Mistress of Lies by Holly West (Synopsis and Guest Post)

Mistress of Fortune #2
Author: Holly West
Release Date: Sept, 29 2014
Publisher: Carina

London, 1679

Isabel, Lady Wilde, mistress of King Charles II, has made a good living disguised as fortune teller Mistress Ruby, counseling London’s elite. But after the murder of one of her customers, business has taken a downturn, and Isabel is on the verge of accepting the king’s offer to move into the palace.

Isabel’s plans are interrupted when a beggar girl named Susanna shows up at her home, claiming to be her niece. Isabel always believed that her older brother, Adam, died alone during the plague. When Susanna reveals that Adam was actually murdered, Isabel is compelled to take up an impossible task: discover the truth about her brother’s death, twelve years after it happened.

Isabel’s investigation leads her through the gamut of London society, from bear-baiting matches and brothels to the realm of wealthy bankers. But as she uncovers her brother’s dark secrets, Isabel begins to wonder whether the past is better left buried, especially when uncovering the truth could lead to her own funeral.

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Dillweed’s Revenge (Florence Parry Heide)

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable 

It’s almost impossible to write a review without spoilers explaining my stance. So, fair warning: LOTS of spoilers ahead.

This is a book about a neglected child whose only friend is his pet. His parents leave him alone (never taking him with them on their vacations and adventures) with the servants, who are mean to him, and make him do all manner of chores (ones they should, themselves be taking care of).

So… Dillweed plots his revenge (via evil spirits/ghosts) and both of the evil servants are killed (one eats poison that the other was planning on serving to Dillweed, for example).

Afterwards, when his parents come back, he realizes he would be better off without them as well (they try to get rid of Dillweed’s pet) and it’s strongly implied that his parents, also, meet with a terrible end.

While I can see certain adults enjoying this book, it’s definitely not one I want to read to my kids…

Mr. Wuffles (David Wiesner)

Somewhat Recommended, Somewhat Repeatable

This was actually a split decision in our family… one kid kind of loves it, and another kid isn’t interested at all. The “story” is told through truly wonderful and very creative illustrations — in an almost comic book like style, we see tiny aliens land, get tortured/played with by a household cat, and then we see how the aliens are befriended by the ants of the household, etc. For adults who like to improv/tell stories, it’s pretty fun, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

Seducing an Angel (Mary Balogh, Huxtables #4)

3 out of 5 stars

A Bit of a Disappointment…
There are a lot of interesting details in this book: the female protagonist (Cass/Cassandra) is the darker/troubled character, and is three years older than our hero, who’s at least initially the “angel” who is all lightness and goodness. They’re both layered characters (though it feels like our heroine has more dimension, especially due to her tragic past), and the supporting cast is quite excellent. That said, the beginning of the book (and parts of the middle) were really hard to get through… Cass just starts off as a barely-likable character, and it takes some effort to care enough to get to the backstory, and to have the patience to listen to her justifications. It was an okay read, and I’m happy ultimately that I borrowed, instead of bought it… (there were also some details that drove me up the wall crazy, spoilers below). Continue reading

The Truth About Love (Stephanie Laurens, Cynsters #12)

3.5 out of 5 stars
This isn’t one of Stephanie Laurens’s best books… it isn’t even one of her best Cynster-universe-novels. The characters feels like mere shadows of the original Cynsters (from their passions to their worries) and the murder side-plot has a familiar presence (increasingly intense, familiar climax, etc). You could probably interchange the love scenes between this and almost any other Laurens novel. That said, it’s an enjoyable, artist meets and rescues muse romance/mystery. It drags a little every now and again, but it’s the tried-and-true Laurens formula. The mystery is slightly more compelling than usual (in that there are multiple red herrings and also a spoilers-ahead serial killer as opposed to single-murder) and none of the misunderstandings drag on for too long. It’s not a great book for someone who’s never read Laurens before (see recommendations below), but if you generally like Laurens, this is perfectly within her wheelhouse. It’s a nice escapist read that doesn’t challenge any new heights, but does what it’s supposed to do. Think of it as Laurens-light.

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Hard to Get (Carole Mortimer)

Rape, Revenge, and Not Much Romance

0 out of 5 stars

I read this many, many years ago when I was younger and more impressionable. At the time, I thought it was an “intense” love story, going back and re-reading it, I’m a bit shocked and appalled. There are major spoilers below:

1. The main love story between the two leads feels like mostly arrogant, slightly spoiled adults who have a burning physical passion that… never develops beyond that.

2. Not only does the hero rape the heroine, he then more or less chastises her (saying that he couldn’t believe she was a virgin, that she was nothing but a tease… this, you know, after raping her).

3. Everything is driven by revenge because the hero’s mother left him and his father (the father was abusive, and so she left for another man, but also to escape). So he’s hung onto this grudge against his now-dead mother for twenty years and… that’s why he marries the heroine.

I mean, most of the story feels almost nonsensical. Jordan is just so… mean and cruel that there’s nothing to ever make you like him, and the last minute apologies feel forced and insincere. I mean, there’s alpha hero, and then there’s cruelty for no real reason, this felt like that latter. The romance is under-developed and kind of lost under the angsty/angry sex/physical attraction.

The Rake (Mary Jo Putney)

5 out of 5 stars
This isn’t actually a perfect book — there are times when it drags, and other points where, as a reader, I really wanted to quibble with a particular detail or characteristic. But… overall, what a spectacular read! The relationship between our two main protagonists, Lady Alys and Reggie (the Despair of the Davenports) is believably flawed and complex. He’s a reprobate and reforming alcoholic who doesn’t want to admit that he misses having a family or home. He’s honorable… yet completely willing to act the part of the unreformed rake, if it will get him what he wants. Allie, meanwhile, is a woman with a past who’s legitimately made something of herself, despite youthful indiscretions and misjudgments. Their relationship is a mixture of budding respect, slow-boiling awareness, companionship, and eventually… love. The novel has a wonderful cast of side characters, and though there really were times when the pacing seemed to crawl, the high points are well-worth the wait. Continue reading

The Obedient Bride (Mary Balogh)

4 out of 5 stars


Cut to the Chase:
This is a nicely done, slow-boil type of book. It’s got arranged marriages and feelings of duty and sacrifice, but done with a deft, (mostly) light hand that keeps the book just moving along. There are some villains, believable side plots and characters, and a touch of drama. More than any of that, it has characters that are not only relatable, but completely believable within that time period: a man who has few qualms with picking a wife out of duty/obligation and then continuing his life with his mistress, a heroine who tries to be obedient, but does also, have flashes of independence (as opposed to full-on 21st century strong-willed-ness). I felt that the ending stubborness dragged just a little, but that otherwise, this was a highly enjoyable read.

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The Mysterious Maid-Servant (Barbara Cartland)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a sweet regency romance that has plenty of plot twists. It’s a good representation of the time period in both the details (plenty of small historical personages and events thrown in) as well as the way the story’s told (there’s very little kissing, etc which feels fairly appropriate). The romance happens almost without anyone realizing it, but is still sweet and mostly believable. It’s a Cinderella story, told in Regency style and time period, sweet, with a few plot twists, and a very, very quick read.

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