Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I must admit that while waiting for my booksfree.com order to arrive, I grew impatient and visited the local library, only to take out about a dozen contemporary romances with which to pass the long holiday weekend. Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell, an author I had not yet read, was the first one I opened. I was more than pleasantly surprised.
The story takes place in the town of Newquay, Cornwall. It's the story of the friendship that arises between Bridget Jones-like protagonist Millie Brady and famous novelist, Orla Hart, who Millie happens to save from jumping off a cliff upon the discovery of her husband's infidelity. Orla, suffering from a career block as well as a cheating husband, decides to use Millie's single life as the basis for her new novel. Despite Millie's protests to the contrary, her life in Newquay is far from boring. She and her roommate, Hester, find a wallet, and from there, the fun begins. The wallet belongs to Hugh Emerson, a recently widowed, stunningly gorgeous thirty year old who becomes the fling in the title, because according to Hugh, that's all he'll ever be capable of. Or so he thinks. Millie keeps Hugh a secret from Orla. He's too important to relegate to a novel. And while Hugh is dithering, unknowing Orla decides to spice up Millie's life and get things rolling with the goal of spicing up her book as well. She's filled with good intentions, but the men she fixes Millie up with are in turn, horribly boring or totally inappropriate. Millie makes the best of each situation, while waiting for the one man she's found on her own to decide their fate.
Packed with lovable secondary characters like Lucas Kemp and Nat, Hester's past and present loves, Orla's sleezy husband Giles, Con, the famous actor with a secret, and Millie's divorced parents, Millie's Fling transports you to the Cornwall coast, and makes you feel like you are among friends. When Millie finds the love of her life, you'll feel like standing up and cheering. I read this book in about 8 hours, no small feat for 500+ pages on a work day. That should give you an idea of how good it really is.
Jill Mansell writes with attitude, quick wit and more than a little love for her characters. I've already "queued-up" for her next books. I love hitting the jackpot with an author I've never read before. Pick this one up, it's good for a laugh and more than one cry. And you'll be as sorry as I was when I got to page 506.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Farwell Creek is a dry, dusty place – just a tiny hamlet in the middle of the drought stricken Australian outback. Once Bec O’Donnell and Nick Price, best friends and young lovers, planned on living happily ever after in Farwell Creek, but unfortunately real life got in the way of young dreams. Bec left her hometown for the big city and Nick stayed behind working a farm that was no longer his. And when they're brought back together by the sudden, tragic death of the parents of their best friend Hailey, Nic and Bec find their teenage promise to be as distant as the rain. With nothing to offer, Nick refuses to act on the feelings he still has for Bec, and tired of waiting for Nick to acknowledge that he even cares she’s come home, Bec reluctantly turns her attentions elsewhere.
After a small, but potentially dangerous fire in town, it becomes obvious, at least to mover and shaker Bec, that the town is in dire need of its own bona fide bush fire brigade - complete with a fire truck, no less. But how best to raise the exorbitant amount of money this will cost? The answer comes in the form of Terry "people call me Gordo" Gordon - a tall, blond, handsome stranger who calmly and rather self-indulgently suggests a Bachelor and Spinster ball. But no one in the Creek knows what a B&S really is, much less how to organize one, so Gordo suggests Bec accompany him to such a ball in a neighboring town. Now Nick is clearly jealous, Bec’s mother Jean is more angry than usual, and Hailey is far beyond just a little concerned. But Bec is intrigued – not only with the idea of a ball, but apparently with the man who suggested it.
The events of the story swirl around the organization of the ball. While Hailey finds her happiness with the leader of the band they’ve hired, Bec and Nick continually butt heads as they try to make sense of their lingering feelings. Bec can’t deny she’s attracted to the flashy Gordo, but she still longs to have Nick look at her just once the way he used to. And Nick? He’s busy berating himself for being nothing more than a hired hand on his father’s old farm. Nick stubbornly and quite mistakenly believes he has to make something of himself before telling Bec what he’s feeling. And then he suddenly realizes that perhaps he’s waited just a little too long. Will he ever be able to come to terms with losing Bec for good?
Fast paced and well-written, The Bachelor and Spinster Ball provides a glimpse into everyday life in the remote Australian outback. And despite wanting to clout Nick over the head a number of times, I really enjoyed the characters – and how, just like in any small town, they care about - and for - each other. Highly recommended, The Bachelor and Spinster Ball is yet another excellent offering from Janet Gover and Little Black Dress.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
It's always gratifying when a student leads a teacher to something new. One of Bookishly's star protegees found this author and recommended that we read her work. As usual, our teaching comes full circle. This author is good. Very, very good. And the student gets an A.
And Then He Kissed Her is the story of Harrison Robert Marlowe, viscount and man of business in this year of 1893. He is an owner of several newspapers and publishing houses and he employs a female secretary, Emma Dove, to keep his life tidy, his businesses humming and his mistresses in line.
Emma has worked for Harry for five years, and for just about as long, has tried to get Harry to publish her etiquette for "girl-bachelor" books. Rejection after rejection ensues, and finally, after finding out that Harry has been a bit less than honest in his critique of her writing, she quits his employ and sells her work to his competitor. Unbeknownst to Emma, Harry has been working to buy his rival's newspaper, and once again, Emma finds herself on Harry's payroll, but this time, with an important difference. She is no longer his secretary; due to the popularity of her etiquette column, she is now Harry's star attraction and chief money-maker.
With their relationship on a more equal professional footing, Harry gains a new respect for Emma, and that respect starts to drift in an entirely new and not unwelcome direction. Emma realizes that Harry may be the most commitment-phobic man in Great Britain, but she decides life is too short to squander a good thing, and conventions of the day aside, they begin a torrid affair.
Ms. Gurhke writes with a wry sense of humor and a snappy style that keeps the story flowing. She interjects enough details of the Victorian era to give the reader an excellent feel for the times, and the unusual nature of both Harry and Emma's actions. We get a fairly good idea of the attitudes and opinions of the changing mores at the end of the 19th century, when money and the making of it starts to usurp the old order of the Peers of the Realm. And we also get a glimpse of the changing attitudes towards marriage, divorce and a woman's employment outside the home. All of this is wrapped up in a fairly wonderful love story that will leave you clamoring for a sequel. Or an epilogue at the very least.
I have a few more of this author's writing on order. I have my "student" to thank for her recommendation. She is definitely a very quick study.
Friday, November 6, 2009
With the third book in Kleypas' Hathaway series, the author hits a high note. The pairing of Poppy Hathaway and wealthy American hotelier Harry Rutledge is so much more believable to me than the stories of Poppy's older sisters, Amelia and Win and their Rom husbands, Cam and Merripen. While Amelia's story, Mine Till Midnight was good, I found the next in the series, Seduce Me at Sunrise, a tougher sell. With Tempt Me At Twilight, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.
Poppy and her unconventional family are in London for what is Poppy's third London season and finally, she is having some success in finding a husband. They are guests at the Rutledge Hotel, owned by the enigmatic and mysterious Mr. Rutledge. When Poppy gets lost chasing down a family pet and meets Harry Rutledge, he doesn't let on who he is, but his identity soon becomes clear. What also becomes clear is that Harry will stop at nothing to make Poppy his wife. She's in love with another man, but with some interesting machinations, she winds up as Harry's bride. Unfortunately, Poppy finds it difficult to forgive Harry for his perfidy, and it takes a lot of work, on both their parts, to make something of the marriage.
The best part of Lisa Kleypas' stories are her secondary characters and their importance to the main characters' relationships. Kleypas uses the hotel staff as the means to get Poppy and Harry on the same page in their marriage. Each hotel character is engaging and adds rather than detracts from the story. She does the same thing with Poppy's family. Her brother Leo has some sort of antagonistic relationship with Poppy's companion, Catherine Marks. Cat also has ties to Harry. As a plot device, all of these secondary characters (especially Miss Marks) give us an insight into why Harry is the way he is; unable to offer love and afraid to accept it in return. All of this is resolved to this reader's satisfaction when Poppy forgives Harry and he, in turn, learns what it means to stop controlling and start loving. It's a wonderful transformation to watch.
I cannot wait to read Leo and Catherine's story, and after that, the younger Hathaway sister Beatrix's. What started out as a "spin-off" from an earlier series has turned out to be a wonderful collection in its own right.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
There's several ways to relax on a five hour flight from Los Angeles to Newark. Some people plug into their iPods and some the in-flight entertainment. Some sleep, some drink and some actually just sit and watch the clouds drift by. I have my own system. I read Toni Blake.
I could say my last flight was the best ever, and it had nothing to do with the legroom, food or unusually calm air over the Rockies. As a matter of fact, I don't even remember taking off.
In Letters to a Secret Lover, love advice columnist Lindsey Brooks has been dumped. Definitely, definitively and publicly dumped. Now, instead of planning her big city wedding, she's escaping to Montana where her great aunt once set aside some property and a small business for her.
But the property and business now belong to Rob Colter - the man who took care of Lindsey's great aunt Millie after Lindsey unkindly rejected her gift. Rob is the town's established loner and as gorgeous and hunky as he is, not one woman in the small town of Moose Falls has succeeded in cracking his shell. That is until high maintenance Lindsey shows up on his doorstep, demanding the chance to buy back her aunt's land. But Rob is not selling; his life on Spirit Lake is all that he has.
Lucky for us Lindsey and Rob find they have much more in common than the desire to own the modest canoe rental business. They also share a strong attraction to each other and, no matter how they fight it, one thing leads to another (this is where Ms. Blake shines) and our two opposites are attracting like nobody's business.
But Rob has a secret - one so damaging it would change his life forever if revealed. And despite the growing affection between them, Rob refuses to spill and Lindsey finds herself wondering just who Rob Colter really is.
Letters to a Secret Lover has become one of my favorite contemporary romances. Ms. Blake literally takes you to that place - you know the one - where you actually feel the emotions experienced by the characters. Her scenes are vivid, the dialogue swift, sweet and real. I especially love how Rob is slowly uncovered (in more ways than one) - and you will too.
No need to wait until you're 37,000 feet in the air to thoroughly enjoy this one. You'll be off and flying after the first page.
Friday, October 16, 2009
The Untamed Bride is the story of Colonel Derek Delborough and his journey back to England with his copy of the letter. Upon arriving he learns he is to escort a young woman, Miss Deliah Duncannon, back to her parent's estate. Irritated with the added task, when is already undertaking a dangerous mission, he attempts to dissuade Miss Duncannon to accept the escort of servants, to which she vehemently refuses. Del has no choice but to bring her along, and hope that he can protect her along the way. A run in with a would be assassin while still in port prompts Del to be on his way quickly, as Miss Duncannon's view of the killer puts her in immediate danger. They set off for London for some addition investigation, putting on the pretense of being in town for pleasure. During balls, the theater, and museum trips, he learns more information of who the elusive Black Cobra may be.
Deliah has secrets of her own, and is making her way back from Jamaica to her parent's estate. Raised a parson's daughter, her spirit clashed with her parents views of what a young lady should be. After a scandalous affair, she flees to Jamaica and her Uncle, and lives there for several years before coming back to England. She is no typical young miss; Deliah is bold, courageous and smart, assisting the gentlemen several times with their mission, and pointing out flaws in their plans. She finds kindred spirits in the women of the Cynster clan, ladies much above her in station, but much alike in temperament. She loses her heart to Del despite all she does to keep it.
The pair find love along the way as they search for information and fend off a rather unrealistic attack where they all come out unscathed. Their goal is to make it to the Duke of St. Ives and his estate, where they attempt to work out who the Black Cobra is and the person behind the violence. With the assistance of several of the Cynster women, a few Bastion Club boys, Del and Deliah get one step closer to revealing the Black Cobra with a daring set up.
And that's where the book ends. I believe, and I could be wrong, that each book in this series will end without a complete "ending" for the hero and heroine. At the end of this book, Del and Deliah have promised themselves to each other, but the story is left wide open at the conclusion. I'm assuming (and hoping and praying) that at some point in the series, we will see a happy ending for all the heroes and heroines. Despite the odd end, the book is very, very good, and as usual, Laurens tells an intriguing story that keeps you hooked until the last page. Her portrayal of the military precision of the time is flawless, and her story of love against most all odds is very endearing.
The Untamed Bride will be in stores October 27, 2009. Be sure to pick this one up!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The last book I read and reviewed by Elin Hilderbrand, A Summer Affair, left me a bit cold, but I forged on and read her next, Barefoot. I will tell you straight out. Skip the first and start this one. They are not a series, and they are as different as night and day. I identified with it, I cried when I read parts of it. In short, I loved it.
The story revolves around three women, two sisters and a friend, who head to Nantucket for the summer, each with their own disaster story. Vicki has lung cancer and must undergo chemo before life saving surgery. Brenda, her younger sister, has just been fired from her coveted university job because she had an affair with her male student, who, while a year older than she is, is still off limits. Melanie, Vicki's best friend, rounds out the trio. She's pregnant after a long bout of infertility, and is separated from her husband, who is having an affair with a work colleague. Have I lost you yet? I hope not.
Their story is wound together in an interesting tapestry by Josh Flynn, a college senior who is hired to babysit Vicki's kids while she undergoes treatment. What Josh doesn't expect is to have feelings for all three women, and one in particular. His role as surrogate mother, father and lover in that little cottage on the beach pulls the story neatly together and makes it all real.
Elin Hilderbrand redeems herself in my eyes in this novel. The one thing I look for when I read a novel is to be pulled into a story and to be able to relate, in some way, to the characters and their dilemmas. And the greatest compliment I can pay to a book and its author is that I didn't want to see it end. In this case, I wish this summer would have gone on forever.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Just how perfect does one's life have to be before it's perfect enough? Elin Hilderbrand attempts to answer this question in A Summer Affair. After reading this book, I'd say it's obviously never perfect enough. But is that a realistic answer, even for a novel?
The story revolves around Nantucket Island and resident artist Claire Danner Crispin, the thirty-something wife of Jason (repeatedly described as a handsome blond with a six pack ab) and mother to four children, aged ten and under. There are undercurrents running through the marriage, specifically relating to Claire's profession of glass-blowing, from which she has taken a forced hiatus after an accident.
Claire is asked by Lock Dixon, a wealthy resident with a wife whose car accident leaves her with no social tact to speak of, to co-chair the Summer Gala for Nantucket's Children, a local charity. She is hesitant at first but because she can't say no to a request, she accepts the job. Her acceptance of the position comes with two obligations. She must return to glass blowing to create the auction piece for the gala, a chandelier, and she's asked to procure the entertainment for the evening in the form of Max West, formerly known as Matthew Westfield, now an international rock superstar, and Claire's first love from high school.
The story takes a funky twist when Claire begins a torrid affair with Lock Dixon. At this point, I was having trouble understanding the attraction between the two, and why, even with some tension at home, Claire would want to endanger her family life and marriage with this particular man. This is not based on any moral high ground. The author simply never really makes this point with me. And any affection I had for Claire as a character went out the window at this point. Hilderbrand then throws Max West into the mix. He's still in love with Claire and needs her to rescue him from his twenty year old demons. He practically proposes to her the night before the gala (does anyone remember Claire is married?).
No, near perfection is definitely not enough for Claire. And while the author makes you feel the desperation that Claire feels as she's caught up in her obsession with Lock, it never quite rings true for this character. The way Claire's story unfolds reminds me of one of her failed attempts at blowing the glass that would form the perfect chandelier arm; the result is too fragile to support even itself.
I have one more Elin Hilderbrand to try. We'll see if that one holds any weight.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Enter Fitzwilliam Darcy, powerful, brilliant, and absolutely gorgeous. He hasn’t had a real relationship in years and isn’t about to start looking for one. He learned early on that real love comes at a much higher price than simply paying for the imitation. With a company and a foundation to run and a sister to watch over, Darcy can’t afford to lose his heart.
When the two meet things don’t exactly go as planned. Neither Elizabeth nor Darcy wants to admit how attracted they are to the other, but they can’t seem to stay away from each other either. With both of them thinking a romantic relationship would be a disaster, they decide to forge a friendship. Soon the two are inseparable and the fine line between friends and lovers is blurring at a rapidly increasing pace. But can Elizabeth ad Darcy overcome their fears and find happiness or will they never be more than just best friends?
My BFF is a fantastic story. Ruth Phillips Oakland does a great job taking Jane Austen’s most beloved characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and creating a wonderfully modern story. The language and imagery are superb, and each character is so well written they all find a way into your head. I highly recommend this book, not only to those who read Jane Austen fan fiction, but to anyone who loves to read well-written novels.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I came across this book when my mother in law finished and asked if I wanted to take it with me. She said it was a little historical, with a bit of mystery mixed in, so I said why not. I'm so glad I did!
Jocelyn is surprised when Miss Edi's will is read, and she is the proud new owner of Edilean Manor. Having spent most of her life listening to Miss Edi's stories of her past, her love David, and her time in the war, she is anxious to see her new home. However, she arrives to a practically empty house, both wings rented out to tenants, and a mouthy, yet gorgeous gardener-Luke- that seems to know more about her and her circumstances than she does. Add to this Ramsey, a handsome lawyer, and competitive cousin to Luke, that Miss Edi mentioned in her letter as the perfect man for her, and Jocelyn is quite disheartened with her new home, minus the lawyer. Her tenants are lovely and one is quite eccentric, and make her feel somewhat welcome. Jocelyn discovers there are no real secrets in the town of Edilean, except the ones that Miss Edi left behind. She realizes that the woman who practically raised her was not who she thought she was, and had never been very forthcoming with her. Jocelyn is determined to find the story behind the manor and why Miss Edi kept things from her, only to learn much more than she bargained for.
As Jocelyn asks questions and researches the house, Ramsey finally comes clean and tells her there is no money for its upkeep. Shocked, this only motivates her to search harder for the truth behind Miss Edi. She is completely lost and heartbroken. This brings her closer to Luke, despite her picnics with Ramsey, and his attempts to win her. Luke's grandfather holds the key to the entire Miss Edi story, one that has been twisted over time and pieces lost. The grandfather was Miss Edi's former fiance, and the story goes that he left her when she went to war, but in reality, they mutually broke it off and went their separate ways. Luke and Jocelyn read a story that was written by Miss Edi years ago, which is missing pieces and very confusing to those not around in 1941. Jocelyn finally learns the truth about the house, Miss Edi, the entire town, and about Luke, but not without some angst and humor along the way. Pureed spinach cupcakes anyone? It finally comes out that the real man Miss Edi intended for Jocelyn is Luke, and not Ramsey. It seems like everything Miss Edi told her had a bit of a twist with it. But will Jocelyn find the romance she wants, or just another mystery?
Having never read a Jude Deveraux novel before, I was pleasantly surprised by the intriguing storyline. Lavender Morning is the first novel in the Edilean series, with Days of Gold, a romance set in 1766 being the second. I will definitely be reading the second in the series. The characters in Lavender Morning are well written, from the town that knows everything to the man who keeps his deepest secrets from her until the end. All in all, it's a great story and I can't wait to see what Deveraux has in store for the next installment.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The last time I reviewed a Stephanie Laurens book, I told myself it would be the last. The one overriding reason for this is Ms. Laurens' tendency to write with an open thesaurus tuned to every paragraph (or so it seems) on every page. She finds many ways to write the same exact thing more than once. Right after the other. Repeatedly. It's annoying.
That being said, I just couldn't resist the last of the Bastion Club novels, and the story of Dalziel, the spy ring's enigmatic leader, now known as Royce Henry Varisey, Tenth Duke of Wolverstone.
The story opens with Royce returning to his ancestral holding, after a sixteen year exile imposed by his father for his refusal to give up his service to the Crown. Upon his father's passing, Royce has become the next Duke of Wolverstone and is woefully unprepared for the task. Enter Minerva Chesterton, a resident of Wolverstone since her early childhood and more recently, chatelaine to the estate. Minerva guides Royce through the early days of his reign, explaining the workings of the castle and the surrounding land, introducing him to his people, and getting him to involve himself in his ducal role. While doing all this, Minerva hides a secret. She's been in love with Royce since that childhood, and now realizes that as the new Duke, he will need to marry, and soon. When that happens, she knows she'll have to leave Royce and the only home she's ever known.
Royce, meanwhile, is pressured into declaring an intended bride. What he has come to realize is that there is a perfect candidate for the job right under his nose. When feelings between Royce and Minerva begin to grow, they are both riddled with doubt as to Royce's ability to fashion a marriage of more than convenience. When both are threatened by an enemy that is closer to home in more ways than they can imagine, Royce realizes that deep feelings are not beyond his capability, and the spymaster and ring leader finds a love match of his own.
Despite prior misgivings, I really enjoyed this latest novel. Intrigue and dangerous situations are kept to a minimum. The story is, to put it bluntly, highly sexual, and what I find interesting is that for the spymaster, Laurens decides to concentrate on the story of the courtship as opposed to the action and intrigue found in the earlier Bastion novels. A wise choice, this, as it ultimately humanizes Dalziel, and finally makes him a Bastion boy we can all love.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Gillian has spent the last few years being married, and yet, having no husband. Brian, Lord Wright, left their wedding bed to go to his mistress, Jess, whom he claimed to love, and then onto war. Sadly, he decides to tell his new wife this and expects her not to be upset. Gillian is left to live with his parents, who have no morals whatsoever, and finally leaves to live with a cousin after a note from her husband demanding her return to London, which she ignores. A handsome Spainard has caught her eye, and she his. They are in love, and the only thing standing in their way is her marriage. Brian does come for his wife (hence the title) which results in an almost duel and many angry words between Gillian and Brian. She does decide to go with him, but under the condition that she live with him for 30 days, being the perfect wife. Brian is hoping for an appointment on Liverpool's staff to help his fellow comrades in arms, and needs Gillian with him to host dinners, parties, etc.
Gillian all but gives into Brian on the way to London. Evidently the anger she has had for years is no match for Brian and his charm. Neither trust each other, especially when Gillian discovers a half-starved baby at her husband's London home. Not his, but the product of Brian's father, and his "loyal" mistress, Jess. Neither wanted the baby, so Brian found the babe and took him in before he was left to starve in an orphanage. Their relations are strained, except in the bedroom, of course. By day, they barely speak a word to each other, and by night, they can't keep their hands off each other. Gillian's ex-love returns, provoking jealousy from Brian, neither tell each other how they really feel until almost the end, and it takes a while for these two to air out their differences and live happily ever after.
The Earl Claims His Wife is a good read if you're looking for is an afternoon of entertainment- it won't take you much further. Do not expect much in the way of a plot or charactertization. This is not to say that the story and writing isn't good- it is, but not thought provoking and I never did become very involved with any of the characters. The story really could have used an epilogue, not because it ended abruptly, but because the story needed something more at the end. This is formula romance, not at its worst, but not at its best either. Just a pleasant story to spend an afternoon with.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Margaret Huxtable is the oldest of the Huxtable family, who swore to their dying father she would take care of her brother and sisters and see them happy. Her sisters are married, her brother is now comfortable in his role as the Earl of Merton, and she is content with her life, except for one thing- love, and marriage of course. Long ago her lover Crispin Dew set off to fight the French, but not before asking for her hand in marriage with the promise to take her with him to the war. Margaret, the ever responsible, chose to take care of her family instead of living her own dream. Years later, when her family is content, Crispin returns home a widow and with a young daughter in tow. Margaret is torn between his cruel faithlessness and her deep feelings for him- until she meets him again. Having decided to marry over the winter to her dear friend the Marquess of Allingham (he's asked three times), Margaret is annoyed with Crispin and his assumption that she has been waiting for him all this time. In a fit of pique, she informs him she is secretly betrothed. The best laid plains, however, do not always come to light, and the Marquess has engaged himself to another. So, Meg, as her family calls her, is without a fiance and needs to produce one quickly. Enter the Earl of Sheringford, Duncan Pennethorne.
Years ago, on the eve of his marriage to Caroline Turner, Duncan ran off with Laura Turner, sister in law to Caroline. Duncan is back in London to see his grandfather, the Marquess of Claverbrook, who is about to cut him off entirely and give Woodbine, his ancestoral home, to his cousin Norm, who graciously stepped in to marry poor desserted Caroline. Duncan's grandfather, who is about to turn eighty in a few weeks, presents an ultimatum- marry before the birthday comes around, or cousin Norm will inherit Woodbine. Duncan has more than himself to look after, so the search for bride commences. It's dumb luck that Meg, or Maggie, as Duncan calls her, literally collide at a ball the next evening. The truth comes out about the real reasons Duncan ran off with Laura, and Meg understands and accepts his reasons.
Our hero and heroine act out of character to all who know them the best, and before the birthday of the Marquess of Claverbrook arrives, Meg is the Countess of Sheringford. Their initial courtship, and the one that takes place after they're wed, is very sweet with many surprises and a few moments of angst. Of course with formula romance, the hero must do something to anger the heroine, and a sweet reconciliation occurs. This book is no different. At Last Comes Love was a delightful read, with well written characters from the previous novels coming more to life alongside the two main characters. What is wonderful about Duncan and Maggie is the love they show for those they care about is increased tenfold when directed towards each other. They both have to learn to allow someone to love them, because loving someone is no hard task for them. Their are some dark aspects of this novel, and perhaps some implied scenes that might make a few squirm, also, the book could have used an epilogue, but don't let that stop you, it's definitely one to pick up.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Well, well, what do you know? Lisa Kleypas can write contemporary romance, but it takes her two tries to get it right.
Blue-Eyed Devil is actually the sequel to Sugar Daddy, the author's earlier attempt at contemporary romance. I have to say that that particular novel left me cold. The writing reminded me of another very prolific contemporary author (Danielle Steele to be specific) whose work I, quite frankly, do not enjoy. However, as a set-up to this far superior attempt, Sugar Daddy does serve its purpose.
After being introduced to Hardy Cates, the blue-eyed devil of the title, in Sugar Daddy, his story continues in this novel. While attending the wedding (uninvited, I might add) of his childhood love Liberty and her new husband, Gage Travis of the Houston Travises (a wealthy and influential Houstonian family) he meets and seduces the sister of the groom, Haven Travis, in the family wine cellar. Haven is practically engaged to another man, and when she refuses to leave the party with Hardy and returns to Nick, the two do not see each other for another two years.
Unfortunately for Haven , those two years with her now husband Nick are filled with physical and emotional abuse. When the abuse finally escalates to the point where Haven has to run away to save her own life and returns to the protection of her family, her path and Hardy's intersect once again.
Ms. Kleypas fills this book with present day situations that may well have occurred in Regency England but they were definitely not talked about, nor were they analyzed in any depth like they are in this novel. We are actually privy to the therapy sessions Haven undergoes in order to rebuild what her husband has destroyed. It's a fascinating peek into a prevalent problem in today's society. And while this is a fictional romance, a feel-good story so to speak, it does take awhile to get to the point where not only does Haven trust Hardy, but the reader trusts him as well. Haven's ex-husband has done such a number on her, that we, as readers, cannot trust her judgment either, even though we yearn to love Hardy like she does. Now that's a novel twist for a romance. But love him we finally do. He's irresistible and just what Haven needs to heal all of her wounds from her marriage, both emotional and sexual. And in case you were wondering, Ms. Kleypas stays true to character and gives us plenty of that.
Once again, excellent writing by Lisa Kleypas. I would skip Sugar Daddy and go right to this one and then backtrack if you are curious. The book, written in the first person and narrated through Haven's voice, gives enough of a background that there is no need to read these books in order. I am a fan, and I continue to be one. With the Travis clan, the author has left room for many more potential stories for her readers to enjoy. I hope she continues in the present tense.
At last, it's the Duke of Villiers turn at love. After seeing him pine after Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont in every novel except for the one preceding, it was nice to finally see him get his life straight, even if it took a while to get there. Villiers is the epitome of the word rake. The man has six illegitimate children, from just as many women. He wouldn't take the time when he was younger to worry about the consequences of his liaisons by his own admission. A man of sense and style, Villiers is known as a perfectly dressed, perfectly fantastic Duke, giving consequence to no one who was not deserving. We see a change in Villiers in This Duchess of Mine, and somewhat before when he duels for his fiance, and almost dies. In the novel preceding, we see Villiers decide to marry to provide a mother for his children (no less than a daughter of a duke will do), and embark on a search across England for his children in order to scandalously raise them as his own. That search is continued in A Duke of her Own, where Villiers travels to Kent to find his twin daughters. Before we head to Kent, however, we must meet Eleanor, daughter of the Duke of Montague.
When we first meet Eleanor, she is attending the ball in order to raise money for the Baths (a carryover from This Duchess of Mine). She is dressed rather frumpish as she can be, with an antiquated attitude to match. As she is taken to task by her younger, and married sister, we learn that Eleanor has been jilted in love by Gideon, the Duke of Astley, her childhood sweetheart/lover. By decree of his father's will, his marriage was arranged to another, and he would not go against the will in order to marry Eleanor. She remained heartbroken, until she comes face to face with the Duke of Villiers. It was well known that he was looking for a wife, and she happens to be one of the two daughters of Dukes at a marriageable age. Their first meeting sets up the location for the rest of the story, Kent, where Lisette, the daughter of the Duke of Gilner. Lisette is known to be madder than a hatter, and does not care for society or its dictates.
We learn very quickly that Lisette is truly mad, in a way that endears one to her, until she really has an episode where people and animals are hurt. Reader beware, if you have issues reading about animals being hurt, take care. Although dear Oyster does make it through, it was a tough scene to read for me. Villiers joins Eleanor, her mother and her sister in Kent on a visit to Lisette, and for the chance to let Villiers make his decision between the two ladies. Blindly he looks for one to be a mother to his children, and he mistakes Lisette's childlike treatment of children as being motherly, instead of seeing what she really is. While he spars with Eleanor and becomes more and more fascinated with her as time goes on, he chooses to marry Lisette because of her manner with the children.
This of course set us up for disaster. Lisette shows her true colors through her fear of dogs, and Eleanor realizes that neither Villiers, or the newly widowed Gideon are good enough for her. She wishes to be married for love, not just to be someones mother, or to right a wrong done to her years ago. By refusing both of them, and taking back her silly declaration to only marry a duke, Eleanor returns to London to set her sights on what the season has to offer.
For the final book in this series, it is a marvelous one. We finally see the other side of Villiers, the side that can actually feel love for others unselfishly. IF you read the entire series through, you can see the subtle changes to his character throughout. He is dark and mysterious, brooding and arrogant, but in the end he becomes human like everyone else. Eleanor is one of the most strongly written characters I have seen in this series. She is an enigma of lost love, a little prudishness, and pure lust- all wrapped up in a chemise dress meant to turn heads. She becomes stronger as the novel goes on, and you watch as her inner self emerges triumphantly. Lisette is a truly touched girl, who could probably be described as bipolar if such a thing was known back then. Her interactions with adults and children are startling, as is her lack of propriety and her secret. This review would be incomplete without mentioning the children- Tobias, Lucinda and Phyllinda, who all share the common traits with their father, including his attitude.
If you were a follower of this series as I was, you will not be disappointed in the final novel. While none of the previous characters are relevant, it feels like a very fitting end. Definitely worth picking up!
Oh, and if you are interested, Eloisa James has promised a chapter updating all of the Duchess series characters. It can be found at her website in the reader pages. You must register to read, and it's free.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
You should know that I finished The Farmer Needs A Wife over the course of exactly three days. This is an unusually long time for me, as I have been known to finish a novel of this size in one sitting. But you should also know it took three days because I literally savored each page. I adore how this book is written. Sharp, witty dialogue combined with a foolproof romantic premise kept me engaged and interested. The book is really four stories told within one - another plus because I love a bargain - even in a contemporary romance.
The Farmer Needs A Wife is a clever title to go along with a clever plot. The story begins in Sydney, Australia and centers around the very modern, very accomplished Helen Woodley. Not only is Helen the editor of Australian Life magazine, she is also touted as its savior as it is her responsibility to come up with a scheme to increase the publication's readership. It's going to take a miracle so Helen decides to shake things up by soliciting requests from single male farmers and ranchers from all over Australia. The one caveat - they must be in want of a wife. Her plan is to have the magazine's editorial staff forward the responses back to the chosen participants, follow the individual stories, and entice the entire country to watch as love blooms throughout the Australian countryside. The idea is a good one and Helen and her staff are overwhelmed with letters from eager bachelors and the seemingly endless requests for introductions from their potential future wives.
From here, we follow the stories of four farmers. There is Peter, whose tragic experience with love leaves him reluctant to begin any new relationship. His entry was submitted under pretense and when he finds out exactly why lovely Donna Boyd has come to live on his remote station in the Australian Outback, things get considerably hotter.
Greg is a farmer by necessity, not by choice. He selects Jasi from his huge stack of responses because she seems to be all that he could ever hope for - at least on paper. But when his creative passion is enthusiastically embraced by a completely different source, he seriously questions his original plan.
Leigh is a woman who owns her own vineyard and is perhaps my favorite farmer. She has also been hurt by love, but is willing to face her fears with a "what the heck" attitude as she sends in her submission to the magazine. Leigh eventually discovers that she need look no further than her own neighborhood to find love.
Lastly, there is Matt Redmond, a horse breeder and trainer. Matt's teenage daughter thinks her dad has been alone long enough and "his" submission is a surprise to him as he receives a personal rejection letter from the editor of the magazine. Helen and Matt appear to be complete opposites, but could Matt's laid-back way of life be exactly the kind of challenge Helen needs?
The novel weaves its way in and out of the main characters' lives, introducing us to the farmers' potential love interests in turn and then spiraling us through the blossoming relationships in the same manner. Ms. Gover switches gears effortlessly as she moves the reader to a different story within the story at always just the right moment. But all roads lead back and at the end of the book, I was one satisfied customer.
The book is fun, romantic and hopeful. Congratulations to the very talented author and thank you, Little Black Dress for yet another winner.
(The author was kind enough to let me know that The Farmer Needs A Wife is available online at www.thebookdepository.com with free shipping worldwide. It is also available from Amazon Canada, but strangely not Amazon US.)
Monday, July 6, 2009
There are certain books that remind you of certain times, people and situations in your life. I'm not saying that everything about this book rings a decidedly familiar bell with me, but taken in parts, I think there are very few women who cannot relate in some way to Ellen Dempsey Graham's story.
That story starts in Manhattan in a busy intersection, one hundred days after her wedding when Ellen, a professional photographer, looks up over the throng of New Yorkers surrounding her and into the eyes of her first love, Leo. They met nine years before while serving as jurors and haven't seen each other in, as Ellen puts it, eight years and sixteen days. For Ellen, Leo was the love of her life, until he instigates a devastating break up. Her room mate and best friend, Margot Graham, intervenes and helps Ellen overcome her depression following the split. And Andy, Margot's older brother, offers her a new chance at love and later, marriage.
When Ellen sees Leo again, and he offers her the chance to photograph a recording artist he is interviewing for a magazine, she can't pass up the opportunity. Couching her acceptance in terms of her career, she privately questions her own motives in working with Leo, but knows enough about them to keep the details from her husband. While feeling what she shouldn't feel for her first love and on the cusp and in the aftermath of a life altering change, Ellen must decide if the one she left behind is the one she should be with.
This contemporary story of the road not taken is a soul-searching reflection of choices made and situations that, with one look, one word or one action could have made a life completely different. Would Ellen have been happier with that road not taken? Is it too late to take it? And most importantly, should she?
I love Emily Giffin. A wonderful, contemporary author, her other books include Something Borrowed, Something Blue and Baby Proof. An excellent summer read that moves quickly and succinctly, Love the One You're With may have you revisiting your own life's path. At the very least, it may leave you thinking about your own road not taken.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
It's always a good day when there's a box on my front porch from London town! What was inside did not disappoint- Elizabeth's Hanbury's second novel is just as good as her debut! But don't let the title fool you, there's nothing cool about Ice Angel, but rather, very hot!
Isabella, the widowed Lady Vane, is determined to spend their weeks in London not involved in society and keeping a low profile until they can move to the country and their new home. She has a tortured past that she is desperate to leave behind so she may start afresh. Her Aunt Harriet has other ideas, and coaxes her out to a few parties under the pretense that society would only look on her as eccentric, and only gossip about her even more. Isabella turns many heads as she ventures out into society, making it impossible for her to remain unnoticed at any function she attends. At one such party, Isabella meets Hal, the Earl of Bramwell and the only man that causes her carefully controlled facade to crack. No man has ever brought out such feelings in her, but he is wild and reckless, exactly what Isabella wishes to avoid. Hal has other ideas, and continues to pursue her, allowing her the time and space she needs. Her past is full of torment and pain and she has no intention of letting any man harm her again. Hal is very patient and level headed, in contrast to his reputation. Many obstacles are placed in the couples path to happiness- kidnapping, lies and deceit, not to mention Isabella's own insecurities. However, neither can stop the sparks from flying when they are together.
Ice Angel is full of Regency richness- the parties, the glittering balls, the gowns- just the kind of histrorical detail that wish for in many books, but fail to find. Elizabeth Hanbury writes so descriptively that you are easily transported back in time and her characters are so romantically written that you fall in love immediately with each of them. There is a perfect balance of multiple love stories and a twisting and turning plot that you will not want to put down the book until you have completely finished. Isabella is a very complex character with a wide range of emotions from her horrible marriage that draw you in and keep you hooked until the very last page. Hal is also wonderfully written and his feelings for Isabella are so intense from the beginning that you can really see his love for her. There are many secondary characters that make the story very amusing with their antics, from the love story of Harriet, Isabella's aunt, and Sir Seymour or Dinny as he is known as, a very fashion conscious member of the ton, to Dominic, Isabella's curious and adorable son. Also, Hal's mother Marguerite, the Dowager Countess of Bramwell, Lady Julia, his sister, his brother Theo, and best friend, Freddie. Let us not forget the redheaded former flame of Hal's, Felicity, Lady Portland, who is perfectly written as the beautiful and vindictive villian. Ice Angel is a wonderful read that will keep you guessing until the very end. A must read for the summer!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
When I worked in Manhattan in the summers between my college semesters, I always wondered why, at 5pm on a Friday afternoon, the throngs headed toward Penn Station and the Hamptons on the far end of Long Island for weekends away. After reading this debut novel, by Sherri Rifkin, I now see what I was missing.
The story revolves around Tori Miller, a single woman in her early thirties, dumped by the love of her life two years earlier, and wallowing, despite the efforts of her best friends, in self-pity and depression. These same friends stage an intervention, strongly suggesting that she get over herself and get on with her life, getting her to participate in a pilot for a make-over reality show, and securing a share for her in a summer house in the Hamptons.
Miller, as she is called by her housemates, finds herself in the social whirlwind of a summer on the South Fork, including the company of a jet setting admirer who introduces her to the finer things in life. Thinking she could get used to this, she neglects to see that the person she is becoming is not the person she would like to be. It takes one of her male housemates to point out to her that there is another path worth following.
The novel is a story of self re-discovery, told with humor and not a little bit of tongue in cheek poking at the way the social set looks at itself. I love how Sherri portrays Tori. The reader really empathizes with who she is and what she has gone through. Her friends are colorful and add to the journey Tori finds herself on, steering her in the right direction when things threaten to go awry.
There is the requisite amount of sleeping around that you would expect in this setting, but it's not explicit, for those of you looking for that. What this is is the story of someone finally answering the questions that nag at all of us at some point in our lives.... who are we now, and is this who we want to be?
This is an excellent summer read to throw into your "weekender" bag. An engaging first novel by Ms. Rifkin, I can't wait to read what she writes next.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
For those who don't know their history, Elijah, the Duke of Beaumont, married Jemma through an arranged marriage. Jemma adored him and was infatuated, Elijah....not so much. He was more concerned with power and making his way through Parliament than pleasing a wife. Their early marriage wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. The day Jemma catches Elijah in his office with his mistress is the day she leaves for Paris. For nine years they live separately, until Elijah faints in Parliament one day, and he realizes his time is short. He summons his wife home, so he can have an heir.
Jemma is a complicated character, very complex and whimsical at the same time. She realizes her marriage could be better, and to do that, she needs her husband to want her. So, with that in mind, she sets about to woo her husband, thinking he is indifferent to her. After an attempt at setting up a flirtation with a rival, to unknowingly making Elijah extremely jealous with her friendship with the Duke of Villiers, the two finally realize they do love each other. There is another issue, however. Elijah has a bad heart, one that causes him to faint for short periods of time. Jemma is convinced he is going to die at any moment, as the previous Duke died from a heart ailment at the same age as Elijah. With the help of the Duke of Villiers, the trio races to locate a doctor that has a medicine to cure the problem. Add to all of this their legendary chess games, and you have a fun Georgian story.
As with all of Eloisa James' books, her characters are well written and sometimes on the complex side. Jemma is a character that appears througout the series, and you learn a little bit about her as the books go on. Elijah isn't talked about nearly as much, but in this book we get to see the other side of him as Jemma discovers what lies beneath. Their relationship isn't perfect, and it's very entertaining to watch it evolve. This is definitely a book well worth picking up, especially if you've been waiting like I have!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The first book in a four book series detailing the changed lives of the four Huxtable siblings, First Comes Marriage did not have an auspicious beginning. The prologue left me with questions that were unanswered for a about a quarter of the book. I began to wonder where Ms. Balogh was taking me. I need not have worried at all.
The story of Vanessa Huxtable Dew and Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate is first and foremost a historical romance, but a truly atypical one. Viscount Lyngate comes to Throckmorton on a mission. He has found the legitimate heir to the deceased Jonathan Huxtable, Earl of Merton, his 16 year old cousin and ward, who had Down's syndrome and died an early and peaceful death. That heir is Stephen Huxtable, Vanessa's brother.
Faced with this new found inheritance, the Huxtable family, Margaret the eldest, Vanessa, a recent widow and Katherine, the youngest, accompany Stephen and Viscount Lyngate to Warren Hall, seat of the Earl of Merton, where they all begin their education in the ways of Society.
Elliot has a problem. As Stephen's appointed guardian, he has his three unmarried sisters to present to Society. As an unmarried man, he can not do it himself and no one is volunteering to help him. He decides that the best solution to this dilemma would be to marry Margaret and have her supervise the come-outs of her sisters. But both Vanessa and Margaret have other ideas. Vanessa "sacrificies" herself to save her sister from the unwelcome marriage. And for some inexplicable reason not even apparent to Elliot at the time, since their relationship is anything but amicable, he agrees to marry her instead. The rest, as we say, is history.
The story has very few moments of intrigue to detract from the real purpose; watching Vanessa and Elliot fall in love. There is Con Huxtable, Jonathan's elder brother who does not inherit the title of Earl of Merton on a technicality, to mix things up a bit with his cousin Elliot. But for the most part, this is the story of two people who find that love can be found when and where it's least expected.
Mary Balogh writes with a wonderful attention to detail and describes emotional moments (and there are quite a few in this book) so perfectly that I wanted to hand the characters a handkerchief myself when the need arose. I didn't want it to end, and luckily, there are three more stories available. Katherine's is next, in Then Comes Seduction. Margaret's follows, called At Last Comes Love. Both of these are now available in paperback. Stephen's story, Seducing an Angel, will be available in hardcover in June, 2009. They are already in my queue.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Months after beginning my weird and totally unreasonable quest to read almost every contemporary romance on the shelves, I decided that it was time to take a breather and return to my first love - the world of historical romance. Lucky for me that I stumbled upon one of Julia London's earlier stories. Wicked Angel is an engrossing read, whipping up a storm of emotions with every turn of the page. The plot itself is sequentially frustrating and fulfilling. The main characters are both lovely and obstinate. The story moves at a quick pace, yet is rich with detail and development. I found myself smiling like a happy imbecile and alternately shaking my head in complete disbelief almost the entire way through the 374 pages. It's common knowledge among my family and friends that rollercoasters are generally not my thing, but I may reconsider after spending nearly five hours with Lauren Hill Bergen, Countess Bergen and the Duke of Sutherland, Alexander Christian.
Lauren has returned home to Rosewood, the crumbling estate/orphanage and barely working farm she had left nearly two years before. She is a beguiling character with a sunny disposition and a penchant for earning the complete adoration of the orphans at Rosewood. Thanks to her greedy uncle's machinations, she had been forced to marry a senile old man (a Bavarian Count, no less). When he died, she unthinkingly turned over her inheritance to the new Count Bergen and began thinking of returning home. Happy to finally be there, she throws herself into the task of making Rosewood self sufficient through hard work and clever barter.
Alex Christian, the Duke of Sutherland, is wealthy, handsome and bored. He's engaged to be married to Lady Marlaine Whitcomb and their wedding is set to be the event of the Season. Although congenial, their relationship is not a love match, at least not on Alex's side. Lady Marlaine had been betrothed, almost from birth, to Alex's older brother Anthony. However, upon Anthony's untimely death five years before, Alex not only inherited the Dukedom, but Lady Marlaine as well. Their union is an important one, both politically and economically, and although he has some misgivings about the situation, Lady Marlaine is both charming and suitable and Alex sees his path in life clearly.
That is until he visits his country manor and stumbles upon Lauren singing to a rather large hog in a pasture. As a result of the subsequent charge by the pig and Lauren's daring leap over a fence and into his arms, "Mr. Christian" as Lauren refers to him, is smitten. And Lauren Hill, as she introduces herself (sans her title of Countess) is equally enamored.
But of course, it is not to be. "Mr. Christian" must return to London and to his obligations and Lauren is left at Rosewood to dream of him. She doesn't have much time to enjoy those dreams, however, as her uncle decides to send her to London in a last ditch effort to find another husband for her - preferably one that will live long enough to provide enough funds to save his own inheritance.
Not surprisingly, once in London, both Lauren and Alex discover the truth about the other and each doggedly fight the overwhelming desire they feel. But it is impossible. The story is wrought with angst as first Alex and then Lauren abandon conscience and duty in order to make peace with the inevitable - they must be together.
Speaking of musts - add this one to your bookshelf. And while you do, I'll head over to Six Flags, although I doubt there's a rollercoaster out there that can offer a better ride than Wicked Angel.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Rosie and Alex are inseparable throughout their early lives, but the year Alex turns 16 his father moves the family to Boston. Rosie and Alex are devastated and vow to be together again as soon as they graduate. Alex, who has always dreamt of being a doctor, applies to Harvard. And Rosie applies to the school of Hotel Management at Boston College, hoping one day to run a huge hotel on the coast. And then on the night of Rosie’s debutant ball, Alex misses his flight and their lives are forever changed. As their lives move away from each other fate seems determined to keep them apart, but love is a strong thing and fate works in mysterious ways.
Rosie Dunne is told in a series of emails, instant messages, letters and occasional phone calls….it was very unique and so entertaining. The book begins when they are five and exchanging notes in class. The banter between Rosie and Alex is so marvelous. It is so engrossing; I absolutely fell in love with the characters and the writing style. Ahern certainly does a fantastic job conveying their thoughts and emotions within the small confines of correspondence.
The story will break your heart, lift your spirits, anger you and bring a smile to your face. Rosie Dunne is one of the best books I’ve picked up lately I highly recommend this lovely book.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Elizabeth Hanbury is back and better than ever. Her new book available on escapewithabook.com contains three cleverly written Regency short stories, all from the same evening at the Midsummer ball at Rookery End.
The evening begins with Siren's Daughter, the story of true love gone astray. Miss Deborah King wrote off Sir Benedict Catesby years ago when he left her without a word. Heart broken, she continued on with her life with her overbearing aunt, believing her true love had betrayed her. Sir Benedict, left at the altar heartbroken, leaves the area when his letter to Deborah goes unanswered, and he determines she no longer wishes to marry him. A fateful meeting at Rookery End brings out the hurt of both parties, each accusing the other of betrayal. When the truth is revealed, the pair realize their love had indeed endured the years of separation, and they vow never to let scheming aunts and loyal maids come between them again.
Our next tale, Blue Figured Silk, tells the story of the rakish Marquess of Shaftesbury and the inconspicuous Eve Leighton. By a stroke of luck and a near-assignation with a widow, the Marquess comes to the rescue of Miss Leighton as she is fighting off a suitor determined to have her as he wishes. For the Marquess, it is love at first sight, and he realizes Eve is all he has waited for. Eve, however, is overshadowed by her beautiful younger sister and her title-hungry mother. The Marquess does not give up, and as the Leighton's are leaving the Rookery, the Marquess rushes after them, or for that matter, after Eve. He knows she is the only woman that he could imagine spending the rest of his life with. After all, what is more perfect than Eve finding her Adam?
The final story, A Scandal at Midnight, is perhaps the sweetest of all. Verity, a well-born governess to Miss Amelia Gardiner, is overcome with hopelessness when she receives a letter from her charge indicating she has eloped with her true love George, against her father's wishes. Miss Gardiner is promised to Sir Tristan Millforte, who according to her, is an old man that would make her a dreadful husband. Verity enlists the help of Sir Tristan, and is surprised to find that he is neither old nor dreadful, but quite handsome and willing to help her catch her errant charge. When Sir Tristan informs Verity he is aware of no arrangement between Miss Gardiner and himself, they realize that matchmaking has been going on behind their backs, and there was no need for Miss Gardiner to flee to Scotland to marry her love. During the search for the two lovers, Sir Tristan is taken with Verity and realizes he has found someone that he could easily spend the rest of his life with. Verity also finds herself under his spell and before the evening is through, more than one couple is engaged.
If you are a lover of short stories as I am, then I definitely suggest you pick up, or download this book. The stories are well written and entertaining, encompassing all the wit that I've come to love from Elizabeth Hanbury's writing. She is a refreshing change in the romance novel world, so don't miss out on this collection!
Saturday, April 4, 2009
I've always been a fan of summer and its seemingly endless potential for romantic possibilities. When I was younger, those possibilities were my own. Things change, evolving as they should, and now I find my promise of a summer fling within the pages of sizzling contemporary romance novels.
And yes, just in time, I've found the perfect 2009 romantic beach read.
Apparently the first in a series of novels set in the same locale, Toni Blake's One Reckless Summer takes us to Destiny, Ohio. There we meet Jenny Tolliver, a middle school science teacher with a love of astronomy. At thirty-one, she's back in her hometown to recover from a serious blow to her self confidence - her "rat bastard" of a husband left her for a twenty-one year old - and coming home to Destiny seems like the perfect way to heal. Her mother, who died eighteen years before, was a pillar of the small community and her father is still chief of police. Safely ensconced in the small house by the lake where she grew up, Jenny hopes to spend the summer figuring out a few things, in particular what to do with the rest of her life.
Mick Brody, on the other hand, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks - or in this case, the wrong side of Blue Valley Lake. With abusive parents and a law-breaking brother, Mick was always considered a bad seed by the town's upstanding citizenry. But several years filled with exceedingly stupid life choices - and a lengthy prison sentence for his brother - leads Mick to reconsider his own dismal future. He decides to take a different path by settling down to a relatively normal life as a bricklayer in Cincinnati.
Not long after arriving back in Destiny, Jenny, already looking for a distraction, decides to check out the night stars from the other side of the lake. After all, the Brody land has been abandoned for years, what with one brother in jail and Mick, the hunky younger brother, living who knows where. But when Jenny runs into Mick on a secluded path in the woods behind his family's cabin, one thing leads to another, and, in one of my favorite seduction scenes ever (yes, ever!), these two get reacquainted in a hurry.
But Mick has a secret, and despite what passes between them, he's not going to spill it and demands that she leave and never come back. "Good girl" Jenny, who should be horrified by what she let happen - isn't. Curious about him and eager for more of how he makes her feel, she returns to his side of the lake and discovers the reason for all of the cloak and dagger. While it may be illegal, it's not what she expects and we see a side of Mick that endears him further to Jenny - and to us as well.
Toni Blake's latest is well-written, fast paced and puts the reader smack in the middle of a long, hot Destiny summer. And speaking of heat, there's plenty of it, making me think that the best place to read this 350+ page lustful wonder is right in front of the air conditioner.
One Reckless Summer is a bookshelf must. I was lucky to get my hands on an advance copy; the official publication date is set for May 26, 2009. Mark your calendars. In any season, this is one you definitely don't want to miss.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Fallon's life was turned upside down when her father died and she was cast off from the estate in which he worked. She is sent to the Penwich School for Virtuous Women, where she is educated and ridiculed at the same time. Making her way as a governess and servant, she encounters many a master that would like to take advantage of her beauty, only to find a strong-willed woman underneath, not willing to become someones playmate. Her virtuousness gets her in trouble, and she is dismissed from her employer for not bending to his will. A chance rescue in her time of need brings her to the attention of Dominic, the Duke of Damon. The Duke is taken with her beauty, but she declines his offer vehemently and vows to never bend to any man's will, no matter how stirred she is by him.
Dominic has a reputation as a notorious rake, and he does everything he can to keep this particular opinion of himself. Having no time for society, he is found with a different woman, or women- every night. His staff, used to his ways, turns a blind eye, until Francis comes along. Francis is a pretty footman with lovely eyes and short blond hair, curiously resembling a certain woman that needed his help one evening. In her cleverness, Fallon realizes the one way she can earn a living without having a man begging for her favors is to pose as a man. Dangerous to be sure, but it works! One evening footman "Francis" comes to the rescue of the Duke from a jealous husband, and is promoted to valet suddenly. This is the worst thing that can happen, as the Duke is not only a rake, but a handsome one and Fallon is attracted to him despite her guise as a footman. Her ruse is discovered and both the Duke and Fallon give in, starting them on a path that cannot possibly end happily. Then when an unexpected offer from the estate where her father worked is presented to her, Fallon sees her chance to live independently. If she cannot have the Duke, then she wants no one.
The two main characters in this book are beautifully written; flawed, intense and engaging. Both are damaged and desperate to have a "normal life" and forget the horrors of the past. Sophie Jordan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors! Her storytelling is very refreshing and lively, bringing a wide range of emotions to each story. This is definitely one to pick up!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Sophie Kinsella has been a favourite of mine since I picked up her first book, Confessions of a Shopaholic, in 2001. Since then, I have been enthralled. I look forward to the release of her novels with untold anticipation. Her latest offering, Remember Me?, is likely her best work to date.
When Lexi Smart wakes up in a hospital she is stunned. How did she get there, and how long has she been there? The last thing she remembers is being out with her friends, depressed that her boyfriend, “Loser Dave,” stood her up (again!), and of course falling and hitting her head while running for a taxi. And when the doctor comes in to question her about the accident, Lexi realizes that nothing is as she thought. Instead of a low paying job, a loser boyfriend and shabby wardrobe, Lexi finds she has a huge new loft, a high-powered job, glamorous friends and a handsome husband (who is a multimillionaire!). Oh also, it is 2007, not 2004. And she didn’t fall and hit her head, she crashed her super expensive Mercedes. Lexi’s memory from the last three years is completely gone.
Lexi leaves the hospital with her husband, determined to find her place in her new life, but her new life comes with more than just new clothes, a great house and a handsome husband. It also comes with a lot of secrets, intrigue, and well… confusion. Her relationship with her husband isn’t what she thought, her old friends won’t talk to her, and she doesn’t have a clue how to do her job. Then she meets Jon, an architect, who works for her husband and he tells her the biggest secret of all.
As Lexi struggles with her new life and her displaced memory she has a lot of questions. Where are her clothes? How do you work the lights? And most important… will she ever fit into this new life? Does she even want to anymore? Will she ever get her memory back? And what happens if she does?
Remember Me? is a great read. It has all the parts we like in any book... handsome men, a good plot and lots of twists and turns. Have fun learning all about Lexi...right along with her!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
What a joke! What on earth made me think I would be able to put down Deanna Raybourn's latest tale involving the curious Lady Julie Grey, and the quiet, yet sexy Nicholas Brisbane? Four hours later, I closed the book with a smile and quick swipe of my cheek to catch that lingering tear. Insert contented sigh here.
At the end of Silent in the Sanctuary, we learn that Brisbane has bought an estate, and has written a letter to Portia, Julia's sister, asking for her help. The letter also states her sister is not to be brought along, however that declaration is quickly ignored, and so starts Silent on the Moor. Julia is determined once and for all to settle matters between herself and Brisbane. After a hard journey to the wilds of Yorkshire, Ladies Julia and Portia, their brother Valerius, two maids and two dogs land on the front steps of the crumbling ruin that is Grimsgrave Hall. Of course, Brisbane is not happy to see her, and yet clutches at her hand in desperation. It is clear to Julia he does want her there, but there is something going on that she is not aware of, and cannot possibly imagine that he does not wish for her to be exposed to.
The other inhabitants of Grimsgrave, the Allenby ladies, are intriguing in themselves. Lady Allenby is a pious woman, plagued by rheumatism yet doing her best to welcome Julia and her family. Ailith, the eldest daughter is nice enough, and Hilda is somewhat wild without manners. They have been allowed to stay in the hall on the charity of Brisbane, until a cottage on the estate can be readied for them. Having just lost their brother, they are in mourning, but it is a strange mourning. They are sad to see him gone, but not as one would mourn a brother or a son. Julia decides to befriend Ailith, and what she thinks is a blossoming friendship, is anything but that. She soon learns all is not what it seems. Doing her best to be helpful, Julia offers to catalogue the huge Egyptian collection of the former master, making it ready for sale. Julia hopes to raise some money for the Allenby ladies and make them not so destitute. What she finds in her search leads her to a twisted story of forbidden love.
What happens next was a huge surprise- mummified babies, an attempted murder on Brisbane, the return of a long lost Allenby sister, a shocking secret of brother and sister, and the climax of the book that left me shaking my head. You shall have to read for yourself of course, it's too good to spill it here! The repressed sexual tension between Julia and Brisbane adds to the tone of the book without becoming all about sex, only enhancing the mystery. Needless to say, our hero and heroine have a happy ending (finally!) and all is well. I can safely say this was my favorite of all Lady Grey mysteries, and I would recommend picking this one up as soon as possible. Deanna Raybourn has proven once again she is the master of romantic suspense.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Donna told me that if I read this book, I would not be disappointed. She was correct. Sherry Thomas is a new author to me, and I'm glad I picked up Donna's tip from the Quickie she posted.
Private Arrangements is the story of Gigi Rowland, a wealthy industrialist's daughter, and Camden Saybrook, destitute heir to a dukedom and the cousin of Gigi's recently dead husband to be. When they meet, it is love at first sight for Gigi, but Camden is in love with someone else. Gigi decides that what Camden wants doesn't matter and she does something to clear the way for him to marry her. When Camden finds out the truth, hours before his wedding to Gigi, he decides to go forward with it anyway. He then wreaks revenge on her so completely that they spend the next decade on different continents with totally separate lives, despite Gigi's desperate attempts to make things right between them.
The story, on the surface, is about two people who are so selfish and immature, that they sabotage what could be a happy marriage for the sake of pride and revenge. However, it's really about two people who are so in love, yet so hurt by the other's actions, that they can't find their way past the now (and then as well) insignificant thing that drove them apart in the first place.
When Gigi demands a divorce after 10 years of this non-marriage, Camden returns to England with one final request that sets in motion the path their futures will take, and Sherry Thomas does not make this path easy nor quick, to our delight.
We also meet Gigi's mother, Victoria Rowland and the Duke of Perrin, a neighbor and acquaintance she's known for 30 years. This secondary story line is a good counterpoint to the main one. It explains the complex relationship between Gigi and her mother, and Camden and his mother-in-law. And it's nice to see some older protagonists have their own romance in a romance novel.
Interestingly enough, I started out not particularly liking any of the characters, but the book is so well-written that I had no compunction about finishing it. By the middle of the story, I was firmly in Gigi's corner, hoping that Camden had grown up enough to see that what he thought was the basis of his original argument was not important after all, and too much time had been wasted already.
Sherry Thomas set this book in the late 1800's over a period of 11 years, and uses flashbacks to tell the story. I like this period of time in a novel. There are enough modern conveniences, like reliable trans-Atlantic crossings, convenient train transportation and big cities across the pond (New York City in this case), to make the story move quickly, and make it infintely more interesting. I'm looking forward to reading Ms. Thomas' next novel, Delicious, which I'm told by a reliable source, is also very, very good.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Still on my contemporary romance kick and still prowling the shelves at B & N, I found myself in the “G” section – which could only mean one thing. I was about to buy another book written by Rachel Gibson. Will that be cash or credit?
Meet Private Investigator Kate Hamilton. Disillusioned after a normal client turns psycho and her latest boyfriend, in a long line of noncommittal losers, dumps her, Kate returns to Gospel, Idaho to spend time with her recently widowed grandfather. Kate is determined to help her grandfather cope with his loss while using the quiet of the small town to forget that last horrific case and her lack of anything even remotely resembling a love life.
On the way out to Gospel, Kate finds herself alone in a bar on the blackest of days for those without dates or mates. With little self-esteem and a head full of hot-buttered rum, she surprises herself by propositioning the good-looking stranger sitting next to her. But ex-NHL hockey star Rob Sutter promptly turns her down without even bothering to be polite. His successful skating career ended in a scene that gives the term “Fatal Attraction” a new meaning and Rob has every right to be wary of strangers in a bar.
Kate and her wounded pride limp into Gospel where she throws herself into the daily routine of helping her grandfather run the small supermarket he owns. But her fitful start at peaceful healing is abruptly derailed by an introduction to the good-looking owner of the local sporting goods store. Rob Sutter is just as surprised to see Kate, but doesn't even hint he remembers the bar until they're alone. And that's when the fun begins.
Is Gospel really big enough for the both of them?
The Trouble with Valentine’s Day is a great read – quick, funny and chock full of that sexual tension we love. The plot is well conceived, the characters are believable, and the ending is perfect. It’s like getting a dozen roses, a big box of chocolates, and a day at the spa.
And it’s not even February 14th.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Most historical romances are pretty straight forward. There is a hero. There is a heroine. They either hate each other at first glance and it takes the entire book to get them together, or it's love at first sight and problems just get in the way of the happily ever after. This book, by Teresa Medeiros, has a little of both.
Prudence Walker is the demure orphaned daughter of a scientist who blew himself up during a gunpowder experiment. She is sent to live with her father's sister, Tricia, who collects husbands and titles like a stamp collector collects stamps. Prudence has a chance encounter in the woods near her Northumberland home with the Dreadful Scot Bandit Kirkpatrick, a notorious Scottish highwayman. When she helps him out of a painful bind, the sparks fly.
Sebastian Kerr, bastard son of a Highland laird, turns to a life of crime when his ancestral home is "stolen" after the death of his abusive father. He has turned to robbing the rich in order to regain his rightful inheritance. When Prudence helps him after an injury, he fears for her life. She has seen his face, and his maternal grandfather, the ringleader of Sebastian's band of not so merry men with a secret of his own, orders her death. Sebastian sends her away, despite his strong attraction, only to find her months later in the house of his betrothed (you guessed it), Prudence's Aunt Tricia. Sebastian has become Tricia's latest addition to her collection.
Thus begins this beguiling story of love and intrigue in late 18th century northern England and Scotland. There are so many plot twists and turns that you'll find yourself anxiously waiting to turn the page, and at the same time, covering your eyes and peeking through your fingers at the next. The wonderful thing about this story is the entire cast of secondary characters. From Sebastian's loyal men to Tricia's comically funny friends and on to Lord Killian MacKay, the man Sebastian has sworn revenge against but who has a surprise of his own for the Highland bandit, the book just overflows with colorful, lovable characters.
The love story is sweet and sensuous. You can almost physically feel the pull between Prudence and Sebastian. Teresa Medeiros has a writing style all her own. She writes with a sharp sense of wit and an affinity for finding ways to put her characters in untenable situations that they invariably find their way out of. Her books are always a roller coaster ride of the very best sort. And the fact that kilts and plaids and a very sexy Scottish burr find their way onto every page certainly does not hurt matters in the least.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
To Beguile a Beast is book three in The Legend of the Four Soldiers series. The beast is Sir Alistair Munroe, an acclaimed naturalist who found himself with the soldiers of Spinner's Falls when they were ambushed by Native American warriors. Sir Alistair was among those who watched their comrades be tortured, and endured torture themselves. He is disfigured; missing an eye, a few fingers, and has several scars on one side of his face. Children and women scream at the sight of him, so to avoid such uncomfortable occurrences, he hides in his castle, away from the world and anyone who might pity him. His life is spent in solitude, writing about nature and illustrating what he sees, until the day the lovely Helen Fitzwilliam and her two children knock on his door on a rainy night.
Helen, the former mistress to the Duke of Lister, is on the run. The Duke is possessive, and she longs to be free and out from under his thumb and the control he has over her life. The Duke does not like for his possessions to run off without his permission, so Helen, with the help of Lady Vale, presents herself to Sir Alistair to be his housekeeper with the hope that the Duke would never find her at such a remote location in Scotland. She and Lady Vale have created a back story, where Helen is a widow and looking for employment as a housekeeper. Lady Vale doesn't relate to Helen that Sir Alistair is a recluse and has a castle that hasn't seen a broom in well over twenty years. Helen is determined to make the castle habitable, and sets out to win over Sir Alistair and his uncivilized manner towards everyone, even after he banishes her from his home.
Sir Alistair is taken aback, to be sure, but a growing fondness for Jamie and Abigail, Helen's children, and his attraction to Helen herself, starts him on the path to becoming human again. Helen is also drawn to Sir Alistair; ignoring his scars and flaws, she sees the man underneath and realizes that he can see the woman hidden inside. Their mutual desire for each other plays out beautifully as they give in to their longing. Their relationship is strained when the children are taken by the Duke, and Helen is forced to reveal her true story. They both head to London to rescue the children and Sir Alistair is determined to find out a little more about the traitor of Spinner's Falls. In a comical scene, where Sir Alistair outsmarts the Duke by forcing him to disclaim his children in front of His Majesty King George, the children are rescued and returned to their mother safe and sound.
There are so many things I could say about this book. As always, Elizabeth Hoyt's characters are intriguing; they are flawed to perfection and written in such a spell-binding way that you cannot help but be drawn in and fall in love with all of them. This book will be available in April of 2009, so be sure to pick it up!