Friday, February 18, 2011

The Switch

When they first met Lord Jeremy William Radcliffe, Charlie and her twin sister, Elizabeth, were escaping from their uncle - taking turns acting the young gentleman to avoid detection.  But Charlie couldn't help falling head over heels - and out of a window - for the handsome lord.  Of course, that was only the beginning; Lord Radcliffe insisted on showing "him" and her lovely sister safely to London.

But how could he do that?  With every touch, Radcliffe seemed unknowingly to incite indecent desires in Charlie, and his fraternal intent was certain to land her in a fine mess.  Though it was a great game to play a boy, there was more fun in being female.  And after one brush of his fiery lips when her guise was gone, Charlie swore to be nothing but his woman forever.

An enjoyable read... until the end.

Boy, oh boy.  First off, let me start by saying that I did enjoy this book.  I won't lie... I'm not a big fan of stories where women try passing themselves off as men.  In this story, women of their class were soft, fair-skinned, pampered, and often too sheltered... and the fact that here we have identical twin sisters with one disguised as a man kinda had me wondering what was in store.  So, let's just see...

Charlie and Elizabeth are trying to make their way to their cousin's estate to escape an uncle who has sold the sisters off to undesirable husbands.  Refuge at cousin Ralphy's may mean spinsterhood, but that is better than a fate worse than death.  With Charlotte (who is nick-named Charlie) posing as a boy named Charles, she escorts her sister on their journey.  After all, a brother and sister travelling alone is certainly safer and less conspicuous than a pair of twin girls.  But along the way, they meet Lord Radcliffe who is making his way back to London.  Learning their plight, (which is semi-fabricated and focused on Elizabeth's well-being) and showing genuine concern for their safety, he offers to help them by escorting them to London where they would have a chance to find an alternate husband for Elizabeth.  But as the journey continues, Radcliffe finds himself strangely drawn to the boy.  Radcliffe concedes that Charlie has probably never spent time with anyone other than family and his twin sibling, so he writes off Charlie's rather feminine mannerisms.  But when Radcliffe takes Charlie to a brothel in an attempt to help make a man out of him, Charlie suddenly finds herself with much more than she bargained for in this whole charade. 

After reaching London, Radcliffe offers the twins protection in his home, introducing Charlie and Elizabeth as his cousins.  With the opportunity to meet potential husbands, the twins decide to switch things up and share the boy and girl roles so they each have a chance to meet men at society events.  But when Elizabeth takes her turn playing the boy, Radcliffe's strange feelings suddenly switch to "Elizabeth" (who is now being played by Charlie).  Unable to control himself any longer, he kisses "Elizabeth" and realizes he's in a fix -- kissing and having feelings for a girl he has agreed to protect until safely married.  But when the sisters switch roles again, Radcliffe is back to having strange feelings for Charlie, the boy.  Will Radcliffe figure out the game being played?  Will Charlie and Elizabeth find the husbands they need before their uncle forces them to submit to the arranged marriages?  And will the blackmailer reveal their secrets? 

I give the author lots of credit... she did an excellent job with making sure you knew who was who and who was playing who.  It impressed me because never once did I feel confused about which sister was playing which role.  Poor Radcliffe and his questioning thoughts over attraction to a boy!  While I found it a bit humorous that he was clueless and couldn't figure out that it was two girls he had in his house, it was kinda fun to see him struggle with his thoughts and scratch his head when his strange feelings suddenly shifted from boy to girl and back to boy.  And that actually brings me to my next point...

I've read some reviews for this book where readers thought it was the most hilarious book they've read!  Really??  I thought the story had a nice dose of wit and humor, but really the situation these girls were in was serious (you know, story-wise).  I definitely smiled and chuckled my way through the book, but never did I find it hilarious.  I guess the fact that Radcliffe couldn't figure out his feelings - and why those feelings kept switching from Charlie to Elizabeth (played by Charlie) - was just downright hilarious to some readers.  Ok... so I'm more of a realist, and sympathized with Radcliffe's confusion of feelings rather than laughed at him.  And I was happy for Radcliffe when he learned the truth of the sisters and began to put the pieces in place because now those feelings could actually go somewhere! 

With that said, I did thoroughly enjoy this story... until chapter 19.  I am not sure what happened here, but once you hit chapter 19 the flavor (if you will) of the story really changes...  almost as if a ghostwriter stepped in to finish things up.  The last four chapters just seemed completely unnecessary to me and I will tell you why:  First, Radcliffe got his turn to dress up as a woman.  It was completely stupid, embarrassing to read and totally cheapened what was, up to that point, a great book.  The scenes could have easily been edited out without being missed but the author chose to wrap up every last little detail and unfortunately the only way Radcliffe could apparently save the day with the whole blackmailing scheme was to dress up as a woman.  Dear readers, I was ready to tear this book to shreds and feed it to my fireplace.  Secondly, the relationship between Charlie and Radcliffe completely changes.  My question is... why??  It didn't need to!  Believe me, I could go on about the ending, including a certain scuffle that involved a woman in the advanced stages of pregnancy attacking a man by climbing on his back.  Ridiculous, really.  I leave you to form your own opinion but don't say I didn't warn you!

Prior to chapter 19, this book had earned a firm seat on my keeper shelf, but after finishing the last chapters and pondering over it, I've downgraded it to a 5.  Yes, it was a pleasant read and I enjoyed it but I honestly don't think I'll pick this book up again and any recommendations I make to friends will come with a warning label.  However, I have NOT written off Lynsay Sands!  I have another Sands title, Love is Blind, en route and I'm crossing my fingers that this time I will love the whole thing!   The Switch appears to be a stand-alone novel.

My final rating for this book:  5 – I liked most of the book

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord

Since being named “London’s Lord to Land” by a popular ladies’ magazine, Nicholas St. John has been relentlessly pursued by every matrimony-minded female in the ton. So when an opportunity to escape fashionable society presents itself, he eagerly jumps—only to land in the path of the most determined, damnably delicious woman he’s ever met!

The daughter of a titled wastrel, Lady Isabel Townsend has too many secrets and too little money. Though she is used to taking care of herself quite handily, her father’s recent passing has left Isabel at sea and in need of outside help to protect her young brother’s birthright. The sinfully handsome, eminently eligible Lord Nicholas could be the very salvation she seeks.

But the lady must be wary and not do anything reckless and foolish…like falling madly, passionately in love.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one!

I enjoy historical romances when they include snippits from fictional (or even non-fiction) books to help guide or move the story along.  In this case, we have excerpts from Pearls and Pelisses that lend its hand to this story, much the way Lady Whistledown's gossip column played a role in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series or Lady Rothburg's advice from Emma Wildes' Lessons from a Scarlet Lady.  But when Lord Nicholas is named in Pearls and Pelisses as "London's Lord to Land" he can't escape London fast enough to avoid all the women who have read the magazine and are now on his heels.  However, when the Duke of Leighton approaches Lord Nicholas with a favor, Nick accepts the challenge to put his search and hunting skills to good use... far away from London.

Meanwhile, Lady Isabel is trying to hold it all together.  Literally.  The roof is leaking, she's running out of money, and she has her brother, the child earl, to take care of in addition to a household full of ...women?  But when she runs into Lord Nicholas and recognizes him as the antiquarian that he is, she hopes he would be interested in looking over her marble statues because she wants to sell them.  Little did she know that the innocent invitation would literally bring the fox into the henhouse... or lead the hunter to its prey.

One thing I enjoy most about MacLean's writing is that she captures you on page one, and she keeps things moving throughout the entire book.  Indeed, she is a fresh, new voice in Regency romance, but really, the story boils down to nothing incredibly new plot-wise.  But its the way she does it that makes her books stand out.  Its almost like she takes the best elements of every Regency you've ever read and puts them all together in the same book.  And hey, that totally works for me! 

The hero and heroine show real chemistry, and Nick realizes Isabel's strengths (and weaknesses) and genuinely applauds her efforts and goals.  Finding himself wanting nothing more than to help Isabel when she insists she doesn't need it, he tells her that maybe its time for her to allow someone to take care of her for a change since she's spent so long looking after others.  To hear those words come from a man who wants nothing to do with marriage, that is huge.  But to the ears of a woman who wants nothing to do with marriage after being witness to her parents' relationship, Nick has some convincing to do to soften her heart now that she's softened his.

I also liked Rock - Lord Nicholas' Turk friend that comes along with Nick for the ride.  He adds a nice touch to this story with his observations and gentle advice while he struggles with a growing relationship of his own which we see blossom with one of the girls in Isabel's care.  Overall, the book is just wonderful and I can't wait for book three in this debut series from MacLean.  Don't miss this one!

My rating:  9 – Loved it!

The Love by Numbers series...