Tuesday

January 17, 2017
“Better run, girl,
You're much too young, girl
With all the charms of a woman
You've kept the secret of your youth
You led me to believe
You're old enough
To give me Love” -
written by Jerry Fuller, sung by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

http://julialondon.com/

I may have a different view of our heroine Margot than some of my fellow Petunia's. Before I get started on my small rant, let me say this: I liked Wild Wicked Scot. Did everything send me into raptures in this story? No. Were there moments when I wanted to reach through the book and choke somebody? Yes. Even with some of the things I found irritating, I became absorbed with the story, the characters, and wondered just how we would get a believable happy ending.

Plot. Our heroine, Margot, is married to a stranger, Arran, when she'd just turned 18. She is then packed off to Scotland to live with strangers. Here's the thing - she's very pampered, very spoiled, waited on hand and foot. She is used to a society of "friends", people who talk to her, laugh with her, surround her. She is a privileged young girl, isolated. Does she know her father's a deceitful liar who is using her for his own purposes? No, and why should she? He's never done anything but give her a comfortable life. The only thing he's done which upsets her world is marry her to a Scottish-alpha-male-lout (our hero Arran).

Margot. I found Margot to be a totally sympathetic character and I had no problem with her being spoiled. I also don't see a problem with the amount of time it took Margot to grow up. If anything I had a problem with the fact that she's the one who was expected to do alllll the changing. There was never one moment in this book in which our hero backed down, saw he was wrong or apologized. Oh sure, he wrote letters which he never sent, but it is always Margot who was the one who was expected to do all the work. She's the one who had to accept the uncouth villages, be happy her husband doesn't talk to her, be with people who talk a different language. She is expected to accept everything the way it is and never ever complain. I think it's a mistake for us as readers to expect an eighteen-year-old pampered girl to adapt and change in the strange environment she was thrust into. So, for me Margot's character was written realistically and I was cheering her on at every turn. If I have a problem (and it would be a small one) it is with Arran.

As I said before, he doesn't do any of the changing in this book. He is somewhat older than Margot. For him it is love at first sight; he falls in love with someone he has spotted on the balcony. He marries her and drags off to the wilds of Scotland, continues on with his life and expects her to blend in. Never once does he explain himself, he goes for days doing whatever it is he has to do and never tells her diddly squat. He's older than Margot, more experienced, he should know that occasionally he has to pay attention to his new, young wife. So, for me, both of the characters needed to change, not just Margot.

Now, you might think I didn't like this book. Wrong. Remember I said at the beginning I liked it, in fact I liked it a lot. It's just the little rant which distracts. I will admit it took me a chapter or two to understand and like the characters in this book. But then I found myself being absorbed into the book, reading most of the words and wanting it to last just a little bit longer. And, even though I included Arran's letters as part of my rant, those letters were soooo touching. Ms. London's writing when it revolves around those letters was truly magical. Not only do you feel Arran's despair, you also feel Margot's pain when she reads them. I loved the letter scenes.

Overall, I recommend this book. This is a character-driven story, with some pretty strong characters. Even if you have a problem with one of the characters in Wild Wicked Scot, there are some really wonderful moments in this book and you really shouldn't miss it. 

Time/Place: Scotland during the time of Queen Anne of England - big hair
Sensuality: Hot

Four Weddings and a Sixpence by Julia Quinn, Stefanie Sloane, Elizabeth Boyle and Laura Lee Guhrke

January 17, 2017
Four short stories, and three obligatory humpa-bumpa scenes.
 

http://juliaquinn.com/
http://www.stefaniesloane.com/
http://www.elizabethboyle.com/
https://lauraleeguhrke.com/
Over the holidays, I always like to have an anthology to read. Usually they are light, fluffy
and fast; just right for an evening in the chair with some a cup of hot chocolate in hand. But Four Weddings and a Sixpence required me to do an observation and a little bitty rant.

 
My itty-bitty rant.
I don't always feel it's necessary to include the requisite sex scene in all romance stories. Whether the story is long or short there should still be a reason to include one. Sometimes there just isn't enough space allowed for one; it shorts the character building. Or sometimes the galumpa-falumpa just doesn't fit in, it comes out of the blue, it jumps out at you and makes you choke on your chocolate. Ooohhhh my lovely authors, (especially veteran authors) you do not need to pound us over the head with a paragraph or page of sex to make us happy. Sometimes the story is better without it, especially a short story. There was one story in this anthology which didn't have any whankee-roo in it and it was the best one of the four. While the absence of a sex scene didn't necessarily make it better, it didn't hurt it either.


The mysterious sixpence. The story line of all four stories centers around a mysterious sixpence our four heroines find stuffed in a mattress when they are in school. I'm not sure why but they come up with the idea that it’s a lucky coin and will bring husbands to the one who is carrying it. No fairie godmother or anything to base this theory on. But hey, they are young and we need something to connect the stories. Works for me.

Something New, by Stefanie Sloane. In this one we have Anna who has to marry by the time she's twenty-one or there shall be dire circumstances. Rhys is the hero, a rake and in no hurry to marry. Through some twists and funny turns Rhys decides to help Anna find her husband. Of course this is Romanceland and he must fall in love with her, cross off all the other men on the list and make her fall in love with him. This was a light story, no shocks, no angst, just smooth sailing to the end. It was ok, except for the out-of-blue proverbial sex scene. B-

Something Borrowed, by Elizabeth Boyle is the standard pretend-fiancé story. Cordelia has invented a fiancé so her family will leave her alone. But her family and friends are expecting her and "fiancé" at the wedding of her dear friend Anna. Well as luck would have it, her childhood friend Kip shows up and she ropes him into it. This was a pretty well-rounded story development. Kip and Cordelia had a back-story, there was an obnoxious woman who Kip was going to propose to and just for laughs we have the twinkling-eyed Drew (Kip's brother) and ignore-what's-going-on companion, Kate Harrington. All of these secondary characters were developed enough to show up in bigger books. And, I hope they do. This was a sweet, funny tale, and except for the misunderstanding at the end after the (you guessed it) humpa-bumpa scene, I liked it. B

Something Blue, by Laura Lee Guhrke. Of all the stories in this anthology, this was my least favorite. This story was a downer, and I just wasn't in the holiday mood to read about lost love, trust, and traitors. We have Elinor and Lawrence. And, they just do not trust each other. Lawrence is trying to find information proving Elinor's father was involved in treason. And, Elinor plays the martyr card for too long defending her father. I found the whole story depressing, from the I-can't-trust-you-ever rigmarole to the galumpa-falumpa between two people who can't trust each other. It may have worked in a bigger book, but it was just not my cup of holiday cheer story. C-
 
A Sixpence in Her Shoe
, by Julia Quinn. This was my favorite story in the anthology and it's mainly due to our wonderful heroine, Bea. She's interested in the stars, her brain is mathematical, and she's always wanted to observe the skies. But she's a woman and she's not allowed. Then she bumps into Frederick, I mean she actually bumps into him. He is sort of an angst hero. He is the owner of only one eye or one working eye. But that problem doesn't hang the story up. In fact, this story doesn't get hung up on too much of anything. It's just a delightful fall in love, romantic story with one of the best first dates ever in it. What Frederick does for Bea is a real "hero" moment. A very romantic story. A-


Overall, most of the stories were ok, there was just one which didn't match my holiday mood but the last story was a smile-creator.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Questionable
Overall: B

The Lass Wore Black by Karen Ranney

January 10, 2017
A Beauty and the Beast tale

What is beauty? What is beastly? In The Lass Wore Black, by Karen Ranney, we get to
ponder that question in so many ways. In the prequel to this book, The Scandalous Scot, we met Catriona Cameron. Catriona is one of the most outwardly beautiful women to ever walk the earth. But on the inside, she is the beast. She's one nasty woman. She uses her beauty to get what she wants. She is entirely selfish, mean, nasty, catty, rotten - I can go on and on. I disliked her intensely in the previous book and I could see no way that Karen Ranney could redeem her enough to make her into a heroine. I must say that Karen gave it the good old college try, but in my opinion she wasn't quite successful in redeeming her to the point where I could actually like her.


I am glad I read this book, because I was really really interested in how Ms. Ranney was going to transform this beastly woman into a beauty. Well, first of all she took away her physical beauty. Catriona is involved in a horrific accident in the very beginning of the story. She has some damage to her arm and leg, but most of it is to her face. Catriona hides herself away, in her room, with her face covered by a veil. So now her face is as ugly as her personality. Her whole way of surviving the world, the only thing she knew, what made her popular is now gone. But, she is still a very unpleasant person and I could not feel any sympathy for her. And, that's ok, because I don't think at this point in the story I was supposed to feel sorry for her. I think the problem I had with Catriona wasn't really her but our hero Mark.

While I liked Mark all right, his character wasn't as fleshed out as Catriona. I didn't see him as being strong enough to give a balance to Catriona. And, when I say strong I don't mean some alpha hit-over-the-head-caveman-grunt-guy, I mean his personality was just sort of bland. Catriona was such a strong character; she was so angry, so defeated, so unlikable, that she overpowered the book. Mark's side of the story was weak. He was a nice guy, a good doctor. He loved his work, he saved poor orphans and single mothers, but he was almost boring and he was no match for Catriona. I didn't think they worked together as a couple, plus there were long segments of the book when they weren't together at all. I think it's very rare for a love story to work when the couple is separated for a lot of the book - it's been done in some stories, sad to say not this one just didn't succeed.

While I like the way Ms. Ranney writes, I didn't care for the couple as a couple. Catriona's story was a fascinating try at making a creepy person into a nice person but I felt it didn't completely work. She was too boo-hoo-poor-me for waaay too long - she didn't have her epiphany soon enough. I would have liked to have seen her struggle with her newfound awareness a little bit sooner... and while I liked Mark, he was no match for Catriona. The Lass Wore Black just didn't quite reach the plateau it was reaching for.

Time/Place: England 1860s-big skirt time
Sensuality: Hot, I guess

A Scandalous Scot by Karen Ranney

January 10, 2017
I wonder why Karen Ranney isn't one of my auto-buy authors.

I don't have an answer to that question; it's just one of those thoughts which go through
your mind and then you forget it. So, it appears I purchased some of Karen Ranney's books and never read them - OMG how could I lose track of my TBR pile - evidently very easily. I find it is easier to lose track of my books now that they are electronic than when they used to be an actual paper pile.


So, once upon a time there were two sisters, Jean and Catriona, and they had two books written about them. In fact they are part of the series with the profound title of Scottish Sisters series. A Scandalous Scot is about Jean MacDonald, aka Cameron, the nice sister. The sister who comes within an inch or two of being a martyr but most definitely qualifies as a doormat.

Here's the plot - there are spoilers. Jean and Catriona's father was a Doctor Cameron. His wife was dying, pleading for someone to end her pain - which he did. He was then executed for killing his wife. Now, because of the scandal, his two daughters are hiding away at a Scottish estate - Ballindair Castle. Their aunt Mary MacDonald is the housekeeper of the estate and she is trying to turn the two girls into "good" servants. As we soon find out, she has her hands full. While Jean and Catriona were not born to great wealth, they have had a comfortable life. So, life as a servant is a real setback for them. Jean (our heroine) is trying, she wants to make her aunt proud and she wants to be the best maid ever. Her problem is, she's a bit of a dreamer, a do-gooder and a ghost-hunter. She finds the supposed haunted Ballindair Castle enthralling and is hoping to run into a ghost or two along the way. Which explains why she is often in places she's not supposed to be. I was torn in my opinion of Jean. One moment she was an engaging, funny person, then the next she was a doormat for her sister Catriona. Let's talk about Catriona.

Catriona is a secondary character, but she is also a steals scenes. She's a pretty loathsome character, which is why when I found out she was going to be the heroine in her own book I was somewhat shocked. Each page I turned, the deeper I got into this book, the more Catriona disgusted me. Just the thought that she was going to be a heroine disturbed me enough to lessen my enjoyment of A Scandalous Scot. Catriona also brings up another unanswered issue I have and it concerns siblings. Catriona walks alllll over Jean, and Jean allows it for the longest time. I just couldn't understand why Jean put up with Catriona's capriciousness for so long. If Catriona hadn't been Jean's sister would Jean have let Catriona's meanness continue? Jean stood up to other people in the book, why not her own sister? It was not comprehensible to me. Jean was blind to her sister’s faults and that disturbed me a lot in this story. Just because one is a sibling doesn't mean that one has to put up with crap!

Then there is our hero, Morgan MacCraig. I was also torn with his character. I liked him in the beginning. I liked his stubbornness and his irritation with Jean. But he, like Jean, was blind when it came to his friend Andrew. You see Morgan is also hiding out. He is trying to escape the scandal he left behind in London. That scandal would be: divorce. Divorce was a biiiggggg taboo in in this time period - so there would have been a huge scandal for Morgan. Morgan fell in love and married a woman who liked men - a lot... almost all of England. And, she didn't keep her many affairs a secret. Finally he could stand it no longer and divorced her. This of course means he will never fall in luv again. My irritation with Morgan came with his choice of bestest ever friend Andrew. Andrew tags along to Scotland with Morgan for some reason. Andrew is a real creep, he's a typical upper-crust male of that time period. He is also married. But that doesn't really matter, he has his life and she has hers. So, why this guy is still a friend of Morgan's I don't know. He's everything that Morgan dislikes. He is also the same as every single man Morgan's ex-wife had in his bed. Morgan believes that the slimy Andrew never bedded Morgan's ex. Why he believed this sleazy guy was beyond me. Andrews is a lying, immoral degenerate and why Morgan put up with this guy for so lonnng was also incomprehensible to me.

While I loved the slow-moving romance portion of this story and I like Morgan and Jean as a couple, I found their blindness toward both Catriona and Andrew irritating. It lessened my enjoyment of the story. While I do recommend the story, I cannot give it a glowing recommendation.

Time/Place: Scotland 1860 - big skirt time
Sensuality: Hot

Thursday

December 29, 2106

The Search for a Good Book continues
 http://www.lorraineheath.com/
When one is in the middle of a dry spell, when your auto-buy authors are either not writing,
switched to contemporaries or not living up to ones expectations, what does one do? Well, they can either turn to their old books (which I have) or they can read a new author in hopes of finding someone to fill the void. I’ve been reading my old books and now it’s time to find some new ones. I picked Lorraine Heath’s The Viscount and the Vixen. Lorraine Heath may not be a new author, but I’ve never read her – maybe I keep getting her mixed up with an author from the old days, Sandra Heath. I don’t know why, I’ve just never picked up any of her books, 'til now.


The Viscount and the Vixen
is part of the Hellions of Haversham Hall series, however I don’t believe you have to read any of those to appreciate this one. There didn’t seem to be any left-over mystery to be solved or villains lurking about. The characters seemed to be pretty well-developed, so this one appears to be a stand-alone.


There are four main characters in The Viscount and the Vixen – Locke (our hero), Portia (our heroine), Marsden (Locke’s father), and Linnie (the ghost of Marsden’s dead wife). There are quite an assortment of storylines going on in this book. There is Locke protecting his father, hiding him away from society, making sure he doesn’t injure himself. Why's that, you may ask. Well, this is because Marsden is a little bit off – he wanders around the house, he lives in the past sometimes, and he talks to his dead wife. From what we are led to believe, she talks back. We really never get to see her, except through Marsden’s eyes. This, for me, led to a disappointment later on. We will talk about that later.

Then we have Portia, who is running away from something – she seems to be in danger, she’s desperate, and she has a big secret. This secret leads to another issue I had with the book.

There were a lot of things to like in this book and a couple of things which fall into the category of “If I had written this, I’d have done it this way.” But hey, I didn’t write the book, so that means I can be disappointed.

Here’s the premise of the story. The wily, off-balance Marsden advertises for a wife for himself. His son finds out and becomes outrageously upset, but it is too late because our desperate heroine Portia arrives on the scene, contract in hand. Locke jumps to the conclusion that she’s a mercenary slut and saves his father by marrying her himself. (Which is what Marsden planned all along.) From here on it’s a tale of Locke and Portia having sex one moment and Locke striking out at Portia the next. He likes to call her names, a money-grubbing w…, a no-account woman, and then they have sex, then he calls her names again, then sex. You get the idea. There was so much sex in this book I had to do some skip reading. I also did some skip reading when the father reminisced about his sex life with Locke’s mother. Maybe this was supposed to be funny, but it touched off my ick-o-meter.

For me this was an ok read with glimmers of good writing – but there was a certain unevenness in the story-telling and a couple of things I wish had been done differently. Spoilers ahead! Portia isn’t really a widow, but a runaway mistress. She’s running away because she’s pregnant and the man who is the father will probably put the baby in a baby farm (which I gather means it will die). So, Portia’s desperation in selecting Marsden as a husband is because she is protecting her baby. She believes that since Marsden is hidden away, she will be also. However, Locke steps in and she can no longer keep a low profile. Here’s the problem I had with this storyline. First of all, I found it irritating that we the readers were kept from knowing the secret. I don’t think the story would have been any less tense if we had been let in on it – in fact, I think us knowing the secret would add to the tension. If we had been let in on the secret we would be wondering all through the book just what Locke’s reaction was going to be. (I guessed what it was from the beginning.)

The other problem I had with the protecting-the-baby theme was that when we finally meet the ex-lover/villain he just didn’t seem all that bad to me. In fact, he actually loved Portia. I guess I’m used to some sociopathic villains turning into heroes, ala Anne Stuart’s edgy guys (and that’s just one author). I never knew in this book whether he was as bad as Portia says – he just never exhibited a scary villain personality.

Then we have the ghost. If Marsden is in fact talking to the ghost of his wife – why didn’t we, the readers, get to see it? I would have enjoyed the ending more if the ghost had been visible. As it was all we get to see is what may be the ghostly lip prints on a dead man’s cheek. While that may make for a pretty poetic scene it was a depressing ending.

Overall, for me this was an ok read. Sometimes there were moments of loveliness but those were followed by disjointed storylines and a hero who couldn’t make up his mind whether Portia was a good girl or a gold digger (while all the time he doing the wonka-donka all over the place). I probably will not check out the rest in the series.

Time/Place: 1880s England
Sensuality: Hot

Wednesday

Jumping Jehosophat! Upcoming Historical Romances!!!!!!!!!!! 2017! Yipes!!

Authors with an asterisk*, I'm picking up! For more Upcoming Releases that aren't historical see Hey Delia!!! January 15, 2017 to February 14, 2017. By the way, it is not my fault if a publisher changes the release dates - just so you know, they do not consult me.
Beverly Jenkins
Breathless
Old West series
January 31
Carol Arens
The Cowboy’s Cinderella
Paper-January 17, ebook-February 1
Eloisa James*
Seven Minutes in Heaven
Desperate Duchesses series
January 31
Heather Hiestand
I Wanna Be Loved By You
The Grand Russe series
February 14
Jane Bonander
The Scoundrel’s Pleasure
The MacNeil Legacy series
February 14
Joanna Shupe
Mogul
The Knickerbocker Club series
January 31
Kelly Bowen*
Between the Devil and the Duke
A Season for Scandal series
January 31
Kerrigan Byrne 
The Duke
Victorian Rebels series
February 7
Lynsay Sands
Falling for the Highlander
Highlanders series
January 31
Maggie Robinson*
Schooling the Viscount
Cotswold Confidential series
January 31
Margaret Moore
A Marriage of Rogues
Paperback-January, 17 ebook-2-1


I have to ask - What's with the hat and just how old is this guy?
And, is she like a Stepford wife robot?
Marguerite Kaye
The Harlot and the Sheikh
Hot Arabian Nights series
Paperback-January 17, ebook-February 1
Mary Balogh
Someone to Hold
Westcott series
February 7
Mary Wine
Highland Vixen
Highland Weddings series
February 7
Michelle Styles
Sold to the Viking Warrior
Paperback-January 17, ebook-February 1
Sarah Mallory
The Duke's Secret Heir
Paperback-January 17, ebook-February 1
Virginia Heath
Miss Bradshaw's Bought Betrothal
Paperback-January 17, ebook-February 1

Unmasking Miss Appleby, by Emily Lane

December 28, 2016

Oh those manly-men - sort of.
http://www.emilylarkin.com

Do your know how we often whine about our heroines dressing up as men? Or maybe it's just me who whines. Well in this story we have a case of our heroine Charlotte Appleby doing just that. (Not whining, pretending to be a man). Except in this case, thanks to a malevolent faerie godmother, Charlotte actually becomes a man - she gets everything a man has; that includes a Mr. Toad and his dangly parts. All of these hangy-down things on her body make for some humorous moments. You see, Charlotte is a pretty innocent woman, even more so when confronted with her newly created man-parts. It's an interesting twist to an old plot-line. In case you haven't guessed - there is a paranormal aspect to this story.

Charlotte Appleby wants to escape the drudgery of her relative's house. She wants something more, but being a woman it's hard for her to get out from under. Her choices are pretty limited. Then on her twenty-fifth birthday she finds out she has a faerie godmother - a real faerie godmother. She can make a wish - of course a number of these wishes come with strings attached; her godmother is a little tricky. Anyway, after reviewing some of her options, she decides she wants the ability of transform her appearance. (That's not the one I would have went for, but it's not my story and I don't have a faerie godmother). Charlotte's priorities are to find something she can earn money at. The only way to earn enough money to live is to change into a man - which she does. She becomes Christopher Albin. She becomes the secretary to Marcus Langford, the Earl of Cosgrove.

Marcus is a widower and there are rumors flying about his wife’s demise. Someone is trying to damage his reputation by spreading those awful tales. On top of that, someone is throwing things through his window and leaving poop on his door-step. So, there's a lot for Marcus to contend with and he needs a new secretary because the last one was in an "accident." He hires Christopher/Charlotte and soon they are looking for the scoundrel/scoundrels responsible for all the hubbub.

Unmasking Miss Appleby was written very well; the mystery and the romance flowed together smoothly. There was a well balanced mix of humor and drama. It doesn't take Christopher/Charlotte long to become attracted to Marcus, but because she's in a man's body she doesn't act on it. This also leads to some pretty funny moments. Her newly acquired Mr. Toad is a mystery to her and because her Mr. Toad is springing up every time she's around Marcus, she must come up with a solution. Her solution is to turn herself back into Charlotte and pretend to have information for Marcus. This information she actually received while she was Christopher. Marcus shows up at the mysterious Charlotte's flat only to find out that she will only give him the information if he has sex with her. What's a guy to do? He needs the information, so he sacrifices himself and has a pretty good night of whankee-roo. Though he does feel guilty later - sort of. So, as Charlotte her inch is scratched, as Christopher she is Marcus' friend and as the bear she scares bad guys. You got it?

If there was anything I had a quibble with it was that we didn't really get to see Marcus' POV for a lot of the book. It wasn't until Charlotte is revealed that we actually are let in on his brain-think. I thought his reaction to the Charlotte reveal was a tad bit excessive considering he didn't react all that much when he found out Christopher/Charlotte could turn himself/herself into a bear, dog, and a bird. Of course, he thought it was Christopher turning into animals, not Charlotte. Although why it didn't dawn on him that if Christopher could be a dog, he could also be a woman.

This was the first book by Emily Larkin that I've read and I liked it well enough to read the next in the series when it comes out. I do recommend this book and if you like a little paranormal in your romance, you'll like this one. This isn't an overpowering paranormal/fantasy book, just a little spattering of faerie dust for your enjoyment.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Hot