And Then She Fell (Stephanie Laurens, Cynster Sisters Duo, Cynsters)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
If you generally like Stephanie Laurens, this will be an enjoyable read. It won’t be particularly memorable, but it will be reminiscent of her stronger Cynster novels in terms of both sensuality (lots of it), the main conflict (they just can’t admit to love/give into something that could be dangerous), as well as the secondary conflict (a mystery in the form of a serial killer). The things that make this interesting also make it a slower read than usual. There’s a little too much of her tried and true formula, and the tension between the main characters feels a) less interesting (they are more or less together by the end of the first half, they just haven’t really admitted they truly, truly love one another) and b) less unique (there’s so much referencing back to other Cynsters that you’re constantly reminded that these two are a bit derivative). Still, it was fine, not at all memorable, far from her worst, and also… far from her best.

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The Ideal Wife (Mary Balogh)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This isn’t going to be for everyone — especially because it’s the old she’s-impulsive-and-reckless whereas he’s patient-and-understanding trope done to the point where she’s almost scatterbrained and he’s much, much more mature and knowing. I’m sure the feminist in me should be protesting… Still, I was kind of captivated by the writing and story, all of which I found really sweet! The writing makes you really believe in what would have otherwise seemed caricature-like tropes, and most of it feels completely grounded within the time period. The end of the story is a little taken over by misunderstanding-misunderstanding-missed-opportunity, but I don’t think it detracted from just the general sweet-and-lightness of the story. It’s well written, the characters are believable, there aren’t any truly-terrible-villains (blackmail as opposed to murder, etc) which meant that this was a light, airy, quick read that was completely satisfying and awesomely escapist in the old-Cinderella theme. It’s not intense (sexually or emotionally) but it left me smiling and in a happy mood… isn’t that what we want our romance to do?

Greater Detail:
The beginning setup is crazy, and nothing like the rest of the novel. Miles Ripley is a generally reasonable man whose life has been more or less overrun by the females in his life (his mother, his sisters) all of whom mean well, but persist in trying to manage every detail of his life (down to who he’ll marry). He’s anxious to avoid the intended they’ve chosen for him (a beauty named Frances who comes from a wonderful family, but is managing, vain and would expect him to be at her beck and call). Though he could, of course, just stand up to his relatives, he jokes that it would be far easier to just find a biddable mouse of a girl, marry her instead, and let her fade into the background.

Enter Abigail Gardiner, a distant-not-distant cousin who’s just gotten fired from her post (she gets fired defending her friend, a beautiful young governess, from the lascivious advances of their joint employer). She comes seeking a reference from Miles, he offers to wed her instead, thinking she’s a shy, retiring type.

In reality, she’s quite outspoken, and a bit of a chatterbox… but she conceals it well, and after briefly wondering if he’s insane, decides to take her chances.

Their relationship is definitely a slow boil one — she’s afraid he’s going to detest her once he finds out her many secrets (slight spoilers ahead) ranging from the fact that she loves talking nonstop to her rather disreputable family (a drunk father who gambled everything away and died in debt, two half-sisters she practically raised, etc). For his part, he enjoys finding out about her, gets used to her and even enjoys her company. Love (and eventually desire) blossom between them. Abby falls in love with him because he’s not only handsome and everything else a hero should be, but genuinely caring and protective of her, while Miles is very believably drawn to her sweetness, and the fact that she makes him laugh and brings him joy.

There are various misunderstandings near the end that keep us (momentarily) from our happy ending, but nothing overdone. The misunderstandings drag out just long enough so that you’re not rolling your eyes, the falling in love is charming and sweet. There’s nothing hugely intense or climactic, with the final villain (blackmailer) resolving off-scene, probably after the conclusion of the book. Yet… for me, all of this worked very well. It’s a good, likable story that I’ll probably go back and re-read at some point. It’s charming in a very subdued fashion, and… though I’ve said it before, sweet in a way that was very, very satisfying.

Comparison to Other Authors
Mary Balogh is very, very hit or miss for me. Sometimes I find her characters sweet, other times the pacing makes me grit my teeth.  Even in her longer works, the sensuality meter is never super-high, and initially it’s almost always more about duty and expectations of the time (that the girl will lay there and not be responsive, that showing passion might somehow be demeaning)… all of which eventually builds to a slightly-more-sensuous outcome that still feels more pastel than purple. It’s more Julia Quinn than Stephanie Laurens, but for the most part, I find her humor to be a strong point (not overdone like some of Quinn’s newer things, but more tongue in cheek like Austen, or vintage Quinn). Also, I find her settings and writing to feel more genuinely regency-era, which is rarer than you would think given the number of best selling authors whose scenes give a nob to the genre, instead of really writing within the time period.

Guest Post and Book Tour Stop by Jessica Ashley Dafoe

My Creation Station (Guest Post by Jessica Ashley Dafoe)

Waking up Saturday mornings bright and early, while the sun is just rising to stream through the cracks of my bedroom blinds is my most favourite part of the day and week. Monday to Friday I slump to my feet, brush my teeth, eyes half closed, attempting to tick off the items that need to get done that day at the school where I teach. My energy level remains stagnant until at least 8 a.m. then I finally have myfirst sip of coffee and am able to liven up for my class of cuties. On Saturdays, my schedule is wide open to do nothing but WRITE and just the thought of having an entire day to myself, interruption free, to purely put pen to paper, or I suppose fingers to keyboard, is heavenly to me.  It’s an indescribable energy that surges through me waking me as early as 6 in the morning; one that I can’t explain and one that disallows me to nod back off to sleep. I don’t even curse the early time and the fact that I’m awake. I jump up and let the energy plot my course.

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To Seduce a Sinner (Elizabeth Hoyt, Legend of the Four Soldiers)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase (contains spoilers):
In a word: disappointing. Though there was a lot of promise in both the premise and our main characters, and despite the fact that the writing is clear and quite strong in places, I was disappointed in this book. The starting premise behind our love story, that Melisande has always loved Jasper from afar… isn’t ever well-explained (she saw him being kind once, which could have been believable as a start, but doesn’t really sustain the idea of a years of secret love, watching from afar as he gets engaged, etc). Other interesting points — such as the fact that Melisande is not only not a virgin, but actually fairly experience, the fact that Jasper is obsessed with fighting the traitor — are all either afterthoughts or overwhelming to the main romance. The love between them never fully develops or feels genuine, which detracts greatly from its ability to satisfy as a romance novel, despite the good writing.

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Quiver of the Pure Heart (Burnita Bluitt, CLP Blog Tours Release Day Blitz)

About the Book

Granddaughter of a loving, but roguish businessman, Blis Dumas can’t escape a legacy of lies. The time is 1989. The place is San Francisco, where painful stories of gentrification, eviction and relocation still echo within its limits.

Clinging desperately to the Victorian home she inherited, she is confronted by a stranger that brings her a life filled with revenge, corruption, and murder. In an unparalleled twist of fate, she discovers that her predicament may have roots buried much closer to home. Blis’ world starts to crumble as she fights the Bureau to save the home she adores; fights the temptation of an incorrigible former lover; and fights the perils threatening the tender passion of a new budding romance.

QUIVER OF THE PURE HEART will appeal to readers that appreciate a social setting that illuminates the universal themes of desire, forgiveness, revenge, and letting go.  San Francisco is one of the loves of Blis’ life, and like any love relationship, it is where her emotions will be tested, where romance will live and die, and where people are not always as they seem. Burnita Bluitt offers a spirited and passionate story of love and corruption in the city by the bay.

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