Blog Archives

Dangerous Masquerade (April Kihlstrom)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’m going to admit that I first read this book years ago, reread it, and liked for reasons that were half enjoyment and half nostalgia. This is a good, “old-fashioned”/not terribly sensual/overly dramatic-at-times regency romance: the believably terrible villain, the quiet yet strong hero, the quick-on-her-feet and easy to relate to heroine… if you delve too deeply into any one character or plot point, things might start to fall apart, and it takes itself very, very seriously (no flashes of humor that are so common in more recent historical romances)… and yet, it’s a good read, well done within its self-imposed constraints and enjoyable even now, years later.

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A Match for Sister Maggy (Betty Neels)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a very standard, middle of the road Betty Neels novel (which for me, is still a win, see below). There’s a nurse (this time she’s tall, pretty, and has an independent streak), and a doctor (Dutch, who offers her a job in Holland). There’s the requisite amount of new dresses, tea-drinking/fancy-dinner eating that is both foundational to, and trademark of, a Betty Neels romance. This one relies (sometimes too much) on misunderstandings, and small displays of temper (by both of them), but is still an enjoyable way to pass an hour… maybe two.

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The Bride Wore Scarlet (Liz Carlyle, Fraternitas Aureae Crucis #2)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a solid, slightly above average example of historical romance mixed with fantasy. You’ve got all the expected elements: the secret society, the people blessed (or cursed, yes, we have that tired debate continuing) with a “gift,” evil villains who want to misuse said gift, and so on. There’s a tortured hero, a fierce heroine who’s determined to prove that she’s as good as any man (and thus deserves membership into their fraternity), and a romance that’s initially driven by physical attraction. The writing is fine, the plot is acceptable, but there’s nothing particularly memorable about any of it. It’s a quick read, and as I said, slightly above average for this mixed genre, no more, no less.

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Scandal Wears Satin (Loretta Chase, Dressmakers #2)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
While I don’t think that this book is for everyone (not even everyone who normally likes historical romances), it’s well-written, excellently executed, and sparkles with both wit and a certain melodramatic flair (costumes, scandals, and runaways — oh my!). Chase has given us a strong, thoroughly independent female who’s ambitious and driven… about dressmaking, as well as a boring (initially classified as just plain stupid) male lead whose main interests are usually his own. They get into a series of hijinks, none of which I would have believed could seem at all interesting: rescuing a young felon/pickpocket and a young innocent sister from a disastrous marriage, and of course, a dressmaking shop on the brink of financial ruin, but yet, all of which I found thoroughly entertaining (almost addictively so).

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Your Scandalous Ways (Loretta Chase, Fallen Women #1)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a book full of details: the art, the poetry by Byron (down to his inconsistent spelling style), the Italian, the politics around divorce, the fuller-than-full list of supporting characters. At its heart beats a well-drawn, but thoroughly unlikely pair of protagonists: a disgraced divorcee who now lives the life of a courtesan, and a spy-like man who wishes he could retire. Ultimately, they’re two people who are both prostitutes… one who’s turned to the life as a way to free herself from the hypocrisy of the London life she once led, and another who does everything (and sometimes, everyone) under the auspices of serving his country (though without the sometimes more formal recognition a soldier might receive). They are hardened cynics who battle with their wits and sexuality — not at all a story I expected to enjoy, but expertly done and often quite enthralling (and even surprising: a twist I wouldn’t have predicted, and an independent female who is TRULY independent).

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The Viscount Who Loved Me (Julia Quinn, Bridgertons #2)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
In terms of pacing, characterization and dialogue, this book is nearly spot on in every category. It definitely plays up some common stereotypes, there’s a rake who needs to be reformed as well as a managing sister who considers herself a spinster. But… it’s done so well. The conversations are quick, witty, and fiercely entertaining. The characters are believable, and the love story doubly so. I don’t love the overarching fear that keeps Anthony from wanting to commit to anyone, and I think that it takes a little longer to resolve than it should have, but otherwise, this is a extremely well done historical romance.

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A Lady by Midnight (Tessa Dare, Spindle Cove #3)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
A very nice example of the we’ve-kind-of-known-each-other stories that Dare seems to like: we have an orphan who’s desperate to know about her past and a soldier who’s obviously had a ridiculously tough life up until now. It’s a twist on the friends-before-lovers trope, with just a hint of mystery and intrigue. In this case, he’s the one who protected her, and now lusts after her… but of course, he thinks he’s generally incapable of love, and, more specifically, undeserving of hers. There are phrases and words that don’t feel quite regency-era, and the ending dragged a little, and became a little overly melodramatic. Still, the characterizations and emotional journeys of the characters are well-done and, at times, riveting. It’s a solid addition to the series, very much in Dare’s usual style.

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The Heiress Effect (Courtney Milan, The Brothers Sinister #2)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Oh, the highs and lows of reading ambitious works from highly skilled authors. On the one hand, you have an amazing beginning and setup, subplots and side characters that are funny, moving, and multilayered — so much so that you’ll forget (in both a good and bad way) that you’re reading a historical romance. You’ve got the super-strong and independent female protagonist who feels completely believable: she’s an heiress, but not super pretty, and socially, she’s a disaster (on purpose)! There’s also a male protagonist who’s ambitious, thoughtful and almost overly cautious about his five-, ten- and twenty-year life plans. But… there are several times when the subplots and side characters overwhelm the main storyline, and I would say that the main thrust of the romance was perhaps the weakest part of the book. Still, it’s a must because it’s an integral part of the series (which is strong), and further, the good parts are great, though the novel as a whole… is merely pretty good.

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Again the Magic (Lisa Kleypas, Wallflowers Prequel)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a great lovers-reunited tale. They were almost-lovers as young adults, were separated, and are now related, amidst many misunderstandings and (in their eyes) larger-than-life obstacles. There are some parts where you get a little frustrated; there are moments of: come on already, just tell them the truth! But still, Kleypas is a talented writer, and this is a believably moving lovers-reunited tale. What’s more, because you see the beginning of their relationship, and then pick up right where they left off, after the time jump, you don’t feel like you’ve missed any of the real love story. The cast of side characters is well developed (almost too-well developed, more on that later), the writing is crisp and clear, and the characters really draw you in… a solid read!

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Royal’s Bride (Kat Martin, Bride’s Trilogy #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
It’s a bit uneven, with some really smashingly written parts sandwiched between some really forgettable, cliched scenes; it also suffers from having a genuinely mediocre climactic sequence. Still, it’s a solid Martin read, with a lot of her trademark action/plot, strong/driven protagonists, and sensuality. I think Martin fans, who like her particular brand of fast-moving drama, will have few complaints. I thought that the side characters were, in some ways, more interesting than the hero and heroine at times… but still, this is an above-average, enjoyable escapist book.

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