The Complete Reading List by Author

The current year’s reading list and author commentary: The (Shameful) Tally 2014.

Recommended books are in bold below, but here is a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list: So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance…

Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth)
Ashley, Jennifer Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Mac/Isabella)
Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Cameron/Ainsley) – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Hart/Eleanor)
Ashley, Jennifer Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart)
Ashley, Jennifer The Seduction of Elliott McBride (Elliott/Juliana)
Ashley, Jennifer The Untamed Mackenzie novella (Lloyd/Louisa)
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Daniel/Violet)
Ashley, Jennifer Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound) novella (Ronan/Elizabeth)
Baker, Jo Longbourn (James/Sarah)
Balogh, Mary A Handful of Gold (Julian/Verity) – ROMANCE REVIEW TEMPLATE
Balogh, Mary Slightly Scandalous (Joshua/Freya)
Balogh, Mary Slightly Dangerous (Wulfric, no, seriously, WULFRIC/Christine) CLASSIC
Balogh, Mary Simply Perfect (Joseph/Claudia)
Balogh, Mary Simply Love (Sydnam/Anne)
Barrett, Jo Nothing to Commend Her (Magnus/Agatha)
Blair, Annette Jacob’s Return (Jacob/Rachel)
Boyce, Elizabeth Once a Duchess (Marshall/Isabelle)
Boyce, Elizabeth Along Came a Duke (Preston/Tabitha)
Boyle, Elizabeth And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake (Henry/Daphne)
Boyle, Elizabeth When She Said I Do (Lawrence, called Ren/Calliope)
Brockway, Connie The Other Guy’s Bride (Jim/Ginesse)
Brogan, Tracy Highland Surrender  (Myles/Fiona)
Burke, Darcy To Love a Thief (Daniel/Jocelyn)
Burrowes, Grace The Soldier (Devlin) (Michael/Cecilia)
Burrowes, Grace Lady Sophia’s Christmas Wish (Vim/Wilhelm)
Callen, Gayle Return of the Viscount  (Michael/Cecilia)
Chase, Loretta Captives of the Night (Ismal/Leila)
Chase, Loretta Lord of Scoundrels  (Sebastian, Marquess of Dain/Jessica) CLASSIC
Chase, Loretta The Last Hellion (Vere/Lydia)
Chase, Loretta Miss Wonderful (Alister/Mirabel)
Chase, Loretta Mr. Impossible (Rupert/Daphne)
Chase, Loretta Lord Perfect (Benedict/Bathsheba)
Chase, Loretta Not Quite a Lady – (Darius/Charlotte)
Chase, Loretta Last Night’s Scandal (Lord Lisle/Olivia)
Chase, Loretta Silk Is for Seduction  (Gervase, Lord Clevedon/)
Chase, Loretta Scandal Wears Satin (Harry, Lord Longmore/Sophy)
Chase, Loretta Vixen in Velvet (Simon, Lord Lisburne/Leonie)
Clayton, Alice Wallbanger (Simon/Caroline)
Cole, Eden Not My Wolf novella (Corey/Devin)
Cole, Kresley The Warlord Wants Forever (Nikolai/Myst the Coveted) THUNDER SEX™!
Cole, Kresley A Hunger Like No Other  (Lachlain/Emma) VILE
Cole, Kresley No Rest for the Wicked  (Sebastian/Kaderin the Coldhearted) THUNDER SEX™!
Cole, Kresley Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night  (Bowen/Mariketa the Awaited) THUNDER SEX™!
Cole, Kresley Dark Need’s at Night’s Edge  (Conrad/Neomi) THUNDER SEX™!
Cole, Kresley Dark Desires After Dusk (Cadeon/Holly) THUNDER SEX™!
Cole, Kresley Kiss of a Demon King  (Rydstrom/Sabine) THUNDER SEX™!
Cole, Kresley Deep Kiss of Winter (Murdoch/Daniela the Ice Maiden) THUNDER SEX™!
Cole, Kresley Lothaire (Lothaire/Ellie)
Cole, Kresley Shadow’s Claim (Trehan/Bettina)
Cole, Kresley Macrieve  (Uilliam/Chloe) VILER
Crusie, Jennifer Welcome to Temptation (Phin/Sophie)
Crusie, Jennifer Bet Me (Calvin/Minerva)
Dare, Tessa One Dance with a Duke (Spencer/Amelia)
Dare, Tessa Twice Tempted by a Rogue (Rhys/Merry)
Dare, Tessa Three Nights with a Scoundrel (Julian/Lily)
Dare, Tessa The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright novella (Harry/Eliza)
Dare, Tessa A Night to Surrender (Bram/Susanna)
Dare, Tessa Once Upon a Winter’s Eve novella (Christian/Violet)
Dare, Tessa A Week to Be Wicked (Colin/Minerva)
Dare, Tessa A Lady by Midnight (Thorne/Kate)
Dare, Tessa Beauty and the Blacksmith (Aaron/Diana)
Dare, Tessa Any Duchess Will Do (Griffin/Pauline)
Dare, Tessa Romancing the Duke (Ransom/Izzy)
Davis, Miranda The Duke’s Tattoo (Ainsworth)
Deveraux, Jude The Duchess (Trevelyan)
DiPasqua, Lila Undone (Simon/Angelica) *Worst of 2013*
Domning, Denise Almost Perfect (Lucien)
Duran, Meredith A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal (Simon/Nell)
Duran, Meredith Wicked Becomes You (Alex/Gwen)
Duran, Meredith Bound by Your Touch (James/Lydia)
Duran, Meredith Written on Your Skin (Phin/Mina)
Duran, Meredith Your Wicked Heart novella (Ripton/Amanda)
Duran, Meredith That Scandalous Summer (Michael/Elizabeth)
Duran, Meredith Fool Me Twice (Alaistair/Olivia)
Enoch, Suzanne Reforming a Rake (Lucien/Alexandra)
Enoch, Suzanne Meet Me at Midnight  (Sinclair “Sin”/Victoria “Vixen”)
Enoch, Suzanne A Matter of Scandal (Grey/Emma)
Enoch, Suzanne The Rake (Tristan/Georgiana)
Enoch, Suzanne England’s Perfect Hero (Robert/Lucinda)
Enoch, Suzanne Always a Scoundrel (Bram/Rosamund)
Enoch, Suzanne A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes (Oliver/Diane)
Enoch, Suzanne Taming an Impossible Rogue (Keating/Camille)
Enoch, Suzanne Rules of an Engagement (Shaw/Zephyr, I’m not making that up)
Enoch, Suzanne A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behaviour (Tolly, Bartholomew/Tess)
Enoch, Suzanne Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke (Adam/Sophia)
Enoch, Suzanne The Devil Wears Kilts  (Ranulf/Charlotte)
Essex, Elizabeth A Breath of Scandal (Will/Antigone)
Evans, Bronwen To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood novella (Henry) *Worst of 2012*
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Thief (Sylvain/Cade)
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Kiss (Philippe/Magalie)
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Rose (Gabriel/Jolie)
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Touch (Dominique/Jaime)
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Heart  (Luc/Summer)
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Temptation (Patrick/Sarah)
Gabaldon, Diana Outlander  (Jamie/Claire) CLASSIC, but more of a historical epic
Galen, Shana When You Give a Duke a Diamond (Will/Juliette)
Garwood, Julie The Lion’s Lady (Lyon/Christina)
Garwood, Julie Saving Grace (Gabriel/Joanna, I think)
Garwood, Julie The Gift (Nathan/Sara)
Garwood, Julie Ransom (Brodick/Gillian)
Garwood, Julie Honour’s Splendour (Duncan/Madelyne)
Garwood, Julie Prince Charming (Lucas)
Garwood, Julie The Bride (Alec/Jamie)
Goodger, Jane When a Duke Says I Do (Alexander/Elsie)
Grace, Aria More Than Friends (Ryan/Zach)
Grant, Cecilia A Gentleman Undone – (Will/Lydia)
Grant, Cecilia A Woman Entangled (Nick/Kate) COMMENTARY ON SEX IN ROMANCE
Gray, Juliana A Lady Never Lies (Finn/Alexandra)
Gray, Juliana A Gentleman Never Tells (Roland/Lilibet)
Gray, Juliana A Duke Never Yields (Wallingford/Abigail)
Gray, Juliana How to Tame Your Duke (Ashland/Emilie)
Gray, Juliana How to Master Your Marquis (Hatherfield/Stefanie)
Gray, Juliana How to School Your Scoundrel (Somerton/Luisa)
Guhrke, Linda Lee Scandal of the Year (Aidan/Julia)
Guhrke, Linda Lee When the Marquess Met His Match (Nicholas/Belinda)
Harmon, Danelle The Wild One (Gareth)
Harmon, Danelle The Wicked One (Lucien)
Heath, Lorraine A Duke of Her Own (“Hawk”, Duke of Hawkhurst/Louisa)
Heath, Lorraine As an Earl Desires (Archie/Camilla)
Heath, Lorraine In Bed with the Devil (Luke/Catherine)
Heath, Lorraine Between the Devil and Desire (Jack/Olivia)
Heath, Lorraine Surrender to the Devil (Sterling/Frannie)
Heath, Lorraine Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel (James/Eleanor)
Heath, Lorraine The Last Wicked Scoundrel novella (William and Winnie)
Heath, Lorraine Passions of a Wicked Earl (Westcliffe/Claire)
Heath, Lorraine Pleasures with a Notorious Gentleman (Stephen/Mercy)
Heath, Lorraine Waking Up with the Duke (Ainsley/Jayne)
Heath, Lorraine Deck the Halls with Love novella (Chetwyn/Meredith)
Heath, Lorraine She Tempts the Duke (Sebastian/Mary)
Heath, Lorraine Lord of Temptation (Tristan/Anne)
Heath, Lorraine Lord of Wicked Intentions (Rafe/Evelyn)
Holt, Cheryl Sweet Surrender (Jackson/Grace)
Hoyt, Elizabeth The Raven Prince (Edward)
Hoyt, Elizabeth The Ice Princess novella (Isaac/Coral)
Hoyt, Elizabeth Scandalous Desires (Michael/Silence)
Ivory, Judith The Proposition (Mick/Winnie)
James, Eloise Winning the Wallflower novella (Cyrus/Lucy)
James, Eloise With This Kiss novella (Colin/Grace)
James, Julie Something About You (Jack/Cameron)
James, Julie About That Night (Kyle/Rylann)
James, Julie Love Irresistibly (Cade/Brooke)
Jefferson, Jessica Compromising Miss Tisdale (Duncan/Ambrosia[!])
Jeffries, Sabrina How to Woo a Reluctant Lady (Giles)
Jenkins, Beverly Indigo (Galen/Hester) CLASSIC
Jenkins, Beverly Always and Forever (Jackson/Grace)
Jenkins, Beverly Night Hawk (Ian/Maggie)
Jewel, Carolyn One Starlit Night novella (Crispin)
Kell, Amber Attracting Anthony (Silver/Anthony)
Kelly, Carla Miss Whittier Makes a List (Daniel/Hannah)
Kelly, Carla Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand  (Fletcher/Roxanna)
Kelly, Carla Reforming Lord Ragsdale (John/Emma)
Kelly, Carla The Lady’s Companion (David/Emma)
Kinsale, Laura Flowers from the Storm (Christian/Maddy) CLASSIC
Klein, K-Lee Lazy Sundays (Devon/Scott)
Kleypas, Lisa Surrender – novella (Jason)
Kleypas, Lisa Stranger in My Arms (Hunter)
Kleypas, Lisa Suddenly You (Jack/Amanda)
Kleypas, Lisa Then Came You (Alex/Lily)
Kleypas, Lisa Dreaming of You (Derek/Sarah) CLASSIC
Kleypas, Lisa Where’s My Hero novella (Jake/Lydia, but actually read for Derek)
Kleypas, Lisa Somewhere I’ll Find You (Damon, Lord Savage [!]/Julia)
Kleypas, Lisa Because You’re Mine (Logan/Madeline)
Kleypas, Lisa Where Dreams Begin (Zachary/Holland Taylor [!]) FAVE
Kleypas, Lisa Someone to Watch Over Me (Grant/Victoria)
Kleypas, Lisa Lady Sophia’s Lover (Ross/Sophia)
Kleypas, Lisa Worth Any Price (Nick/Charlotte)
Kleypas, Lisa Again the Magic (McKenna/Aline plus the spectacular Gideon/Livia)
Kleypas, Lisa Secrets of a Summer Night Wallflowers Book 1 (Simon/Annabelle) FAVE
Kleypas, Lisa It Happened One Autumn Wallflowers Book 2 (Marcus/Lillian)
Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter   Wallflowers Book 3 (Sebastian/Evie) CLASSIC
Kleypas, Lisa Scandal in the Spring  Wallflowers Book 4 (Matthew/Daisy)
Kleypas, Lisa A Wallflower Christmas (Rafe/Hannah, but really Sebastian & Simon)
Kleypas, Lisa Mine till Midnight Hathaways Book 1 (Cam/Amelia)
Kleypas, Lisa Seduce Me at Sunrise  Hathaways Book 2 (Kev/Win)
Kleypas, Lisa Tempt Me at Twilight  Hathaways Book 3 (Harry/Poppy) – FAVETWO REVIEWS
Kleypas, Lisa Married by Morning Hathaways Book 4 (Leo/Catherine)
Kleypas, Lisa Love in the Afternoon Hathaways Book 5 (Christopher/Beatrix)
Kleypas, Lisa Smooth Talking Stranger (Jack/Ella)
Kleypas, Lisa Sugar Daddy (Gage/Liberty)
Kleypas, Lisa Blue-Eyed Devil (Hardy/Haven)
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Bastard (Bennett/Chloe)
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Bitch – novella (Bennett/Chloe)
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Stranger (Max/Sara)
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Bombshell - novella (Bennett/Chloe and Max/Sara)
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Player (Will/Hanna)
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Beginning novella (Bennett/Chloe)
Laurens, Stephanie Temptation and Surrender (Jonas)
Laurens, Stephanie An Ideal Bride (Michael)
Lee, Jade Wedded in Scandal (Robert/Helaine)
Linden, Caroline One Night in London (Edward/Francesca)
Linden, Caroline Blame It on Bath (Gerard/Kate)
Linden, Caroline The Way to a Duke’s Heart (Charlie/Tessa)
Linden, Caroline The Truth About Love short story (Damien/Miranda)
Linden, Caroline Love and Other Scandals (Tristan/Joan)
Linden, Caroline It Takes a Scandal (Sebastian/Abigail)
Lindsey, Johanna The Heir (Duncan)
London, Julia The Revenge of Lord Eberlin (Tobin/Lily)
Long, Julie Anne The Runaway Duke (Connor/Rebecca)
Long, Julie Anne Beauty and the Spy (Kit/Susannah)
Long, Julie Anne Ways to Be Wicked (Tom/Sylvie)
Long, Julie Anne The Secret to Seduction (Rhys/Sabrina)
Long, Julie Anne To Love a Thief (Gideon/Lily)
Long, Julie Anne The Perils of Pleasure (Colin/Madeline)
Long, Julie Anne Like No Other Lover(Miles/Cynthia)
Long, Julie Anne Since the Surrender (Chase/Rosalind)
Long, Julie Anne I Kissed an Earl (Asher/Violet)
Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke (Alex/Genevieve) CLASSIC
Long, Julie Anne How the Marquess Was Won (Julian/Phoebe)
Long, Julie Anne A Notorious Countess Confesses  (Adam/Evie, I know)
Long, Julie Anne It Happened One Midnight (Jonathon/”Tommy” Thomasina)
Long, Julie Anne Between the Devil and Ian Eversea (Ian/Tansy)
MacLean, Julianne Married by Midnight novella (Garrett/Anne)
MacLean, Sarah Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Gabriel/Calpurnia)
MacLean, Sarah Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart (Simon/Isabella)
MacLean, Sarah A Rogue by Any Other Name (Michael, Bourne/Penelope)
MacLean, Sarah One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (Cross/Pippa)
MacLean, Sarah No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (Temple/Mara)
McNaught, Judith Almost Heaven (Ian/Elizabeth) OLD SCHOOL
McNaught, Judith Once and Always (Jason/Victoria)
Michaels, Jess An Introduction to Pleasure: Mistress Matchmaker (Andrew/Lysandra!)
Milan, Courtney This Wicked Gift (William/Lavinia)
Milan, Courtney Proof by Seduction (Gareth/Jenny)
Milan, Courtney Trial By Desire (Ned)
Milan, Courtney The Lady Always Wins novella (Simon/Virginia)
Milan, Courtney Unveiled (Ash/Margaret)
Milan, Courtney Unclaimed (Mark/Jessica)
Milan, Courtney Unraveled (Smite/Miranda) FAVE
Milan, Courtney Unlocked novella (Evan/Elaine)
Milan, Courtney What Happened at Midnight novella (John/Mary)
Milan, Courtney The Governess Affair novella (Hugo/Serena)
Milan, Courtney The Duchess War (Robert/Minerva)
Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter novella (Jonas/Lydia) CLASSIC
Milan, Courtney The Heiress Effect  (Oliver/Jane, bonus Anjan/Emily)
Milan, Courtney The Countess Conspiracy (Sebastian/Violet)
Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal (Edward/Free) CLASSIC, IF YOU READ ONLY ONE…
Milan, Courtney Talk Sweetly to Me (Stephen/Rose)
Noble, Kate If I Fall (Jackson/Sarah)
Nolan, Amelia Passion and Pride (Evan/Marian)
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth It Had to Be You (Dan/Phoebe)
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth Nobody’s Baby but Mine (Cal/Jane) 2ND WORST HEROINE OF 2014
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth This Heart of Mine (Kevin/Molly) WORST HEROINE OF 2014
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth Match Me If You Can (Heath/Annabelle)
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth Natural Born Charmer (Dean/Blue)
Pryce, Evelyn A Man Above Reproach (Elias/Josephine)
Putney, Mary Jo The Rake (Reggie)
Quinn, Julia How to Marry a Marquis (James/Elizabeth)
Quinn, Julia Everything and the Moon (Robert/Victoria)
Quinn, Julia Brighter Than the Sun (Charles/Ellie)
Quinn, Julia The Duke and I  Bridgerton Book 1 (Simon/Daphne)
Quinn, Julia The Viscount Who Loved  Bridgerton Book 2 (Anthony/Kate)
Quinn, Julia An Offer from a Gentleman Bridgerton Book 3 (Benedict/Sophy)
Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton Bridgerton Book 4 (Colin/Penelope)
Quinn, Julia To Sir Phillip, With Love Bridgerton Book 5 (Phillip/Eloise)
Quinn, Julia When He Was Wicked Bridgerton Book 6 (Michael/Francesca)
Quinn, Julia It’s In His Kiss Bridgerton Book 7 (Gareth/Hyacinth)
Quinn, Julia On the Way to the Wedding Bridgerton Book 8 (Gregory/Lucy)
Quinn, Julia The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After (Everyone, even Violet)
Quinn, Julia What Happens In London Bevelstoke Book 2 (Harry/Olivia)
Quinn, Julia Ten Things I Love About You  Bevelstoke Book 3 (Sebastian/Annabel)
Quinn, Julia Just Like Heaven Smythe-Smith Book 1 (Marcus/Honoria)
Quinn, Julia A Night Like This Smythe-Smith Book 2 (Daniel/Anne)
Quinn, Julia The Sum of All Kisses Smythe-Smith Book 3 (Hugh/Sarah)
Rodale, Maya The Wicked Wallflower  (Blake/Emma)
Rose, Ranae Whisky Dreams novella (Brom/John)
Rothwell, Kate Seducing Miss Dunaway novella (Fell, Lord Fellington/Mary)
Schone, Robin The Lady’s Tutor (Ramiel, The Bastard Sheikh/Elizabeth)
Spencer, LaVyrle Vows (Tom/Emily)
Thomas, Sherry The Luckiest Lady in London (Felix/Louisa)
Willig, Lauren The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Richard/Amy)
Willig, Lauren The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (Vaughn/Mary)
Woodiwiss, Kathleen A Rose in Winter
Wylde, Anya Penelope (Charles/Penelope) *Most Inept of 2013*
Who Cares The Wallflower *Also Worst of 2012*

The (Shameful) Tally 2014

This is the yearly reading list I maintain.

Recommended books are in bold, but here is a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list:
So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance, this is an
Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels.

The Autobuy List
Tessa Dare
Lisa Kleypas (except Crystal Cove)
Julie Anne Long
Sarah MacLean
Courtney MilanThe. Very. Best.

The Auto-Library/Cheap on Kindle List
Jennifer Ashley –  I love/hate her. I don’t recommend her.
Mary Balogh – predictable, but safe, well-written
Loretta Chase –  reliable, sometimes great
Meredith Duran – great character studies
Suzanne Enoch – B+ list
Elizabeth Essex – potential
Laura Florand – steamy and romantic contemporaries
Juliana Gray – B+ list, really strong, almost an autobuy
Cecilia Grant – interesting, massive potential
Lorraine Heath – B- list, so if there’s absolutely nothing else, maybe
Carla Kelly – sweet Regency romances, large back catalogue, newer work has Mormon themes
Caroline Linden – off to a good start, great potential
Julia Quinn – An excellent place to launch your reading. Start with The Bridgertons

Malin has excellent reviews on her site, and a broader range of books.

Name Tally August 31, 2014: Simon (8); Michael (7); Sebastian (7); William (7); Robert, Alec/Alex (5); Colin, Jack (4), Gabriel (3), Harry, James (4) ; Benedict, Charles, Edward, Gareth, Jackson, Julian, Lucien, Marcus, Tristan (3); and only one David.

My Favourite Characters

Other Authors

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When a Duke Says I Do by Jane Goodger

Short version: “I need to finish this book so I can stop reading it.”

Long Version:

gunn yes

When a Duke Says I Do is a historical romance with a lot going on, some of it interesting, but that gets lost in the details. The best way to explain is to summarize the plot and that will involve SPOILERS:

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The Beautiful Series: Beautiful Bastard, Beautiful Bitch, Beautiful Stranger, Beautiful Bombshell, Beautiful Player, & Beautiful Beginning by Christina Lauren

The Beautiful series is reasonably inept romance and reasonably ept erotica, although I don’t really know where the rumple in the sheet lies between the two. I would have thought that the main difference was in courtship by coitus and the point at which emotions become involved, but there are plenty of romances where sex precedes love, so it really just comes down to the level of detail. The Beautiful series love scenes were not much more explicit than a fairly typical romance other than greater frequency and the use of rougher language than I am used to. Not shocked but surprised, I am unaccustomed to certain words being bandied about, nor do I necessarily like it when they are. In an interesting twist, the books alternate between the hero and heroine as first person narrator which gives a perspective that was new and fun.

Plot Summary (All): Casual but proclivity compatible and intense sex leads to love.

Characters (All): Hardworking and successful, everyone is lithe and gorgeous.

  1. Beautiful Bastard
  2. Beautiful Bitch
  3. Beautiful Stranger
  4. Beautiful Bombshell
  5. Beautiful Player
  6. Beautiful Beginning

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Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase

The review is in verse for which I sincerely apologise. I was bored. Let’s pretend it never happened.


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The Chicago Stars Series (Most of It) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

All of the books in the Chicago Stars contemporary romance series are built around the world of professional athletes and the women who want to climb them like trees. It’s a rarefied wealthy bubble that allows for the same kind of lifestyle fantasy as the aristocratic and wealthy world of historical romance. Almost every story also features an older couple getting a second chance at love.

  1. It Had to Be You
  2. Heaven, Texas
  3. Nobody’s Baby But Mine
  4. Dream a Little Dream
  5. This Heart of Mine – only Kresley Cole has ever made me angrier
  6. Match Me If You Can
  7. Natural Born Charmer – very entertaining

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a good writer with a successful formula and a long career. She’s clever and witty, but more than one of these books suffers from tropes that are outdated and/or offensive. Since Natural Born Charmer is the most recent of the series, it is the one I would recommend. I did try Call Me Irresistible andThe Great Escape from her more recent collection. The former never captured my attention and the latter had a love scene involving the literal use of a licorice whip. Ouch.

It Had to Be You – 1994

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The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

The Suffragette Scandal is an instant classic and a master work of romantic fiction.

In a genre that wallows in cultural necrophilia, you have to love characters fighting actively against the  aristocracy and existing power structures. Or at least I do. Apparently, so does author Courtney Milan because she is doing it again in a novel that is easily one of the best historical romances ever written and one that simultaneously subverts and embraces the genre. Never afraid to beat romance tropes about the head and shoulders, The Suffragette Scandal, like The Countess Conspiracy before it, takes feminism and themes of identity and wraps a love story around them.

In 1877 Cambridgeshire, Frederica Marshall, Free to her friends, runs a newspaper that is, by, for, and about women and the issues they face, much like the romance genre. A radical who has chosen her battles carefully, she is the target of derision and efforts to silence her. Into Free’s life walks Edward Clark. He approaches her with a warning that someone is trying to sabotage her and an offer to help stop him. He makes it clear that he is not doing so out of altruism, he claims to be incapable of it, but because the enemy of his enemy is his friend. Already aware of the challenge Edward mentions, she decides to trust him even when he says she shouldn’t. Free knows better than Edward. She knows better full stop.

Free’s current problem comes in the form of Lord James Delacey, a man whose overtures she had the temerity to reject. It would seem farcical that a man should react so extremely to rejection, if we didn’t know that it is sometimes so sadly true. A woman standing up when virtually the whole world is telling her to sit down, Free makes a convenient public target for Delacey’s ire:“That’s precisely it. You said no, so that is what I am giving you. No newspaper, no voice, no reputation, no independence.”

Spending her life lighting candles against the darkness, Free is a magnificent character. Sanguine and undaunted, she hides none of her intelligence and knows she should not have to. She is not naive, she knows what she faces, but she has decided who she will be and acts accordingly. Her choices have a price she is willing to pay and she finds strength in small victories and in laying the groundwork for the victories to come, even the ones she knows she will never see. Her swain is one of those alluring rogues one encounters in romance. Edward has a disaffected view of the world and of himself, but he is also heartbreaking, appealing, and understandable. As a younger man, he tried to stand up and was forced down so violently that he tells himself he has withdrawn from considerations of right and wrong. Free makes him see that “maybe pessimism was as much a lie as optimism” and in each other they find a suitable partner to stand against the world with.

I cannot possibly do The Suffragette Scandal justice. It is everything a romance novel can be when giving full rein to the genre’s central tenet of a woman’s right to self-determination and in conjunction with Milan’s undoubtedly masterful skills as a writer. It’s a glorious homage to the brave and quiet warriors of the world insisting on what is right. It’s romantic. It’s funny and moving and entertaining. It’s on sale now and you should buy it.

Links to my other reviews can be found on The (Shameful) Tally 2014 or my list of books by author.

Reviewer’s Note: As a captious reader (I maintain a list), I want to give kudos to Milan for the little details, too, such as the fact that Free’s long hair is held up by nineteen pins instead of the usual two, and, although Free is “small but mighty”, Edward acknowledges that their height difference makes kissing somewhat awkward.

Also from The Brothers Sinister Series:

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Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Natural Born Charmer is a contemporary romance of the “you are everything I never knew I always wanted” variety with subplots of familial healing thrown in. Given the number of people with fractured or messed up families, I’m not surprised to see this element featured in several of the contemporary romances I’ve read. In addition to the main couple, there is a subplot featuring the hero’s parents who are also messed up and trying to find their way to stability. Natural Born Charmer has the slightly heightened reality common to romances, it’s sweet without being treacly and cacklingly funny.

Dean Robillard is gorgeous, rich, incredibly well-dressed, and gorgeous some more; to wit, “You look like an ad for gay porn.” (I’m still laughing.) A professional football player, his golden life looks perfect from the outside, but his broken relationship with his mother, his dissatisfaction, and his current road trip say otherwise. All that changes when he sees a woman in a headless beaver costume stomping down a side road. Blue Bailey (Hush, it’s a totally cool name.) is a feisty mess. A peripatetic artist, she moved from Seattle to Denver just in time to be dumped by the boyfriend she moved there to join. Alone, jobless, and broke, her car has just died and she is stuck. Claiming to be gay to make her feel comfortable, Dean offers to drive Blue first to her apartment, then to Nashville, and eventually to rural Tennessee where he is going to check on the farmhouse he is having renovated. She never leaves.

Blue and Dean are both deliciously sardonic and sarcastic. I found myself throwing my head back and laughing in the way they always describe in these books, but you don’t really believe is true until it happens to you. They also have abandonment issues and not necessarily healthy coping mechanisms, but eventually manage to figure things out. While their personal relationships are improved, they are not perfect, and there is a nice examination of what happens when children are let down by their parents, even if it is for a really good reason.

A great example of the genre, Natural Born Charmer is a very well executed and sweet read. I have already taken out three more Susan Phillips novels from my library to start working  through her back catalogue.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my list of books by author.

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig

crimson rose

Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation floral espionage series continues with book four of eleven, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, and features droll characters bantering their way through espionage and falling in love. It’s a turn of the 19th century The Thin Man with all of the wit and irreverence one would expect of a Georgian Nick and Nora. As with the first novel, The Secret History Pink Carnation, the adventure is framed by a PhD candidate, Eloise, conducting research on aristocratic spies of the period and falling for the owner of the archives that make up the bulk of her source material. Their story moves quietly and slowly through the books while the historical portion resolves itself in each installment. Nefarious plots are thwarted and the assorted Pimpernels are drawn back into the fray when a new ruckus erupts as Eloise’s dissertation work continues.

Mary Alsworthy, great beauty and advantageous marriage seeker, has just been jilted for her own sister. Dusting herself off and masking her mortification, she is still hoping to trade her looks and sophistication for a nice title, inherited privilege and, fingers crossed, shiny baubles. Ruthlessly practical and not wanting to take money from her erstwhile fiance/brother-in-law, she agrees to work for Sebastian, Lord Vaughn, on behalf of The Pink Carnation seeking information about The Black Tulip. Mary’s work will help finance a London Season and her husband hunt. Lest one be put off by her mercenary intent, there is a marvelous fight between Mary and Vaughn about the role that choice plays in their respective lives. Mary is simply trying to find security in her life through the avenues available to her.

Romance novel Sebastians are frequently delightful and this one is no exception. He is older, wiser, and more world-weary than Mary, but capable of genuine feeling somewhere under all that wry, detached elan. Simultaneously resolute and a bit dandified, he is a magnificent urbane bastard that Mary finds irresistible. She lobs back his acerbic remarks in kind and they both give in to their attraction. He enjoys her beauty, but he adores her mind. Hijinks and not insignificant complications ensue, but everything turned out alright in the end. I think. I was reading for the love story, so I didn’t really pay close attention to the other elements.

Writing for those of us who love to recognize a reference, Willig is an extremely clever, well read, and deft author. Written with a wonderfully light touch, the books are mostly chaste with badinage standing in for sensuality. Much as a I love a little licentiousness in my reading, it’s a fair trade for such an entertainingly written story. While I prefer the romance to be more front and center, I would recommend The Seduction of the Crimson Rose to readers looking for intelligent and witty escapism.

Links to my other reviews can be found on The (Shameful) Tally 2014 or my list of books by author.

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