Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Frog Prince, by Elle Lothlorien

My favorite type of escapist reading is a long, contemporary novel,  well-written and filled with laughable moments. Imagine my surprise when a free Kindle offering turned out to be just that. Elle Lothlorien has written a gem of a story, with bits and pieces taken from fairy tales and woven into a totally unbelievable but quite enchanting premise.

Leigh Fromm is an intelligent, well educated young woman who happens to work as a sex researcher. Her job thankfully, is really not the main focus of the story, but does allow for some humorous moments.  Ms. Lothlorien leaves that focus to the male protagonist, Roman Lorraine, also known as the "almost" King of Austria. Roman was born and raised in the United States, as part of the exiled royal family of Austria. Never thinking that his title would mean anything beyond some privileges in some higher circles, he makes a life for himself by building treehouses (and donating the profits to charity) and ballroom dancing.

He meets Leigh at her Great Aunt's funeral in Denver, Colorado, and they start on a lovely courtship. Leigh is a beautiful woman, but she constantly reminds us that she feels socially awkward, with a propensity for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. The first person narrative endears us to her, as she constantly wonders what Roman, tall, blue-eyed, rich and gorgeous, sees in her. She is by turns hysterically funny and unusually wise. Leigh's character, as written, is really what makes this book hum.

Halfway through their slow and steady courtship, the impossible happens. Leigh is thrust into the role of every girl's wildest dream, and Roman becomes the one thing he never thought he would be.  Their lives are turned upside down, and outside forces work to keep them apart.  Leigh and Roman try to find a way to live their own personal fairytale, with heart-melting results.

I admit, I am a sucker for a good love story, and this is one good love story. While totally implausible (or is it, really?) the author lets us imagine what it would be like to be live the life that very few people actually get to live. With more than a few laugh out loud moments, she makes it quite entertaining too. I highly recommend!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Deep Blue Sea, by Angela Francis

What a wonderful way to get back into the swing of reviewing with an amazing Regency romance!  Between new jobs, graduate school, and a toddler, my time to read what I want has been limited.  I hope to remedy this in the new year!

Now, enough of that.  Let's talk about Captain Thorne!  Deep Blue Sea is the story of Ian Thorne, captain of the Milton, a privateer guarding the seas, and Elinor Grey, a Regency miss who traveled to France with her parents to free her brother from a French prison.  Captain Thorne is instantly mesmerized by the lovely Miss Grey, but is turned off by her pert opinions and almost judgmental attitude towards privateering (pirating, in her eyes).  Their journey from France to Portsmouth is riddled with disagreements, and Captain Thorne's displeasure at Miss Grey making friends with members of his crew.  Once in Portsmouth, they Grey's are delayed by the illness of Mrs. Grey, which is heartbreaking in its finality.  Elinor, as strong as she is, has a difficult time hiding her emotions and working through her feelings for the brooding sea captain that infuriates and enchants her at the same time.  A series of grievous incidents, deaths, and a dash across the channel to free her brother lead to many, many misunderstandings, kidnapping by a real pirate, marriage ceremony on said pirate ship, and accusations of slave trading.

Captain Thorne is a very complex hero, one who is almost annoyingly self-depreciating (you will find yourself pulling your hair out over the dear Captain), handsome, devastatingly sexy, and kind at the same time.  Ian has lived a hard life of watching his father lose everything they own, and works tirelessly to restore his family's prestige.  His work with Mr. Hurst and the Milton is the path back to giving his mother and sister they life they deserve.  Ian is frustrating in his inability to actually hold a conversation with Elinor without it turning into a disagreement over something.  Elinor is not entirely without fault either.  She is a heroine who is strong, but exhibits immaturity at times when she disagrees with something that is obviously for her own safety.  Elinor is a wonderful character in that we watch her grow from a young lady who thinks she knows how the world should be, into a woman who is intelligent and strong, and uses her wealth to free Ian and his men.

Sometimes secondary characters are boring, annoying, or just plain in the way, but not in Deep Blue Sea.  The Grey's and Agnes, the maid. are very much a part of the story, as is Arthur, Elinor's brother and reason for the trip to France.  The crew of the Milton, the servants of the Hurst house, and the Thorne family all make up a wonderful cast of characters that adds much depth to the already amazing plot.  The best secondary character, however, is Doctor James Douglas.  I have it on good authority that his very own novel is underway, but until then, allow me to say that the devilishly handsome doctor has his own demons to fight.  His gentle care of Mrs Gray, his friendship to Ian, and his issues with dealing with the death aboard the Milton make him such a complex character that you want to know more of.

Deep Blue Sea is a wonderfully refreshing take on the typical Regency romance novel.  There are adult themes and darkness, and at times painful historical accuracy regarding the slave trade, but they are delightfully balanced with the heroic Captain Thorne, the willful and beautiful Miss Grey, and the dashing doctor.  A definite read for any Regency romance lover!