Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sinful Surrender


Millicent 'Missy' Armstrong is entering her third London Season, but not for lack of suitors. Since her debut three years ago, Missy has received twenty marriage proposals. But she is interested in only one man - her brother's best friend, James Rutherford. As a child, Missy looked up to James. As a grown up, her admiration has blossomed into the longings of a beautiful, sensuous woman - and she won't rest until James admits his love - and desire - for her.

James Rutherford rues the day he let his physical weaknesses get the better of him by kissing Missy. His best friend has made it clear that Missy is off limits, and though he's avoided her for three years, he hasn't forgotten the feel of her soft lips pressed against his--and it seems neither has she. For no matter how much James tries to discourage Missy, he keeps winding up in her arms, sharing heated caresses that promise the most delirious pleasure.

Wonderful debut!  I can't wait for the next book!

Wow, I really enjoyed this one! Where do I start... Firstly, this is a story of "forbidden fruit" which always makes for an interesting plot, creating a lot of tension, passion, and conflict. Ms. Kendall tackled all this with gusto, creating characters and a story line that just flowed beautifully over the pages (err, Kindle clicks). There were a lot of plot twists and turns, but never once did I feel something was tossed in just to create conflict, nor did the story bog down with too much predictability. While not as light-hearted, witty or frivolous as most other books in my cache, it was an easy, pleasant read, with well developed characters that you really did grow to care about over the course of the book - Missy matures, growing a woman's heart, while James battles with his lust, honor, and loyalty. Even the secondary characters had a nice sheen of polish.

Suprisingly, I liked the fact that there was no real "bad guy" in this story. And while there was some closure with Lady Victoria's subplot, I was kinda waiting for James to reveal a tad more to the reader in conversation with Missy, but that didn't happen. Its ok, I will live. :)

All together, this excellent debut wraps up neatly with an epilogue (yay!) that gives us a few hints of what may be to come in Kendall's next book, and possibly the one after that. I'm hoping for an update on James and Missy in addition to Thomas's story in A Taste of a Desire coming out in January 2011.

My rating: 9 – Loved it!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Devil in Winter


Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage!

Sebastian's reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden's good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.

But Evie's proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine's callously discarded broken hearts -- which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions...or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.

One of my all-time favorites!

My Review coming soon!

My rating:  10 – Absolutely LOVED it!

The 4 book series in order:

           

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Captive of Sin


He pledged his honor to keep her safe . . .

Returning home to Cornwall after an unspeakable tragedy, Sir Gideon Trevithick comes upon a defiant beauty in danger and vows to protect her whatever the cost. He's dismayed to discover that she's none other than Lady Charis Weston, England's wealthiest heiress—and that the only way to save her from the violent stepbrothers determined to steal her fortune is to wed her himself! Now Gideon must hide the dark secrets of his life from the bride he desires more with every heartbeat.

She promised to show him how to love—and desire—again . . .

Charis has heard all about Gideon, the dangerously handsome hero with the mysterious past. She's grateful for his help but utterly unwilling to endure a marriage of convenience—especially to a man whose touch leaves her breathless. Desperate to drive him mad with passion, she would do anything to make Gideon lose control—and fall captive to irresistible, undeniable sin.

Dark romance, tortured hero, excellent original story

While I typically prefer romances to be light, charming and witty, I do occasionally like a good dark romance. Dark memories, tragic pasts and a tortured soul make up this excellent, original story from Anna Campbell.

When Gideon first finds Charis, she has been bruised and beaten by her two stepbrothers who are eager to wed her off in an arrangement to gain her fortune. Charis reluctantly accepts help and eventually sanctuary from Gideon, but with the distance he keeps from her... does it enforce the fact that he is just trying to help her? As Charis' trust builds, so does her gratitude, and her hero worship for Gideon sends him into panic-mode. But as the plot thickens, it becomes clear to Gideon that the best protection he can offer Charis is his name, so they wed and now things get more interesting. Gideon wants a marriage in name only, believing that his growing desire for Charis will forever be blocked by his afflictions from torture in India. But Charis is a strong woman who must show him that there is life after tragedy.

Gideon's situation is very unique, compelling and wonderfully written. I did, however, get a little frustrated with his selfless attitude to the point where it just made him sound selfish. And yet, as much as Gideon wanted Charis to stay in his life, he was so determined to push her away. If you want something or someone badly enough, don't you at least try? And while anyone in Charis' situation would show gratitude (verbally) to their rescuer, Gideon refused to accept it on every occasion. It really got annoying that he couldn't just say "you're welcome" and move on. Instead, his rejection fueled biting words towards Charis in an effort to push her away even more. Charis eventually helps break down the granite walls surrounding Gideon's heart but the ultimate test for Gideon comes when Charis' stepbrothers turn the tables, leaving Charis to be Gideon's only hope for rescue.

The story wraps up neatly... almost too neatly, really, complete with a big red bow. And the rushed ending probably could have been eased a bit with a nice epilogue. Akash was a mysterious character, even more so when he disappeared for half the book. And aside from the use of a few carriages and specific clothing items, there was little reference to the actual time (era) of this story. Personally, I enjoy a bit more detail in that regard.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Ms. Campbell has a knack for beautifully creating tortured heroes and heroines and her stories are original and so different than typical regencies/historical romance. While I still think my personal favorite is Tempt the Devil, I will not hesitate one moment to pick up her next release My Reckless Surrender in May.

My rating: 7 – I really enjoyed it

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How to Marry a Marquis


She's trying to follow the rules...

When Elizabeth Hotchkiss stumbles upon a copy of How to Marry a Marquis in her employer's library, she's convinced someone is playing a cruel joke. With three younger siblings to support, she knows she has to marry for money, but who might have guessed how desperate she's become? A guidebook to seduction might be just the thing she needs—and what harm could there be in taking a little peek?

...But he's making his own...

James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale, has been summoned to rescue his aunt from a blackmailer, a task that requires him to pose as the new estate manager, and his primary suspect is his aunt's companion, Elizabeth. Intrigued by the alluring young woman with the curious little rulebook, he gallantly offers to help her find a husband... by letting her practice her wiles on him. But when practice becomes all too perfect, James decides that there is only one rule worth following—that Elizabeth marry her marquis.

Charming story with one of the best endings ever...

I must say that this is my absolute favorite Julia Quinn book! This is book 2 of a two book series and since I'm a sucker for reading books in order, I would recommend reading To Catch an Heiress (book 1) first. To Catch an Heiress is a great story and introduces characters that appear in How to Marry a Marquis. Its really a great two book set! I will eventually review book 1, but back to How to Marry a Marquis...

With three younger siblings to support and unwelcome attentions from her landlord, Elizabeth needs to marry someone wealthy and she needs to do it fast! So when she discovers a little guide book titled How to Marry a Marquis on a shelf in her employer's library, immediately she thinks its a cruel joke. Adding insult to injury, she meets Lady Danbury's handsome new estate manager, James, and is mortified when he discovers the book in her possession. But what Elizabeth doesn't know is that this handsome estate manager is really Lady Danbury's nephew, masquerading, on a mission to fish out a blackmailer. And Elizabeth is his prime suspect. So, what better way for James to keep tabs on the lovely Miss Hotchkiss than to offer to coach her in her quest to find a husband? But as James battles between suspicion and enchantment when it comes to Elizabeth, could it be that Lady Danbury was on a mission of her own?

The story is charming, VERY witty and the ending is just forty kinds of wonderful. While Julia Quinn's books tend to be more light-hearted and fun than other regencies, this book, in particular, is even more so. There are moments where I laughed out loud and had half an airport terminal thinking I was cuckoo for cocoa puffs. But that's ok. It was totally worth it! Such a sweet story that I will definitely return to.

If you love this book, I highly recommend Ms. Quinn’s backlist, including the Bridgerton series of 8 books beginning with The Duke and I. But do check her website for the order of her books. With the exception of the anthologies, all belong to a series and I recommend reading books of a series in order for maximum enjoyment.

My rating: 10 – Absolutely LOVED it!

The 2 book series in order:

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Heir and the Spare


All of London is raving about the newly arrived American, Emilia Highhart. She has beauty, charm, wit, and a hint of the exotic. Unfortunately, grace is decidedly not one of her virtues. Staircases, doors, even floors have proven her enemies, often leaving Emilia prostrate and mortified in a pile of muslin. Nevertheless, at her first ball, her dance card soon fills with the names of highly suitable men. But Emilia’s eyes are on just one man—the one her aunt points out as the entirely unsuitable Lord Phillip…

In fact, he isn’t Lord Phillip. While Phillip, the heir, goes about spending the good family’s funds, his identical twin, Devon, the spare, must attend society functions as Lord Phillip—all because of a few blasted minutes’ age difference. Soon, both twins are vying for Emilia. And, under the not-so-watchful eye of Lady Palmerston, aunt and chaperone to the young lady, Emilia is unknowingly courted by two different men with the same face! But only one of them is the love of her life…

Awesome Debut!

Review coming soon!

My rating:  10 – Absolutely LOVED it!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Earl and the Governess


Innocent governess, forbidden liaison. Impoverished, alone and on the run, Isabelle Thomas needs help. So when William Stanton, Earl of Lennox, offers her a job as governess to his ward, she can't refuse. But Isabelle soon discovers that working for tall, broad-shouldered William, with his dishevelled hair and intense green eyes, is more of a challenge than she expected! When the attraction between them culminates in a bone-melting kiss, Isabelle knows she must leave. Only the Earl has other plans for his innocent governess.

It all started with a newt in a teacup...

And the result is a sweet romance that meets the challenge of class differences and society gossip head on. When William Stanton, the Earl of Lennox's young ward, Mary, becomes troublesome and is sent home from school, he must find a governess to look after her until he can find another school that will take her. Enter Miss Isabelle Thomas... a pretty, red-headed spinster Will rescues from an attempted robbery. But Isabelle has troubles of her own and will not accept charity, so when she shows up at his doorstep, Will is eager to keep her close and keep things proper... for the time being.

I enjoyed several things about The Earl and the Governess. This story has a small cast of characters, not only preventing the plot from being bogged down by superfluous characters and subplots, but also removing the typical use of "the misunderstanding" to create conflict. This story is easy to follow, with a certain cohesiveness and easy flow. I also liked the fact that the usual seasonal societal affairs were almost non-existent, which, being an avid historical romance reader, was a breezy breath of fresh air. The author created a fresh plot, adding a dash of intrigue to this charming tale, and leaves the reader wishing there was more. Unfortunately the epilogue added little to this story when one would have hoped for a glimpse into Will and Isabelle's future. It also would have been an excellent time to wrap up Mary's subplot, which unfortunately goes unresolved.

All in all, a delightful read, and my first Sarah Elliott book. I look forward to reading her others.

My rating:  8 – Definitely on my keeper shelf

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Rogue of My Own


How does an innocent lady find herself forced to wed a royal spy who seduced her – by mistake? For Lady Rebecca Marshall, a whirlwind of passion and excitement begins when, to her mother’s great delight, she becomes a maid of honor at the court of Queen Victoria. Rebecca’s mother sees this appointment as a golden opportunity for Rebecca to make a good match.

At court, Rebecca innocently steps into the rivalry between the queen’s spymaster and the noblewoman in charge of the maids of honor who is using the maids to spy on powerful courtiers. Soon Rebecca is entangled in a web of deceit with the charming marquis Rupert St. John. The devastatingly handsome n’er-do-well is the cousin of Raphael Locke, with whom Rebecca was once infatuated. What she doesn’t know is that Rupert is a secret agent of the crown who leads a double life.

When Rupert obtains proof that Rebecca is spying on him, he seduces her. He hardly suspects her guileless nature. Forced to the altar, Rupert believes that Rebecca has set a trap of the worst sort in order to marry into his powerful family. Although he vows never to be faithful to his beautiful wife, as Rupert comes to know Rebecca’s wit, adventurous spirit, and generous nature, his vow of revenge turns into a desire to share many passionate nights only with his wife for the rest of his life. 

Ummm... was there supposed to be an actual romance in here somewhere?

This was my first book by Johanna Lindsey, and I'll be honest... I was really disappointed. I admit I bought this book without checking out the ratings on Amazon.com... I ALWAYS check ratings first, so shame on me! But this was a last minute audio book purchase before an emergency eye surgery so I needed to buy SOMETHING! I've decided I may check out some of her earlier works because other reviews indicate she has much better fare than this latest effort, but really, this book contained no romance. It was all lust with no chemistry whatsoever and an absolute jerk for a hero, who ended up not being any sort of a hero at all! Would you want a man who consistently told you over and over again that he didn't believe you, didn't trust you? Accused you of being a liar even when there was proof to the contrary? I sure wouldn’t! With that, the story became completely unrealistic real fast. And if I had to read one more time about how "angelic" Rupert was in Rebecca's eyes, I swear the audiobook discs were going to become frisbees for my dogs. Clearly his "angelic" glow impaired Rebecca's vision!

The potential for a great story was definitely there but it all just fell short. I was hoping Nigel could save the story and pair Rebecca and Rupert together to unfoil a good plot against the crown. The possibilities were endless yet the whole scenario with the Pearsons was so under-developed and brief it seemed like a last minute effort to create a little drama just to give the story some sort of climax, weak as it was. The potential to witness a blossoming romance was there as well but completely ignored. Instead Rebecca endured more accusations of untrustworthiness from Rupert, then of all things, he married her! WHAT?? The ultimate reason for the marriage made sense for the Victorian era, but come on! Rupert didn't believe Rebecca to begin with, so what was the point of marrying? Was that his way of finally acknowledging trust, or was he merely doing what he believed to be the right thing? Either way, that's not at all what I call romance.

My rating: 1 – Really pretty awful

Friday, March 5, 2010

Silent on the Moor


'There are things that walk abroad on the moor that should not. But the dead do not always lie quietly, do they, lady?' It is England, 1888. Grimsgrave Manor is an unhappy house, isolated on the Yorkshire moors, silent and secretive. But secrets cannot be long kept in the face of Lady Julia Grey's incurable curiosity. In the teeth of protests from her conventional, stuffy brother, Lady Julia decides to pay a visit to the enigmatic detective, Nicholas Brisbane to bring a woman's touch to his new estate. Grimsgrave is haunted by the ghosts of its past, and its owner seems to be falling into ruin along with the house. Confronted with gypsy warnings and Brisbane's elusive behaviour, Lady Julia scents a mystery. It's not long before her desire for answers leads her into danger unlike any other that she has experienced - and from which, this time, there may be no escape.

Another winner for Raybourn!

In the third installment of Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series, we travel through the Yorkshire moors to Grimsgrave, an estate newly purchased by private inquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. After a chilling welcome by the host and residents of the manor, Lady Julia begins to unravel the dark secrets of an ancient family, while Brisbane's gypsy roots appear to be tangled in the mix. But when the Grimswater bell tolls and Brisbane's life is threatened, what other secrets will Lady Julia discover?

This story packs a powerful punch, with suspense and intrigue, insight into Brisbane's mysterious past, more antics from Grim (the sugared-plum loving raven), and an ending guaranteed to please fans of the series! Ms. Raybourn's attention to Victorian detail appears flawless and I truly felt whisked away to another world, in another time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it as I eagerly await the fourth installment that Ms. Raybourn assures is in the works!

A side note: This is not at all a bodice-ripping romance, but truly an excellent Victorian mystery with a delightful pinch of romance. Personally, I prefer the original book covers for Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary because they were more... what's the word? ... mysterious.

My rating: 9 – Loved it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Desperate Duchesses


Welcome to a world of reckless sensuality and glittering sophistication... of dangerously handsome gentlemen and young ladies longing to gain a title... of games played for high stakes, including—on occasion—a lady's virtue.

A marquess's sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage—until he lays eyes on Roberta.

Yet the Earl of Gryffyn knows too well that the price required to gain a coronet is often too high. Damon Reeve, the earl, is determined to protect the exquisite Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny.

Can Damon entice her into a high-stakes game of his own, even if his heart is likely to be lost in the venture?

Desperate for something better than this...

This is the first Eloisa James book I have ever read and I'm not at all impressed. Her "frothy" style of writing is really not for me so I came close to closing the book before I was even into chapter 2. I also thought that James was a Regency author but this book is clearly Georgian. Nothing wrong there necessarily. It just wasn't what I expected.

So, this was a book that I really just had to make myself finish. I really wanted to give it a fair chance, but would the REAL main characters of this book please step forward?? I know they were supposed to be Roberta and Damon, but I think the author may have forgotten that. There was so much stuff crammed into this book leaving very little room for character development of the main hero and heroine. Jemma, Elijah and Villiers were more the main love triangle. And Roberta was just downright silly with her "I'm in love with Villiers" and "I'm going to marry Villiers" every other sentence. This is a grown woman?? Come on. There was no hint of chemistry between those two so it made the story all the more harder to digest. And the author likes to use a lot of filler - superfluous story fluff - that added nothing to the story and was often just completely dumb... like when Selina showed up with the Prince towards the end of the book. My eyes just rolled. And what's with the abrupt scene changes between sentences? I had to re-read some sections just to make sure I didn't miss something.

All in all, I want to give the author another chance, but I cannot offer a recommendation for this book as a stand alone. It's definitely part of a series but, really, I'm not sold on wanting to continue it.

My rating: 2 – I did not like it

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mr. Cavendish, I Presume


Amelia Willoughby has been engaged to the Duke of Wyndham for as long as she can remember. Literally. A mere six months old when the contracts were signed, she has spent the rest of her life waiting. And waiting. And waiting . . . for Thomas Cavendish, the oh-so-lofty duke, to finally get around to marrying her. But as she watches him from afar, she has a sneaking suspicion that he never thinks about her at all...

It's true. He doesn't. Thomas rather likes having a fiancée—all the better to keep the husband-hunters at bay—and he does intend to marry her... eventually. But just when he begins to realize that his bride might be something more than convenient, Thomas's world is rocked by the arrival of his long-lost cousin, who may or may not be the true Duke of Wyndham. And if Thomas is not the duke, then he's not engaged to Amelia. Which is the cruelest joke of all, because this arrogant and illustrious duke has made the mistake of falling in love . . . with his own fiancée!

Quinn's other works are MUCH better than this!

I'm upset and disappointed that this is the first book I have ever put down unfinished. If you have read The Lost Duke of Wyndham then you have already read most of Mr. Cavendish, I Presume. The Cavendish book parallels The Lost Duke book so closely, that you are literally re-reading scenes that you already know from the other book! Grant it, there is a different angle to some of it, because the focus is shifted to a different hero and heroine, but I found myself skimming and skipping several pages at a time just because I didn't see the need to re-read what I had already read (sometimes word for word!). This set was marketed as a two book series (ie. Two Dukes of Wyndham Book 2), but it is NOT a sequel or even next in a series. This book is more of a "companion" to the first. But why this story wasn't weaved into The Lost Duke of Wyndham Book 1 is anybody's guess because there was nothing stellar about the story in Book 1 to begin with. And book 2 appeared to have an even weaker storyline.

A part of me really wants to finish the book just to see how the story (and this two book series? ...set? ...duo?) end, plus the epilogue includes a snippet from Lady Whistledown! But a part of me also wants to know what Quinn and Avon Books were thinking! They tried something that clearly didn't work (hold your mouse over the bookcover to see Amazon's ratings for yourself) and upset a plethora of fans who will now think twice before choosing this author in the future. In my opinion, if they wanted to try this book selling angle, they should have released Book 2 a year or two after book 1, when The Lost Duke side of the story wasn't still fresh in everyone's mind...

Now, I'm not telling anybody to walk away from this author! Really, I'm not!! She is still one of my favorites, but skip this Two Dukes set and read everything else! OR read book 1 and save book 2 for next year. I loved all her other books. Everything and the Moon and How to Marry a Marquis being my two personal favorites. Unfortunately, this two book thing was definitely the worst of her fare and seemed like a joke compared to the caliber of her earlier works. And, on a more positive note, Ms. Quinn has redeemed herself somewhat with the release of What Happens in London, a sequel, or proper series book 2, to The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever – both of which I recommend as pleasant reads.


My rating: 2 – I did not like it

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blind Fortune


They say love is blind, but Lady Fortuna Morley doesn't believe it. Sightless since birth, she can think of only one reason a gentleman would wed her--for the dowry and three thousand a year her father will provide. She's in London the spring of 1814 to help launch her younger cousin into society, but prefers living quietly in country. The last thing Fortuna wishes is to cross swords with the arrogant Marquess of Granville.

Charles Lowden, Lord Granville, has decided to take a wife. The bride he's chosen is thirteen years his junior, but meets all criteria. What he won't abide is interference from the girl's impertinent cousin, the outspoken and opinionated Lady Fortuna Morley. The woman is determined to thwart the match. Charles is just as determined to charm Fortuna out of her disdain for him.

What neither expects in the ensuing battle of wills is to fall in love.

Witty and intelligent... a great debut!

Review coming soon!

My rating:  8 – Definitely on my keeper shelf