Review: Seducing the Governess by Margo Maguire

The story: Nash, the current Earl of Ashby, was never supposed to be the earl. He was the youngest of three brothers. He forged his destiny in war and got the scars to prove it. He hadn’t the first notion of how to manage Ashby Hall and make it profitable once more. It probably meant finding himself an heiress which he wasn’t looking forward to do. In addition, he certainly didn’t know what to do with his niece, but he did know she couldn’t be raised by a parcel of ex-soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars. So he hired a governess… one that stirred his blood like no other… one he couldn’t have if he meant to save the livelihoods of all who counted on him.

Review: Seducing the Governess is heavy on the Jane Eyre influence especially concerning the meet-cute between the hero and heroine… hero falling off horse, twisted ankle, heroine semi-afraid of horses, helping him, and going their separate ways only for her to find out who he really is… he’s even got a girl ward.

I wasn’t too fond the sections devoted to Captain Gavin Briggs, the investigator. They detracted from the overall story. I think it was enough to show that he was hired at the beginning of the novel and not use him until the end because it was obvious that one of the long lost heirs of the Duke of Windermere was the heroine, Mercy Franklin.

About halfway through the story got a little bland. Too much internal conflict… why wouldn’t Mercy just open up and read her adopted mother’s diary and get it over with? The narration was on repeat with that one… Mercy resolved to read it… Mercy couldn’t read it yet…. But she would… just not now… etc. I ended up hurrying through the book and skipping over things in an effort to push through.

Why didn’t Andrew Vale ever turn up? I was ready for some angst ridden jealousy to spice things up a little!

The hero was the best part of the story for me. Nash is wonderful and exactly the type of hero I enjoy.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: Seducing the Governess

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Review: A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh

I got this novel from the library when MagdalenB recommended it for a hero who bumbles his first declaration of love/marriage proposal:

Balogh’s A Precious Jewel. Gerald tries to explain why marriage is good idea; forgets to mention “love.” Twice!

Read it in a day because it was so different than any courtesan romance I have read to date. While reading it I simply couldn’t put it down and I liked it a lot. Writing the review pointed out to me all the things I didn’t like about the novel so you’ll have to excuse the overly negative approach. This novel was not without flaws, but if you’re like me you’ll enjoy it anyway.

Priscilla Wentworth lost her father and brother within a very short span of time and became a ward of her uncle. Her uncle is a lecherous creep and to avoid his advances she runs away to London to meet up with her former governess. She had planned to get a job at her finishing school. In actuality it was a high end whorehouse. Prissy tried for two months to get a job as a maid, a servant, or a governess and could not because she had zero references. Too prideful to take a made up position by her old governess she chose instead to become an honest whore. No virgin prostitute novel here.

After two months working, Sir Gerald Stapleton, becomes her client. One night he comes to her and finds her beaten by her previous costumer and decides to set her up as his mistress. Gerald has very simple tastes in bed – he likes his partner to be unmoving and receptive. He has never made love to a woman, just used them. The love scenes are very detached because of this, even when he comes to Prissy and tries to learn.

Gerald is not really romance hero material. He has zero redeeming traits. He is not bright, or adventurous, or particularly good at anything. He is not handsome. He is not good in bed. He makes no grand gestures (except screwing up his marriage proposal twice) and his idea of romance is buying her pieces of jewelry (something most men did for their mistresses anyway). He tells Prissy she’s a “good girl” and “you have pleased me” more often than he should. In bed he takes and does not give. He doesn’t know how or care really to learn. He believes (and it’s true) that he’s inadequate.

However, he cannot help but love Prissy. She’s the backbone of the novel. Her warmth, unfailing kindness, and presence in his life draw him in and won’t let him go. Gerald must overcome his anger at the betrayals by his mother and stepmother in order to truly acknowledge his need for Prissy. Until then he treats her like a mistress and like their time together is strictly business.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: A Precious Jewel

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Charlotte as Currer and Collette as Colin: Why Women Used Male Pseudonyms in the Victorian Era

by Donna Lea Simpson, guest blogger and author of The Last Days of a Rake and Love and Scandal

Today it’s hard to imagine that once, writing was not considered a suitable career or even pastime for women. Jane Austen hid the fact that she wrote, partly because of a need for privacy, but also because her socially suitable façade was important to maintain, especially as a genteel daughter of a reverend. Though recognition of the need for women to be educated in ways that would lead to employment was on the rise (there was an excess of poverty-stricken spinsters!) those of a certain social standing were effectively confined to jobs that echoed a proper Victorian lady’s place in the home, as the maternal center, or as a kind of faux-daughter. A woman could be a governess, a nurse, or a paid companion, and not much else.

This, of course, did not apply to women of the ‘lower classes’, for whom work had always been whatever they could find; women were weavers and brewers, tavern owners and barmaids, seamstresses, and, increasingly in the Victorian age, factory workers. None of those occupations was suitable, of course, for a ‘lady’.

But attitudes toward women were varied, not unanimous as some of us think when we consider the Victorian era. We think of repression, and sexual rigidity, women viewed as inferior, subjugated to the will of men. But in truth, that was just one aspect of society in Victorian England.

In Love & Scandal (Carina Press) Collette Jardinière and her two friends from childhood, show the varying roles of women in that time. Henrietta – Henny, as she is known to her friends – is the downtrodden wife, subject to the will of her patriarchal husband and making the best of it. But Philoxia has arisen from a scandalous past to become a lion of the literary world, an educated and intelligent woman who holds literary salons that attract the luminaries of the literary world,

And then there is Collette. I did what many authors do, I placed myself in that time and wondered, how would I cope in a world where my intelligence was undervalued and my options were limited? I’ve always written; I have to write. What would I do if I was told that it was not suitable for a lady to publish novels, especially ones with serious subjects? Poetry would have been barely acceptable. Novel writing, for an unmarried woman, was unthinkable.

I would have done what Charlotte Brontë did, and what Collette, the heroine of Love & Scandal, does; I would have written under a male pseudonym. But Collette realizes, when she meets the famous Mrs. Gaskell (the woman who wrote Charlotte Brontë’s first biography, but was already famous for the novel Mary Barton) that the times, they were a changin’!

Speaking with Mrs. Gaskell at her friend, Philoxia’s literary salon, Collette ponders her decision to use a male name, Colin Jenkins, to hide behind:

“Before Collette knew it, Philoxia and Henny were left behind and she was being escorted on a tour of the room with the famous novelist. It is like a dream, she thought, floating along with the other woman, and yet I am one of them. I am one of these people, a writer, a novelist acclaimed as the new Thackeray. But I did not have the courage to put my own name on the novel, and so now I am reaping the bitter harvest of cowardice. Perhaps it is only in the small villages such as mine that being a novelist is shocking. Perhaps if I had seen the world a little, come to London, I would not have made the same decision. If only I could talk to this woman as one writer to another. If only I had not hid behind a man’s name. If only

All the “perhapses” and “if onlys” bore down on her like a leaden weight. This was the life she had wished for when young.”

Collette learns too late that the decision she made so lightly is bearing heavy consequences; before Love & Scandal is done, she will have to decide how to proceed if she is to go on as a writer. But why was the patriarchy so frightened of women writing, or even of admitting feminine intelligence? I have my own opinions, from all that I’ve read over the years.

Men and women have always had a difficult time understanding one another. Our lives together, both in a romantic sense and otherwise, are messy and difficult and sometimes heartbreaking, if ultimately rewarding. The old saying ‘can’t live with ‘em and can’t live without ‘em’, is so true, in many ways. Humans, being human (!), want to control what we don’t understand, and men, in a position of power from centuries of habit, wielded that control like an iron fist. Not all men, maybe not even most, but the loudest and the ones in power. Male life was easier if women stayed in their sphere, the home, without challenging male dominion; after all, women might have different ideas about how the country should be run, if they had any real power. So men came up with every excuse to keep women there; women were fragile and needed to be protected. Women were morally weak, and needed to be protected. Women were vulnerable to male strength and moral corruption and, you guessed it, needed to be protected.

Many men actually believed the excuses. Some suspected it was not true but went along with prevailing wisdom because it benefited them. And some rare birds actively fought for female suffrage, John Stuart Mill among them.

In Love & Scandal Collette deals with her own deep need for intellectual freedom and her conflicting fear that falling in love with Charles Jameson will take that freedom away from her. Charles, on the other hand, begins to see that the inferiority he had always attributed to women was just a reflection of some measure of insecurity, which he needs to shed if he is ever to understand and be with Collette.

Collette’s life changes when she meets a certain scandalous female of the Victorian age, an author whose writing will challenge those patriarchal notions, even as she hides behind a male pseudonym herself; I’ll leave it to the reader to discover her identity. I hope you enjoy both the conversation about men and women, in Love & Scandal, AND the spicy love story!

As an added bonus to Love & Scandal, Carina Press has published The Last Days of a Rake, the novel Collette, as Colin Jenkins, wrote! It is a FREE download! Take advantage, even if just to see the lovely Carina Press formats.

Best regards,

Donna Lea Simpson

Love & Scandal is now available from Carina Press, the all digital imprint of Harlequin!

For more info, go to: http://www.donnaleasimpson.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DonnaLeaSimpson

To read the first chapter go to: http://donnaleasimpson.wordpress.com/love-scandal-chapter-one/

Buy: Love & Scandal

15 Most Romantic Broadway Musicals

by Zarabeth, guest blogger

I love Broadway Musicals and when Keira asked me to compile a list it got big really fast – and so I had to break them up into categories. Here you’ll find my top five happy, tragic, and both romantic Broadway musicals. I really don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just give you the gist of what each Broadway is about. You should be able to determine what happens by their category but there you go.

Happy:

These Broadway Musicals are happy, happy, happy. They are cheerful and end with a HEA.

1. Brigadoon: A little village that disappears into the mist and wakes up to find its 100 yrs later, every day. 20th century hunters come upon the village and one of them falls in love with a village spinster. He must make the ultimate sacrifice of all he knows and cares about to be with her.

2. Sound of Music: A would-be nun is sent to serve as a governess to a widower and his 7 children. Set in 1930s Austria as the Nazi’s take power. Do either of them have the courage?

3. Beauty and the Beast: If this needs explanation please get off the computer and see it.

4. Thoroughly Modern Millie: A ‘modern’ woman comes to 1920s New York to find and marry a rich man to improve her lifestyle and status. She has to choose whether she really wants this high life or wants real love. And he has to choose if he wants a committed relationship or to continue being a rover (for my historical romance friends- a rake).

5. Legally Blonde: Musical version of the Reese Witherspoon movie is fun and colorful. We follow Elle through the breakup, the convoluted plan to get him back, the new romance, and her journey to find who she really is.

Tragic:

These Broadway Musicals are beautiful and very tragic.

6. Les Miserables: One of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It is set in Revolution era France. There are many characters worth identifying with, all of them lead difficult lives. It is easy to sympathize with every character and feel sad when unfortunate events occur. There is a lot of faith/religion, moral, and political questions addressed in this Victor Hugo.

7. Aida: A love story between 2 warring nations in ancient Egypt. Both commit treason just by being with each other. Internal conflicts of duty, love, and family obligation lead to quite a few very difficult situations.

8. West Side Story: Romeo and Juliet in 1950s New York. The Capulets and Montagues are the Puerto Ricans and the Americans.

9. Spring Awakening: This is a very new musical and it is very different. The characters are a bunch of high school students in early 20th century Germany. Lack of sex ed, normal teenage curiosity, suicide and rape lead to quite a bit of pain for every character.

10. King and I: An English teacher/governess to the King of Siam’s 40something children fall in love with eachother. But, with their backgrounds and positions could they ever be together? Other cultural and military dangers also abound.

Both:

These Broadways are classified as maybes, because depending on who the protagonist is the ending is either happy or tragic.

11. Wicked: The Wizard of Oz from a VERY different perspective- The Wicked Witch of the West’s. So it depends on who you are rooting for whether this is happy or tragic.

12. Phantom: Young chorus girl rises to Opera fame with the often disturbing help of a man know only as “The phantom of the opera”- a very real urban myth. She falls in love with her patron and they work to free her from the clutches of the phantom’s obsession. Again, who are you rooting for?

13. Fiddler Little Russian village around the turn of the 20th century. A father goes about his life as each of his 5 daughters come into their own and marry. Some of the daughters’ stories are uplifting and some are very sad. I love this show but can’t decide which category it should be in.

14. Rent This is a very popular show about a group of young people in their various relationships-highs, lows, AIDS, substance abuse, and death. The main question actually depends on which ending you are using. There are 3 for no reason, as far as I can tell: happily ever after, complete tragedy, and somewhere more realistic in between.

15. My Fair Lady: (Pygmalion.) Rich man takes a poor flower girl and teaches/turns her into a Princess. Palpable sexual tension is often present but the professor is completely closed off. Unsatisfying ending in my opinion leads to the wishy-washy category.

So there you have it, my 15 favorite romantic Broadway musicals. Do you agree with my list or are there others you’d recommend?

Photo Credits: Lisa Andres

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