Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Touch of Scandal

The last thing Garrett, Duke of Calton, expects to find while tracking his sworn enemy is the delectable, mysterious Kate. This beautiful servant girl rouses a longing the battle-scarred ex-soldier had never hoped to feel again. But when she turns out to be the sister of the man he seeks, he's convinced he's been betrayed.

Kate knows her duty to her family, yet how can she ignore Garrett's powerful pull on her heart? Or the heady temptation of his stolen-and sizzling-kisses? Scandal has followed the duke since the war. Now the greatest shock of all is on its way-the one that can separate Garrett and Kate forever.

Great follow up to A Hint of Wicked!

I will be honest here... I think I would have had a hard time enjoying this book had I not read A Hint of Wicked first. Or rather, I would have been disappointed that I hadn't read A Hint of Wicked first, so a word to the wise... read these books in order! I'm a big fan of reading books in order anyway, but in this case, the first book gives you a LOT of background on Garrett, William Fisk, Tristan and Sophie. And once armed with their histories, I think A Touch of Scandal will be a much more enjoyable read. Plus, isn't it always fun when your "friends" show up in another book?

A Touch of Scandal starts with us meeting Katherine (Kate), a sweet, outspoken young woman whose loyalty to her family is met with little regard and returned affection since she has lived in the shadows of her two older brothers all her life. Working as a servant in her brother's own home by day and caring for her ailing younger brother by night, Kate daydreams about the man she spied bathing at the pond near her home and rushes there each evening hoping to catch another glimpse of him. Garrett is clearly smitten with the servant girl he finds spying on him but his mission is simple... to find and kill William Fisk. But Garrett and Kate's mutual attraction is electric so he puts his quest on momentary hold to enjoy Kate's company before completing his mission and leaving the area for good. Little do they realize that their worlds are about to collide with monumental force, leaving Kate to question her loyalty in what becomes a war of vengeance between Garrett and her brother.

This story has a lot of colorful twists and tight hairpin turns that keep the reader engaged throughout and Ms. Haymore definitely has a knack for creating situations that make the reader wonder how on earth are they going to get out of this? and then they do! And just when you think things are about to settle down, a big twist comes, and in Garrett’s case, lands literally on his doorstep, leaving Kate to decide if she is ready to fight for what she wants!

I really enjoyed this book. Garrett is a strong man who has been through an emotional battlefield after already having served in the war, and of course the drama from A Hint of Wicked. Kate is strong girl, but she's also compassionate and loyal. Garrett recognizes Kate's inner beauty beyond the servant garb but obstacles litter his path to happiness, including his divorce which is being finalized and a lover he was on his way to reunite with. But my one big gripe with this story was the fact that after one short conversation with this "god sent from Olympus" - Garrett and Kate's initial meeting, mind you - Kate decides to give herself to Garrett the next day. Whoa! That is way too quick for me, even in romance world! She doesn't even know this man's last name, let alone anything else about him! And I found absolutely no justification in the fact that she knew she would probably never see him again. Nope.  Did not work for me.  However, I am willing to suspend belief for a scene and enjoy the rest of the story, which does flow well and keep the pages turning.

In addition to catching up with Sophie, Tristan and Miranda (from A Hint of Wicked), we also meet Garrett's sister Rebecca - and she plays a big supporting character in this story. She also becomes the focus of the last book in this three book series, A Season of Seduction, coming out in October.

All in all, a great read and a great series! I can't wait for the next book!

My rating: 8 – Definitely on my keeper shelf

Here is the 3 book series in order:


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Every Night I'm Yours

A woman yearning for a taste of the forbidden...

At twenty-six, aspiring novelist Avis Copley intends to wear spinsterhood as a badge of honor. But when she discovers a volume of erotica that ignites a searing fire within her, Avis realizes just how much she doesn't know about the actual pleasures of the flesh. Determined to learn more, she devises a daring plan...

A man ready to teach her much, much more...

 Avis chooses Emory Billingsworth, a fellow novelist-not to mention a beautiful specimen of manhood-to instruct her in carnal pleasure. But when the brash earl of Selby, Banning Talbot, a man she has known for years, unearths Avis' true intentions, he claims she's made a dangerously bad choice. Volunteering his services for one wicked night of reckless, abandoned passion, Banning promises he will satisfy all of her deepest longings. Yet Banning cannot begin to imagine the effect his willful, voluptuous, and very eager student will have on him-or how far an innocent lesson in desire can go...

A sexy, romantic page-turner of a debut!

This was a delightful book and don't let the special value price fool you into thinking its a cheapy read. This story was excellent, better than many books I've read over the past year at twice the price, so don't pass this one up! The back cover blurb (above) really sets the story in motion but, in particular, I liked that the hero recognized his own feelings first and was the one who had to do the convincing, even if that meant blackmailing the heroine into an affair! But when Banning proposes marriage and Avis refuses, he must discover why Avis is so stubbornly against marriage. Will he be able to convince the woman he loves that not all men are the same?

This is a fast paced, sensual read that really gives romance readers what they want in a Regency romp. The story flows smoothly and the focus stays on the main characters without cramming a bunch of subplots and secondary characters into the mix. Its nice when I don't have to draw a series of matrices and roadmaps to keep the story straight. And I love reading dialogue versus excessive narration that creates overly internalized assumptions leading to the inevitable conflict. Bravo! Ms. Kelley's story doesn't need to resort to such tactics. Sexual tension abounds in this enjoyable read leaving readers wishing there was more beyond the short, but sweet epilogue.

I will make haste to pick up Every Time We Kiss, which is Banning's sister Jeanette's story (book 2) in The Spinster Club series. Something Scandalous (book 3) tells Elizabeth's story and has just been released this month. Scandal of the Season (book 4) is due out in October followed by book 5 slated for a June 2011 release.

My rating: 9 – Loved it!

The series in order so far:


Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Matter of Class

Reginald Mason is wealthy, refined, and, by all accounts, a gentleman. However, he is not a gentleman by title, a factor that pains him and his father within the Regency society that upholds station over all else. That is, until an opportunity for social advancement arises, namely, Lady Annabelle Ashton. Daughter of the Earl of Havercroft, a neighbor and enemy of the Mason family, Annabelle finds herself disgraced by a scandal, one that has left her branded as damaged goods. Besmirched by shame, the earl is only too happy to marry Annabelle off to anyone willing to have her.

Though Reginald Mason, Senior, wishes to use Annabelle to propel his family up the social ladder, his son does not wish to marry her, preferring instead to live the wild, single life he is accustomed to. With this, Reginald Senior serves his son an ultimatum: marry Annabelle, or make do without family funds. Having no choice, Reginald consents, and enters into a hostile engagement in which the prospective bride and groom are openly antagonistic, each one resenting the other for their current state of affairs while their respective fathers revel in their suffering.

So begins an intoxicating tale rife with dark secrets, deception, and the trials of love—a story in which very little is as it seems.

Oooh... (rubbing hands together)  Nicely done, Ms. Balogh!

Ok. I loved this one! An arranged marriage but with a big twist. The families HATE each other. So why the arrangement? Well, when an Earl's daughter runs off with a coachman, scandal ensues, rendering Annabelle unmarriageable in the eyes of the ton. So when the neighboring Masons see the opportunity for advancement in society through Annabelle's disgrace, what other choice is there for Annabelle and her cash-strapped family but to accept?

Ms. Balogh uses a ploy in this book, but really to good effect. The first chapter sets the scene in present day (Regency time), then the even-numbered chapters 2 through 8 are flashbacks. I kinda raised my eyebrows to this discovery at chapter 2 because I've read a book similarly written in this form and I was really disappointed. But Ms. Balogh accomplishes this task beautifully and it really works! And as much as I would love to put a spoiler alert on this entry and gush about how she did it, I just can't because I really think this was a great novella, and you need to enjoy it for yourself.

And speaking of novella, that is indeed what you are buying when you cough up the full price of $15.95 at the bookstore - a 190 paged, small hardbound (about 5 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches) with 3/4 to 1 inch margins. Now aesthetically, the book is very pleasing. I truly wish more books were published in this way because I love the size and shape and I always prefer hardbacks especially when it comes to my favorite books on my keeper shelves. While I didn't pay full price, I still paid a bit more than I would for the average 300+ page full-length novel. But I am not complaining too much. It will grace my keeper shelf, and be a story I return to when I am in want of a dreamy, quick read.

But back to the story now... I will raise my hand and admit defeat - I did not see the plot twist coming until shortly before it happened! And now I want to go back and re-read the whole thing and scour for clues! It was brilliant! The flashbacks were really sweet and romantic (and rather idealistic), so when mixed with the present day chapters (again, Regency time) it really made you ask 'where is all this going?' So, read the book to find out! Its a great short story, and one I will enjoy again. There is no epilogue, but (I never thought I would say this) does not need one! :)

Oh, and this is only my third Balogh novella. I have yet to read any of the handful of full-length novels I have waiting patiently on my shelf. I need to rectify that.

My rating: 9 – Loved it!