Audio Review: Midsummer Magic by Catherine Coulter

midsummer magicHero: Philip Hawsbury is no longer the second son. When his older brother died, he became the next Earl of Rothermere. Now his father is on his deathbed and Philip must fulfill a longstanding promise his father made to impoverished Alexander Kilbracken, the Scottish Earl of Ruthven. He must marry one of the daughters – Viola, Clare, or Frances.  He has no desire to wed anyone and would prefer to stay in London with his mistress. Now how can he proceed to do both?

Heroine: Frances does not want to be married off to Philip or really anyone sight unseen. She’s certain he’s going to be an arrogant Sassenach. She’s the apple of her father’s eye and has a premonition that her father would like to see her marry the man. Since she must be present and participate, she decides to do so in the worst way possible. While her sisters, Clare and Viola, vie for the young earl’s attention, she’s going to make herself ugly, aloof, and a shrew. Little does she know that she presents the perfect image of a wife for Philip – who wants to fulfill his father’s promise, but leave the missus behind at Desborough Hall while he pursues his London life unchecked and unencumbered.

Review: This book comes from the era of the “bodice-ripper” / “forced seduction” and has the flaws that associate with that period of romances. The hero for instance is not a worthy hero by today’s standard’s. He’s shallow and doesn’t learn to love the heroine in her disguise, but rather falls for her [beauty] when it comes off. He’s also either a product of his times or an idiot because he doesn’t think wives should be treated like mistresses and in so believing makes zero attempts to please his bride when he and she do their “duties” to conceive.  But it’s supposed to be acceptable and tolerable because both characters don’t know any better. Baloney. He also likes to pretend he’s the wounded party in all of this, which is very aggravating.

When he’s not being an irritating jerk he at least remembers the cream (which is not saying much.)

It should be noted that the heroine’s characterization starts off great – she’s feisty, stands up to her father, and tries to trick the hero with a “clever” ugly duckling disguise. But then this tom-boyish, heart of gold (she walks miles to visit her father’s tenets,) strong heroine gets replaced by someone else entirely during their “honeymoon” stage. She’s uncertain, quiet, mousey, and timid – and not just for the appearance of keeping up her disguise.

So what did work for me was the beginning and the initial set-up.

Narrator: Anne Flosnik as usual had a wonderful performance. She is one of the reasons I stuck with the story to the end.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Midsummer Magic (Magic Trilogy), Midsummer Magic (Audiobook)

Audio Review: Surrender by Amanda Quick

surrenderHero: Lucas Colebrook, the new Earl of Stonevale, needs an heiress to finance the repairs of his crumbling estate and projects to revitalize the lands. He goes to his former love, the perfect paragon of society, Jessica (I can’t recall her last name.) She presents him with two choices – a young woman just out of the schoolroom (almost an exact replica of Jessica) or the very independent Victoria Huntington. Lucas knows instantly which heiress he’d prefer and strategizes how to win her. His conclusion is to give her exactly what she thinks she wants.

Heroine: Victoria Huntington, heiress, orphan, has fought off fortune hunters since being in leading strings. She’s even had suitors for her friend investigated by Bow Street Runners! Not easily fooled, Victoria knows if she waits just a little while longer, her status of spinsterhood will be sealed and the real adventures of life can begin. But she doesn’t really wish to wait – she wants to experience it all now and accepts Lucas’s escort through these experiences.

Review: Victoria is wildly reckless with her reputation and that of her friend’s. She doesn’t seem to truly grasp the consequences of any one of her little escapades. It off-balances the intelligence she seems to have regarding men. Lucas manages to distract her with what she wants – from adventures to watch boxing matches in the wee hours of the night or trips to brothels dressed as a man – and so escape her notice as another fortune hunter. He’s able to do this because Jessica is circulating that he’s due to receive a huge influx of funds. So, I have little sympathy when Vicky bemoans getting caught in the parson’s trap.

Lucas is patient and protective. His scheme is manipulative, but his intentions are roughly pure. He wants to aid his tenets and bring prosperity back to the region. I loved his stodginess and how it played with Vicky’s recklessness. They rub off on each other. He becomes a little less stodgy and she a little less reckless. I loved how he’d climb garden walls for her even with a wounded leg. Very romantic.

In the novel, he decides quickly he wants Vicky for more than her money, but doesn’t reveal his true need for the wedding until it is much too late. On their wedding day, before their wedding trip, Jessica reveals all to Vicky in an attempt to beg kindness for Lucas. What a little viper! Jessica is not a paragon – she’s clearly manipulative and while her words don’t endear her to hero or heroine, there’s no true repercussion. Vicky takes it out on Lucas instead of Jessica… and then in the end the couple uses Jessica once more. I find that very odd.

Narrator: Anne Flosnik is one of my favorite narrators. I liked listening to her immensely.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Surrender, Surrender

Audio Review: First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet, Book 1) by Mary Balogh

Narrator: I am on an audio book kick. I loved this narrator. Anne Flosnik is great! She makes the book come alive. It’s like listening to a movie with all of her voices. I wanted to drive more around town just for the opportunity to get further in the book!

Heroine: Vanessa Dew is the widowed second daughter of the Huxtable family. She liked her previous marriage, despite its hardships (a young dying husband from the get-go). To save her sister from a loveless match, and to get back into a marriage bed (which she has little experience with but enjoyed) she proposes to the most eligible bachelor in London. She promises to make him happy in bed and out. Can a man resist such an offer?

Hero: Elliott Wallace, the Darcy-like Viscount Lyngate, accepts the unorthodox proposal from the upstart widow. After all, he’s not looking for a love-match, just a monogamous one. He’s surprised by how much he’s attracted to the little plain thing, but her happy optimistic self is irresistible to a man as staid and reserved as himself. Wedded bliss was more than he expected, and Elliott isn’t about to give it up!

Review: The marriage of convenience premise was a little weak, considering Elliott starts the book with a well-bred mistress. Also for as much regret as he appeared to hold in the beginning about agreeing to wed Vanessa, I find his reasons to remain faithful to the marriage odd – I would have found it more reasonable had he finally got why his own father/grandfather had cheated – but then again, Elliott doesn’t believe in love matches – so perhaps his reasoning isn’t so bad, just unexpected.

Some of my favorite scenes are at the beginning with Vanessa proposing and Elliott catching her at her bragging and also on their honeymoon and the field of flowers! I love how she gets him to pick an entire houseful of them. I love Vanessa’s character, she’s wonderfully drawn and inspires a lot of laughs and smiles as you listen to the story. She’s very forthright and this helps smooth over rough patches and turns potential big misunderstandings into adult conversations fast! If you like reasonableness in your heroes and heroines you’ll like this story!

Rating: ★★★★☆

First Comes Marriage

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Review: The Secret Mistress (Dudley, Book 3) by Mary Balogh

I listened to a narrated audiobook version of this novel. Read by Anne Flosnik.

Hero: Edward Ailsbury, the new Earl of Heyward, knows he must marry. As a spare, now heir, he knows the importance of preserving the family lineage. The candidate he has in mind is his family friend and favorite bluestocking, Eunice Goddard. A wife should be a friend, someone intelligent that one can converse with, and a lady unblemished by scandal or wild behavior, but when the lady refuses him, he’s flummoxed. What now? Well, his family wants him to court Angeline Dudley and so he does. He’s flummoxed again when he realizes that the scandalous Miss at the inn is none other than she!

Heroine: Angeline Dudley is preparing for her first Season. She’s determined to catch herself a simple steady gentleman, a man completely opposite her rakish brothers and father (now passed away). A potentially scandalous incident at a public inn reveals to her just such a man and it’s instant attraction for her. All she wants is his good opinion and his love, but it seems to be the thing he’s determined to hold back. She suspects his interested lie elsewhere and does all in her power to bring them together, for his sake and Eunice’s sake (who becomes her friend).

Review: I really liked the pairing of a stuffy, circumspect, and introverted hero (who doesn’t think he is and takes offense when he’s called on it) with a bubbly, impulsive, and extroverted heroine (who rambles and says things to upset the hero… like calling him a dry stick :D lol).

He’s extremely dignified and extends politeness and courtesy as a shield. She prattles to fill uncomfortable silences and makes jokes at her expense to hide her insecurity. Angeline feels she doesn’t deserve him and her innocent behavior appears to be reckless behavior.

I also thought it was incredibly sweet that the heroine put the hero’s desire so far above her own she tried to orchestrate opportunities for him to meet Eunice in hopes he’d propose to her. There were lots of great quotes in the story, my favorite is below.

Favorite Scenes: Their first meeting at the inn, and Edward’s first proposal to Angeline.

Favorite Quote:

In a few short minutes he had shown himself to be her ideal of manhood. Of gentlemanhood. He seemed perfectly content and comfortable with his ordinariness. He seemed not to feel the need to posture and prove his masculinity at every turn preferably with his fists… He was in fact, more than ordinary. He was an extraordinary man.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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