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!



Penelope said...

I'm adding His Very Own Girl to my TBR pile. That one sounds awesome! Glad you got your power back. :^)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Penny, it's so refreshing to read a WWII romance - buy it now!

Joanne said...

Glad to see you made it OK through the storm. Isn't it wonderful to flip the light switch and light up a room without a flashlight or candle?!

Julia Barrett said...

You've got some good ones, some I've read. I love covers with the actress from As the World Turns - Can't remember her name but she's on The Lost Duke of Wyndham.

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