Saturday, June 30, 2012

End of June Wrap Up

I had a great reading month with an eclectic group of books.  I finished off the month with Elizabeth Hoyt's latest installment of her Maiden Lane Series, which is not to be missed!  Among my books were an old Hemingway classic, a new- to-me paranormal author who writes about a Southern young woman who sees ghosts and I fell in love with the first book of Loretta Chase's latest romantic series!  The month rated three stellar reads and only one slight disappointment.

Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

Book Description:
A Masked Man . . .

Winter Makepeace lives a double life. By day he's the stoic headmaster of a home for foundling children. But the night brings out a darker side of Winter. As the moon rises, so does the Ghost of St. Giles—protector, judge, fugitive. When the Ghost, beaten and wounded, is rescued by a beautiful aristocrat, Winter has no idea that his two worlds are about to collide.

A Dangerous Woman . . .

Lady Isabel Beckinhall enjoys nothing more than a challenge. Yet when she's asked to tutor the Home's dour manager in the ways of society— flirtation, double-entendres, and scandalous liaisons—Isabel can't help wondering why his eyes seem so familiar—and his lips so tempting.

A Passion Neither Could Deny

During the day Isabel and Winter engage in a battle of wills. At night their passions are revealed . . . But when little girls start disappearing from St. Giles, Winter must avenge them. For that he might have to sacrifice everything—the Home, Isabel . . . and his life.

I love, love, loved this book!  A terrific addition to the Maiden Lane series, my favorite so far in the series.  I had no idea I'd love this story so much!  Isabel Beckinhall, an aristocratic, childless widow in her early thirties becomes enamored of The Ghost of St. Giles after rescuing him from a mob out to capture him.  Little does she know who the Ghost really is!  This book is loaded with sensuality and heat - very well done as is often the case with Hoyt's romances.  Set in Georgian England, the scenery, costumes and squalor of St. Giles comes alive!  Winter and Isabel make a fabulous mismatched couple and I loved the fact he would not take "no" for answer!  Winter is up there with Jamie Fraser in reinforcing my opinion that younger men and virgins to boot - make the most enthusiastic lovers!  Lucky Isabel!  A must read!  4.5/5

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (audio)

Book Description:
The Sun Also Rises was Ernest Hemingway's first big novel, and immediately established Hemingway as one of the great prose stylists, and one of the preeminent writers of his time. It is also the book that encapsulates the angst of the post-World War I generation, known as the Lost Generation. This poignantly beautiful story of a group of American and English expatriates in Paris on an excursion to Pamplona represents a dramatic step forward for Hemingway's evolving style. Featuring Left Bank Paris in the 1920s and brutally realistic descriptions of bullfighting in Spain, the story is about the flamboyant Lady Brett Ashley and the hapless Jake Barnes. In an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions, this is the Lost Generation.

I really enjoyed this listen.  I like Hemingway's style.  His brief, no nonsense prose sums up the situations so well between his characters.  This is one of those classics I never got around to reading when I was younger, though I did read A Farewell to Arms in high school and loved it.  I was drawn to this audiobook when I saw that the actor, William Hurt, was the narrator for it.  I've always liked him he did a pretty good job of the voices (good Scottish accent for Mike, Brett's perpetually drunken fiance) I wasn't crazy about his accent for Brett and the way she says "Rath-errrr!  It just didn't sound right the way he said it.

The gist of the story is these "Lost Generation" literary types in Paris decide to go to Pamplona in the 1920's to see the bullfights. Four men revolve around Lady Brett Ashley, an English flapper who's also a drunkard and divorcee - they're all in love with her.  Pity, Jake, the narrator of the story loves her too, but cannot act on it due to a war injury that has left him impotent. In love with him herself, she and Jake can only wish and reflect on how pretty it would be to have a life together. He watches from the sidelines as she goes from one man to another, drinking her way through them, trying to forget the fact the man she met during the war and fell in love with can never make love to her.   A slice of life amidst the dissolute and drunk set, whiling their lives away hoping for something of which they don't know what.  4/5

Love Once Again by Jo Ann Simon

Book Description:
A twist of time had swept them into each other's arms....but a sad turn of fate just as suddenly swept them apart. 

On a perfect New England Christmas morning, Jessica, with their infant son in her arms, crosses their bedroom to greet Christopher. But before she has a chance to reach her destination, the image of him seated on the edge of their bed seems to fade. His welcoming smile becomes a look of alarm. He reaches out his hand to her. She thinks she has grasped it.

Yet instead she finds herself in small and very cold nineteenth century cabin, alone with their child...while Christopher finds himself in a New York City rooming house, without his wife and son.
Agonized by memories of their magical time together, each is forced to carry on -- Jessica as a servant in a wealthy farm household. Christopher adjusts to finding a career in early nineteenth century New York.

Will the love they have shared remain only a memory...or will fate allow their paths to cross again? Can even a love as strong as theirs overcome...for all time?

This is the sequel to Love Once in Passing which I read recently and loved.  Unfortunately this was a disappointment.  I found much of this book depressing and angsty and mostly frustrating for me.  Jessica and Christopher are separated for the first half, then after reuniting again after two years, they go through a series of trials and tribulations due to Christopher's fiancee, who he nearly married and then takes up with again as his mistress!  Jessica, who is originally from the twentieth century has a hard time adjusting to life as a wife in the 19th century, yet Christopher is used to it, but forgets what he loved initially in his 20th century woman.  It seemed to take me forever to finish this book, although I did like the feel of of early 19th century NYC and Connecticut.   3.5/5

The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries

They're the scandalous Sharpes, five hell-raising siblings tainted by a shocking family legacy. Now each faces a daunting ultimatum: marry by year's end -- or kiss their inheritance good-bye.

Book Description: 
In the two decades since a tragic "accident" took the lives of his parents, Oliver Sharpe, the Marquess of Stoneville, has survived the scandal surrounding that fateful night by living as an unrepentant rakehell. And with his grandmother vowing to disinherit him if he doesn't settle down and wed, he plans to fulfill the bargain in true Sharpe style -- by bringing home a fake fiancée from a brothel! But his scheme is derailed when he rescues an American beauty in a dire predicament instead. Maria Butterfield came to London to track down her groom-to-be, who's gone missing, but her engagement won't stop Oliver from getting what he wants: her, in his bed. His rebellious masquerade may call his grandmother's bluff , but it's soon made all too real -- by a love that tempts him to be a hellion no more.

I took a brief break from Sabrina Jeffries but am now launching into her Hellions of Halstead Hall series, starting here with the eldest of them, Oliver.  American heiress, Maria Butterfield must count on the help of rakehell Lord Stoneville to help her find her fiance (for complicated reasons). He finds it hard to resist her natural charm and unaffected demeanor - but is it enough to give up his notorious reputation and settle down? Not bad, but not great either.  I didn't feel any strong attachment to either the hero or heroine, but this looks to be a promising beginning to a new series for me.  3.5/5

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase 

Book Description:
From the Design Book of Marcelline Noirot:   The allure of the perfect gown should be twofold:  ladies would die to wear it . . .and gentlemen would kill to remove it! 

Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London's rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in the ton, the Duke of Clevedon's intended bride? Winning the future duchess's patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her sisters. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are . . . not.

The prize seems well worth the risk—but this time Marcelline's met her match. Clevedon can design a seduction as irresistible as her dresses; and what begins as a flicker of desire between two of the most passionately stubborn charmers in London soon ignites into a delicious inferno . . .and a blazing scandal.

And now both their futures hang by an exquisite thread of silk . . . 

I simply loved this book! I'm not surprised, it has everything, humor, sensuality, a fantastic, strong, heroine and an irresistible hero. *sigh*   Marcelline's daughter was so sweet as well - she brought tears to my eyes at one point. I love the notorious DeLucey's, and there were some elements here that reminded me of Chase's other book, Lord Perfect. We even got a glimpse of Lord Hargate!  A great addition to Chase's library of great books!  A keeper and has primed me for book 2 which just came out last week!  Beautiful cover too! 4.5/5 

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens (audio)

Book Description:
Amelia Gray has always been aware of ghosts, and now she travels all over the South cleaning up forgotten or abandoned graveyards. When an enigmatic yet haunted police detective asks for her help to trap a serial killer, their growing attraction constitutes the very gravest of threats.

I really enjoyed this modern-day twisty paranormal tale of a southern young woman, Amelia Gray, who "sees dead bodies." Yes, she sees ghosts, a trait she has inherited from her father. Since the age of nine, she's had to keep this secret from everyone but her father. But, the hardest part is she cannot let the ghosts know she can see them or they will never leave her and try and suck her life force from her - haunt her. As an adult, Amelia is a graveyard restorer, an expert on cemetery restoration. Based in Charleston, she's asked to help on a case in which a dead woman's body has been found in a cemetery she's been restoring. This leads her to Detective John Devlin, an enigmatic and devilishly handsome man that has his own ghosts following him wherever he goes - though he doesn't know it.  Amelia does and sees his dead wife and child at twilight when the ghosts come out. Can Amelia resist the attractive detective, despite the magnetic appeal he exudes? And what about these dead bodies turning up in Oak Grove Cemetery, what is the connection and who is the killer that has started up his killing spree again after ten years? What is Devlin's daughter's ghost trying to tell Amelia? Lots of questions, a good mystery, and just enough creepiness to keep my attention to the very end. I loved this book, the setting and the plotline were great, especially on audio. The narrator, Khristine Hvam, did a fantastic job with the charming Southern accents as well.  Reminds me a bit of Karen Marie Moning's Fever series with another Southern heroine who sees things others don't, particularly dark shadowy creatures.  I'm definitely listening to the rest of the series!   4.5/5 

A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran

Book Description:
When Nell Whitby breaks into an earl’s house on a midnight quest for revenge, she finds her pistol pointed at the wrong man. Pity the handsome devil is a lunatic. He thinks her a missing heiress, but more to the point, he’ll help her escape the slums and get a bit of justice, too. Not a bad bargain. All she has to do is marry him.

A rake of the first order, Simon St. Maur spent his restless youth burning every bridge he walked across. When he inherits an earldom without a single penny attached to it, he sees a chance to start over—provided he can find an heiress to fund his efforts. But his wicked reputation means courtship will be difficult—until fate sends him the most notorious missing heiress in history. All he needs now is to turn her into a lady and keep himself from making the only mistake that could ruin everything: falling in love.. 

Overall I liked this story of a missing twin heiress raised in the slums of London during the Victorian era.  Unexpectedly when she breaks into his house to kill him, she is found by the heir to her father's title. He happens to be in need of money big time and must convince the world who she is so she can come into her fortune.  He plans on marrying her so he can cash in on it too, but in case it doesn't work out, he can always get the marriage annulled.  He doesn't mention this too her, unfortunately, before the wedding. Of course, he doesn't expect to fall in love with the coarse guttersnipe either - but he does - and vice versa. The story had it's good moments, but I found it hard to like the heroine, which is understandable, considering her background and everything that has happened to her. She is distrustful and thorny to everyone, though I did enjoy the brief interlude after they marry - before she overhears an unfortunate conversation.   3.5/5

Saturday, June 9, 2012

More Quick Reviews - June

Well, since life is throwing a lot at me these days I'm posting six more quickie reviews and this will most likely be my regular format for the time being until I get over this busy time.  Not forever, but I seem to be enjoying reading these days much more than writing, so... c'est la vie.

Unveiled by Courtney Milan

Book Description:
Ash Turner has waited a lifetime to seek revenge on the man who ruined his family-and now the time for justice has arrived. At Parford Manor, he intends to take his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom and settle an old score with the current duke once and for all. But instead he finds himself drawn to a tempting beauty who has the power to undo all his dreams of vengeance... 

Lady Margaret knows she should despise the man who's stolen her fortune and her father's legacy-the man she's been ordered to spy on in the guise of a nurse. Yet the more she learns about the new duke, the less she can resist his smoldering appeal. Soon Margaret and Ash find themselves torn between old loyalties-and the tantalizing promise of passion....

My first book by this author, I downloaded it on kindle because of all the talk of how great it was.  It's nominated for the RITA and all that, so I had to see what it was all about.  Unfortunately, I'm afraid I'm the odd one out in regard to it. I just didn't feel the love for Unveiled.  Maybe it's because I'm not a huge fan of revenge themes nor of self-sacrificing types who are much too saintly - this book had both.  I grew tired of it early on.  Maybe it's me, but the lengthy deception of Margaret's, disguised as a nurse instead of the daughter of the dying duke seemed interminable. Ash's instant attraction to her was just so unbelievable and boring for me, despite the fact he is her adversary. Yes, yes there was a lot of inner turmoil and self-analysis and ultimate realization that "Gee, I guess I really don't have to be a martyr to find fulfillment!" But by that point, at the end I'd already grown bored with it all, for it was all too obvious what needed to be done on their parts.  I just wanted the book to end already and have them admit their love and to hell with their family obligations!   I found it more frustrating than anything else, although I liked Ash's brothers and am looking forward to their books.  I loved Milan's novella, Unlocked which is about Margaret's friend with the horsey laugh.  An endearing story that was 4 1/2 stars.  I don't normally like novellas, but this was an exception, a worthwhile quick read on kindle.


London's Perfect Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch

Book Description:
A determined young lady vows to give one of London's infamous rakes his comeuppance - but when the rogue turns the tables, who truly learns a lesson in love?

The ton gossips call him "Saint" - but the Marquis of St. Aubyn has well earned his reputation as London's perfect scoundrel.

Evelyn Ruddick knows she should avoid him at all costs-but the strikingly beautiful lady wants to aid the children of the Heart of Hope Orphanage, and he heads the board of trustees. Evie is determined to teach the charming, arrogant man a lesson in compassion, but it won't be so easy-especially since his touch is setting her desire aflame, making Evie yearn to submit to his passionate instruction...

The idea of joining in her "project" is unthinkable, but this enchantress refuses to give up! So what else is there for a self-respecting rake to do but seduce the lady? Yet soon it is he who is being seduced by Evie's tender heart and fiery blushes. Could the temptation of long, passionate nights in her arms bring about the impossible? Could the disreputable Saint at long last be reformed?

I don't know how Suzanne Enoch does it, but I went from loathing this scoundrel of a hero, Saint Aubyn, to loving him by the end. There's something about him that was so awful, yet he was so damned sexy and outrageous, no wonder Evie couldn't resist him. The first half of the book dragged and the entire orphanage storyline was blah and then the kidnapping scenario when Evie locks Saint in the dungeon was unbelievably far-fetched, yet it did bring life to the story and the second half was much better than the first. Nice proposal scene too.  I can't understand it, but I wound up loving this book!


The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander

Book Description:
Widowed Julia, Lady Winterset, has inherited a book—a very shocking book—that every gentleman in London seems to want. For a charismatic businessman, it's a chance to build an empire. For a dashing novelist, it could guarantee fame. But to a proud, domineering earl, it means everything...

Harrison Landingham, Earl of Mountdale, can't let the obstinate Julia release the shameless memoir that could ruin his family's name. But the only way to stop her may be equally sordid—if far more pleasurable. For his rivals are intent on seducing the captivating woman to acquire the book. And Harrison isn't the sort to back away from a competition with the stakes this high. Now the winner will claim both the scandalous memoirs and the heart of their lovely owner... 

I really enjoyed this romance which is the prequel to another book I loved, His Mistress by Christmas.  This is a fun Victorian historical about of an aristocratic widow in need of funds who decides to publish her g-grandmother's scandalous memoirs. In so doing, she winds up fending off the attentions of three different men who want the memoirs for their own particular reasons. Of course, the stuffiest, stodgiest and - most good looking of them all - captures her heart. Humor, passion and some deliciously awkward moments. Loved it! Much better than I thought it would be based on the mixed reviews I've read.  I enjoyed her g-grandmother's ghostly pep talks as well! 


The Snake the Crocodile & the Dog by Elizabeth Peters (audio)

Book Description:
The delightful seventh adventure for popular heroine Amelia Peabody. The 19th-century Egyptologist and her dashing husband, Emerson, return to Amarna, where they first fell in love. When Emerson is kidnapped, Amelia must rescue her husband, find the culprit, and save her marriage.

I very much enjoyed this installment of the further adventures of Amelia Peabody. Amelia and Emerson are on their own in Egypt (sans Ramses) and, as usual, someone is trying to harm them. Now an old married couple, Amelia longs for the early days of their courtship. All I can say is, be careful for what you wish for - you just might get it! Lo and behold, Emerson is kidnapped and when he is finally found he has amnesia and has no memory of ever meeting Amelia - much less marrying her! As Amelia copes with this new (but very much like the old) Emerson, they try to determine who is after them and why. Much humor (Ramses letters to his parents are hilarious) and I very much enjoyed the character of Cyrus Vandergelt, their American friend.   Barbara Rosenblat, as usual, is Amelia Peabody, she is one of the best readers out there in the audiobook world!  All her voices, whether it's Amelia, Emerson, Cyrus or Ramses - great, great, great!


The Bridal Season by Connie Brockway

Book Description:
Letty Potts has gotten into a few fixes in her twenty-five years, but this is her worst predicament yet. A petty schemer by necessity, the struggling music hall performer has decided to go straight. But after narrowly escaping the wrath of her partner in crime, she finds herself at Paddington Station with nothing but the gown she's wearing ... and another woman's train ticket clutched in her hand. Now masquerading as the redoubtable "Lady Agatha," of Whyte Wedding Celebrations, Letty arrives in the backwater burg of Little Bidewell, where she is to arrange the nuptials of a young society bride.

Amid the dizzying whirl of pre-wedding festivities, nobody suspects Letty's secret ... except the sensual and aristocratic Sir Elliot March. A war hero who has forsworn love, Elliot senses something decidedly amiss about this outspoken young woman. Yet she awakens a passionate yearning he'd thought was lost to him forever. And soon a desperate masquerade embroils them both in a web of scandal and danger as Letty's past catches up with her - threatening their lives ... and a love without peer

An entertaining and different Victorian historical, not your run of the mill... Letty Potts, an actress, finds herself in the unusual role of impersonating Lady Agatha Whyte, a wedding planner who has run off to get married to a Frenchman. Picking up the reins (against her own better judgment) she enters into the role of wedding planner with gusto, orchestrating a high society wedding in the remote village of Little Bidewell, in Northumberland. This serves her purposes just fine, for she is in hiding from her ruthless ex-boyfriend and former partner in crime, Nick Sparkles. Having dabbled in a many a con game with Nick, she wants no more part in his schemes. Little does she know that while in Little Bidewell she meets the man of her dreams - Sir Elliot March. Tall, dark and handsome - he's also the local constable. Uh-oh. Will he be able to see past her beauty and vivacious personality and realize she's really a fake? What will happen when he learns the woman he's falling in love with is a liar who has hurt not only him, but the rest of Little Bidewell? A quirky and fun Connie Brockway romance that kept my interest until the very end.


The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory

Book Description:
Lady Lydia Bedford-Browne's small rebellion becomes the adventure of her life, when her coach crashes and leaves her stranded on the treacherous Dartmoor with the only other passenger: a rugged, disarmingly attractive Texan named Sam Cody. Sam's slow, melodic drawl and dark, hypnotic eyes tempt Lydia in ways she never thought possible. But dare the lord's daughter loosen her proper English restraints any further?

Foul luck has caused the dashing American millionaire to miss his own wedding to an unforgiving bride...for the second time! Worse still,he's stuck in the middle of nowhere with a straight-laced noble beauty. But there is an unmistakable spark of courage, sensuality, and wild passion beneath Liddy's prim exterior, daring Sam to pursue even further what his heart and his soul now desperately desire - even though both the Texan's and the lady's vastly different worlds will be rocked if they dare surrender to...The Indiscretion.

Another winner by Ivory with an endearing hero and heroine. Sam and Liddy make a great pair. The book is broken up into two parts. Part one takes place as Sam, a cowboy from Texas at the turn of the century and Liddy, the aristocratic daughter of a viscount, are lost together on the Dartmoor in England for four days - and nights. Much happens as they get to know one another intimately (the peeing sequence was a bit over the top, but I will overlook it since I loved the book overall).  Eventually they become lovers. Their time together is idyllic and sensually romantic. What a pleasure to see how they savor their time together, love mad with touching and coupling. As if they are honeymooners.  The love scenes are really sensational - especially their first.  But reality steps in when they are found and so begins Part Two of the book when Liddy finds out who Sam really is, and that he's not just some nobody cow poke from America. She's afraid to admit her feelings towards him and acknowledge him in public, when it's obvious he wants to court her and continue on with their relationship. She's afraid that their secret of what they did on the moor will get out.  What they had on the moor was special and unforgettable and she doesn't want it tainted by a scandal.  Obviously, she's not thinking clearly when he obviously wants to marry her, yet she keeps pushing him away!  I found the second part of the book sad, frustrating, heartbreaking - and hard to put down. Fortunately, there is a happy ending.  As a bonus, I was enamored of Liddy's prowess at archery which added a new dimension to her character.  Overall, a different romance with top notch leads and Ivory is easily one of my favorite romance authors now.  Very, very special.

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