Blog Archives

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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Silk is for Seduction (Loretta Chase, Dressmakers #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
There are some lovely details and characterization, not the least of which is a female protagonist who is ambitious, confident, determined, and very, very intelligent. The way she’s described she could almost be the male lead, which is kind of great! Also, there are some nice side plots and characters who are interesting and are allowed to act in sometimes surprising ways… but what ultimately weighs this novel down is a male protagonist who comes across as being a bit too easy to manipulate (where’s the fun in that?) and the overriding tension holding the main couple apart doesn’t feel like it’s novel-length sustainable. I still enjoyed it enough to finish it, but it’s certainly not at the top of my recommended list. (I have to add the caveat that if you like fashion, or regency-era fashion, you might still enjoy this… I found the details about dressmaking a little overwhelming, but someone who’s interested in that field might find those details intriguing.)

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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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The Edge of Desire (Stephanie Laurens, Bastion Club #7)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The hyperbole simply goes too far in this book: the Vaux family are described as being so similar that they seem more like clones than individual people, and the members of the Bastion club are all suitably arrogant and all-knowing, but again… completely interchangeable. The hero and heroine struggle over who can be more managing (and often… more annoying), and there is Laurens’s usual sensuality and heaving. Yet this lovers-reunited tale just doesn’t work on too many levels. It’s long, the murder mystery is far too drawn out, and (though I hate to say it about Laurens), even the most sensual scenes feel repetitive and thus are a bit of a bore.

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When the Duke Returns (Eloisa James, Desperate Duchesses #4)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
While James is clearly a talented and educated writer (there are quirky historical details that have obviously been researched, and her background as a Shakespeare professor is evident in some of the well-worked dialogue), this novel just didn’t work for me. Our heroine, though independent, is almost willfully, inexplicably so: she’s not just headstrong, she’s often purposefully impulsive, almost foolish. Her husband, who has traveled widely and known kings and traders alike, is a bit of a lump: he’s handsome, he has a temper, he has ideals he’s unwilling to change, and then… nothing. There’s no real development, just two purportedly strong-willed people who are attracted to one another, and whose connection never seems to rise above sexual desire.

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Trial by Desire (Courtney Milan, Carhart #2)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is the first full-length novel of Milan’s that I’m actually unable to recommend. Though there are a lot of good aspects here, there is just too much unevenness… the subplot (helping an abused wife and child escape from a violent, unstable husband) overwhelms the main story. The characters are left without time to fully develop on their own, and we’re left to infer a lot of their romantic journey. The heroine feels very hazily drawn (sometimes she’s a firecracker, sometimes she’s an actress, other times, she seems genuinely unsure and immature). She’s got a cause (helping abused women), but little else to recommend her. Similarly, our hero struggles with demons of his own… and overall, the characters struggle more with their internal conflicts than with each other; their story ultimately feels more annoying than intriguing.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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