Review: Ravishing the Heiress (Fitzhugh Trilogy, Book 2) by Sherry Thomas

ravishing an heiressHero: Fitzhugh is an impoverished Earl, who recently inherited his earldom. If he doesn’t wed for money he and his family will be doomed to live in poverty forever. The idea of a loveless marriage does not appeal to him in the slightest as he is in love with a beautiful woman… but he can’t provide her with the life she deserves and she isn’t as wealthy as he needs. So, for the love of duty and England, he will marry Millie instead.

Heroine: Millicent (Millie) is a sardine-canning heiress. She’s not gentry, she’s not beautiful… and she isn’t Isabelle. She agrees to marry Fitz knowing that he doesn’t love her. She proposes that they abstain from consummating the marriage for a few years and then get together long enough for them to beget an heir. Fitz thinks that is a great idea because he can’t imagine wanting to sleep with his wife and proposes an extension of the abstinence plan.

So, of course, the beautiful Isabelle returns freshly widowed and ready to start an illicit affair with Fitz just when the married couple plans to consummate the marriage.

Review: My big issue with this book is the flaunting of adultery as the hero cheats and screws his way around London. He’s even willing to abandon his wife publically for a calculating harpy, just because his younger self thought he was in love with the woman. Ugh. I did however, like Millie, even if she took the role of doormat. I got her as a character. She loved Fitz at first site, is a young teenage girl, and believes she’s causing him more harm than good by being married to him. Sure it is a bit delusional, seeing as she’s bringing way more to the marriage with successful businesses and wealth while he’s only bringing a title and some land… but… that’s Millie. The hero has very few redeemable qualities and uses his broken heart as an excuse to behave awfully. What I didn’t understand was why Isabelle wasn’t given the cut-direct several times over? She’s clearly not “high society” even if she married well because she relentless pursues a scandal broth that would consume her, Fitz, and her children. In short, if Millie got a very determined admirer who honestly made her feel special and gave her the idea to run away from her loveless marriage, I might have enjoyed the story better.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Ravishing the Heiress

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Review: A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh

by Marcia, guest reviewer

Constantine Huxtable is thinking about taking his next spring mistress.  He takes one every year, usually one of the many widows that are available.  He ends these affairs in the summer when he returns to the country.  There is no shortage of women eager for his company despite the fact that he is only a ‘Mister’.  He is looking for someone elegant and poised enough to be seen with him, intelligent enough to hold a decent conversation and, of course, discreet.

The notorious Hannah Reid, Duchess of Dunbarton, has decided to take a lover.  She has finished her year of mourning after ten years of marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather and who has left her extremely wealthy.   She wants a more vivid life.  She wants a lover who is devilishly attractive, wickedly skillful in bed and has no heart to break.  She is looking for someone who is a challenge to control, masterful and hopefully in the end, devoted.  She knows exactly who she wants…Constantine Huxtable.

Constantine is not enthusiastic when the Duchess makes her interest known.  Why would he want an ice princess?  She always wears white with a lot of diamond jewelry and a half smiling, provocative expression.  Lord knows, she is beautiful with wavy platinum blond hair that is so light that it is almost white, large blue eyes and a slender but curvaceous figure, but she is arrogant, shallow, vain and …desirable.  He assumes, like the rest of society, that she was unfaithful to her husband during his final years with one or all of the men who served as her escorts when her husband was too frail to attend the various social events of the season.  He finds adultery vaguely distasteful.  Despite his misgivings and much to his family’s distress, he finds himself drawn to her.  So begins a discreet but not at all secret affair between Devil and the Duchess.

Readers who are familiar with Seducing an Angel, will see a number of similar plot elements in A Secret Affair.  Both books feature women who have been widowed after ten years of marriage; both widows have childhood friends who disapprove of their affairs. Even Stephen Huxtable notes that he met his own wife in the park and teases Constantine that perhaps Constantine is fated to marry the Duchess after they both encounter the Duchess there.  However, Constantine is his own man and A Secret Affair is his own love story.

Like many of Mary Balogh’s stories, there is no real antagonist.  The tension is created as the lovers struggle with their own negative personality traits, misconceptions, and fears.  In Constantine’s words, they have to “work at finding and building love”.  As a result of this approach, the characters are complex, multi-layered and real.  Unlike Seducing an Angel, there is no spiritual thread, but there are some philosophical musings about the illusion of time and an unseen hand guiding the characters to their purpose and joy.  Balogh shows real technical artistry when, just as we think the love story is coming to a satisfying conclusion, she introduces a plot element that exposes the cruelty of Regency England in its attitudes towards the mentally handicapped. Then Hannah Reid, the Duchess of Dunbarton, in an effort right a wrong, reveals a secret affair.

Rating: 5 Stars

Buy: A Secret Affair

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Review: Petals Drifting by Anne Hampson

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This category romance would make a great farcical romantic comedy movie. Just keep reading and you’ll know what I mean.

The Bryants – Jane (heroine), Guy (brother)
The Dysons – Stuart (fiancé), Pauline (future sister-in-law)

Two pairs of brother and sister pretend to be married to each other in order to land a job on an archaeological site in Greece. The heroine is engaged to the brother of the other pair. Her future sister-in-law crushes hard on the site’s leading archaeologist. The dig boss and hero fights falling in love with the heroine. The only supposedly single man on the site falls hard for the future sister-in-law. The only one not romantically inclined is the brother of the heroine.

Sounds crazy? It was!

The hero, Dr. Nikolas Vallas, hates adulterers. He rides hard on the heroine, Jane Bryant, who he sees as the worse of the lot. Guy is either clueless to his wife’s behavior or doesn’t have the masculinity to reign her in or divorce her. Pauline is a creature to pity as she’s utterly clueless to her husband and best friend’s deception. Stuart is a cheating bastard. But Jane— she takes the cake. She cheats on her husband, with her best friend’s husband, and the son of his long time friend, Tim.

Tim figures out the deception and what Nikolas perceives as more acts of adultery is in fact very innocent. Tim is using Jane as a sounding board for his attempts to win Pauline’s affections. Pauline however is mooning over Nikolas and doesn’t like Tim’s attention one bit. Jane meanwhile is reeling from something Tim said about love. He said something along the lines of “If you’re really in love, you couldn’t wait to be married.” Jane finds herself falling in love with a man who hates everything about her and seems to be falling in love with Pauline.

Petals Drifting is a very erroneous title for the plot. They’re there in the off season for tourists. It’s not fall. It’s more like spring. Anyway, the story is very tense, very quick, and solid. I devoured it.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Petals Drifting

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Review: The Devil’s Darling by Violet Winspear

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I liked the other Violet Winspear so much that I picked this one up without a moment’s hesitation.

The story revolves around the Greek tale of Hades and Persephone. The hero is Don Diablo and the heroine is Persepha. A perfectly convenient match, but a delightful one nevertheless.

However that’s about the last good thing that I can say about this book. It’s definitely period as it was published in 1975 for the first time. Knowing it was period was really the only fact that kept me reading after they hero and heroine joined in a quick marriage of convenience.

The heroine wakes up from grief of her loved and recently departed guardian. She says it was a mistake to marry in such haste. Diablo refuses to let her go and what followed was the least romantic series of events.

She struggles. He overpowers. It’s not said in so many words but it’s clear it’s rape or at the very least an extremely forced seduction. He wears her out and then proceeds to “love her.”

The hero sums up their relationship quite succinctly when he tells her later in the novel he believes she didn’t cuckold him on his business trip despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

“I should hate to think that I had misjudged you after all, querida, and you were not so intrinsically virtuous that even a husband feels he is raping you each time he takes you in his arms. It isn’t a pretty word, is it? But to the point.” — pg 155

Another Greek myth is mentioned and very nearly plays out in full. Don mentions reenacting out the story of Lucrenzia. I looked it up. The story of Lucrenzia is a story of a young wife who was raped in her own bed because the man threatened to do it anyway and then kill her and a slave and arrange their bodies to look like she’d committed adultery. Afterwards she confesses to her husband and family and then takes her own life.

The last ten pages (180-189) the heroine still is crying out how much she hates the hero, doesn’t love him, doesn’t like him, doesn’t want his kids, wishes he’d die, etc. He overhears her telling this to his grandmother and she realizes he’s heard. Off she runs and manages to run to the very spot where his mother committed suicide. He thinks she’s about to do the same – grabs her and hauls her back to her room. He explains about his brother’s death, his mother’s actions and in less than five pages she claims to have fallen in love with him.

It’s completely ridiculous and I closed the book miffed.

Rating: 0.5-1 Stars

Buy: The Devil’s Darling

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