Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne

The Black Hawk is book 4 in Joanna Bourne's Spymaster series --

In this installment, we find a grown-up Adrian Hawkhurst as the new head of the British Intelligence Office. It is many years after the French Terror and he is back in England.

His world is disturbed once more when Justine knocks on the door of his Meek Street headquarters.

Justine was a spy for the French. And she was one of their best. In over 25 years of service, she and Hawker have crossed paths many times -- sometimes as comrades but, most times as enemies.

Justine has been living "quietly" as a shopkeeper in England but she is attacked one evening -- she instinctively finds her way to Adrian's doorstep where he and his fellow British spies tend to her injury.

Part of me wishes Joanna Bourne would write more than 1 book a year -- but the other part appreciates the deliberateness of her writing -- her stories are not hurried and her characters are well-developed.

This story is part of her Spymaster series -- but this is about 10-20 years after the first story (in the first book) began. I love that she's done that. It allowed her characters to develop more fully through each other's stories. (Adrian was 13 in Doyle and Maggie's story.)

I love how she writes, which is romantic but not sickeningly sweetly so.

I love Adrian and Justine. I read somewhere that this is the end of the Spymaster series ... I'm really looking forward to her future work!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Too Wicked to Wed by Cara Elliott

This is the first book in a new series for Cara Elliott -- her previous series, The Circle of Sin, was an amazing read about a group of unique women.

Now, Elliott is turning her attention to men -- the Lords of Midnight (all of them nicknamed after a type of hound -- Wolfhound, Deerhound, etc.)

The first book is about the Irish Wolfhound, Connor, is an earl who happens to run a brothel/hell to augment his income -- he suffers several setbacks:
1. A clever card player has "broken the bank" which
2. forces Connor to borrow money from his friend, the Marquess of Haddan and did the gentlemanly thing of putting up half of the brothel/hell as collateral.
3. The Marquess loses the note to Alexa in a game of cards where Alexa is disguised.

Alexa is a thorn on Connor's side -- they met months before when Alexa was looking for her brother, Sebastian.

Now, she holds half of his business in her hands and she has no plans of giving it back to him.

Connor and Alexa are wonderfully quirky -- she's an odd duck who never learned how to sew and paint like a proper lady and is widely well-versed in animal husbandry and farming. He's an Earl who dabbles in the worst sort of trade.

But, together, they make sense.

I especially love the interlude, where Alexa and Connor are at Linsley Close, while Connor is recuperating from a gunshot wound --

You can see Alexa shine -- she is in her element in that surrounding -- rustic, quiet, charming. (In a ballroom, she feels uncomfortable and uneasy.)

Connor never planned to return to Linsley Close -- the place filled with unwanted memories of his unhappy family life. But, with Alexa there, he begins to see the place ... and her in a new light.

I didn't enjoy the (forced) use of animal metaphor in the story -- I felt it weakened the story and the writing by making it trite. (Too much growling and howling.)

The next book is about the Deerhound, Griffin, Marquess of Haddan -- I hope Elliott manages to edit the book more slowly and do away with the metaphors.

(But I am definitely picking up a copy!)

To Pleasure the Duke by Sara Bennett

When Sara Bennett began her Husband Hunters series a few years ago, I was excited. I was excited about the possibility of a group of women who will take control of their lives and marriages by "naming" the man they plan to marry.

So far, the series has not disappointed me --

This is the latest installment.

It is now Eugenie's turn to name the man she plans to marry -- but, unlike her fellow Husband Hunters, Eugenie's prospects are slim: her father is an impoverished baron with a reputation for doing bad business, her mother is usually hysterical because of her twin brothers, etc --

But this does not stop Eugenie from naming Sinclair St. John, the Duke of Somerton, as her future husband.

In truth, Eugenie just said the first name that popped to her head -- but imagination quickly becomes reality when the Duke decides to reside in his country home (in the same village where Eugenie lives) -- and there is the matter of the goat.

The goat that started it all -- the Belmont children were on their way to the village to sell/return the goat when they cross paths with the Duke of Somerton. The Duke, after being butted by the goat, offers to take custody of the animal and allows the younger Belmont son to visit it.

Eugenie and Sinclair are keenly aware of their positions in society but this does not stop them from indulging their recklessness ... and falling in love.

This was a wonderful read -- the main characters were well-defined and extremely likable and the supporting cast had dimension. It would be interesting to read about Terry and the younger Belmont siblings in future Bennett books. ^_^
Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Sinner Who Seduced Me by Stefanie Sloane

At the heart of Sloane's Young Corinthians story is a French conspiracy, which three spies have tried to uncover in three separate stories.

The problem with Sloane's conspiracy is that it isn't sinister enough --

When the series began in The Devil in Disguise, I didn't feel it was important enough or dangerous enough to merit such attention from a leading group of spies. (Premise of book 1: The French want to kidnap the richest girl in London so they can ransom her. O_o)

Book 2 followed a smuggling ring tied to Les Moines (the French organization) -- by far, this had the strongest story and tied a bit of Napoleon-related myth.

This third book felt a bit ... ridiculous. Les Moines threatens a French painter to go to England to paint the portrait of a rich banker's daughter. (They want the money. O_o) The French painter is injured before his trip so Clarissa, his student disguises herself as him and travels to England.

James is a Young Corinthian who has infiltrated Les Moines. He was asked by the leader of Les Moines to keep an eye on Clarissa and to ensure that she finishes the painting. (Again, O_o.)

James and Clarissa have a history. They were in love. Clarissa felt James betrayed her by not taking her side (about her father) and left.

They arrive in England and Clarissa paints the painting. In between, the endanger themselves and the rich banker's daughter by going to a Cyprian's Ball, by attending a boxing match and by letting the RBD (rich banker's daughter) gamble in a gaming hell.

Then they realize they still want each other and love each other. This was the strange part -- there didn't seem to be enough development in their relationships. From the start of their journey until the end, the felt like the same people. (Except they love each other.)

Sloane is continuing the series next year with The Saint Who Stole My Heart ... I'm hoping the long break between her books allows her to reflect on her material and provide her next story with more depth and insight.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Angel in My Arms by Stefanie Sloane

This is Stefanie Sloane's second novel and is part of her Regency Rogues (Young Corinthians) series.

She keeps to the tried-and-tested combination of spies + mystery + love. A lot of authors seem to use these to move their stories forward --

The greatest danger of this is the lack of originality in the story -- granted that, with romance novels being around for more than 50 years, all the "original" plots have been taken and used many times.

I think the author's challenge is to add something fresh to the story.

Sloane succeeds partly in doing so -- her heroine is refreshingly honest. (A bit too honest, if you think about it.) Sarah is also wary of men who want her for her beauty.

But there's something about Marcus that catches her fancy.

He's half-Scot and half-English and no one wants him. Except Sarah and the Young Corinthians.

He's actually in Dorset to investigate the smuggling ring that has strong ties to Napoleon and his ambition. Initially, Marcus believes this to be a wild goose chase and ploy for him to rest his injured leg.

His first meeting with Sarah is anything but ideal -- it involves a dog, a wet Sarah and Sarah's equally honest younger brother. But there's something about Sarah and her honesty that interests Marcus.

When the smuggling ring is uncovered and Marcus realizes that the mission is more dangerous than he initially thought, he and Sarah try to find the murderous leader of the smuggling ring.

Sloane is very good at creating suspense -- but I felt she lacked focus on the "finer details" of the story -- two boys were murdered because of their involvement with the smuggling ring -- and the aftereffects of these events were only described sparingly. I would think that, considering how small Sarah's town is, these two murders would shock people to their core. Instead, there is a ball. And other things.

I think Sloane also needs to work on blending love and mystery more seamlessly -- the book can be broken into 2 parts -- the first half of the book is about Sarah and Marcus's love. The second part of the book is about Sarah and Marcus and the devious plot. I felt that the two stories were independent of each other instead of contributing to each other to deepen the story.

I'm currently reading the 3rd part of this series. Book 2 was very good and the Young Corinthians are intriguing enough for me to keep following their stories.

Redeeming the Rogue by Donna MacMeans

Donna MacMeans is one author that I feel is underappreciated -- I first experienced her brilliant writing in The Education of Mrs Brimley (part 1 of the Chambers Family series) and I have been looking forward to her releases ever since.

This is the 3rd part of the series and it comes 2 years after part 2 was released. It was initially difficult to recall the story of the 2 other Chambers siblings but MacMeans is able to incorporate their stories seamlessly into this 3rd installment without disrupting the actual plot.

Arianne is an interesting heroine -- she did a foolish thing and is trying to escape the scandal of her foolishness. She agrees to assist Michael Rafferty uncover a plot to overthrow the British government and travels to America with him.

Her position is lofty -- being the daughter of a former duke and the sister of the current one -- but she is aware of her imperfections. When she finally admits to Rafferty about her indiscretion, it is a heartbreaking revelation. Her honesty and regret are felt from the page.

Michael Rafferty is also an odd hero -- he is Irish and wants freedom for Ireland but he is helping the British government. He is caught between his ties to his homeland and his loyalty to the Crown.

The two start out hating each other -- expecting the worst of each other but, during the sea voyage to America, they discover that they are alike in so many ways.

Their love develops gradually and it is wonderful when they finally admit their feelings to each other.

I hope MacMeans follows this up soon -- I wouldn't want to wait another 2 years for a new book from her.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt

The story of Mickey and Silence began well before this novel -- he compromised her out of whim and she paid dearly for the sacrifice she made to save her husband's career.

It is many years later and their paths have crossed again -- Mickey has taken Mary Darling, one of the children in Silence and Winter's care. Silence boldly approaches Mickey and demands that he return Mary to her.

But he can't. Because he is Mary's father and wants to keep her safe from his enemies.

Silence agrees to stay with Mary Darling at Mickey's "palace" -- and the story takes on a "Beauty and the Beast" theme. She is wary of Mickey but cannot deny that his staff is loyal to him. She realizes that there is something more in the unrepentant rake ...

And the inevitable happens. She falls in love with him. (He fell in love with her years ago when he ruined her reputation.)

The interesting bit is how they work out their situation -- he's a criminal and she's known to be a "good" girl --

Elizabeth Hoyt weaves a fairy tale -- but it's not where the fair maiden is whisked off the a castle to live happily ever after -- it's where the man discovers the prince in him and tries to be better.

I love Elizabeth Hoyt! I am really looking forward to her future projects!
Thursday, November 10, 2011

Counting down for Book Depository --

24h offer. up to 80% off. Great Discounts at The book Depository
Monday, November 7, 2011

What a Duke Wants by Lavinia Kent

Lavinia Kent started out very strong with her debut novel, A Talent For Sin -- she featured a very strong female character who took charge of her life and her sexuality.

Her next few books have been a bit more conventional but she was able to tie them all together with related characters (the Masters family).

This is the latest installment in their story -- and I felt that Kent's is still heading in a downward direction --

Believing she killed the man she was being forced to marry, Isabella Masters has been hiding from her family and has gone into service as a nanny.

During a trip to London, she and her ward are mis-directed and sent to the stables where she encounters the Duke of Strattington.

Mark isn't used to being a duke, yet -- and he longs to escape the constricting world that he has inherited.

He is intrigued by Isabella and her honesty (she's also very beautiful, btw) and decides to pretend to be plain Mark Smythe.

They are unfortunately discovered and Mark tries to do right by her ... by offering her the position of his mistress.

Isabella agrees reluctantly -- (ed: She has no choice! Her employer let her go without reference or money!) --

But Isabella is not content to live the role Mark has asked her to play so she leaves him.

The whole story is a bit cliche -- and the characters lacked spark.

It took me a while to finish the story but I'm glad I was able to read this through to the end -- Kent resolves everything nicely -- but questionably. I felt that Mark had no deep motivation to want Isabella back and his change of heart (asking her to be his wife) happened right at the time when he discovers Isabella was a Masters and fairly well-connected.

Kents storytelling and writing suffered a bit -- I wonder if it was because she was also writing/publishing her novellas at the same time?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On self-publishing --

I received some issues of Romantic Times last Friday and I happily flipped through the newer issues. It surprised me to see that RT had added a new section in their review pages devoted entirely to self-published works.

Self-publishing has been around for a long time -- in the past, self-published works are works that couldn't find a publisher. They usually had very limited releases (limited usually to friends or family or a community).

Lately, it seems to become a more accepted practice even for seasoned writers. The reasons for doing so are varied --

One of my favorite authors, Courtney Milan has opted to go the self-publishing route -- she was unhappy with the terms of her contract with Harlequin and is venturing out on her own. She published a novella in e-book form and it was well-received by her readers.

I recently discovered that Cheryl Holt, another author that I follow, was dropped by her publisher and she, too, has decided to self-publish her newer works. She has published 2 e-books: Knight of Seductionand Nicholas.

From what I've seen, this rising trend indicates the following:
1. E-books are becoming the medium of choice for readers -- the reason may be eco-related or simply practical (one can carry a thousand books in an ebook reader). More authors are opting to publish in e-format because of greater sales. (I think this is a good step -- cheaper for authors to get published and readers can get books at a more reasonable rate and more quickly.)

2. Publishing houses are not offering competitive rates to writers. I think that publishers have to reassess their current business practices and try to match what Amazon and other similar businesses are offering writers.

3. The publishing industry might be suffering from losses from poor book sales. (Am not sure this applies to the romance novel genre, though -- from what I've seen, the genre is a growing industry and reports book sales in the billions of dollars per year ...)

I have some concerns, though --
My biggest worry about self-publishing is the lack of editing of some books -- writers might be in a hurry to release a book that the quality of the story would suffer.

I'm also worried about the quality of the stories (though, so far, the self-published works of the authors I follow have been very, very good) --

I'm trying to think about who gains the most from this new development -- I think authors are definitely getting more opportunities to release their works and I hope they are enjoying greater profit for their works.

As a reader, I get to experience stories that would never have seen print (through traditional publishing) --

I think technology has really opened the doors for writers and readers. I hope this continues going in a positive direction.

The next question then would be: ebooks? or paper? ^_^


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...