Just Like Heaven (Julia Quinn, Smythe-Smith Quartet #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Light and fluffy with bits of enjoyable dialogue and amusing scenes, this is a retooling of the we’ve-always-been-friends-but never-been-lovers story. She’s the younger sister of his best friend… yeah… that story. It’s totally readable and pleasant, just not very memorable. Not to damn with faint praise, but it was really just… pretty good, a nice way to spend a couple of hours: there are a few light laughs (some of the scenes are a little drawn out), a lot of cameos from characters from Quinn’s other novels, a little medical drama, and then we’re done. The story is driven more by friendship and banter than passion or even a believable romantic journey, but it was cute… and mostly entertaining.

Continue reading

Proof of Seduction (Courtney Milan, Carhart #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
There’s lots to like about this — thoroughly interesting and believable central characters who have entirely different motivations and back stories. They are multilayered and complex: you’ve got a woman who’s pretending to be a gypsy fortune teller because she was born on the wrong side of the sheets and really has nothing else to do with a ladies’ school finishing education combined with no family name or background. The hero, as an earl who sees his title as an encumberance to his scientific pursuits, is also interesting. However, while this is a strong novel (perhaps more so because it was Milan’s debut effort), there are parts of it that take some patience to get through, and it doesn’t feel as effortless or buoyantly entertainingly as many of her other works. Still better than a lot of historical romances out there… but not my favorite Milan.

Continue reading

A Kiss for Midwinter (Courtney Milan)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I enjoyed this as much as I’ve ever enjoyed a historical romance novella. You’ve got a strong female protagonist with a rough past: she was deceived by a married man, lost a baby, and, (surprisingly) with the support of her family, has fought through it all and come out with a still-happy, almost-by-sheer-force-optimistic viewpoint. As her foil, you’ve got an overly sarcastic, kind of awkward doctor who makes jokes about gonorrhea instead of talking about poetry and roses (because that’s just what he knows about). He’s always been in love with her, and you can really see how they’re both made for each other, and also why they would naturally struggle learning to deal with one another.

Continue reading

When Two Paths Meet (Betty Neels)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Ok, you have to be in the mood for a Cinderella story where the evil stepmother has been recast as a managing, manipulative older brother, and where the prince has been replaced by a sometimes-arrogant doctor. Once you’ve done that, and assured yourself that you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned romance where they’ll drink lots of tea, be very awkward around each other while enjoying many, many well-described meals, kiss twice and live happily-ever-after… well, this is your book. Betty Neels… she had a certain type of book she wrote (see the “Comparisons” section below), but if you like that type, this is at the top of that small niche.

Continue reading

The Little Dragon (Betty Neels)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Constantia is a more fiery female character than we normally get from Neels. She’s still a nurse, and our hero is still a doctor (as they almost always are in Neels books!), but she’s got firm opinions and is very, very capable. In particular, Constantia is prejudiced against rich people, and though she is attracted to Jeroen van der Giessen, she almost takes pride in the fact that he’s a lowly, hard-working GP. They marry fairly quickly, and of course, we spend the rest of the book wondering when she’s going to find out that Jeroen is a rich doctor (by picking up a Neels book, we, as the reader, already knew that the male protagonist would be both a doctor, and a rich one…)

Continue reading

The Governess Affair (Courtney Milan, The Brothers Sinister Prequel Novella)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’m not normally a fan of novellas (especially historical romance novellas). This one is… good. It’s not as good as her longer works, certainly, and the plot isn’t nearly as thoroughly developed… but then it’s not meant to be. It’s a cheaper, shorter version of some excellent Milan works, and serves as a workable introduction to her newest series.

Continue reading

A Betty Neels Christmas: A Christmas Proposal and Winter Wedding (Betty Neels)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I love the first novella in this collection. Though I don’t normally even like novellas, A Christmas Proposal is probably the best modern-day Cinderella rewriting I’ve read. It’s not overly exciting or even particularly innovative, it’s just… nice, in a very lingering way. And Winter Wedding, though not my favorite, is still… good. These are two heroines that you really relate to and root for — they’re more mousy than pretty, and more gentle than spirited. They’re the true underdog wallflowers that you want to have a happy ending.

Continue reading

Nonesuch (Georgette Heyer)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is probably one of my favorite Heyer works… it’s got the sensible, older female lead who isn’t looking for romance and roses, as well as a wordly-wise hero (one of those men whom all the women are after). There’s plenty of banter, an amusing cast of side characters, and a very believable journey between two consenting adults who just… get each other. They just seem to have an understanding, a comfort level, with each other. It’s highly enjoyable, and though the ending “conflict” was a little more contrived than usual, it’s a wonderfully entertaining read overall (probably my third or fourth favorite Heyer novel).

Continue reading

The Duchess War (Courtney Milan, The Brothers Sinister #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
It pains me to put a 3 star rating on a Courtney Milan novel, as I am really, really a fan of her writing — normally she creates clear, clever, multilayered characters in a richly constructed drama. The characters makes me swoon and cry… sometimes all at once. But… this particular effort, while still very, very readable, doesn’t shine quite as brightly for me as Milan’s other works. While all of the side characters are richly drawn… they’re SO convincing and interesting that you almost lose interest in the main characters (especially our hero, who feels curiously muted). I still enjoyed the novel (hence 3 stars), but compared to other Milan novels, it just doesn’t feel up to snuff.

Continue reading

Unraveled (Courtney Milan, Turner #3)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a satisfying end to a very, very well done series (perhaps one of my all-time favorites). The setup is probably my least favorite, but (as usual for Milan) the characters are just so richly drawn that you’re just engrossed in the book before you know it. Here, we have a dedicated magistrate who’s got a very, very traumatic past. He trusts almost no one, and prefers solitude (and in some ways, he prefers suffering). He falls for our heroine because she doesn’t pity or fuss over him, but rather, makes him feel calmer, more centered. Though the initial “falling” happens quickly, the relationship that develops between these two is very satisfying, and there are some nice cameos from earlier characters to make this feel like a well done finale (as opposed to just a solid standalone).

Continue reading