Book Review: You Never Forget Your First Earl by Ella Quinn

Screen Shot 2018-07-17 at 2.34.55 PM.pngThis book was dreadfully dull. At first, I just thought the book was just boring because I started reading right before I went to bed, but I was wrong. In the light of day, this book still made me want to fall asleep.

I felt like the book lacked a plot: seventy-five percent of the book was literally just Elizabeth Turley—a popular young society miss—and Lord Harrington—heir to an earldom—courting. And a very boring courtship at that. There was no intrigue, scandals, or any doubt that the characters would end up getting married. They literally just drive around, get ices, discuss politics and smile. The courtship doesn’t even include any particularly cute or funny scenes for goodness sake!

It is only in the last quarter of the book that there is any sort of strife between Lord Harrington and Elizabeth happens. And the strife is just so freaking dumb: both of them act super childish and immature when a simple conversation could have mended their issues.

Communication is just not that complicated kids!

The only remotely interesting scenes in this book happen at the very end when Lord Harrington and Elizabeth move to Brussels for his diplomat position. I’m not going to spoil it (in case you actually want to read this book—which I would not recommend), but there is a pretty decent climax. Unfortunately, by the time the characters moved to Brussels, I just couldn’t care less about their relationship.

As characters Elizabeth and Lord Harrington were fine. Elizabeth had many positive traits (resiliency, strength, loyalty) but she often came across as ridiculously childish. Which, arguably, is fair: she is a teenage in the midst of her first season. But regardless, her immaturity when it came to conflict resolution with Lord Harrington really bothered me—being passive aggressiveness is just never the answer.

As far as Lord Harrington….I spent the majority of the book wanting to hit him over the head with a stick. For someone obviously quite intelligent, he is unbelievably daft when it comes to women. I found his inability to discern Elizabeth’s feelings I found equally amusing and frustrating.

In conclusion, while I didn’t hate this book I didn’t like it either. While I never got actively angry or disgusted with the book, my eyes glazed over while reading it.

Random Side Note: This is one of my favorite book covers of all time.

Rating: 2/5

 

Book Review: What Happens in London by Julia Quinn

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 3.31.14 PM.pngI read this book on the plane and laughed so hard that I started crying. The woman next to me had to ask if I was okay.

Needless to say, I loved this book: I would give it six stars if I could and it definitely earns a spot on my list of all-time favorites.

Honestly, typically,  Julia Quinn isn’t my favorite author. I don’t dislike her books, but I don’t seek them out either. While she is an excellent writer, I tend to find her plots a little bit dull. Yet this book was anything but! It was just one big glorious mess of “what the heck is going on?”

This book follows the love story of Olivia Bevelstoke and Sir Harry Valentine. The two characters could not be more different: Olivia is the bell of the ball, loves gossip, and shopping for fancy clothes. Meanwhile, Sir Harry Valentine diligently works for the War Office translating Russian documents. He has no interest in balls or flirting and spends most of the day in his office working.

After spying Harry through her window, Olivia becomes convinced he is hiding something (because, really, can someone actually work that much?). Thus, she decides to hide behind the curtains and watch him all day long.

Harry finds the entire situation amusing, but when Olivia gets involved with a Russian prince suddenly her spying doesn’t feel so harmless. When his superiors demand Harry spies on Olivia back sparks fly.

I loved both Harry and Olivia—particularly Henry. We all know how difficult it is to create a regency hero who isn’t a complete tool. And Henry? Definitely not a tool. 10/10 would date. He is dedicated, intelligent, loyal to his family, and completely crazy about Olivia. Furthermore, despite his love of routine and normalcy, he has a surprisingly good sense of humor. The interactions between the two of them always made me smile; the chemistry was definitely there.

However, what catapults this book from just really good to absolutely amazing it is the supporting characters and Russian spy sub-plot. Prince Alexei is amazing and wonderful and don’t even get me started on Harry’s cousin Sebastian and his antics. Not to mention that every time there was an exert from a Miss Butterworth book I snort laughed. Oh to the poor woman next to me on the plane: I’m so very sorry.

But to everyone else: Read this book.

Rating: 5/5

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

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 4.11.51 PM.png

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

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 8.10.41 AM.png

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