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

Tuesday

Convenient Proposal to the Lady by Julia Justiss

March 21, 2017
A man with a plan.

https://www.juliajustiss.com/
Convenient Proposal to the Lady by Julia Justiss is the third book in the Hadley's Hellion series. Having never read the other two in the series, I can safely say this is a standalone novel. Although some of the other characters show up for support, I didn't find them distracting. This story revolves around a marriage of convenience story, a favorite storyline of mine.

This story begins with our hero, Benedict Tawny (irritating surname) trying to save the reputation of Alyssa Lamborne. They have never met, but Benedict has a very strong sense of honor and cannot just sit on his thumbs and do nothing when there is a right to wrong, an orphan to save, and a lady in distress or about to be in distress. And, even though Alyssa doesn't know it, she is in need of rescuing. You see, her brother has stolen the affection of the mistress of our villain Lord Denby. Lord Denby, in a fit of spoiled-brat-male-ego-boo-hoo has devised a plan which encompasses ruining Lady Alyssa. Now, this portion of the plot confused me a little, because neither Alyssa's brother or father seem to care about anything related to Alyssa. So, I didn't buy into the Denby ruination plan, but hey, something was required to bring Benedict and Alyssa together.

Anyway, Benedict gets pulled into the plotting of Alyssa's downfall and feels that he must save her. Benedict is a great protector of women. He is the illegitimate son of an aristocrat and has always felt the stigma of that status. He has also watched his mother’s pain through the years, which is why he will do most anything to protect people who are powerless within the society they reside. Jumping on his trusty steed, Benedict is off to the country to warn Lady Alyssa of Denby's nefarious plot.

Amazing coincidences. Ok, here is the set-up. Benedict is riding along on his horse, through the country-side, looking for his damsel in distress. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and the leaves are lazily fluttering in the breeze. What ho! Who’s that Benedict spots peacefully sketching on her Etch-a-Sketch? In the country side - the same path Benedict is on. Why, it's Alyssa, the woman Benedict is going to save from ruin. What a coincidence! Was this moment irritating? You betcha, but I rose above it. I accepted it. I moved on.

Benedict quickly introduces himself to Alyssa and explains to her why he is looking for her. In another moment of peculiar storytelling Alyssa believes him. She's never met this guy - oh sure, she's heard about him, but she doesn't know him. His whole story is a little suspect, but she believes him almost immediately. In fact, based on his warning, she devises a comeuppance for Denby and his cohorts. Now, supposedly Alyssa was a shy person, but her brilliant idea isn't something a shy person could carry out. It would require her to actually talk and flirt with men. Let's be real here. If there is anyone out there who is shy or ever been around someone who is shy they will know that most people are not enchanted by the scintillating conversation of a bashful person. I know what I'm talking about here. I've had more people walk away from me at parties than I care to admit. And, it's not because I smell. I am an introvert, always have been and I've seen those male eyes glaze over because my words don't work themselves down the brain-tube to my mouth. Nothing scares a man more than to be left standing all alone with a shy woman. You can see the sweat dripping down the back of their necks. So, for a "shy" person like Alyssa to turn into a femme fatale, flirt, charm, show her dimples and entice the villain was a real stretch for me to believe. However, I accepted it. I moved on.

Much to Alyssa's surprise, her silly plan works - it works too well. Denby is humiliated. But that isn't the end of the story. Denby must now have revenge on Alyssa. His revenge works a lot better than Alyssa's did and it isn't long before Alyssa and Benedict find themselves in a compromising position. They are forced to marry. Then more silliness appears on the scene because Alyssa decides that she cannot consummate the marriage because she will fall in love with Benedict if she does. And, she wants to be free, free, free, to pursue her art. He loves her, but doesn't know it and she doesn't want to burden him with falling in love. I did not move on from this love burden routine.

Even though I was less than thrilled with the chance meeting at the beginning of the book, I was intrigued with the characters. But then it degenerated into a story of two people who love each other, but won't tell the other one. She's too good for the illegitimate guy and he's so wonderful she just cannot let herself fall in love with him. Convenient Proposal to the Lady was an ok read, but it wasn't something that I will remember in years to come.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm

Friday

Sinful Scottish Laird by Julia London

March 10, 2017
What happened?

http://julialondon.com/

I must ask myself - was I in a bad mood when I read Sinful Scottish Laird? I examined myself. I wasn't in a bad mood, nothing was going on in my life; I wasn't mad at anyone, my feelings were not hurt, I was not depressed, feeling blue, filled with angst or boo-hooing. For whatever reason, I have once again found myself in the minority position of not liking a book everyone else seems to be crazy about. Let me be a little bit more explicit; this book was almost a DNF for me. I said almost. Here are some of the reason's it didn't become a DNF: Julia London is one of my auto-buy authors and I have great respect for her writing. I also like the relationship between our hero Cailean and our heroine’s son Ellis. I liked the first book in the series, Wild Wicked Scot, very much and was hoping, hoping, hoping as I turned each page in Sinful Scottish Laird that somehow, something would save it. By the time I reached page 122 (out of 248), I knew my wish was not to be. But, through dogged determination I slogged through the entire book.

Here are some of my issues with this book - where to begin? Where to begin? Let's start with Arran MacKenzie, the father of our hero and the hero of the previous book Wild Wicked Scot. This is an "all about me" moment. When my romance heroes age, they better age well. If they have aches, pains and can barely stand I have a problem. I have never been a big fan of watching my book heroes disintegrate. I don't like heroes who I have formed an attachment to moan, groan and start knocking on deaths doorway. They need to be spry, energetic and still have that twinkle in their eyes or eye (they may have been a pirate). If they are struggling physically, then we are crossing the line into a different sub-genre of a sub-genre of a genre. In order to do that, the writing better be superb or it won't work. Sure, sure, back in the good old days of the bodice rippers, a number of our heroes bit the dust and the heroines moved on to other men - lots of men. But I wasn't a fan of those books either. Of course Arran doesn't die in this one, but he was struggling so hard I had to make sure he was the hero of the last book. It was depressing.

But with all of that one of my biggest issue in this book was with Daisy Bristol, our heroine. Daisy - PpppBbbtt!! What an unlikeable frustrating woman. I'm not sure what the author was trying to do with her. While I'm a big fan of strong women in romance books, I'm really not a fan of heroines portrayed as sluttish teases. Yes, I know how most of us feel about romance widows who don't partake of any humpidy-doo or don't scratch that widowhood itch, ever! Daisy just didn't have any constancy when it came to her urges. It seemed to me that any old "pole" in the storm would have been good enough for her. Oh sure, Cailean was the main heart beater, flush creator, throb-maker, but she wasn't above rolling shoulders at other men. All of this while she was waiting for the man from her past who supposedly she loved. That would be Robert Spivey an English Navy officer. Remember we are in Scotland in the tumultuous 1700s. Incidentally, Daisy tries to seduce Robert - tongue in mouth, hands moving up thighs - so it's more than just an eyelash flutter.

Another of my concerns. It seems that Daisy's dead husband stipulated in his will that unless she married within three years of his death, she would lose their sons inheritance. What does that mean? I didn't get it. Does that mean the son would be walking the streets begging? Would this have even been legal? Her husband was a Viscount, so we are talking inherited stuff here. I don't know if any of this would have been legal having never studied English inheritance laws of the 18th century. Wouldn't there have been some kind of a guardian for the underage viscount? It's Ellis' money, not Daisy's so none of this stipulation thing made any sense. Plus the fortune hunting men who were sniffing around Daisy added to my confusion. It was not her money! This whole business was a huge distraction for me. I felt as if I was missing something; it just didn't make any sense.

Cardboard.
The wonderful dynamics of Wild Wicked Scot were missing in this book. I kept waiting for something to happen, and that doesn't mean a villain needs to jump out of the pages. No I found myself waiting for some chemistry between Daisy and Cailean to appear in front of my eyes. Much to my chagrin, nothing ever happened. He was a cardboard character and she was just a tease.


Belinda. Not even the secondary character of Belinda could save this story. In fact, I was not able to understand whether she was supposed to be funny, mean or unhinged.

The only thing that saved this book from the wall was nine year old Ellis and his relationship with Cailean. Ellis was a well-developed character. He begins as a coddled, scared little child who hides behind his mother’s skirt and slowly changes into a laughing knee-scraping boy. This transformation is due to the tender guiding hand of Cailean. Their relationship was so special I even felt a tear forming when Ellis was forced to go to London with Daisy. I just wish the rest of the book had been as good.

Bottom line. I was disappointed in the second in the Highland Grooms series. I disliked the fickle, tease Daisy immensely. Cailean was a cardboard hero and I felt like a gerbil in one of those round exercise wheels - reading, reading, reading and never getting anywhere.

Time/Place: 1700s Scotland
Sensuality: no chemistry
Overall Book:



Ellis:



Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

March 10, 2017
“How could I be this at ease with him?
Pour out my heart as I please with him?
He isn't you...He isn't you...”
  Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner

http://www.lisakleypas.com/
Remember wonderful Sebastian from Devil in Winter? Well, here's his son Gabriel, and he
isn't him. While this isn't as good as the wonderful Devil in Winter, it is a nice try. For me there were a number of things this story had going against it. First of all, it's a Lisa Kleypas and my expectations for Ms. Kleypas are always a tad bit higher than the ones I set for other authors. On top of that, this is about Gabriel, Sebastian's son, and he has a lot to live up to. I feel for him; it's not easy being the son of one of Romanceland top heroes. The magic Sebastian brought us in Devil in Winter is missing in this story. Then there is Pandora.

Pandora is our heroine, and in my opinion she steals the show. I don't think there will be a middle road with this character - either you're going to love her or she's going to get on all of your nerves. Let's see if I can find the words to describe her - peppy and irresistible. Yep, peppy. I think she would probably just roll right over most heroes and in Gabriel's case she does. She is an irresistible force and she was my favorite character in this book. Because she is sooooo adorable it's no wonder Gabriel loses his heart pretty quickly after being caught in a compromising position with her.

While I liked this book, I did have the feeling that Ms. Kleypas may have taken the easy way out and thrown in some danger instead of letting the characters drive the story. The story had the feel of being rushed. Was this from an editor chopping pages out or was Ms. Kleypas still in her contemporary mind-mode? Maybe there wasn't any race to the end. Maybe I just imagined it, but what could have been a great book missed the mark just a little. Pandora was a wonderful character, but Gabriel was almost a shadow, a cardboard personality. We don't really get to know Gabriel, we aren't given enough time inside his brain. What makes him tick? Why does he consider his sexual urges dark? He's Sebastian's son after all, didn't he ever talk to his father about quirky stuff? Anyway, for me his "dark side" didn't add anything to the storyline. Personally, I don't like to feel manipulated or titillated by adding little shades of gray or bondage-trust issues. Unless it's some kind of major issue with one of the characters in the story, I don't see the necessity of adding the tie-my-hands-behind-my-back scenes.  Maybe Gabriel’s supposed dark urges were added because he lacked the skin-tingling aura of most of Kleypas' heroes. For me he is the weak part of this story.

Pandora is vivid while Gabriel is flat; they do not balance each other out and that for me is what counts in a romance book. It's not that I didn't like this book; I did. But, it was not one of Lisa Kleypas' best efforts. It had a rushed feel to it or it didn't seem long enough or there wasn't enough character building (especially with Gabriel). It started off great. Pandora and Gabriel's meeting in the very beginning had me rubbing my hands together in glee. But somewhere along the way the momentum was lost.

I give Devil in Spring a weak recommendation.


Time/Place: 1876 England
Sensuality: Meh


 

P.S. Hey - art department! I'm growing weary of modern wedding dresses being used on the covers of historical books. Someone is taking the easy way out. I know you have access to the "real" fashions of the day.