Book Review: Never Dare a Wicked Earl by Renee Ann Miller

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I had a really difficult time discerning whether to give three or four stars to this book. On one hand, the book was cute, put a smile on my face, and both of the characters were likable; on the other hand, I found this book extremely dull

The books hero, Hayden Milton, Earl of Westfield is—at first glance anyways—a complete and total rake. When his mistress shoots him in the thigh (while aiming for something else), medical attendant Sophia Camden comes to take care of him. When he tries to fire her, she outright refuses and a gantlet is thrown: she has ten days to prove her competency. If she does, Hayden will petition in Parliament to allow women to take the physicians exam on her behalf. If she doesn’t, well…

I absolutely loved the hate-to-love aspect of this book. The first hundred pages of Hayden trying to scare Sophia off (and completely failing) were hilarious. Both Hayden and Sophia were amazing characters. In fact, I would go as far to call Hayden one of the best regency heroes ever. Despite first glances, he is a kind, thoughtful man who treats his family with the utmost respect and love. He is also intelligent and works hard to support his estates. Not to mention that he supports Sophia and her dreams of being a physician—he doesn’t suffer from fragile masculinity and an overblown ego like so many other romance protagonists. Sophie was also an amazing heroine: driven, intelligent, and confident.

So why three stars and not four stars?

Because this book becomes dreadfully dull after the first hundred pages. Once Hayden and Sophie get together (which is relatively early in the book), it just feels like Miller throws every trite regency plot trope ever! And literally, 99% of the problems could have been solved if they had just sat down and had an honest conversation about their relationship expectations and feelings. I just desperately want to shake the two of them (particularly Hayden) and scream, “Why are you being so silly? Communication! It is a thing!”

And, yes, I do realize that lack of communication serves as the plot for 99% of romance books out there. But in this book,  Hayden’s lack of communication seriously jeopardized Sophia’s safety at one point. Grrrr…..

That said, I will definitely be reading more of this author’s books in the future! The writing was very high quality, the dialogue was witty, and I have high hopes that she design plots that don’t revolve around her characters just refusing to have a conversation.

Rating: 3/5

 

 

Book Review: The Highway Man by Kerrigan Byrne

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 3.06.45 PM.pngHonestly, I feel a tad guilty for liking this book. In case you’ve never read my reviews before, I am very apprehensive about bad boy main characters. I hate the romanticization of violence that often comes in books that feature a criminal kingpin as a hero. Not to mention that those books often blur lines of consent in a way that makes me feel deeply uncomfortable.

*Light Spoilers ahead but nothing that will ruin the book”

And this book well…it has everything that makes me uncomfortable in spades. We first meet our hero—Dorian Blackwell—in a police station where he is suspected of going on a murderous rampage of all the people who wronged him. Dorian, known as the Blackheart of Ben More England’s most powerful criminal—as wealthy as he is cruel. Byrne, and I actually give her credit for this (if you are going to make a villain your hero, you should at least do it realistically) does not sugarcoat Dorian’s journey to his position.

Our heroine Farah Leigh Mackenzie is essentially Dorian’s opposite—right down to the fact that she works in a police station. When she was very little she fell in love and got married. However, her fairytale soon falls apart: her husband murders a priest who tried to molest her and thus was imprisoned and sent to death. The incident has shaped the independent and confident women she has become.

After Dorian kidnaps Farah—for reasons you will discover when you read the book—sparks fly. And so the romance begins…Well, actually, to call their relationship a romance would be a lie. Really it is more of a lust-fueled atom bomb, especially on Farah’s side.

My feminist sensibilities were deeply wounded by this book. The sexy times definitely entered the “gray” area at times; the only things that stopped me from closing my book in disgust at times was that Farah was an active and encouraging partner (not to mention really, really into it). Still, Dorian, that is no excuse for tying someone up without having an explicit discussion about it beforehand or refusing to leave when she is bathing.

So, why—when this book features so many tropes that I hate—am I about to give this book a decent rating?

Well first, and I think most importantly, I felt like Dorian honestly respected Farah—and not in the super annoying “I respect her for her innocence, goodness, and virginity” way that these sort of books often feature. There was real respect there: for Farah’s strength, for her intelligence, and for her resilience. And I’m just such a sucker for respect.

Secondly, this book was not annoying. The risk with this sort of plot is that oftentimes the book drowns in angst. And yet Byrne does an amazing job of making her it doesn’t. It was extremely well written and despite the far-fetched plot, the emotions felt very real. The characters were very three-dimensional: Bryne does not just excuse Dorian’s criminality just by referencing his terrible past and Farah is never portrayed as some sort of beacon of light. And well these kinds of bad boy stories will never be my favorite, I have to admire when they are done well.

 

Rating 3.7/5

 

 

Book Review: Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 1.07.50 PM.pngUgh. I really just don’t know how I feel about this book. On one hand, I liked it. On the other hand, meh. I just found—to use some middle school English concepts here—there was a lot of telling, but not a lot of showing when it came to Jack and Amanda’s relationship. Well, let me amend that statement: there was a lot of showing during sexy time scenes but none elsewhere. And as a reader who enjoys romances for their HEA but not their XXX scenes, this was quite a letdown.

The book tells the love story of novelist Amanda Briars and publishing giant Jack Devlin. Amanda, after spending her twenties caring for her ailing father, is a 30-year-old virgin. While she’d love to have a family, she highly doubts that she’ll meet the right man—or any man at all. Thus, she decides to hire a prostitute for her birthday and see what she is missing out on.

Jack has spent his life building an empire after being abandoned in an orphanage when he was young. He is ruthless, charismatic, and has little desire for a family. Unlike most romance novel heroes—who really just fear monogamy—Jack’s reasons for not wanting a family is somewhat legit: he hates kids and has put his career above all else.  He is close friends with a madame of a brothel (he published her book) so when she tells him to show up at Amanda’s address at a certain time he doesn’t really question it (he desperately wants to publish Amanda’s books). Little does he know that the madame is trying her hand at matchmaking…

This book just had so much potential for witty conversations, funny scenes, and heartfelt moments and yet it lacked all three. For goodness sake, the entire premise of the book should set itself up for hilarity! And yet it wasn’t. Readers were privy to one amusing scene: Amanda mistaking Jack for her boy toy and that was it. Other than that one scene—and mind you it is the very first in the book—I never found myself smiling.

Furthermore, the two characters were essentially made more each other: a novelist and a publishing giant. Both are intelligent, loyal, and ambitious. And yet the chemistry between the two was non-existent except in bed. Kleypas relies too heavily on sexy time scenes to build a relationship in this book. She tells us that their dinners and conversations were intelligent and amusing, but we don’t get to experience them. All of the interactions between Devlin and Amanda are in bed or them having serious discussions about their relationship.

This book is not bad. In fact, I actually liked it: it is well-written with a creative plot. Yet, and I don’t say this about books—especially Lisa Kleypas’s—lightly, it was dull.

Rating: 3/5

 

Book Review: While the Duke was Sleeping by Sophie Jordan

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 4.23.26 PM.pngThis book was a wee bit too angsty for me. Which was really such a shame because the book’s plot had so much potential and the heroine, Poppy Fairchurch, was simply amazing. Just I could not get myself to like our hero. At all.

To briefly recap the plot:

Poppy Fairchurch works at a flower shop where she regularly sees the Duke of Autenberry. Poppy fancies herself in love with the Duke: she admires the fact that he picks out flowers for his (multiple) mistresses himself. Which is definitely a suss reason to fall in love, and definitely not a reason to throw yourself in front of a carriage trying to save the dude.

Yet, Poppy does just that. Except she only sort-of saves him: after the incident, he enters a coma. Within all the chaos of the incident, Poppy is mistaken for the Duke’s fiancée and rolls with it. And somehow, everyone buys it—even the duke’s family!

Well….minus Struan Mackenzie, the duke’s estranged illegitimate half-brother, who is very sexy, very rich, and very, very, brooding.

Now, I’m going to be real here: I really don’t care whether or not a plot is historically accurate. I read regency romance novels mostly as fantasy instead of historical fiction. Yet, even me—with my very pitiful standards—will acknowledge how ridiculous this plot is.

Duke+shopgirl = unbelievable

Duke+shopgirl+secret engagement= very unbelievable

Duke+shopgirl+secret engagement+no one question it= very, VERY, unbeliable.

So, in short, if you are someone who cares about the plausibility of books stay far away from this one!

However, that was not my problem with this book. My biggest problem was Struan: I just, for the life of me, could not see what positive qualities he possessed. He was way too possessive, grumpy, and just plain rude. I don’t care how much you dislike your brother: you don’t seduce his fiancée while he’s in a coma. Especially when she says “no” and “go away” like thirty times, but you keep trying. He just gave off super creepy vibes.

Not to mention, that his entire “relationship” with Poppy was essentially just lust. I never saw any mutual respect, or really any mutual we-are-enjoying-ourselves-in-each-other’s-presence time—other than, of course, sexy times. Which is just not a way you build a relationship.

To conclude, don’t read this book. I’ll give it 2 stars but really just because of Poppy (she was a really *popping* character).

Rating: 2/5

 

Book Review: The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

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This was a rare treat of a book for one simple reason: I high-key hated both of the main characters and yet managed to ship their relationship the entire length of the book. I have never seen a regency novel where the mutual respect between the hero and the heroine is so obvious. Unfortunately, both of the main characters are definitely sociopaths. But apparently one hot Marquess sociopath + one social-climbing-wax boobed-sociopath = true love.

Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, is rich, charming, well-mannered, and secretly a complete jackass that gets off on public adulation. He, by the rest of the ton, is considered the Ideal Gentleman.

Meanwhile. Louisa Cantwell has built a carefully laid out battleplan and donned wax boobs plan that she snag a man way above her position. She is manipulative, intelligent, and apparently is going on this husband hunting mission just to help her sisters.

When Louisa meets Felix, she instantly sees through his facade. When Felix meets Louisa, he instantly sees through her facade. And while neither trust each other, apparently recognizing a fellow sociopath really gets one’s engines running. The lust is real folks.

When Felix proposes, Louisa has no choice but to say yes—after all, he has managed to scare off all of her other suitors. And so, the games begin.

What I really enjoyed about this book was how the love between Felix and Louisa grew slowly. While it was definitely lust at first sight, it wasn’t one of those books where the characters decide that they can’t live without each other in the span of two days. Instead, their love grew from their mutual appreciation of social manipulation and intelligence.

Thus, while neither Louisa nor Felix were particularly likable characters, their relationship felt more real than any other Regency romance I’ve ever read. While I definitely wouldn’t want all Regency romances to feel this realistic, this book really benefitted from the slow growth of their relationship.

When you read as many Regency romances as I do, at some point they begin to blur together. However, this book stands out. It is much less fairytale-like and features much more complex characters than normal. Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about the difference. On one hand, it is refreshing. On the other hand, I definitely not want all Regency books to emulate this realism.

Rating: 4/5 

 

 

 

Book Review: A Week to be Wicked

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 9.10.03 PM.pngI absolutely love this book. It has everything: likable characters, a great plot, hilarious scenes, and visible chemistry. Tessa Dare is one of my favorite authors and she outdid herself with this book.

This book was actually one of the very first Regency romance novels I read—I just re-re-re-read it this past week.  I like to think of this book as a gateway drug to the addicting world of Dukes, ladies, and bastards that define the Regency genre.

The hero of this book is Lord Payne, a Viscount stuck in Spindle Cove at the mercy of his cousin who refuses to give him any money to return to London (where Payne can drink and sleep-a-round a lot). Lord Payne just has a few months left until he comes into his inheritance he can stop relying on his cousin (who by the way is a very decent fellow trying to get Payne on the straight and narrow). He is bored, restless, and absolutely desperate to leave.

Meanwhile, Minerva Highwood is also desperate to escape Spindle Cove—but just for a week so she can attend a geology symposium. After all, if she can just make it to the symposium, she can reveal the fossil of a great lizard footprint (in modern-day-we-know-science lingo a dinosaur) she found in a cave to the world! Oh, and win the sick 500 guinea prize for best research.

Minerva presents Lord Payne with a deal: If he can get her to the conference (in Scotland), she will give him the 500 guineas. The deal is set, and off Minerva and Lord Payne go!

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I want to applaud Dare on Lord Payne’s backstory. So often, authors use a bad childhood experience backstory to excuse and justify the terrible and selfish actions of heroes. Lord Payne wasn’t like that: he was very self-aware of his own flaws and strove to fix them even before he met Minerva. Dare does an amazing job of not falling into the typical “girl fixes bad boy” romance trope. Furthermore, other than their first interaction, Lord Payne always treats Minerva with the utmost respect.

Also… Lord Payne is just a really entertaining dude. He is super funny, considerate, and gets him and Minerva in the craziest situations. 10/10 would date.

But Minerva is the real gem of this book. Writing a good romance heroine is hard work and Dare executes Minerva’s character amazingly. Minerva is smart, stubborn, and dedicated—not to mention wildly courageous. Her dedication to her research is admirable, but her dedication to the people she loves is even more so.

With two amazing characters, and a plotline set up for success, Dare delivers on witty banter, scenes that leave you giggling out loud, and actual investment in the story.

Also, this quote exists:

“Surely it can’t be,” he said, his hand stealing over her thigh, “that this intrepid explorer of underwater caverns hasn’t explored her own little cove?” 

That quote, no joke, make me laugh for a solid five minutes. I don’t know how Minerva continued hooking up with him after that. That would have killed the mood so hard.

Rating: 4.8/5

Book Review: What Happens At Christmas

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 4.25.14 PM.pngWhat Happens at Christmas was my very first Victoria Alexander book. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately bought the other four books in the series!

Just by the premise of the book alone I knew I would love it. Lady Camille Lydingham is a wealthy young widow with her eye on Prince Nikolai Prunzinsky of Greater Avalonia. Mostly because he is hot and is a Prince. Deciding to capitalize on the information that the Prince has always wanted to experience a traditional English Christmas, Lady Camille decides to invite him to her family manor for Christmas. However, Lady Camille has a problem: her family is seriously embarrassing. So what is a resourceful rich woman to do? Hire a troop of actors to their place!

Grayson Elliot has just returned to England after building a fortune in America. Years ago, he and Camille were best friends. But when he decided to tell her that he loved her the day because her wedding the friendship (obviously) fell apart. When he discovers Lady Camille’s charade, however, he sees his perfect opportunity to worm his way back into her life — by pretending to be her cousin!

I think I smiled or laughed my way through this entire book. That is not to say that the book was perfect: both Lady Camille and Grayson weren’t the easiest characters to fall in love with. Lady Camille was selfish and shallow, and Grayson definitely acted like an idiot at times. Yet the chemistry between the two characters was sizzling and their personalities matched seamlessly.

However, what made this book so special were the supporting characters: especially the acting trope! I don’t want to spoil the jokes, but just trust me that whenever the acting trope is involved in a scene you will laugh.

Rating: 4/5