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)

Review: Her Prodigal Passion (Mayhem in Mayfair, Book 4) by Grace Callaway

her prodigal passionHero: Paul Fines would love to reclaim his fortune through prizefighting. He’s good at boxing and thinks he could make it work. But everybody remembers his disgrace through gambling and drinking over the loss of a girl. His family and friends doubt his skill and ability to stay out of trouble… all except Charity, his sister’s best friend.

Heroine: Charity Sparkler, the daughter of a jeweler, has loved her best friend’s brother for a long while. At his worst, she visited him in a dangerous part of London and provided some creature comforts… not that he noticed as drunk as he was. He thought she was someone else which hurt dreadfully.

A marriage of convenience: Paul is a ladies man and at the start of the novel slept with two married twin sisters. It bites him in the butt later when one tries to sneak into his bed again to publically humiliate her husband. Paul can’t kick her out so he climbs out a window and across the building… only to collapse on Charity in the drawing room and compromise her at a house party. The only proper thing to do is wed.

Never gild a lily: Charity’s father has led her to believe all her life that she is an ugly duckling. She might be a little plain, but she’s not ugly. Is his intention to be unkind or cruel? Whatever his intentions, Charity is meek and bookish and incline to home and shop.

Review: Charity was and will be Paul’s biggest supporter. He needs someone like that in his life. Paul finds Charity very pretty now that she is out of her spots stage. He can’t imagine a marriage with anyone else – but isn’t very good as assuaging Charity on this. Their marriage will be more than either can hope for… but not for Charity’s father who is heavily indebted to another man. How will the young couple be able to handle the heavy weight of a bitter man’s debt? I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Grace Callaway is a remarkable writer. I loved the scene in the prologue where Paul seduces Charity. Very sexy!

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Her Prodigal Passion (Mayhem in Mayfair)

Review: Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda CheeverHeroine: Miranda Cheever has loved Nigel Bevelstoke since she was 10 years old when he kissed her hand. As a young girl, his words of wisdom (that she would be a beautiful as she was smart when she was older) sang in her young heart. She was used to being bullied by her peers for her looks and Nigel’s kind act was like rain in a drought.

Hero: Nigel is Viscount Turner, and goes by his title. He is the older brother of Miranda’s best friend Olivia. As a young man he was kind as he was handsome to his sister’s friend. While Turner is still handsome, life has turned him bitter… (his faithless wife died on her way to meet her lover). When Olivia plays matchmaker to bring their younger brother, Winston, into Miranda’s sphere… Turner doesn’t like it and does something about it.

Review: Prologue-Nigel is the kind of white knight every girl needs. He plays knight again and accompanies Olivia and Miranda on their first London Season. Being around Miranda in a more adult setting opens his eyes to her charms… even if his heart isn’t ready. When passion leads to an unexpected confession, a confused Nigel runs… but finds he can’t run forever and doesn’t want to… but will he be too late to claim Miranda for himself?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

[phpbay]secret diaries miranda cheever, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

Review: The Beauty Within by Marguerite Kaye

The Beauty Within by Marguerite KayeReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Considering he thought he was only as good as the subjects he painted, prominent artist, Giovanni di Matteo is a modest man and often wonders why women of a certain age throw themselves at him, and although others who have commissioned paintings from him think him as an amazing artist, he is unsure of his talents. Giovanni has been at the top of his profession for many years since he had come to England, but his enthusiasm for painting as waned, his muse, his subject matter, not piquing his interest.

Although Giovanni is supposed to be commissioned to paint Lord Armstrong’s sons, he has a yearning to paint his daughter Cressida once he sets eyes on her, even if she is forbidden to him. Cressida, like Giovanni is intelligent and accomplished in scientific matters. She lives and breathes it and isn’t one to consider men, let alone marrying one that her father arranges. He does not regard his daughter as anything other than marriage material, while his sons are those he holds in much higher regard; so much that he wants him to paint his sons rather than her. For him this is annoying as all he wants to do is paint the elusive and attractive Cressida. When they talk in her father’s absence, she points out his dissatisfaction at his own work. He believes it only relies on the rules and principles of mathematics to appear brilliant. His work wasn’t always like that, earlier, he painted from the heart, full of enthusiasm and vigour, and even if he got harsh criticism for being at one with his art, he at least was true to himself back then.

Marguerite gives readers a first hand account of what Giovanni is like as a person. They get to see his whole personality in this volume, his thoughts that his painting hasn’t inspired him until he meets Cressida, the woman who fires his heart and gives him the drive to paint again. Giovanni finds her a beautiful woman who is overlooked by her family, mainly her father who is more concerned with his precious sons. It is easy to get into the story and the characters are made real by their backgrounds and personalities. Readers can be sure they will be entertained by this story, and it will be one to introduce them to future novels by this author. This is steamy and romantic, and one that if you don’t already, you will have an interest in art by they end of it! This is well worth a 5 star rating.

Likes:

  • Marguerite Kaye has an excellent grasp of the technical process of art, and the reader can feel she has researched it in full to make her character of Giovanni Di Matteo believable.
  • Cressida plays the role of the ‘ugly duckling sister’ very well, yet doesn’t realise how beautiful she is inside as well as out.
  • There is the contrast of Cressida’s cruel stepmother and father to her natural niceness.

Dislikes:

  • What’s not to like?

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Beauty Within

[phpbay]beauty within kaye, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

Audio Review: The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales, Book 4) by Eloisa James

ugly duchessHeroine: Theodora “Daisy” Saxby (am I the only one that thinks sackbut at that last name?) isn’t ugly, but she’s not the standard of beauty. Her features are very foreign but some haters call her features mannish and dub her the Ugly Duchess. Daisy is determined to catch the eye of some buck on the marriage mart, but after James’ lovely proposal, realizes she’s loved him all along. She wants to be his bride and show him how much she loves him.

Hero: Sinfully handsome James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, must marry and soon because his father gambled it all away and he also dipped into Daisy’s funds as her guardian. James can’t imagine marrying his best friend, not because she’s ugly, but because the idea for why he must is so repugnant and deceitful. Then of course he’s not in love with her. So when his father spills the beans and humiliates his new bride, James doesn’t argue with her dictate that he leave and never come back. He’s ashamed to have betrayed his Daisy and realizes too late that he does love her.

Review: This romance features a married couple and is classified as an estranged romance because they are apart for many years before the real wooing begins. James returns to Britain as a bonifide pirate, tattoo and all, just in time to stop the House of Lords from declaring him dead. I like him as a pirate, much better than as a near-virgin hero – he was a beta hero in many respects. I preferred Daisy at the beginning of her marriage, not her new persona she developed after she kicked James out. The chemistry was good at the beginning of the story and peters out quickly. My favorite scene is James’ reappearance in London and Daisy swooning.

Narrator: I did not like Susan Duerden’s voice. It had a nasal quality to it that bugged me from the get-go. She can whip out a crazy evil father voice that sounds like another person is reading though. Wow. Good voice acting there!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: The Ugly Duchess

[phpbay]ugly duchess eloisa james, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

Review: The Billionaire Boss’ Innocent Bride by Lindsay Armstrong

Heroine: 21 year old Alex Hill works as an interpreter. Between 17 and 21 she lived in a convent after her parents died because the mother superior was related to her (aunt). She has an irrational dislike (fear) of elevators.

Hero: Playboy Max Goodwin is a mining magnate in his mid 30s. He needs an interpreter for several weeks while he woos a new Japanese client. When they first meet he’s unimpressed but after a makeover this confirmed bachelor wants her in his bed.

Sour Grapes: Max demands Alex get a makeover to make her presentable for being around the events he’s meeting his client in to which she accepts with a lot of grace (though she quibbles over who will pay for the makeover) considering how insulting he was. Then immediately following her makeover he makes a scene with a comment demanding to know what had been done to her in a makeover. Now she was too pretty? WTF, jerk.

Review: The constant switching in thoughts from one paragraph to the next. It was a mental tennis match. The switches were too obvious and too immediate, sharing what one thinks or the other thinks about a situation instead of letting the narrative progress. It was distracting and ruined the reading experience of interpreting information. This book is an example why for so long getting into the hero’s head wasn’t on the table or until the end of the book for his “Oh crap – I’ve got to grovel now or lose her forever!” moment. The dialogue between them was so full of cheese that I rolled my eyes until I got dizzy.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Buy: The Billionaire Boss’s Innocent Bride (Harlequin Presents Extra)

[phpbay]billionaire innocent bride armstrong, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

Reader Highlight with Carla F.

Keira: What are your favorite romance subgenres and why?

Carla: I can never seem to get enough of Regency/Victorian books. There were such complex rules for society, and particularly members of the ton. It is fun to see the heroes and heroines manage to follow some rules faithfully and struggle to follow others. Also it is particularly fun to watch them break rules and get caught.

Medieval history has always fascinated me. Once again society had such definite rules. When you bring in the ideal of romance with a knight, his lady and a castle to protect, I can really enjoy myself and sometimes learn something new about the period.

I see Contemporaries as a “break” from all that historical detail and social hierarchy. Heroes and heroines behave in a way that I can understand (well most of the time), and it is nice not to have so many rules restricting their behavior. They also remind me why I would probably not like to live in either the Regency/Victorian/Medieval times.

Keira: Sum up your top 5 favorite books in one sentence each (two at most!) and/or retitle your top 5 favorite books:

Carla:

1) A divorced couple realizes their love while fleeing unrest in India.—Not Quite a Husband.

2) A plain woman marries the viscount that she has secretly loved for years and helps him to deal with a horrific episode in his past.—To Seduce A Sinner

3) After years of meaningless relationships free-spirit Cole falls in love with uptight accountant Jonathan.—Strawberries for Dessert

4) Deaf woman finds love and acceptance with the laird of a clan of werewolves.—Moon Craving

5) NASCAR widow loves again with the help of a younger, sexy driver.—Flat-Out Sexy

Keira: In romances is it the hero or heroine who makes or breaks the novel? Why?

Carla: I had to think about this one awhile. Since I am willing to put up with a TSTL heroine if I like the hero, I think it comes down to the hero for me. If a book is written in first person narrative from the heroine’s perspective, I will usually stop reading the book immediately. I need to know what the hero is thinking. (That way I can live vicariously through the heroine. LOL.)

Keira: Ready for a tough one? How do you define love?

Carla: I basically think of love as sharing your life with someone. You trust them, they trust you, and you have got each other’s back.

Keira: What are the most memorable sex scenes (good or bad) that you’ve come across?

Carla: Well I don’t know about most memorable, but one of my favorites is from Victoria Dahl’s, Start Me Up. Lori and Quinn have decided to embark on an affair (i.e., meaningless sex), and Quinn won’t proceed until he does a little research on what Lori likes in bed by reading a romance novel he finds her purse. That first sex scene where he “gives her what she wants” is hot, sweet, geeky, and funny all at the same time.

Keira: All’s fair in love and war. If it came down to a fight who would win: a vampire or a werewolf?

Carla: The werewolf would have the vampire down so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

Keira: What storylines do you love the most? The ones where if you saw any hint of them on the back blurb would make the book an auto-buy?

Carla: A marriage of convenience will hook me almost every time. (If it is an Earl/Duke marriage of convenience one, I am in romance heaven.) I also love the “ugly duckling” type stories where the hero falls in love with heroine even though she seen as quite plain to others.

Keira: And the opposite…What are some things you can’t stand reading about in romances?

Carla: As I hinted at above, TSTL heroines drive me crazy.

Please no fairies, elves, succubi, Hobbits, etc. I am pretty conventional when it comes to the paranormal (does conventional and paranormal even fit in the same sentence?) and stick mostly to werewolves and vampires.

Contemporary “women in jeopardy” ones can get extremely boring (she is wounded, they have sex, something gets blown up, they have sex, etc.)

Keira: What was the first romance you ever read? Do you own it? Is it the book that got you hooked on romances?

Carla: The first romance I remember reading was a Harlequin (back when there was only the one line) when I was in 8th grade. One of my classmates was always reading one, and I guess she must have lent this one to me. I remember that the cover was different from most of the ones that I had seen at the time. The story was a woman torn between two men, and both men were on the cover. One was in a ski suit and the other a business suit. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t really get hooked on romances until later.

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Floor’s open!

Carla: I was an early adapter of ebooks because of book allergies (started reading them in 2000 on my PalmPilot). For years I felt like I was out there alone, I am glad that with the Kindle and other devices ebooks are finally catching on, and I can read just about anything. That is why I like sites like this one to know what other people are reading. Thanks for having the site and thanks for inviting me to participate.