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


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Eclectic selection! Nice!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Thanks Julia - happy 4th!

Terry said...

Love the Sharpes, but Gabe is my favorite. Look for the tiny horse on his cover.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Terry, good to know, thanks!

Patti (Caught in a FAB Romance) said...

Nice selection! I've been meaning to get to the Hellions series, thanks for the reminder ;)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Patti, I've been meaning to get to this series too but started with her earlier ones first.

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