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.   



Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I adore your quickie reviews! Always get some intriguing recs.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Thanks Julia!

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