Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Never Trust a Scoundrel

Never Trust a Scoundrel (Sons of Scandal, #1)Never Trust a Scoundrel by Gayle Callen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Our heroine arrives in London to discover that her mother--her mother!--has gambled away her hand in marriage to someone who doesn't want it. He is, however, in the market for a new mistress. This is why he's a scoundrel, and why the heroine should not trust him. However, they develop a wager of their own instead (even though she is very anti-gambling, because of the fact that her mother's gambling problem has impoverished and imperiled her): she'll let the scoundrel TRY to seduce her and if she can hold out for two weeks, she gets back an asset that will recover enough of her family's fortune for survival. Now, with that kind of mad loot on the line, I could probably hold out for far longer than two weeks, myself. Interestingly enough, the cover scene is actually in the book, so I'll let the Dear Reader guess how well the whole thing works out for the heroine. An average read for this kind of thing. Characters from The Viscount in Her Bedroom make an appearance in this book as well.

View all my reviews

Review: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady (Hellions of Halstead Hall, #3)How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hint to the hero: it's easier if you don't kiss her then call her a tramp when she's 19. Also, shocker, the hero has no title (but he is a spy, of course).

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Scandal of the Year

Scandal of the Year (Abandoned at the Altar, #2)Scandal of the Year by Laura Lee Guhrke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aidan Carr, the Duke (10 points!) of Trathen is a solid, upright, honorable citizen. Which is why it seems out of character for him to be named correspondent in a scandalous divorce case. Yet he cannot get the memories of his tryst with the notorious Julia, Lady Yardley, out of his mind. Except for the parts he can't remember at all. All of which combine to totally drive him crazy, even as he tries to move on with his life.

Julia, Lady Yardley, is relieved to finally be free of her brutal husband, even though she had to seduce and betray a friend to finally get her husband to divorce her. Yet her financial problems remain, and the only person who can help her appears to be the Duke of Trathen...

This book is a fascinating look into the relationship between two people who seem to be opposite: Aidan dearly wants to be married and have a family, while Julia has very good reason to be wary of entering any institution where someone can control her again. Aidan seeks respectability, while Julia has always been freewheeling. Yet Aidan has his reckless side (he loses control when he drinks, which is why he doesn't usually drink), and Julia is nowhere near as promiscuous as she presents herself.

I really enjoyed this book. Like the first in the series, I thought the ending was a little rushed and a little pat, but overall it is a solid, enjoyable romance, and one that really makes a modern reader appreciate the humane-ness of modern divorce law!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: When Beauty Tamed the Beast

When Beauty Tamed the BeastWhen Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part of James's series of Regency-set rewrites of fairy tales. I know you will be surprised to hear that this is the one of Beauty and the Beast. However, this Beauty (Linnet Thrynne) is not just beautiful, but she's also smart, and witty, and knows a thing or two about the power struggle between the sexes. And this comes in remarkably handy when a remarkable string of coincidences ruins her reputation, leaving her only with an arranged marriage to a Beastly, lame, and rumored-impotent doctor, who also happens to be the estranged heir to a duke (5 points!). And the result is just marvelous. The banter between the hero and the heroine makes the book before anything truly happens. And the conflict between the two--he's afraid to marry because he fears his disability and pain will either turn him to addiction or emotional abuse--is realistic and not easily solved. There are some heartwrenching scenes, but some great humor in this book as well (there are characters named Kibbles and Bitts! ). I know some people think James is hard to get into, but this book starts out funny, then gets sexy, then gets sad, and by then you're truly hooked. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: Mistress by Midnight

Mistress by Midnight (Courtesan Court Trilogy, #2)Mistress by Midnight by Maggie Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An earl (3 points!) attempts to get his former lover to marry him after his wife dies. Unfortunately too many years and tears have gone by for her to pick up with him again easily. And he gets this really, really stupid idea that blackmailing her to become his mistress will help his suit. The first half of the book shows the stupidity of this idea; the second half of the book improves, when he takes her (along with some younger guests) on a summer getaway to his Yorkshire property in a much better (and more direct) attempt to deal with the unresolved issues between them. The first half of this book probably only merits two stars but by the ending Robinson redeems it.

View all my reviews

Review: At Home: A Short History of Private Life

At Home: A Short History of Private LifeAt Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Purportedly a history of domestic life from the Victorian age on, this seems mostly an excuse for Bryson to ramble on about things that are interesting and possibly maybe tangentially related to his ostensible topic, houses. Like, did you know that there are only about 20 molecules of francium in the planet at one time? Or that modern garbage disposals make the perfect food for rats? Why does the chapter on the cellar have nothing to do with cellars and end up talking about the Eiffel Tower? Of course the history of the dining room leads inexorably to the Sepoy Mutiny. Of course! But it's all fascinating and Bryson has a way of making what you would think the dullest history come to life. I think this book is especially interesting for those who read and write historical fiction, as it does illuminate many semi-random aspects of what life was like in the past 200-300 years. And it certainly explains why so many 18th and 19th century clergyman also produced such astounding, breakthrough scholarship.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Chasing the Sun

Chasing the Sun (Blood Rose, #3)Chasing the Sun by Kaki Warner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Concludes the trilogy. Singer Daisy Etheridge is on the run (do you sense a theme here?); even though things are looking up for her professionally, she's shot a man who was trying to kidnap her toddler daughter and sell her to a brothel. So she seeks out her daughter's father's family for safety and money--not knowing that Jack Wilkins himself is back from Australia. And he doesn't recognize her, at least not until he looks at her breasts. But the Wilkins family is facing other perils--a horse flu, a played-out mine, and loans in the hands of their enemies. Can this couple, nay this whole extended family, find a happy resolution?

I really liked these books. I especially liked the way that Warner followed up with couples from the preceding books--not the delirious, full-of-sparkly-happy-perfection-and-1000-kids that some romance series portray, but couples growing and dealing with new problems together. I also liked the way that Warner dealt with the medical realities of the post-Civil-War era in New Mexico, including especially reproductive health. And the heroines all save themselves! Plus!

View all my reviews

Review: Open Country

Open Country (Blood Rose, #2)Open Country by Kaki Warner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second in the Blood Rose trilogy. Molly McFarlane is on the run with her dead sister's children, trying to protect them from a conspiracy of desperate ex-Confederates. After a train derailment, she enters into a sham marriage with the unconscious and apparently-dying inventor/mine owner Hank Wilkins, so she can get the railroad death benefits for widows. But when it appears Hank might survive, Molly--a former military nurse--makes sure he recovers--even though it will mean entering into a charade that is bound to disillusion him. Really good--even though the initial premise is far-fetched, Warner makes it work.

View all my reviews

Review: Pieces of Sky

Pieces of Sky (Blood Rose, #1)Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First in the Blood Rose trilogy of westerns/romances. Jessica Thornton is on the run. Pregnant and pursued, when a stagecoach accident lands her at the RosaRoja ranch, she and rancher Brady Wilkins slowly fall for each other. But Brady has problems of his own--the sadistic Ramirez brothers are on the loose again, and out for revenge. Riveting, and with a heroine who saves herself, always a plus.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: All Night with a Rogue

All Night with a Rogue (Lords of Vice, #1)All Night with a Rogue by Alexandra Hawkins

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I almost didn't finish this, then realized that if I don't finish it, I can't give it bad review. It was bad. The basic plot setup is that a woman asks her brother to seduce a virginal young woman because she's jealous. The "hero" does it, but only because he wants to anyway. How romantic.

The historical/social stuff was way off. This was supposedly a Regency concerning aristocrats. A man introduces himself to a marriageable young woman. Young woman accepts a gift of jewelry from a man. (he gave her a pearl necklace! No, really! He gives ALL his lovers a pearl necklaces, only he gives it to them by putting them into their vaginas first, because he's a sweetheart like that!). Everyone knows young woman is the mistress of this Marquess of Slutbag, but people still talk to her anyway. A mother pimps out her marriageable daughter to perverts not ONCE but TWICE, also expecting the hero to rescue her--but DOESN'T TELL HIM ANYTHING. WTF? I think maybe Hawkins could have pulled off something like this if she made her heroine of a lower class, or did anything to acknowledge the vileness of the mother, or at least stage something satisfactorily awful to happen to the villainess...but no. This was really not worth the time or the discounted price.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: The Admiral's Penniless Bride

The Admiral's Penniless BrideThe Admiral's Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sally Paul, a widowed lady's companion, is out of work and down to her last coin. Her knight in shining armor arrives in the form of Admiral Sir Charles Bright (R.N., ret'd.), who feels the need to marry immediately. He's bought a deceased Earl's orgy palace and needs a woman's touch to make it into a respectable home; also he needs a wife to keep his overbearing sisters away. Over time their marriage of convenience develops into something more...but Sally is keeping a secret that threatens more than their growing happiness.

The books starts off on a light tone --witty banter, the pornographic decor of the admiral's new estate--with underlying sad notes of the losses that Sally and the Admiral have experienced, and this counterpoint continues throughout the book. These characters are no longer young (in their 30s/40s) and their age and life experiences bring a mature note to this romance--like a fine wine, some things are better with age. Sally is a nurturer and the admiral, a kind man, mostly follows her lead. The story is set in 1816, during a postwar depression that modern readers can relate to. Jobs are hard to find. Sally not only hires those she can, but also makes friends who are able to stand by her in her time of need. She also nearly immediately sees that the retired admiral, an active man who, after all, bought a near-brothel so he could have a view of the sea, needs something important to do to occupy himself, and makes sure he has that. And he, in turn, is delighted to provide for his new wife, and eventually attempts to do something really important for her.

This book made me laugh and cry. I re-read my favorite parts immediately after finishing it. The history is accurate, or at very least close enough for me not to tell the difference (and I'm fussy that way). The plot develops organically from the characters and the situations. The only issue I had with it is that I would have liked to see more of Sally's viewpoint near the ending. But overall, I loved this book and you probably will too.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Taken by the Wicked Rake

Taken by the Wicked Rake (Historical)Taken by the Wicked Rake by Christine Merrill

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Last in the "Silk and Scandal" series, in which the longstanding Mystery is Solved, the Reader having already Determin'd the Villain several Books Before. Also, the hero's motivation...oh, well, that actually was also revealed several books before. We do get his point-of-view, by which we understand that the curse has bound him through horrible headaches. But, the woman who is "taken" (pun alert, as she is also kidnapped) by the Wicked Rake aka Stephano Beshaley aka Stephen Hebden aka Lord Salterton aka the Gypsy -- he wears many hats--although previously portrayed as quiet and agreeable, turns out to kick ass even more than her mate (who is really nowhere NEAR as dark as an Anne Stuart hero in this book, which was kind of disappointing). This conclusion didn't exactly fizzle--it was a reasonable enough romance on it's own--but the build-up was such that I expected a better book and more edgy hero. It's kind of like Stephen lost his mojo--I mean, headaches? Really?

On the other hand, Taken By the Wicked Rake does not suffer from series-related infodump syndrome (SRIS) as the plotline of the series is seamlessly integrated with the plot of this book; that is, the same situations that drive the series arc also drive each individual book. In that respect, the whole series was a thing of beauty. If anything, the flaws rest in a mystery too easily solved, and a not-quite-villainous-enough hero in the last book.

View all my reviews