The (Shameful) Tally 2014

Recommended books are in bold, but here is a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list:              So You Want to Read a Historical Romance… and these are
Less Than Stellar Efforts, but fun to review and, lastly, these are
Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels.

The (Shamefree) Tally 2014

I am hoping to actually put something here, but don’t hold your breath.

The (Shameful) Tally 2014

  1. The Importance of Being Wicked – Victoria Alexander (Winfield/Miranda)
  2. Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements – Victoria Alexander novella                       (Winfield/Felicia and Lucy and Caroline)
  3. Nothing to Commend Her – Jo Barrett (Magnus/Agatha)
  4. Jacob’s Return – Annette Blair (Jacob/Rachel)
  5. Romancing the Duke – Tessa Dare (Ransom/Izzy)
  6. Bound by Your Touch - Meredith Duran (James/Lydia)
  7. Your Wicked Heart – Meredith Duran (Ripton/Amanda)
  8. Fool Me Twice – Meredith Duran (Alaistair/Olivia)
  9. The Devil Wears Kilts - Suzanne Enoch (Ranulf/Charlotte)
  10. A Breath of Scandal – Elizabeth Essex (Will/Antigone)
  11. The Chocolate Heart - Laura Florand (Luc/Summer)
  12. The Chocolate Temptation – Laura Florand (Patrick/Sarah)
  13. A Lady Never Lies – Juliana Gray (Finn/Alexandra)
  14. A Gentleman Never Tells – Juliana Gray (Roland/Lilibet)
  15. A Duke Never Yields - Juliana Gray (Wallingford/Abigail)
  16. How to Tame Your Duke – Juliana Gray (Ashland/Emilie)
  17. How to Master Your Marquis – Juliana Gray (Hatherfield/Stefanie)
  18. When the Marquess Met His Match – Laura Lee Guhrke (Nicholas/Belinda)
  19. Compromising Miss Tisdale – Jessica Jefferson (Duncan/Ambrosia[!])
  20. Between the Devil and Ian Eversea – Julie Anne Long (Ian/Tansy)
  21. The Sum of All Kisses – Julia Quinn (Hugh/Sarah)
  22. The Wicked Wallflower - Maya Rodale (Blake/Emma)

Reviews of Pre-2014 Reads:

A Week to Be Wicked – Tessa Dare (Colin/Minerva)
The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright – Tessa Dare (Harry/Eliza)
The Bow Street Runners Series – Lisa Kleypas

  • Someone to Watch Over Me (Grant and Vivien)
  • Lady Sophia’s Lover (Ross and Sophia)
  • Worthy Any Price (Nick and Charlotte)

The Hathaways Series – Lisa Kleypas

  • Mine till Midnight (Cam and Amelia)
  • Seduce Me at Sunrise (Merripen and Win)
  • Tempt Me at Twilight (Harry and Poppy)
  • Married by Morning (Leo and Catherine)
  • Love in the Afternoon (Christopher and Beatrix)

The Countess Conspiracy – Courtney Milan (Sebastian/Violet)
Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation Of Romance Novels Explained – Maya Rodale

Abandoned Novels:
Of Moths and Butterflies – V.R. Christensen (Archer/Imogen)
Maybe This Time – Jennifer Crusie (North/Andie)

The Autobuy List
Tessa Dare
Lisa Kleypas (historical romances only)
Julie Anne Long
Sarah MacLean
Courtney Milan

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
Meredith Duran – wonderful character studies, almost an autobuy
Suzanne Enoch - B+ list
Elizabeth Essex – potential
Juliana Gray – B+ list, really strong, almost an autobuy
Lorraine Heath - B- list, so if there’s absolutely nothing else, maybe
Carla Kelly – sweet Regency romances, large 1990s 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.

The (Shameful) Tally for 2012/2013 are here, or after the jump.

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“The pessimist says, ‘It can’t get any worse!’ And the optimist replies, ‘Oh yes it can!” ― Madeleine Urban

The Bow Street Runners: Someone to Watch Over Me, Lady Sophia’s Lover & Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas

This trilogy does not feature the usual fancy people of romance which is a pleasant change. The Bow Street Runners were a precursor to a metropolitan police force in London and all three heroes work for the team. It’s a profitable enterprise and, assuming they conduct themselves ethically, an honourable one. Just try not to think too much about the realities of conditions for working people, in the prisons, or for the poor in Victorian London.

Someone to Watch Over Me – Grant Morgan and Vivien Duvall – Weak

Boy meets girl. Boy knows Girl. Girl has amnesia. Girl lives with Boy for protection. Something about revenge. Some kind of mystery. Marriage.

Someone to Watch Over Me is not one of Kleypas’ better works. I read it over a year ago, I have not revisited it, and I remember it as having one charming moment.

Lady Sophia’s Lover - Ross Cannon and Sophia Sydney -  Pretty good

Sir Ross Cannon is the chief of the Bow Street runners and a magistrate. Looking for a new secretary, he is stunned when a lovely woman, Sophia, appears saying she needs a job. He doesn’t want to hire a woman, what with it being Victorian England and his profession being somewhat sordid, but he agrees to give her a chance and she ends up supervising his household, doing some secretarial work, and, eventually, in his bed.

Sophia does not have a personality that leaps off the page. She is kind and hard-working, but her presence mostly consists of being attracted to Ross and showing otherwise poor judgement. Owing to an indiscretion and subsequent slut-shaming, Sophia is desperate for work, but her presence in Cannon’s office is not coincidental. Several years ago, Cannon convicted Sophia’s brother, John, of a petty crime and he died in prison. Sophia blames her brother’s death on Cannon’s cruelty and is out for revenge. Her plan involves a. collecting and making public evidence that proves he is a Bad Man and b. making Cannon fall in love with her and then breaking his heart to give an emotional dimension to her revenge. Sure.

Given the author, it’s no surprise that the romantic/intimate scenes in the book are steamy and plentiful; however, there are plot elements in Lady Sophia’s Lover that will send your eyes rolling heavenward. Things happen conveniently, illogically, and implausibly. Also, Ross puts his hands on Sophia more than once and though he never hurts her, it disrupts the reading experience and leaves you giving the book the side-eye. This is B-list Kleypas and one of those romances whose relative redemption is because of the hero. Ross Cannon is a widower, a workaholic, and a profoundly honourable man. Kleypas writes especially appealing men (I can’t be the only one who thinks that) and Ross is delish.  He is smoking hot, even given the aforementioned element.

Worth Any Price – Nick Gentry and Charlotte Howard – Meh

Do you like lots of sex in a romance novel, but you don’t want it to cross into erotica? This is the book for you. Worth Any Price is long on physical intimacy and short on relationship development. Nick Gentry is a very successful Bow Street runner. He has taken a private contract to track down Charlotte Howard who fled her family when they attempted to marry her off to a controlling and lecherous old goat. Nick and Charlotte marry to shield her from the goat in that way that often happens in  romance novels. It’s a marriage of convenience that turns into a love match, or, more accurately in this case, a marriage of lust that conveniently turns into love. There is a lot a good sex, it is Kleypas after all, but it is not long on romance, logic or character development, plus the ending has an egregious deus ex machina. Don’t bother. If you must bother, go with Lady Sophia’s Lover.

My review of The Hathaways Series has an overview of Kleypas’ catalogue, links to other reviews, and my recommendations.

The (Shameful) Tally 2014

Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long

Tansy Danforth is isolated, orphaned, and looking to a family friend to help her both settle in a new country and, this is a historical romance after all, marry to gain access to her inheritance. Fortunately for Julie Anne Long fans, the friend is Alex Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge who, along with Genevieve his Duchess, is from Long’s classic romance pairing in What I Did for a Duke. Tansy is staying at the Eversea estate in Pennyroyal Green while she gets her footing. Her hero is Ian, the lone unmarried Eversea son and someone who has always been an entertaining addition to the novels.

In What I Did for a Duke, Ian was the story catalyst when he was found in whatever state is the razor’s edge of in flagrante delicto with Alex’s soon-to-be erstwhile fiance. Alex planned a retaliatory ruination of Ian’s sister Genevieve and, of course, fell in love with her instead. As an added bonus to the falling in love, Alex took the opportunity to torment a well-deserving Ian for his sins. Rakish to the degree that he shows very poor judgement and behaves selfishly, Ian needs someone to lead him a merry chase to help get him back on track as the person he manages to be in other aspects of his life. Enter Tansy and Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.

Tansy is the woman who stories like to tell us women hate. She is beautiful. She steals all the male attention. She feigns confusion and claims incompetence to flatter and soothe. (Okay, I admit I do loathe that in men and in women.) She flirts endlessly, shamelessly, but not really as subtly as she thinks she does. Instead of being cold or calculating, Tansy is desperately lonely and doing her best to garner attention, even superficial attention, to take the edge off her isolation. This is not to say that she can’t be a bit annoying. It’s a habit she needs to break. Tansy is young, she has had too many bad things happen in her life, and she is doing her best. Ian sees through the flirtation inasmuch as he recognizes it as an act, but it takes longer for him to truly see Tansy. Long shows the reader Tansy’s real self through her interactions with her guardian and the people most would consider inconsequential in their world. When Ian and Tansy genuinely see each other, they, of course, find their match.

Julie Anne Long seldom disappoints and she does not do so here. She is one of the best writers in the historical romance business and I always eagerly anticipate her new releases. As one would expect, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea is wry and frequently laugh out loud funny. She balances character development and sincere romance with a consistently droll tone which is a fine accomplishment indeed. From a thematic perspective, I’ve realised that a lot of Long’s protagonists are people trying to figure out how to be in control in world where they have little to none. Even those who seemingly have power or choice are not immune to loss, life, and the struggle to manage it. Only when they surrender the masks or efforts for control do they have the opportunity to build something more. It’s a lovely through-line for her books.

I don’t know if I’ve been too subtle about it, but What I Did for a Duke is delightful and a classic of the genre. If you are a romance fan and have not yet read it, do yourself a favour and snap it up at the same time as you buy Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.

Other Julie Anne Long Pennyroyal Green reviews:

A Notorious Countess Confesses
It Happened One Midnight

And I also recommend:

To Love a Thief
Like No Other Lover

The (Shameful) Tally 2014

The Hathaways: Mine till Midnight, Seduce Me at Sunrise, Tempt Me at Twilight, Married by Morning & Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

A complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’ catalogue can be found at the end of this review.

For every new historical romance author discovery, such as Juliana Gray, there is a little pile of disappointment at my bedside. So while waiting for the new Julie Anne Long, I have re-read the Hathaway series by Lisa Kleypas. If Courtney Milan is the reigning romance queen, she inherited the crown from Kleypas when she abdicated the historical genre.

The five Hathaway siblings, Leo, Amelia, Win, Poppy, and Beatrix, were raised in eccentric academic family, happy in their seclusion when a series of events changed their lives: their father died, their mother followed him, Leo’s beloved fiancée succumbed to scarlet fever, Leo and Win almost did as well, and then Leo inherited a peerage forcing a change in circumstances and location. They are still recovering from these events when the first book opens. Mine till Midnight does the heavy lifting setting up the Hathaway series and the subsequent novels allow for frequent visits with the siblings. Kleypas also brings in most of the couples from the Wallflowers series for visits although, sadly, not nearly enough Simon and Annabelle Hunt, and, apparently, Sebastian and Evie St. Vincent are incapable to speaking to each other. Anywho, I enjoy character reincorporation beyond the canny marketing it represents. Kleypas is very good at giving the cameos just enough detail to get a sense of where the couples are now.

Mine till Midnight  -  Amelia Hathaway and Cam Rohan – Very good.

Of all the romances I have read, and there have been a lot, Mine till Midnight is one of the very few which had a moment so sincerely romantic that I had to pause, fan my face, and collect myself. I just love the heroine. Amelia Hathaway is one of my all-time favourites. Sensible and stalwart, she has been holding the pieces of her family together by strength of will alone. When a charming and unusual man enters her life, giving her support and a much needed chance to unclench, if only in private, Amelia is swept off her feet before she really knows what has happened.

Mine till Midnight is a strong starting point for the series. Somewhat unfortunately, in addition to a suddenly surprisingly Machiavellian villain, it also has what seems to me an absolutely pointless ghost story subplot that crescendos towards the end. Moreover, the hero, Cam Rohan, is of Romany (gypsy) descent, as is the hero of the next book, Seduce Me at Sunrise. While I appreciated the effort to bring a person of colour (for the times) into a historical romance, I grew quickly tired of what I think of as “the Romany bullshit”: fetishized exoticism, plus “gypsy” medical knowledge that was implausible for someone who has been isolated from his own culture since he was 10 years old.

Seduce Me at Sunrise  – Win Hathaway and Merripen – Weakest of the series.

Seduce Me at Sunrise is a lot like Wuthering Heights, but with a happy ending, make of that what you will. Another Romany hero, Merripen is an intense, brooding hulk who has lived with the Hathaways for  many years. The love of his life, Win Hathaway, has been an invalid since her bout of scarlet fever. Sent to France to recover, she comes back in full health to make good on the promise of their years of mutual longing. Merripen fights valiantly and seemingly endlessly against his attraction to her. His objections to the match are twofold: first, he feels himself unworthy of Win as the result of childhood trauma; second, he is convinced that her health is too fragile for a marital relationship. Win disagrees with him on both counts and tries to convince him before surrendering to his intractability. Merripen is guilty of some major comeheregoaway. He is also almost completely humourless, and while Kleypas plays this well, there was too much sturm and drang for me.

Tempt Me at Twilight – Poppy Hathaway and Harry Rutledge – Great. Rawr.

Despite having already reviewed this book, I love the characters so much that I’m doing so here again. Tempt Me at Twilight is my favourite Hathaway novel regardless of some plotting that verges on twee. The hero, Harry Rutledge, is a spectacular creation. He’s one of those men who in real life would be very difficult and less than ideal, but in the context of a romance novel is extraordinarily appealing. An autocratic, control freak, rake, he voluntarily gives up that last bit, but it is up to Poppy Hathaway to dismantle the rest. He is a typically sardonic, self-made Kleypas hero (I love them so) with a sad back story and unrelenting ambition.

Poppy Hathaway is the least eccentric of the Hathaways and she longs for a simple, quiet life. The family beauty, she lacks the appropriate social skills to function well within the restrictions of Society. Her governess/social guide, Catherine Marks, has helped, but Poppy has a habit of talking too much when she is nervous and displaying “unbecoming” intellect and a broad range of interests. Harry takes one look, one listen really, and decides that it is time to marry; unfortunately, Poppy already has a suitor and Harry is not above manipulating the situation to get him out of the way. This bites Harry rather ferociously in the ass; nonetheless, he and Poppy are mutually fascinated, so Harry learns to have and show emotions.

Married by Morning – Leo Hathaway and Catherine Marks – Good, not great.

There’s a lot of Harry and Poppy in Married by Morning which is an excellent start. The pairing of the leads, Leo and Cat, is one that had been teased in the previous books and the book didn’t quite manage to live up to the hype. Please keep in mind that with Kleypas that still means that Married by Morning is better than 90% of the genre. Leo is charming and Cat delightfully prickly, but there was an element that was unusual for Kleypas, but explaining will involve spoilers. Highlight the text below for details:

Sex in romance is a representation of the bond between the characters, or the potential for one should they put consummation before their emotions. Kleypas writes fantastic love scenes and her smolder is impeccable. I never thought I would say this about her, but Married by Morning gets the sex wrong.  Cat spent part of her life being trained as a courtesan, but escaped before she could be pressed into participation. Romantically inexperienced, she has been taught that her character is innately suited to the oldest profession. When Leo and Cat’s relationship becomes physical, it moves too fast. It took the standard romance trope of getting over one’s shyness swiftly and puts it on a fast track. A heroine can be willing and shy simultaneously. As Cat is particularly vulnerable in this area, there was too much too soon.

Love in the Afternoon – Beatrix Hathaway and Christopher Phelan – Very good/great.

This is a sweet and lovely story featuring one of romance’s legion of heroes suffering from PTSD. What better match for him than an eccentric young woman who has a way with wounded creatures?  Christopher and Beatrix began an epistolary romance while he was fighting in the Crimea. They fall in love, which is nice for everyone involved, except that Christopher thinks the author of his letters is a different woman. When Christopher comes home, he is confused and frustrated to find that his supposed pen pal is inane and that he is drawn to the peculiar Beatrix. While keeping the trademark Kleypas smolder, Love in the Afternoon is a story of two broken people who fit together and find a way forward. It has improved in my estimation on every re-read. The story is true to one of the most important elements for genuine romance: The main characters find each other and become more together and individually than they would have been apart.

All five Hathaway books have last-minute agita that delays the happy ending, but since they are by Lisa Kleypas, they still have tremendous entertainment value, no matter what plot elements might be rickety. More importantly, she is a master craftsman and writes, hands down, the most consistently attractive men in romance. I haven’t read her current Rainshadow Road series, but I have read just about everything else she has published. A summary of her catalogue with recommendations is after the jump.

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Affairs by Moonlight: A Lady Never Lies, A Gentleman Never Tells, & A Duke Never Yields by Juliana Gray

Who else loves to see an autocratic hero brought down a peg? My newfound delight in Juliana Gray continues with the historical romance trilogy Affairs by Moonlight, including A Lady Never Lies, A Gentleman Never Tells, and A Duke Never Yields. If you read them in order, you have two books to wait before the aforementioned peg lowering and they are a really enjoyable ride.

The Set Up: It’s 1890. Three aristocratic/aristocrat adjacent English men rent a villa in Tuscany to escape Society, explore their individual interests, and study. Three aristocratic/aristocrat adjacent English women rent the same villa in Tuscany to escape Society, explore their individual interests, and study. Neither group had anticipated the other, nor are they pleased. They divide the house down the middle and everyone fails to stay in their prescribed area thus allowing hijinks to be fruitful and multiply.

A Lady Never Lies – Finn and Alexandra

The Duke of Olympia’s acknowledged bastard son and all around smart guy, Phineas Burke is retreating to Italy to work on his automobile in anticipation of a race in Rome later in the year. Society darling, and respectable widow, Lady Alexandra Morley is pretending to be taking a year to better herself, but in reality has fled London in hopes of sorting out her finances. Their story was engaging and blissfully free of complex machinations. There’s a villain, of course, and it takes Alexandra a while to come around, but Finn is lovely and that rarest of romance novel heroes, a redhead.

Extra appreciation to Gray for a story incorporating early automobiles. I’ve read a couple of books set in this era and they are always fun.

A Gentleman Never Tells - Roland and Lilibet

This was the first book I read from Affairs by Moonlight before going back to get A Lady Never Lies frommy library and following it immediately with A Duke Never Yields. In A Gentleman Never Tells, the hero is a charming, espionage-y good guy masquerading as a wastrel caught in the trap of his own seeming indolence. If I had a romance novel nickel…

Roland and Lilibet fell in love six years ago, but he was forced to abandon the relationship. Lilibet was convinced to marry another man and did her best to love him. She has fled to Italy with her son to hide from her husband. Mr. Lilibet is an absolute bastard. So much so, in fact, that the rate at which matters escalate and their intensity when he enters the story is a bit of a shock when juxtaposed with the rather fun little  maguffin. (Said horrendous individual will be the hero of the next book in Gray’s current series. Talk about given yourself a writing challenge.)  Roland’s heart practically Pepe Le Pew’s itself out of his chest around Lilibet. She has spent years finding what honour she can in her life, but has reached an impasse. Roland’s devotion crosses into “Really?” with some details, but their delight in each other is very sweet.

Gray’s heroes, particularly this one, say things like “Blast!”, “Dash it all,” and, “Right ho!”. My father, whom I always described as somewhat Edwardian, used these expressions his whole life. He used less savoury language as well, but even then he sounded formal.

A Duke Never Yields – Wallingford and Abigail

This was my favourite of three books, in spite of magic realism elements that were both a bit much and unnecessary. Interestingly, this subplot was minor enough in the first books that I didn’t really clue into what was being implied until I got to book three. There are ghosts and a curse. Sure.

The Duke of Wallingford is tall, autocratic, and “magnificently disagreeable”.  Free-spirited Abigail has selected him as her first lover. He fits very nicely into her year-long scheme of adventure and exploration. Abigail has vowed never to marry and voluntarily removed herself from Society so that she can do fun things like bet on horse races and travel. Wallingford is a perfect fit, except that he engineered the non-fraternization policy for the castle. What Abigail does not know is that he is a self-shaming slut and attempting to be a self-reforming rake as well. The goal of his year off is to make something of himself as a person and to stop putting the make on every woman he sees. Abigail simply sees an experienced man who will meet her needs, but once her emotions become involved, she sees that his previous behaviour shows a pattern that will be dangerous to her emotional well-being. There are a lot of *cough* busy heroes in romance. This is the second novel, the first being Any Duchess Will Do, wherein the hero realises that his conduct has been repellent. But it’s fun. No really, it’s fun. Abigail ties him in knots.

The reading order for the Affairs by Moonlight series isn’t crucial as the plots are contemporaneous rather than sequential, although A Duke Never Yields will be best read last. Juliana Gray is a really good writer whom I will continue to look for. I cannot imagine how complicated it was to interweave three stories so successfully, completely, and without unnecessary repetition. Reading the books so close together one can really see how the scenes are balanced. Well done.

The (Shameful) Tally 2014

Princess in Hiding: How to Tame Your Duke & How to Master Your Marquis by Juliana Gray

New author! Juliana Gray is a very strong historical romance writer with a wonderful turn of phrase, a gift for simile, and great smolder. It is such an unexpected pleasure when a book randomly selected from the romance spinner at one’s library results in a new novelist to enjoy. I went back the next day, and the next, to get more of her books. Gray will be going on my woefully short good authors list and may well end up as an autobuy.

The Princesses in Hiding trilogy features three German aristocrats, Emilie, Stefanie, and Luisa, who have fled political unrest in their home country to arrive in London and the bosom of an uncle who has the least British-sounding aristocratic title in all of romance: the Duke of Olympia. A conniving old son of a bitch thoroughly experienced in shenanigans, he trains each woman and then sends her into hiding as a young man and, coincidentally, the story of what happens to each of them takes about 350 pages to tell.

How to Tame Your Duke – Ashland and Emilie

The Duke of Olympia arranges for Princess Emilie to be hired by the Duke of Ashland as a tutor for his teenaged son, the Marquess. Aristocracy is very thick on the ground in this series. In the wilds of Yorkshire, Emilie succeeds in her efforts to appear to be a bearded male despite my extremely serious misgivings about how convincing a fake beard would be up close on a day-to-day basis in 1889. Ashland  is big, battle-scarred, and several other Gothic things, but basically a very nice, very intense man. His Duchess decamped 12 years ago, so it is just him and his son in his palace on the moors which, sadly, is not also in the style of a Moorish palace. Emilie and Ashland fall in love, not while she is pretending to be a man, but while she is pretending to be a prostitute which is not quite as squicky as it sounds. All the truths come out, except the one about who is trying to harm the princesses, and this particular one weds her prince Duke.

I liked the characters in How to Train Your Duke, I even liked the young Marquess. Gray did not dwell overmuch in the machinations and subterfuge for which I was grateful. Emilie was a strong woman and determined not to be treated as the kind of pawn women often were in her situation. She takes what she wants.

How to Master Your Marquis - Hatherfield and Stefanie

Princess Stefanie ends up hiding in the home of a renowned criminal defense barrister (that’s going to come in handy later) who just happens to be the close friend of a man so good-looking that she refers to him as “The Archangel” in her head. James Lambton, Marquis of Hatherfield, is a glorious, beautiful, and charming man. Estranged from his parents, he spends a great deal of time at his friend’s home. His presence increases when he meets Stefanie and realises IMMEDIATELY that she is a woman dressed as a man and that she requires protection. I thought it a bit much that Ashland didn’t figure Emilie out sooner, so kudos to Gray on the logic of this twist. Unfortunately for Hatherfield, his friend’s house also contains one Lady Charlotte who is determined, and in league with Hatherfield’s parents, to land the Marquis. In a historically unrealistic, but modern applause worthy move, Hatherfield exploits the horror at his clearly inappropriate infatuation with the law clerk and lets everyone think he is gay and therefore relieve the marital pressure.

I was charmed by both of the main characters in How to Master Your Marquis; however, there was a plotting element involving sexual abuse that I did not like as it took me out of the fantasy realm these novels dwell in. It was not an exploitative or a particularly large element, but its very presence diminished the book for me. I have zero tolerance for subplots like these in romance. Caveat reader.

The last book in the trilogy, How to School Your Scoundrel, comes out in June and I will be looking for it at my library. In the meantime, I am reading another Gray trilogy, Affairs by Moonlight, and the titular rogue of How to School Your Scoundrel appears as the utter bastard of a villain in one of the books. It will be interesting to see how well Gray can reform such a reprehensible individual.

Great Details:

  1. The men are referred to almost exclusively by their titles, i.e. Ashland and Hatherfield, or their last names.
  2. Aristocrats have servants, lots of servants. It’s an uncomfortable period detail to those of us not enamored of inherited privilege, but an accurate one.
  3. Hatherfield is a rower. This explains his beautiful physique and provides a rare thing in romance: justifiable muscles.
  4. Stefanie and Emilie slept in the same bed growing up. What an excellent period detail.
  5. How to Master Your Marquis has a simultaneous flash forward plot that Gray dovetails extremely well with the present story line.

The (Shameful) Tally 2014

A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

Road trip!

I first read A Week to Be Wicked about two years ago when I started devouring every historical romance I could get my hands on. It is a wonderful romp and an entertaining read. It hits on all of Tessa Dare’s best aspects as a writer:

  1. Smolder. Really, really, good smolder. Lisa Kleypas level smolder.
  2. Funny of the laugh out loud variety. Witty, too.
  3. Sincere emotion successfully balanced against the aforementioned humour.
  4. At least one hysterical turn of phrase describing a man’s specific firmness.
  5. Sincerely besotted heroes falling for wallflowers.
  6. Likeable, emphatically capable heroines.
  7. A strain on your willing suspension of disbelief which will almost always be worth it.               (Let us not speak of that time it wasn’t.)

Minerva Highwood and her family are living in remote Spindle Cove (coincidentally the name of this series) as her sister recovers from an illness. The ignored middle child, Minerva is bespectacled and bookish as opposed to her beautiful inside and out sister, Diana, and her precocious younger sibling, Charlotte. Sadly for Minerva, she is not quite ignored enough by her ambitious mother who never loses an opportunity to find Min inadequate in comparison with just about anyone. Minerva is a scientist at a time when such things were nigh on impossible for a woman, but the isolation of Spindle Cove affords her the opportunity to indulge her passion for geology. Minerva has found what the reader recognizes as evidence of prehistoric fauna and has been asked to present her findings to the Royal Geological Society in Edinburgh. There are only two problems 1. they don’t know she’s a woman and b. getting there. Spindle Cove affords but one possible escort. One person whose magical combination of maleness and a lack of scruples will suit her purpose.

Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, is a well-intentioned, disillusioned rake. He is gorgeous, loquacious, and his best laid plans always go awry. Minerva approaches him with a promise of the money he will need to leave Spindle Cove and lounge in London until his inheritance kicks in. Being a rogue, Colin has some conditions for his company, the most interesting of which is that Minerva must sleep in his bed as he is an insomniac and prone to nightmares when he does get to sleep. A warm female body close to hand soothes him.

Feigning an elopement, Colin and Minerva head for Scotland and, as is the case with fictional road trips, whatever can go wrong, does, and the love-hate attraction they have always felt for each other chooses a side. A Regency romance with a vacillating grasp on reality, A Week to Be Wicked is tremendously entertaining and maintains a genuine sweetness despite the spiraling chain of events. I recommend this novel very highly and provide a summary of the rest of Tessa Dare’s catalogue below.

Spindle Cove Series:
A Night to Surrender – Good, not great.
Once Upon a Winter’s Eve – pleasant novella
A Week to Be Wicked – the romp in question
A Lady by Midnight – Fantastic smolder, sincere love story, some heavy plotting
Beauty and the Blacksmith – very good, but not great, and worth reading
Any Duchess Will Do – Strained credulity overruled by a heartfelt love story, highly recommended

The Stud Club Trilogy:
One Dance with a Duke – some structural issues, great characters and [fans self] smolder
Twice Tempted by a Rogue – meh, a much too literally tortured hero for my tastes
Three Nights with a Scoundrel – Dare hitting her stride, the hero is another well-intentioned rake

Plus:
The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright - an absolute gem of a novella

The (Shameful) Tally 2014

books i done read

Artistic Verisimilitude

OMG that dress!

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Artistic Verisimilitude

Cannonball Read 6

A Race to Read and Review 52 Books in a Year

So...THAT happened.

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Malin's Blog of Books

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Pajiba

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