Monday, August 31, 2009

Captives of the Night by Loretta Chase

Book Description:
When the intriguing Comte d'Esmond enters a room, women swoon and men gnash their teeth. The count is fully accustomed to this reaction and brilliant at exploiting it. What he isn't prepared for is Leila Beaumont. One look from her tawny eyes is dangerously captivating. How troublesome. Edmond can't afford the distraction of an entanglement, however passionate it promises to be. He's supposed to be working for the government and his employers want Liela's corrupt and treacherous husband brought to justice. When the spouse, unsurprisingly and conveniently, gets himself murdered, all Esmond has to do is clear Leila of suspicion and proceed to the next assignment. But not being hanged for her husband's murder isn't enough for Leila. She wants to learn the truth - all of it - from Esmond, a man who's been lying all his life.

I was 2 for 2 with romances while in Las Vegas for the past few days on vacation. This was another winner of a book that I enjoyed, the 2nd in the Scoundrel series by Loretta Chase. This one takes place ten years after the last one, The Lion's Daughter, and centers on Ismal, who was a handsome villain in the last book, and now appropriately so - the hero in this one. He's a very interesting man, now thirty-two, older, wiser and more honest, he's kind of a spy for various governments. An intimate of Kings and Tsars, he is Albanian by birth, but can pass as a Frenchman, British, Italian - whatever, he speaks 12 languages and is genius material when it comes to solving intrigues, mysteries, murders - you name it. Set in post Regency England, he is now the Compte d'Esmond, a man about town who has a casual noble exterior with piercing blue eyes. He takes a liking (aka instant lust) towards Leila Beaumont, an artist with a husband who is a degenerate. She has no love for him, but has to put up with him for her career. Luckily someone murders him and so follows the whole murder mystery of who murdered Beaumont and why.

It's a twisty turny tale with many suspects and false leads and unexpected revelations - I enjoyed it immensely! I'm not usually a murder mystery reader, so I found the plot refreshing and different for me! Simultaneously, it's a romance between Leila and Ismal. He harbors a huge secret that he cannot reveal to her and she resists her attraction to him at first, but ultimately they give in to each other and begin a much needed affair (for both of them). Sexy, sensual, erotic, Loretta Chase did a great job in building up their sexual tension and the inevitable consummation was not a let down - more like a tour de force! The chemistry between Leila and Ismal was great, much better than between the hero and heroine in the last book in the series (I really wasn't crazy about it, to tell you the truth), but this one more than makes up for it in spades!

To sum it all up, if you like mysteries, sexy romance, hot fair haired heroes and intelligent heroines give this one a chance, I thought it was great and am eager to read the next in the series, which I hear is one of the all time greatest romances out there, Lord of Scoundrels. I can't wait to read who is in this one!


The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

Book Description:
2 March 1810 . . . Today, I fell in love. At the age of ten, Miranda Cheever showed no signs of Great Beauty. And even at ten, Miranda learned to accept the expectations society held for her—until the afternoon when Nigel Bevelstoke,the handsome and dashing Viscount Turner, solemnly kissed her hand and promised her that one day she would grow into herself, that one day she would be as beautiful as she already was smart. And even at ten, Miranda knew she would love him forever. But the years that followed were as cruel to Turner as they were kind to Miranda. She is as intriguing as the viscount boldly predicted on that memorable day—while he is a lonely, bitter man, crushed by a devastating loss. But Miranda has never forgotten the truth she set down on paper all those years earlier—and she will not allow the love that is her destiny to slip lightly through her fingers . . .

I really enjoyed this Julia Quinn romance, my first of hers outside the Bridgertons. I was a bit wary, I didn't know what to expect, and I had heard some didn't like this one all that much, but I loved it! Frankly, I don't see how I can't love a Julia Quinn novel, they've all been great so far!

This is the story of plain Jane, Miranda Cheever who as a young teenager is nothing much to look at. Set amidst the glittering ballrooms of post Regency England, Miranda finds herself always in the shadow of her best friend, the beautiful Olivia Bevelstoke. Miranda develops a crush on Olivia's older brother Viscount Turner which turns into a full blown tendre as she gets older. Turner once helped Miranda at the age of ten by encouraging her to keep a diary, and he was kind to her and she has never forgotten it or gotten over her crush. Now, it is her first season in London with Olivia. Olivia's brother Turner is now a widower who's wife had died of a broken neck. He detested her, she had been terrible to him, and was carrying another man's baby. Because of what Letitia (his wife) did to him, Turner never wants to remarry. His heart had been broken and trampled on and he doesn't trust women any longer.

But, he does have a fondness for Miranda and her fresh way of speaking out and looking at things. He finds her amusing and non-threatening so he befriends her. Before long he finds himself attracted to her. Her full lips and lush curves do much for his imagination and more than once he kisses her, and eventually they have an impromptu night of passion together. Turner is torn, he must do his duty and ask her to marry him, but at the same time, he's hesistent. He doesn't love Miranda, though he knows she loves him.

As usual, Miss Quinn's heroes are more complex under the surface. Turner is carrying around alot of baggage from his horrible first marriage. He's in a quandary - can he overcome his soured memories from his first abhorrent marriage and be happy with Miranda and make her happy too? Turner takes forever in making up his mind and Miranda can't wait forever - she's pregnant! She hightails it off to Scotland to her aunt and uncle with Olivia (who is in on the secret) and waits to see if Turner ever shows up to ask her to marry him. He finally does, (he's a bit of a dimwit in this respect, but makes up for it later), but by that time, she's lost the baby, there is no urgency any longer to marry and she now doesn't want to marry Turner. I don't blame her! She knows he doesn't love her and she's not sure if she can live in a marriage with only one side of it in love. Of course, Turner comes to realize, he wants to marry Miranda, not just because he thinks she's carrying his child or for duty. He has his honor and he's a gentleman - he has compromised her, blah, blah, blah, and all that, but he's also genuinely fond of her. But, does he put it to her that way? No! He makes it sound like he must marry her. Common decency dictates it. He'd be a cad if he didn't, you just don't debauch virgins who come from good families! It's all very unromantic as far as Miranda is concerned. But, he manages to convince her in more than one way, he is a masterful lover afterall with gorgeous good looks and blonde hair, with some prodding, she relents and marries him.

Once they are married, Miranda promptly gets pregnant again. From Turner's point of view, they are blissfully happy. But Miranda is unhappy - Turner can't say "I love you" to her. Now, I can relate to this and Miranda's problem, it's awful to love someone and wait and wait for those three magic words - no matter how trite it seems. Actions should mean more than words, and Turner acts like he loves her, it's obvious he cares a great deal about her, but without those magic words - it's not the same! I'd be miserable too if I were Miranda!

Does Turner come around, can he wise up and realize he loves his wife before it's too late?

I really loved this story, it wasn't quite as humerous as her Bridgerton series, but I liked Miranda and Turner together. Plus, their sensual moments were great and they made a good pair, very memorable scenes between them. This is another winner and it made for some very diverting reading on my flight out to Vegas for my vacation last week!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Danger's Promise by Marliss Moon

Book Description:
A wrathful stepfather plans to force his innocent daughter to murder a brave warrior, recently widowed-but the brutal old man never counts on the saving power of love.

This book was just okay, a medieval by an author I've never read before. Just a short review, since I'm annoyed I even wasted my time reading this romance.

Taking place in England, it's the story of "the Slayer", Christian de la Croix who has the terrible reputation of murdering his dead wife in order to save the child she carried. But in truth, she was already dead when he performed a make shift C-section on her and saved his heir, Simon. But, of course, during medieval times, this was considered a heinous act and hence - his reputation as a ladykiller - literally.

Enter Clarise duBoise whose family is being held hostage by a great and terrible Scottish warrior who is at war with Christian. It's complicated, but Clarise has been sent to disguise herself and poison Christian, or else her mother and two sisters will be hanged. Clarise is desperate and manages to infiltrate "the Slayers" castle by taking care of his newborn son as a wet nurse. But, she has lied about being able to nurse him, since she is a maiden and must feed him with goat's milk. This is not easy having to sneak in a pail of goat's milk. In fact for a good part of this book I was more interested in how Clarise was going to feed this baby than any kind of burgeoning romance between Clarise and Christian which is very slow and tedious. Clarise cannot bring herself to poison Christian afterall, since she feels he is a good man at heart and she hopes that she might be able to get him to help her vanquish this evil Scot that holds her family hostage - but first she must tell him the truth about herself, that she is really a highborn lady. Does she? Not exactly, since he finds out anyway since he is curious about her and attracted to her as soon as they meet.

There is some intrigue in the book and a little mystery of who is trying to harm Simon, the baby, but for the most part, the romance is tepid and I barely liked Christian. On one hand, he's a mighty and fearful warrior who has an unforgiving nature. But, then we find out that he was raised in a convent until the age of 12 - how could he have changed so much from a saintly child to this fearsome warlord? I didn't think his character was believable or amiable, frankly - not even sexy! Clarise's character wasn't much either, I just didn't care all that much about this story, the hero and heroine or anything - what a waste of time! I felt like it took me forever to get through this - but I did and feel like a deserve a pat on the back for not just giving up on it long ago. Fortunately, it's a short book, just over 300 pages. I'm sorry I read it, but it had been highly recommended to me. All I can say is, unless you are a die hard medieval fan, don't waste your time on this one, there are plenty of other medievals that are much, much better.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

One Night for Love by Mary Balogh

Book Description:
One reckless man . . . One passionate woman.

Enter the world of Mary Balogh--the glittering ballrooms and vast country estates of Regency-era England, where romance, with all its mystery, magic, and surprises, comes vibrantly alive.

It was a perfect morning in May . . .

Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, awaited his bride at the altar--when a ragged beggar woman raced down the aisle instead. The cream of the ton saw him stare, shocked, then declare that this was his wife! One night of passion was all he remembered as he beheld Lily, the woman he'd wed, loved, and lost on the battlefield in Portugal. Now he said he'd honor his commitment to her--regardless of the gulf that lay between them.

Then Lily spoke her mind . . .

She said she wanted only to start a new life--wanted only a husband who truly loved her. She had to leave him to learn how to meet his world on her terms. So Lily agreed to earn her keep as his aunt's companion and study the genteel arts. Soon she was the toast of the ton, every inch a countess fit for the earl, who vowed to prove to his remarkable wife that what he felt for her was far more than desire, that what he wanted from her was much more than . . . One Night for Love.

I really enjoyed this romance. An oldie but goodie, but new for me, my first romance by Mary Balogh - a name I've certainly heard of, but had never read anything by her yet. It was very well done, slow developing, the plotline has a massive condundrum and just when you think it's a hopeless case, the story changes gears and gets even more interesting!

This is the story of Lily Doyle, a young woman, obviously down on her luck that is determined to see someone. It's a mystery, we don't know exactly what is happening with her, or her story, but she must see her Neville. She has some friends, the Harris', who have obviously taken care of her recently and are worried for her, but they see her off in a public carriage (this is during Regency England times) so that Lily can go on this mission of duty. We follow Lily to an estate in England, an Abbey, this is her final destination to meet the man she has been thinking of, searching for, the man she has been trying to make her way to for almost two long, harrowing years. Yet, we don't know what this is all about...

Meanwhile, Neville is an Earl, living at the Abbey and he's about to get married to Lauren, a perfect young English woman and they will live happily ever after. The whole ton has come to see the wedding which is to be a spectacular event...

As these two scenarios come together, the scene is set and it's like watching a train wreck about to happen. It turns out Lily is Neville's long lost wife, returned from the dead. She literally arrives at the church (a la The Graduate) to stop the wedding. Neville is overcome in seeing her, admits to all she is his long lost wife and well, naturally, all hell breaks loose. The wedding is called off, apologies made, and so begins the big predicament of what do to about Lily, the daughter of a dead sergeant soldier that Neville had been in the Peninsular Wars with and hastily married, bedded and lost all in the period of 24 hours two years earlier in order to save her in case she was captured. Having papers saying she was an officer's wife would protect her in case of capture. As it turned out, Lily did not die, as Neville believed (he had been shot and wounded in the head as well at the time) and had been captured by Spaniard partisans, used by their leader for seven months as his woman and then finally set free to make her way back to Neville in England.

Lily is an unusual girl. Free spirited a child of nature, she is illiterate, has no idea of how to be a lady -- a countess no less -- and the mistress of a large estate. Neville immediately accepts her as his wife and wants society and all to accept her, but it's not that easy. Lily has scars and nightmares and insecurities too great to be able to deal with this new life. Although their hasty marriage was a love match - was that one night they had together enough to get them through this new beginning? Just when all seems hopeless there is a trap door for her. It turns out the minister that married them was killed shortly afterwards as well, and was not able to register their marriage so it was legal. Neville insists on their marrying again, but Lily leaves him, realizing that she cannot ruin his life this way, even though she loves him and he loves her. It sounds more simple than it was in the book, it was all very well done and thought out, it was such a dilemma and I was relieved actually that Lily refused his offer to remarry. She was like a fish out of water at his ancestral home and dealing with his hostile sister and jilted fiancee, and the constant presence of his mother, the dowager countess who is less than thrilled by this turn of events.

What happens next is she is taken under the wing of Neville's aunt Elizabeth who takes her to London and teaches her how to be a lady. Not in a Pygmalion sort of way, but Lily grows, learns and becomes confident in society. Neville loves her, but now she has the opportunity to meet him on a more equal footing, to let him love her for herself and not out of a so-called duty. It's complicated, but it all works. Meanwhile, there is the mystery of who Lily's real parents are -- and who is trying to kill her.

I found it a great read and look forward to reading more of Mary Balogh. Lily was sweet and innocent at first, sort of strange, but after she starts to become more comfortable in society I grew to like her even more, she did not seem to be so otherworldly once she is in London. You can't help feel sorry for her and for Neville, who I liked as well. He had such a shock in seeing her again and then wanting to have her as his wife, yet knowing deep down, she was overwhelmed at the Abbey and everything. He was noble to the core, and I liked him for that. Their love scenes were sweet and tender, nothing overtly graphic or steamy though, if that's what you're after. There are a lot of thoughts and imaginings in this book, quite a bit of analysis, as a situation like this deserves.

The book ended very well, albeit predicatably, coming full circle with a perfect happily ever after ending - a real keeper! I guessed who was who and her real parentage, it's not that difficult to figure out, but the best part of this book was the development of the characters and how they deal with their predicament and life. It doesn't hurt that everything works out with a fairy tale ending either! I highly recommend it for a quick read and distraction on the beach or in front of a cozy fire!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Little Bit about Me...

We interrupt this program to make an announcement...

As many of you know who follow my blog, I hardly ever post anything personal about me. I'm not much of a public persona, and my blog is strictly book reviews, with an occasional "fun" post. But today I have such thrilling news, I couldn't resist posting so that I can share my news and all my blogger friends can rejoice with me...

I have lost 30 pounds!

Yes, believe it or not, since March 1st, I've lost over 30 pounds by going to Weight Watchers. I've gone down 6 sizes! I'm now a size 6 - a size small! You can't believe how good that feels! I've always had a battle with my weight, especially after giving birth - 15 years ago (how pathetic is that?) I'm a typical yo-yo dieter, my weight is up, then it's down, I've lost and then gained it back, it's been that way for years. Well, (and I've said it before, but I really mean it this time) - I am commited to keeping the weight off! I've been going to the gym and working out, but not like a crazy person, I need to go more often. I still have another 10 lbs. to go to make my goal and I hope to do by the end of the summer when we go to Vegas (DH and me sans the kid), or by the time An Echo in the Bone comes out! LOL!

So without further ado, I'm posting a picture of me, taken last week on my birthday with my big, hairy lug of a dog, Hector. Some of you may have been curious about what I look like, so here I am!

Notice how I still can't show a full view one of me yet? LOL! Someday I will!

For those of you that have been thinking of losing weight, I can highly recommend WW's, it's easy, forgiving and a sensible diet that can be a life change. It's "real" food and I hope to incorporate it into my life forever - it's that good, and no they are not paying me to say this!

Anyway, that's all! Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Book Description:
England, 1760


Wealthy Lady Georgina Maitland doesn't want a husband, though she could use a good steward to run her estates. One look at Harry Pye, and Georgina knows she's not just dealing with a servant, but a man.


Harry has known many aristocrats--including one particular nobleman who is his sworn enemy. But Harry has never met a beautiful lady so independent, uninhibited, and eager to be in his arms.


Still, it's impossible to conduct a discreet liaison when poisoned sheep, murdered villagers, and an enraged magistrate have the county in an uproar. The locals blame Harry for everything. Soon it's all Georgina can do to keep her head above water and Harry's out of the noose...without missing another night of love.

I really loved this story, second in the Princes Trilogy by Elizabeth Hoyt, I loved her first book The Raven Prince, but I liked this one even more. Good plot, hot sex and it was amusing and fast paced, it kept my interest, even though I've been so bogged down with work these days and have barely had time for reading except just before falling asleep at night. Still, I wholeheartedly recommend this romance for those of you that enjoy historicals set during Georgian times in England.

George, also known as Lady Georgina Maitland, is an independent, single woman of twenty eight years. Not surprising she takes on a man's name, but she is unmistakably highly feminine. She has inherited her wealth and is in need of a steward. She has hired Harry Pye, a non descript quiet man who does his job well. George hasn't really thought about him all that much until they have to spend the night together due to the fact her carriage has broken down, stuck in the mud en route to her estates in Yorkshire. They find shelter together in an old cottage and are alone for a whole night. Their night is innocent enough and Pye is the perfect gentleman, even though he is not quite the gentleman outwardly or inwardly. Pye is not all that he seems to be, though we don't know what his background is until the story develops more. He's strong and resourceful, he knows how to take care of himself. He's no pushover, though he must remain polite and subservient to his employer, Lady Georgina. In any case, no hanky panky takes place, but George does seem to notice him more as a man and takes an interest in him in more than just an employer/employee way.

As soon as she arrives the next day at her estate, bedraggled and travel weary, she learns that there is a mystery going on in the area. Sheep on a neighbors estate are being mysteriously poisoned and the accused is her steward, Harry Pye! Why would he be accused of such a thing? As it turns out, he has a dark history with the owner of the aforementioned estate, Lord Granville, a crude and unfeeling jerk of a landlord who has quite a few illegitimate sons in the area, though most unacknowledged. Granville is someone you would not be sorry to see die. He has two grown sons and is out to get Harry and see that he is prosecuted and hanged for killing the sheep. George is not about to let this happen to her steward, especially now that she's starting to see him through different eyes - she's taking a shine to him - especially after he impulsively gives her a searing kiss she can't forget. Oh my!

She basically foists herself upon him and the two of them together try to unravel the mystery of the poisoned sheep and get to the bottom of who is trying to frame Harry. More passionate kisses and an eventual affair makes for hot reading *fans self* Again, Hoyt takes on an unconventional love affair between a commoner and an aristocrat, only turning the tables and giving George the usual man's role as the pursuer in this relationship. I loved reading about how their love blossoms, yet they must both make hard and realistic decisions about their affair. Stop it, get married - or what? I loved George as a character. She has a will of her own, she's kind of spunky, but still a lady, yet she wants Harry, despite knowing it's really not the thing to sleep with your steward! She's got to make a decision about him. Does she love him enough? Will he even marry her if she wants to marry him? He has his pride. Harry is a mystery for a good part of the book. What is his real story, and who is he really? He's quiet and thoughtful, knows how to carve small little animals out of wood and is an adept lover. He cares a lot for George, more than he wants to admit, he knows only too well that it's dynamite to be "tupping" her, yet he can't stop himself. They are both from such different social backgrounds, how can it possibly work?

Still, aside from this conundrum, the story has it's amusing moments. George's younger brothers who come to Yorkshire to rescue her away from that bounder, Pye, add some comic relief and there are many different odd characters we meet along the way. I felt like I was right there in Yorkshire, the colloquialisms, the accents, the descriptions - they all sounded authentic and gave the book a lot of local color. Hoyt has a flair for dialogue and flavor for the period. Aside, from the fact that in real life a couple of this sort could never be received in high society, I was rooting for them and I can assure you it all ends happily with an exciting and very satisfying ending. *sigh* From start to finish this was a well done romance, tasteful, sexy, funny and well written with an interesting plotline with a mystery in it.

In addition, there is the side story of the Leopard Prince, the fairy tale that George recites to Harry through the course of the story that parallels this story slightly. Not as good as the fairy tale in The Raven Prince, but not bad.

I'm very pleased I read this, and am looking foward to reading The Serpent Prince, the last of the three. A worthwhile series to pick up and read!

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