Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When Harry Met Molly


HE’S ALWAYS BEEN A PLAYER.

Dashing Lord Harry Traemore is perfectly content to live out his days in the pursuit of pleasure. But when he’s named by the Prince Regent as one of society’s “Impossible Bachelors,” Harry is drafted into a ribald romantic wager. The rules of engagement are scandalously simple: The bachelor whose mistress wins the title of “Most Delectable Companion” gets to remain unmarried. Harry is utterly unconcerned about his status...until his latest lightskirt abandons him.

WHO WILL WIN THIS GAME OF LOVE?

Enter Lady Molly Fairbanks. Harry’s childhood friend— actually, “foe” is more like it—is the most unlikely companion of all. She’s attractive but hot-headed, and in no mood for games. Besides, what could the self-indulgent Harry possibly know about what makes a woman delectable? It’s time for Molly to teach him a lesson once and for all...but will it lead to “happily ever after”?

Promising start, but I was left with a lot of mixed feelings...

I had a hard time getting into this one.  The prologue was rumored to be one of the best in all of romancedom and RT Book Reviews rated the book a top pick.  Really?  It was entertaining yes.  At least the prologue was.  But the problem with having a strong start to a story is that the reader is set up to expect that strength to be carried through the rest of the book and that does not really happen here.  Now, I admit that things picked back up for me around chapter 8 or 9 but I really had serious mixed feelings throughout this entire book. 

The back cover blurb at the top of this posting really sets things in motion, then the bulk of the book takes place at the house party where the "Most Delectable Companion" contest commences.  The whole scenario is far-fetched - but hey, this is fiction!  And you really have to remember that because there were definite eye-rolling moments for me. 

So, let me give you the lowdown... Harry and Molly have known each other for ages and her sister is married to his brother, making them in-laws by marriage.  Nevertheless, a stunt pulled years ago (prologue) forces both Molly and Harry to "pay" for that incident.  But they meet again several years later when Molly is eloping to Gretna Green with Cedric, a complete fop who doesn't love Molly.  That's ok because she doesn't love him either.  But when they run into Harry and his current mistress, Fiona, at a stop on their way to the silly mistress contest, Harry and Molly exchange a few words.  Next thing you know, Cedric and Fiona run off together!   Yes.  You read that right.  So, now Harry needs a mistress and he strikes a deal with Molly, agreeing to  find her a respectable husband if she wins the contest.  Considering Molly has no experience at being a mistress... you can see where this is going, right?

I don't think I have ever read a book that left me with such mixed feelings.  And judging from other reviews I've read and some conversations I've had with other readers, I am not alone.  This story has some good stuff, but there is so much that is far-fetched or just down-right silly that it almost overwhelms the actual good stuff.  So, let me tell you the things I did like...

The bottom line is, I liked the serious things that happened in this book, not the silly.  I really liked how Molly made friends with the other mistresses and how they were all supporting of each other by mid-week.  It was a competition, yes, but situations and circumstances brought these women closer and there was a warmth that we see grow over the course of the week they spend together.  I also liked many of the quieter moments that Harry and Molly shared.  We see their relationship grow, but the author takes time to draw out their thoughts and feelings and make it seem not so rushed since the bulk of everything happens within a week.  I also liked the other men present at the contest, sans the villain, but wish they could have been more developed in character.  They really come across as half-baked compared to the development of each of the mistresses but since the book series is called the Impossible Bachelors, I know there is more to come with the men in future titles.  I also liked the part at the end when Harry's father showed (in his own way) his love for his son.  See?  I liked all the serious stuff.

Now for the things I didn't like:  I hated the use of the word "we'd" and the author used it a lot in dialogue.  While there are plenty of minor infractions in historical accuracy, this contributed to the appearance that the British English was deliberately dumbed down for the reader.   Julia Quinn takes a more modern approach to her dialogue for fun, and she makes it work but in this book it just made me roll my eyes.   I also rolled my eyes when Harry told Molly they needed to come up with a mistressy name for her so no one would recognize her.  Oh puh-lease.  That's going to throw everyone off the trail.  (Miraculously, of course, it did.)  I'm not a fan of times when a character takes on a dual role because then my brain starts looking for all the times when the author and editor missed using the right name at the right time.  My favorite is on the top of page 194 (line 10) where the snafoo sticks out like a sore thumb, even highlighted with commas!  The last thing I did not like was, fittingly, the ending.  Everything - and I do mean EVERYTHING - came to a wrap all at the same time... at a ball... in front of everyone.  The author literally tied every loose end up in the same ballroom scene and it was just way too many things going on.  I also thought the villain didn't get what he really deserved and after being such a grouch through the entire book, the reasoning behind it all really didn't seem to justify. 

Believe me, I've only just scratched the surface.  Some of the games played during the contest were interesting and well... entertaining.  And watching Harry control his desire for his virginal mistress created a lot of sexual tension.  Hildur, the Icelandic mistress was clueless, which was sometimes funny and sometimes just stupid.  Mixed feelings galore, I tell you!  

So, my last thoughts...  Would I recommend this book?  Only with caution.  The author's website describes Kramer's books as "humorous Regency romance" but be prepared for humor in the form of zany or just plain silly.  If you are like me and prefer more wit rather than silly, pick up Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series or her backlist prior to the Bridgertons.  Will I be reading Kramer's next book?  Yes, but probably not right away.  Curiosity has me wondering what her next book will bring and really it can only go one of two ways: worse or better.  I'm hoping for better but want to clear my brain with a few other books before reading another Kramer title.   Ms. Kramer definitely debuts a great talent for writing.  I just hope the rest of the series books level out a bit.

When Harry Met Molly is book 1 of a 4 book series which I have detailed below.  As a side note, I'm really liking how series books are being released in a much quicker fashion nowadays! 

My rating:  4 – I sort of liked it (but close to 5 - I liked most of the book)

The Impossible Bachelors series...

                                                                                                                        April 2011

Book 4, If You Give a Girl a Viscount, is due out late 2011.  Cover art not available yet.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

His Christmas Pleasure

Anything can happen at Christmas!

When her father threatens to marry Abigail Montross off to a man twice her age (and with thirteen children!), she decides to elope instead with the irresistibly handsome Baron de Vasconia. She knows all about his notorious reputation. He is the most seductive man in all of London, but he's vowed to protect her, so she allows herself to be tempted into his bed, promising to guard her heart at all costs.

Andres believes he's entered into nothing more than a marriage of convenience with a charming and very wealthy young woman. But the days—and nights—Abigail spends in his arms soon reform this rogue. He'll do anything to gain her love—until they each discover the truth about the other and old wounds are revealed.

It's the season of miracles and passion—when love not only awakens the senses but delivers the greatest gift of all . . .

Good story but not a Christmas read.

During the months of November and December I focus all my reading attention on my stash of Christmas books and looking at the cover and title of this book, I would have expected this, my last read of the Christmas season, to be a Christmassy choice.   I was very disappointed it was not.  The title and even the tagline on the front cover (Will a wedding night be her Christmas gift?) are completely misleading and it ticked me off.  For one thing, our hero and heroine are married a few months before Christmastime, so the tagline is a joke.  And there is not a hint of anything Christmassy until the middle of the second to the last chapter.  Grrrr.  I kept waiting for Christmas to kick in or a kiss to be stolen under the mistletoe.  Yeah... didn't happen.  Had I picked this book up at any other time of the year with a more appropriate non-Christmassy cover, I would have been happier.  Instead it turned into a bit of a letdown, Christmas-wise.  Let's dive in, shall we?

Abigail Montross first meets Andres Ramigio, the Spanish Baron de Vasconia when she discovers him in their host's library holding a gun to his head.  After being tackled to the ground by this girl with red curls, he shows her that the gun was not really loaded but is touched she tried to stop what she thought was happening.  But then Freddie, Abby's sweetheart, walks into the room and Andres hides to protect her reputation.  However, he also hears their entire conversation which ultimately leaves Abby heartbroken and hurt.  When Andres has heard enough, he makes his presence known and escorts Abby to the dance floor to get her out of the situation.  But the drama doesn't end there.  When a former lover publicly insults Abby by questioning Andres' taste in women, Andres defends his new-found friend.  But Andres can't rescue her from the bomb her father drops during the carriage ride home that evening.  Or can he?

Andres has problems of his own and when he is run out of town penniless, save for a property in the north, he remembers the heiress who caught his eye earlier in the evening and the incident with Freddie.  With her money and his dreams of creating a successful horse breeding business on the property he now owns, he decides to approach Abby the next day.  Naturally, all of society is abuzz after the incidents of the previous night and the Montross  drawing room is met with many callers.  But when Andres shows up with his proposition for Abby, she sees it as a way to be freed from Freddie, freed from spinsterhood and freed from another attempt at an arranged marriage.  Set to meet the next day, Abby and Andres flee for Gretna Green and the adventure begins.

I really liked Abby and Andres and their interactions with each other, especially on their trip north to Stonemoor.  Abby is a pretty, wallflowerish girl - a bit immature for her 25 years, but she has led a very sheltered life.  Running away from the family she loved to avoid an arranged marriage to a man with 13 children was a mature decision and Andres wanted it to be Abby's choice with no regrets.  There was definitely an attraction between Andres and Abby but he was very honest about his intentions and she knew what she was getting into.  So it was nice to see Abby excitedly rolls up her sleeves and realize she had a purpose and things to keep her busy after she was married.  Andres, the stunning Spanish Adonis, is a hard worker and we see that from the start as he tries to restore the good of his family name and strives to provide for his new wife, keeping her happy and making sure she does not regret her choice.  But when Freddie suddenly appears, jealousy begins to create problems for Andres and Abby and both are forced to confront their feelings for each other head-on.  Will they find love in time for Christmas?

A few things kinda glared at me in this book aside from the lack of Christmassiness.  There are times when the author slips into short, little sentences that turned into 'he did this' and 'she did that'.  Instead of showing us what happened with description or dialogue, its like the author got lazy and just started telling.  The problem for me was that I found the change in storytelling very noticeable and distracting throughout the book.  Another thing, which I found almost comical, was when the author would break her storytelling to let the reader know a piece of information.  For example, on the bottom of page 182, Andres instructs their driver to continue on to Gretna.  The very next sentence is the author explaining to the reader that Gretna Green is a Scottish border village that performs quick weddings.  It was just kinda weird and broke the flow of the story.  Why not turn it into a thought or recollection, say, from a book or a piece of gossip to convey that information to the uninformed reader?  There was actually another time the author did this earlier in the book, but you get my point.

Overall, I did enjoy this story, but there was nothing stellar that really stood out to make this a book that I will reread.  Just being honest.  I liked it and am rating it as such but its not a keeper for me.   Incidentally, this book happens to be book 4 in Ms. Maxwell's the Scandals and Seductions series and I have the other books in the series, plus one other in my TBR pile.  The author does note recurring character appearances but emphasizes the books do stand alone.  Works for me. 

My rating:  6 - It was a pleasant read

The Scandals and Seductions series, in order: