Monday, May 30

Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas

Book 2 in the Hathaway Series

Kleypas writes a tortured hero to rival that of Loretta Chase’s Dain (Lord of Scoundrels). Kev Merripen is our hero in this novel, a gypsy rescued from the brink of death as a boy and brought up under the tender and loving care of the Hathaway family. Kleypas does a wonderful job writing the back story; Kev’s love for Win (Winnifred Hathaway) started as a boy and I loved watching it grow as they both grew older. However, Kleypas didn’t take too much time with the childhood, which was good. It was a perfect balance, actually, of his childhood love growing into his quiet, adult obsession (yes, I know it sounds creepy, but it sort of is an obsession... a good one, I swear).
Kev refuses to believe he’s good enough for Win – he is a large man, and because of his very violent past he’s afraid of what he could do to his gentle Win (especially since she’s an invalid for much of the story). Win, however, loves him too much to let him go, and decides to get well and show him she's not weak any longer and he can love her. She goes away for a few years to a clinic in France and makes a wonderful recovery, and comes home to pursue her sullen love once more. Win really wants their relationship to flourish – but time and again he pushes her away until she gets disheartened and turns to another suitor, agreeing to marry him for all the wrong reasons (including imminent scandal).
It’s then some of the Hathaway family (who love both Win and Kev very much) step forward and knock some sense into him before it’s too late and we get our gorgeous HEA. Most of the plot, obviously, revolves around Kev and Win, however the sub-plot is a mystery of sorts surrounding a tattoo of a pooka (Irish nightmare horse) on both Kev and his brother-in-law Cam’s arm. There’s some drama regarding that, and a murder attempt, as well as an armoire that gets lit on fire (FAVORITE SCENE OF THE YEAR), but the plot is pretty contained, letting the reader focus mostly on Kev and Win. It was an explosive, passionate, wildly hot read that I would recommend to anyone. The characters are beautifully developed with great background. All in all, a great tortured hero and a beautifully strong heroine.
Favorite quotes:
“Perhaps she wasn’t altogether unhappy, having to stay,” Win had suggested, her eyes twinkling. “After all, Hades did make her his queen. And the story says he possessed ‘the riches of the earth.’”
“A rich husband,” Amelia had said, “doesn’t change the fact that Persephone’s main residence is in an undesirable location with no view whatsoever. Just think of the difficulties in leasing it out during the off-months.”

He had said the sky should always be blue for her.
“Have we locked away the silver?” he [Kev] had asked Cam earlier, when the Gypsies from the river campsite had begun pouring into the house, dressed in colorful clothes and jingling finery.
Phral,” Cam had said cheerfully, “there’s no need for that. They’re family.”
“It’s because they’re our family that I want the silver locked away.”

“Sexy”ness rating: Wow. *clears throat*
Overall Rating: B+

Bottom Line: If you like tortured heroes, this is soooo a book for you. Strong heroines and sexy gypsies await!

Pages: 384
Published: April 1, 2010
Genre: Historical

His Majesty, the Prince of Toads by Delle Jacobs

I love those stories where the husband must pursue his wife - but I generally prefer that he do so well. Although it was a fun courtship, it was very hard to feel the love blossoming on either side. I admit myself to being confused as to when our hero, Lucas Deverall’s, affections turned from being money-motivated to being love-motivated. I found it rather difficult to understand Sophie Deverall, our heroine, for most of the book because her back story wasn’t explained until the end - and by then I was more annoyed, less interested. Also, as a side note, the back story was not the best I’ve seen written – especially because Sophie believes her actions could have changed the outcome of an entire war, which is really just silly. Delusional? It seems so.

There were, however, some adorable scenes where the love was very clear and exceptionally beautiful – like when they went ice skating, or when Lucas promises to take her home – that redeemed this book some. Lucas was an ass throughout most of the book, which I detested, and Sophie was too scared or too love-torn to fight for herself, it seemed. After reading so many strong heroines, I found it difficult to understand her. If she wanted to escape so badly, I should think she would be able to manage it. Lucas’s misconceptions are entirely selfish and I found myself hating him for half the book while he stubbornly tried to tell himself that his wife was an evil, manipulative bitch, as he tried to manipulate her for her money. Yes, really.

The plot was focused solely on the couple which I rather liked, seeing as they needed all the face-time they could get to repair their relationship. Some people who like hunky heroes might be a bit put out by Lucas’s injury, but it’s really not a major part of the story and it doesn’t detract from his handsomeness. It also serves an important role in evoking Sophie’s pity and then love for Lucas (which I wasn’t sure was a good thing – love through pity?). While Sophie and Lucas argued a lot, their banter could’ve and should've been more humorous, and that’s why this book is just barely above average for me. I love fire between my lovers, but I like to laugh at it. All in all, what is there to say other than the book was pretty average. Yeah.

 Favorite quotes:

“I asked you to make love to me nearly an hour ago. What is taking you so long?” (Sophie)

“Miss you? I noticed you were gone.” (Sophie) 

“Where are you going?” Sophie demanded.
“The library,” he [Lucas] responded in a ridiculously giddy tone. “Lady Carstairs has some new paintings I have not seen.”
“I’ve seen them.” She yanked futilely against his grip.
“Wonderful. Then you can tell me about them.”

 “Sexy”ness rating: Sweet and spicy!!!

Overall Rating: C

Bottom Line: It was a good book with a lovable (though sometimes sour) hero and a cute heroine.

Pages: 280
Published: March 29, 2010
Genre: Historical

Wednesday, May 25

The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander

May end up as part of a trilogy – stay tuned!!!

Alexander’s wit and charm cannot be missed, especially in her characters. All of the characters – both our main couple (Julia and Harrison) and their friends and family – possessed extraordinary sarcastic wits. It made for some of the most amusing dialogue I’ve read in a very long time (although Bewitching by Jill Barnett is another book with the same sarcastic humor). Each scene was delightfully funny as the characters bantered with dry intelligence and sharp tongues. And there was a lot of bantering, dear reader, because this book had a TON of dialogue. I think, despite the sheer amount of chit-chat that occurred, the book was enhanced by the extensive dialogue rather than hindered.

Our heroine, the young widow Lady Julia Winterset, is considering publishing her great-grandmother’s scandalous memoirs. She knows they will fetch a decent amount (“scandal sells books”) and needs the money to get by financially for the next few years as her husband did not leave her well off, or even decently provided for. Our hero, Lord Harrison Landingham, the Earl of Mountdale and future Marquess of Kingsbury, is an uptight, pretentious, sanctimonious prig at first glance (and second and third, actually). He discovers that the memoirs, which include a mention of his very alive father, are to be published and offers Julia money to keep them from being published. She refuses – and the plot revolves around his various ‘brilliant’ plans to get the memoirs from her and save his family from scandal.

This book contains some really amusing scenes (one with a man named Ellsworth in a library) which would make me recommend this book simply because it’s hysterically funny. The plot overall was rather weak and the characters could have used a bit more fleshing out (though they were far from bare-bones). Harrison rubbed me the wrong way for the entire book because of his attitude towards women, though it would’ve been a very typical view for a man of the day. I suppose I can be faulted for liking some contemporary qualities in my historical heroes, but his disrespectful attitude towards women and their ‘lesser intelligence’ never really changed throughout the book, even after being bested by Julia several times. I could never understand why, when he did all sorts of other changing, Alexander kept his attitude towards women the same. 

Julia, her friend Veronica, and the ghost of her great-grandmother Hermione (yes, there is a ghost in this historical romance. But she’s not all eerie-spooky-creepy, so I went with it) were really spunky. Like I’ve mentioned, they each had that sarcastic wit. They were fun to be around and I truly enjoyed their company. I was even sad when Hermione had to go at the end. Speaking of the end, there were some loose ends left flapping that I wasn’t sure I didn’t want tied (like what happened with Cadwallender? He dropped off the face of the earth! I hate that). Alexander ultimately writes a good book, and I would recommend The Perfect Mistress for the humor alone. Have a laugh.

Favorite quotes:

 “I do hope your friend is not as annoying as you are.” (Harrison)
“Goodness, why on earth would I have a friend who wasn’t?” (Victoria)

 “She’s as sane as I am.” (Mrs. Philpot)
“Oh, that’s a ringing endorsement.” (Eleanor)

“In addition, I have legions of admirers who would not take your running me through at all well.” (Ellsworth)
Harrison raised a brow. “Public outcry, you think?”
“I should hope so.” Ellsworth huffed.
“I should think there would be legions of women who would applaud him and wish they’d done the deed themselves!” Julia’s voice rang with outrage.
“Again, Lady Winterset” – Ellsworth grinned in an unrepentant manner – “I should hope so.”
 “Sexy”ness rating: Pretty hot.
Overall Rating: B-

Bottom Line: The hero was rather annoying – I found myself not at all charmed by him throughout the book. However, the wit and humor of our heroine and the other characters really won me over, and they were indeed quite charming. This book has some serious humor.

Pages: 352
Published: February 2011
Genre: Historical

Monday, May 23


This review has been removed for a duration of approximately 1 year.

Saturday, May 21

When You Dare by Lori Foster

Book 1 in the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor Series

First, I am a HUGE Lori Foster fan. I own almost every book she's written. I started buying her books when I was twelve (Truth or Dare was my very first adult romance). I am enraptured with  almost all her writings. So it comes to no surprise that I liked this book a lot. I’m a big fan of Foster’s style (especially her SBC Fighters series), and this book (with our delicious Dare Macintosh) was no exception from her excellent writing.

Our heroine, Molly Alexander, has been kidnapped to Tijuana, Mexico and has just been rescued by Dare (he was on a mission to rescue another kidnapped woman and rescued Molly while he was at it). After determining that her kidnapping was not at all random, he vows to keep her safe and help her heal. The plot was a very typical Foster plot – danger, excitement, suspense, a crazed villain that hits close to home, a sexy and very capable hero who takes the villain down … she always writes it very well. The plot I had no exception to, it was enjoyable, fast-paced, and a nail-bitter to the finish.

 On top of a great plot, the characters (supporting like Chris as well as primary) were excellent as well. Molly was the strongest Foster heroine yet, and she always writes really independent heroines. Her strength was incredible, unmatched, and yet still realistic. She was a beautiful woman, confident and sure of herself. I also loved, LOVED that Molly was a romantic suspense writer. Some reviews I’ve read say they hate how much Foster’s own voice shines through so clearly in this one (for an example see the first quote below). Personally, I thought it was entertaining, creative, and unique. Her personal opinion was clearly infused into the book as were some of her personal experiences as a writer. I thought her absolute knowledge on the subject of writing really enhanced the book – but that’s just me.

Our hero, Dare, is sexy as sin and deliciously tempting. He was everything a good contemporary hero should be (and everything a Lori Foster hero always is) along with a kind of lethal danger and quiet sensitivity. Foster likes to write action, and she’s good at it. Dare is capable of handling dangerous situation when bullets are flying and blood is flowing. I found Dare to be exceptionally sexy in his protection of Molly and his ability to focus in tough situations. I would have liked to see more of his past, we didn't get enough background for Dare.

There was only one thing about Dare’s personality I didn’t like. He seemed, at times, a little too violent. The lines ‘I’d go back and kill them again’ (not a direct quote, but something similar) were written several times throughout the book and during the climax Dare has to restrain himself from killing a man who is virtually defenseless. While I understand the sexy-factor of being lethal and capable, the violence and lack of regret for murder (even if the individuals were really nasty) made me a bit uneasy. A little remorse or pause about taking a life would be nice - as it was he was way too blase about it. But other than that one complaint, Dare was fabulous, smoldering, and tender. I think the tenderness is really what did me in.

If you need yet more convincing to read this book, check out the video here: Yum.

 Favorite quotes (it was hard to only pick three):

She immediately went defensive. “Life has sex in it, and I write about life, about people who face hardships and in the end triumph through it all. And really good triumph deserves a lasting love, don’t you think?” Before he could answer, she said, “Of course it does. And any lasting love has to have really hot, wonderful sex.”

“That’s, uh, the second time you’ve kissed me.” (Molly)
His gaze went back to her mouth, his voice deepened. “I can count.” 

“Chris is gay.” (Dare)
“Gay?” Mystified, she stared at him. “But you’re not…?”
Dare gave her a look. “Are you actually asking me that? Because I thought I’d made my sexual preferences pretty clear already.”

 “Sexy”ness rating: Hotter than Hades (and more sinful too)

 Overall Rating: B+

Bottom Line: I always advocate reading Lori Foster if you’re a contemporary fan – and this book is absolutely no exception. Great characters, an intriguing plot and a suspenseful race to the finish (with some smoldering sex too) this book was an excellent read overall.

Pages: 448 pages
Published: April 13, 2011
Genre: Contemporary

Thursday, May 19

Authors Note: Read More Kind Authors

A quick note on one of all our favorite subjects - authors. Everyone who loves books, loves authors. I love authors. I regularily send fan emails/snail mails/tweets/FB posts to my favorite authors telling them how much I loved their books and why. I am in awe of their power of words, and how they can dredge up real people from pixels on a screen or ink on a page. Literally, in awe. O.O

When an author writes back to me, you would not believe how excited I get. Obviously, even if I quit my day job and read books all day long, I could never read them all. So some authors go on your 'must read' list and others get... shuffled of the coil. A lot of times reading one novel from an author is all it takes to put them on or off my must-read list. Take Sarah MacLean and Loretta Chase, for instance. Even if they start writing trash, I will continuously read their books in the desperate hope that something like their former novels might show up in their writing (the likelihood either of those authors will start writing trash is slim to nil). Other authors, authors that aren't bad but aren't stand out, get suffled off the list after one C-rated book.

However, I have discovered that certain authors have saved themselves and given themselves a second chance. For instance, the case of Miranda Neville. About ten minutes ago, she put herself back on my list of authors to look at. I had tweeted the link of my review of her book (yes, you can follow me on twitter as well @Romanticrosemay). Even though this review was not overly complimentary, she tweeted back '@Romanticrosemay Thanks for reviewing my book :)'! That little comment, the little interaction between author and her reader, has given her a second chance because it has established a bond - however slight.

So, moral of the story? Pick up a Sarah MacLean novel (Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake or Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart), a Loretta Chase (My favorite is Lord of Scoundrels although there are reviews of Not Quite a Lady and Your Scandalous Ways on my site) and try a Miranda Neville because, hey, what the hell. She's a nice lady, and her writings pretty decent. She's definitely a woman deserving of a second look.


Never Resist Temptation by Miranda Neville

Our heroine, Jacobin de Chastelux, is really fun. Why? She’s a wonderful pastry cook and can make ‘little puffy things’. She’s French. She curses in French like a sailor. And she has a gay friend. These are just some of the things that make for a wonderfully unique heroine – and she was so unique that I even forgave her the mild temper tantrums that didn’t make sense and the occasional character slips. Her fiery personality was setting off sparks all throughout the book, and I loved it.

 Our hero, Lord Anthony Storrington, is not as likeable. You may like him just fine, but I found him a bit too… spoiled for my tastes. Everything in his life was about how it affected him. I was annoyed at his reluctance to befriend his obviously kind sister. He always wanted Jacobin to wait on him (even after he knows her true identity – explanation follows), sometimes in ways not pertaining to her servant station. His actions are generally self-serving, almost throughout the entire book. As you well know, a boring or selfish hero breaks a book and Lord Storrington, while still sexy and sometimes quite nice, didn’t quite sit right with me.

Jacobin is a lady who runs away from her guardian (her Uncle) after he loses her in a card game to Lord Storrington. She is hired as a pastry chef (she’s a good one) in the Prince’s kitchens, where she is disguised as a man. When a poisoning occurs, she is forced to flee due to suspicion that might reveal her true identity. She is rehired as a woman, Jane Castle, in Lord Storrington’s kitchens. Thus, romance ensues. I shan’t tell you more or I’ll spoil it for you, but the plot basically revolves around the investigator getting closer and closer to discovering Jane’s true identity as he tries to solve the attempted murder.

The plot was decent overall, as long as you aren’t a reader who wants to wallow strictly in reality. Some of the events, like Jacobin pretending to be a male in the kitchen for almost a year and getting away with it, push the bounds of reality but I found it made the story more fun and more interesting. There was, however, a part of the plot Neville could’ve dropped out. I found the whole “My-mother-had-an-affair-and-then-killed-herself-ruining-my-life-so-I’m-going-to-get-revenge-on-the-man-who-banged-her” thing Storrington had going on was a bit ridiculous. I was happy enough to wade through some of the fantasy of the plot, I even got caught up in some of the whimsy of hidden identities and all that – but that silliness really ruined some of the book for me and made out Storrington to be a big baby who can't think like a rational adult.

 Favorite quotes:
 “I am delighted to meet you, Jane Castle. I perceive that you are as precious as an apricot in November. I’ll give you a kiss in exchange for one.” (Master James to Jacobin)

“You’re not to go near the man. In fact, I’ll ride out tomorrow and choke the truth out of him.” (Anthony)
“I’m coming with you,” Jacobin said.
“No you’re not. You will stay here with Kitty.”
“No! I want to choke Edgar too.”
“Choking is a man’s work. I’m bigger and stronger.”
“I’m very strong. I could choke him just as well as you.”
“But I’m bigger. Size matters,” Anthony said, with a shake of his head, “When it comes to choking, I mean.”

 “Sexy”ness rating: Cute and fun and a little bit kinky with whipped cream and a little bondage (just in case you’re concerned it’s all very light - more creative, less serious kink).

 Overall Rating: B-

Bottom Line: The heroine makes the book worth reading, her personality is that unique and I love that she’s French. Our hero… we could do without.

Pages: 384
Published: February 19, 2009
Genre: Historical

Sunday, May 15

Familiar by Michelle Rowen

First off, let me say that some of the very first adult paranormal romance books I read were by Michelle Rowen, and I loved them (I believe it was her series about Thierry and Sarah Dearly). Her young adult short story, Familiar, captures some of her signature spunk that I love – though I really did wish it was longer. It had a lot of potential that simply wasn’t fulfilled in the 10,000 word limit.

The short story is about a young witch-in-training, Brenda, going to pick out her familiar. She chooses a runty little kitten – only to find out that this kitten is actually a shape-shifter named Owen. Brenda and Owen, in their little two-day adventure, run into quite a bit of trouble with werewolves and a really nasty older brother named Jeremy (Gr!!!). They help one another explore their situations and fears (albeit, rather hurriedly – this is a short story). A little bit of love blossoms, a happy ending occurs.

What does Ms. Rowen do well? She captures the essence of teenage uncertainty, desire to belong, and desire to please. She also writes the completely illogical nature of teenage logic (i.e. I don't want to disappoint my mother by being bad at magic, so instead I won't even try) really well. Any teenager would be able to easily relate, and all of us who have been teenagers once recall those feelings with clarity. If the story had been a little bit longer she could’ve done a better job developing the story and the characters and added more of her signature witty flair. As it was, it wasn’t bad – in fact it was pretty good for a story of its length. If you’re looking for a quick, fast-paced, light read, this is a book to pick up.

Favorite quote:

“Um, Owen? Do you want some breakfast or something?”
A smile stretched across his face, making him better looking, if that was even possible. “Breakfast sounds really good. Almost as good as ‘or something.’”

 “Sexy”ness rating: It’s Young Adult, so it’s totally PG with very sweet, chaste kisses 

(note – this book is graded on a Young Adult, Short Story scale. Do not compare its grade to those of full length, adult novels) Overall Rating:

Bottom Line: Perfect for an hour/two hour wait when you want to read an uncomplicated, fast-paced, young adult love story.
Pages: 10,000 words
Published: May 13, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

Friday, May 13

Lost in Your Arms by Christina Dodd

Book 5 in the Governess Bride Series

Enid MacLean, our heroine, is admirable – but not in a remarkable way. She didn’t stand out from the other hordes of romance heroines, which is partly why this book is barely better than average. She started out beautifully – strong-willed and a wonderful caretaker, but rapidly progressed into a mostly vapid and uninspiring heroine with the same internal battles every heroine has – but really with little cause. Our hero, MacLean, was strong, inspiring and almost picture-perfect but for the really mean, cruel words he said towards the middle (that may have smacked a little of verbal abuse or MacLean’s bruised pride. At least Enid’s not the victim type).

The story begins with Enid working as a caretaker for an invalid, older woman – when she is called away to a man’s estate to care for her husband, who has been severely injured in an explosion. While most wives would be fluttering with concern, Enid is unhappy with her husband’s intrusion into her life – after all, it’ll be the first time she’s even seen Stephen MacLean in eight years. Reluctantly she goes and cares for him – and the love story progresses from there as MacLean begins to heal and improve. Soon, MacLean wakes and finds himself without his memory – no knowledge of who he is or why he was in the Crimea, where the explosion occurred. Long and short, after some love-making and a fire (a real one, not the combustion of their passion) he and Enid set off for his home in Scotland where the conclusion of the drama, the discovery of the villains trying to kill MacLean, and the rest of the love story occurs.

The characters were witty, even if sometimes annoying and not true to themselves. The repertoire was amusing (if a little confusing at times when the reader doesn’t quite know what’s going on yet). Why on earth, you ask, should this book get such an average rating? Why, Rose May, Why?  

First, *****BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG SPOILER ALERT: READ AT OWN PERIL***** I strongly dislike those stories where the woman has sex with her ‘husband/former lover’ and decides she loves him despite all his past problems – and then discovers he’s actually the brother/twin and not the husband/former lover. And then marries the brother/twin. This is what occurs in this story, when Enid finds out that her ‘husband’ that she’s caring for is not actually her honey-bunches-of-oats but his cousin, Laird Kiernan. I dislike these stories because they reek of the notion that people are all bad or all good. Usually, the former lover was a disaster and a mean-spirited alcoholic gambler and the replacement is a moral, strong, sexy beast. I dislike this because it squawks of the idea that change is impossible in a human being – because it can’t REALLY be the former lover lying in the sick bed because he’d be a rat. I also dislike these stories because… well… it’s weird to marry the family of your former husband/lover. I mean, for some people it would be less weird or not weird at all. But these stories freak me out – like do you need to have sex with all the manny-pants in the family to decide which one you’ll marry? I know, I know, that’s not the point of the story. Just my opinion, dear blog readers. *****END OF BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG SPOILER ALERT*****.

Second, the plot line was, in its essence, unrealistic. Which is annoying, because I like to live vicariously through the heroines - or at least escape into an alternate reality - and I can't do that if I'm constantly being thrown by how silly the plot or drama is. For being thrown into unexpected situations, MacLean is surprisingly prepared at all times (maybe he was a Scottish boy scout?) even when he really shouldn't be. Also, some of the plot twists don’t make sense – why would the villain, who had access to the cottage in which MacLean was staying the entire time, wait till the end to kill him or steal his stuff? The book was fun to flit through as long as you didn’t look too closely – which I tried not to do.

Favorite quotes: 

“There is nothing worse than a female who has logic.” (MacLean)
“Unless it’s a male who has none.” (Enid)

“The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” (MacLean)
“The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his chest. With a dagger.” (Enid) 

“Of course we [the males] understand. She’s having a babe. It’s a natural occurrence.” (MacLean)
“That is what men don’t understand.” Celeste shook her head sadly. “They say it is a natural function. They even think they have something to do with it.”
“We... Something to do with it? Yes, we do,” MacLean spluttered. “I’d like to see you do it on your own!”

 “Sexy”ness rating: Sexy – really, pretty gosh-durned sexy. J

Overall Rating: C+

Bottom Line: If this is a kind of plot line you like, then you’ll most likely love this story. She writes this well, the characters are sorta great-ish, and the plot is slightly unrealistic but still suspenseful and fun. All in all, its average but perfect for a light read where you don't want to delve too deep or make things too complex.
Pages: 384
Published: May 11, 2004
Genre: Historical

Wednesday, May 11

Sinful Surrender by Beverley Kendall

Book 1 in the Elusive Lords Series

     Wow. Lord James Rutherford was a sexy, hot mess. He knows, at least, that he’s sexy. It was hard to determine if he knew he was a mess until the very end and then, trust me, he knew. Lady Missy (Milicent) Armstrong is our gracious heroine, who loves James with all her heart despite his nastiness when he tries to drive her away. It was sad to see that love cool a little bit towards the end – Kendall did a great job showing James’s growing love but did a bad job showing Missy had retained her love for James despite his antics.  

     Throughout the second half of the book I was worried Missy didn’t truly love him anymore, what with her frequent denials to his proposals. Normally such scenes are accompanied by deep introspection or crying scenes – which only happened once (the other times she didn't seem affected at all). Thus, when they do finally get together, I was much less satisfied than I should have been. Missy’s behavior was mostly consistent but on occasion I wondered where she was coming from because she no longer sounded like herself.
     As usual with Kendall’s books, the characters are very well developed. The main characters are fleshed out nearly to perfection, the secondary characters don’t overwhelm or intrude in any of the scenes and act quite human. Thomas Armstrong and Alex Cartwright (James's best friends who each get their own story) are wonderful, humorous, and I can't wait to read their stories. The secondary characters don’t show up only for scenes where the main characters need prodding in their relationship and then disappear. They consistently amuse us and entertain us as we watch the protagonists struggle with their feelings and relationship. The plot was also well-developed, again nothing too overwhelming to distract us from the romance. It could have used a little more excitement, but overall it was a pretty decent story.

Favorite quotes:
“This thing with my sister. You keeping your distance until she finds a husband.” (Thomas Armstrong)
“Ah yes, the brilliant plan. It’s been a smashing success wouldn’t you agree?” (Alex) 

Divine, the past week, was le mot du jour and one Sarah had been using ad nauseam. If she ate cake she liked, it was divine; a reticule she saw through a storefront window, divine. Everything she took a fancy to was divine and driving Missy divinely batty.

“How can I possibly leave you? We are not together.” (Missy) 

 “Sexy”ness rating: *faints* It can’t get much hotter than this, folks
Overall Rating: B

Bottom Line: Excellent read - this book has a sexy hero, a sweet, strong heroine and an explosion of passion when their worlds collide.
Pages: 344
Published: December 8, 2009
Genre: Historical

Tuesday, May 10

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean

Book 3 in the Love by Numbers Series
Miss Juliana Fiori may be one of my all-time favorite heroines. She was fun, flirty, bold, brazen and impulsive. She was absolutely adorable and I could really feel the depth of her passion for love and for life. She could be silly or sweet or fierce or haughty, though her haughtiness was really only skin-deep. She was gorgeous, inside and out, and I loved her. I really could extol her wonderful nature for the rest of this review – but of course I’m sure the other characters and the plot also deserve some notice.

The ‘Duke of Disdain’ also known as the Duke of Leighton, Simon Pearson was truly a delightful, proper ass when first met. He was intriguing, sarcastic, and true to his title – disdainful. His witty banter with our heroine is just the beginning of a very acerbic, sardonic friendship in which the reader feels the love blossoming through the cutting words. It was gorgeously fun to watch him struggle with his desire for passion and his contemptuous upbringing. I loved seeing how Juliana brought out the best in him again and again. It was really sweet and totally romantic. Their bickering was even romantic.

The obstacles thrown in their way didn’t detract from the love story, which was excellent. There were plenty of romantic scenes (like the riding in the park. Loved it) and lots of beautiful introspection. Juliana’s antics meant the story was never lacking for excitement or emotion. And the drama that did occur was taken care of in a very natural fashion, nothing unreasonable or idiotic. Finally, a story with a human plot line! The supporting characters were never obtrusive and didn’t distract us from the blossoming romance and truly played a very minor role in the story. This was all about our Duke and his girl. All in all, it was a magnificent read and a valuable addition to my shelf.

Favorite quotes:
“Leave it to the English to fabricate a lake.” (Juliana)
“And leave it to the Italians to fall into it!” (Simon)

“I have developed a fondness for apple tarts, but I do not want to marry one.” (Juliana) 
“First, it’s excellent bacon, and I’m not thrilled I had to stop eating it.” (Nick) 

 “Sexy”ness rating: Hot!
Overall Rating: A- 

Bottom Line: A wonderful read with a gloriously fun heroine, a witty hero, and plenty of romance! 

Pages: 384
Published: April 6, 2011
Genre: Historical

Other books in the series (click the link to check out the review):
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord

The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney

The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney (revised from The Would-be Widow)

I guess, you guess, she guesses… this book was a guessing game (and not the fun kind) for our hero, heroine and the reader. The heroine spends half the book guessing – its actually noticeable the number of things she discerns just by guessing. Where is the meaningful conversation? The reader, meanwhile, spends most of the book guessing at the heroine’s vast mood swings and temper tantrums (which she claims she doesn’t have often – clearly someone’s been lying to the poor chit).

Lady Jocelyn Kendal marries Major David Lancaster, a man on his deathbed and wasting away, having been seriously injured in the war. Their marriage is clearly one of convenience, each with a very good reason. Jocelyn’s father put a stipend in his will that Jocelyn must marry before her twenty-fifth birthday to continue to receive her vast inheritance. David is worried about who will take care of his governess sister Sally once he kicks the can. Jocelyn promises 500 pounds a year to his sister in exchange for his marriage to her to satisfy the will. She is planning to become the Duke of Candover’s mistress after David dies – since she believes herself in love with him (or not? It was hard to tell) and he won’t offer marriage. David, however, makes a miraculous recovery after the marriage. Oh she-bang, what to do? I’m sure you can imagine.

This book had a lot of potential to be fun – man-and-wife love stories are really fun. However this book was so bungled up with Jocelyn’s strange, erratic, nonsensical behavior that the love couldn’t really blossom. I felt a lot of love on David’s part, and at one point I almost got lost in the story until Jocelyn pulled me back out of it again with yet another one of her antics. David was a really sweet guy even if he, for some reason, fell in love with Jocelyn (poor taste, man). He was loveable, sensitive, and soulful and a very unique hero in that Putney didn’t make a huge deal over his masculinity (especially since he starts the book as an invalid). However Jocelyn’s spoiled, bratty, impulsive attitude really ruined the book for me and with no substantial plot to make up for it, this book sunk lower and lower in my esteem. There were a few redeeming male characters like Richard or Ian, but all the females were irrational and flat which was very irritating.
Finally, Putney does one of the things I most hate in romance novels *****SPOILER ALERT*****- reinforces the idea that money and title are necessary for a happy ending. Partway through the book, David inherits and becomes Lord Presteyne after his three older, evil half-brothers all die. Why is it that the man must be titled for the story to end  satisfactorily? Why was David as a war hero, as a Major, not enough? Oh, woe is me. This is one of my biggest buttons and historical writers push it frequently, and with glee. *****END OF SPOILER ALERT*****

Favorite quotes:

“Whoever claimed females were the weaker sex didn’t know you. All a poor male can do is agree quickly and hope to escape unscathed.” (David) 
“but I think you’d make a better husband for her than a man whose greatest challenge has been the cut of his coat.” (Richard to David)
“When you’re dead, its devious or nothing.” (David)

 “Sexy”ness rating: Mildly hot, lacking the spice of passion, but the wang does make an appearance.
Overall Rating: D+

Bottom Line: Boring, flat characters, an uninteresting storyline and a hysterical heroine make this book really not worth your while.

Pages: 352 Pages
Published: March 23, 2011
Genre: Historical (Regency)