Devil Takes a Bride by Gaelen Foley

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 8.51.33 PM.pngIf you’ve read my reviews regularly, you know that characters named “Devil,” “Beast” or any other strange “I guess this is supposed to show what a bad boy he is” name really bothers me. It’s a pet peeve of mine; it just feels like lazy writing. Therefore, it is a testament to how much I enjoyed this book that I’m still able to give Devil Takes A Bride four stars. After all, Foley does nickname our hero, the Viscount of Strathmore, “Devil” (his real name, Devlin, by the way, is much better).

Our story starts out soon after Devlin has made his way back to London. When Devlin was a teenager, his parents were tragically killed leading him to go seriously off the deep end. In response, his Grandmother, the Dowager Viscountess, kicked him out of England to go find himself on a ship. And he did. Which is why, although most of London thinks he is back to his wild ways, in reality, Devlin is desperately searching for his parents’ murderer.

Lizzie Carlisle—lady’s companion to the Dowager Viscountess Strathmore—is one of those haters. She has a huge ax to grind with irresponsible men after getting her heart shattered so when she sees gambling bill after gambling bill sent to her employer, she decides its time to teach the Viscount a lesson by sending him a letter saying that his grandmother is dying.

And thus the hijinks begin (that I will not spoil)

This book, like many of Foley’s, almost sits at the edge of romance and thriller. The men Devlin investigates are seriously scummy—many have committed rape and murder. The danger faced by our two characters is real (there are no random unnecessary kidnappings in this book) and present throughout the novel. However, despite the fact that probably half of the book’s words are devoted the mystery, I never felt like the romance between Devlin and Lizzie was lacking. Foley does an amazing job of navigating these two plots and giving them both justice. I honestly felt like neither were rushed.

Devlin was such a complex hero. He was very singularly focused on avenging his parents and I loved reading how his relationship with Lizzie affected his mission. His emotions over his parents’ death and his reactions felt so real. I could feel Devlin’s guilt and burden as a reader.

At the same time, I appreciated that the book didn’t drown in Devlin’s angst. The interactions between Lizzie and Devlin often left me smiling and I even giggled at a few points. Pretty remarkable when you consider just how heavy the plot was at times.

Lizzie was the perfect heroine for Devlin. She was kind and caring while also having a backbone of steel. While initially wary of Devlin, she soon let go of her first impression and trusted the goodness in him instead of his reputation. That said, I wish we had gotten to know Lizzie better: Devil Takes A Bride was primarily Devlin’s book and oftentimes it felt like Lizzie was just a supporting character.

In conclusion, this book was beautifully written with interesting characters. It is the kind of book that you will stay up to finish with a smile on your face.

Rating: 4/5

Dukes Are Forever by Anna Harrington

Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 3.18.34 PM.pngI did not like this book. At all. It made me low-key uncomfortable and I’m high-key disappointed in Anna Harrington—I tend to enjoy her books. But this book was just so…so…icky. I can’t remember the last time I disliked a hero so much and the heroine wasn’t much better. The power dynamics in the book (which followed the trope of a ward and guardian) made me uneasy: our hero was incredibly controlling and our heroine incredibly immature, which resulted in a situation that seemed mildly emotionally abusive.

Our “hero” is the Duke of Swarthmore, Edward Westover, who has spent the past few years of his life attempting to destroy the life of Phillip Benton, who killed his brother and sister-in-law while racing his phaeton completely trashed. In order to do that, Edward has bought up all the man’s debts and, in the process, unknowingly received a ward—Benton’s daughter. When he discovers his guardianship, he goes to meet his ward assuming she is a young girl enamored by dolls.

She is not.

Kate Benton is actually 21 and has zero patience for the fact that her rights were just signed over to a man she has never met. While she thinks he is handsome, she values her freedom, her passion for medicine, and her role at Brambly House—a small estate left to her by her mother. While at first glance, Kate seems like she would be an amazing character she is quite honestly one of the most immature and annoying heroines ever. Honestly, for most of the book, she acted like she was twelve. She was whiney, made some terrible decisions, and just generally came across as ungrateful and incredibly irresponsible.

However, my dislike for Kate pales in comparison to my disdain for Edward. Ugh. What an awful controlling, boring, and manipulative man. Literally the definition of a chauvinist. He never listened to Kate’s requests, lorded the guardianship over her, and micromanaged her life like she actually was a child (which honestly she sort of acted like sometimes). However, what bothered me the most was his treatment of Kate: he flip-flopped between lusting after her and treating her like she was the devil herself through slut-shaming and accusing her of using her sexuality to manipulate him. It was just disgusting.

The result? A relationship that lacked mutual respect, trust, and, from what I could see, love. The ward-guardianship trope only highlighted the deeply disturbing dynamics in the relationship. I kept on reading, hoping it would get healthier, but it never did.

Anna Harrington, I normally like your books, but this one left a horrible taste in my mouth.

Rating: 1.5/5

My Own True Duchess by Grace Burrowes

Screen Shot 2019-01-04 at 6.05.07 PM.pngAnd I’m back!

It’s been a long semester and a (very) hectic holiday season but I finally have time to seriously binge read and review again 🙂

Today, while swinging on a hammock, I read My Own True Duchess. I thoroughly enjoyed the story even though I tend to shy away from Grace Burrowes’ books—while a fabulous writer, her books have such a serious tone and thus are a lot less “fluffy” than other historical romance novels. Or, at least, I feel that way; I find that I comparatively smile and giggle less. I think it’s because Burrows’ dialogue is packed with pleasantries or lengthy emotional speeches—there is little, if any, humorous flirting.

That said, Burrowes does a great job of building complex characters and believable romances. My Own True Duchess (a title, by the way, that I love) is no exception.

Our hero is Jonathan Tresham, heir to the Duke of Quimbey, who is a bit aloof and definitely somewhat oblivious but possesses an impeccable memory and an ability to immediately recognize patterns. He has made his own fortune through owning the gentlemen’s club “The Coventry.” I really liked Jonathan if only for the reason that he was just such a stand-up guy. Rakes and rouges are fun and all but it was nice to read a book about a hero—especially a hero who owned a gambling club—who hasn’t slept with every woman in London and drowned himself in a tankard of whiskey every night. He loves his job because he is drawn to probabilities and numbers, not because of a love of gambling. Case in point: for most of the book, his ideal night was to sit in his room and stare at ledgers.

Widow Theodosia Haviland was married to a complete scumbag for many years and lives heavily in debt trying to repay her late husbands’ creditors. When Jonathan hires her as a matchmaker she tries her best to find him a suitable wife but falls for him instead.

Brief interlude:

I just want to say that the blurb for this book was truly awful. The description of Theo as a “widow guarding scandalous secrets” with “an entirely inappropriate attraction to the one man she can never have” was just false. What secrets (she is pretty darn open about her life early on to Jonathan)? And what inappropriate attraction (she deems him suitable for marriage pretty quick? The primary plot of the book actually has to do with Jonathan, who is experiencing problems with his club and finding the culprit behind them.

I liked Theo. As a character, she wasn’t very warm—she had gone through hell and back and you could tell—but her loyalty and strength shone through. She was incredibly mature, a rare trait for a historical romance novel heroine.

In fact, that might be the word I’m looking for: “mature.” This book has two very mature main characters. Their love grows from mutual respect instead of zany instances and outrageous flirtation. Which both makes their relationship seem much more realistic but also much blander. And didn’t put a dumb smile on my face the entire time I read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 9.20.52 AM.pngI tend to really enjoy Tessa Dare’s book: they make me giggle and her heroes tend to not get on my nerves. Moreover, I find that even when she follows a cliché predictable plot, she manages to almost always find a fresh take—normally by writing very memorable characters. However, for me, I found that this book missed the mark. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was fine, but it just wasn’t great.

This book (in case you couldn’t guess by the name) is your stereotypical governess-meets-rake romance. It stars Alexandra Mountbatten—who used to adjust the time on clocks but after her fixing instrument breaks takes the governess job out of desperation—and Chase Reynaud—a future duke with two young and rambunctious wards who has currently taken over the house’s housekeeping quarters to install a sexy time cave.

The book is absurdly predictable. Seriously, I don’t think there was even one creative plot twist or some attempt to distinguish it from the plethora of other governess romances. Thus, Dare relies heavily on a reader falling in love with both Alexandra and Chase. Which is easy to do: Alexandra is an amazing character with a spine of steel and an interesting background and Chase (while he takes some warming up to) is kind and funny. However, the real stars of the show are the secondary characters: Rosamund and Daisy (the two wards) with their doll funerals and kleptomaniac tendencies. And Alexandra’s friends—particularly Lady Penelope with her obsession with helping wounded animals and disgusting vegetarian sandwiches—are wonderful. However, despite the characters are lovely (not to mention many scenes that made me laugh out loud), I just couldn’t get over how almost lazy and uncreative the plot was. When I can guess essentially chapter-by-chapter what will happen a book just isn’t very interesting.

Of course, I’ve read hundreds of historical romances so one could argue I’m pretty jaded when it comes to plots. And this summer I’ve super-duper binged on them. Henceforth, this review is definitely harsher than it would have been if this was the very first governess-meets-rake romance I’d read. Or even the 10th. Therefore, despite my grips, I do recommend this book: it features wonderful characters and Tessa Dare’s trademark humor in spades. Moreover, it is definitely on the stronger end of governess and rake romances. I just can’t bring myself to characterize this book as a must read.

Rating: 3/5.

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Book Review: When Harry Met Molly by Kieran Kramer

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 6.37.27 PMThis book was just so bad. I’ve been flirting with reading it for a while now (the premise seemed very silly but Goodreads really wanted to recommend it to me), so when I was in the mood for a silly romance earlier this week I finally relented.

Never again will I go against my “I think this book is gonna suck” sense just because of a cute title and a model that looks vaguely like Daisy Riddley. I’ve learned my lesson.

The book stars Lord Harry Traemore who somehow manages to be a grade A skeevy asshole while being the world’s most boring hero. He is one of the society’s “Impossible Bachelors;” he competes in this stupid bet set up by the Prince Regent where a bunch of rakes go head-to-head over who has the hottest mistress—the winner gets to avoid matrimony for a year and the loser has to get married to a girl of the other “Impossible Bachelors'” choosing.

This bet is both incredibly unrealistic (normally I don’t give a fig about staying true to the time period but the Prince Regent really…?), juvenile, and also just insulting to women. It sounds like it was dreamt up by middle schoolers, not people in their 30’s!

Meanwhile, Lady Molly Fairbanks has decided to elope with a guy she really isn’t that into. She just really wants to be married and get the whole husband hunting thing over with. However, before they get to Gretna Green, the couple has to spend a night at a travel inn. And guess who she runs into at the inn? Her childhood nemesis Lord Harry with his latest hottie on his way the “Most Delectable Companion” contest. However, tragedy (?) strikes when her finance and his mistress run off together leaving Harry and Molly high and dry.

Now Harry…oh Harry…decides that the solution to this is not to:
a. offer Molly a ride home
b. offer to save her reputation and marry her

but instead:
c. give her an ultimatum between being stranded in the middle of nowhere (where most likely she’ll die) or pretending to be his mistress for his contest.

What the heck Harry? Now, I’ve read a lot of romance novels and I know a good author can manage to redeem a huge scoundrel. But, in my eyes, Harry is never redeemed. He continuously takes advantage of Molly, gets mad at her for being a crappy fake mistress, is drunk essentially 24/7, ruins her reputation tenfold, and never really manages to feel all that guilty about it. Not to mention, for the life of me I couldn’t see what appealing qualities he possessed! Because somehow, despite being a selfish jackass, he was about as interesting as a brown stick—one of the most one-dimensional heroes I’ve come across.

While I liked Molly she was very immature. She had a very rainbows-and-butterflies outlook on life and her feelings for Henry looked like a combination of Stockholm syndrome and a sixth grader’s crush on their teacher. Her interactions with the other mistresses looked reminded me of a bad made-for-DVD tween movie. She, like Henry, was also very one-dimensional.

Actually, this was just a one-dimensional book. Definitely missable, if not a hard pass.

Rating: 1/5

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Book Review: Love and Other Scandals by Caroline Linden

Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 11.50.24 AM.pngThis book gave me just all of the warm and fuzzy feelings. I read this book after a binge on angsty romances with intense subplots; this book was just the breath of fresh air that I needed. Sometimes you just need some good ole fluff in your life.

The story follows Joan Bennet, a wallflower approaching spinsterhood who honestly is the sassiest main character I’ve ever encountered. Her family is incredibly close (I love seeing this in a romance novel honestly…good parenting is just so hard to find) minus her older brother who is going through a wee bit of a rake phase. When her mom asks her to visit him in his bachelor lodgings and secure his promise to attend a ball, Joan runs smacks into her brother’s best friend Lord Burke shirtless.

The rest of the book is a classic good-girl-meets-rake and they fall desperately in love. I kept on waiting for a crazy subplot with some sort of kidnapping (like I said…it has been a week of insanity) but nope. I should probably re-read this book at a later date and see if it is still deserving of five stars, but the predictability and adorableness of this book drew me in.

I really, really, really loved both main characters. I could see myself becoming best friends with Joan and her secret interest in 50 Shades of Sin (a women’s pamphlet currently circulating around London) reminded me of hiding romance novels from my mom in middle school. I can see why a reader might not warm up to her—she does have a lot of attitude—but for me it was the right amount. Better than a simpering miss with no personality. Lord Burke (given name Tristan) was honestly a swoon-worthy hero. He was so charming and funny and gah—definitely a datable man. I loved watching him and Joan flirt. I giggled multiple times.

For some reason, this book felt like it could cater to a younger audience more than a lot of other Regency romances. Which, on some level, seems ridiculous given that the sexy times were more explicit than a lot of other Regency romances. But the romance between them was just so cute that it gave off more two-teenagers-falling-in-love-for-the-first-time vibes instead of two-adults-contemplating-marriage vibes. Personally, I found the book endearing but I can also see a possibility that someone might find the book a little bit immature.

To conclude, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a quick, adorable, funny read and I’m so glad it doesn’t feature insta-love (one of my least favorite tropes). I think it has earned a spot on my favorites shelf, but I’ll definitely need to give it another read when I’m not in an I-want-a-cute-romance mood to confirm.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Duke’s Holiday by Maggie Fenton

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 8.48.33 AM.pngDespite being over 400 pages, this book was an incredibly quick read. I snort-laughed multiple times (to the other people in the dentist’s waiting room: I’m sorry), wanted to strangle the main characters multiple times, and will probably read this book again multiple times. The book was absurdly predictable, full of every cliché possible, unbelievably unrealistic, and the writing was aggressively mediocre. All that said: What a hilariously fun book!

Since the beginning of time, the Montford dukedom (famous for their stuffiness) and the Honeywell family (famous for their homemade ale) have been sworn mortal enemies.  So when the Duke of Montford—his real name is Cyril…a truly awful name—discovers that the patriarch of the Honeywell family is dead, he wonders why on earth the estate (which is originally part of the Dukedom, but has been leased to the Honeywell for hundreds of years) is still running. And when his man of affairs doesn’t return after going to Yorkshire to inspect said estate there is only one thing for Montford to do: visit it himself.

At the estate, Montford meets the now matriarch of the Honeywell family: Astrid Honeywell—who really, really, really hates the fact that she has to relinquish her family estate just because of her gender. Astrid is the anthesis of Montford. She’s messy, unorganized, loud, and has a zeal for life. The two immediately clash as Astrid fights to keep her estate.

The hijinks that ensue in this book will make you laugh. The humor is not at all sophisticated in any sense—this is the book of slapstick humor. The two throw things at each other for goodness sake. But just the absolutely ridiculous scenarios that occur when the two try and one-up each other are golden. Even the “serious” scenes in this book feel like a bit of a joke. This book will definitely not tug at your heartstrings or bring about any emotion other than giddiness.

Quite honestly, neither of the characters were particularly likable. I liked Montford more than Astrid. Despite the fact that he definitely had a stick his butt, his cluelessness was endearing. I just wanted to give him a hug as I watched him grapple with a situation that went wildly out of control. Astrid was just…immensely immature. I would have believed she was 12 before I believed she was 26. She threw food at Montford! I know Fenton was trying to go with a strong independent woman vibe, but I got more moody-teenage-upset-at-her-parents vibe instead.

While the writing was fine, whoever edited this book missed the fact that essentially every single line of dialogue ended with an exclamation mark! I think I counted twenty on one page alone! I hope the rest of the series doesn’t make this mistake! It drove me crazy!

In conclusion, despite the fact that I think this review came off rather negative, I really did enjoy this read. You just need to know what you’re getting in for. If you ever need to get your mind off something serious, I would highly recommend this book.

Rating: 3.5/5