Last Rake Standing, by Jane Fresina

  • Title: Last Rake Standing
  • Author: Jayne Fresina (author website)
  • Published: January, 2011
  • Pages: 78 (PDF ebook)
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Standalone or series: Standalone 
  • Why I read it: When the author contacted me directly to read and review this title I was completely hooked by the excerpt!
  • Source: provided by author

Summary: (from publishing page)

In Victorian London, Emma Hale leads two lives. As Le Petite Oiseau, in corset and pink feathers, she’s the reigning queen of the music hall; offstage she’s a prim-faced theatre seamstress. For years these two women have shared one body; now they share something else—forbidden love for a man who could destroy them both.

Marcus Craven, Duke of Penhale, wants Le Petite Oiseau as his mistress, but he’s also sworn to hunt down and revenge himself on the hazel-eyed girl who once shot at him with a dueling pistol. On this winter’s evening when he finds both women in his path, he suddenly faces a dilemma.

What exactly does Marcus want? The fiery, passionate actress or the quiet “mouse” hiding in her shadow?

Perhaps this notorious rake wants them both.

My thoughts:

I love a good mistaken identity/disguise plot, I’ve adored so many from The Scarlet Pimpernel  to Eloisa James’ The Taming of the Duke and I know I’m not alone since so many great ones have been written, and Last Rake Standing should definitely be added to the list!

Reading Last Rake Standing was a thrill, not just for the edge-of-your-seat excitement of worrying about Marcus discovering Emma’s dual identities, and her super-sekrit-past-run-in with him, but also for the sultry lusty scenes. There, I said it! This delicious historical romance had quite the steamy side as neither Marcus nor Emma were shy, I didn’t know how lusty this ebook was going to be, but now that I’ve shared you can be warned – to enjoy it too! 

The story opens with a deftly described look at life as La Petite Oiseau, I really felt like I was on the stage with her, in the glaring bright lights, looking out into the dark, anonymous audience, but knowing all eyes were on her. That theme of detailed descriptions went throughout the book, whether it was characters’ emotions, thoughts, or the Victorian setting. The only thing that remained a mystery was did Marcus know about Emma’s secret identity? Did he recognize her from when she took her brother’s place years ago in a duel at dawn before leaving for the continent? Has Emma cared about him for all those years? You’ll just have to read to find out!

Emma and Marcus’ story was quite short, so while overall I enjoyed this sexy romp through Victorian England I just wish it had been a bit longer with some of the background more developed and some of the revelations more fleshed out. That said I’m looking forward to checking out some of the more full length reads from this author!

Grade: B-

Heart of Stone, by Jill Marie Landis GIVEAWAY and review

  • Title: Heart of Stone
  • Author: Jill Marie Landis (author website here)
  • Published: March, 2010
  • Pages: 312 pages (trade paperback)
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Standalone or series: The first her new Irish Angel series. The next one, Heart of Lies, doesn’t have a release date just yet that I could find.
  • Why I read it: The publisher contacted me, and I remembered seeing it on KB’s future releases post so I thought I’d give it a try!
  • Source: Publisher – one copy for me and one copy for YOU to win!

She had the darkest of pasts. And he had everything to lose by loving her. Laura Foster, free from the bondage of an unspeakable childhood, has struggled to make a new life for herself. Now the owner of an elegant boardinghouse in Glory, Texas, she is known as a wealthy, respectable widow. But Laura never forgets that she is always just one step ahead of her past. When Reverend Brand McCormick comes calling, Laura does all she can to discourage him as a suitor. She knows that if her past were discovered, Brand’s reputation would be ruined. But it’s not only Laura’s past that threatens to bring Brand down—it’s also his own. When a stranger in town threatens to reveal too many secrets, Laura is faced with a heartbreaking choice: Should she leave Glory forever and save Brand’s future? Or is it worth risking his name—and her heart—by telling him the truth?

Before I even cracked the cover I did a little research because I had a feeling Heart of Stone was more of an “inspirational” or “Christian” romance novel and I had never read one before. I just wanted to make sure I had the right expectations going into the reading, because no one likes to pick up a glass of pop thinking its a Diet Coke and really it’s root beer. You know what I mean? I was interested to find the answer right on Ms. Landis’ website where she shared, “In recent years, as market demands turned to tales of vampires, erotica, and hotter, sexier historical romances, I turned to writing Inspirational Western Romances… I truly feel like I’m back in the saddle again, working on stories that are a joy to write. The two books I’ve just completed…are very much like my early Western, Americana historical romances. These new books are chock full of memorable characters, the emotion my readers have come to expect, page turning plots, and the requisite happy ending. They are also books that can be savored and shared by mothers, grandmothers and teens alike.”

After finishing Heart of Stone I agree wholeheartedly! I’m so glad to dip my toes in this new-to-me sub genre, it was indeed a nice break from some of my more usual, lusty and action packed, reading affairs. Heart of Stone was sweet, but still serious; heart-warming with a side of heart-wrenching angst; Christian, but not preachy.

The best part for me was the heroine, Laura Foster, previously known as Lovie Lamonte. She was complex, intriguing, a bookworm (!), and goes through such character growth, I loved being in her head.

Sailing away from the Potato Famine didn’t stop her parents from passing away as soon as Lovie and her three younger sisters settled in the poor district of New Orleans. Her horrible uncle immediately sold 11 year-old Lovie and one of her sisters into prostitution where they were separated on their first night. The story opens about 20 years later, Lovie made enough money to escape that life and is now living a as respectable widow Foster but has never stopped searching for her sisters. She has an unshakably sad view of herself – although she has built a new life for herself she sees it all as false and hasn’t forgiven herself or truly moved on from her past that was, of course, in no way her fault.

Told from both her and Brand’s point of view we get an idea from the very beginning of how rigidly Laura holds herself apart from people, and how she thinks of herself. On page 31 Brand starts to make his interest in her known:

The answer to Brand’s question [to call on her] was simple: his intent might be innocent, but she was not. He was a preacher, she was a whore. If he knew attending Sunday services was simply a part of her new persona and had nothing to do with faith, he wouldn’t be asking at all.

Laura is so harsh on herself, but as we learn more about Brand’s empathy, forgiving nature, that he’s also made big mistakes, and his views on faith we start to see that her assumption of him could be very wrong.

Another thing I love is when the characters really show us, really explain what attracts them to the other. Especially in a situation like Brand’s and Laura’s where the book starts with them already knowing each other and him already attracted to her. On pg 73 he’s thinking about what draws him to her,

Granted, Laura was lovely, but there was something more, something haunting about her. He’d noticed the first Sunday she walked into church. Since then he’d found there was so much more to her than her lovely countenance. There was a wistful sadness about her despite her strength…Her isolation made him want to introduce her to another way of life – a life full of love, laughter, and family.

He doesn’t want to “save” her in any sense, but love her, and bring her the joy he knows she’s missing.

I felt the “inspirational/Christian” part was more a background theme due to Brand’s position as Reverend, and Laura coming to forgive herself and find peace from her past life. The characters did not sleep together at all, there was a teensy bit of kissing, and a little lustful thinking, but it was implied that the rest was all being saved for after they got married. At some points I felt it was a little overt, Brand kept saying it was God’s plan and that He brought them together and when Laura runs away to spare Brand’s reputation she just happens to meet someone who recommends she read the Bible and later she finds a copy and thinks it’s a “sign.” The only other thing that didn’t 100% work for me was that I wasn’t really sold that an entire town (minus one family) would be totally accepting of Laura’s past and even Brand’s secret that comes to light.

I’m very pleased with my first foray into this sub-genre, but the strong and interesting Heroine and detailed setting in post Civil War Texas were my favorite parts and will have me coming back for more Jill Marie Landis!

I am happy to be able to give away ONE COPY of Heart of Stone to a lucky commenter! Please leave a comment on this post to be entered the drawing. This giveaway will end Sunday, March 21st at midnight.

Friday Finds Jan 15

What great books did you hear about or discover this week? Share with us your Friday Finds! Hosted by Ms. B at Should Be Reading. 

Wow I haven’t participated in this meme since November, so this is a mix of new and old releases that have caught my lusty reading eye recently. They are all historicals, whether YA or romance, no surprise there as it remains by favorite genre! 


1. Everlasting, by Angie Frazier: I am a sucker for any high seas adventures and this YA novel begins with one, beginning Cassie’s quest in 1855 involving a family secret, a fabled map, and an ancient magic stone. As soon as I saw this as part of Kmont’s YA spotlight blog post I knew I had to read it! 



2. The Bride and the Buccaneer, by Darlene Marshall: now this is a more grown up high seas story, with Jack and Sophia on a treasure hunt in 1817 Florida. Oh la la I just adore pirate/privateer romances! Joanna Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue is my favorite romance novel of all time after all. Check out the excellent review on Dear Author, it’s what convinced me! 


3. The Tigress Series, by Jade Lee: I’ve been sitting on this one a while after Heidenkind’s November post clued me into this awesome sounding erotic historical romance series set in China. The 6 book series follows different H/H couples finding love, solving mysteries (both spiritual and real life), and political intrigue, all with the super interesting backdrop of historical China which we don’t usually get to see much of in romances. 

Not Quite A Husband, by Sherry Thomas

  • Title: Not Quite a Husband 
  • Author: Sherry Thomas
  • Published: May 2009
  • Pages: 352 mass market paperback
  • Standalone or series: Standalone, has a few characters from previous novel, but not the current, nor related to any prior, Heroes or Heroines.
  • Source: Library romance section, recommended by many on my earlier post when another Sherry Thomas book caught my eye.

When KatiD commented on my post recommending this book I emailed her to expound upon my distaste of “estranged couple” romance stories. In a word? BO-RING! I never really liked them to begin with, and got a little burned out after I glommed so many of the Desperate Duchesses books by Eloisa James where almost all featured a married couple in a strained, separated, or all together faux marriage.

Hey Kati? You were right! I’m eating my words.


Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon – to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith’s. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn’t possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won’t rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister – and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them – or their rekindling passion?

I still don’t like that trope, but hooo boy did I love Not Quite a Husband! Sherry Thomas is an exquisite writer, her prose was so beautiful to me. I found myself rereading passages to cherish the imagery and elegance therein. Here is a passage that stood out to me as Leo and Bryony (LOVE her name!) are getting to know each other again as they travel through India:

“And you, how have you been?” he asked, as if it were an afterthought.

Outwardly, other than [the streak of white in] her hair, she had not changed much. She was still more or less the same cool, aloof woman who garnered more respect than affection. On the inside, however, it had been impossible to return to the person she used to be.

She’d been content. She had not wanted to marry. Nor had she much interest in the largely empty rituals of Society. Medicine was a demanding god and she a busy acolyte in its vast temple.

Then he had come into her life. And it was as if she’d been struck by lightning. Or a team of archeologists  had dug up the familiar scenes of her mind to reveal a large, ancient warren of unmet hunger and frustrated hope.

Those types of turns of phrase where liberally sprinkled throughout the novel which is what really did it for me. The same deftness in writing was brought to characterizing both Leo and Bryony. With his childhood yearning for Bryony, his neighbor who he always admired since he was a toddler, his paternity issues, his mathematical genius, and his perception of Bryony’s coldness towards others, thinking she only cares for them in a clinical way to study from a doctor’s point of view. And with her few years of happiness as a child, brief memories before her joyful step-mother passed away, neglect from her father, her profession and personal disinterest in society separating her from others, upon meeting adult Leo her instantaneous infatuation growing to love so quickly that she proposed, hoping he would be the one to recapture the halcyon days she had last enjoyed only as a 6-year-old.

But Leo did a Very Bad Thing the week before they were to be married. He didn’t know that Bryony knew what he did, he didn’t know why the weeks of burning bliss during their engagement turned to cold ashes upon their marriage. And here, my friends, is where “estranged couple” stories get tricky. The REASON for the separation and change of heart has to be forgivable, but it has to be grave enough to warrant years of alienation. It’s a tough balance. The one I hate the most is The Big Mis. That misunderstanding that ANY teeny tiny communication could have fixed. But here we have a Very Bad Thing.

Was what Leo did forgivable? I think so, he explains his reasoning pretty well, and his guilt and repentance help make up for it too. Bryony is also given plenty of page time on her decision-making process to forgive or not, how she deals with this new information, how Leo respects her and reacts to her throughout the process worked as well. And of course they were put in a life or death situation in India, being chased by armed tribesman into a besieged British fort, sustaining injuries and fighting for days. So that certainly sped along their reconciliation.

What I appreciate most about this is both Leo and Bryony recognized that these external forces were influencing their relationship and knew they had more healing to do, and needed to continue to figure things out outside of that harrowing situation. It was very smart of them, and as a reader I was glad that the “oh noes we might die tomorrow!” wasn’t used as a plot device to make them live happily ever after right away.

I did wish that some threads were a bit more fleshed out, like Leo comes down with malarial fever, which has recurring symptoms that can occur at any time, but after his initial bout with it he seems cured. And Leo’s relationship with his father, god-father, and brothers I wanted to see more of. Also I would have loved to see some Bryony’s time at medical school and the reactions to her profession since it was still unusual for there to be women in medicine at that time. I don’t know if this is because I was enjoying the book so much and wanted more more more, or if these were issues that really should have been addressed.

I still am not a huge fan of separated couples finding love again because it has to be handled just right for me. Call me the Goldilocks of divorce romance novels I guess! But Sherry Thomas sure can write a fabulous book, so I’m looked forward to her 2010 release more than ever!

A- for me and highly recommended.

A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick

  • Title: A Reliable Wifegoolrick
  • Author: Robert Goolrick
  • Pages: Hardcover 291
  • Published: March 2009, Algonquin Books
  • Why did I read this book: It was on the end cap of my library’s New Release section and the title sounded vaguely familiar. NOTE TO SELF: stop picking up books with no research!

Set in 1909 Wisconsin the story opens in soon-to-be-familiar detailed and deeply moving writing style with a lonely man waiting on a cold platform for a train to beat the incoming blizzard. Ralph Truitt is waiting for the “reliable wife” for whom he advertised. Despite being the tycoon of his small Wisconsin town with business dealings reaching nationwide we learn that because of his lost family, no social interaction with anyone in the town, how they whisper about him, his loneliness and his desires, and a secret reason to unfold later…all led him to advertize and accept the responding letter of Catherine Land to be his new wife.

But as she steps off the train she is not what he expected, not the woman in the photo, and her surprising beauty is dangerous to him. He agrees to discuss it at home, but after a near fatal accident in the blizzard puts him under her immediate care they get to know each other and Catherine is in his home to stay. But for what reason? While Ralph’s back story of inheriting his father’s business enterprises, his wastrel youth spent in erotic debauchery abroad, change of lifestyle upon falling in love with a young Italian girl from a noble family, and then her and their daughter’s death is shared up front – Catherine remains a mystery. It slowly becomes apparent however that she came for more reasons that just to wed him in rural, snow-bound Wisconsin.

As you may be able to tell this book is mainly character driven but it also has a sub-plot of finding a missing person and a few attempted murders – actually all the sub-plot points are tied to Ralph’s family and Catherine’s lover, so it all circles back to the characters. There was much examination of the motivations of human beings to act the way they do, what shapes them? What drives them? What comforts them? And Ralph and Catherine were both obsessed with how people went “crazy” with multiple examples for local news and stories world-wide:

Every week the papers were filled with the barn burnings, the arsenic taken, the babies drowned in wells to keep their names a secret, to keep their fathers away from them, to keep them from knowing the craziness of love. To send them home to the holiness of God. He read these stories aloud to Catherine at night, after supper, and she would invent stories about the sad women and the deranged men.

It was sort of sick how many times they talked about people chopping off their hands because the “devil was in it” or shooting their wife while drunk. But that was part of them overall theme, telling the stories of the protagonists, telling the stories of secondary characters, telling the stories of the townsfolk who went crazy.

In fact, the book summarised itself perfectly right at the very end (it was very obvious it was coming, sort of like an 8th grade paper where you had to start building up towards your conclusion). This is NOT A SPOILER even though this quote takes place on page 281 out of 291 total. I just wish I had known what this book was about before I read it. As much as the summaries said it was a “dark tale” and Catherine had a nefarious purpose is responding to Ralph’s ad, I just didn’t know that was going to be the whole POINT. So here is how the book wraps itself up:

But there was no use. There was no point. It was just a story. It was just a story of people, of Ralph and Emilia and Antonio and Catherine and the mothers and the fathers who had died, too soon or late, of people who had hurt one another as much as people can do, who had been selfish and not wise, and had become trapped inside the bitter walls of memories they wished they had never had…

It was a story of people who hurt themselves, who wreck their own lives and then go on to wreck the lives of those around them, who cannot be helped or assuaged by love or kindness or luck or charm, who forget kindness, the feeling and practice of it, and how it can save even the worst, most misshapen life from despair.

It was just a story about despair.

So um yeah, not my usual lusty reading fare! This is what I get for trying to mix up my reading with some “literary fiction.” I find that any of those book club-y type books (especially Oprah’s book club) do NOT work for me. I find that many of them “try too hard” to make statements and be full of commentary on the human psyche, or too full of symbolism and want to be popular for making a point instead of telling a satisfying story.

And that was what happened here, the characters were so twisted it seemed like it was done on purpose, to wring a reaction out of the reader and also too much of a statement of the “badness” of human beings. There were no “good” characters to be found in the entire cast of secondary characters either. And I did not find Catherine redeemable in the least and Ralph’s last decision in the closing scene* about how to deal with her was not explained AT ALL it just ended. When Catherine started doing really bad things I started skimming, it was unreadable to me, it disgusted me, and even if that was the point, to examine how disgusting and horrible we can be to each other that’s why I watch the news. Not read a book.

So this is entirely based on my personal preferences, of course since this is a “lit fic book club” type book I am a very small voice in a crowd of many who adored it. If anything I wrote this review to myself to say, “Hey self? Be careful how you pick books!”

I must say that the prose was very evocative (I think that’s the word I wanted?), it was moving and detailed. It was beautiful. I felt the emotions of the characters, Catherine’s guilt, pain and love; Ralph’s sexual hunger, need to buy expensive things; Antonio’s abandonment and loss of compassion. The description of the wintery landscape, the view from the windows, the luxurious clothes, the rising industrial cities of St. Louis and Chicago…all of it laid out in metaphors and rich descriptions. But (yes there is a but) at some points I also wondered if the prose itself was also trying too hard? Maybe I’m being too harsh and am biased against literary fiction because I think it tries too hard in general to be the next Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird. But sometimes I felt the detailed descriptions were trying too hard to be “quotable” in a way, like how many adjectives and analogies can be fit into one paragraph about snow?

Please check out some of these other reviews as my thoughts are so influenced by my personal opinions:

*SPOILER ALERT for those who care about happy endings…

Yes this has a happy ending for Catherine and Ralph, but it was not satisfactory because it was completely not explained how forgiveness was possible or how anyone had changed. And everyone was so TWISTED and awful I didn’t care about them.

End Spoiler.

Black Silk, by Judith Ivory


  • Title: Black Silk
  • Author: Judith Ivory (aka Judy Cuevas)
  • Pages: 480 in paperback
  • Published: By Avon in 2002
  • Series?: no, standalone
  • Bought it myself

Lovely Lusty Reader reader Christina suggested this title based on our mutual love for more old school romances (my list of my favorite 16 has 10 books published before 1995) even though Black Silk was published in 2002. I agree in that the long, descriptive sweeping prose meant to relish slowly reminds me of Virginia Henley or Kathleen Woodiwiss. However this book did not ending up suiting my personal tastes.

Summary: As befitting her name, lovely Submit Channing-Downes was the proper, obedient wife of an aging marquess – until her husband’s death left her penniless and alone…with one last marital obligation to fulfill. Entrusted with delivering a small black box to its rightful owner, she calls upon Graham Wessit, the notorious Earl of Netham, life has been forever marred by rumor and scandal. But Graham wants nothing to do with a bequest from the man he holds responsible for his ruin – or with thebewitching emissary who brings it. In the face of breathtaking erotic mystery – in the throes of an inflamed passion unbeckoned but impossible to deny – a rogue’s hardened heart may be undone by love…and a staidbeauty in straits may learn the exquisite, sensuous freedom of surrender.

Although I was disappointed Christina’s and my thoughts didn’t match up here is what I told her:

It was a GREAT recommendation! Black Silk seems pretty well known as a “classic romance” and Judith Ivory a classic romance author, and I had never read anything by her before! So I can only say thanks for the introduction and enthusiastic recommendation to further my romance education! Plus Black Silk is obviously still a hot topic, Phyl just read it this month (review here) and as did Jessica of Racy Romance Reviews. So now I’m trendy, and can join in on their discussions!
I loved the premise of Black Silk: a prim, proper, subtly beautiful widow paired with fun-loving, care free, seemingly shallow rake both connected through a shared deceased family member – Henry. Her elderly husband was his childhood guardian.
I also loved the whole “black box” plot point – at a bequest from Henry’s will Submit is to deliver this mysterious box to Graham, with the interesting layer that the Henry had no contact with Graham after he was banished from Henry’s care after getting expelled from University as a young man. What was in in the box, how it affects Submit and Graham’s relationship and their perceptions of each other, how Submit sees past the erotic, dirty side of it and him.
But the focus didn’t work for me. To me, the focus of the story was WAY too concentrated on Henry. They spoke of, referred to, and thought about him more than anyone else! So much so that I pretty much expected him to come back from the dead, or posthumous letters would surface written to both of them. I understand how big of an influence he was but ENOUGH about him! I wanted more Gray and Submit!
Secondly, we spent more time in Graham’s relationship with his mistress Rosalyn than with Submit too. Like three-quarters of the way through he was still sleeping with Rosalyn and still saying he loved her. While I can appreciate the auythor trying to do something different from the romancelandia norm, this just didn’t suit my taste.
Lastly there was this whole legal battle thing with Graham, with a paternity suit from a poor commoner girl claiming he was the father of her unborn babies. Those scenes were so boring to me, and besides giving us insight into Graham’s perceived character, his reputation, and how he handles problems I thought the whole plot line was reeeally boring. I started skimming through the pages of him meeting with his lawyer or in court. There were over a hundred pages about this story and then it comes to a sudden end with someone’s death! What was the point?
I really prefer more focus on the Hero and Heroine and more action in their relationship. I felt like the whole book was more about Henry, Rosalyn, and historical legal processes.
Very last dislike, the ending. Submit acted so thoroughly retarded (pardon my french) by hatching this whole “runaway scheme”  that made NO SENSE. That bothered me so much. And then it wrapped up way too neatly without me totally understanding how Submit had changed to be happily ever after with someone like Graham when they were so different.
The good stuff though? The angst, the poignancy of Gray’s dawning feelings for Submit, The Staircase Scene, the wistfulness, and the descriptive writing were absolutely gorgeous.
So the caveats to my recommendation are mostly based on my personal preferences, but I am definitely going to read more by this author!

Final grade: D

A negative comparison

If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all…

Well today is opposite day for me then, because I don’t have the nicest things to say right now. A few of my recent reads just did NOT work for me.

Here is the problem, I just read one of the greatest books ever written, easily one of the best romance novels of all time. So now maybe the ones I read around it just pale in comparison?

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase is beloved by male mathematicians and ranks first with thousands of romance readers. You see, the Hero? Is perfectly wretched, and wretchedly perfect for our Heroine. And she? Is awesomely cool, and coolly (sp?) awesome.


Original lusty cover in 1995 and gorgeous recent reissue

I lost my copy sometime in college between all the dormroom moves and just bought a new one and reread it as SOON as it came in the mail last week. So the 2 books I read before it and 1 book after it just did come come anywhere NEAR as good.

So that is my preface. For why. These books didn’t really work for me.

n292489Laced with Magic, by Barbara Bretton – It took me a while to get into this one since I hadn’t read the first book Casting Spells as I got Laced with Magic for free as part of a random pile at RWA. So for the first few chapters I gave it a break. Maybe it just wasn’t working since I missed the set up in the first one. But then as I slogged through 100 pages, 150 pages, and onwards and nothing got better? I came to the conclusion that the world building was really shallow. The characterization was really shallow. And the switching back and forth between THREE first person narrative point of views (H/H and random 3rd character) maintained that shallowness. This is a hidden magical town in the beautiful Vermont countryside and the “Heroine” Chloe was supposed to be a sorceress in training. But almost nothing about her craft, how she learned the spells, the history of magic in her family, how she conjured up her powers, how it felt to her was ever explained in detail. The non-magical Hero was secretly planning on moving back to Boston the entire book and I really never got a strong sense for why he should bother to stay, his romance with Chloe was also…well…shallow to me. The last straw was when one of those three people who was telling the story from their point of view was *Spoiler*


KILLED in the last chapter. And not only that, but guess what?!? The other two main characters barely gave it a second thought. The person who dies got ONE LINE of reflection from the others. They just said, “Oh well, they’re in a better place now.”

*End Spoiler* It was just so BLAH. I would only recommend reading it if you just adored the first book, but I already put this in my “to be donated to the library” pile.

38007395My Wicked Marquess, by Gaelen Foley – I adore Ms. Foley, heck I wanted to read her books so bad I borrowed them in large print from the library. But this one fell flat for me. Heidenkind’s un-review mirrors some of my thoughts, and as I commented on her post the real problem with this book was that I just couldn’t take it seriously! I was laughing AT it, certainly not WITH it, and I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be deep with a level of gravity given that the Hero was a trained, heartless, ruthless killer with razor sharp intellect. But his “secret club to protect the biggest secrets of Good versus Evil” a la Knights of Columbus seemed laughable to me. Their little club house reminded more of a little boys tree house with a “no girls allowed” sign. I mean Son of the Morning and The Da Vinci Code created a Brotherhood way cooler and more serious sounding that these guys. I was not impressed.

n306150Lord of Pleasure, by Delilah Marvelle – Have you ever taken a big gulp of soda expecting it to be Coke but really it was Root Beer? When that’s happened to me I find it just tastes HORRIBLE. I’m trying to explain how I expected one thing from Lord of Pleasure and when it wasn’t what I expected…I just didn’t like it.

So maybe if you check on my thoughts and know what to expect, it will be better for you.

I wanted to like this one, soooo badly for a multitude of reasons, number one of which being that I personally adore Ms. Marvelle. HOWEVER, I was expecting a traditional Regency with a bit of a naughty side, but instead this read more as a “fantasy historical” in that it such high fantasy beyond historical reality that I could not suspend my disbelief. Even though the heroine, Charlotte, is in Dire Straits, it still wasn’t believable enough for me why a Proper Woman of Society would work for a Not So Secret Sex School. The part that really seemed like fantasy was in her role as an Interviewer for the Sex School she got to ask the Hero all sorts of questions about his sexual history, about losing his virginity, threesomes, experience with toys, it was sort of a fantasy scene, like “don’t you wish you could ask your crush about his sexual past?” And the Hero’s family was CAH-RAZY sex obsessed, his mom was widowed and livin it up with lovers and “champagne parties” that her whole family knew about, she talked openly about sexual stuff in front her four daughters (teenagers and tweens), and they also know how cah-razy she had their dad had been when they were married with having THREESOMES with the lady who was running the Sex School now.

And YES I know some part of all romances are fantasy and don’t stick too close to reality, but what I love about Regencies is the “comedy of manners” and sharp drawing room dialogue fraught with innuendos while in public.

Lastly the word “snapped” was suuuuper over used. She snapped her hand up, he snapped his eyes to her, she snapped up straight, he snapped his hand towards her…Oy, enough with the snapping!


PHEW it felt good to get that out. /Rant

I really don’t like writing so much negative stuff at once, but these books have also gotten good reviews plenty of other places so I urge you to formulate your own opinions!

Legend of Four Soldiers series, by Elizabeth Hoyt 3in1 review

It’s time for a blitzkrieg review! Maybe that has too much of a negative connotation…review-blitz? lighting round review? Since I have been reading at the speed of light (8 books in 7 days = speed of light, it’s science) it is only fitting I do a quick review round.

I just finished the first three books in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Legend of Four Soldier series, and the fourth is set to release this fall. Here is what I thought in a nutshell:

B Grade for all of them. No squeeing from my corner, but no waves of dislike, thought they were “good books,” but would only re-read one.

Sigh, I’m not ‘splainin this very well, am I?

Here is the thing-the characters were fresh and new, even slightly unconventional because:

  1. none of the 3 heroines were virgins (gasp!)
  2. one of the heroines had been deeply in love with her previous husband, who returned her love (double gasp!)
  3. one of the heroines started out as another man’s Kept Woman, Mistress, member of the Demimonde, etc etc etc
  4. one of the heroes was “comical looking,” never described as attractive, just funny looking (wtf?)
  5. one of the heroes was missing one eye, 2 fingers on one hand, and had half his face burnt off

Since I read SO MANY romance novels, I definitely appreciate when an author goes off the beaten path of romancelandia a little bit, and mixes things up. But EVERY hero and heroine? I mean EVERY one of them had to have something weird? I think reading all three back to back in two days maybe was a bit much for me.

Not to say I didn’t like them, I just didn’t lurrrve any of them. I found that I have a surprisingly strange affinity for the “old school” romance tropes and traditional characters of yore.

Onto specifics…

Book 1: To Taste Temptation


Emmeline totally reminds me of one of my favorite characters of all time, Jane Austen’s Emma. Emmeline is forever speaking of men’s annual incomes, guiding younger girls through treacherous social waters, facilitating matches, and is very secure with her good standing in society. However she is still rocked by the losses of the three closest men whom she had loved most dearly and always expected them to be there for her: her father, her husband, and her brother.

Speaking of her brother, Reynaud, he served in the Colonies but was killed after a massacre at “Spinner’s Falls” during the French and Indian War. The American scout from his troupe, Samuel, is our Hero and he has come to England because the massacre at Spinner’s Falls was no accident! They were betrayed! So he prances around London in his moccasins determined to find the traitor so he can finally rest easy.

Emmeline and Samuel are so opposite that of course they are attracted to each other. And HOT DAMN are the love scenes sizzling! I can’t think of any other “traditional full length” romance novels I’ve read recently that seemed so…erotic. Maybe it’s a new to me publisher?

Overall it was a fun read, although Emmeline’s main reason for not wanting to be with Samuel reversed itself a little too quickly for me at the end, I would still say it was a good book. That is all.

Book 2. To Seduce a Sinner (PS I love the titles)


 So this was my favorite of the three. I was intrigued by plain and quiet Melisande as Emmeline’s best friend in the first book and I was so happy to see she was the next heroine! So now she has been in love with the “comical looking” gentleman (whom I mentioned before) named Lord Vale, for the past 6 years, but he didn’t even know her name! For shame man! And of course Lord Vale also was part of the troupe at the Spinner’s Falls massacre so with Samuel on newlywed cloud 9 bcak in good old America, Vale has to take over the investigate to exorcise his demons. Although he acts the entertainer in Society, he has depths that no one recognizes, except Melisande of course!

Again, their sex scenes were very provocative, but overall I just really liked Melisande, and the scene at the end where Vale gives her a gift that represents her from the outside and inside I was in romancelandia heaven. Sooo cute.

Book 3. To Beguile a Beast


And here we have the gorgeous blonde Fallen Woman, Helen Fitzwilliam, paired with the disfigured man, Sir Alistair Monroe. The scars, of course, received from his torture by Indains following the Spinner’s Falls massacre. And NO the traitor has not been found yet!

There have been ooodles and oodles of raving reviews of this book around the ‘net, so again while I wasn’t OMGobsessed with this book, I still thought it was quite good. It’s just not my escapist fantasy to clean a disgusting old Scottish castle with a mean and ugly man living it. Also – Yes, this is a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, and Yes I thought Ms. Hoyt handled Alistair’s disfigurement well, how he needed to cope with it, and how Helen was able to look past it.

Lastly I am VERY MUCH looking forward to the release of Book Four: To Desire a Devil (have I mentioned I adore these titles?) in November 2009. Because it has one of my favorite romance/soap opera plot points of ALL TIME: the hero COMES BACK FROM THE DEAD! Lalalalala – that is me skipping and signing with joy. Oh I adore heroes who come back from the dead, and this time it is Emmeline’s brother, Reynaud. Can’t wait!

Her Only Desire, Gaelen Foley

  • only_desire_180Title: Her Only Desire
  • Author: Gaelen Foley(prob one of the best rom author websites I’ve seen, in fact in my imagination that’s what I wanted my blog to look like)
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Release Date: March 2007
  • Standalone or Series: First book in the Spice Trilogy, and cousins to the Knight Miscellany series.

Why I read this book: The best book I read in the month of May was Lord of Icealso by Gaelen Foley, and I had never read anything by her before! Although I had been missing out, I always love discovering new-to-me fabulous long-standing authors so I can glom all their backlist. Her Only Desire was the only other Foley book available at my library so I picked it up!


From the exotic splendors of India to the elegant ballrooms of Regency London, celebrated author Gaelen Foley pens the enthralling tale of a luscious beauty who has sworn never to call any man her master, and the powerful marquess whose passion threatens to conquer her. . . .

Born into the wealthy British ruling class of India, Georgiana Knight is as unconventional as she is beautiful. She has sworn not to marry till she meets a man who will treat her as an equal–but that vow doesn’t appease her sensual curiosity. When Ian Prescott, the Marquess of Griffith, arrives on a mission to defuse the threat of war, she is immediately drawn to the mysterious and darkly handsome diplomat, and cannot resist provoking the hidden lust that smolders beneath his cool surface.

Ian is mesmerized by Georgie’s alluring mystique but burdened by a dark secret. And she is a temptation he cannot afford. But when she becomes entangled in his mission, she must be secreted away to England for her own safety. Georgie finds herself in the unfamiliar world of aristocratic London, where Ian becomes her guide, her confidant . . . her seducer. His incendiary kiss sets her soul on fire, and Georgie knows she will never be satisfied until she has made this magnificent man her own.

Review:I was enchanted from the very first page. I could smell the spices in the Indian market, feel the hot, sandy wind, and fell in love with Ian and Georgiana. This book had everything I hope for in a romance novel, excellent characterization, gripping storyline, and a believable, passionate relationship.

I can’t decide who I have a bigger crush on, Ian or Georgiana. “Georgie” is really my perfect romance novel heroine, between her yoga skills, independent streak, caring nature for her brothers, progressive views on women’s rights in the 1800’s no matter what country you live in, and humorous nature I fell for her hard.

When I read this quote I had a huge fat smile on my face of just pure liking her:

“I’ll be good,” she hushed him, and with a mischievous glance, suddenly unfastened the top button of his waistcoat. Before he could protest she stepped past him and headed for the door.

“Trying to undress me?” He called in a soft murmur

She glanced over her shoulder and sent him a naughty half smile. “I can’t say it hasn’t crossed my mind.”

Ian also super-impressed me with his strength of character and dedication to his country and justice. I mean just check out how awesome he is from this conversation:

“I didn’t know if I could trust you” [Georgie said]

“Let me first assure you that I am not the East India Company’s lackey, nor the Crown’s.” His tone turned steely, for after all, she had insulting his pride. “I have no interest in ‘lining my pockets’ with the wealth of the East…you’ll pardon the vulgarity of my informing you that I already happen to be extremely rich.”

Georgie absorbed his terse chastisement with a downcast gaze. “Oh.”

“Furthermore, if I thought our aims in this matter were unjust, I would have refused the mission. In short, I don’t do this job for the pay, Georgiana. I am here for the good of my country, in the hopes of saving lives. If there is any meaning to my life, I’ve dedicated everything to trying to make the world at least a slightly more civilized place, so I really don’t appreciate your insinuations about my character.”

 *Swoon* Oh Ian Prescott, Marquess of Griffith, won’t you be mine?

The dark, shameful secret from his past and first marriage was very sad, and it lingered over their heads throughout the whole book. When revealed at the very end both we the reader and Georgie could understand his motivations and emotions so much better, it ended up being a very tender scene and one of my favorites.

I was also intrigued by many of the secondary characters, including Georgie’s twin brothers who are featured in the last two books in this trilogy. I need to do a bit more digging to find out if their mad sea-faring relative Jack gets his own book, basically I want to read all of Ms. Foley’s books!

Verdict: When I was getting ready to write my review I tried to think of anything wrong with the book, or something that didn’t work for me. That’s when I realized if I had to think about it so hard, there isn’t anything! So I would HIGHLY recommend it! Especially for the cool setting in India.

Grade: A

Famous figures in historical fiction

How do you feel about famous figures in your historical fiction?

And no I don’t mean famous as in Scarlett O’Hara or Mr. Darcy, even though I can quote them and talk about them like they are real people.

I mean like King Charles II, or Abraham Lincoln, or the Duke of Wellington. What happens when they show up in your historical fiction and start interacting with the fictional characters?

In keeping with my post about my tolerance line for paranormal protagonists, I find that I am only comfortable with real-life famously prominent historical characters on stage in my novels up to a point.

 Any regency romance novel will have Prinny in the background somewhere, being fat and making one or two debaucherous remarks to the Heroine. I am fine with that, because that’s just it, he is in the background.

But when the author writes a whole conversation between Abraham Lincoln and the fictional main character of the novel about how Lincoln thinks he’s the best, gives him a medal, gives him a tour of DC, rides with him on the train to Baltimore, etc. it is too much for me.

I see famous historical figures as part of the background, part of the scenery to set the stage of the novel, but they can’t be given too much characterization. It feels fake. I feel sort of affronted that that famous person isn’t being respected and is being “made” to do and say things they didn’t actually do and we KNOW they didn’t since it’s a matter of famous public historical record!!!

Does that make sense? Like I said it can be done right but sometimes it feels wrong to me. Examples ahoy!

     1) On Secret Service,by John Jakes: although this book contained scenes with Lincoln, he followed my rule of being in the background with little or no interaction with the characters, just following high-level actions exactly how historical records portray him as doing.

BUT in the book Jakes does write a few scenes with Allan Pinkerton, head of the first US Detective Agency, and I was fine with that because I really didn’t know anything about Pinkerton, other than the name sounded familiar, so my suspension of disbelief wasn’t jarred at all by his actions or conversations.

     2) Savannah, by John Jakes: In this Jakes novel the mainly story follows a little 12 year old girl named Hattie. As a true “rebel” when she meets General Sherman in the streets of Savannah she kicks him in the shin! Hard! Then he invites to dine with him and they have a HIGHLY PERSONAL conversation about his son who died and how it makes him feel and he gets sort of teary.

That was just too much speculation on his character, it didn’t work for me.

     3) The Prince and Me: yes I mean the Disney film. I reeeeally didn’t like how they just MADE UP THE PRINCE.  Guess what, there IS a frickin REAL prince of Denmark and he his name is NOT Eddie, it’s Frederik, and he did not marry an American girl, and his father is not dying.

I also get annoyed with authors make up these tiny kingdoms in the Alps/Pyrenees/Russia/Persia so their heroine can be a lost princess or the hero a sheik, because for a moment there I doubt myself and think, wait is there REALLY a princess of Montalusia?

And those of you who know me in real life might guess why I think this, but my heart will only belong to one royal family of a tiny, real country: 


Monaco Royal Family: Princess Charlotte and brother Prince Andrea Casiraghi

Especially Princess Charlotte:

I have SUCH A HUGE CRUSH on her

I have SUCH A HUGE CRUSH on her

     4) The Other Boleyn Girl, by Phillipa Gregory: Even though this was CLEARLY a very fictional work for me, it still crossed my boundary line. Although Henry VIII was a background character, it personified Anne too much for my comfort level. Mary I didn’t really know much about, so like Pinkerton above, her scenes, thoughts, and actions didn’t affect me quite as much.

What books or movies marketed as FICTION haven’t portrayed a historical figure well for you?