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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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Posted in Romance

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.

Posted in Romance

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. Read more ›

Posted in Romance

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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Posted in Romance

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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Posted in Romance

At Last Comes Love (Mary Balogh, Huxtables #3)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Definitely had some interesting plot twists…¬†

The beginning of the book throws a ton of information at you: That Duncan is a wastrel who ran off with his married sister-in-law the day before his own wedding, that he now has to marry a woman of respectable birth within 16 days or lose one of the unentailed estates he’s been looking forward to living on, etc. Then, we learn that Margaret was young and beautiful and could have married her neighbor’s son Crispin, but she chose to stay behind and help raise the rest of her family. Now she’s thirty, Crispin is back, but she feels betrayed, no longer loves him, and so she tells him she’s engaged to another fellow (who’s asked her twice and has seemingly promised to ask again). When she finds out that intended finace has a finacee of his own, she is desperate: she more or less runs into Duncan, and they decide to become engaged to each other.

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Posted in Romance

Passion (Lisa Valdez)

0 out of 5 stars

I couldn’t finish this book. Though it was classified and recommended to me as a historical romance, it is, instead, poorly written erotica, that barely gives a nod to the time period and setting. The three chapters I was almost able to finish featured completely unrealistic, misogynistic sex scenes (I’m sorry, I don’t see how rearrangement of womb or cervix is supposed to be sensual in any way). The language is vulgar, the sex scenes ludicrous to the point of hilarity, and it’s hard to ¬†imagine how the book would have resolved with any amount of emotion.

Posted in Romance

Devil’s Bride (Stephanie Laurens, Cynsters #1)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This isn’t my favorite Cynsters novel, but it’s definitely up there, and it’s really the one that started it all. We’ve got two equally determined, managing, use-to-being-in-charge protagonists, who are ridiculously attracted to one another, and who fight being together. He wants her, and even wants to marry her, but seeks to be the dominant force, and wants everything on his terms. She, on the other hand, wants independence, is used to getting her own way, and thus very hesitant to enter into an alliance which might, in any way, threaten the autonomy she so treasures. It’s a battle of wills, it’s highly sensual (as are all things Stephanie Laurens) and for once the “mystery” component doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the novel or feel completely tangential/unnecessary. The introduction to the rest of the Bar Cynster is well done, and you can truly see how this is the book (and series) that she became famous for. The characters are emotionally complex (despite the alpha-dominant-outer-layers) and believable. It’s not my favorite, but it is very well done.

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Posted in Romance

A Rogue by Any Other Name (Sarah MacLean, Rules of Scoundrels)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a hero-uses-heroine-for-revenge book, and as such, we have the patient heroine who believes that the hero is a better man than he appears to be, as well as the angsty hero who initially tries to close off his emotions and focus on just getting revenge. In this particular story, the two are part of an original trio of childhood friends, which means that they have history and a past relationship that plays heavily into her hope that he’ll reform, and the emotional pull he feels toward him. I did feel as though parts of the revenge plot dragged and were tiresome, and also, I really disliked how some of the final climactic scenes played out (spoilers below), but overall, this felt like a slightly-lighter-almost-at-times-fun take on the revenge trope.

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Posted in Romance

Duke of Darkness (Elizabeth Hoyt, Maiden Lane)

5 out of 5 stars


Cut to the Chase:
Honestly? I wasn’t overly impressed with the plot blurb, but this was wonderfully written, plotted and paced, with the romance, drama and action all very-well balanced. We’ve got a regency-era batman story (complete with joker/villain-who-murdered-parents, Alfred-like-valet, and a training grounds). He’s a believably compelling character who only sometimes allows himself to become maudlin about what he “owes” to the duchy. Artemis, his eventual lover and love interest is believably layered as well: she clings to the background because it’s what’s expected of her, as a companion, but has streaks of boldness that are believable and surprisingly not-overdone. Their initial passion, followed by emotional entanglement is well-crafted and very satisfying.

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Posted in Romance