Friday, July 30, 2010

Ten Things I Love About You

Ten Things You Should Know About This Book
1. Sebastian Grey is a devilishly handsome rogue with a secret.
2. Annabel Winslow's family voted her The Winslow Most Likely to Speak Her Mind and The Winslow Most Likely to Fall Asleep in Church.
3. Sebastian's uncle is the Earl of Newbury, and if he dies without siring an heir, Sebastian inherits everything.
4. Lord Newbury detests Sebastian and will stop at nothing to prevent this from happening.
5. Lord Newbury has decided that Annabel is the answer to all of his problems.
6. Annabel does not want to marry Lord Newbury, especially when she finds out he once romanced her grandmother.
7 is shocking, 8 is delicious, and 9 is downright wicked, all of which lead the way to
10. Happily. Ever. After.

Ten thoughts about this book...

1.  This story is Julia Quinn's third offering in an un-named series beginning with The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, followed by What Happens in London, followed by Ten Things I Love About You.  All three books are not the caliber of her earlier works but are pleasant reads, full of witty dialogue and Ms. Quinn's trademark humor.  If you choose to read them, I recommend reading them in order for maximum enjoyment.  (You learn quite a lot about Sebastian in What Happens In London which is Olivia and Harry's story, who in turn are big supporting characters in this book.) 

2.  Ten Things I Love About You is really Sebastian Grey's story of meeting Annabel Winslow, a country girl brought to London by her grandmother to catch a rich husband and save her destitute family.  Capturing the unwanted attention of a dirty, old earl, claiming Annabel's wide hips and shapely figure will suit nicely for begetting an heir, Annabel's grandmother is of little help when she approves the impending match, reminding Annabel how rich and titled he is (and how soon he will die of old age).  Sebastian, on the other hand, is the earl's heir who will never see the title if the earl has his way.  But that's ok... Sebastian doesn't want the title, nor does he even need it.  After all he's no pauper, bringing in a tidy sum writing books under a nom de plume and leading the simple bachelor life.  But meeting Annabel sparks something and there is a definite mutual attraction.  

3.  Annabel is a sweet girl, oldest of eight and voted by her family to be the third most likely to outrun a turkey.  Oh, and she likes to make lists.  Her history was not full of "woe is me" which was really nice, but she has a lot of weight on her shoulders so she needs to make a choice... marry Lord Newbury, the mean, old, rich, titled earl or enjoy the company of the young, handsome heir presumptive who makes you giggle with his "smirky" smiles and quick wit.  While the choice is ultimately hers, her love for her family and their welfare played a big role in the dilemma and it was written quite well.  It never got to the "woe is me" point, nor did she shy away to hide in a corner.  Her choice was real, and she had a conscience but could she be true to herself with her ultimate decision?

4. Witty banter abounds between our Miss Winslow and Mr. Grey, creating delightful dialogue complete with Quinn trademark smirks and giggles. I loved her use of the word "smirky." I also loved the books Sebastian penned, a secret he kept well-hidden from everyone.  It added a nice dimension to the story.

5.  My big gripe #1 with the book was the drawing room scene at Olivia's home.  I don't know if hormones just suddenly kicked in or what, but out of nowhere, Sebastian started undressing Annabel!  WHAT??  It was just weird.  They were laughing and talking and then it turned into an abrupt intimate moment that ended almost as quickly as it started.  And the scene just kind of went downhill from there.  It all just felt very out of place and forced on the characters, which made me wonder if I was going to enjoy the second half of the book as much as I had the first.  Rest assured, once the drawing room scene was over, things did pick back up and I settled back into the story.  But this was definitely a speed bump for me.

6.  Big gripe #2 was the actual climax of the book.  I will not spoil the end, but it centers around the moment when Annabel and Sebastian learn that Annabel's grandmother was in fact once romanced by Lord Newbury.  Really, its not a spoiler - look at #6 from the book's back cover (above).  And I'm not even sure "romanced" may have been the right word.  But with that revelation paired with the situation... all I had to say was EEEIIIIWWWWWW!

7.  Nevertheless, Ms. Quinn created two very lovable, human characters in this story.  Sebastian's sense of humor, authenticity, and even self-doubt balanced beautifully with Annabel's family values, good nature and all around sweet personality.  Annabel's cousin Louisa was a sweet addition to the story, making one wonder if she might be next to get her own story since there seems to be a spark to her that we've merely just had a taste.

8.  Ms. Quinn's relentless use of parenthetical emphasis is most thankfully kept to a relative minimum in this book. It just took her a few books to learn when too much was way too much.

9.  Overall, I liked most of the book.  It was a pleasant read, yes, but my two big gripes really just did in any chance of me ever going back to re-read it.  Several familiar names from previous Quinn books popped up in the ballroom scenes, which always makes reading her books a bit more fun... you never know who you might run into!

10.  While certainly not one of Julia Quinn's best books, I would certainly say it isn't her worst.  That being said, I strongly recommend steering clear of the Two Dukes of Wyndham duo!  The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever was my favorite of the three in this series, but really, if you haven't read the Bridgerton series, I would say drop everything and pick up The Duke and I. The entire series is wonderful, and even Quinn's backlist before the Bridgerton's were all excellent and really a higher caliber than her last handful of books.  How to Marry a Marquis is my personal favorite from her list of titles. 

11.  I had to add a #11 to this list because it me?  Or does the chick on the cover just look weird?  I had to do a double-take with her... hmm... I guess her "smirky" smile?  But really it is just not very appealing for a book cover, nor does the cover do anything to enhance the story.  Just sayin. 

My rating:  5 - I liked most of the book

The series in order (so far?)...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reforming a Rake

A governess must never be alone with a man. Her reputation mustn't have even a hint of scandal. She must never reveal personal emotions. No matter how strong the provocation by her employer. A governess never questions her employer's commands. Even when he's tempting her to forsake respectability for desire? She must never, ever, fall in love with someone above her station. Especially a rake---no matter how devastating his kisses may be...

Alexandra Gallant is a governess extraordinaire--and if it weren't for that unfortunate incident at her last position, she wouldn't now be forced into the employ of Lucien Balfour, the most notorious rake in London. Though the sinfully attractive earl hired her to teach his young cousin, his seductive whispers and toe-curling kisses suggest he has something far less respectable in mind...And that will never happen. For although Lucien seems determined to teach her about pleasure, she has a few lessons to teach him about love!

...A favorite from my 'keeper shelf'!

So I took a short break and came back to re-read one of my favorites!  I won't call it an old favorite as it was published a mere four years ago, but it is one of the earlier books I read when I first got into Regency and historical romance and its definitely on my keeper shelf AND my Kindle!  This story is more of a 'love at first sight' except its the girl that needs the convincing and trust me, the hero convinces! 

Alexandra is a sweet, proper girl; raised a lady, but forced to work in order to live.  Adding to her woes, she ran into a bit of trouble in the household of her last employer, therefore looking for work as a governess has proved very difficult. Bracing herself for one more interview before tossing in the towel and fleeing to Hampshire, she arrives at the home of the Earl of Kilcairn where he takes one look at Alexandra before promptly telling her she's hired.  Befuddled, yet thankful for the income, she accepts the employment with reluctance, reminding the earl of the duties for which she has been hired to perform.  Any other ideas he may have are out of the question.  And he makes it quite clear that he has ideas!

Nevertheless, the earl is intrigued by the young governess he just hired to help launch cousin Rose successfully into society.  And soon, he convinces Alexandra that he needs some lessons too... in finding a wife.  Jealousy tugs gently at Alexandra's heartstrings but why should it?  Could it be that Lucien has other ideas... ideas that may just convince her that she just might be the perfect wife he seeks? 

This story really snaps with wit from page one, which makes it a very entertaining read, firmly securing a spot on my favorites shelf.  Lucien has no qualms about telling it like it is, which is refreshing and, at times, down-right hilarious.  He's also wealthy, smart and handsome... could a girl really ask for more?  But Alexandra is skeptical around this rake.  She's a strong girl making her own way on a path shadowed in scandal, but she's a good girl and wants to stay that way.  Can she perform the tasks for which she was hired without getting too distracted?  

Reforming a Rake really sides more to the idealistic, but I didn't mind because it was cute and sweet and not overwhelmingly "too much".  Alexandra's dog, Shakespeare (or Shakes as he is often called), is a cute addition to the story even if you might roll your eyes in the first chapter when she shows up on the Earl's doorstep, leash in hand, for an employment interview.  But when Lucien questions Alexandra about the scandal with her last employer, he believes her without a doubt and, for me, that moved Lucien up the perfect man-o-meter another big notch.  Their open honesty with each other just added to the tension of wanting to see these two people get together in the end.  And I loved the come-uppance Fiona got when Lucien's plot with Rose was revealed.  But the story doesn't end there...   

I must say that I loved the wine cellar scenes.  At one point, Lucien goes to great lengths to keep Alexandra near him, seeing to her every comfort, including a rearrangement of the living spaces to meet the needs of the woman he's in love with.  Even the staff is in agreement that she and their employer are well matched, so they play the defensive for team Lucien.  But the ultimate test for Alexandra comes in the form of our hero, himself.  Willing to give up everything to prove his love for her, Alexandra must decide if this reformed rake is truly all he seems to be.

I love Suzanne Enoch's stories although I admit I find them a tad overly introspective for my taste.  Personally I prefer much more dialogue, but I get it... its just her writing style.  She still tells great stories so I recommend exploring her other books as well.  After The Kiss and England's Perfect Hero are my other two personal favorites from Enoch and they are both on my list to re-read and review in the near future.  Ms. Enoch has also just released A Lady's Guide to Improper Behavior which I have standing by, ready to read as well!

My rating: 10 – Absolutely LOVED it!

The With This Ring series, in order...


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Wicked Gentleman

Bestselling author Jane Feather brings to life the glamour, sophistication, and intrigue of Regency-era London in this captivating novel of unexpected passions and dangerous secrets.

Pooling their meager resources, Lady Cornelia Dagenham, her sister-in-law Aurelia, and their friend Liv Lacey arrive in London's Cavendish Square to spend a month at the home Liv has just inherited. But why anyone would show a fervent interest in purchasing the rundown property -- particularly the arrogant Viscount Bonham, who clearly could afford the finest of homes -- is a puzzle to Cornelia. His charms are undeniable, though -- and Cornelia finds her resistance to this mysterious stranger falling a sparking passion clouds her view.

But their affair may place her and her friends in danger as Harry Bonham sweeps her into the sparkling whirl of high society. Leading a double life as a code breaker for the Crown, Harry is a man of many secrets. Is it Cornelia whom he truly desires, or something hidden in the house on Cavendish Square?

Sad to say, this was a snoozer...

This was my first Jane Feather book and I was reminded of something very important... check reviews before just picking up a book! 

I liked that this was the first in a new series, but more importantly, I really liked what I read on the back of the book!  The story sounded fun and exciting and ...well, it wasn't.  To be honest, there is nothing that even stood out to me as memorable.  Not a scene, not a character ...although the thimble made me think of my grandmother because she had a collection.  But that's it!  And the secondary characters seemed to be everywhere, cluttering up any hint of a storyline.  And just where was the "wicked" gentleman?  It couldn't have been the hero because he was positively lackluster and boring.  And for being a codebreaker for the crown, he wasn't all that intelligent either.  This book was just a disappointment.  The story was really, really slow and never picked up any speed at all since it was predictable the whole way through. 

Its unfortunate because I think Feather's writing has the potential to tell great stories.  After reading reviews for some of her other books, I may try her again sometime, but with so many books and so little time, you won't see me running to buy her titles any time soon.

My rating:  2 – I did not like it

The Cavendish Square Trilogy if you are interested...