Friday, April 29

The Heir and the Spare by Maya Rodale

Book 1 in the Negligent Chaperone Series

So the heroine’s clumsiness was a little bit very annoying. Maybe other people find clumsy heroines endearing, but I find them very false. Nobody trips THAT often. It’s just… unrealistic and lends the book a very silly edge. Unfortunately, that’s how most of this book came off. Silly and unrealistic. The premise is that our heroine, Emilia Highhart, falls in love at first sight with a man who she believes to be the heir to a dukedom, named Philip. It’s actually not the heir but his younger twin, Devon Kensington, who has just come back from America after several years to see his dying father. At the ball, seeing no reason to announce his actual presence in England (as everyone believes he is dead) he masquerades as his older brother and catches out heroine as she falls into his arms - and in love. 

First, ‘The Spare’, our hero Devon, was good. He was very real, his character made sense, and he alone salvaged the book for me. He was sweet, tender, and pretty romantic. His hatred for his brother and unhappiness with his life are both very realistic and you find yourself really pitying him some even as he grows. The whole heir v. spare conflict was explored pretty well, I thought. It would’ve been a little better if the heir, Philip, wasn’t so evil though. I mean, I understand trying to make Devon seem like the really, really good twin, but it again lent a silly edge to the book (NOBODY is completely evil, and I would've liked to see more character development for Philip).
Unfortunately, our heroine Emilia was not so good. Ridiculous and singularly dull, she was often unreasonable and not-so-bright. She got upset over little, unimportant things, which is one of my least favorite traits in heroes or heroines. As far as the supporting characters, they were as bad as the heroine. Irresponsible, flat, totally typical and way too modern and forward-thinking for a historical romance.

The plot was pretty boring. The story dragged on terribly, and but for occasional bits of brilliance supplied by Devon I would’ve thrown the book down in frustration. When we discovered that Devon works for Emilia’s father and, in fact, the father had recommended Devon for Emilia I wanted to cringe. Why do authors have this tendency to intertwine everything? Why can’t the hero and heroine just meet for goodness sakes, like normal people do?!?!

The ending really bothered me when - *****VERY BIG SPOILER ALERT***** Devon was found to truly be the heir to the dukedom. I hated that because it seemed REALLY false and way to much like a fairy tale. I understand the notion that we want Devon to be the heir because he’s so much nicer and cuter and he’s the hero but he’s not the heir and we’ve dealt with it. Furthermore, putting that in the story made me feel like Rodale felt the only way the story had a happy ending was if he became the duke. That’s not true. *****END OF VERY BIG SPOILER ALERT***** Their love for one another should’ve been enough for a happy ending and Rodale definitely did not convey that.

Favorite quotes: 
[Philip] found her beneath him [in station] as a wife, but quite nice beneath him as a fling. 

“Devon. Devon Kensington, back from the dead.” (Lady Palmerston, Emilia’s chaperone)
“Not for long,” Emilia muttered.

 “Sexy”ness rating: Hawt.

Overall Rating: C-

Bottom Line: The hero gives it the high rating it received. This book was dull, the heroine was clumsy and unreasonable, and the secondary characters were as two-dimensional as Flat Stanley.  
Pages: 304
Published: August 7, 2007
Genre: Historical

Monday, April 25

The Heat is On by Elle Kennedy

Book 6 in the Out of Uniform Series

KINKS: Threesomes (two guys and a gal), Anal
As usual (though I wouldn’t say always) with short, sexy novellas they could use those extra twenty pages. This book had all the sexy flavor it needed: sugar and spice and everything naughty galore. Unfortunately the romance between our hero, Matt O’Connor, and our heroine, Savannah Harte, was sorely lacking.
First, I was disappointed with Matt in this one. In novella five he was a real charmer with a delectable southern drawl. He was an unrepentant man whore. As such, I was really excited to see his story. Unfortunately, it seemed that Kennedy didn’t quite know what to do with Matt – he was too charming, too sexually indiscriminate, for her to handle. So instead she used a very saucy Savannah to disarm him and instead of having him rise to the challenge she supplied, he got to stutter his way through being stunned by her… I don’t know, by her beauty or something. I was sorely disappointed as he went from being suave and cool to an amateur.

Savannah had issues, but I liked the way she dealt with them. Her insecurities, hiding behind her blasé exterior, seemed very real and I was glad her character rang true. Some might call her easy, or sleazy, but I would call her refreshingly contemporary. Kennedy throws the stereotype of “a woman who gets laid a lot is a whore, a man who gets laid a lot is a hero” in our faces. Savannah can be hated or loved for her ‘easiness’, but I found her total sexual freedom electrifying. 

 Matt’s determination to hold on to her was cute and fun even if a little unrealistic for the aforementioned reasons. I was able to enjoy the story even if it was an average run-of-the-mill Samhain novella. I gave a less-than-average grade because I was so disappointed with Matt’s weak and nervous character and the lack of romance. I was really looking forward to this one and it was, in the end, a disappointment.
Favorite quotes: 

“Sounds like you think you’re attractive.” (Savannah to Matt)
“I don’t like games, Superman.” (Savannah)
“Neither do I.” He paused. “Except Scrabble. I’m pretty good at that one.” (Matt)
“So?” she cut in. “I get along with my dentist – that doesn’t mean we love each other.” (Savannah)
“Sexy”ness rating: Hot aplenty!

Overall Rating: C-

Bottom Line: As usual in the Out of Uniform series, it’s all about the sex and not nearly enough about the romance. This book wasn’t bad – it just was a little lacking in the ‘love’ arena.
Pages: around 100 to 110 pages (hard to tell on the Kindle)
Published: April 5, 2011
Genre: Contemporary

Friday, April 22

A Taste of Desire by Beverley Kendall

Book 2 in the Elusive Lords Series
     Thomas Armstrong and Amelia Bertram’s relationship was a novelty for me – it was sexy, it was dramatic, it was stunning – and I wasn’t sure I liked it. Throughout the course of a romance, I hope to see both parties changing, compromising, developing into new and better people. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that. Thomas was much too autocratic for my tastes and I felt like he took Amelia’s beautiful independent nature and locked it away under his possessive care. Yes, he was sweet and gorgeous and sexy as sin. But loving her and making her a better person? I don’t know about other readers, but for me she came across as weaker at the end, not stronger. He overpowered her, overshadowed her, and it made me want to pull her away from him. I was left worrying about her in the end, if he would continue to overpower her for the rest of their lives. An epilogue was desperately needed to put my mind at ease.
     There were also two really crucial conversations that Amelia and Thomas should have had, and without those conversations I felt the book was lacking a sort of closure. Amelia has always hated Thomas for taking her place in her father’s life – and without a conversation between them explaining that, I felt Thomas lacked a certain level of understanding of his bride. Also, there was never a conversation about why Amelia wanted to marry Cromwell or Clayborough, about why her independence was so important to her. At one point there was a line of two of dialogue indicating they might have a conversation about that and I thought ‘yes! Here it comes!’ and that was it. It was over.  

     Other than spending a lot of time considering a different life for Amelia (which is not how one should feel at the end of a romance, one should be certain of the heroine’s beautiful future) I liked the book. From the moment Amelia slandered Thomas’s sexual prowess in the middle of a crowded ballroom, I was hooked. It was funny, sexy, and soulful. Amelia can be seen as a spoiled brat at the beginning or simply a girl rebelling under terrible parental authority. Even as Thomas’s handling of her bothered me, it was a unique premise for a book and a very exciting, flirty journey. The pair’s tongues and wits are well matched, at least, and the book was a constant sparing match for the two – of which I was happy to be privy.
Favorite quotes:
“Go to bloody hell.” (Thomas)
“Why, in need of company?” (Cartwright, i.e. best supporting character in the book)

The bloody woman had probably parked herself outside, waiting for the opportunity to bash his head in. (Thomas’s thoughts regarding Amelia)
“Sexy”ness rating: *fans self vigorously* Wow.
Overall Rating: B
Bottom Line: You will either walk away from this book in love with Thomas yourself, or despising the way he treats Amelia throughout the book. The scenes are beautifully written and Kendall is an incredible writer. This book had a good mix of tender and funny, soulful and flirty, deep and shallow.
Pages: 320
Published: January 4, 2011
Genre: Historical

Thursday, April 21

The School for Brides by Cheryl Ann Smith

Book 1 in the School for Courtesans Series

     First of all, a great cast of supporting characters. Secondly, His Grace could’ve been really annoying. In fact, he tried really hard to be really annoying. Sometimes he succeeded – like with his overly possessive, anger-management-issues behavior that occasionally flared up. His desire for revenge I thought was actually fairly realistic for a duke of the day, whom I often imagine to be spoiled, arrogant, rich brats. That’s how Nicholas Drake, His Grace, comes off at first (especially with his temper tantrum. Jeez, man, get a grip). But throughout the story, Eva Winfield/Black (our heroine) works her way under his skin and brings out the better side of Nicholas – his spontaneity, his desire to be loved, and his singular wit and charm. When that happened I found myself falling for his pleasant charm about as quickly as Eva did (not quite as quickly, but close).
      Eva had one really unique point in her favor – as far as historical romance heroines go, she was spunky. She didn’t make a big deal about her virginity, which I thought made for a beautiful scene when Nicholas found out. Equally refreshing was that he did not insist they be married after deflowering her. Thank you, Cheryl Ann Smith, for breaking convention! The other things that made her spunky: she runs a school for courtesans and wears a costume so she looks more spinster like. Hm. Interesting. The only thing that bothered me about her was how quickly she fell for his touches. I felt as though she might have held out a little longer than she did, given how determined she seemed to resist. She had a backbone of steel when talking to him, but he touches her and she pretty much melted. Sketchy.
      The unfortunate thing about this book, I thought, was that the plot was pretty silly. I mean, silly in a stupid, ridiculous way not silly in a fun way. There were simply too many coincidences and unimportant plot twists that detracted from what could have been a decent plot line. The stuff about Margaret-Abigail at the end we really could’ve nixed without losing any value and it made the story seem a little too fake. Also, when the women go to rescue Yvette and sneak into the abbey I wanted to scream in frustration at the unrealistic, idiotic nature of it. I have an imagination, however there is a realm of believability that I adhere strictly too. Like Judge Judy says, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me its raining". But anyways, the romance blossomed so I happily waded through a sucky plot to get to the happy ending. And what a happy ending it was. J
Favorite quotes:

Unfortunately, Eva had neither the time nor the desire to find a shovel and dig for humanity.
One enlightened courtesan and four to go.

“If I’m to risk my reputation, Miss Black, I would prefer us both to be discovered wearing much less clothing.” (Nicholas)

“Sexy”ness rating: Bring on the Water! We’re Smokin!
Overall Rating: B-

Bottom Line: This was not the best historical novel I’ve ever read – but it was far from the worst and better than average. The characters were interesting even if the plot was silly, and I found the book, for the most part, refreshingly light. Cheryl Ann Smith, what a wonderful debut. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Pages: 304
Published: April 5, 2011
Genre: Historical

Sunday, April 10

MIA for April and May

Dear Readers,

I'm afraid I'm going to be missing for April and the beginning of May. The AP Exams are coming up, and being the studious, bookish type I'm super-concerned about grades and college and all that. So I'll be taking an extended vacation from my lovely romance novels and reviews until the middle of May when my APs are over and life can resume (until Finals and SAT time, that is).

Thank you so much for your love, support, views, etc.

Rose May

Update (May 13th, 2011): So glad to be out of the weeds with THAT set of tests - but of course finals will be upon me soon and end-of-the-year papers and projects are closing in... but romance will somehow worm its way into my life, I've no doubt.