was one of hers. I could only think that this story was written for the sole purpose of filling pages and pages with superfluous sex.

A good thing I knew that Devil in Winter was part of this series, or that Derek Craven had already been created, because if this story had been my introduction to Lisa Kleypas I would probably not have read any other book by her. If you needed to ask, I cannot ever see myself recommending this book.

Time/Place: 1844 England
Sensuality: Hot-give-it-a-rest-before-it-falls-off

Tuesday

Memories Schmemories, After the Kiss by Karen Ranney

March 28, 2017
Pass the Azo, please.
 

Isn't it wonderful when you are hooked from the very first paragraph? From the opening pages to the end, this book was a treat to read. It starts out with a fire in a book store/home of our heroine Margaret. Margaret is able to grab a box by the bedside, awaken her maid Penelope and escape through a window. Margaret's husband is not so lucky, he perishes in the fire. Before this first chapter ends we are also introduced to the villain of the book. There is never any question in this story who was responsible for Margaret's husband's death; the only question we left with is when will this guy strike again.

Time passes. Margaret and Penelope are sharing a small house in the country, but they are in need of money. When her house was destroyed by the fire, Margaret happened to grab a box and in that box were three volumes of what was called the Journals of Augustin X. Well, these journals are in actuality bawdy books and there are a number of men who are willing to pay a pretty high price to own them. While Margaret has enjoyed viewing the books and having her eyes opened a bit on just how flexible a human being can be, she also likes to eat. She decides to take one of the books to the highest bidder. She journeys to London and arrives at the house of the man who is going to buy the journal. Well, it just so happens he is having a costume party. After the transaction Margaret wonders out onto the terrace, attracted by the music and there she meets Michael Hawthorne, Earl of Montraine. Michael mistakenly thinks her shabby clothes are a costume and that she is an aristocrat. Michael and Margaret are immediately attracted to each other and not just physically. They share a moment of lovely companionship and a kiss. But, much like Cinderella, Margaret disappears into the night leaving Michael to wonder about her. Or should I say obsess about her, because she becomes someone he just simply cannot forget.

Time passes. Penelope wants to marry a local man and Margaret wants to give her something special. In order to do that she decides she must sell the second book. She returns to town, only this time instead of the man she sold it to the first time she finds Michael waiting for her. For months both Michael and Margaret have been obsessing about each other. Michael has asked his friend to let him know if the mysterious woman makes contact with him. He has been unable to concentrate on his work, which is cyphering (he's a spy or something). He must get her out of his system - somehow. Let me just say - this scene was hot! He asks her for one more kiss, only a kiss. They go to his house for that kiss. Well, it turns into something a great deal more than just a measly little kiss. Fan please. It is a night full of hot, pulsing, sweaty stuff. Then Margaret leaves in the morning, because she must. She has no place in Michael's life, she knows it and he knows it. But he cannot forget her, so he finds her. Michael must find a rich wife, so the only thing that Margaret could be is a mistress. They are people from two different social strati and they are really really really attracted to each other.

Time passes. Margaret is pregnant but doesn't tell Michael. She turns down Michael's offer of being a mistress, but maybe they could spend a week together. Then after the week go their own way. We all know that much like the "only one kiss", only one week will not work out. But, they enter into this relationship. Then his mother from hell shows up. She figures out that Margaret is pregnant, spills the beans to Michael. Michael and Margaret marry. The story does not end with the wedding.

This book is so much more than the average oh-hum "I'm not good enough I can't marry you but you are really hot" story. Michael and Margaret are adults, they talk, they discuss their problems, they find solutions and they support each other. There isn't any rich relative who turns up to give Margaret the money Michael needs, no siree. Michael comes up with a solution - a wonderful solution - a realistic solution. All the characters in this story are fleshed out but even though this is a character-driven story there is also a mystery to be solved. Much to my delight, the mystery does not detract from the wonderful love story being told; it only adds to it. The whole book balances nicely. It's well-paced, nothing is strung out longer than it should be.

If I had one quibble with this book it would be the abundance of sex. I feel for you Margaret, I know you had to have developed a bladder infection with all that friction that was going on in your mommy parts. And, what's with the ribbon. I had to read the ribbon scene a couple of times just so I could figure out what Michael was doing with it. Authors: please include ribbon footnote instructions in all of your books.

Bottom line. This was a wonderful book, complex characters, great pacing, quiet tender moments, hot stuff - a great book. You really should read it if you haven't by now.

Time Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Steamy

Monday

Surrender to the Marquess by Louise Allen

March 27, 2017
Well, this name is unfortunate.

http://www.louiseallenregency.com/
Picking the right name for a fictional character is soooo important. It can set just the right
tone or it can be an irritating distraction to an otherwise good book. For instance, let's take a look at the name Sarisa. What is that a form of? Is it just another way of saying Sara? If so, why not just name her Sara. Is it some kind of attempt at ethnicity? I looked up female names from India, couldn't find that particular one, I did find two which were close: Sarasa (Swan) and Sarasi (lake), but no Sarisa. I don't know, maybe I'm nit-picking, but every time I read the name in the book all I could hear was Robin Williams introducing the Great Starina in The Birdcage. I know, I know, they are not the same thing, but a mind is a terrible thing and every time I read Sarisa I heard Starina. But then, that's just me - I'm sure the author had no idea what the name Sarisa was going to do to my mind. Which is why plain names are sometimes the best way to go.


Surrender to the Marquess by Louise Allen is the third Herriard family story. This story is about Lady Sarisa (groan), who is the widow of Dr. Michael Harcourt. She has a issue with the way men solve their problems by fighting duels. The reason she is a widow is because her husband decided to defend her honor by issuing a challenge to his best friend. It just so happens that the husband and his best friend had been drinking, and the best friend said some things about Sarisa (sign) which Harcourt took issue with. But in the end the Doctor lost his life and the friend had to leave England. Besides having a problem with the way men defend their honor, she also has a controlling father and an over-protective brother. In order to find some peace from all the male testosterone floating in the air, she has sit up a little shop in a little village. She caters mainly to women. She sells art supplies, tea and occasional artsy lessons. Women come to her place to be - comfortable. Then one day he appears. Yes, our hero shows up.

Lucien Avery, the Marquess of Cannock, has come to Sandbay to help his sister Marguerite. He is incognito as Mr. Dunton and he shows up at Sarisa's little shop because he's hoping she can help his sister recover from - something. When the story begins we don't know what that something is, we just know that Marguerite is suffering from something physical and mental. It isn't long before Sarisa discovers Marguerite's problem and starts to help her. And, that leads to other concerns. Sarisa/Sara is doing exactly what Lucien wants, except there is a problem. Lucien also wants Sarisa/Sara in his bed, but Sarisa/Sara points out to him that she cannot be his mistress because she is Marguerite's friend/helper and it just wouldn't be ethical. He grudgingly agrees. Then Marguerite runs away with her lover and the only possible solution in a romance novel is for the hero, Lucien and the heroine, Sarisa/Sara to give chase. This is also when the "conflict" of how men solve their problems arise. Of course Lucien wants to challenge the young man who has run away with his sister, but he also knows how Sarisa/Sara feels about that.

Then we are presented with a convoluted small twist in the story because they find the runaways and Sarisa/Sara has a brilliant idea of the four of them proceeding to her parents’ house to a party. They are supposed to pretend that they encountered each other on the road, also pretend that at the party Marguerite and her lover will pretend to fall in love, become engaged and Marguerite's reputation will be saved. Well, maybe that plan would have work, if not for Sarisa/Sara's overprotective brother. You see, he had visited his sister in little old Sandbay only to find that Sarisa/Sara had disappeared in a carriage with a man. Well, to say that her brother’s was a tad bit upset is an understatement. If fact he and his fists create quite a scene when he eventually meets Lucien – outside – at his parents’ house – in front of everyone. This leads to more questions about honor and men. Once those questions are solved, more honor/trust/misunderstanding issue arise and are just as quickly dispensed with.  I think I could have done without so many honor-trust issues - it became a little repetitive.

Overall, this was a good book. It isn't a book that will stay with me like some others I've read, but it’s good enough to pass a relaxing hour or two with. And people, stick with plain names.

Time/Place: Regency England road trip - sort of
Sensuality: Warm/hot

Thursday

Yes! Holy Cannoli! Upcoming Historical Romance Releases!!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! April 15, 2017 to May 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.
Amanda Quick
http://www.jayneannkrentz.com  
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
May 9
Anne Gracie
http://www.annegracie.com
Marry in Haste
Marriage of Convenience series
May 2
Blythe Gifford
http://blythegifford.com
Rumors at Court
Royal Weddings series
April 18 - paperback

May 1 - ebook
Bronwyn Scott
http://www.bronwynnscott.com/
Claiming His Defiant Miss
Wallflowers to Wives series

April 18 - paperback
May 1 - ebook
Celeste Bradley
http://www.celestebradley.com/
Wedded Bliss
Wicked Worthington series
May 2
Elizabeth Boyle*
http://www.elizabethboyle.com
Six Impossible Things
Rhymes With Love series
April 25
Georgie Lee
http://www.georgie-lee.com
The Secret Marriage Pact
Business of Marriage series

April 18 - paperback
May 1 - ebook
Jane Ashford
http://www.janeashford.com
Nothing Like a Duke
Duke's Sons series
May 2
Janna MacGregor
http://www.JannaMacGregor.com/
The Bad Luck Bride,  debut
Cavensham Heiresses series
May 2
Julia London*
http://www.julialondon.com/   
Hard-Hearted Highlander
Highland Grooms series
April 25
Kimberly Bell
http://bellromance.com/
A Ballroom Temptation
Countess Scandals series
April 18 - ebook
Lara Temple
https://www.laratemple.com   
The Duke's Unexpected Bride

April 18 - paperback
May 1 - ebook
Lenora Bell
http://www.lenorabell.com/   
Blame it on the Duke
The Disgraceful Dukes series
April 18
Linda Broday
http://www.LindaBroday.com
The Heart of a Texas Cowboy
Men of Legend series
May 2
Tatiana March
https://www.goodreads.com/TatianaMarch
The Bride Lottery
Fairfax Brides series

April 18 - paperback
May 1 - ebook
Valerie Bowman
http://www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com  
Never Trust a Pirate
Playful Brides series
May 2
Virginia Heath
http://www.virginiaheathromance.com  
A Warriner to Protect Her
Wild Warriners series

April 18 - paperback
May 1 - ebook