Blog Archives

A Proper Companion (Candice Hern, The Regency Rakes Trilogy #1)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
An interesting-enough beginning, as well as a well-fleshed out cast of characters, are wasted on this slow, meandering book that felt, at times, more like a synopsis than an actual story. Too often, instead of seeing her characters interacting and falling in love with one another, we were instead told they really got along, or watched as others observed and commented about how well-suited they were. Halfway through the book, the lack of forward momentum really starts to show, and an evil villain, along with an eye-roll-inducing series of “twists” help lead us through the back half of the novel. While there were interesting scenes every now and again, and, again, the characters were interesting (and at times, quite witty), there just wasn’t enough to keep my attention, and finishing it was a bit of a chore.

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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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Don’t Tempt Me (Loretta Chase, Fallen Women #2)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase
This is a bit of a fake-out. Calling a series of women fallen implies to me that they actually should be… fallen, and thus different and distinct from the youthful virgins and/or managing spinster virgins we so often get within the genre. Instead, this particular novel would probably be more enjoyable for a male, rather than a female, reader: Zoe, our heroine, is a girl who’s spent the last 12 years in a harem, being trained by experts in how to seduce a man… except, she’s still a virgin. Somehow, somewhere, someone’s fantasy is coming true. Too bad the book is riddled with every cliche you could possibly imagine about the “exotic east” and comes off as having stilted leads, coupled with an ungainly, impossible-to-believe setup, as well as second-act villains that don’t really make sense.

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Mr. Cavendish, I Presume (Julia Quinn, Two Dukes of Wyndham #2)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a book of wasted potential. It had a great set-up as the companion novel, happening at almost the same time as Lost Duke of Wyndham, but told from a completely different perspective. There are lots of books about the new duke/earl/viscount and how they’ve suddenly risen to power/wealth, etc; there are very few that really address what it’s like to be the deposed, former nobleman, the riches to rags portion of the story. But… this just wasn’t different enough. There are swaths of the book that literally could have been cut and pasted from the first book, there are no surprises, no pay-offs for any number of potentially very interesting side characters and stories, and it was ultimately very, very boring. It’s something that could (and should) have just been edited and combined with the first book to be one, fully-functional novel: the dialogue drags, the plot isn’t just predictable, but redundant, and it’s just a waste!

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To Sir Phillip With Love (Julia Quinn, Bridgertons #5)

0 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I hated almost everything about this book: the heroine is supposedly to be charmingly awkward, but spends most of her time being head-palm-strikingly-annoying, the hero is supposed to be tragic-backstory-brooding, but instead feels inept and borderline unlikeable. Throw in some poorly drawn side characters, and a plot that has no forward momentum, and you get a tedious snoozefest. What’s worse: the “tragic” backstory of Sir Phillip is that he had a depressed wife he had no idea how to help, which means the novel literally begins with her suicide attempt, her death, followed by her husband and children comforting each other that she’s probably in a better place, since she was always crying when she was alive… this is my fluffy escapist fiction?? I think not.

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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 Lost Duke of Wyndham (Julia Quinn, Two Dukes of Wyndham #1)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
We start with a highwayman robbing a dowager duchess and her poor, gently bred companion. The dowager duchess is a steely old woman, who instantly (despite the mask, and the darkness of the night) recognizes the robber as her potential (long-lost, never-even-suspected-he-might-exist) grandson. This very far-fetched beginning is probably one of the best parts of the book, which really says something. There’s plenty of witty dialogue and banter, and the clever wordplay that Quinn is famous for (thus the 1.5 star, as opposed to… 0). What it doesn’t have is character development, a romantic journey, and half of the story (more on that later). There were some truly excellent scenes, and the beginning (despite how crazy of a start it is) was actually kind of enjoyable. But… a few chapters in, the scenes started to drag, the story seems to lose its focus, and then, suddenly, the book is over, and tied up with a cute epilogue. Argh.

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