Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lavender Morning, by Jude Deveraux

th_0743437209Yes, I do read books that aren't set in Regency England!  However, this was does have some bits from Word War II, so I'm still in the historical context.

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

Mastered by Love, by Stephanie Laurens


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

The Earl Claims His Wife, by Cathy Maxwell

earlaclaimswife_175Cathy Maxwell is a new author for me (I just realized I'm on a new author kick!) and when this book landed on my door step, I was intrigued by the titled and anxious to find another great author.

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

What Happens in London, by Julia Quinn

I just adore Julia Quinn.  Every time I read one of her books, I finish it with a smile on my face, and a warm, cozy feeling.  Quinn's character's are fun to read as they get themselves into one mess after another!


What Happens in London tells the story of Sir Harry Valentine and Lady Olivia Bevelstoke. (If you've read The Secret Diary of Miss Miranda Cheever, then you've already met Olivia)  Harry is an ex-military man who is fluent in Russian and French (thanks to his Russian grandmere) that works for the War office translating Russian documents.  Poor Harry grew up with an alcoholic father, and an emotionless mother that paid no attention to him.  After one too many embarrassing moments at school with his father, Harry decides on a whim to follow his cousin Sebastian into the Army.  Ten years later, Harry is back in London and letting a house in Mayfair, which happens to be next door to the residence of the Earl of Rudland, and his daughter, Lady Olivia Bevelstoke.


Olivia is a charming, beautiful girl, who loves gossip, gowns, and reading the newspaper front to back every morning.  She has turned down several offers of marriage and is in her third year as an unmarried woman. During a morning gossip session in her drawing room, she learns that her new neighbor supposedly murdered his fiancee, which leads her to keep an eye on him from her window.  She is positive he may be a danger, and decides it is best if she keeps watch.  Besides, he could never see her behind her curtains, and she is very stealthy.  Of course, Harry does see her.  Harry makes a point of introducing himself to her at a musciale and the two do not particularly hit it off. 


When Harry is given an assignment to keep an eye on a Russian prince, he learns that this prince is all but courting Olivia.  His orders to keep an eye on her as well cause him to spend more time in her company, and the two develop a strong friendship that turns into something more, much to the annoyance of the prince, with whom Harry does not get along. With daily talks from their windows, Harry can follow his orders while embarking on an informal courtship.  Of course, Olivia isn't aware of any of this, only that she enjoys Harry's company, and is very uneasy around the prince.  When Harry is ordered to cease watching the prince and Olivia, and after a hilarious performance of a very ridiculous "lurid graphic novel" the friction between Harry and prince subsides.  Things threaten to go wrong for our couple during an evening at the Russian ambassador's house, and there is some action and a little angst.  What would a romance novel be without that?


Definitely pick up this book!  Julia Quinn writes in such a light-hearted way that even her heroine in danger is amusing.  Her characters are so charmingly written, even the villains, and it makes this book so very lovely to read.  Poor Harry and his past with his alcoholic father taint him slightly, but even that has some amusement to the story.  If you're looking for a fun read, this is the book for you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

At Last Comes Love, by Mary Balogh

th_0440244242At Last Comes Love is the third book in the Huxtable family series.  Debra reviewed the first, it was painful for me to get through the second, and the third was a pleasant surprise indeed.  Balogh is a new author for me, despite being around awhile.  I say the second book was painful because it couldn't hold my attention for long periods of time.  The third book holds my attention easily, as the story is very, very sweet.

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.