The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn

July 31, 2017
Knock, Knock. Who's there? ah...Who's there?

I've always liked Julia Quinn. I usually can depend on her writing to make me smile or even sometimes make me laugh out loud. I usually go to her when I want to relax. But, for some reason I had a hard time staying with this book. I started it a number of times before I was actually able to make it all the way through. This was partly due to the fact that there was an amnesia theme, and I’m not terribly fond of forgetful heroes. I've read many romances where there is memory loss, and I find that timing plays an extremely important part when the romance centers on the amnesia theme. Memory loss in a romance novel always involves a certain amount of deceit on someone’s part, so the writing needs to be pretty special. If the writing is just a little off, I am left disillusioned with the trickster. So, when I am faced with a storyline which has amnesia as the main component I start my count-down. Enough about me, on to the book.

By the way, this story takes place in the United States during the Revolutionary War, so there is a little bit of a different feel about it. As the story begins we have a wounded Edward Rokesby waking up to the voices of his doctor and Edward's wife. The problem is that Edward doesn't remember his wife, Cecilia. And, there is a good reason for that - she's not really his wife. Now, Cecilia has a very good reason for claiming to be Edward's wife. You see, her brother Thomas served in the army with Edward, in fact Edward and Thomas were close friends and bunk mates. Cecilia received a letter stating that Thomas had been injured and she rushed across the ocean to be with him. However, she can't find him and there isn't anyone in the military who seems to be willing to help her. They are all rather contemptuous of her. When she learns her brother's friend is in the hospital she goes to help, but is turned away. But Cecilia has reached her boiling point and she blurts out that she is Edwards’ wife. They allow her in. So a confused Edward is even more confused because he doesn't remember having a wife. He does remember Cecilia. You see he and Cecilia were corresponding.

I liked the corresponding part of the story. It all begins gradually. Cecilia and Thomas write back and forth, eventually Thomas starts adding little lines about his friend Edward. As time progresses Edward and Cecilia start to write notes back and forth to each other. A friendship of sorts blossoms between the two characters. Even though they don't know it (because what romance couple does), they have fallen in love with each other through the letters. That was a problem for me. As much as I liked the growing affection in the letters, for most of the story they are in a different reality. That reality is based on Cecilia's lies - even though those lies were understandable in the beginning of the story. Yes, I can understand Cecilia's reason for claiming she is Edward's wife. But as the story progresses and she sees how important her telling the truth could be to Edward's recovery, she still maintains the lie. That is where timing comes into play.

There was an ample amount of time for Cecilia to fess up, but she doesn't. Even when she sees that her claims are detrimental to his health she doesn't speak. In fact, she is not the one who spills the beans - his memory comes back on its own. He is a tad bit upset. Then he starts playing games with her, which thankfully didn't go on for too long. In the end, I was not enchanted with either Edward or Cecilia. I could have been enchanted, because the letters were great.

Then we have a problem with dead Thomas. Ms. Quinn did a wonderful job writing about a character we only meet through letters and reminisces. The problem was we find out he's dead after we/I have become attached to him - well, that was a bummer. He was a funny, charming character and he doesn't make it through the book. Pffffffff.

I was disappointed in The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband. For me it lacks the charm and fun of some of Ms. Quinn’s other works. The title also indicates to me that it is a light-hearted romance, which it wasn’t. But the biggest problem I had was with Cecilia and her lies. She had a good reason for keeping her secrets in the beginning, but her continual lie upon lie made her into a weak heroine.  This was not one of Ms. Quinn’s better attempts.

Time/Place: Georgian/Revolutionary War - America
Sensuality: Warm

Holy Cannoli! It's time for Upcoming Historical Releases!!!

July 24, 2017
Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see HEY DELIA!! August 15, 2017 to September 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.
Anna Bradley
Lady Eleanor’s Seventh Suitor
The Sunderland Sisters series
September 5
Anna Harrington*
When the Scoundrel Sins
Capturing the Carlisles series
August 29
Annie Burrows
The Major Meets his Match
Brides for Bachelor series
Paperback-August 22, Ebook-Sept 1
Chloe Flowers
The Pirate and the Nun
Pirates and Petticoats series
September 1
Christine Merrill  
A Convenient Bride for the Soldier
Society of Wicked Gentlemen series
Paperback-August 22, ebook-Sept 1
Elizabeth Hobbes
Redeeming the Rogue
The Danby Brothers series
Paperback August 24, Ebook-Sept 1
Jane Ashford
The Last Gentleman Standing
Bluestocking series
September 5
Julia Justiss
Secret Lesson with the Rake
Hadley's Hellions series
Paperback-August 22, Ebook-Sept 1
Lauri Robinson
Winning the Mail-order Bride
Oak Grove series
Paperback-August 24, Ebook - Sept 1
Lisa Berne
The Laird Takes a Bride
The Penhallow Dynasty
August 29
Lorraine Heath
Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses
Scandalous Gentleman of St. James
August 22
Maeve Greyson
Sadie’s Highlander
Highlander Protector series
September 12
Martha Hix
His High-Stakes Bride
Texas Bride series
August 29
Mary Wine
Highland Flame
Highland Weddings series
September 5
Nicole Jordan*
My Fair Lover
Legendary Lovers series
August 26
Rosanne Bittner
The Last Outlaw
Outlaw Hearts series
September 5
Sarah Hegger
Releasing Henry  

Sir Arthur’s Legacy series
August 29
Sarah Mallory
Pursued for the Viscount’s Vengeance
Paperback-August 22, Ebook Sept 1
Shana Galen
Traitor in Her Arms
Scarlet Chronicles series
August 22
Tessa Dare*
The Duchess Deal
Girl Meets Duke series
August 22

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

August 24, 2017
One big grovel.

There be spoilers ahead. When last we were with Sarah MacLean and her Scandal and Scoundrels series, Sophie, the youngest Talbot sister, was pushing Serephina's husband into a pond. Serephina is the oldest of the Talbot's. Sophie had a very legitimate reason for shoving Malcolm Bevingstoke into the water: she caught him in flagrante delicto with a woman who was not his wife. Sophie took off on her own adventure and Seraphina just took off. Of course before she did, she lost the child she was carrying. Guilt-ridden, Malcolm has spent 2+ angst-filled years trying to find his wife. Then one day Seraphina shows up demanding a divorce. She wants a new life, one that does not include Malcolm. And, the emotional story of Malcolm and Seraphina begins. Be warned, my Petunias, this is not a carefree laugh riot. In fact, this reminds me a bit of some heavy-duty Mary Balogh books - so be prepared for some soul searching. This is a very emotional ride and I applaud Ms. MacLean for tackling a taboo which is usually avoided in Romanceland - infidelity. There are not many authors who can pull it off (once again Mary Balogh and Eloisa James come to mind). That subject is a bit of a hot button for some romance readers. I've often thought that sometimes authors forget that readers become so entrenched in their books that when someone in the book is emotionally injured, the reader is emotionally injured right along with them. So not only does the character in the book have to forgive the offender, so does the reader. Did Ms. MacLean succeed in creating enough sympathy for Malcolm that we forgive him? She came close and there is one powerful scene in this book which is absolutely gut-wrenching, which I talk about later. This book was hard to review because Ms. MacLean has raised the bar by journeying into territory which most romance authors avoid. Usually, the offending husband/wife dies and the spouse has to deal with leftover feelings, which is made easier by the introduction of a new nicer love interest. But that doesn't happen in this book. In this book the author tries to rehabilitate our hero, and to a lesser extent our heroine. This is a story of rebuilding trust.

The Day of the Duchess is told partly through flashbacks, at least until we get the complete story of how Malcolm and Seraphina's marriage fell apart. When they first meet, Malcolm and Seraphina are instantly attracted to each other, but as the romance continues, they really don't come to know each other. But they cannot stay away from each other. Even though Malcolm intends to marry Seraphina, he doesn’t tell her and she doesn’t guess. Because she does not want to lose him, she sets a trap in which she is caught in a compromising position with him. While he still marries her, he does not forgive her deceit and he makes her life miserable. He becomes one big nasty twit, with his malice culminating in being caught with his pants down. The past relationship, the destruction caused by Malcolm and Seraphina, is very painful to read.

When the book flips into the present time we are faced with a very regretful Malcolm. He wants desperately to be forgiven and be with his wife. But his treatment of her is something she can't forgive. Not only does she have the wound left by his infidelity, she has to struggle with the fact he wasn't there to support her when she miscarried their child. So you see, we have a heroine who has a lot to forgive - there is a lot that we the reader have to forgive. And, here is where it gets a tad bit murky – in the previous book, Malcolm's character may have been written a little bit too irredeemable. It seems to me for Malcolm to be salvaged in this story, the storyline should have been focused mainly on rebuilding the relationship between him and Seraphina. But the author took another route.

Here's the other route. Malcolm comes up with a brilliant idea of how to win his wife back. He'll give her a divorce if she helps him pick out his next wife. So how about a party in the country and let’s invite a number of eligible young ladies. She agrees, but she also brings along all of her sisters - SSSSSSesily, SSSSSSSeline, SSSSSSeleste and SSSSSSSophie. This part of the book was almost a farce. Here is my thought on the mixing of the angst story and the farce story - it didn't necessarily work. The farce would have been great if the whole story had been a farce. Maybe this part of the book was intended as a bright spot in an otherwise intense book. I'm all about books which make me laugh, but this is one time when the laughter was a distraction to some well-written poignancy.

One powerful scene. There is a scene in this story which will steal your breath away. It is one of the most powerfully written few pages I've experienced in a long time. It comes toward the end of the story, but I'm not going to tell you what it is about. If you read the book you will recognize it. There was so much heartrending emotion in this one scene that the hero could have been forgiven - if the author had continue traveling down that road of vivid emotion. And, this scene is what makes this a hard book to review. It was so well-written. This story had so much emotional impact, it didn't need the comedy - the comedy was a distraction.

SSSSSSSS. There is one other scene I want to briefly touch on. The five sisters are all in the same carriage riding home. All five of them. With SSSSSSS - Seleste said this, Sophie said that, Seline said that, Seleste looked there, Sesily smiled, Seleste laughed at something Seline said, Sophie frowned at Sesily, Sistine – oh wait there wasn’t any Sistine. It was all very confusing, I couldn't keep track of who was saying what to who and neither could the author. At one point Sophie is dropped off at her house, says goodbye, see ya; and then there she is on the next page back in the conversation with her sisters. I had to reread that section a number of times to clear my head.

Bottom-line. I do recommend this book. It was a hard story to read and I can only assume it was even harder to write. I congratulate the author on attempting to tackle a Romanceland verboten topic - infidelity. I'm not quite sure she succeeded in redeeming our hero Malcolm but she came awfully close. If she had continued on with that one highly emotional scene toward the end of the book, I think she would have been more successful. But you really should read this story and see what you think. Go ahead, don't be afraid - you can always watch a funny movie afterward.

Time/Place: England 1830s
Sensuality: Hot

Beauty Like the Night by Joanna Bourne

OMG!!! How could I miss this one. 

Joanna Bourne's
Beauty like the Night
Coming out August 1, 2017!
Spymaster series

The Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart

July 10, 2017
Hidden Treasures or Look what’s in Storage!
The Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart, 1982. Sometimes when you go digging through the dust and cobwebs of the past, all that happens is a sneeze. But other times you find a forgotten treasure and you say to yourself – now I know why this author is still around. Written in 1982 by fledgling author Anne Stuart, The Spinster and the Rake is considered a traditional Regency romance, but this is much more than just traditional. This book has the beginning of Anne Stuart’s powerful voice and one of her manly-men-dark-heroes which she is known for, (though not as dark as her later ones). While nothing can compare to my favorite Anne Stuart book, The House Party, this one comes pretty close. This is a relatively short book, clocking in at 194 pages. But when the writer is Anne Stuart you don’t notice the length of the story. You just sit back and enjoy it.

Plot, plot, plot. What’s the plot? We can make this really short. Gillian Redford is a thirty-year old spinster who is happy to spend her life going from one of her siblings’ houses to another. While her family takes advantage of her, she is also a favorite of her nieces and nephews. She also is not a martyr; she is in control of her life and she doesn’t take too much guff from her siblings. Then we have Ronan Blakley, Marquis of Herrington, and he is one of Anne Stuart’s typical rakes. And, when I say he’s an Anne Stuart rake, I mean he is a real rake, not a pretend rake who is really a good guy in disguise. Well, one rainy evening Ronan and his drunk friend Vivien Peacock rescue Gillian from a carriage wreck. From that moment on this book is filled with delightful banter, great farce, and occasional deep thoughts.

There is also a cute secondary romance thrown in and numerous other little plots – revenge, wagers, seduction.

This was a delightful little package which had a mature couple in the center of all the shenanigans which went on around them. If I had any quibble, it was there wasn’t enough of Ronan’s brain-think. Even with that I highly recommend this story – it has aged well.

Time/Place: Regency England

Seducing Mr. Sykes by Maggie Robinson

July 10, 2017

Seriesosis warning

I'm starting to develop that dreaded disorder called Seriesosis. That's when all the series' start running together. They become interchangeable. You think you're reading one and then it dawns on you that are actually reading a different one - you know, the one about the three orphaned sisters who are trying to find each other or maybe the four friends who attended Oxford and took some kind of blood oath. Well, that's what happened with Maggie Robinson's Seducing Mr. Sykes. Here's what one needs to remember - try not to read two books at one time. I keep trying to put Pudding-On-the-Wold into Ms. MacKenzie's Spinster series, it was all very confusing. I persevered. This is the Cotswold Confidential series, not the Spinster House series!

If you are keeping track of series, (unlike me), this is the one where people with problems are sent. In the previous one, the quaint little Cotswold village seemed like a prison to me. The people are regulated as to their exercise, what they eat, and who they are with. These people with problems are usually sent by a disgruntled relative and that is the case with our heroine Lady Sarah Marchmain. The big difference here is that Sarah does not want to escape her little village prison. In fact she's going to great lengths to make sure she stays. When we are first introduced to her she is on the floor howling. I have to admit, I didn't think that was funny - I thought it was cringe-worthy and I hoped the rest of the book didn't have things in it which were supposed to be funny but weren't. Thankfully, the howling didn't become a big part of the book. Anyway, I liked Sarah a lot. She was an outspoken, honest heroine and there are some funny scenes between the hero and heroine which are just delightful. I enjoyed the relaxed feel of the humor, smiled almost all the way through the book. There was even a handcuff scene which didn't upset me. I know, I know, not a big fan of handcuffs, but this one was cute. 

Ponder moment. Isn't funny how certain triggers, like women wearing men’s clothing works in some books but in others it's just an irritation. Our heroine wore men's clothing in this book, but she wasn't trying to disguise herself as a man. She was quite comfortable in the clothing and at no time during the book did my eyebrows shoot up to my hairline because of those clothes.

Then we have Tristan. He is just trying to do the right thing. He is trying to run the "spa" in place of his father. He is trying to help the villagers keep their income. But then "she" gets in the way. She turns his smoothly run world into chaos and she never looks back. From the very first moment Tristan meets Sarah he loses all control over the situation. He puts up a brave fight, but in the end he is no match for our heroine. 

There are numerous funny stumbling blocks along the way, lots of twists and turns and people showing up. The story comes pretty close to being a screwball comedy. But just when you think Ms. Robinson has overindulged, she slows it down, so the comedy is not over done. 

This story comes a long way in redeeming the rather bumpy start to the series. I do recommend this story. It is a standalone, but you may want to read the first in the series just to follow along - or not. Tristan and Sarah were a cute couple. Sarah was one of my favorite heroines this year - she is the bright spot in the story.

Time/Place: England 1882

Sensuality: Warm/Hot

When to Engage an Earl by Sally MacKenzie

July 10, 2017
Sign of relief, still on my auto-list.

If you have read any of my reviews on Sally MacKenzie's books, you will know that last few have been troublesome for me. But if there is just one book which I love by an author, I will spend years and years and years waiting for the next good one by that same author. I must admit I was starting to get a little scared because it seems to me my choices for new historical writers are somehow shrinking. Anyway, that's all about me and not Sally MacKenzie's latest book, When to Engage an Earl. This is the third book in the Spinster House series and while this story isn't one that will be on my "I luv you forever" list, it was a cute tale and in my opinion the best in the series. My problem with the Spinster House series is the women who were supposed to be friends. In the first two stories these three women did not exhibit anything close to friendship. I was actually surprised that a female writer was responsible for some of the pettiness that came out of the three main women characters. But in this book, Jane our heroine, seems to have turned over a new leaf and she is once again a nice person. So, that was a good thing.

Jane Wilkerson is at last in her own home, the spinster house. You know that old saying "be careful what you wish for because the grass is always greener on the other side"? Yeah, that may not be the saying but you get the drift. So, Jane has finally realized all of her dreams - except she's not as happy as she should be. Jane's character was hard to like, because she seemed as if she could just not make up her mind about what she wanted. But I like to look at her as a person who knows what she doesn't want, not what she wants, and that made her more likeable. Because she doesn't know what she wants, she makes choices which don't really suit her. I think Ms. MacKenzie missed an opportunity in not creating a more fully developed character in Jane. I believe Ms. MacKenzie sometimes sacrifices brilliant personalities for light fluffy narrative. But then there's room for light fluffy in Romanceland. I'm starting to sound like Jane - just cannot make up my mind.

Then we have our hero, Alex. Alex is mostly amusing. He does things like avoid going to his house because his matchmaking mother and sister are there. He is also lonely. Alllll of his friends are married and are having children of their own. He also is rather fond of Jane, even though he isn't going to admit it. He just kind of wanders through the book being entertaining. There was something about Alex which started irritating me part way through the book. He wanted a wife and children. How do I know that? Because his brain-think mentioned it a gazillion times. He was so boo-hoo-everyone-has-a-family-I-adore-my-nieces-I-love-children. He voiced it so much. Let me generalize. I like to think I know how men think - but I really don't. All I can do is observe the males who surround me. Men are capable of strong loyalty, love, and friendship. There are tons of great fathers out there. But do men think about having children/spouse with the same amount of enthusiasm that women do? Do they dream of the day they will walk down the aisle in their finery? While I'm sure that an occasional thought of having a family might drift through their brains, Alex seemed to be really obsessed with it. And, that became distracting for me because I was questioning the depth of his desire. For me, it comes down to I found his neediness overwhelming and it lessened my liking of him.

By the way, in case you've forgotten which series this is, it's the one with the strange/magical cat Poppy and the dying heir curse being broken by true love. At the end of the story we find that all is not as it seems in regard to that curse.

Overall, this was a pleasant, quick, light read. It had a bit of a rushed ending about it and a number of loose ends were tied rather quickly, but I thought this one was the best in the series. 

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm