Book Review: Marry in Scandal by Annie Gracie

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 5.28.46 PM.pngTo my chagrin, this book was such an utter disappointment. While Annie Gracie has never been one of my favorite authors, her books are always solidly decent and engaging. However, this book was simply dreadfully dull. It was a complete chore to get through. A complete snooze fest.

The beginning of the book starts out decently enough. Lady Lily Rutherford is kidnapped (a real shake-up from the typical trope of random kidnapping at the end of books) for her inheritance. In the process of escaping she runs into her brother’s friend Edward Galbraith.

Edward Galbraith isn’t really sure what to think about Lily (other than that she gets his engines running), but knows he has to return her home safely. However, when word gets out that they traveled through the countryside together, scandal and propriety forces them to marry.

All of this is set up for a greatly entertaining book but it just fell flat. It was definitely insta-love on Lady Lily’s part. Of course, her infatuation makes sense—Edward did save her life. However, I never really felt like Lady Lily moved past her hero worship of Edward. Her feelings for him reminded me more of a young girl’s endless devotion to a boy band than a deep love grown out of mutual respect. Furthermore, I just found Lady Lily a thoroughly annoying character. Gracie waxes on about Lady Lily’s loyalty and ability to forgive but all I saw was a girl that lets everyone walk all over her.

Edward wasn’t much better. He was a very angsty man who just wallowed in his own misery for most of the book. For the life of me, I couldn’t see why Lily found him so appealing. The chemistry between Edward and Lily (other than during sexy times) felt non-existent. There were too many scenes in this book where they just sat in comfortable silence. While I understand that some people are more talkative than others, and that “comfortable silence” is important, one does need to converse to build a proper relationship.

I give this book two stars instead of one because it never made me angry or deeply uncomfortable. I never wanted to chuck my Kindle at the ground or murder one of the main characters. Furthermore, it was well written. That is it for the nice things I have to say about this book. It was painstakingly boring and the characters were annoying. Definitely a miss.

Rating: 2/5

Book Review: Born to Be Wilde by Eloisa James

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For the past three months, I have thought about this book every single day.

I am not exaggerating.

Eloisa James is arguably my favorite author and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both of her Wilde books so far. Yet, throughout the two books, I salivated at every scene that featured Lavinia and Parth—their bickering made the series for me. Needless to say I was very, very, very excited for this book.

So last night, at nine pm (I live on the West Coast), when the book popped up on my Kindle homepage I screamed. I sounded like a sixth-grade girl at the release of a Justin Bieber album. I promptly ignored the entire world (including my ten friends at my house for Bachelorette night) and started reading.

This book thoroughly met my expectations. I’ve already read it twice. It gave me all of the warm and fuzzy feelings and at least five daydreams. Watching Lavinia and Parth dance around their feelings touched my little heart.

This book was much darker than I excepted. Lavinia is dealing with her mom who, in the depths of an opioid addiction, squandered Lavinia’s dowry and stole from their friends. At the beginning of the book, Lavinia asks Parth to marry her out of desperation. Of course, she also asks due to her lingering infatuation—all of those insults she flung around for the past two books were really just a product of her inability to express her feelings. A very relatable issue to be honest.

Parth doesn’t know what to do with Lavinia after discovering her circumstances. He promises to help find her an adequate spouse but the more time he spends around Lavinia he begins to recognize her intelligence, her acute business acumen, and gains respect for her passion for fashion. She is not at the shallow vain girl that he once pegged her as.

This book is a gradual burn: lust is not conflated with love and there are very few sexy time scenes. In some ways, the book is less about Parth and Lavinia’s romance and more about Lavinia’s journey to find her confidence and self-worth. Born to be Wilde did not wallow in angst, but it is not a cheery read either. If you come into this book excepting 300 pages of silly flirtation and hurling insults (essentially Parth and Lavinia’s relationship in the previous two books), you will be disappointed. The reality of Lavinia’s situation is grim, and Eloisa James does not sugarcoat. However, the serious tone of the book fits the plot and definitely brings new depth to the characters we first met in Wilde in Love. And, as someone who loves cutesy romances, I actually believe the book is all the stronger for its serious tone.

I truly believe this is one of Eloisa James’ best books. While her writing is always superb, I don’t always like James’ characters. I loved Parth: his dedication to the Wildes, his confidence, and his sardonic humor. However, this is Lavinia’s book. Her quiet strength, ambition, and grab-the-bull-by-its-horns approach to life made her one of my favorite romance heroines of all time.

While this book can definitely be read as a standalone, I would highly recommend reading the previous two books in the series so you can gain a sense of Parth and Lavinia’s relationship before this book.

This book simply amazing. It has earned a spot on my all times favs shelf.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath

Screen Shot 2018-07-29 at 4.24.07 PM.pngI  thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it wholeheartedly.

The book follows Mick Trewlove, a successful London businessman, in his quest to destroy the man who sired him—the Duke of Hedley who gave him away to a poor widow as a boy. Mick plans to beggar him by taking advantage of his gambling addict son, Kipwick, and seduce the Duke of Hedley’s ward, Lady Aslyn Hastings (who also happens to be Kipwick’s betrothed). However, in the process of his revenge, he falls in grows to care for Lady Aslyn; his plans start to unravel as he is forced to make the decision between revenge and love.

I avoided reading this book for as long as I possibly could: the plot seemed too similar to Sarah Maclean’s The Wicked and the Wallflower—one of my least favorite books of all time. I was worried the book would be overconsumed by angst, broodiness, and more lust than love.

That said, I’m so glad I decided to break down and purchase this book. Every scene surprised me as the book dodged trope by trope. The romantic connection existed between Mick and Lady Aslyn before they acted on it (a real shocker when it comes to historical romance). Lady Aslyn admired Mick’s success, his loyalty, and progressive views—she wasn’t just drawn to him because he was a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Mick never doubted his feelings for Lady Aslyn, never went on a long self-pity fest of “I don’t deserve her,” and respected her. Furthermore, the twist at the end of the book was superb: I didn’t see it coming at all. Honestly, this book was one of the least predictable romances I’ve ever read.

The real strength of this book lies in the characters. It is hard to do a romance hero—particularly a regency one (especially since the time period was sexist as heck)—well and Lorraine does a phenomenal job with Mick. While Mick is haunted by the demons of his past, he (thank heavens) is not a brooding, angsty, high-key alcoholic hero. While he is motivated by revenge, he cares more about love and family. Also—always needed for a good romance—he was just amazing at flirting (in the words of my favorite reality TV show Love Island he had “great chat”). Yet his most appealing characteristic was his kindness: I know he will treat Lady Aslyn like a princess for the rest of their lives.

Lorraine’s secondary characters also rocked. In this book nobody was all “good” or all “bad.” Everyone was a shade of gray, having made mistakes they are desperate to atone for. I really, really, liked that about this book. It made the book feel realistic despite the absurdity of the plot: everybody was three-dimensional, complicated, and more than a little bit messy.

In conclusion, this was one of Lorraine Heath’s best books and a definite must read for any historical romance junkie.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: How to Capture a Countess by Karen Hawkins

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 4.25.29 PM.pngRose Balfour is:

  • stubborn
  • adventurous
  • a great archer and horse rider
  • amusing
  • loyal
  • sometimes somewhat responsible.

She is not:

  • a great beauty
  • an heiress
  • a Lady

So when she finds herself flirting with the infamous Lord Alton Sinclair (otherwise known as Lord Sin…the man really likes to drink and sleep around) at a ball, she seizes her opportunity to steal her very first kiss. When the kiss gets a little too hot to handle, she freaks out and pushes Lord Sin into a fountain (which, by the way, is totally something I would do—I understand you Rose!).

Society takes one look at the wet Lord Sin and nicknames him “Lord Fin.” Needless to say: Lord Fin gets angry. And even angrier when he realizes Rose has fled to the countryside leaving him alone to deal with the scandal.

Six years later, Lord Sin has only descended further into his profligate ways. His Grandmother—the Duchess of Roxburghe—decides that something needs to be done (or, to put it bluntly, someone respectful needs to be done). Using an unsuspecting Rose as bait, she lures him to her estate.

When the two reunite, sparks fly. The two bicker constantly while trying to decide what to do with the sexual tension between them. While Rose decides to ignore it, Lord Sin attempts to fan the sparks into a raging flame. Anyways, you’ll never guess who wins (sarcasm… this is a romance novel folk!)

Real question: Did that metaphor about fire I just used even make sense?

While I really liked this book, I felt like something was missing. I didn’t find Lord Sin or Rose particularly compelling characters: they both were ridiculously competitive which made their interactions funny but also made me terrified for their future children. Honestly, I struggled to find any redeeming qualities in Lord Sin. He just sort of seemed like a super obnoxious tool. Rose was fine, but she was kind of forgettable. Finally, I never really felt the love between Rose and Lord Sin: it was just super intense lust 24/7. They just sort of fought or hooked up. To reiterate: I’m terrified for their future children.

But the wonderfully witty dialogue and the amusing plot made up for most of the character faults. Also, I’m just such a freaking sucker for a hate to love story.

Rating: 3.7/5

 

 

 

 

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

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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