Monday, February 27, 2012

Once Upon a Wicked Night by Jennifer Haymore (e-novella)

February Challenge:
This month you can choose between the following options:
You can read as many books from each topic as you feel like!
- Valentine’s day: Read a book that has a predominantly color “red” cover, that has a kissing/embracing couple on its cover, or whose title has either the following words: kiss, heart or love.
- Read a book by an author you have given up.
- Read a novella, or an anthology.
- Read one of the oldest books added to your TBR shelf.
- Read a Historical Fiction (not limited to Historical Romance) – read a book that takes place in some notable period of history.

* * *

Once Upon a Wicked Night by Jennifer Haymore is Book 1.5 and should be read between Confessions of an Improper Bride and Secrets of an Accidental Duchess.

While everything is the same, everything is now different as Serena and Jonathan return to the scene of Serena's ruination. It is a moment that has filled Serena with dread and she is glad that Jonathan is with her. But now they have a chance to make a new memory ...

Olivia, on the other hand, is being introduced to the less glamorous aspect of Ton parties as she is propositioned in a most horrible way -- using her quick wits, she is able to escape.

This e-novella wraps up the story of Serena and Jonathan and the unfortunate circumstance they were caught in seven years before Confessions of an Improper Bride. This also introduces Olivia, who is the heroine of Secrets of an Accidental Duchess.
Sunday, February 26, 2012

Twice Fallen by Emma Wildes

Lillian Bourne was ruined once before and has retired from society. Upon the insistence of her brother (the Earl of Augustine), and the support of her new sister-in-law's grandmother, the Duchess of Eddington, she has returned to London --

She's been successful, thus far, in avoiding the dancing and the mingling -- expertly finding a nice, safe, quiet place for her to enjoy the solitude --

But at one such quiet place, she becomes witness to a rather scandalous scene involving Damien Northfield and a lady.

Damien Northfield has returned from the war a different man and is not eager to engage in such dalliances. He's tired from all the subterfuge and skullduggery working as a spy for Wellington and wants something less troublesome.

But his first encounter with Lillian involves a locked library with half of a broken key jambed in the keyhole -- and a hidden passageway as their only means out.

To say that their first meeting was unforgettable would be an understatement --

And so they begin their quiet investigation and exploration of each other -- who is this beautiful lady who hides herself during parties? And who is this clever gentleman who doesn't mince words and can pick locks?

Emma Wildes also adds to the mix a blackmail scheme involving Lillian's former fiance -- and many other young lords.

This was an interesting story -- the main story involves the courtship of Lillian and Damien. Both wary of society for their own personal reasons -- but both finding a reason to trust each other and to be open to one another.

I like Wildes' title because it reflects the situation that the characters find themselves in -- Lillian was ruined before and, being in a locked room with Damien would have caused her ruin ... a second time around. Damien wants to put the war and his life as a spy behind him -- but he has been requested to investigate the blackmail and mysterious deaths of some gentlemen.

There is also the side story of Lillian's cousin, James and Regina Daudet, the Viscount Altea's half-sister (from her previous novel, Our Wicked Mistake --

Regina's whole life is tainted in scandal, being the illegitimate daughter of an English lord and his French mistress -- and she continues to be scandalous because of her paintings. But James loves her for who and what she is -- and wants her to be in his life forever.

The addition of Regina and James' story was initially jarring -- but I understand why Wildes chose to include their story in Lillian and Damien's -- the juxtaposition shows us the many ways lovers navigate through the rules and scrutiny of the Ton in order to find love.

Overall, I felt the novel lacked emotional pull -- but it Wildes wrote it well enough to keep this reader engaged.

This book is part of Wildes' Ladies in Waiting series -- I assume there will be 2 more books after this one? ^_^
Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long

Colin is the fourth Eversea son and has always longed for his place under the sun. He's restless and eager for adventure -- but adventure inevitably leads to trouble for Colin. Catlike in his ability to always land on his feet, Colin suddenly finds himself framed and convicted of a murder he did not commit.

He has always had someone to rescue him -- or he manages to find a way out of his scrapes. But it surprises even him when he is saved from the hangman's noose just minutes before he is scheduled to hang from it.

And it surprises him even more when he discovers who was behind the daring escape.

Colin needs to prove his innocence and to prove his worth to Louisa -- a girl from Pennyroyal Green whom he has loved for as long as he could remember. But Louisa is scheduled to marry his brother Marcus -- which makes Colin's quest all the more urgent.

Colin persuades Madeleine to help him, promising her more than her original fee if she could get him back to his family in time.

They follow the trail of clues and discover that blackmail and the Mercury Club is involved.

Madeleine Greenway still feels the weight of the loss of her family and her life five years ago and yearns to find that happiness again -- hoping that America would be the answer. Her job to rescue Colin would have been the last of that sort of work that she does and she would have had enough to start her new life.

But the plan goes awry when her safehouse is compromised and she gets shot at. Proud of her ability to always know what to do and to always have a plan, she finds herself without one -- and so she must trust Colin to find a way for them.

A haven is something that has eluded Colin and Madeleine --

Colin believes that Louisa would provide him with the peace that he needs. And for Madeleine, dreams of a farm and a new life in America have kept her afloat and alive for the last 5 years.

Colin never expected to fall in love with Madeleine. He believed that he had given his heart many years ago to Louisa -- but he discovers that love comes in many forms and degrees --

What I loved about this story is how Julie Anne Long presents the dichotomy of the many aspects of life -- innocence and guilt, need and greed, intent and outcome, etc.

There is a thoughtfulness to Long's writing -- and a deliberateness. The conversation between the doctor and Colin was wonderfully executed and reflective -- and shows us the complexities and the layers that we possess as human beings. To what extent do we follow our passion? And at what cost? The doctor is very clear on his goals. But what about Colin?

I also love how Long uses the small details to create a very palpable world.

At one point, Long uses the word haiku in the story -- and I will use the same word to describe her work -- in a few words and details, she captures the depth and breadth of love, desire and want so eloquently --

This story was a bit of a "coming of age" for Colin -- as he discovered clues to prove his innocence, he also discovered something of himself and what he is capable of.

The Colin at the end of the story is a man who still has a carefree and happy spirit -- but it is also clear that this one restless soul has finally settled into a haven that he has longed for.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae by Stephanie Laurens

The Earl of Glencrae is running out of time -- and running out of options. With the unsuccessful kidnapping of the 2 older Cynster sisters, her mother's constant threats and the coming deadline for the goblet, he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands and handle the youngest, and last, of the sisters.

Like her sisters, Angelica is also looking for her hero and she believes that the new face across the ballroom might be the one. She is intrigued by the intensity and raw power that emanates from the man -- and so she finds a way to get closer.

One minute she is talking and flirting with him -- the next, she is kidnapped and brought to an unknown location -- as her captor plots his next move.

But Angelica, ever the Cynster, makes plans of her own.

I liked that Angelica was clever and strong enough to turn the tables on Dominic -- instead of being a helpless captive, she becomes his equal and co-conspirator (against his mother) and makes decisions for herself (and for him) --

This is the last part of Stephanie Laurens' Cynster Sisters series. I had read the first two and had mixed feelings about them -- but I ordered the last book because I wanted to see how Laurens would conclude the series. She did a good job building up the mystery of the Earl of Glencrae and this is partly the reason why I wanted to read this book.

The Earl of Glencrae has loomed in the shadows of the first two novels in the series -- is he truly a villain? Why is he targeting these sisters?

Since this is the last novel in the series, Laurens is left with the burden of having to cast light on all the details and puzzles she staged. And the untangling of it all has weighed down this book immensely -- and not in a good way.

It begins with a near-monologue from Dominic, Earl of Glencrae which spans pages 35 to 48 of the book. He details the history of his family and how it is connected to Angelica's family, etc. etc. etc. --

I also felt that the recitation of Cynsters and their wives from previous books was almost gratuitous. I understand that Laurens is trying to tie this mini-series to the greater Cyster stories --
p. 58 - 59
p. 74 = 2 paragraphs of Cynster names

This is a double-edged sword -- readers new to Laurens will get lost in the multitude of references to previous books; while fans of her previous books will be delighted to read about their favorites.

There's also a lot of explaining and telling too much, which doesn't allow the reader to decode the nuances in the actions of the characters or their dialogue. There is also a terrible case of repetitiveness --

Dominic Guisachan, Earl of Glencrae, a highland laird accustomed to absolute rule, absolute command ... p.52

He was accustomed to wielding power -- in his case more or less absolute power. p. 110

Stephanie Laurens is a talented writer -- her previous books are proof of that talent. And one finds a glimpse of that talent in this novel:

For the first time, he allowed that realization to fully form, to rise in his consciousness, then sink to his bones. p.92

That line is memorable -- there is a wonderful economy of words but the choice of words are very evocative of the feelings between Dominic and Angelica.

I had hoped to read more of that in the almost-400 pages left -- but, sadly, I did not.

Stephanie Laurens has a good story to tell -- but the story got lost in too many words, too many details, too many mentions of traveling -- just too many of everything.

What is interesting, though -- is that I did not feel there was chemistry between Angelica and Dominic. It is stated in the book how attracted they are to each other -- but I did not get a sense of any deeper devotion between the two.

There is a bonus novella at the end of the book, but I did not read it anymore.

Final note: I did like how the identity of the laird was uncovered. I like the reference to Burke's Peerage. ^_^
Friday, February 17, 2012

Waltz of Seduction by Natasha Blackthorne (e-novella)

In Waltz of Seduction, we are given a glimpse into the life of a typical British couple in an amiable relationship. Sara is a merchant's daughter who is uncomfortable in her husband's world. Colin married Sara for her money but has grown to feel more for Sara than was initially required of him.  

Theirs is a comfortable relationship --

Except that Colin and Sara both want something deeper or more passionate from each other, but they don't have the words to express what they want.

So they do it through the waltz.  A private one, done at night when the servants have gone to bed and the lights are out.

It is during this quiet moment, away from society and it's expectations that husband and wife take tentative steps to get closer to each other.

Blackthorne aptly uses the waltz to convey the intricate dance this couple must engage in in order to get close to each other. The waltz is a dance that borders on the scandalous -- and, like the waltz, husband and wife have to tread the fine line between what they feel is "acceptable" and what is "scandalous" -- their exploration allows Sara and Colin to express their true feelings for each other.

Grey's Lady by Natasha Blackthorne (e-novella)

I love Beth.  She's a strong woman who knows what she wants. She's playful and witty and her introduction to Grey is memorable --

Beth and Grey have wonderful chemistry -- and their physical encounters are sizzling.  There is an excited anticipation before Grey and Beth come together and their encounters and love scenes are a culmination of their yearning. 

Each is used to having things happen their way but now have to deal with the new reality of someone else making the decisions for them. I loved how each one had to struggle with their loss of power and control -- and ultimately discover their greater strength when they are together.

There are gaps in the details and I wish Blackthorne took more pages and fleshed out the relationship between the two -- but she does say enough to leave the reader riveted and satisfied with the story.

It's interesting that the second part of the Carte Blanche series (this is part 1) follows Grey and Beth again. I'm definitely picking up a copy.

Disclosure: I got a copy of this e-book through a giveaway.

A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries

A Lady Never Surrenders is Celia's story. As the youngest Sharpe, she's had to fight to find her place (and value) in her family. And it's been a struggle -- she's not an important and well-liked marquess like her brother or a gifted writer like her sister. And, as the last unmarried Sharpe, the future of her siblings (and herself) rests on her shoulders and her ability to find a husband -- which is difficult for Celia, who has never felt desired or wanted ... or beautiful.

But she is. To Jackson Pinter, Bow Street Runner. Who fell in love with her the first moment he saw her (and has continued to love her ever since).

But Jackson knows his place in the world -- and he knows he is too far below Celia to even try. And so love and longing are folded up and kept locked up in his heart -- hidden from Celia, who only sees "Proper Pinter" who disapproves of and argues with her constantly.

Celia has two months to find a husband -- and she has enlisted Jackson's help to investigate her prospective suitors. Celia has no grand illusions of making a love match. She just wants to get it over and done with as an obligation to her older siblings.

Jackson wishes with all his heart that he could be the man to change Celia's mind about marriage and love, but he must do what he was hired to do -- and sets out to find out about Celia's suitors.

As he continues his inquiry into the Sharpe's parents' deaths ... and his investigation of Celia's three prospects, Jackson sees more and more that he wants Celia, deeply and desperately -- that he is willing to entertain the dream of having her in his arms and being the one to show her how lovable she is.

Jackson and Celia have to deal with their insecurities before they can face each other. He has to deal with the demons of his questionable parentage and she has to face the scandal of her parents' death and to find out what love is. Neither of them have had good examples of love -- so they dance around each other and deal with each other the only way they know how -- with sharpened tongues, claws unsheathed and pistols locked and loaded.

When Celia finally allows herself to be unguarded and lays her weapon down -- it is both literal and figurative -- and a definitive moment in the life of a girl who has always had to arm and protect herself.

After two years and five novels, the Hellions of Halstead Hall have all finally settled down -- and the mystery surrounding their parents' death finally finds resolution.

It is fitting that Jeffries ends the series with Celia and Jackson -- whose lives and struggles echo those of Celia's parents. With Jackson and Celia coming together, the past, and the present are resolved -- and the future is determined. While the Sharpe family's past is one of dark tragedy, their futures are full of promise and love.

Final note: I really love how Jeffries "solved" the mystery of the double suicide/murder -- it all fits in and makes sense.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel by Samantha Grace

I am currently on page 140 of this book and I have 266 pages to go -- and I have found myself reading a few pages and then putting it down and reading a few pages and putting it down.

Somehow, I am not engaged by this story or by the characters.

And I don't feel there is enough action or complication happening up to this point.

The opening paragraph is amazing and sets the stage for a truly unique heroine:

Two types of men crowded the Eldridge Ballroom this evening: the dashing gentlemen whose ardent, but proper, pursuit any debutante would welcome. And then there were the ones who pursued Lana Hillary.

Samantha Grace has singled out her character and has led us to expect that there is something different about Lana Hilary --

But she never shows us why.

She is an heiress and she's been betrayed by a fiance. She's in London for the Season and is trying to steer clear of the fortune hunters. The situations and decisions she makes while in these situations have not shown me that she is special.

The one interesting thing about her is that she has a knack for matchmaking -- and the author was not able to develop this.

Drew isn't that dissolute a scoundrel either -- (he's not constantly drunk or broke; he doesn't have a bevy of mistresses or a score of illegitimate children; etc.)

And neither of them seem compelling enough or attractive enough (to each other and to the reader) --

There is the toffee-colored locks that seem to constantly fall on Drew's forehead.

And the reminder that Lana has red/orange hair -- (how is this related to peaches?) --


My impression is that these two characters would not have given each other a second thought had it not been for the constant meddling reminder of the people around them to stay away from each other.

Thus they have become the forbidden fruit to each other -- attractive only because they are forbidden to each other.

And why does everyone pop in and out of the pages just to remind either Lana or Drew of this?

Up to page 140, the story is static -- and so are the characters. They interact with each other but their interactions don't serve to deepen the attraction -- what has happened thus far is that -- they interact and then someone reminds them not to interact -- nothing else develops except the allure of the forbidden, which becomes stronger and stronger.


I will put this book down and start another. I will try to come back to this and reread it again.
Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Kissed an Earl by Julie Anne Long

In this installment to the Pennyroyal Green series, we find Violet Redmond -- beautiful, young, impulsive and perfectly composed. Violet Redmond is a restless sort -- and her life in England bores her. She believes she has seen and done it all. Her first meeting with Asher Flint discomposes her completely -- because he forgets her name.

And no one has ever done that to Violet before. She's used to getting her way. She's used to being able to manipulate convince people to see things her way. She's also the Redmond her family is most wary of -- because things just happen to her.

Asher Flint, the new Earl of Ardmay has more important things to do than dance and be "put on exhibit" at such balls. He needs to find Le Chat, a pirate with whom he needs to settle a personal score (and avenge his mentor).

When Violet hears about Le Chat, she pieces together the puzzle and realizes that the pirate Flint is looking for might be her brother, Lyon.

In true Violet fashion, she finds a way to get on board Flint's ship and doesn't expect what would happen next.

Asher has traveled the world many times over. He has risen up from his unfortunate childhood and has now received a most distinguished title -- but there is a restlessness to Asher -- a deep sense that he doesn't belong where he is. His ship and his travels are his refuge and excuse. The maps and charts that guide his ship guide him as well.

When Violet enters his world, it is turned over and inside out. He has never had anyone challenge him or infuriate him ... (or beat him) before. For the first time in his life, he is in uncharted waters.

There is a beauty and a preciseness to Julie Anne Long's writing. She's able to reveal and develop character gradually (and plausibly) -- and she writes love and longing so well.

The moment Violet realizes what she feels for Flint, she realizes what the word "breathtaking" truly means -- the moment when these two hearts discover that they are home in each other and are no longer restless -- it is a heady and electric moment.

Best profession of love. Ever.
"I could not have born [sic] it if he killed you. You. I could not have lived. I simply would have ... stopped breathing. I would have killed him a dozen more times. Happily. For you."

The scope of the story is not epic -- but it is profound. At the heart of it is family -- Violet's intense yearning to make hers whole again. And Asher's desire to be part of one. The highest point of drama is when Violet is caught between her love for her brother and for Asher. How does one choose between two loves without betraying the other?

Violet believed in her heart that Lyon could not have done the things Asher accuses him of doing. And Asher knows only that he must avenge his mentor's death by bringing to justice that man responsible. These are the truths that rule their lives and their motivations. What happens when the truth of one's life clashes with the truth of another person's life?

It is a trial that would bend or break many heroines -- but not Violet -- who has the mind and heart and resourcefulness to figure out what she needs to do.

What comes from this thesis and antithesis is not a breakdown or falling apart of truth -- but a synthesis of it. Both Asher and Violet realize this new truth -- and this new life -- a world where their love for each other can exist.

And Julie Anne Long offers a resolution that works.

I am looking forward to Lyon and Olivia's story. (Oh please, oh please, let his story be next. ^_^)

Final note: p. 188 to 189 -- Oh. My. God. Wicked funny.
Friday, February 10, 2012

The Pleasure of Your Kiss by Teresa Medeiros

Ashton Burke has always been the unwanted, unappreciated spare. His father and brother constantly reminded him of his low stature.  The single-most important thing in his life was Clarinda -- and he made the foolish mistake of walking away from her 8 years ago, in hopes of "finding himself" and being more worthy of Clarinda.

Clarinda never wanted anything as badly as she wanted to be with Ash.  After one night of passion and surrender, she finds herself abandoned and alone.  It is 8 years later and she's tired of waiting.  She is on her way to Burma to embark on a new adventure and a new role as wife -- to Ash's brother.

Since their school days, Poppy Montmercy has always lived and walked in Clarinda's shadow.  She's happy to be there and to follow where Clarinda leads -- including this latest trip to Burma.  But now, she's discovered something that she wants for herself.  And she's ready to step out and be her own person.

Farouk is king of all that he sees.  He has wealth and women in his possession.  He wants to move his kingdom to the future, but he must deal with his uncle and his insistence of clinging to the past.  He hasn't completely shaken off 'Frankie' -- the boy who was sent off to England for an education; the boy who needs spectacles and loves to read Coleridge.

Then there's Maximillian, Ash's brother.  And Luca, Ash's trusty sidekick.  And Yasmin, Clarinda's nemesis at the harem. And Solomon, the eunuch.

There's also Morocco, which titillates the senses and brings to mind lushness and hedonism. The setting is an important factor in this story and Medeiros does a good job describing harem life and the desert very vividly.

This was an ambitious project: a love story that spans almost a decade (and two continents), a legion of characters, an exotic location and over 500 pages of text.

There are moments in the novel when it felt like an action-adventure movie. And this novel employs a lot of dramatic elements -- the cliffhanger, the dramatic dialogue and dramatic reveal, the journey through the desert, etc.

It's well-written and progresses nicely from beginning to end. There is enough action and excitement to carry the reader through reading this fairly lengthy novel.

The main weakness of The Pleasure of Your Kiss is the lack of focus.  As Medeiros attempts to tell her story and to connect all the elements together, depth of story and character is sacrificed. The constant shifting of POV from different characters made it a bit difficult at times to follow who was "talking" --

The love triangle between Ash, Clarinda and his brother could have benefitted from a few more pages.

I would have loved to read more about the rocky relationship of younger Ash and Clarinda. (And would have wanted to find out more about what happens to Farouk <-- could have been a separate novel.)

The ending felt a bit rushed and loose ends were tied up a little too conveniently.

(I am glad that Ash's brother is getting his own story next.)
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

In Deep by Chloe Harris

I read Chloe Harris's debut erotic novel, Secrets of Sin -- and the story of Jaidyn and Connor actually begins there.

There was such promise to it -- a sea captain and the reluctant prostitute -- their first encounter is a threesome between Connor, his friend Reinier (hero of the first novel) and Jaidyn. While in the midst of their menage a trois, Connor stops Reinier from having Jaidyn but refuses to explain why. Thus is the mystery of Jaidyn and Connor's relationship (and why I decided to get the second book) --

Jaidyn has no choice but to work at Madame Poivre's -- she has no money and has no one to help her get to the Carolinas. She needs to work -- and Connor (and Reinier) are her first customers.

Instead of developing the story, this one flatlines -- the interaction between Connor and Jaidyn are only physical -- there is no indication of any emotional investment in either character and, when they realize that they have fallen in love with each other, it's a bit difficult to believe.

The storytelling is also a bit disjointed -- and the tone inconsistent. A lot of the complications and twists in the story are introduced far too late -- and a lot of things are left unresolved (or not resolved conclusively). There is potential for character development in Harris' story: a lot about Jaidyn's past is hinted about but never explored.

The biggest plus about this story are the love scenes -- the acts Jaidyn and Connor engage in are seemingly acrobatic but Harris is able to order the events in such a way that the scene moves nicely (without an elbow or a knee out of place) --

Final note: I did not like the name of the heroine -- it's too modern for the 18th century. And I did not understand the name of her horse: May Hem. Why 2 words?
Monday, February 6, 2012

The Price of Temptation by Lecia Cornwall

February Challenge:
This month you can choose between the following options:
You can read as many books from each topic as you feel like!
- Valentine’s day: Read a book that has a predominantly color “red” cover, that has a kissing/embracing couple on its cover, or whose title has either the following words: kiss, heart or love.
- Read a book by an author you have given up.
- Read a novella, or an anthology.
- Read one of the oldest books added to your TBR shelf.
- Read a Historical Fiction (not limited to Historical Romance) – read a book that takes place in some notable period of history.

* * *

Lecia Cornwall continues to delve into the world of spies and intrigue in her second novel, The Price of Temptation.

Evelyn Renshaw is in limbo -- her husband is a known traitor to the Crown and is missing. The latest rumour is that he is dead. Evelyn's life is fraught with uncertainty -- her funds have been frozen and she can't retire to the country, away from the prying of London society.

Sinjon Rutherford is in limbo -- he's been branded a traitor and is trying to prove his innocence. He can't go home because his family has disowned him -- and he can't trust anyone but himself.

He happens upon Evelyn in the park and saves her from French attackers who believe Evelyn knows the whereabouts of an important treasure that her husband stole from France.

And, by doing so, he becomes a player in the dangerous game of traitors and allies.

Sinjon is recruited by Adam Westlake to discover Evelyn's secrets. He gains a position as footman in Evelyn's household. As footman, Sin becomes privy to his new employer's life -- and desires. And she becomes his lover.

Espionage and infiltration is not a new scenario in romance novels -- but Cornwall adds a unique element: the question of Evelyn's "complicity" in her husband's schemes: how much does she know and how deeply involved is she? Sinjon's quest also puts him in a difficult situation: does he save himself? or does he save Evelyn?

As Sinjon tries to discover the answers, he can't help but fall in love with Evelyn's strength and calm.

There is a poignance to their coming together -- the sinner and the fallen. They are imperfect people in an imperfect world -- but one cannot doubt the sincerity and perfection of their love, which exists despite their circumstances.

Lecia Cornwall blends adventure and intrigue perfectly with the love story. She has created likeable characters that her readers can empathise and identify with.

I usually don't like how conveniently unwanted husbands are dealt with in similar stories -- but I did not mind it so much in Cornwall's novel -- because Sinjon and Evelyn belong together.
Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Taste of Desire by Beverley Kendall

Lady Amelia Bertam delights in causing trouble for her father -- and for anyone associated with her father. Which is unfortunate for Thomas, Lord Armstrong -- who really wants to like her but could never get close enough to her to find out.

She's irascible and he's long-suffering -- and now they have to spend 4 months together because Amelia's father is going away on business. And because Amelia said something insulting about Thomas at a party. And because Thomas wants to teach Amelia a lesson.

In A Taste of Desire, she introduces two characters who are so disparate and so unlikely to fall in love with each other and examines the way love develops between them.

It is a hedgehog's dilemma for Amelia longs for the attention and affection she has not had since her mother died when she was little. And Thomas is also cautious around Amelia who affects (and hurts) Thomas in a way no woman has ever done.

I wish Kendall took more time to explore and elaborate on Amelia's character -- she comes across as extremely insensitive and hurtful. (When she is first introduced to Miss Foxworthy -- ouch. She instantly regretted it -- but, it shows just how impulsive and thoughtless she can be.) Kendall reveals enough about it -- her past, the neglect she felt from her father after her mother died -- but it did not seem enough to justify her actions.

Thomas's character also suffers and borders on being almost flat -- I liked that he tried to be patient and professional with Amelia -- but his response to her during their encounters became very predictable.

Of all the characters, the most dynamic one (surprisingly) was Amelia's father. He appears in the first part of the book and the last part of the book -- his conversation with Amelia in the latter part of the book explains so much about their relationship -- and settles so much about it.

Beverley Kendall is a wonderful storyteller -- the narrative flows smoothly. She shows us that love and hate are not always opposite emotions but may stem from the same source. When Amelia finally identifies what she feels for Thomas, hate turns to love with the same passionate degree.

Kendall has a free e-novella that is part of the Elusive Lords series:

The next novel is An Heir of Deception, which features Alex Cartwright.
Friday, February 3, 2012

How the Marquess Was Won by Julie Anne Long

How this reader was won:

Phoebe is a schoolteacher living in Sussex. She's content to save her wages and visiting her most-coveted, most-aspired for object -- a bonnet at Postlewaite's store.

She's thisclose to getting it and it's thrilling for her to imagine owning something so precious.

Julian Spenser, the Marquess Dryden is rock star-popular. Young lords follow his fashion -- and his every move. He's used to getting his way and getting the best.

Chance brings Phoebe to the store on the same day the Marquess Dryden happens to stop by, on his way to a house party. Chance brings her to the attention of Julian's "friend" Waterburn who bets Julian that he couldn't steal a kiss from Phoebe, who overhears the challenge.

And it is by chance that Phoebe gets invited to the same house party as Julian.

But that would not be Phoebe and Julian's first encounter -- they meet before the party, when Julian tours the school where Phoebe teaches -- and Phoebe makes a memorable first impression by turning the tables on the Ton's most renowned seducer.

Because it is Julian who gets seduced -- by Phoebe's mind and attitude. He is drawn to the light that shines from within Phoebe.

Phoebe is starstruck. She has read all about the Marquess Dryden and of the Ton in the broadsheets -- and what she has read has captured her imagination. The larger-than-life stories about their exploits and escapades. And she longs to be part of that bright and glittering world.

As is the story of her life -- she is thisclose to getting it: to being with Julian and being a part of that glittering world. But it is not meant for her.

Light plays a big theme in Long's story. Light and the absence of it. Phoebe and Julian's past are fraught with shadows and their current lives are filled with light -- but of different sorts. And this is what Julian realises. His life and the luster of it is borrowed light and, like the stars, it fades when the source disappears.

But the light he finds in Phoebe is the light that warms, and nurtures and loves.

But it is a difficult thing to turn his back on his life's work -- the rebuilding of his family name and fortune. He is thisclose to getting what he wants -- the last piece of his life's puzzle (his mother's dower lands) -- but at what cost to himself and to Phoebe?

I don't know how Julie Anne Long did it -- but she has transmuted paper and ink to romance novel gold. This was an amazing, amazing, amazing read.

Julian Spenser and Phoebe Vale have chemistry -- and it is palpable. The thrill of the first touch and the first kiss -- it is enchanting and utterly breathtaking.

Julie Anne Long has woven a wonderfully captivating story -- with an amazing, amazing, amazing ensemble of characters. It is a beautiful world, Pennyroyal Green -- and I am so glad that Julie Anne Long has created it.


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