Monday, June 29, 2009

June 30: five new book releases

There are five new books coming out today - woohoo! The publicized summaries are available below.

Now I just have to figure out in what order I'm going to read them ... whenever there's a new release I feel like the race is on to finish it and write the first review on I'm a historical romance fanatic, but even I can't read five books at once (unfortunately).

Don't Tempt Me
Author: Loretta Chase
Release Date: June 30, 2009
List Price: $6.99 | Author Homepage | Excerpt

Summary (from back cover):
Spunky English girl overcomes impossible odds and outsmarts heathen villains.

That's the headline when Zoe Lexham returns to England. After twelve years in the exotic east, she's shockingly adept in the sensual arts. She knows everything a young lady shouldn't and nothing she ought to know. She's a walking scandal, with no hope of a future ... unless someone can civilize her.

Lucien de Grey, the Duke of Marchmont, is no knight in shining armor. He's sarcastic, cynical, easily bored, and dangerous to women. He charms, seduces, and leaves them - with parting gifts of expensive jewelry to dry their tears. But good looks and charm, combined with money and rank, make him welcome everywhere. The most popular bachelor in the Beau Monde can easily save Zoe's risque reputation ... if the wayward beauty doesn't lead him into temptation, and a passion that could ruin them both.

Bound By Your Touch
Author: Meredith Duran
Release Date: June 30, 2009
List Price: $7.99 | Author Homepage | Excerpt

Summary (from back cover):
Silver-tongued Viscount Sanburne is London’s favorite scapegrace. Alas, Lydia Boyce has no interest in being charmed. When his latest escapade exposes a plot to ruin her family, she vows to handle it herself. Certainly she requires no help from a too-handsome dilettante whose main achievement is being scandalous.

But Sanburne’s golden charisma masks a sharper mind and darker history than she realizes. He shocks Lydia by breaking past her prim facade to the woman beneath . . . and the hidden fire no man has ever recognized. But as she follows him into a world of intrigue, she will learn that the greatest danger lies within—in the shadowy, secret motives of his heart.

My Wicked Marquess
Series: The Inferno Club, Book 1
Author: Gaelen Foley
Release Date: June 30, 2009
List Price: $7.99 | Author Homepage | Book Page | Excerpt

Summary (from back cover):
To London’s aristocracy, the Inferno Club is a scandalous society no proper young lady would acknowledge. But though they are publicly notorious for pursuing all manner of debauchery, in private they are warriors who would do anything to protect king and country.

The Marquess of Rotherstone has decided it’s time to restore the family’s good name. But as a member of the Inferno Club, he knows there is only one way to redeem himself in Society’s eyes: marry a lady of impeccable beauty and breeding, whose reputation is, above all, spotless.

Someone quite unlike Daphne Starling. True, she’s temptingly lovely, but a jilted suitor has nearly ruined her reputation. Still, Max cannot resist her allure—or the challenge of proving London’s gossips wrong. He would do anything to win her hand ... and show that even a wicked marquess can make a perfect husband.

Surrender to the Devil
Series: The Scoundrels of St. James, Book 3
Author: Lorraine Heath
Release Date: June 30, 2009
List Price: $6.99 | Author Homepage

Summary (from back cover):
A Devilish Duke on a Quest for Pleasure ...

Darling was once a child of London's roughest streets, surrounded by petty thieves, pickpockets, and worse. But though she survived this harsh upbringing to become a woman of incomparable beauty, Frannie wants nothing to do with the men who lust for her, the rogues who frequent the gaming hall where she works. She can take care of herself and feels perfectly safe on her own—safe, that is, until he strides into her world, and once again it becomes a very dangerous place indeed.

To bed her but not wed her. That's what Sterling Mabry, the eighth Duke of Greystone, wants. But Frannie abhors arrogant aristocrats interested only in their own pleasure. So why then does the thought of an illicit tryst with the devilish duke leave her trembling with desire? Her willing body begs for release . . . and a wicked, wonderful surrender.

Julia Quinn's What Happens in London is written about in the previous entry.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bizarre video trailer for Julia Quinn's new book, What Happens in London

Apparently it's all the rage to make video trailers for books now ... I don't really see the point and personally, they only turn me off a book, they don't make more inclined to read it. However, maybe that's just me ...?

Julia Quinn's new book, What Happens in London, is coming out Tuesday, June 30th (along with four other historical romance books - look to the right) and on the page there is this very absurd trailer. I watched it and seriously, I don't understand why they make these?! The video comes off as amateurish and kind of hokey - not really the way you want to advertise a soon-to-be-released book. Does anyone else agree with me here, or am I alone in this?

Regardless of the bad book trailer, I am looking forward to reading Quinn's latest novel and I am crossing my fingers that this one is actually a hit - so far, the three she's written since the Bridgerton series ended have been ... quite horrible. I've found it so disappointing, since her Bridgerton books are some of my favorite historical romances.

What Happens in London
Author: Julia Quinn
Release Date: June 30, 2009
List Price: $7.99

Summary (from back cover):
When Olivia Bevelstoke is told that her new neighbor may have killed his fiancée, she doesn't believe it for a second, but still, how can she help spying on him, just to be sure? So she stakes out a spot near her bedroom window, cleverly concealed by curtains, watches, and waits... and discovers a most intriguing man, who is definitely up to something.

Sir Harry Valentine works for the boring branch of the War Office, translating documents vital to national security. He's not a spy, but he's had all the training, and when a gorgeous blond begins to watch him from her window, he is instantly suspicious. But just when he decides that she's nothing more than a nosy debutante, he discovers that she might be engaged to a foreign prince, who might be plotting against England. And when Harry is roped into spying on Olivia, he discovers that he might be falling for her himself ...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jenna Petersen: Her Notorious Viscount


Title: Her Notorious Viscount
Author: Jenna Petersen
Release Date: March 31, 2009
List Price: $6.99

Read: June 16-18, 2009
My Rating:

Author Website | Book Page | Excerpt |

Setting: April 1816, London, England

Her Notorious Viscount is my first historical romance by Jenna Petersen and I greatly enjoyed it. Starting a new HR author is always loaded with risk (IMO), but I was extremely relieved to see that Petersen doesn't employ any of those annoying story ploys that drive me crazy: NO major misunderstandings, NO ridiculous fights and obstacles that only exist to make the book longer, NO saboteurs who are in love with either the H/H and do everything they can to keep them apart (and of course, always almost succeed).

Summary (from back cover):
Beauty and her beast ...
Viscount Nicholas Stoneworth is infamous - even being mentioned in the same breath with him is enough to ruin a lady's reputation. Why, the man's spent years in London's underworld pursuing every sort of vice while parlaying his hard muscled body into fame and fortune as a fighter! With his brother's untimely death, Nicholas must assume the title and relearn the civilized ways of the ton ... and proper Jane Fenton is more than willing to teach him everything she knows.

Circumstances may have forced Jane into the role of ladies' companion, but she knows the danger of associating with a notorious man like Nicholas, a man who woucl dtempt any woman into certain scandal. But her brother disappeared into the same underworld four long years ago, and if she trasnforms the libertine into a gentleman, he will use his connections to find him. Still, Jane will not - cannot - lose control. She must ignore the promise of sinful pleasure in his eyes ... and her own wild desires desperate to break free.

MAIN CHARACTERS, Miss Jane Fenton and Viscount Nicholas Stoneworth:
Jane and Nicholas were wonderful leading characters and there were some really humorous interactions between them, since Jane is Miss Prim and Proper and Nicholas has basically been shunning society and cast out of the ton for ~10 years. Another plus is the chemistry between them, which is very well written and sizzles off the pages.

*Super priceless* was when the Jane saves the Nicholas - such a nice change! She doesn't literally save him, but usually you have the hero who ends up facing down her bullies and yelling at them and then all of us female readers understandably sigh dreamily (probably don't need to add gender, since I think the size of the male audience is negligible - if it even exists). HERE, however, we have the heroine who sticks up for the hero and it was a total "you go girl" moment ;-).

I loved Nicholas' best friend, "Rage," and think he would be great as a hero in another book. I was also surprised to find that I really liked Viscount Patrick Fenton, Jane's cousin, and hope that he gets his own book. It was such a nice change to have another character who is in love with the heroine yet isn't manipulative, is an actual decent and honorable human being, acknowledges that the heroine doesn't like him in that way (also nice, because I hate when an author creates divided loyalties like that) and so goes out of his way to help the hero.

Although there was a mystery subplot, the way it played out was very interesting and it was a nice change to not have some crazed murderous greedy villain confusing things and somewhat unnecessarily. In some ways it kind of stretched plausibility, but we read these books for enjoyment, not reality, so it wasn't enough of a stretch to truly bother me.

Her Notorious Viscount was a light and enjoyable read that I would definitely recommend for a lazy weekend afternoon. As an author, Petersen lines up with other historical romance writers like Julia Quinn and Karen Hawkins.

Sabrina Jeffries: Wed Him Before You Bed Him


Title: Wed Him Before You Bed Him
Series: The School for Heiresses, Book 6 (last of the series)
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Release Date: June 23, 2009
List Price: $7.99

Read: June 23-23, 2009
My Rating:

Author Website | The School for Heiresses Series | Book Page | Excerpt |

Summary (from back cover):
At eighteen, Charlotte Page made a life-altering mistake. She wronged a man in an impulsive act that she came to deeply regret, though it led her to her present life as Mrs. Charlotte Harris, owner of Mrs. Harris's School for Young Ladies. Unbeknownst to her, that man is now her anonymous benefactor, the mysterious "Cousin Michael." His masquerade began as preparation for a devastating revenge, but became a labor of love. Now Charlotte desperately needs his help. Can he save her from disaster as his real self without revealing the ugly secret behind his charade? Or will the mistakes of both their pasts tear them apart forever?

Setting: 1824, Richmond and London, England

Wed Him Before You Bed Him is the sixth and final book in "The School for Heiresses" series and I have greatly been looking forward to it - and finally discovering Cousin Michael's identity!! - even though I haven't read all the other books in the series. I was not disappointed and found it absolutely delightful; I would recommend it to people even if they haven't read all - or any - of the other Heiress books (though reading them certainly makes this book more enjoyable since you have the mystery surrounding Cousin Michael building up).

He was NOT who I expected him to be - I was actually convinced that this person wasn't going to end up being the mysterious benefactor. However, although I experienced a few moments of disappointment, the feeling quickly disappeared and in the end I think Jeffries wrote an amazing hero and did a stellar job of recreating the H&H's past while making the flames between them 18 years later (when the story takes place) feel as strong as ever (if not stronger and more substantial) - basically I think her choice of Cousin Michael's alter ego ended up being perfect. She successfully combines two star-crossed lovers with a tumultuous past who are honest and upfront about their feelings, a secret identity hidden through a fourteen-year long correspondence, wonderful chemistry and great romance (many sigh-worthy moments), and a murder mystery for an absolutely delightful end to her Heiress series.

NOTE: Don't read further **if you don't want to know** who Cousin Michael is. If you do ... go ahead! (And bear with me, I know I wrote enough for an epic poem here).

THE HISTORY (our hero and heroine's past):
Jeffries gives us two chapters in the present day (when the story is set) and then flashes us back to when the H&H fell in love, almost got married, suffered heartbreak due to misunderstanding and *several* horrible twists of fate, and split up. It was very well done and greatly adds to the story - so much of what happens between them is defined by their shared history and getting several chapters of that makes them finally coming together and their romance that much sweeter and more enjoyable to read. So ...

Eighteen years ago, eighteen-year old Charlotte Page (now thirty-six-year old widow and headmistress Mrs. Charlotte Harris) and twenty-year old David Masters (now thirty-seven-year old widower and Viscount Kirkwood) were being pushed into a marriage by their manipulative fathers. At first, they were both dead-set against the match ... however when Charlotte and her parents visit David and his family at their country estate, the two young people find that perhaps their initial aversion was unwarranted. During the week-long visit, they come to know one another very well and slowly fall in love; everything looks to be going along perfectly and they seem to be headed in the direction of matrimonial bliss ...

However, shocker of shockers, everything does not occur as it should (I know, sit down and recover from the surprise I just sprung on you) and circumstances make it so that Charlotte and David part ways, each full of anger and hurt - which over the years turns to feelings of regret and loss - and never to speak to one another again for eighteen years (or so Charlotte thinks, lol). The whole debacle involves mistaken identity (Charlotte thinks she spies David diddling the maid), a letter written in haste and wrongly delivered (fate *would* have to make it so that Charlotte's scathing letter is delivered to a tabloid and not David's house), and severe public humiliation (David endures shame and criticism after he's cast in the role of "bad rakish arrogant peer" by society - the letter didn't have actual names in case it fell into the wrong hands, but people were able to figure out that he was the vilified male being written about). The result is an elopement and failed marriage for Charlotte (her father is so livid she elopes in a desperate attempt to escape him - he's a *horrible* bully) and feelings of anger and a need for revenge on the part of our hero, David.

THE STORY (how the reunion-romance unfolds):
Fourteen years ago, David set up the charade of "Cousin Michael" and lured Charlotte away from her teacher post with the promise of being headmistress of her own school ... all to carry out the revenge he felt she so richly deserved for his very public humiliation. He would let her get comfortable, set up an establishment, put down some roots, and then happily pull it all out from under her and leave her to suffer as he has.

But starting with the first letter from her thanking dear "Cousin Michael" for his generosity, David is drawn in and he finds himself embarking on a fourteen-year correspondence with a woman whom he once loved, was determined to ruin, and has now come to respect and treasure as a friend. The moment has come for him to finally reenter Charlotte's life (as himself), for although she hasn't heard from her mysterious benefactor for six months, her school is in danger because not only is a racecourse being planned for the property next door, but little does she know she has problems with her own school's property as well (David won the lease of the land for 15 years, but doesn't actually own it). David lost his wife to suicide six months ago and is now (somewhat) free to pursue the woman who has dominated his thoughts and remained an obsession (he's still in half-mourning).

Charlotte is confused at having to face him again and is extremely suspicious of his explanation and his motives; she finds it hard to believe that (vain and selfish) Sarah, his deceased wife and her former pupil, left a large amount of money to a school that she never seemed to have any fondness for. Charlotte has so many regrets over what happened between her and David all those years ago and still feels guilt over how she wronged him, albeit unknowingly and unintentionally. The attraction between them still burns as brightly as it ever did and Charlotte finds herself embarking on an affair with the man who has always retained a piece of her heart and whom she can't seem to resist.

And so the story goes - David, intensely wooing Charlotte so as to convince her to let him back into her life, all the while trying to hide his other persona of "Cousin Michael," and Charlotte, desperate to hang on to the independence she fought so hard for and the life she put so much work into building, while at the same time unable to deny her loneliness and continued longing for the man she first fell in love with so long ago.

MAIN CHARACTERS, Mrs. Charlotte Harris and David Masters, Viscount Kirkwood:
The hero and especially the heroine of this book are older than we usually see, however in this instance it was a nice change. There is so much history between the two - what happened defined the course of both their lives - and I think their maturity only enhanced the book and added depth to their relationship and emotions.

Charlotte is a strong, confident, kind, hard-working, forthright and extremely likable heroine. After having such a horrible father and then being married to a man she did not love who lost all her money and then died in a duel two years into their marriage, she never wants to depend on another man again. She has forged a life for herself and a successful career, teaching young women many of the subjects that often aren't thought necessary - or even desirable - for her gender, and though she at times feels lonely, Charlotte gains satisfaction from her work and the friends she has made.

David is a wonderful hero - intense, determined, kind, intelligent, teasing, passionate, responsible - and just perfect for Charlotte. He has many regrets about what happened so many years ago and has grown up and matured a lot since. Although his father completely ruined the family finances, he did what was necessary to make them successful again, making a marriage of convenience (he needs money, she wants a title) and using the money that comes with his (horrid) wife to make sound business investments and turn around the family fortunes. He feels tremendous guilt over his wife's suicide and he also feels guilty over the "Cousin Michael" deception and why it was first initiated. David longs for Charlotte - though that word isn't strong enough IMO - and is determined to get her back in his life with a single-minded intensity.

The chemistry between David and Charlotte literally leaps off the page, however there is also great depth to their relationship. Reading this book is like reading the story of two star-crossed lovers that you just KNOW are meant to be together, so you read voraciously through without putting the book down in order to get to the end and finally see them get their well-deserved HEA.

I normally don't like books that have misunderstandings and when you have stories where the H&H had a first-love together or an almost-marriage or whatever, the reason that the story is taking place so many years later is always because of some type of misunderstanding. However, this book was such a refreshing change in so many ways and although the story starts off with a big misunderstanding, the characters don't create more of them when they meet again (thank god!). I also appreciated that by the time all this is happening, both Charlotte and David have pretty much learned the truth about the other person's side of the story.

Charlotte and David are always open about their feelings and their past - there are no things left unsaid or secrets (well, the whole Cousin Michael thing, which yes, I'll grant you, is a big deal - but hello, that's what the whole plot is about so it's completely necessary!!). I loved that they were so honest about their regrets regarding how they treated each other; they both say exactly what the reader always thinks in cases like these - if only she had confronted him about what she thought she saw, if only he hadn't let his pride stop him from going to her, etc. Both of them have been hurt and are afraid to love again and trust another person - especially each other - with their hearts, however they are honest about their desire for each other, their affection, their confusion over feelings and emotions and where the relationship might be going, and so on. SUCH a nice change!!!

READ THIS BOOK! I, along with most people from what the polls on Jeffries' website indicate, thought and hoped that the mysterious "Cousin Michael" was Lord Stoneville - and I'm still rooting for him to get his own book, and from suspicious goings-on in this book think he will soon - however I was not at all disappointed with David and think that Jeffries wrote a hero and heroine who were perfect for one another and really could not have been with any other person.

If you want to refresh your memory about (or read for the first time) the letter snippets between Charlotte and Cousin Michael that have appeared at the beginning of all the Heiress book chapters, they are posted on Sabrina Jeffries' website and can be accessed here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three Karen Ranney Books

I've recently read a few Karen Ranney books and on the whole have really enjoyed them. I think she is definitely a talented historical romance writer and I've ordered more books from her backlist that will hopefully be as good as the ones I've read so far!


Title: Till Next We Meet
Author: Karen Ranney
Release Date: April 26, 2005
List Price: $5.99

Read: June 9-9, 2009
My Rating:

Book Page | Excerpt |

Setting: 1761, Scotland

Till Next We Meet is a beautiful Scottish historical romance with a Cyrano twist. The two main characters are excellent - by themselves and for each other - and interestingly complex; their romance is really one that slowly builds, making it completely believable and that much more precious - and the chemistry between the two is fantastic ;-). There were also a few well-executed plot twists and I only really guessed - or rather suspected - one of them before it was revealed, which was a nice change from the books where the villain is so painstakingly obvious.

SUMMARY (from back cover):
"Catherine Dunnan is devastated when her beloved goes off to war - and only his promise to write often can sustain her in her loneliness. And what letters they are, filled with heartfelt emotions that move her to respond in kind. But then the unthinkable occurs. He is cruelly lost to her, and his beautiful words of passion and devotion cease forever.

When Moncrief agreed to write warm and loving missives in a fellow officer's name, he never expected he'd become so enamored of the incomparable lady who answered them, a woman he has never met. Returning to England to assume the unexpected title of duke, Moncrief is irresistibly drawn to the beauty who has unwittingly won his heart. More than anything, he yearns to ease Catherine's sadness with his tender kisses. But once she learns his secret, will his love be spurned?"

MAIN CHARACTERS, Catherine and Moncrief:
The main characters of Catherine and Moncrief are wonderfully written and extremely vivid and the excerpts of their letters to each other throughout the book really add to the novel. This is only my second Ranney book, but in both this one and An Unlikely Governess, there is a real loneliness to the H&H and to the story itself - secondary characters exist and are always interesting and three-dimensional, however the main characters and their relationship always seems very isolated, as if her stories take place in a somewhat cold and harsh world. I'm not saying this as a criticism, but rather just an observation. I will say that either way, it serves to truly highlight the main relationship and to really focus on its development.

I did not like the character of Glynneth (Catherine's companion) and definitely think she should have been changed. Oddly enough, for most of the book when we're supposed to be unsure of her I actually was fond of her, but how she was in the end towards Catherine, which I think is actually supposed to make the reader feel better - or at least like things are resolved - only made me feel worse.

The evil Dowager Duchess Juliana is an odd add-in because she makes all sorts of trouble at the beginning and then kind of just disappears from the story. (And P.S. out of all the historical romances I have read, the name "Juliana" has rarely been used, however in the instances that it has, the character is always mean/evil/bad ... wouldn't mind reading a HR where my name is used for the heroine or at least a likable secondary character!!!)

The final scene wasn't as satisfying as I would have liked, though it's hard to pinpoint why - maybe too much sentimentality, not enough drama, no epilogue to follow-up ... I really don't know.

This book is absolutely wonderful and it will definitely be a reread and recommend for me!!


Title: An Unlikely Governess
Author: Karen Ranney
Release Date: December 27, 2005
List Price: $5.99

Read: June 1-1, 2009
My Rating:

Book Page | Excerpt |

An Unlikely Governess was a strangely quiet yet wonderfully intense historical romance. The characters were much sadder and lonelier than one usually finds in this genre; even when authors try to make their characters the "loner-type," I don't think they succeed as well as Ranney does here.

SUMMARY (from inside page):
"Impoverished and untitled, with no marital prospects or so much as a single suitor, Beatrice Sinclair is forced to accept employment as governess to a frightened, lonely child from a noble family - ignoring rumors of dark intrigues to do so. Surely, no future could be as dark as the past she wishes to leave behind. And she admits a fascination with the young duke's adult cousin, Devlen Gordon, a seductive rogue who excites her from the first charged moment they meet. But she dares not trust him - even after he spirits them to isolation and safety when teh life of her young charge is threatened.

Devlen is charming, mysterious, powerful - and Beatrice cannot refuse him. He is opening new worlds for her, filling her life with passion ... and peril. But what are Devlen's secrets? Is he her lover or her enemy? Will following her heart be foolishness or a path to lasting happiness?"

~ There's never a question as to whether Devlen is her lover or enemy: he becomes the former and he's never the latter. Also, he's never untrustworthy - I don't know why they always try to confuse and mislead in the summaries!
~ Robert, the 7-year-old duke who is Beatrice's charge, is actually under Devlen's father's guardianship and he is one of the questionable characters. If Robert died Cameron Gordon would become the Duke and though he may be confined to a wheelchair, he could still be orchestrating the attempts on Richard's life ... so is he?
~ There is also the interesting and tragic (though disturbingly so, you'll discover), character of Cameron Gordon's wife, Rowena.
~ Just my own PS: no major taking-over-the-plot-to-the-point-that-you-want-to-shoot-one-or-both-of-the-main-characters misunderstandings here! (There's a small one at the end, but it only lasts a few pages, is necessary for the plot, and is quickly resolved). Beatrice and Devlen are actually refreshingly honest with one another - it's one of the greatest things about their relationship and this book IMO.

For the first 20 pages or so I was not sure whether I would even like the book; I loved Beatrice and Devlen immediately, but their initial interactions were somewhat strange and I wasn't sure I would find their romantic relationship believable or compelling. It was like they were strangers meeting for the first time but they'd known each other their whole lives (if that explains it and doesn't make me sound crazy), which is why I was somewhat doubtful at first. I quickly realized how wrong I was, though, and if anything it only made their relationship more authentically intense; all in all they were absolutely amazing together and perfect for one another.

The supporting characters were very compelling and the mystery remained one until the end - I was never really sure who was behind the attempts on Robert's life. If anything, I would have liked some more clues as to who it was, because the reader ends up being almost too surprised. I was never sure about whether the other secondary characters were "good" or "bad" and of course nothing ended being that simple; they were all very three-dimensional and interesting.

Robert, the young duke, was a wonderful addition to the story and provided several humorous moments. Ranney did a wonderful job of writing a young boy who is wise beyond his years and has had to grow up too fast, feels alone and abandoned, covers his fear and loneliness by acting out, but essentially is a sensitive, perceptive, and clever child. So all in all: FABULOUS HISTORICAL and definitely a reread :-)!!


Title: Tapestry
Author: Karen Ranney
Release Date: April 1, 1995
List Price: Retail unavailable - buy used

Read: June 11-12, 2009
My Rating:

Book Page
(scroll down) |

I think the story idea for Tapestry had great potential, however this is one of Ranney's earlier books - it was her first to be published but the second one she wrote - and it shows. In my opinion, she just wasn't as good a writer or storyteller as she has now become, because I have absolutely adored the more recent books of hers that I have read.

MAIN CHARACTERS, Alex and Laura:
*SPOILER STARTS* The hero was heartbreakingly wonderful and the heroine's despair when she thinks Alex is dead and then miscarries was poignantly written and extremely tragic. Pre-tragedy Laura was a little too sugar-sweet for me; at the beginning of the book when she undertakes the charade to get into his household, she seems to have real backbone and be very courageous, but once they marry, I found her somewhat boring. *SPOILER ENDS*

The added character of the evil stepmother was unnecessary in my opinion - Alex suffered SO much before the story takes place and then Laura suffers even more during it, so I felt that there were enough obstacles and tragedies without adding in a cruel, promiscuous, unfeeling backstabbing ... witch. I loved Laura's uncles; Dolly, who is a late addition to the cast of characters, was a treat.

I actually (GASP - seriously, this is extremely rare/unheard of for me) found myself skimming through portions of the book in the middle; I can't really explain why, except for I was somewhat bored by the story and didn't really find it compelling anymore - there was nothing to really grab you and make you *need* to read what happens. *Extremely annoying* was Ranney's POV shifts - they were not at all done smoothly and went back and forth so much that I found myself very confused, feeling like I was watching a doubles tennis match with three balls in play.

Unfortunately, although it did have some great parts - the beginning and the ending were very strong, compelling, and emotional - it just isn't really worth plodding through. Instead, read some of her more recent books that truly show her talent: Till Next We Meet is fantastic and An Unlikely Governess is highly enjoyable.

Julia Quinn: To Sir Phillip, With Love and Mr Cavendish, I Presume


Title: To Sir Phillip, With Love
Series: Bridgerton Book 5
Author: Julia Quinn
Release Date: June 24, 2003
List Price: $7.99

Read: June 21-21, 2009
My Rating:

Author Homepage | Book Page | The Bridgertons | Excerpt |

Setting: May 1824, Gloucestershire

To Sir Phillip, With Love is Julia Quinn's fifth Bridgerton book and one of the only ones (besides for When He Was Wicked) in the series that I had not yet read. It was a complete delight and after being disappointed (sometimes *severely*) in all of the post-Bridgerton books I have read by Quinn, it was great to once again read something by her that was utterly enjoyable and left me with a silly, cheerful smile on my face. All of the Bridgerton brothers show up and make enough of an appearance to inspire several laugh-out-loud moments - it reminded me why I've always loved this family so much and makes me want to reread the entire series starting at the beginning with The Duke and I.

Instead of a mystery or villain subplot, Quinn usually tries to have some serious overtone or issue that one of the characters has to deal with and although in some of her books this has felt forced to me, I think that she does a very good job of that here. Phillip's sadness and loneliness is almost palpable; he's a very complex and three-dimensional character and is written in such a way that the reader truly understands and sympathizes with his problems and almost feels his emotions along with him - his sense of being lost while not even really realizing it, not knowing what to do or how to find his way, whether it's to feeling happiness again or to bridge the gap in his relationship with his children - we feel all of this and just long for him to finally be at peace and have joy in his and the twins' life.

OUR HERO, Sir Phillip Crane:
Phillip (30) was a different hero than we usually see in this genre - not the womanizing rake bad-boy who needs to be reformed, yet also not the imperious autocratic high-ranking nobleman who rules over a huge domain with an iron fist. He's a quiet man, interested in botany, can have quite a temper, is extremely passionate though he has a strong hold on those feelings (result of his unhappy marriage - see below), very lonely, big and rugged and handsome, honorable and responsible, and although he's a confident man and very secure in who he is, there is also a degree of shyness and a great vulnerability to him that is absolutely 100% endearing.

He had an extremely difficult childhood, with a mother who died at birth and a father who beat him and basically made him feel inadequate in almost every way. This was followed by an extremely difficult marriage: Marina, his wife, suffered from what we would now call depression and in the book they call "melancholy." She existed in a state of perpetual sadness and despair and after giving birth to the twins, Amand and Oliver, at the beginning of the marriage, she spent the rest of their eight years of wedded non-bliss hardly existing. The story takes place a little over a year after her death - she tried to kill herself in their lake and though Phillip was in time to save her from drowning, she caught a fever as a result and ended up dying three days later.

Phillip's relationship with his children was really difficult to read and at first you're just cringing at every interaction between them, wanting to jump in and shake some sense into him. He is so scared of being like his father, especially since he knows he has a temper and is a big man easily capable of hurting someone, that he basically avoids them as much as possible, figuring a laissez-faire attitude is better than involving himself and failing them in some way. Since their mother's death, Amanda and Oliver have been increasingly misbehaving - though from what is written Marina never really paid them that much attention while alive - because all they really want is Phillip's attention. However, he feels completely inadequate as a father, doesn't know how to raise them or treat them, and is frustrated by their constant acting out and his inability to control them ... and so continues to avoid them, telling himself that he's doing them a favor.

I read in one Amazon review that the person felt his change in behavior towards them was too quickly done and had no noticeable trigger, however I heartily disagree with this. I think that the change in Phillip's attitude towards his children is completely believable and actually very sensitively written; we know from the beginning that he deeply loves them and that his avoidance and seeming ineptitude stems more from feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy than any neglect or disinterest. Also, it's not like there's a complete 180-degree turn by the end of the book: things start to change in their relationship when Phillip realizes that his lack of involvement is only hurting them, not helping. By the end of the book we know that things are going to turn out absolutely fine and are left with the glimpse of a completely new chapter in Phillip's relationship with Amanda and Oliver and the certain promise of the total 180.

OUR HEROINE, Miss Eloise Bridgerton:
Eloise is a priceless heroine - she's straight-forward, honest, extremely talkative, caring, friendly, loving, and generous. Her impulsiveness is very endearing, but it is tempered by her maturity and a strong sense of self. She's 28, so older than most heroines we encounter, but I think that her age is perfect for this story because her character is still very youthful, while she is mature and old enough to reasonably be the step-mother of eight-year-old twins and it's believable that they are able to see her and respond to her as a mother figure (it annoys me when we have the heroine whose hero has kids that are only 10 or 15 years younger than her).

She's really the perfect heroine for Phillip, because where he's reserved, moody, and taciturn, she is just a lively, cheerful ball of optimism - though not in an annoyingly Pollyanna way that makes you want to yank her out Neverland and douse her in ice cold water (... or would that just be me? LOL). Eloise is so different from Marina and we feel like Phillip finally gets a chance at the happiness and joy that he so deserves and needs in his life, after having been so miserable in his first marriage - not only because of the situation, but because he tried so hard to change it and to make his wife happy when obviously nothing could be done and the situation never improved, but in fact only got worse.

I do have to say that I think their relationship's obstacle-climax-resolution happened a little too late in the book to be fully developed and so I felt like the problem came up (what are their feelings for each other? what will they make of their marriage - was one of necessity / being compromised? what does each need from the other to be satisfied - i.e. more than just passion?) and the settling and hashing it out felt rushed and left me dazed a little. I completely believed what they say when they talk about / realize their love for each other, why, and what parts of each of them compliments and is needed by the other, however I felt like a little chunk of the story was missing between the declaration of the problem / fight over it and the discussion in which they resolve it all.

Definitely read; great book and another wonderful story about one of the Bridgerton family members! Whether you're working your way through the whole series or just want to pick up a great historical romance, To Sir Phillip, With Love does not disappoint.


Title: Mr. Cavendish, I Presume
Series: Two Dukes of Wyndham, Book 2
Author: Julia Quinn
Release Date: September 30, 2008
List Price: $7.99

Read: Couldn't even finish it ...
My Rating:

Author Homepage | Book Page | Excerpt |

I don't know what happened to Julia Quinn after her Bridgerton series ended ... but it wasn't anything good. Her first book following that series, The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, was one of the worst historical romance books I've read - the first half was very promising, but the second half wasn't just disappointing or a letdown after what preceded, it was just in-your-face straight-out bad with horrible actions on behalf of the hero and really horrible plot twists by the author (see my review of that book for more details).

Mr. Cavendish, I Presume is the sequel to The Lost Duke of Wyndham and before buying or reading either of these books, I combed through many, many reviews. Readers were very disappointed by the fact that the two books take place simultaneously and not only at the same time, but in the same place with the same characters in the same situations. Both books seemed to be a resounding failure, but the second book seemed to be criticized more for the fact that people hadn't realized Quinn was going to do this and so instead of getting the whole new story they expected, they had 300+ pages of deja vu.

I therefore decided that I would only read one of the books and decided to go with Mr. Cavendish, I Presume since the plot appealed to me more than the first book's ... Well let me just say this: I haven't finished the book and don't really plan on doing so anytime soon. It was just so ... not good! The idea for the story is an interesting one - though write one book for it, not two - and being a HR aficionado I can say that I don't think I've ever read one with a similar plot. Discovering that someone who was a commoner is actually a nobleman? Happens all the time. But the other way around ... not so much. However, even Julia Quinn's writing skill cannot make up for the fact that she completely botches this story, taking an interesting and original plot and completely failing to deliver an interesting and original book.

MAIN CHARACTERS, Amelia and Thomas:
Although Amelia, the heroine, seemed like she could have been interesting (she was somewhat immature at times - or at least, from what I read of the first quarter/third of the book), the hero, Thomas, was ... ugh, I don't even know! He's just so NOT appealing in the beginning of the book and I am almost never, ever, ever turned off by the hero - I'm always much more critical of the female lead than the male one. He's detached and pretty uninteresting and although there are some promising aspects of his personality, they don't make up for the blandness that Quinn writes him with. Thomas' complete inattention to Amelia and focus his grandmother's companion, Grace, is a huge turnoff (there's not supposed to be any attraction between them or anything going on, so why have it then?). He seems a very lonely and sad man, but instead of exploring this and really defining his character, Quinn kind of just lets Thomas languish in front of the reader, hinting at his complexity but not enough to draw us in.

I did skim to the end of the book to see how the HEA turned out and I have to say that the last 2-3 chapters and epilogue were enjoyable ... but there is no way I am plodding through the rest of the book to get to that, sorry. So ending my glowing review on that note ... does anyone want to buy my copy of Mr. Cavendish, I Presume?

Books by James, Mullins, and Hawkins

I've continued to wallow in my historical romances and have read a good number of new ones, as well as revisiting some of my past favorites. Below are three books that I've had for awhile and finally read for the first time; I'll add the rest of the books later.

Read: May 26-27, 2009
Title: His Wicked Ways
Author: Samantha James
Release Date: September 1, 1999
List Price: $6.99 | author homepage | excerpt

My Rating:

Summary (from back cover):
The last member of his once powerful clan, Cameron MacKay has but one mission: to find Meredith, the last daughter of the Clan Munro and child of his sworn enemy, and force her to provide him with an heir. But after kidnapping Meredith from the priory where she sought refuge, the brazen and fearless Highlander finds himself intoxicated by her tender beauty ... and enchanted by the manner in which she boldly bargains for her freedom. Now, more than ever, he is determined to bend her to his will.

Long ago, Meredith vowed never to trust any man - for she has seen how they cause pain to those they profess to adore. And before she will submit to the powerful, dangerous desire this remarkable warrior inflames within her, MacKay must abandon his wicked ways forever ... and embrace the passionate love that lives in the depths of his hardened heart.

hero: soldier/warrior -- heroine: abused/raped -- location: Scotland -- plot: revenge -- sexual abuse/rape -- time period: medieval

Read: May 27-27, 2009
Title: A Necessary Bride
Author: Debra Mullins
Release Date: February 25, 2003
List Price: Retail unavailable - buy used | author homepage

My Rating:

Summary (from back cover):
High-spirited Margaret Stanton-Lynch intends to enjoy the Season without the hindrance of an unwanted romance. Meg refuses to be tied down before she fully explores what life has to offer, though she must admit that Justin St. James, the dashing Earl of Rathmore, has a most deliciously appealing air of dangerous mystery about him. Not enough, however, for the lady to seriously consider his ardent proposal of marriage.

In Justin's eyes she's perfect, with wit, charm, and sensuality galore - and she seems unperturbed by the wrongly deserved, very dark stain on Justin's reputation. A marriage to this exquisite lady would assure his young ward Emily's entrance into Society. Besides, his heart pounds wildly every time Meg is in his presence. Justin fears tenderness and passion may not be enough to hold her, but he's determined to try - for life would be empty indeed if he allowed this enchanting free spirit to fly from his arms forever!

hero: outcast -- location: England -- time period: Georgian

Read: May 28-28, 2009
Title: The Abduction of Julia
Series: Related Untitled Series, Book 1
Author: Karen Hawkins
Release Date: April 1, 2000
List Price: $7.99 | author homepage | excerpt

My Rating:

Summary (from back cover):
What can a respectable Regency miss do when kidnapped by a nobleman intent on marriage? Why, marry him, of course.

Julia Frant has secretly loved Alec MacLean, the wild Viscount Hunterston from afar. So when he accidentally snatches her instead of her lovely, scheming cousin for an elopement to Gretna Green, Julia leaps at the chance to make her passionate dreams come true.

Alec's in no position to quibble: if he doesn't marry by midnight and live scandal-free for a year, he loses his inheritance. At least marriage with do-gooder Julia will guarantee his fortune. But as his plain brown wren transforms herself into an elegant swan, Alec suddenly can't stay away from his last-minute wife - and when he kisses her, the inheritance is the last thing on his mind. Unfortunately, scandal can occur from the best of intentions ... and Julia is never short of good intentions!

My Comments:
This book would get a solid 5 stars if it weren't for that the ending comes up and hits you like a wall that suddenly appears while you're going 60 mph on the highway ... would have liked to catch my breath after everything works out with "the obstacle" subplot (guessed the truth early on but was still well done and a nice twist) and enjoyed the at-last get-together and "I love yous" of the H&H - although it was jarring, I wouldn't complain if she had at least then given us an Epilogue, but nothing! Regardless: great read and had several laugh-out-loud moments - one in the middle of the book where I literally had to put the book down and wipe tears from my eyes because I was laughing so hard.

NOTE: Since writing the above, I've learned that the reprint edition of this book (the second cover pictured here) has a rewritten final chapter and an added epilogue ... so maybe this new reprint would be five stars in my book - we'll see!

hero: arrogant/dictatorial -- location: England -- heroine: companion -- heroine: shy/wallflower -- time period: Georgian

Sabrina Jeffries: Don't Bargain with the Devil


Don't Bargain with the Devil
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Release Date: May 26, 2009
List Price: $7.99

Read: May 26-26, 2009
My Rating:

Don't Bargain with the Devil is a wonderful read - I rushed out to buy it this afternoon and didn't put it down until I had finished! If you haven't read all (or any) of the other "School for Heiresses" books don't worry because this book can be read alone - though many of the characters from previous ones do reappear, so that's something to look forward to if you have. I myself only read the first book, Never Seduce a Scoundrel, yesterday and am looking forward to catching up on the other ones before the final one, Wed Him Before You Bed Him, which comes out June 23 and in which "Cousin" Michael is *finally* revealed. I've only read two books and I'm already dying to know - personally, I'm rooting for Mrs. Harris's anonymous benefactor to be the Marquess of Stoneville (Jeffries teases you at the end of this book with the possibilities - so cruel!).

Lucinda Seton (20), our heroine, is outspoken, energetic, trusting, loyal, smart and friendly; she's very caring and we see this throughout her interactions and exchanges with the other characters. Lucy is searching for her place and trying to find where she belongs. Diego Montalvo (28) is the delicious hero; he's mysterious, charming, seductive, clever, and tender. He's the type of hero who is haunted and driven by his past and aside for his mentor-turned-assistant, he's quite alone in the world - without home or family.

Sabrina Jeffries combines a strong and sympathetic hero and heroine, great sexual tension, several laugh-out-loud moments, wonderful secondary characters, some *very* confusing genealogy, family secrets, a kidnapping, and the backdrops of the English countryside, a ship, and the Spanish coast for a delightful historical romance.


Lucy has recently had her heart broken by a man whom she had hoped to - and been led to believed that she would - marry. As a graduate of Mrs. Harris's finishing school, she offers to help the headmistress when her drawing teacher quits without warning, thinking that the opportunity to put her drawing skills to use will be the perfect distraction from her pain. The post will only be temporary, after which she'll return to London for the Season with her father, Colonel Seton, and her stepmother, Lady Kerr. However, once rumors spread that a certain Man of Mystery magician, Diego Montalvo, has rented the property next to the school and is planning on buying it to convert it into a pleasure garden, Lucy finds herself with a cause to take up - and a school to defend! She's just that day met the sinfully handsome Spaniard in the orchards and she knows that he cannot be up to any good ...

Diego is an illusionist, but this time his goal of building a pleasure garden is the illusion - Diego is actually there searching for the long-lost granddaughter of a wealthy Spanish marqués. Don Carlos has promised Diego the return of his family's property, Arboleda, in exchange for the return of his grand-daughter and it is an offer that Diego cannot refuse. For many years he has been seeking to regain possession of the family estate that was lost due to debts, for as a young boy he promised his dying father that he would protect and restore the family lands that had been ravaged by war. Diego has no love for the English, but traveling around their country is what he's had to do to search for the don's long-lost heir and he thinks he finally may have found the young woman, but his success is bittersweet ...

The attraction between Lucy and Diego is immediate, but they are both suspicious. Lucy has already had her heart broken and doesn't know if she should trust the mysterious foreigner who seems intent on ruining her precious school by building a pleasure garden, while at the same time focusing his attention on her and even acting in ways that go against his supposed business interests. For his part, Diego knows that he dare not get involved with Lucy; he has promised the don to return the man's granddaughter untouched and he knows the old man's future plans for her do not include a penniless count with no estates or family. How can he threaten his dream of regaining Arboleda by letting his feelings for this young English chit get out of control?

Overall I thought this was a great book; the two main characters are easy to root for and Diego had me practically sighing out loud with some of the things he says to Lucy (and the Spanish endearments that he always uses - give me a Diego anytime!). There was no mystery or villain subplot thrown in, which was a nice change - one does start to wonder why it seems true love *always* has to happen amid some serial killing spree or old family murder scandal. Jeffries does still provide us with some unlikable and/or nasty characters, so all you readers out there who love them, don't despair.

One tool that is often employed in the genre is the "I'm going to lie to you and say ___ for your own good so that you go away or don't fall in love with me or whatever" and this was definitely used by BOTH main characters several times. It got to be kind of annoying, *however* I do have to say as someone who absolutely cannot stand those books that are dominated by big misunderstandings, this was NOT one of those and Don't Bargain with the Devil will definitely be put on my reread shelf.

The mystery about Lucy's past - who were her real parents and how did she get to be the Colonel's adopted daughter? - was very interesting and definitely kept me hooked. You don't really know who to believe and Jeffries does a very good job with this in that the players in that whole mystery are not either evil or pure-as-the-driven-snow - instead she gives us three-dimensional characters full of regret, doubt, love, and the feeling that they thought they were doing what was right.

1) Never Seduce a Scoundrel - Lady Amelia Plume and Major Lucas Winter
2) Only a Duke Will Do - Louisa North and Simon Tremaine, Duke of Foxmoor
3) Beware a Scot's Revenge - Lady Venetia Campbell and Sir Lachlan Ross
4) Let Sleeping Rogues Lie - Madeline Prescott and Anthony Dalton, Viscount Norcourt
5) Don't Bargain with the Devil - Lucinda Seton and Diego Javier Montalvo, Conde de León
6) Wed Him Before You Bed Him - Mrs. Charlotte Harris and _________ (alias: Cousin Michael)

Amanda Quick: Rendezvous, Surrender, Affair, and Dangerous

I've been rereading some of my Amanda Quick favorites and am really glad to have done so - she truly is a talented historical romance author. Granted, certain themes are always showing up:
  • heroines who are unusual, strong-minded, adventurous, and interested in some type of scientific/literary field
  • heroes who are cold and reserved, often perceived as somewhat dangerous by society, and have their own unusual interest
  • the woman falls in love quite easily and knows so from the beginning
  • the guy - what a surprise! - denies or doesn't want to face his feelings of love for the heroine
The ones I've reread so far have been Rendezvous, Surrender, Affair, and Dangerous. Links:

Rendezvous and Dangerous

Amanda Quick's (Jayne Ann Krentz) website

Just reread two great books by Putney and D'Alessandro

Like most college students - and I suppose students in general - I am in the midst of finals and great stress ... so of course my historical romance addiction has been kicking in with a vengeance in an attempt to distract me! (And it has done so far too successfully, I might add). Anyway, I just reread the following two historical romances and the last time I read them both was long enough ago that I did not remember much, so it was great rediscovering these wonderful reads.

Because I really should be writing papers, I don't have time to write any lengthy reviews, so I've just jotted some notes and provided a variety of links. Basically: if you're a historical romance fan, *read them*!!

Read May 5, 2009
Mary Jo Putney's The Wild Child (Brides Trilogy, Book 1) ****1/2 page
Most helpful positive reader reviews: Dr W. Richards "wmr-uk" and Catherine Asaro
Most helpful negative reader reviews (not many to choose from!): J. Mullally "CBDB"
Mary Jo Putney's website | book page | excerpt

The Wild Child has an extremely unusual premise for historical romances - the fact that the heroine doesn't speak until about halfway through the book is something I haven't read in any other book of the genre! The mystery subplot was unnecessary and was not really a subplot, since the reader doesn't know there is any questionable goings-on until the end when the villain is unveiled. The supporting characters was wonderful and three-dimensional, the hero and heroine were engaging and we see their relationship develop on all different levels - emotionally, intellectually, and physically - making their love story very believable and touching.

Meriel is different and other-worldly in many ways, but Putney writes from her point of view very well, so although she's a mystery to most other characters, the reader is well-introduced to her right from the beginning. Dominic is a *wonderful* hero and it's such a nice change to have the declaration-of-love and desire-to-marry situation reversed: Dom is the one who first admits his love (and Muriel is discomfited whenever he says it and is unsure of her own feelings - understandably, since everything is changing so rapidly) and he is the one who wants to get married - very amusing exchanges about how Meriel would prefer to be his mistress. Dominic is a sweet, friendly, and gentle, somewhat a mess and aimless and very sadly estranged from his family and his twin brother. The relationship with his twin, Kyle, was very interesting and I think Putney did a wonderful job of showing us both sides and how they each viewed the tension and troubles that fractured their relationship, as well as how it affected and hurt them.

Read May 6, 2009
Jacquie D'Alessandro's Red Roses Mean Love ***** page
Most helpful positive reader reviews: A Customer, J.Brennan and Riley Merrick "jperceval"
Most helpful negative reader reviews (not many to choose from!): Susan Smith
Jacquie D'Alessandro's website | book page | excerpt

[Really do need to get to paper-writing ...]