Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Black Duke's Prize by Suzanne Enoch

Book Description:
Exiled to London by her disreputable uncle, Katherine Ralston discovers her family estate has been sold to Nicholas Varon, the "Black Duke" of Sommesby, a professedly reformed rake who is taken with her charms.

Quickie Review:
I enjoyed this early Suzanne Enoch regency romance which I picked up because it was offered on kindle for next to nothing.  Suzanne Enoch has become a favorite, so I was curious to read one of her earliest books.  Although it seemed a bit tame (aka, no sex) and lightweight compared to her more recent ones, it was a cute romance.

Kate Ralston is taken under the wing of her godparents in London after her ruthless uncle, now her guardian, forces her to leave her family estate, which she owns by right. She's has lived there all her life and is not about to let anyone take it away from her.  He's trying to cheat her out of it so he can sell it to keep the money for himself. While in London, her godparents launch her onto Society and her kindly godfather goes behind her back to arrange a "buyer" for the property so it won't be lost for good and he can then arrange to get it back for Kate.  While experiencing the London Season she meets Nicholas, the Duke of Sommesby who finds her refreshing as much as beautiful. He's the usual tall dark and handsome rakish type who has sworn off marriage, but he changes his rakish ways and opinion of marriage once he meets Kate.  He also happens to be the buyer her godfather has arranged to buy her family estate, which causes all sorts of problems down the road.

As Kate and Nicholas fall in love, together they wind up foiling her uncle's plans.  She's not happy when she finds out that Nicholas is the one buying her home and a big misunderstanding takes place between them that nearly ruins her reputation amidst the ton.  If only her godfather had told her what he was up to!  This romance has the usual characters: the smitten alpha hero who manages to surprise the ton with his open admiration of Ms. Ralston, the ingenue heroine with an endearingly strong backbone, the kindly older godparents who love her as much as a real parent and lastly the villainous uncle who kidnaps her for greed and and gets his just desserts for it.   It all adds up to a happily ever after ending in which the hero comes to her rescue, vowing eternal love forever and a day.  Set amidst the splendor of Regency London this was a cute story - but personally, I prefer her current "spicier" efforts. ;)


When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

Book Description:
Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty . . . Naturally, she's betrothed to a Beast.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.

Linnet is not just any woman.

She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love—in just two weeks.

Yet Linnet has no idea of the danger posed to her own heart by a man who may never love her in return.

If she decides to be very wicked indeed . . . what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?

Quickie Review:
An original and well done rendition of the Beauty and the Beast tale. Piers, a brilliant doctor has a crippled leg and... umm... a crippled something else as well. He refuses to marry Linnet, the gorgeous redhead who has to come to his castle in Wales with his estranged father, a duke who made a series of mistakes in his past which terminated his marriage and caused the crippling injury to his son. Linnet is considered damaged goods amidst the ton in London, unfairly for she has done nothing to deserve it.  (This part of the story was a bit much and unbelievable, but it served it's purpose by making Linnet the victim of the impression that everyone thinks she is pregnant by a prince and hence needs to marry to save her reputation.)  Piers' father is also under the impression she is carrying a prince's child. A good thing, as far as he's concerned for he had given up hope his ducal line would continue due to his son's... umm... injury in his nether regions.

And so begins the story of how Linnet and Piers are thrown together, both refusing to marry yet both unaccountably attracted to the other which leads to some sexy scenes between them as they become playmates in every sense of the word.   It turns out that Piers has manufactured the tale that he cannot sire children in order to make his father feel guilty from his past behavior as an opium addict when Piers was a child.  I had trouble with Piers, I liked him yet I also disliked him for he was extremely gruff and I felt he should have forgiven his father much sooner.  Thankfully, Linnet's entry into this damaged family is like a breath of fresh air.  From her perspective she thinks they're all mad and the games and pretending they use against each other are ridiculous. They should all just get on with their lives and forgive and forget.  Not so easy.

This was much more than just a simple romance. I loved many of the details and developments in the storyline including a natural ocean pool (very cool) where Piers swims everyday for therapy and teaches Linnet how to swim.  The relationship between Piers divorced parents was a nice side story that I really enjoyed and the outbreak of Scarlet Fever and it's consequences to Linnet was compelling and kept my interest until the very end.  Overall an engrossing story and one of the better Eloisa James' romances I've read.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lord of Ice by Gaelen Foley

Book Description:
Damien Knight, the earl of Winterley, is proud, aloof, and tormented by memories of war. Though living in seclusion, he is named guardian to a fellow officer’s ward. Instead of the young homeless waif he was expecting, however, Miranda FitzHubert is a stunning, passionate beauty who invades his sanctuary and forces him back into society. Struggling to maintain honor and self-control, Damien now faces an even greater threat: desire. 

A bold, free spirit, Miranda has witnessed the darkest depths of Damien’s soul–and has seen his desperate need for love. But before she can thaw his unyielding heart, she must endure a terrifying nightmare of her own. . .

I really enjoyed this third installment in the Knight Miscellany Series.  Damien Knight, newly awarded the title of Earl of Winterley due to his heroics on the battlefield, is suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, fighting his inner demons and memories from the Napoleonic Wars.  His attacks occur when loud noises like fireworks occur and he imagines himself back on the battlefield, fighting amidst the cannons and gunshots.  He goes into a kind of trance and becomes Berserker-like, a human fighting machine, bent on killing his enemies, real or imaginary.

The last thing he needs while trying to find peace and quiet at his newly acquired country estate (a huge old rambling mansion in desperate need of repair and furniture - a real fixer upper) is to learn of the murder of one of his fellow soldiers.  Damien finds himself guardian to the soldier's niece, a beautiful young nineteen year old girl still in school.  Damien has no idea she's all grown up and upon visiting her to inform her that he will be her new guardian, the adventure begins.

Miranda dreams of being an actress.  The "school" where she has been living is horrible.  The head of it is a pedophile and treats the young girls abominably.  Miranda, the eldest, keeps watch for the younger girls, determined to save them from the lecherous headmaster.  But at night, she sneaks off to the local theatre and becomes a different person on the stage.  Thanks to her luscious curves and enchanting face and hair, she is a popular attraction, no one has any idea that she's really a virginal school girl.  Of course, who happens to catch her show?  Damien Knight.  Hoping to rest and relax and perhaps pick up a comely wench, he visits the theatre the night before he is due to visit his new ward.  He is mesmerized by the fair Miranda.  He wants her. Now.  Literally trapping her outside the stage door after the show, they have a few heady moments.  She takes his breath away.   Convinced she's a woman of the world, he tries his best to get her to spend the night with him.  Although she is sorely tempted, she runs away in the snow back to school.  Damien follows her in time to see her ambushed by thugs who try to kidnap her.  Berserker Damien takes over and he kills most of them, while the rest flee in terror of the monster with the ice blue eyes.  Miranda is a bit overwhelmed and frightened herself of how changed he became, running for her life back to school.

This first part of the book centers on how Miranda and Damien meet, for meet again they do the next morning at her school.  She has a lot of explaining to do.  He is determined to try and forget what happened the night before between them and treat her in the manner worthy of a guardian.  In other words - no more thoughts of jumping her bones.  Miranda, unfortunately has other ideas.  She's rapidly falling for her new guardian who is becoming more and more heroic in her eyes.  Handily dispatching the lecherous schoolmaster at her school (once he finds out the truth after Miranda tearfully tells him all about it) they head off to London so she can make her debut, which begins the 2nd part of the book.  While there, Miranda meets her cousin and despicable uncle.  The same uncle who killed his own brother (Miranda's former guardian) to get her fortune of fifty thousand pounds.  The same uncle who hired the thugs to kidnap her.  The same uncle who now wants her dead.

So, we've got a few things going on in this book.  Damien, afraid his bouts of madness will hurt her, tries to keep his distance, but their mutual attraction is much too hard to resist.   There's only so much a grown man can take when a young nubile female is constantly throwing herself at him.  Miranda is not willing to take no for an answer.  She wants him.  Now.  Meanwhile, he's trying to figure out who is trying to harm her, too many "accidents" have been happening to her to ignore.  As he starts to put two and two together can she help him during his dark periods?   Can he keep her safe from her ruthless uncle? There's a big finale with lots of blood and gore (reminded me of a movie from the '80's with Arnold Schwarzenegger) at his country estate, but all ends well.

This was an entertaining story.  It had it's sizzling moments and Miranda and Damien made a great couple, loved the chemistry between the two. But I felt the last twenty pages of the book were tacked on as an afterthought when Damien is recruited to the battlefield once again after Napoleon's escape from Elba.  Still, it served it's purpose for some angst and worry and a final resolution for his military career.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

About That Night by Julie James

Book Description:
Though Rylann Pierce tried to fight the sparks she felt for billionaire heir Kyle Rhodes the night they met, their sizzling chemistry was undeniable. But after being stood up on their first date, Rylann never expected to see him again. So when she finds herself face to face with Kyle in a courthouse nine years later, she’s stunned. More troubling to the beautiful Assistant U.S. Attorney is that she’s still wildly attracted to him.

Just released from prison, Kyle Rhodes isn’t thrilled to be the star witness in a high-profile criminal case — but when Rylann comes knocking at his door, he finds she may be the one lawyer he can’t say no to. Still as gorgeous and sharp-tongued as ever, she lays down the law: she doesn’t mix business with pleasure. But Kyle won’t give up on something he wants — and what he wants is the one woman he’s never forgotten..

Another winner from Julie James - I am in love with her writing! I loved, loved this story of Kyle Rhodes and Rylann Pierce. I laughed, I cried, I couldn't put it down. Great story, great chemistry, snappy dialogue and a legitimate quandary about their relationship. I didn't want it to end!

When I first heard that James' next book was going to be about Kyle Rhodes, twin brother to Jordan, the heroine from her last book, I was not overjoyed to hear it.  The fact that he was supposed to be a billionaire, good looking dead ringer for Sawyer on "Lost" (I've never even seen the show) did not wow me.  I thought this was going to be the story of how a spoiled trust fund baby playboy can change his roguish ways thanks to the love of a good woman who teaches him how to be a responsible grown up.  Yes, About That Night isn't too far off the mark from that scenario, but I was wrong to pre-judge.  In fact, my reaction was very similar to Rylann's the first time she meets Kyle  in a campus bar at the end of her first year of law school.  As he turns on his charm to get to know her better, she writes him off, wanting nothing to do with him, convinced he's only interested in a one night stand.  Yet, he manages to worm his way into her good graces and walks her home that night, lending her his flannel shirt when she gets soaking wet.   They share an unforgettable kiss good-bye and he asks her for a date for the following night.  Against her better judgment, she acquiesces. What happens on their date?  He stands her up, succeeding in fulfilling all her preconceived notions about privileged rich kid jerks.

On the surface Kyle Rhodes is the son of a billionaire who has had it easy most of his life.  He dates Victoria Secret models, drives an amazing sports car and is devilishly good looking.  Is it any wonder my initial reaction was just like Rylann's first impression of Kyle?  It just goes to show, you cannot always go by first impressions.   About That Night picks up where A Lot Like Love leaves off and James' goes back to the winning formula borrowed in part from Pride and Prejudice (a favorite of mine) in which you cannot judge a person based solely on the size of their bank account and, in the case of Kyle Rhodes, if they also happen to be an ex-con.  I'm over-simplifying the plot line, but that's basically what happens.

Fast forward several years later.  Rylann is now a successful U.S. attorney, newly arrived in Chicago from San Francisco after recently breaking up with her long time boyfriend.  What has Kyle Rhodes been doing?  He's been in jail.  Yes... jail.  Because he hacked into Twitter after a humiliating public break up with his Victoria Secret model girlfriend he broke all sorts of federal laws and was sentenced to jail time.  Although, he was only there for a few months, he technically is now an ex-con and is faced with an uphill battle of having anyone take him seriously.  He and Rylann's paths cross in court at the time of his release (thanks to some deal making in A Lot Like Love).  Of course, both remember "that night" and the sparks fly between them once again.  This time, they're captured on film together and a picture of Kyle looking at Rylann's boobs is plastered all over the newspapers.  Of course, they both deny that's where his eyes are directed.  I loved this scene when they meet again.  James' courtroom scenes are her forte, they are the BEST!  Rylann is cool, calm and collected on the outside, but inside Rylann is simmering.  Kyle is even more handsome than ever and Rylann has already forgiven him for the way he stood her up all those years ago.  It turns out on the same night as their date his mother was killed in a car accident.  I'd say that a pretty good excuse.

Once they meet again they are thrown together often because he agrees to help her as a witness for a case she's working on about a shady prison guard and the murder of an inmate at the same prison where Kyle was serving time.  I won't go into the details of the case, but it serves it's purpose in bringing Kyle and Rylann together again.  He wants to see more of her and this is a great excuse to get close to her.  They become friends again by working together, but their mutual attraction complicates things and creates an ethical dilemma for her.  He's her main witness in a case and it would be completely wrong for her to date him at the same time.  Plus, she's new to her Chicago office and he's an ex-con, the notorious Twitter Terrorist her office went after ruthlessly.  How can she possibly date him?  She'd come across as completely unprofessional and it could probably damage her career irrevocably-or so she thinks.  Once the murder case wraps up, that solves one part of her dilemma, but Rylann is still really hyper sensitive about what her new office's reaction will be about her dating him openly.  She's convinced that the fact he was in jail, no matter how briefly, will reflect badly on her.  They decide to see each other on the sly, but Kyle becomes dissatisfied with the arrangement and begins to feel like she's embarrassed to be seen with him.  You see, Kyle is trying to get past the Twitter debacle.  He has a great idea of how to start up his own Internet security business and wants to be taken seriously.  It irks him that he and Rylann can't go public with their relationship.  Does she care enough about him to risk her job?  This is the big dilemma in the novel.  What does he have to do to earn her approval?  And why should he have to earn her approval in the first place?  Shouldn't she accept him for who he is as a person and not his public persona as the Twitter Terrorist playboy billionaire heir?  I sympathized with Kyle more than Rylann, but she has her reasons.  She's the new girl in the office, her last boyfriend really did a number on her and as a woman in a man's world in the U.S. Attorney's office, she feels a need to be taken seriously.

This is where Julie James excels, she shows us both sides of the coin, but for the most part, I identified with Kyle more often than Rylann.  In fact, the whole book is really Kyle's story.  His fears, his insecurities, the poignant love for his sister and father after his mother's death and his desire to become successful without the help of his father.  Now add in his need to have Rylann's unconditional love.  We see Kyle come a long way from that guy Rylann first met in Urbana.  Kyle is smart but he has to be respected in the computer industry as well.  Even though he's a whiz when it comes to computers and the ins and outs of security he's facing an uphill battle to get over the Twitter episode and it's repercussions.  He has a great idea for his business and runs with it.  I loved how we see the whole thing come to fruition and how he launches his new company - it was great!  I was so happy for him, I won't spoil it all, but he cleverly manages to find a way to clean the slate and start over.  Yet, as much as things are looking great for his new company, there is still that nagging worry about Rylann and her preoccupation with her job and reputation.  Things come to a head between them, he doesn't want to sneak around anymore and she's going to have to make a choice.  Either it's him or her job.

I won't tell you what happens next, but I can assure you there is a happy ending. This is a winning contemporary romance, albeit it may seem dated twenty years from now, but it was a fun read.  Third in her U.S. Attorney's office series, I also enjoyed seeing some of the old favorites from the previous books, particularly Jack Pallas from Something About You, one of my all time favorites!   

Julie James is an auto-buy author for me.  I expect her books to have loads of humor and snappy fast paced dialogue which keep the stories moving forward all the way to the end.  They're tight and well written, no dull parts which make them quick reads as well.  I always identify with her characters and laugh and cry along with them.  Did I mention the sex scenes are hot as well?  *fans self*  You can't go wrong with her books!

This is a keeper!  Read it and enjoy!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley

Book Description:
Lady Eleanor Ramsay is the only one who knows the truth about Hart Mackenzie. Once his fiancee, she is the sole woman to whom he could ever pour out his heart.

Hart has it all-a dukedom, wealth, power, influence, whatever he desires. Every woman wants him--his seductive skills are legendary. But Hart has sacrificed much to keep his brothers safe, first from their brutal father, and then from the world. He's also suffered loss--his wife, his infant son, and the woman he loved with all his heart though he realized it too late.

Now, Eleanor has reappeared on Hart's doorstep, with scandalous nude photographs of Hart taken long ago. Intrigued by the challenge in her blue eyes--and aroused by her charming, no-nonsense determination--Hart wonders if his young love has come to ruin him . . . or save him.

Fourth of the Mackenzie Brothers series, this is Hart's story and I loved it!   Hart is the eldest brother, inheriting the dukedom from his father, who was a cruel and ruthless monster who left his mark on all the sons.  Hart, as the eldest took on the burden of protecting the rest from their father's notorious temper - particularly Ian, who stars in the first book of the series, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (which is a great book!)  To make it simple, Hart has overseen and controlled the entire family for many years now and is incapable of giving up his autonomy over the family.  Yet, he secretly yearns for the relaxed and carefree life he once knew when he was in love and engaged to Eleanor Ramsay - the woman he loved who got away.

Now it has been ten years since Eleanor broke their engagement.  Hart is older, though still very handsome and delectable.  A widower and a rising star who means to become prime minister soon, he wants Eleanor back in his life as a wife.  He'd never stopped caring for her and he needs a hostess to help with his political aspirations as well.  Just as lively and effervescent as ever, she takes his breath away.  Despite the fact she is impoverished and barely making ends meet with her father in Edinburgh, she returns to London to help Hart.  Not with his political career, but because she believes he's being blackmailed.  As it turns out, someone is sending Eleanor photographs that were taken of Hart as a young man - in the nude.  She wants to help solve the mystery of who has them and she's intent on getting the rest of them back - twenty in all that were taken at the time by his former mistress.  The thought that Eleanor enjoyed looking at the pictures of him (no matter how irresistible) when they were taken by his mistress did strike me as strange though - I would have been insanely jealous!

The descriptions and imagery of these photographs are very sexy and - beautiful.  Quite droolworthy.  It's all very tasteful but incredibly sensual. The idea of the gorgeous, young and handsome Hart in his kilt with nothing else on - and then even less?  You get the idea...  Eleanor is so daring and original, she's up for anything and once things resume romantically, she decides to take more photos of Hart in the buff to update her growing collection.  Their photo sessions are loaded with eroticism.  He's such a ham!  I loved reading about how she and Hart become closer and closer - more and more like old times, though it's still not a given she will take him back.  They had once been lovers, anticipating their wedding day when they were engaged, but things went wrong and Eleanor broke it off, thanks to Hart's long time mistress who decided to let Eleanor in on a few secrets about Hart.  I enjoyed his flashbacks and what happened between them and the day she returned his ring.  It made me even more sympathetic towards Hart, who in the past books comes across as cold and aloof.  Entirely much too forbidding, but I love his type of hero, so my attitude was "bring it on!"  The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  This older Hart has passion and feeling, I really loved him and it was a very satisfying ending to see how his life turned around so unexpectedly giving him the chance to put in perspective what it takes to make one happy.

I loved Eleanor as well and thought she was great for him.  Though as the story develops and it's clear they are going to get back together, I wasn't crazy about the quasi-bondage scene between them and it left me a bit confused about why he didn't want her to know everything about him. Still, I loved them together as a couple, she's so good at dealing with him and it's obvious they never stopped loving one another.   She's smart and witty, proud, beautiful, she's a great heroine.  I think she's the perfect match for him and she will be a perfect duchess as well.  Everyone loves her too.  They're all so happy to see she's back in the Mackenzie fold, yet all is not perfect in the Mackenzie world.  Someone is trying to kill Hart and it's up to Ian to help.  They have a sort of a telepathic bond between each other in which they can tell when the other is in trouble or lost.   I loved how we learn more about their relationship as brothers, plus it was great seeing so much of Ian and Beth from the first book!  Glimpses of the rest of the large family as well!

Overall, this was a great story, plus I loved the cover and Hart is just as I imagined on it - handsome with short reddish brown hair - he looks great!  The older Hart is even sexier than the younger one!  Yummmm.  

I highly recommend!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

Book Description:
Welcome to Spindle Cove, where the ladies with delicate constitutions come for the sea air, and men in their prime are... nowhere to be found. Or are they?

Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men; it is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn't belong here. So far as he can tell, there's nothing in this place but spinsters... and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It's a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram's makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle... but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?

I simply loved this story of how genteel, Susanna Finch, used to running things in her little seaside town of Spindle Cove comes up against (literally) Bram, aka Victor Bramwell, a no-nonsense career army officer bent on returning to his regiment after suffering a near crippling knee injury.  He has a month to organize a local militia and whip them into shape for a big military review for the top brass.  Yet the only men in town aren't exactly the military type and he's got his work cut out for him.  Susanna doesn't like the idea of Bram and his men stirring up the delicate sensibilities of the women in town.  Or rather, she doesn't like the way he's stirring up her own sensibilities, much less all sorts of other things inside her.  From the first moment they meet sparks fly and passion ignites.  As much as they are on opposite sides of the equation when it comes to his militia and her girls, the two of them learn to give in and compromise.  Of course, they fall in love along the way and I adored reading about how it all comes about!

Aside from the fun storyline that kept me interested throughout the entire book, I loved the humor and silliness during some parts.  Spindle Cove is a seaside resort that Susanna has set up as a haven for awkward young women and there are virtually no men around, except for the kind that are entirely non-threatening to her women of delicate dispositions.   Yet when Bram and his ne'er do well cousin, Colin and Corporal Thorne come to town, what's the first thing on their mind?  Sheep! (you'll see what I mean!)  It's so silly and funny how all these sheep throw Susanna and Bram together!  Plus, it's so cute how even a little lamb winds up becoming a pet to Bram..  Susanna names him "Dinner."  Ha-ha! I loved it!  The side stories in the book were good too.  A couple of surprises caught me off guard as well, not what I was expecting!

Not only is there plenty of humor and surprises, but the sensual scenes were well done too!  Exciting and provocative, maybe a bit on the unrealistic side, but quite hot and earned Bram a spot on my swoonworthy hero list.  (I still think underwater sex is over-rated though.)  I was completely caught up in the love story between Susanna and Bram.  I was rooting for them and loved their interaction with one another.  Great chemistry.  But of course, they have a fundamental problem.  He wants to go back to the army because his pride tells him he must to compensate for his injured leg, but she doesn't want him to abandon her and leave Spindle Cove.  Yet despite the knowledge he'll most likely leave, she can't stop being with him.  She's fallen for him and it's fun!  She knows it's wrong, unmarried women just don't go out and have passionate affairs with army officers (in the middle of the village green no less!) yet I thought her struggle was kind of realistic.  Once you start, it's hard to stop when you're in love, all you want to do is be with that person no matter what.  They're having this clandestine love affair and it's passionate and wonderful, but where is it going to go - what's going to happen after his month is up and the big military review takes place? Will he change his mind about going or not?  He can't just love her and leave her, can he?  I had to keep reading to find out, in fact I really found it hard to put this book down!

To sum it up, I loved this book.  A sexy, humorous romance with an original plot that includes a likable hero and heroine, a quirky village and it's citizens and a poignant and revealing side story involving Susanna's medical background as a teen and her current relationship with her father that brings it all together at the end.  A great start to a new series which I'm eager to continue with from this new to me author.  This book had it all, I highly recommend it!


To Scotland, With Love by Karen Hawkins

Book Description:
In this saucy battle of the sexes, bestseller Karen Hawkins pits a hard-headed Scottish lord with an unusual family curse against a headstrong heiress who has a solution for every problem...except her own wayward heart.

When Lord Gregor MacLean learns his childhood friend, Venetia Oglivie, has been abducted by a fortune hunter, he rides off to Scotland in hot - and very annoyed - pursuit. Venetia's soft heart has gotten her in major trouble this time: if he doesn't rescue her swiftly, the scandal will ostracize the provocative wench! 

The only sensible member of her family, Venetia is sure she can fix any problem, even this one. So when an irate Gregor catches up with her, arrogantly expecting a hero's welcome, the sparks between them begin to fly. Then an unexpected snowstorm traps them at an inn, and Gregor discovers his feelings for the lovely Venetia are far warmer than he realized - fiery enough to burn down the inn! Now if he can only convince Venetia that his motive for marriage isn't duty... but desire.

Quickie Review:
Continuing on with the 2nd book in the MacLean Curse series, this was a cute story of a series of mishaps that occur when the headstrong Venetia Ogilvie is nearly ruined when she embarks on a journey with a hapless suitor who she thinks is taking her to her grandmother's house in Scotland.  Instead, he has tricked her and intends to elope with her to Gretna Green.  Nearly bankrupt, he's after her money, and he also seems to think she'll enjoy traveling to Italy after the wedding where he can write his book and she can do laundry!  Hah!  I laughed aloud at this one!  Fortunately, her best friend, Gregor MacLean will have none of it!  Cursed with the ability to create massive snowstorms when he loses his temper, he unleashes a whopper in April and chases the couple on horseback to Scotland.  Once he catches up with them at a roadside inn, he poses as their guardian, explaining to the other guests that they are brother and sister, in order to avoid a scandal and the ruination of Venetia.  He is furious with Venetia for being so gullible as to run off in the first place and thus the two of them are barely on speaking terms the entire time at the inn.  It doesn't help that they are all snowbound (thanks to Gregor's temper tantrum) and he is now acting all possessive and domineering, convinced she should marry him to avoid scandal.  Without much ceremony he tells her that they should get married.  Mad that his abrupt proposal is so unromantic, she refuses him and then succeeds in getting jealous when the other female guests make a play for him!  For most of the time, these two just can't seem to see what's right in front of them!  It's so obvious they've been in love with each other for years, yet neither one of them has even considered the idea!  It drove me nuts that it took Venetia and Gregor so long to figure this out! She's over thirty and he's nearly 40? What took them so long???

Still, besides this, there were many amusing moments involving the other guests at the inn.  Venetia, for a woman who's nearly 30 years old, came across as much too naive and ingenue like.  She enjoys helping others and manages to make a mess of things because she's not exactly very good at judging people's characters.  Sort of like an Emma complex.  Gregor was the usual, handsome Scot, forever elegant and self assured.  I enjoyed the way he put everyone in their place, particularly Venetia's wannabe bridegroom who was probably the funniest part of the whole book.  Still, why did he wait so long to realize he and Venetia were meant for one another?  Lightning struck when he realized she could have been roped into marrying someone else!  But even after he nips it in the bud and foils the attempted elopement he still doesn't realize the truth staring him in the face!  Same thing with her - or else she was just too afraid to admit her real feelings.  Despite a few passionate kisses, they were both forever under the impression they were better off friends!  A convenient excuse to avoid going out on a limb and saying "I love you."  What a relief by the time they finally do come to their senses!

Overall, a nice bit of fluff, but nothing very memorable, still I will continue with the series to see what's in store for the rest of Gregor's brothers.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Not Quite a Lady by Loretta Chase

Book Description:
Darius Carsington is a spectacularly handsome rake with a rare intelligence and no heart, a man who divides his time between bedding loose-moraled women and writing scholarly papers. He finds society's “perfect darlings”....exceedingly boring. But there’s something intriguing, and not quite perfect, about faultless Lady Charlotte Hayward. He senses a crack under her polished surface, and finding it is a temptation he can’t resist.

Lady Charlotte is so beautiful, charming, and gracious that no one has noticed what an expert she is at Not Getting Married. Early on, she learned a painful lesson about trust....and temptation. In the years since, she’s devoted her life to all she ought to be-and she’s not about to let a man like Carsington entice her to do everything she shouldn’t.

But the laws of attraction can easily overpower the rules of manners and morals, and sometimes even the best-behaved girl has to follow her instincts, even if it means risking it all.

I really liked this book, despite the sad and poignant nature of the plotline. Loretta Chase is one of my favorite romance authors and this was a rough story line to handle, yet she does it well with just the right amount of sensitivity without it becoming too maudlin.  Not Quite a Lady addresses a serious issue, the strict standards put on women during this period when virginity was considered their single most important asset.  Lady Charlotte Hayward is a fallen woman - though no one knows it.  Ruined ten years earlier at the age of sixteen by a rakish soldier who died shortly after, she finds herself pregnant.  She must give the baby up, keeping the entire matter a secret to avoid scandal.  To make up for her past indiscretion, she has become a paragon, the perfect lady, but one who has resigned herself to the fact that she will never marry, for how could she ever explain the fact she is not a virgin on her wedding night? 

Over the past ten years, Charlotte has perfected the art of avoiding marriage, without making it look deliberate.  Although she has a sizable dowry and is beautiful as well, she has managed to make herself boring and unappealing to every suitor that has come her way.  But the time has come when she's going to have to marry.  Her father insists she marry and is not taking no for an answer.

Now, about this same time, Darius Carsington moves into the neighborhood to take over a crumbling estate his father has given him.  Darius, a younger son, must prove to his father that he is capable of turning a profit on the neglected farm and buildings - a near impossible feat.  He and Charlotte cross paths, literally tripping over each other, and he immediately is struck by something about her.  He mistakes her for a matron or widow at first, almost as if he can tell she is not a virgin?  Yet, once he finds out she is the unmarried daughter of his neighbor he puts the notion aside, yet something still keeps nagging at him.  Charlotte is drawn to Darius, although she can't stand him at first.  He is obnoxious to her, yet she can't stop the beating and fluttering of her heart when he is nearby.  It's obvious what's going on between them.  Yet, due to her past she will not consider him as a suitor - or anyone else for that matter.  Darius, who is a believer in logic, cannot see the logic in her behavior and he begins to hunt her down and get to the bottom of what's bothering her.  Of course, this only throws them together more and more as she and her stepmother help him redecorate his estate.

In addition to having Darius sniffing around, the story takes a nod from Charles Dickens.  A blond headed ten year old boy is an apprentice that is working on the house.  As the story develops we realize he is Charlotte's long lost son whom she gave away when he was born.  Pip, as he is known as, is an orphan who was put in a work house after his adoptive parents died.  Shades of Oliver Twist.  Luckily, Darius takes an interest in him and the plot line becomes more poignant when Charlotte realizes who he is.  My heart went out to her and her predicament.  Acknowledge him as her own and face scandal and ostracism all her life, or try to forget him?  How can any mother make this decision?  Charlotte has some hard truths to reveal to everyone - her father, whom she loves dearly, Darius, who she has come to love - and young Pip as well.  What will he do when he realizes the beautiful sad lady is his real mother?  What will the world think?  What will Darius think?

Overall, I believe Chase handled Charlotte's dilemma well with all it's various repercussions, though it was a tad sugar coated. She managed to cover the unfairness and double standards towards women back in the day and turned it around by adding a bit of humor and romance with a happy and satisfying outcome.  I did have some issues with the way Darius pursued Charlotte so relentlessly at first, intent on seduction, but he won me over in the end with his total acceptance of Charlotte's situation and how he came to her rescue - her knight in shining armor.  I found I was sympathetic towards everyone involved in this story.  I particularly liked Charlotte's father and stepmother.  

This wasn't my favorite of the series, but it was a nice outcome for Darius who never quite felt he had the respect or good opinion he deserved from his father.  I really loved the way things turned out for him and especially the moment when he learns of his father's approval.   I'm really enjoying reading about the many depths and layers within the Carsington family and am now eager to read the final book in the series.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood

Book Description:
In the feuding English court, gentle Lady Madelyne suffered the cruel whims of her ruthless brother, Baron Louddon. Then, in vengeance for a bitter crime, Baron Duncan of Wexton - the Wolf - unleashed his warriors against Louddon's main.  Exquisite Madelyne was the prize he captured...but when he gazed upon the proud beauty, he pledged to protect her with his life.  In his rough-hewn castle, Duncan proved true to his honor. But when at last their noble passion conquered them both, she surrendered with all her soul. Now, for love, Madelyne would stand bravely as her Lord, the powerful Wolf who fought for..."Honor's Splendour."

Another Julie Garwood medieval, and alas, my last.  I think I've read all her medievals now.  As far as I'm concerned, Julie Garwood is the gold standard when it comes to medieval romances.  No one comes close to capturing her style that often involves virginal, endearing and slightly ditzy heroines who meet their alpha male heroes that are larger than life.  Two opposites must comes to terms with one another.  The stories are laced with screwball humor and sensually romantic love scenes that make them memorable and special.  The plotlines are vaguely similar, a certain set of events bring the two together, the heroine often is an outsider who must learn to live among her new husband/lover/captor's people while fighting whatever outside force is trying to keep them apart.  My favorite of them is The Bride, but Honor's Splendour was very good as well,  It has has some similarities to The Bride, only this tale is a bit darker, for the heroine.  Madelyne has a sad past of abuse.  Yet, Baron Duncan Wexton, who takes her captive to his castle in England, protects her and keeps her safe while readying his soldiers for the inevitable battle against her sadistic half-brother, Baron Louddon and possibly the King of England.
The first meeting between Duncan and Madelyne is dramatic.  Right off the bat, the reader learns that not only is Madelyne beautiful, but her kindness often overrules common sense.  Braving her brother's wrath, she does what she can to save Duncan when she believes he is left naked to freeze to death by her brother.  Unknown to Madelyne, Duncan was never in any danger.  His men were at the ready, waiting for his signal to invade the keep and Duncan handily destroys her brother's castle.  Unfortunately, the cowardly Baron Louddon got away.  Duncan takes Madelyne hostage, prepared to use her as a bargaining chip.  Little does he know that Madelyne is glad to be taken away from her brother, who is a sadistic bastard who took joy in beating her, as well as an unfulfilled incestuous attraction to her.  

To describe Duncan, one must use superlatives.  The biggest, the best, the cleverest, the greatest and the strongest English soldier in the kingdom.  In addition he is the most handsome, the best lover, the most desired with the ladies.   No one can compare to Duncan.  Yet, he doesn't have everything.  He has no woman in his life... until he meets the infuriating Madelyne.  Her sweetness and naivete confounds him - and his men.   Considered the best fighters in the kingdom, his men are stymied by Madelyne, who blithely goes about her business around the castle, obliviously wreaking havoc everywhere she goes.  She and Duncan have an instant attraction to one another, yet she is unwilling to admit it.  Madelyne is taken with fever when he first brings her back to his keep.  While insensible, she mistakes him as Odysseus, of Homer's Odyssey (her favorite tale and a running theme throughout the whole book).  He spends the night with her, warming her in her bed and does so from then on - but she's unaware of it!  Every night he climbs into bed with her after she's asleep.  While curled up next to him she has no idea (I told you she was a bit of a ditz!) Their courtship is cute and endearing.  As Duncan's stern facade melts, she worms her way into his heart.  Not only does she win Duncan over, but everyone else at the castle as well, including his sister who had been raped at the instigation of her brother, Louddon.    

Eventually, Duncan can wait no longer.  He must bed Madelyne as a wife.  Luckily a priest is at hand to do the job.  They marry, and so begins their nights of sensual bliss - as only Julie Garwood can do.  Yet there is still the prickly problem of her brother and uh oh - all is not as it seems when it comes to their marriage.  Was it legal?  The plot picks up and gets more complicated when they all must go to London to answer the summons of the king (who may or may not be having a sexual relationship with Madelyn's craven brother.)  Louddon has told the King that Duncan destroyed his keep unprovoked and wants him punished.  Will Louddon get his way?  Will Duncan convince the king that Louddon is lying through his teeth?  Will the king listen to what Madelyne has to say - for she is the only witness that can attest to what really happened the night Duncan destroyed her brother's keep.  All kinds of truths are revealed as Madelyne prepares for her meeting with the king!

I really enjoyed Honor's Splendour, though I found it to be a trifle uneven.  It had it's entertaining and oh-so-sexy moments, but it was a bit dull in some parts as well.   Overall, though, if you like strong alpha heroes who are putty in the hands of their winsome, ingenuous brides, you'll like this.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Untie My Heart by Judith Ivory

Book Description:
Stuart Aysgarth, the new Viscount Mount Villiars, doesn't know he's playing with fire when he inadvertently runs afoul of Emma Hotchkiss. True, the exquisite Yorkshire lady is a mere sheep farmer, but she also guards a most colorful past that makes her only more appealing to the handsome, haunted lord. Emma has come to him seeking justice - and Stuart is determined that she will not leave until she has shared her secrets ... and his bed.  Her clever revenge scheme "must" fail in the face of his soft words and tender caress - and then he turns the tables on his bewitching adversary, seducing her into a daring deception of his own. 

I loved this romance!  The entire build up, execution and plotline was fantastic!

Set during Victorian times, I was enthralled by this crazy but oh-so-entertaining story!  Beautiful and widowed Yorkshire sheep farmer, Emma Hotchkiss's lamb is killed on the road by a coach going by that didn't even bother to stop!  Said coach is owned by the new Viscount Mount Villiars, newly arrived to the village where he intends to set up residence in his crumbling castle that is in much need of repair. Emma is outraged and wants the fifty pounds owed her for the loss of her lamb.  After a few unsuccessful attempts with his "man of business" she is convinced the new viscount is a complete jerk and decides to teach him a lesson.

She turns to forgery.  Yes... forgery.

As it turns out, in a former life, Emma was somewhat of a con artist with her husband and they were quite adept at playing the game of swindling money out of unsuspecting rubes.  She knows all about accounting and doctoring books and moving money from accounts, etc. and she figures she can do this with the viscount's accounts to get her fifty pounds and he'll never know!  She cleverly cooks up a scheme, poses as a temporary secretary for a complicated loan the Viscount has arranged with a nearby bank and - voila!  Easy - or so she thinks.  Except, Emma didn't count on what it would be like to actually meet the Viscount in person.  Oh. My. God.
The build up and anticipation when Stuart, the new Viscount and Emma meet for the first time at the bank is one of the best I've ever read.  It had me on tenterhooks, I was blown away by this first introduction to our hero.  Stuart's description while standing in the doorway of the bank with the swirling snow flurries behind him was mesmerizing.  His height, his vicuna and chinchilla coat, his top hat.  Sexy, slow, provocative, I was enraptured.   The first scene at the bank - everything - Emma dropping her pen, bumping heads, then searching under the table, their eyes meeting - a sexual connection - be still my heart!  Every moment between them was scintillating.  I loved it!

And it gets better!

Stuart is mesmerized by Emma and had no idea who she really is.  He thinks she's some curvy young secretary who'd love to have a fling with him.  He has no idea she's the annoying widow Hotchkiss that keeps plaguing him with letters and law suits and what have you.  Still, things do not turn out the way Emma's financial scheme is planned and once Stuart figures out the way of things, he turns the tables on Emma.  Again, be still my heart.  I was stunned - blown away by the surprise of what he does to her!  Some readers may take umbrage over this, but I thought it was very sexy.  *fans self*

I won't give away any more spoilers but the title of the book Untie My Heart becomes key to these two who have amazing chemistry together once they get past a few initial tie ups.  The story of how they pair up to swindle Stuart's uncle (who is making life difficult for Stuart, financially) and get him to leave the country - to Wyoming, no less, is great.  The whole scheme is entertaining and I kept thinking this would make a great movie!! Emma is terrific at the game and over the course of a few weeks while planning everything she and Stuart fall madly in love.  Of course, neither one of them is willing to verbalize this just yet, but oh, this was a grand book!

I read this in one day, reading it in the middle of the night, I could barely put it down. This book had a few big surprises which were very much on the steamy side. I loved Stuart, her viscount - and his coat.  A great story with snappy dialogue that sizzles, both outfoxing the other.  Delightful and magical, but one scratch my head moment over Emma's decision at the end which kept me from giving it a 5/5 rating.  Still, this is a keeper for me!


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Timeless by Gail Carriger

Book Description:
Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?

Quickie Review:
This has been a fun ride getting to know Alexia Tarabotti and her handsome, werewolf husband, Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey.  Carriger's whimsical and clever humor in this series shall be missed!  This last installment of the Parasol Protectorate series begins approximately two years from where the last book left off with Alexia giving birth to her daughter Prudence and the alarming cliffhanger that showed the baby exhibiting signs that she was capable of taking on the characteristics of whomever she touched, whether vampire or werewolf.

Now an adorable toddler who keeps everyone on their toes, Prudence is a handful.  Only Alexia's touch prevents Prudence from turning into a little fur ball baby werewolf or a speedy vampire with supernatural strength.  This is, of course, what happens in case she accidentally touches her Papa or Lord Akeldama!  Still living in Lord Akeldama's closet next door to give the appearance of having the head vampire raise their daughter, Alexia and Conall have settled the Pack into London.  Soon they are summoned by an ancient Queen of the Vampires, who resides in Alexandria, Egypt.  She has summoned Alexia to bring Prudence to her for a reason that is revealed later on.  They basically cannot refuse to go.  They all head off to Egypt with Ivy and Tunstell (who have twins and an ever so efficient nursemaid) as well as their acting troupe that will perform in Egypt!  Carriger's usual ingenious humor and shenanigans take place as well as many revelations about Alexia's father and butler Floote's role in his past. 

The shipboard journey to Egypt is full of momentous mishaps, some of which are hilarious.  I particularly loved it when Prudence wound up being a werewolf puppy in a pink tulle dress, running around helter skelter!  The Egyptian storyline itself harkened back to Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson, I kept wondering if they'd make a cameo in the book!  Alas, no.  Still, it was a fitting homage for the final book in the series, whether intentional or not.  The plot line itself was a bit murky and complex,  but the aftermath of a desert battle in a hot air balloon is enough to make one's heart stop beating - but not for long.  Minor angst for a short time, I'm glad to say.  Frankly, the whole Plague plot line confused me, but I didn't mind too much for most of their time in Egypt was amusing or exciting.  Between the Queen herself and her macabre situation, the kidnapping of one of the twins and wondering about the identity of the mysterious hot air balloon man, it didn't matter if I knew exactly what was going on or not, it was a fun read!

My favorite part of the book, though, was back in London while Alexia and her family were in Egypt.  I loved the entire Biffy and Professor Lyall romantic storyline, which I anticipated from the last book.  They are sweet together and it was well done and fulfilled all my hopes and dreams! *grin* I also loved the dynamics of the battles between Lyall and Lady Kingair, who has a conniption once she finds out about Lyall's involvement in getting rid of the previous alpha to their pack.  You can thank Alexia's awful sister for starting that whole thing! 

I marvel over the entire world of the Parasol Protectorate and will remember many of these characters fondly.  I do hope we'll see a bit more of these characters in the future, I'd love to know more about Lord Akeldama's background and how he first became a vampire.  I'd also like to see how Biffy fares as the new beta of the pack!  I'd also like to know more about Major Channing Channing!  Ah well, who knows?  Whether we do or not, this is a memorable and entertaining series and I highly recommend it if you are into historically witty paranormals with some romance and steampunk thrown in to keep them interesting!  Miss Carriger has an amazing imagination, coupled with a wicked sense of humor, a great combination.  She is an auto buy for me and I am eager to read whatever she comes up with next!


Series Overall:  4/5
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