Monday, December 31, 2012

December 2012 Quickie Reviews

Aaah, the end of the year, New Year's Eve.  I've been reading up a storm, mostly historical romances, and so without further ado are my reads for the month of December.  I will have a separate post for my 2012 recap of my favorites and worst, etc., but for now, here are my reviews to end the year.  Happy New Year Everyone!!

Goddess of Light by P.C. Cast

Book Description:
When hardworking Pamela Smythe whispers her wish for a god-like man, she never expects to find one--especially not in Vegas. But the goddess Artemis has dared her twin handsome brother Apollo to change all that.

I liked this story of pretty interior designer, Pamela Smythe who is on assignment in Las Vegas for a legendary fantasy author that wants to turn his house into a miniature Caesar's Palace.  While experiencing Vegas and trying to come up with something tasteful (not easy) for her client, she unknowingly meets the real god Apollo and his sister, Artemis.  At first she has no idea who he really is, except that he's amazingly handsome.  Apollo, naturally, sweeps her off her feet.  Coming off a bad marriage and a workaholic as well, this is just what Pamela needs, until she finds out who he and his sister Artemis really are.  Lots of ups and downs, and angsty moments when the god, Bacchus interferes and causes trouble for everyone.  Plus, I felt that Pamela took the fact she was dating a god a bit too much in stride, but it was still a good story, though the ending kind of fizzled for me.  Still, I do like this series that centers of average modern day women who fall in love with various mythological gods.


How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries

Book Description: 
The third novel in Sabrina Jeffries's “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series, featuring the independent and talented Lady Minerva Sharpe.

When a charming rogue proposes she marry him to meet her grandmother's ultimatum, the Sharpe clan's strong-willed sister makes a tempting counter-offer that preserves her inheritance and ignites his imagination.

Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother's demands: become engaged to a rogue! Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel. And who better to play the part of Minerva's would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular Gothic novels she writes? The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered in Minerva's imagination, though she has no intention of really falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him. Little does she know, he really is a covert government operative. When they team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents' deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles's secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back into her heart.

This was a sensational book, one of the best Sabrina Jeffries romances I've read.  Minerva Sharpe fell in and out of love with Giles Masters, a rakish old friend of her brothers while at a masquerade nine years ago.  After breaking her heart, she writes him into her novels, portraying him as a roguish but thrilling French spy.  Little does she know how close to the truth she comes - nor how little she really knows about him!  I love, loved this book!  A forced marriage scenario, the continuing mystery of how Minerva's parents really died and a glimpse into what's in store for the next Hellion of Halstead Hall - a delightful read with great chemistry between the hero and heroine. I recommend it!


The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville

Book Description: 
Being kidnapped is teaching Miss Celia Seaton a few things about life:

Lesson One: Never disrobe in front of a gentleman...unless his request comes at gunpoint.

Lesson Two: If, when lost on the moors, you encounter Tarquin Compton, the leader of London society who ruined your marriage prospects, deny any previous acquaintance.

Lesson Three: If presented with an opportunity to get back at Mr. Compton, the bigger the lie, the better. A faux engagement should do nicely.

Lesson Four: Not all knowledge is found between the covers of a book. But an improper book may further your education in ways you never guessed.

And while an erotic novel may be entertaining, the real thing is even better.

I bought this book because it was on sale for next to nothing on kindle and I thought I'd give it a try, even though it is the 3rd book in The Burgundy Club series, of which I haven't read yet the first two.  This can easily be read as a standalone, though I surmise we do re-visit characters from the previous books.  This historical wasn't bad, but some areas were a bit disjointed and hard to follow.  It's a convoluted plotline, but overall  funny.  A sweet road trip story involving plain Celia Seaton, a nobody who is paired up with haughty London dandy, Tarquin Compton who has amnesia after being knocked on the head by someone who is trying to kidnap her.  She is no fan of his, and takes full advantage of the fact he has amnesia and makes up a doozy of a story telling him she is his fiancee and he is a vicar!  Despite his amnesia, he finds this scenario hard to swallow, yet they stick it out together, wandering around the English countryside and evading the cutthroats who are after her.  You see, someone is trying to kidnap her.  Their travails are compounded when they spend the night - an amorous night - together in a barn and he regains his memory at a very awkward moment!  His honor compels him to propose marriage, but Celia does not want to marry under such forced circumstances, even though she is falling in love with his amnesia persona.   I wasn't really crazy about Tarquin (his horrible name didn't help!)  He was too much of a dandy for me.  Much happens and it all ends happily, but it did take me a long time to finish this book.  I'm not sure if I'll bother to read the other books in the series or not.


A Marriage of Inconvenience by Susanna Fraser

Book Description:
Left orphaned and penniless as a young child, Lucy Jones learned to curb her temper, her passions, and even her sense of humor to placate the wealthy relatives who took her in. She became the perfect poor relation - meek, quiet, and self-effacing. She clings to her self-control because she can control nothing else.

James Wright-Gordon also lost his parents at a young age. But he became a wealthy viscount at fifteen and stepped into full control of his fortune and his birthright as a parliamentary power broker at twenty-one. At twenty-four, he is serenely confident in his ability to control everything in the world that matters to him.

At a house party in the summer of 1809, James quickly discerns Lucy’s carefully hidden spirit and wit and does his best to draw them out. After being caught in a compromising situation, they are obliged to marry. But can two people whose need for control has always been absolute learn to put love first?

I loved this story of poor relation, Lucy Jones, who is secretly engaged to her cousin Sebastian, who asks her to marry him all of a sudden and clear out of the blue.  But while staying at a castle for Sebastian's sister's wedding, she meets James Wright-Gordon who confuses her.  She is attracted to him, but she must be loyal to her secret fiance, Sebastian, who is acting strangely himself.  He seems to have taken a fancy for James' heiress sister, Anna (who we read about in the 2nd book in the series, which I loved) and asks her to marry him, dumping Lucy!  It all gets very confusing and - alarming, but I loved it!  Kind and wonderful James jumps to an awful conclusion about Lucy and acts like the biggest ass for a while, and it was rather angsty, but all ends well, despite the tears in my eyes.  This is a worthwhile series, despite the fact I read the first two books out of order, although I believe it helped in the long run in appreciating the characters and their plight.


Texas Splendor by Lorraine Heath

Book Description: 
The saga of the Leigh family continues.... After spending five long, hellish years in a Texas penitentiary, Austin Leigh is free to return home, only to find his sweetheart is now married. Despondent and alone, Austin sets out to clear his name of the crime he didn't commit. En route to the state capitol, he meets a young girl and her dog, the survivors of a mysterious tragedy. Together, the young couple will find redemption, forgiveness, and a true love greater than either could have imagined.

I loved this finale to the Leigh Brothers trilogy.  Austin, coming out of prison of five years, is out to find out who really killed the man he was imprisoned for killing.  He comes across a lone woman, Loree Grant, who is living alone in the woods near Austin, Texas.  She nurses him back to health after a stab wound and their is a gradual understanding that develops between the two.  Coincidentally, she has a secret that can greatly affect his life.  Her past story and the truth of what happened to her family is horrible, one of the worst I've come across in a romance.   Typical of this series, for Lorraine Heath is a master at drawing out emotion that comes from past tragedies.  Despite this, it is a beautiful poignant story of two lonely people that come together and find love in a forced marriage scenario.  It's a great story and an even greater series that is probably one of the best I've read.  It's filled with tons of emotion and heartache, but so worth it.  When the couples involved finally find what they need after the turmoil they've gone through to get there, it's so sweet.  Highly recommend.

5/5 Overall Series

The Dark Tower by Stephen King (audio)

Book Description:
The seventh and final installment of Stephen King's The Dark Tower saga is perhaps the most anticipated book in the author's long career. King began this epic tale about the last gunslinger in the world more than 20 years ago; now he draws its suspenseful story to a close, snapping together the last pieces of his action puzzle and drawing Roland Deschain ever closer to his ultimate goal.

Finally... the end.  For those of you that have not read this series, this review won't mean much to you.  But for those that do know the series, here are my thoughts:

A bit anticlimactic, considering I have been reading this series for about 20 years.  After all the time I put into this, I am left feeling perplexed and disappointed about the ending and especially about Mordred...  I worried so much about his presence and what he was going to do to the ka-tet.   Wow, what a let down.  Then I felt the whole ending was just really ... blah.  I loved the first part of this series, the first four books were worth while, but after Wizard and Glass it just didn't do anything for me.  I almost feel like King lost interest and then he had his accident, and it really changed the feel of the series and he began to insert himself into it (which was just too weird and hard to get a handle on).  I feel like he continued with it because he felt compelled to finish it because so many fans wanted him to, but his heart wasn't in it anymore.  The Dark Tower had it's moments though, very sad when our beloved characters start dropping off, and I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of what Susannah does as they get closer to the Tower.  And then the whole drawing and erasing thing - I kept thinking - that's the answer??  All I can say is I'm glad I finally finished it.  I began reading it in print but switched over to audiobooks with the last three books, maybe that had something to do with my ambivalence towards them, but something tells me they just were not up to the same caliber as the first four.  Despite all of this, the audiobook is well narrated, but I do feel that these books are probably better in print, for much is missed on audio.  It's hard to pay attention 100% of the time when listening on audio while doing other things at the same time.  This series needs total concentration.


Since the Surrender by Julia Anne Long

Book Description: 
Fearless. Loyal. Brilliant. Ruthless. Bold words are always used to describe English war hero Captain Chase Eversea, but another word unfortunately plays a role in every Eversea's destiny: trouble. And trouble for Chase arrives in the form of a mysterious message summoning him to a London rendezvous . . . where he encounters the memory of his most wicked indiscretion in the flesh: Rosalind March—the only woman he could never forget.

A Woman of Passion . . .

Five years ago, the reckless, charming beauty craved the formidable Captain's attention. But now Rosalind is a coolly self-possessed woman, and desire is the last thing on her mind: her sister has mysteriously disappeared and she needs Chase's help to find her. But as their search through London's darkest corners re-ignites long-smoldering passion and memories of old battles, Chase and Rosalind are challenged to surrender: to the depths of a wicked desire, and to the possibility of love.

This Pennyroyal Green series is getting better and better as we get further into it. Chase Eversea, a military man, comes face to face with his one indiscretion, Rosalind March, the wife of his former commanding officer.  Now it is five years later, Rosalind is now a widow and she needs a favor of Chase that leads to the uncovering of a prostitution ring while searching for her missing sister.  Together, the two must solve the mystery.  I really enjoyed this romance with a mystery built into it.  It reminded me of a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery.  Looking forward to the next.


I Kissed an Earl by Julie Anne Long

Book Description:
Violet Redmond's family and fortune might be formidable and her beauty and wit matchless - but her infamous flare for mischief keeps all but the most lionhearted suitors at bay. Only Violet knows what will assuage her restlessness: a man who doesn't bore her to tears, and a clue to the fate of her missing brother. She never dreamed she'd find both with a man whose own pedigree is far from impeccable.

"Savage" is what the women of the ton whisper about the newly styled Earl of Ardmay - albeit with shivers of pleasure. Born an English bastard, raised on the high seas, he's on a mission to capture a notorious pirate for vengeance. But while Violet's belief in her brother's innocence maddens him, her courage awes him . . . and her sensuality finally undoes him. Now the man who once lost everything and the girl who has everything to lose are bound by a passion that could either end in betrayal . . . or become everything they ever dreamed.

Normally, I space books out when I'm reading series, but I wound up reading the next in the Pennyroyal Green Series purely by chance.  I enjoyed this addition, this time following the Redmond side, though it got off to a slow start.  Violet Redmond is no shrinking violet.  When she sets out to do something - she does it.  This time, in search of her brother Lyon who has been missing for two years, she follows up a hunch that he is now the notorious pirate Le Chat. Handsome Captain Flint - a new earl, has been commissioned to find and bring the pirate to justice.  What does Violet do?  She talks her way onto Flint's ship and stows away until it's too late for him to turn around and take her back to England.  Of course, tempers flare, and they can't stand each other at first but things change, as they always do in romance - especially shipboard romances - and they fall in lust love.  Yet, the fly in the ointment is - he's out to see her brother hang, and she's out to save him!  Quite the dilemma, which ended a bit anticlimactically, but overall, an entertaining read, particularly in the 2nd half of the book.


Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke

Book Description:
For prim and shy Daphne Wade, the sweetest guilty pleasure of all is secretly watching her employer, the Duke of Tremore, as he works the excavation site on his English estate. Anthony hired Daphne to restore the priceless treasures he has been digging up, but it's hard for a woman to keep her mind on her work when her devastatingly handsome employer keeps taking his shirt off. He doesn't know she's alive, but who could blame her for falling hopelessly in love with him anyway?

Anthony thinks that his capable employee knows all there is to know about antiquities, but when his sister decides to turn the plain young woman in gold-rimmed glasses into an enticing beauty, he declares the task to be impossible. Daphne is devastated when she overhears...and determined to prove him wrong. Now a vibrant and delectable Daphne has emerged from her shell, and the tables are turned. Will Anthony see that the woman of his dreams has been there all along?

I loved this story of plain Jane archeological assistant, Daphne Wade, who works for the handsome Duke of Tremore - and is secretly in love with him.  Alas, he doesn't notice her at all.  After overhearing some disparaging remarks he makes about her, she resigns and gives him a month's notice so she can pursue a season in London with his sister who wants to take her under her wing as a protege.  The duke, not used to not getting his way doesn't want to lose her for she is the best in her field.  After she tells him off, he begins to see her differently and so the courtship begins!  He is determined to prevent or at least delay her leaving and she develops a spirit to live and come into her own.  I simply loved this book and it made me feel good all over by the end!  Hurrah!


Double Cross: The True Story of the D-day Spies by Ben Macintyre (audio)

Book Description: 
On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties.  D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war.

The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross’s nucleus: a dashing  Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter-pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming and a volatile Frenchwoman, whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire plan. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time.

With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller,  Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler’s army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.

The story of the WWII spies and double agents that helped toward the success of D-Day at Normandy.  This was not as good as Macintyre's other WWII spy books that I've listened to, because there were so many different spies, you just didn't get a real in depth feel for any of them.  It was difficult to keep track of them all and their code names.  A slog on audio, but the narrator John Lee was excellent with the various British, German, Polish and Spanish accents.  Try Macintyre's other books that center on one particular spy or mission, much better!

Monday, December 3, 2012

December Quick Reviews

It's hard to believe it's already December!  I've read an eclectic set of books in the last month, a lot of mysteries and ho hum romances for real cheap on kindle (now I know why), but I did have some stellar reads as well, like one by Darlene Marshall, Castaway Dreams, Peggy Noonan's When Character Was King about Ronald Reagan, another hilarious 1930's cozy mystery, A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen and the the first of a funny regency espionage series, Revealed by Kate Noble.  Here are my reviews:

The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters (audio)

Book Description:
The popular 19th century Egyptologist, Amelia Peabody romps through her eighth archaeological adventure. Amelia returns to Egypt for an exciting excavation. She finds herself faced with a surprising new villain who is every bit as clever and resourceful as the intrepid Amelia herself!

More adventures with the Emerson's in Egypt. A lot happens while on their latest dig: Emerson's brother Walter and his wife Evelyn are on the scene and not as the happy couple we are used to, Ramses gets kidnapped - as well as Nefret - and Amelia and Emerson take on the criminal class of Luxor. All told with the usual humor these books are known for.  Amelia's narration by Barbara Rosenblat is fabulous as ever. Great fun though the actual plot is a bit murky and forgettable.


Unraveled by Courtney Milan

Book Description:
Smite Turner is renowned for his single-minded devotion to his duty as a magistrate. But behind his relentless focus lies not only a determination to do what is right, but the haunting secrets of his past—secrets that he is determined to hide, even if it means keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Until the day an irresistible woman shows up as a witness in his courtroom…

Miranda Darling isn’t in trouble…yet. But she’s close enough that when Turner threatens her with imprisonment if she puts one foot wrong, she knows she should run in the other direction. And yet no matter how forbidding the man seems on the outside, she can’t bring herself to leave. Instead, when he tries to push her away, she pushes right back—straight through his famous self-control, and into the heart of the passion that he has long hidden away…

I think this was the best of the Turner trilogy of three brothers (I loved the novella, Unlocked, in this series too). I haven't been bowled over by this author to date, despite all the praise for her, but I really loved this romance.  Smite is by far the most interesting of the Turners and is such an unusual hero, tortured - yet very much in control of his emotions and his orderly world - until he meets Miranda who he makes his mistress for a month. The whole theme of Justice and what it really means and his heartbreaking past really made this a worthwhile read. the other books in this series pale in comparison. I really liked Miranda too, not your typical heroine either.  I'm glad she didn't let Turner follow through with his plans - a good match for him - and a good book!!  Beautiful cover too!


Where Serpent's Sleep by C.S. Harris

Book Description:
London, 1812. The brutal slaughter of eight young prostitutes in a house of refuge near Covent Garden leaves only one survivor- and one witness: Hero Jarvis, reform-minded daughter of the Prince Regent's cousin, Lord Jarvis. When the Machiavellian powerbroker quashes any official inquiry that might reveal his daughter's unorthodox presence, Hero launches an investigation of her own and turns to Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for help.

Working in an uneasy alliance, Hero and Sebastian follow a trail of clues leading from the seedy brothels and docksides of London's East End to the Mayfair mansions of a noble family with dark secrets to hide. Risking both their lives and their reputations, the two must race against time to stop a killer whose ominous plot threatens to shake the nation to its very core.

An excellent addition to the adventures of Sebastian St. Cyr, who I am growing to love. This time he's on the trail of why the granddaughter of a duke left her family and became a whore and why she was killed - and why it was made to look like an accident. This time, his sleuthing is at the behest of Hero Jarvis (I knew they'd wind up together - albeit not the way I imagined.) I found the book riveting, this is turning out to be such a great series! The last few paragraphs brought tears to my eyes, glad Sebastian did the right thing.  Another beautiful cover too!


The Prophet by Amanda Stevens (audio)

"My name is Amelia Gray."

I am the Graveyard Queen, a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. My father passed down four rules to keep me safe and I've broken every last one. A door has opened and evil wants me back.

In order to protect myself, I've vowed to return to those rules. But the ghost of a murdered cop needs my help to find his killer. The clues lead me to the dark side of Charleston—where witchcraft, root doctors and black magic still flourish—and back to John Devlin, a haunted police detective I should only love from afar.Now I'm faced with a terrible choice: follow the rules or follow my heart.

Well, well, well... I hear this is not the end of the series, but do we ever find out if there were some lasting effects of the gray powder and Amelia's foray to the other side? And what of Devlin's lasting effects? At last we get some closure in regard to Devlin and Amelia's "relationship" but I still feel like things are not settled completely between them. Lots of loose strings that need to be settled. I love these modern day Southern paranormal mysteries on audio, narrated by Khristine Hvam.  I highly recommend it them for she gives you a real good flavor of that Southern Charleston feel.  Makes me want to go there - now! The Charleston drawl, the Gullah people and everything else about that city and it's environs.  A worthwhile read - and a TV series in the making?  *gulp* 


The Runaway Countess by Leigh LaValle

Book Description:
"Her heart longs for justice, but her body clamors for sin."

Once the darling of high society, Mazie Chetwyn knows firsthand how quickly the rich and powerful turn their backs on the less fortunate. Orphaned, penniless and determined to defy their ruthless whims, she joins forces with a local highwayman who steals from the rich to give to the poor.

Then the pawn broker snitches, and Mazie is captured by the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. A man who is far too handsome, far too observant...and surely as corrupt as his father once was.

Sensible, rule-driven Trent Carthwick, twelfth Earl of Radford, is certain the threat of the gallows will prompt the villagers' beloved "Angel of Kindness" to reveal the highwayman's identity. But his bewitching captive volunteers nothing-except a sultry, bewildering kiss.

And so the games begin. Trent feints, Mazie parries. He threatens, she pretends nonchalance. He cajoles, she rebuffs. Thwarted at every turn, Trent probes deep into her one vulnerability-her past. There he finds the leverage he needs and a searing truth that challenges all he believes about right and wrong.

The delicious, if left-brained, hero might forever change all you think you know about the Robin Hood legend. Contains razor-sharp wordplay, skinny dipping and tortured hearts.

A different story of impoverished Lady Margaret aka Miss Mazie, the orphaned daughter of a lord, who aids a local highwayman in a Robin Hood theme and gets caught. The local magistrate, handsome and austere Lord Radford takes her as his prisoner to find out who the Midnight Rider really is. She will not divulge the truth, despite the mutual attraction that is growing between them. The stakes escalate as does their passion. A good book despite the slow beginning. Once I got into it, the second half really took off.  Another luscious cover.


Revealed by Kate Noble

Book Description:
Phillippa Benning is the unrivaled beauty of the Season. But when another lady challenges her for a marquis's attentions, Phillippa entices him to a secret rendezvous-only to stumble upon The Blue Raven, England's most famous spy, lurking at the site of her planned tryst.

The Blue Raven has uncovered an enemy plot directed at upcoming society functions, but he's unable to infiltrate London society. Phillippa makes an offer: in exchange for entrée among the ton, he agrees to have his true identity revealed at the Benning Ball-guaranteeing her unrivaled notoriety. As the danger draws closer, the mysterious spy and Phillippa give in to mutual desire. But when the game turns deadly, betrayal waits around the corner, and Phillippa must decide once and for all-is it the myth that captured her heart, or the man?

I loved this espionage themed regency of well to do widow, Phillippa Benning, leader of the ton, who accidentally gets herself tangled up into a French plot with "presumably" the notorious English agent, The Blue Raven. Of course, she is taken aback to find that the notorious war hero is none other than the bespectacled, gangly and bookish Marcus Worth! Little does she know! What an entertaining romance, filled with dry wit and plenty of red herrings! Looking forward to continuing with this Blue Raven series!  A keeper!


A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (audio)

Book Description:
The Queen of England has concocted a plan in which Georgie is to entertain a Bavarian princess? and conveniently place her in the playboy Prince's path, in the hopes that he might finally marry.

But queens never take money into account. Georgie has very little, which is why she moonlights as a maid-in-disguise. She must draw up plans: clean house to make it look like a palace; have Granddad and her neighbor pretend to be the domestic staff; un-teach Princess Hanni the English she's culled from American gangster movies; cure said Princess of her embarrassing shoplifting habit; and keep an eye on her at parties. Then there's the worrying matter of the body in the bookshop and Hanni's unwitting involvement with the Communist Party. It's enough to drive a girl crazy...

I simply loved this second installment of the continuing adventures of Lady Georgiana. I found much of it hilarious and on audio it is a scream! It really comes through with Hanni's German accent and her "gangster-speak." Katherine Hellgren, the narrator does a great job, as usual, with all the accents, it makes it so much fun to listen to. I think it really enhances all of it, especially the voices of all the males with their 1930's cant, like Gussie and poor Tubby.  It really makes me feel like I'm living it up in London's high society in the 1930's!  I love this decade! My only gripe is the elusive Irishman, Darcy is not as prevalent here as in the first book, but I loved the ending, so it made up for it. All in all, this is becoming a favorite series of mine, can't wait to listen to the next one!


Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed by Anna Campbell

Book Description:
Desperate to save her sister's life, Sidonie Forsythe has agreed to submit herself to a terrible fate: Beyond the foreboding walls of Castle Craven, a notorious, hideously scarred scoundrel will take her virtue over the course of seven sinful nights. Yet instead of a monster, she encounters a man like no other. And during this week, she comes to care for Jonas Merrick in ways that defy all logic—even as a dark secret she carries threatens them both.

Ruthless loner Jonas knows exactly who he is. Should he forget, even for a moment, the curse he bears, a mere glance in the mirror serves as an agonizing reminder. So when the lovely Sidonie turns up on his doorstep, her seduction is an even more delicious prospect than he originally planned. But the hardened outcast is soon moved by her innocent beauty, sharp wit, and surprising courage. Now as dangerous enemies gather at the gate to destroy them, can their new, fragile love survive?

Defies all logic is exactly the way I'd describe this book as well!  I could barely finish this annoying romance between two distinctly unlikeable people. Sidonie, the heroine who's name I had the worst time pronouncing inside my head, was holier than thou at first.  But oh how she crumbles completely in the arms of the dastardly hero, Jonas Merrick, whose scars and tortured past make him hard and cruel. Then they have a few blissful days of non stop sex - yet she will not marry him when he asks her!  What a nit! Of course she has this big secret that he will not forgive her for when he finds out about it. Then her sister and this murder! All were beyond me, I was fed up 1/2 way through but persevered and finished this romance!  I'm not sure if I will read more by this author since it's my first book by her, but this had all the elements of what I dislike in a romance, I'm afraid.


When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan

Book Description:
No one has ever captured Ronald Reagan like Peggy Noonan.

In When Character Was King, Noonan brings her own reflections on Reagan to bear as well as new stories—from Presidents George W. Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush, his Secret Service men and White House colleagues, his wife, his daughter Patti Davis, and his close friends—to reveal the true nature of a man even his opponents now view as a maker of big history. Marked by incisive wit and elegant prose, When Character Was King will both enlighten and move readers. It may well be the last word on Ronald Reagan, not only as a leader but as a man.

This was a great book about Ronald Reagan. What struck me so much about it is how relevant his philosophy is towards today's economic woes, despite the fact it was written in 2001. It's impossible not to compare the past climates in 1964 and again in 1979 with today's huge deficit and general malaise in the country. Among some of the things that struck me was his desire to reduce the size of an unwieldy and ineffectual government, hearkening back to the original intent of the U.S.'s founding fathers. His plan to reduce taxes in order to promote growth in the economy made perfect sense and was successful (Kennedy did this as well and well, what do you know? It works!) Rather than raise taxes which hurts the economy, growth led to the boom in America that lasted from the Reagan years all the way through the Clinton years. So much of what Reagan was saying way back in his first political speech for Goldwater in 1964 made sense and he kept at it, never deviating from his original intent. Did he use polls to make decisions? Never! I could go on an on. Beautifully written homage to Reagan from Noonan, whose writing tugs at your heartstrings, bringing up so much emotion and genuine fondness for this great president. Beginning with his birth and childhood, his days in Hollywood and SAG president, the governorship of CA and through the presidency leading up to his sad years with Alzheimer's - all in a simple and seemingly effortless prose. This book is full of lessons of what is wrong economically with the U.S. now.


Season for Surrender by Theresa Romain

Book Description:
Alexander Edgeware, Lord Xavier, has quite a reputation—for daring, wagering, and wickedness in all its delightful forms. But the wager before him is hardly his preferred sport: Xavier must persuade a proper young lady to attend his famously naughty Christmas house party—and stay the full, ruinous two weeks. Worse, the lady is Louisa Oliver, a doe-eyed bookworm Xavier finds quite charming. Yet to refuse the challenge is impossible—he will simply have to appoint himself Miss Oliver’s protector…

Louisa knows her chance for a husband has passed. But she has no desire to retire into spinsterhood without enjoying a few grand adventures first. When Lord Xavier's invitation arrives, Louisa is more intrigued than insulted. And once inside the rogues’ gallery, she just may have a thing or two to teach her gentlemen friends about daring…

My first by this author, I'm sorry to say I found this book to be dull and uninteresting. The original premise is about two Regency gentlemen who have nothing better to do with themselves than act like rakes and make wagers in the big betting book at White's. They make a bet that Xavier (our hero, who has a secret passion for reading Dante) can't get an infamous bluestocking spinster to come to his annual bawdy Christmas house party without damaging her reputation - or something close to it. Frankly, I got a little confused. Xavier falls for her, and his cousin, the other one in the wager, tries to do everything he can to soil her reputation, while Xavier is trying to save it, even though all he "really" wants to do is get her somewhere where he can "ruin" her!  She was dull as dishwater and he wasn't much better although handsome - as we are told over and over again. Glad I finally finished this, but what a slog!  Lovely cover, though.


 Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall

Book Description:
After a lifetime in the Royal Navy, surgeon Alexander Murray finds himself castaway with brainless beauty Daphne Farnham and her fluffy little dog. While the dog could be supper, she’s useless. Daphne can’t understand why the humorless surgeon doesn’t like her—everyone likes her! She’s beautiful, rich, and has excellent fashion sense, a most useful skill when putting together an ensemble. This unlikely pair (and Pompom) will have to figure out how to survive together, and may discover that each holds attractions not obvious at first—or even second—glance.

I totally loved this book! I've read all of Darlene Marshall's previous books, but this one takes the cake! It is simply wonderful!  Story of stodgy older navy surgeon, Alexander Murray who finds himself shipwrecked and stranded on an island near Bermuda with Miss Daphne Farnham, who he considers to be the most useless and dimwitted society miss he has ever had the unfortunate pleasure of being stuck with. Of course, his opinion changes drastically over time and I loved every word of this endearing romance of how two complete opposites fall in love. It had everything: steamy sex, humor, and an excellent plot line that kept me interested with top notch writing and research to go with it.  Very, very clever story, a tour de force for Ms. Marshall!  Who would have thought curmudgeonly Dr. Murray would turn out to be such a sexy hero? But of course on second thought, why should I be surprised? He's a Scot with red hair (with a bit of gray thrown in for gravitas). A keeper, though I'm not crazy about the cover...


Monday, November 5, 2012

A Post-Sandy Hurricane Post of Reviews

I began writing this post with Sandy coming down hard on us here in New Jersey.  I figured I'd post my month's reviews before the power went out.   Well, the power went out about half way through, so I'm finishing it up now a week later since that's how long it took to get my power back.  Not a fantastic collection this month, lots of regencies and two WWII themed books.  I loved the new Sherry Thomas historical and Carrie Lofty's WWII romance, but could have slept through the two Julia Quinns from her backlist.

Deception by Amanda Quick (audio)

Book Description:
Once, Olympia Wingfield was free to devote all her time to her true passion: the study of ancient legends and long-lost treasure. But now, with three hellion nephews to raise, the absentminded beauty has very little time for research. Which makes it seem all the more serendipitous when a handsome stranger strides into Olympia's library unannounced and proceeds to set her world to rights.

Tall and dark, with long, windswept black hair, Jared Chillhurst is the embodiment of Olympia's most exotic dreams—a daring pirate, masquerading in teacher's garb, whose plundering kisses and traveler's tales quickly win her heart. Yet all too soon innocent Olympia will discover that the enigmatic and wickedly sensual Mr. Chillhurst is no lowly tutor, but a future earl with a wealth of secrets—the kind that will lead them both on a perilous quest for a hidden fortune and a love worth more than gold.

On audio, narrated by Anne Flosnik who did a creditable job, except her voice for the one-eyed pirate-like hero sounded too gravelly.  It was as if she was trying to give it this smoldering, passion infused inflection.  But to my ears, it just made him sound older than he was really supposed to be.  He did not sound romantic, but maybe it's just me.

Olympia, the heroine is another of Quick's learned, bluestocking types who is clueless when it comes to the required social niceties in Regency England because she's so wrapped up in her studies. No shy wilting lily, once she makes up her mind she wants to bed Jared, she has no fears or compunctions about it.  She could care less what it might do to her reputation if anyone finds out. Other than this unrealistic lack of discretion, I liked her and her three young nephews. I found the storyline amusing at times, albeit convoluted with the lost map, treasure and Jared's irascible father and uncle.  It was an easy listen, though it lacked any real depth.  Still, I
enjoyed it overall.


The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

Book Description: 
Jack Audley has been a highwayman. A soldier. And he has always been a rogue. What he is not, and never wanted to be, is a peer of the realm, responsible for an ancient heritage and the livelihood of hundreds. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over. And if his birth proves to be legitimate, then he will find himself with the one title he never wanted: Duke of Wyndham.

Grace Eversleigh has spent the last five years toiling as the companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham. It is a thankless job, with very little break from the routine... until Jack Audley lands in her life, all rakish smiles and debonair charm. He is not a man who takes no for an answer, and when she is in his arms, she's not a woman who wants to say no. But if he is the true duke, then he is the one man she can never have...

This book took me forever to get through - what a slog! Surprisingly tedious without much humor at all. Unusual for a Julia Quinn romance. Jack, the hero wasn't bad, but he had so much baggage to deal with! Per Quinn's usual heroes, Jack spends his entire time ruing the fact he is going to inherit a dukedom (or is he, that is the question) and he doesn't want the responsibilities that go with it.  A high class problem.  You see, he never learned how to read because he is dyslexic, but this is his "shameful" secret. Because of this, he cannot bear the thought of leaving his carefree life for the dukedom. Then on top of that, he has all sorts of other guilt issues because his cousin died when they were fighting against Napoleon and he hasn't returned to his home in Ireland since, because he can't bear to face his aunt who raised him. Don't get me started on Penelope - duller than dish water. Not a single memorable thing about her, except that she likes to sleep late and is not a "morning person."  What did Jack see in her?  The dowager duchess is horrible!  Nothing admirable or likable about her in the least, and we had to deal with her so much!  What a disappointing romance, and the cover is horrible. I remember when this came out, just the cover itself prevented me from reading it for a long time, such a vapid strange look on her face, and the dreaded overused male model, Nathan Kamp.  Uggh.  I only bought it months ago because it was almost free on kindle at the time.


Tempting the Bride by Sherry Thomas

Book Description:
Helena Fitzhugh understands perfectly well that she would be ruined should her secret love affair be discovered. So when a rendezvous goes wrong and she is about to be caught in the act, it is with the greatest reluctance that she accepts help from David Hillsborough, Viscount Hastings, and elopes with him to save her reputation.      

Helena has despised David since they were children—the notorious rake has tormented her all her life. David, on the other hand, has always loved Helena, but his pride will never let him admit the secrets of his heart.      

A carriage accident the day after their elopement, however, robs Helena of her memory—the slate is wiped clean. At last David dares to reveal his love, and she finds him both fascinating and desirable. But what will happen when her memory returns and she realizes she has fallen for a man she has sworn never to trust?

I love, love, loved this book! The amnesia angle totally caught me off guard but gave the story a greater dimension and depth than just the usual forced marriage, "I hate you, but I have to marry you anyway" scenario.  David was wonderful and I loved him and his inner anguish, loving Helena all along and hoping she gets better, but dreading what will happen when she remembers what an ass he'd been over the years.  Some flaws did exist in the storyline though: not enough background on his illegitimate daughter, Bea.  Still, I loved his tender relationship with her.  I also loved his smutty story within a story, which was so clever!  Let's face it, this was the best of the trilogy and Sherry Thomas is an absolute favorite of mine!  I was also glad to see some lovin' between Fritz and Millie as well.  Their story (2nd in the trilogy) ended sort of up in the air and I was glad to see they're happy and living it up in book three!  A worthwhile series!  Oh no!  Now I have to wait forever for Sherry Thomas to come out with her next series, whenever that will be!  Whenever it is, I'm sure it will be worth the wait!


Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard

Book Description:
A small Wyoming town is about to learn a few lessons from a new schoolteacher with the courage to win the heart of a man who swore he had nothing to give....

Mary Elizabeth Potter is a self-appointed spinster with no illusions about love. But she is a good teacher and she wants Wolf Mackenzie s son back in school. And after one heated confrontation with the boy s father, she knows father and son have changed her life forever.

Still paying for a crime he didn't commit, Wolf Mackenzie has a chip on his shoulder the size of Wyoming. But prim-and-proper Mary Elizabeth Potter doesn't see Wolf as the dangerous half-breed the town has branded him. Somehow she sees him as a good, decent, honest man. A man who could love...

Wolf's not sure he or the town of Ruth, Wyoming is ready for the taming of Wolf Mackenzie.

I love Linda Howard and this was another good contemporary of hers, but it seemed a bit dated.  Wolf Mackenzie has a huge chip on his shoulder - and I mean huge!  It took me a while to get used to him because his stern exterior was so hard to break through.  He's angry and bitter because he's a "half-breed" and the small town of Ruth, Wyoming treats him - and his son - like dirt.  The new spinster schoolteacher who comes to town makes him change his tune and they both wind up having a torrid love affair - just what the two of them need while trying to find a rapist that is on the loose who has a major grudge against Native American Indians.  Their growing relationship was great and Mary Elizabeth is feisty and stubborn, but I felt I was being hit over the head over and over with the unfairness of the way the town treated Wolf and his son.  I know it was necessary, and it was wrong but I think it went on a little too much.  Still, as usual, another terrific Linda Howard, the queen of contemporary, suspenseful romance.


Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre (audio)

Book Description:
Eddie Chapman was a charming criminal, a con man, and a philanderer. He was also one of the most remarkable double agents Britain has ever produced. Inside the traitor was a man of loyalty; inside the villain was a hero. The problem for Chapman, his spymasters, and his lovers was to know where one persona ended and the other began.

In 1941, after training as a German spy in occupied France, Chapman was parachuted into Britain with a revolver, a wireless, and a cyanide pill, with orders from the Abwehr to blow up an airplane factory. Instead, he contacted MI5, the British Secret Service. For the next four years, Chapman worked as a double agent, a lone British spy at the heart of the German Secret Service who at one time volunteered to assassinate Hitler for his countrymen. Crisscrossing Europe under different names, all the while weaving plans, spreading disinformation, and, miraculously, keeping his stories straight under intense interrogation, he even managed to gain some profit and seduce beautiful women along the way.

The Nazis feted Chapman as a hero and awarded him the Iron Cross. In Britain, he was pardoned for his crimes, becoming the only wartime agent to be thus rewarded. Both countries provided for the mother of his child and his mistress. Sixty years after the end of the war, and ten years after Chapman’s death, MI5 has now declassified all of Chapman’s files, releasing more than 1,800 pages of top secret material and allowing the full story of Agent Zigzag to be told for the first time.

A gripping story of loyalty, love, and treachery, Agent Zigzag offers a unique glimpse into the psychology of espionage, with its thin and shifting line between fidelity and betrayal.

Entertaining and interesting account of the story of Eddie Chapman, a double agent during WWII for the Nazis and the British MI5. I really enjoyed this book. Small time crook from England gets arrested on Isle of Jersey and is in jail there when it is soon occupied by the Nazis during WWII.  He naively makes a deal with them to be a spy. They recruit him, but then as soon as he's on his first mission in England, he goes to the British and makes a deal with them. A real operator but endearing in his own way. Good inside view of this side of WWII.  Very easy listening on audio and John Lee was excellent as the narrator.


Miss Lacey's Last Fling by Candice Hern

Book Description: 
Having sacrificed her youthful opportunities to family obligations, mousy Miss Rosalind Lacey is finally ready to make the most of her long-postponed London Season-starting with Max Devanant, rake extraordinaire....

I loved this traditional Regency. Cute storyline with an endearing hero and heroine. Sort of a bucket list for the Regency miss. Rosie is convinced that she is dying from the same disease that killed her mother.  She wants to live it up and have her season in London that she missed out on when she was younger.  Well... her racy aunt takes her under her wing and transforms her and suddenly Rosie is the toast of the town.  Although the ending felt rushed and I could have done without the constant endearment of "minx," it was really quite a delightful tale - and next to nothing on Kindle.


A Beginner's Guide to Rakes by Suzanne Enoch

Book Description:
All of London is abuzz with the return of the utterly alluring, recently widowed Diane Benchley. Will she remarry? What will she do with her late husband’s fortune? Society is shocked by her announcement—at the Grand Ball, of all places!—that she plans to open an exclusive gentleman’s gaming club in the family mansion. But no one is more stunned than the Marquis of Haybury, Oliver Warren.

Years ago, Oliver and Diane shared a private indiscretion. Now Diane threatens to reveal Oliver’s most ungentlemanly secrets…unless he agrees to help her. A notorious gambler—and rake—Oliver is overqualified to educate Diane in the ways and means of running her establishment. But striking a deal with Diane might just be the biggest risk Oliver has ever taken. This time, the only thing he has to lose is his heart…

Not the best by Suzanne Enoch. I found it very difficult to get into this storyline for the heroine was constantly irritable and cranky. Penniless widow who was suddenly dropped by her lover (our hero) two years earlier comes to London to open a gentleman's club. He's funding it because she's blackmailing him. Much happens, they can't resist each other, but she needs convincing he's changed. Not bad, but not great either, and can't understand the title, has nothing to do with the story!  Still, I will read the novella that tells their story two years earlier while lovers in Austria and what went wrong.


Minx by Julia Quinn

Book Description:
It takes a minx to tempt a rogue... 

Beautiful and feisty Henrietta Barrett has never followed the dictates of society. She manages her elderly guardian's estate, prefers to wear breeches rather than dresses, and answers to the unlikely name of Henry. But when her guardian passes away, her beloved home falls into the hands of a distant cousin.

And it takes a rogue to tame her... 

William Dunford, London's most elusive bachelor, is stunned to learn that he's inherited property, a title...and a ward bent on making his first visit his last. Henry is determined to continue running the Cornwall estate without help from the handsome new lord, but Dunford is just as sure he can change things...starting with his wild young ward. But turning Henry into a lady makes her not only the darling of the town, but an irresistible attraction to the man who thought he could never be tempted.

Very much a so-so romance, and I have realized I now detest the endearment "minx!" Tom-boy girl, who goes by the name of Henry, falls for an English lord in Cornwall who turns out to be her guardian. She's been living on the estate he has just inherited - and managing it very well.  They get off to a rocky start but then become close friends.  He doesn't realize he's her guardian at first, but when he does he soon realizes he's in a big dilemma.  All he wants to do is seduce her!  But he can't - because he's her guardian.  So he tries to find her a husband instead, but no one is good enough.  Then they go to London and lah dee dah they fall in love.  But, then two weeks before the wedding they have this BIG misunderstanding that ruins everything! Unhappy first month of marriage, what a waste! Uggh! Slow beginning, hum drum middle and then angsty ending! Not my favorite JQ romance, I'm afraid.


Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare

Book Description:
"I expect you to show my friend just how grateful you are. Your willingness is everything."

With those harsh words, the hated Sasanach earl decided Bríghid's fate: Her body and her virginity were to be offered up to a stranger in exchange for her brother's life. Possessing nothing but her innocence and her fierce Irish pride, she had no choice but to comply.

But the handsome man she faced in the darkened bedchamber was not at all the monster she expected. His green eyes seemed to see inside her. His tender touch calmed her fears while he swore he would protect her by merely pretending to claim her. And as the long hours of the night passed by, as her senses ignited at the heat of their naked flesh, she made a startling discovery: Sometimes the line between hate and love can be dangerously thin.

This second book in Clare's Blakewell/Kenleigh trilogy just didn't wow me like her other books. A beautiful young Irish woman, Bríghid, finds herself the object of young Colonial, Jamie Blakewell's affections while he's visiting Ireland. But his crazy friend, Sheff, a wealthy and powerful English lord wants her too and becomes obsessed. She is kidnapped by the lord as a gift for the night for Jamie, who wouldn't dream of besmirching her that way. He tricks the lord into thinking he's taking her virginity but then helps her escape instead, but her brother stabs him and they must hide while she heals him after his near death. Much happens and I just found this sort of boring with all the back and forth between Bríghid and Jamie. She won't trust him, blah, blah, blah, he's English and a Protestant! Horrors! I found Jamie much too saintly and perfect for most of the time, which wasn't very interesting. Sheff was a caricature of the despicable and debauched English lord in Ireland who thinks nothing of murdering his Irish tenants. Hopefully, book three in this trilogy will be better and not quite so melodramatic and over the top. I read this on kindle and found innumerable typos, hopefully they will be corrected eventually, plus the spelling of so many of the names (albeit authentic, I have no doubt) made it hard for me to grasp their pronunciation!


Castles by Julie Garwood

Book Description:
Orphaned and besieged, Princess Alesandra knew that only hasty marriage to an Englishman could protect her from the turmoil in her own land. To the amusement of her makeshift guardian, Colin, younger brother of the Marquess of Cainewood, the bold raven-haired beauty instantly captivated London society. But when Alesandra was nearly abducted by her unscrupulous countrymen, the fighting instincts that won Colin a knighthood for valor were kindled.

Deceiving himself that he wanted only to protect her, Colin swept her into a union meant to be a marriage in name alone...yet Alesandra's tender first kiss and hesitant caress ignited a wildfire in his soul. As the lovely princess dashed headlong into unforeseen dangers, Colin would follow, knowing he must claim her as his own forever. Now he would risk life itself before he would lose this sweet, tempestuous angel...

Fun Julie Garwood Regency with all the winsome humor I've come to expect from her. This wraps up her Crown Spies series, which was really delightful!  I highly recommend the whole series!  Alesandra and Colin make a good couple here and she is another adorable JG heroine who drives her alpha husband crazy!  As usual, Colin is not ready to fall in love, but falls for Alesandra anyway.  She is amazingly beautiful - and a princess!  She also happens to have a lot of hidden talents as well - as is so often the case with Garwood's heroines.  Despite Colin's reluctance to admit he's in love, she bides her time, she knows he loves her and he'll let her know when he's ready.  She is confident of this and thankfully, the storyline didn't turn into some sort of melodramatic hand wringing "you don't love me!" sort of thing - although there was the usual tension, attempted kidnappings, but that's Garwood fare.  The humor made it!


His Very Own Girl by Carrie Lofty

Book Description:
After the War took the lives of Lulu Davies’s parents and her fiancé, she promised herself she would guard her heart carefully and concentrate on her great love—flying the biggest and best airplanes in the sky. Lulu is a pilot in the British civilian air force, ferrying planes around Great Britain and keeping her eye on a coveted spot in a training program for world-class pilots. She’s perfectly content to strive for greatness in the skies, and dance with a few GIs on the way.

Brawny, quiet American medic Joe Weber signed up with the paratroopers to escape his checkered past; he’s hoping that jumping out of planes and patching up soldiers will earn him respect and a hopeful future. Joe’s first real test of medical skill is on a pilot whose plane takes a hard landing in a training field; after rushing to the crash scene, he is stunned to come face-to-face with a gorgeous Rita Hayworth lookalike. And when the two cross paths at a dance hall a couple weeks later, he can’t resist the urge to find out more about this spirited, dark-haired beauty.

Their flirtation breaks all of Lulu’s rules, but dance by dance, week by week, walk by walk, she finds herself falling in love with this honest, vulnerable man on the run from his demons. But as Lulu and Joe’s undeniable attraction gains momentum, World War II steadily intensifies toward D-Day. The lovers only have one night together before Joe is transported to France for the Battle of the Bulge, where his skills and his instinct for survival will be pushed to their limits. Lulu distracts herself with flight school and the friendships of her colleagues, but she can’t get the handsome medic out of her head. Only time and hope will tell if her love will return unharmed from War, and if the two will be able to overcome their pasts to form a beautiful life together in peace-time.

I absolutely loved this book! Not surprising for I love WWII settings and history and to combine it with a romance - this was a no brainer for me!  Feisty pilot heroine and I adored the vulnerable medic hero!  This was such a surprise, and I was riveted from start to finish.  Exciting moments while flying her planes, near crash landings and what have you.  Joe was a dear, I loved him.  I just adored this whole WWII scenario!  I want more of this couple and see what happens next in their lives.  A real keeper, sexy, evocative, memorable - and what a cover!


Monday, October 1, 2012

September Book Reviews

I've been reading up a storm with 11 reviews in this post.  This was a good month!  My favorite of the lot was the new Lorraine Heath book, Lord of Temptation, which is Tristan's story.  I also discovered a new to me author, Rhys Bowen,  Her Royal Spyness on audio was a delight to listen to.  I'm adding her to my must have on audio list!  And... as usual, I'm continuing my scarred hero thing...

The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser

Book Description:
Highborn Anna Arrington has been "following the drum," obeying the wishes of her cold, controlling cavalry officer husband. When he dies, all she wants is to leave life with Wellington's army in Spain behind her and go home to her family's castle in Scotland.

Sergeant Will Atkins ran away from home to join the army in a fit of boyish enthusiasm. He is a natural born soldier, popular with officers and men alike, uncommonly brave and chivalrous, and educated and well-read despite his common birth.

As Anna journeys home with a convoy of wounded soldiers, she forms an unlikely friendship with Will. When the convoy is ambushed and their fellow soldiers captured, they become fugitives—together. The attraction between them is strong—but even if they can escape the threat of death at the hands of the French, is love strong enough to bridge the gap between a viscount's daughter and an innkeeper's son?

I really loved this story of how, during the Peninsular Wars in Spain, a corporal under Wellington becomes friends with the wife of an officer in his regiment.  It is an unhappy marriage, her husband is awful to her and he gets what he deserves before long.  A widow now, she and the corporal develop a closeness, though forbidden.  After he rescues her from captivity from a mad French general, they spend four night's together on the road alone and ... well, they can no longer deny the attraction that's been brewing between them.  But when they return to the army camp, they must act as if nothing happened.  How can these two who have fallen in love be together when society forbids an enlisted man to marry the widow of an officer?  It's just not done.  Their growing love for one another and the moments they share together before the inevitable parting were both wonderful and bittersweet.  My heart went out to them.  This is a tender love story that was hard to put down for I had to see how it ended. Will they be reunited or not?  This romance was a nice surprise and I will definitely read more by this author.  It wasn't until after I finished it, I realized this is the 2nd book in the series. Oh well...  I'll have to get to the first book now - pronto!


Not Proper Enough by Carolyn Jewel
Book Description:
Meant to be?

The Marquess of Fenris has loved Lady Eugenia from the day he first set eyes on her. Five years ago, pride caused him to earn her enmity. Now she's widowed, and he's determined to make amends and win her heart. But with their near explosive attraction, can he resist his desire long enough to court her properly?

After the death of her beloved husband, Lady Eugenia Bryant has come to London to build a new life. Despite the gift of a medallion said to have the power to unite the wearer with her perfect match, Eugenia believes she won't love again. And yet, amid the social whirl of chaperoning a young friend through her first Season, she finds a second chance at happiness.

Unfortunately, the Marquess of Fenris threatens her newfound peace. Eugenia dislikes the man, but the handsome and wealthy heir to a dukedom is more charming than he has a right to be. Constantly underfoot, the rogue disturbs her heart, alternately delighting and scandalizing her. And when their relationship takes a highly improper turn, Eugenia must decide if the wrong man isn’t the right one after all.

As much as I love Carolyn Jewel, this romance had an odd relationship between the heroine and hero that was built on contradictions.  Ultimately, I found it more annoying than endearing.  She kept saying she hated him, yet she begins an affair with him. All the while she is pushing him away and acting like nothing was going on between them, they were having this secret affair!  I liked him though, but it was just sort of weird, though some parts were very hot and sexy. I liked a lot about this book, but the push me pull you courtship took it's toll on me, to say the least.  Plus the book felt rushed at the end.


The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley

Book Description:
Mayfair, London, 1810: Alexandra Alastair, a respectable young English widow, wonders if she dare add the new viscount who’s moved in next door to her list of potential husbands.

He certainly doesn’t look like the gentlemen on her list—Grayson Finley, Viscount Stoke, is tall and sun-bronzed, muscular and blue-eyed. He wears dress so casual as to be unclothed—long coats, leather breeches, shirts without collar or cravat, and he carries pistols wherever he goes. The men who attend him are just as strange, exotic-looking, even. And the way Grayson smiles at Alexandra whenever they pass in the street—sinful, blood-warming—turns her inside out.

In the middle of the night Alexandra hears shouting coming from the house next door, and the viscount’s life being threatened. She rushes over just in time to save Grayson from being hanged by his greatest enemy, his former best friend.

Thus is Alexandra pulled into the adventures of Grayson Finley, former pirate and terror of the seas. Grayson has made a bargain with the devil (in the form of the pirate hunter, James Ardmore), in order to ensure the safety of his daughter. He’ll do anything to keep her safe, but when Alexandra saves his life, he looks into her eyes the color of water and starts to drown . . .

I love this author, so it was a no brainer when I saw the cut-rate price on kindle for this re-release of her 2003 romance.  It's the story of a young widow who falls for the pirate viscount that moves in next door to her. Much of the story was far-fetched and over the top, with some distracting sidelines: the rekindled romance between the governess and his second in command and the mystery behind Grayson's nemesis (Book 2).  Overall this was fairly entertaining, but I must admit, I'm not a big pirate fancier. Still, it was diverting and I will read on in the series. I love this author, and it's hard for me to pass up anything in her historicals backlist.


Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

Book Description:
Heartsick and desperate to return home to America, Georgina Anderson boards the Maiden Anne disguised as a cabin boy, never dreaming she'll be forced into intimate servitude at the whim of the ship's irrepressible captain, James Mallory.
The black sheep of a proud and tempestuous family, the handsome ex-pirate once swore no woman alive could entice him into matrimony. But on the high seas his resolve will be weakened by an unrestrained passion and by the high-spirited beauty whose love of freedom and adventure rivals his own.   

This wasn't bad, and I liked it pretty much, but this series is not thrilling me as much as I thought it would.  Plus, alas, it's another pirate romance - not my favorite...  I swore I'd give this series another chance with Gentle Rogue, (which is my favorite of the series so far), but I found the whole Georgie as cabin boy and her succumbing to James' charms so easily (and fast) too contrived. Then, the whole dumb misunderstanding between James and Georgie later on was tedious and the plot became so convoluted with all the various brothers - I lost track of the plotline and their relationship - was it on or off? Still, compared to it's predecessors, this was above average.  Still, I'm holding off on continuing with the series for a long time, but I will return to it eventually.   


Forever and a Day by Delilah Marvelle   

Book Description: 
Roderick Gideon Tremayne, the recently appointed Duke of Wentworth, never expected to find himself in New York City, tracking down a mysterious map important to his late mother. And he certainly never expected to be injured, only to wake up with no memory of who he is. But when he sees the fiery-haired beauty who's taken it upon herself to rescue him, suddenly his memory is the last thing on his mind.

Georgia Milton, the young head of New York's notorious Forty Thieves, feels responsible for the man who was trying to save her bag from a thief. But she's not prepared for the fierce passion he ignites within her. When his memory begins to return, her whole world is threatened, and Roderick must choose between the life he forgot and the life he never knew existed.

There was much I enjoyed about this story of an English aristocrat in 1830 NYC who has an accident and gets amnesia.  He falls in love with the young widow who helps him and lets him live with her in her tenement to recuperate.  The dilemma: once he regains his memory, she is so below his class, a marriage between the two will never work.  How do they get around this?  Overall, this was a good romance.  I liked the hero, Robinson (he thinks his name is Robinson Crusoe), who was endearingly sweet in his naivete.  But I was disappointed with the rushed last quarter of the book.  The main story centers on how he must adjust to the poverty and filth of lower Manhattan of the 1830's and getting used to living there.  I enjoyed their burgeoning relationship, though it does jump the gun a bit, so that by the end it's rushed and their is no big reunion romance scene, much to my disappointment.  I was actually very surprised when the story just... ended and went into the epilogue which also leaves many loose strings and questions about other characters (room for future books in the series.)  I will continue with this "The Rumor" series for it's intriguing, though I hope there will be more closure at the end of the future books.    


Overseas by Beatriz Williams (audio)

Book Description:
When twenty-something Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson attracts the notice of the legendary Julian Laurence at a business meeting, no one’s more surprised than she is. Julian’s relentless energy and his extraordinary intellect electrify her, but she’s baffled by his sudden interest. Why would this handsome British billionaire—Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor—pursue a pretty but bookish young banker who hasn’t had a boyfriend since college?

The answer is beyond imagining . . . at least at first. Kate and Julian’s story may have begun not in the moneyed world of twenty-first-century Manhattan but in France during World War I, when a mysterious American woman emerged from the shadows of the Western Front to save the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford, a celebrated war poet and infantry officer.

Now, in modern-day New York, Kate and Julian must protect themselves from the secrets of the past, and trust in a true love that transcends time and space.

I had high hopes for this one. Time travel, a WWI romance thing mixed with a modern day romance, what's not to like? But there was a lot I didn't like about this, especially on audio. The syrupy dialogue began to irritate me to no end, and I couldn't help thinking Kate was a major drip and wondered what Julian saw in her that kept him going for all these years after only knowing her for what - a matter of days? Sorry, I just didn't buy it. The love of the century? She was so annoying! The constant back and forth between them was dreadful too "I'm sorry, darling, it was all my fault.  Can you forgive me, darling?" How many times do we have to hear this from Julian? His same words of endearment to her were used over and over as well - minx - uggh, I think I hate this word now. Darling.  Then to add to it, Kate is always saying that it's her fault!  It's like these two were vying to be the biggest martyr that ever lived!  She spurned his wealth and jewels and the way he wanted to pamper her - such the paragon!  Uggh, she was much too saintly, as was he.  The epilogue was simply torture to listen to as well, with all their ooey gooey love talk of how much they adore each other and how perfect they are.  Maybe in print it wouldn't have been as bad, but it was too much for me to listen to, plus the narrator made Kate sound so blah.  The scenes from WWI were much better, but overall this books was a big disappointent that I was only too glad to finish! 


A Hellion in Her Bed by Sabrina Jeffries

Book Description:
Furious at his grandmother’s ultimatum to marry or lose his inheritance, Lord Jarret Sharpe wagers his luck—and his heart—at the card table against a most unlikely opponent.

Mired in scandal after his parents’ mysterious deaths, notorious gambler Lord Jarret Sharpe agrees to tamely run the family brewery for a year if his Machiavellian grandmother rescinds her ultimatum that he marry. But the gambler in him can’t resist when beguiling Annabel Lake proposes a wager. If she wins their card game, he must help save her family’s foundering brewery. But if he wins, she must spend a night in his bed. The outcome sets off a chain of events that threatens to destroy all his plans . . . and unveils the secret Annabel has held for so long. When Jarret discovers the darker reason behind her wager, he forces her into another one—and this time he intends to win not just her body, but her heart.

A well thought out story of gambling ne'er do well second son, Jarret Sharpe, a marquess who takes over the running of his grandmother's brewery. He meets a brewster (a female brewer) who wants to partner with his grandmother's brewery to help save her own brewery from going under. Of course, she's pretty, plucky and red headed - and he can't resist her. There are complications for it turns out she has a son who is being raised as her brother's son. Overall, I really enjoyed this romance and liked the way it all came together with a sentimental and happy ending. Some sizzling love scenes as well.  I recommend it!


Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen (audio)

Book Description:
The Agatha Award winner debuts a 1930s London mystery series, featuring a penniless twenty-something member of the extended royal family.

Her ridiculously long name is Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch. And she is flat broke. As the thirty-fourth in line for the throne, she has been taught only a few things, among them, the perfect curtsey. But when her brother cuts off her allowance, she leaves Scotland, and her fiance Fish-Face, for London, where she has:

a) worked behind a cosmetics counter-and gotten sacked after five hours

b) started to fall for a quite unsuitable minor royal

c) made some money housekeeping (incognita, of course), and

d) been summoned by the Queen to spy on her playboy son.

Then an arrogant Frenchman, who wants her family's 800-year-old estate for himself, winds up dead in her bathtub. Now her most important job is to clear her very long family name.

I loved this book! On audio it was simply delightful. London (and Scotland) in the early '30's. Katherine Kellgren, the narrator, did a superb job with all the aristocratic accents of Georgie's friends and would be suitors. The mystery itself was good, not a big stretch to guess who the murderer was, but the writing and humor were what made the book great. I loved Georgie and her friends and relatives (including the queen - HM). Her aristocratic Irish suitor (though, penniless) Darcy was especially memorable. I also wonder if the blue eyed inspector will be seen in the next book - some competition to Charming Darcy's charming Irish ways? I am definitely reading on in this series, I didn't want the book to end - way too short on audio. I made every effort to listen to this as much as I could! A keeper, and don't miss it on audio! All the different voices really made it!  I loved the voice of her mother and HM (Her Majesty).  So much fun, I haven't felt so enthusiastic over a mystery since I discovered Amelia Peabody!  I heartily recommend!


This Rake of Mine by Elizabeth Boyle   

Book Description: 
When the rakehell Lord Jack Tremont kissed Miranda Mabberly, mistaking her for his mistress, neither realized his reckless act would cost Miranda her reputation, her fiance, and her future. But for Jack, it was a kiss unlike any other.

Years later, hiding incognito far from London - as a teacher at Miss Emery's Establishment for the Education of Genteel Young Ladies - Miranda has made a respectable life for herself, away from the ton and the dangerous men who inhabit it. When a penniless, much humbled, though still damnably attractive Jack arrives at the school to escort a rebellious young niece home, Miranda does her best to avoid the rogue, only to end up tumbling into his arms --- and reawakening a desire that is anything but proper.

She might want to deny her heart, but Miranda's resolve is no challenge for three schoolgirl matchmakers who know true passion when they spy it. Now they won't rest until their all-too-proper teacher and the reprobate lord discover the love that is their destiny.   

This was just an okay story that should have been better, considering how much I loved it's predecessor, Something About Emmaline.  Here we find out what happens to Miranda Mabberly after wild Lord Jack Tremont kissed her passionately one night at the opera and scandalized all of London!  This should have been a glorious entertaining story, but it lost me when it took a turn towards spies and pirates instead of centering on Jack and Miranda's promising storyline. The slow start didn't help either.  Oh well, they all can't be winners.  It wasn't bad, but I was hoping for something better.   


Lord of Temptation by Lorraine Heath

Book Description: 
Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped—to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle—awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright.
Once upon a time, he was Lord Tristan Easton—now he is Crimson Jack, a notorious privateer beholden to none, whose only mistress is the sea. But all that will change when exquisite Lady Anne Hayworth hires his protection on a trip into danger and seduction. . .

Desperation brought Anne to the bronzed, blue-eyed buccaneer. But after the Captain demands a kiss as his payment, desire will keep her at his side. She has never known temptation like this—but to protect her heart, she knows she must leave him behind. Yet Tristan cannot easily forget the beauty—and when they meet again in a London ballroom, he vows he won't lose her a second time, as fiery passion reignited takes them into uncharted waters that could lead the second lost lord home. . .   

I really loved this story of Lord Tristan Easton, the middle brother of the Lost Lords of Pembrook who's a scapegrace scoundrel and the notorious sea captain, Crimson Jack. He falls in lust with Lady Anne Hayworth who hires him to take her the to Crimea where she will say farewell to her dead fiance who died in the war there.  She wants to get on with her life after two years of mourning and feels this is the only way she can, by saying good to him at his grave. Aboard ship she and Tristan become close - very close. The book sizzled and I loved the chemistry between them.  But Tristan loves the sea and Anne wants a life on land - with a husband (who's around) and children. Can this man who claims to not be the marrying kind resist Anna and let her become the wife of someone else? Will he ever admit that she's just what he needs for the rest of his life? Great story, hard to put down. I loved Tristan and his scandalous ways! You never quite know when or where he's going to show up out of nowhere   


The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh   

Book Description: 
Mary Balogh has no equal when it comes to capturing the complex, irresistible passions between men and women. Her classic novel, The Secret Pearl, is one of the New York Times bestselling author’s finest–a tale of temptation and seduction, of guarded hearts and raw emotion…and of a love so powerful it will take your breath away…

He first spies her in the shadows outside a London theatre, a ravishing creature forced to barter her body to survive.

To the woman known simply as Fleur, the well-dressed gentleman with the mesmerizing eyes is an unlikely savior. And when she takes the stranger to her bed, she never expects to see him again. But then Fleur accepts a position as governess to a young girl…and is stunned to discover that her midnight lover is a powerful nobleman. As two wary hearts ignite–and the threat of scandal hovers over them–one question remains: will she be mistress or wife?   

This is one of those books I've heard about for years that is ranked up there as one of the best by Mary Balogh. I agree, it was very good, fraught with emotion - though melancholy. A great deal of it is sad, and the way Fleur and Adam meet is unbearably upsetting, but over time we see their complicated relationship turn to one of love. The looming fear of Fleur's arrest or distasteful marriage to her cousin makes the storyline angsty and I had to put it down just to give myself a breather and then return to it. I do recommend it, but this is not a lighthearted romance. This is melodrama with a rich and complex storyline. Not your typical boy meets girl, but it is a touching love story and a worthwhile read. Highly recommended.   

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