Review of “A Lady Most Lovely” (Love’s Grace #2) by Jennifer Delamere

Delamere, Jennifer. A Lady Most Lovely. New York: Forever, 2013. ISBN-13: 978-1-4555-1896-8. Print List Price: $8.00

3 stars

After thoroughly enjoying the first installment of this trilogy, as well as her latest release, I decided to order the other two in the series. And , while I did enjoy this one, and it was a good story, I felt that it wasn’t quite up to par with An Heiress at Heart. 

Tom is a great hero, and very much representative of the times he was living in, where working class people found success, while many of the “old-moneyed” and titled folks simultaneously disdained them and came to see the benefits of marrying them to save their declining estates or cover their debts. We also see especially at the beginning, that he often lets his impulses get him into trouble, such as starting a physical altercation with someone at his own wedding without thinking about how that will be perceived by others in society.

I didn’t dislike Margaret, but I had a hard time finding anything likable or memorable about her, aside from the fact that she’s supposedly beautiful. She does grow up a bit by the end, but I didn’t really understand why Tom ended up falling in love with her.

The plot also felt a bit too easily wrapped up. I expected Denault and/or Spencer to pose more of a threat, especially when they are seen together at the wedding, but the most threatening it gets is that all of Tom’s and his sister’s secrets are exposed, and there isn’t a climactic confrontation.

But I was glad to see that Geoffrey and Lizzie are happy, and that Lizzie gives birth partway through the book. Plus, James continues to be an affable rake, generating a little too much excitement on my part to read his book.

 

Review of “When the Scoundrel Sins” (Keeping the Carlisles #2) by Anna Harrington

Harrington, Anna. When the Scoundrel Sins. New York: Forever, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-4555-9788-4. Print List Price: $7.99.

4 stars

Note: I received this ARC from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.

While the first book in the series was a disappointment, I still very much anticipated the following installments in the series, due to Quinton and Robert being incredibly hilarious in the first book.

And they did not let me down. The first half especially made me laugh a lot due to the interactions between Quinton and Robert, and even their interactions with Annabelle and Lady Ainsley. The way Harrington works in common tropes of historical romance and gives them new meaning also got a few laughs out of me, like the unfortunate “bodice ripping” scene that appears in the prologue, and how at one point Annabelle, who is constantly referred to as a bluestocking for her love of books, actually dons blue stockings for Quinton. Even the name of the Ainsley, estate, Glenarvon, is an allusion in keeping with the rakish heroes that populate Harrington’s world.

And while the book does take a turn for the somewhat cliche and melodramatic in the second half, with the Quinton being the typical “rake-who-refuses-to-fall-in-love” and Annabelle being incredibly stubborn, this book was still a charming read.

As I previously noted, Annabelle is a book lover, and some of her sentiments about them felt relatable, as someone who also loves to read. But she’s also unconventional in that she can don men’s clothing to help around the estate, and proves that she isn’t willing to just hand over her agency to a man who wants to control her. Quinton proves to be a perfect match for her, as he is very much interested in carving his own path, without help from his family, and it’s obvious that despite the initial deal they both consider regarding a marriage of convenience, that they are much happier when they are both on equal footing and able to be together.

Review of “The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen” (Lady Travelers Guide #1) and “The Proper Way to Stop a Wedding (In Seven Days or Less) (Lady Travelers Guide #0.5)

Alexander, Victoria. The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen. Don Mills, Ontario: HQN, 2017.

The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen 

4.5 stars

This is my first Victoria Alexander book, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s a bit slow for the first several chapters, but once the traveling starts, then the plot really picks up, and I found myself become really attached to this cast of characters.

India is the sort of heroine that is progressive for the time, having gotten an education, and is working as a gentleman’s secretary. And while her lack of interest in the wider world and her overly buttoned-up persona may turn some readers off initially, it’s nice to grow with the heroine as she experiences the first real adventure of her life.

Derek is a nice change from the jaded rakes whose past has made them reluctant to fall in love. He is a charming character, who we discover is a romantic, due to his mother’s influence (his mother having married three times, all for love), and he is the one who works to expand India’s horizons. Though they often talk about the fact that India wants to “reform” him (in part due to her belief that he is behind his aunt’s Lady Travelers Society scheme and is defrauding women), it is India who is reformed.

As many great first books in series do, they grab you by introducing you to secondary characters who will likely appear in future installments, sometimes as heroes and heroines. Percival, Lord Brookings, is Derek’s stepbrother,arguably rivaling him in the flirtation department, and I look forward to seeing who will win his heart (perhaps in the next book?). And having set up the hijinks of the Lady Travelers Society so well in this book, I cannot wait to see what the three ladies get up to next time!

The Proper Way to Stop a Wedding (In Seven Days or Less)

3.5 stars

This novella was bonus material at the back of The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen, so I included it in the same review. I am somewhat reluctant to read stories about couples where I know their ending will be less than happy (as it feels like more of a HFN, or happy-for-now, than an HEA) but Alexander made this story, detailing the romance of Derek’s parents’ courtship, work, especially given that I had just read about her when she was older, reflecting on the loves of her life.

As a romance, it wasn’t anything special, but you do see how the knowledge of his parents’ history may have shaped Derek. And you can’t help but see a bit of Derek in his young uncle Edward, something that was alluded to in the main novel.

What I enjoyed the most about it was seeing a bit more of Aunt Guinevere, Mrs. Fitzhew-Wellmore, and Mrs. Higginbotham, as every scene they were in had me laughing hysterically.

 

Review of “The Silent Songbird” (Hagenheim #7) by Melanie Dickerson

Dickerson, Melanie. The Silent Songbird. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-7180-2631-8. Print List Price: $14.99.

3.5 stars

This the first Melanie Dickerson book I’ve read since reading The Beautiful Pretender (2016) upon its release, and the first Hagenheim book I read since first falling in love with the series with the first three books, but then becoming slowly less interested in her Young Adult material. And the overly simplistic writing of the first installment her so-called “Austen-inspired” Regency series further turned me off reading anything but her adult medieval books. But as I did grow up with a fascination with Disney’s Little Mermaid, I decided to give her one last chance.

And while I would still classify the writing style as a little too simple for an adult reader, the style would be appropriate for a teenager with an interest in fairy tales. And while it is a part of a series, it is only connected in part to at most two of the other books, with the hero of this one being the son of the hero of The Merchant’s Daughter, with another relation of his making an appearance in The Princess Spy. (See the explanation of the first five books here). As such, this can definitely stand alone, for anyone who loves The Little Mermaid, or fairy tales in general.

As for the characters, they were what kept me from giving up on the story despite the writing style. Evangeline is a heroine who escapes the confinement of the Castle, trading the possibility of a potentially abusive marriage for the life of a servant, despite some people who believed she would give up. I admire that she found the strength to do this, and chose to learn how to defend herself. Westley is someone who, unlike what we think of as the stereotype for medieval lords, has compassion for all people, and even forgives Evangeline for her deception.

The plot itself, while not incorporating any of the magical aspects of the original tale or the Disney version, has some recognizable bits and overarching themes, with the idea of a young woman escaping from the comforts (which she might sometimes see as confines) of home and going to a new, unfamiliar place. However, like many novel-length retellings, the story is fleshed out, and I enjoyed how she incorporated the conspiracy aspects of the medieval time period into the plot.

 

Review of “Prelude for a Lord” (Gentlemen Quartet #1) by Camille Elliot

Elliot, Camille. Prelude for a Lord. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-0-310-32035-7. Print List Price: $12.99.

5 stars

This book is another of several books that I added to my TBR following the great July Friends of the Library Book Sale, and I am so happy to have found her. For one, she’s an Asian American from Hawaii, like me (although she now lives on the West Coast). And for another, this book is absolutely amazing.

There have been other books that have dealt with the hero having a traumatic past, with that as the main thing keeping the couple from getting their HEA, and I find those books a bit irritating, especially with the whole “You-shouldn’t-be-with-me-but-I-can’t-stay-away-from-you” vibe those often present. But with this one, Bayard, Lord Dommick goes through mental struggles, but it does not keep him from proving he can be a good partner for Alethea when she needs him, and once they are married, he opens up and trusts her, especially once she tells him about the scars of her own past.

The way she interweaves the romance with the mystery element, through having Bay and Alethea share a love for the violin and music, with the mystery surrounding the violin, is seamless, and I love how she was able to keep me guessing about who was behind it until the Big Reveal.

I most definitely await the (as-yet-unnanounced) remaining books in the Quartet, to find out what Ian, Raven, and David get up to next, as well as any other future Camille Elliot books.

Review “13 Reasons Why” (The Netflix Show)

5 stars

This is a slightly different review, as I’m not talking about a book I enjoyed. I didn’t even read the book that this show is based on. But having both been in similar situations to some of the characters in the show, having a history of mental health issues, and knowing a few people who have gone through what Hannah experienced, I decided I needed to review it, even if it is not a romance that has a neat, happy ending.

I had seen a number of reactions to the show: some praising it, others bashing it for their depictions of issues like suicide and rape, and still more questioning Hannah’s motives (whether she did it for “revenge”). As for the latter two opinions, while I found some aspects of the show difficult to take in, I admired them for not sugarcoating anything, so we can feel the full impact of what these characters go through.

As for Hannah’s motives, while others may have found her a bit overdramatic, I agreed with one of the points the creators and actors made in Beyond the Reasons, about the young mind not fully being developed yet, and not being able to rationalize in the same way an adult might, especially when they feel such intense emotional pain. And while the concept of the tapes do present a sort of revenge plot, there is obviously some baggage that many of these characters have that is not directly related to Hannah, and the tapes make them confront that.

As actors, there wasn’t one person who did not impress me, especially as all of them had to play such nuanced and multifaceted characters, and the opinion you have of them in episode one will change between episodes one and thirteen. Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford are stunning as leads Clay and Hannah, and their friendship which could have grown to be something more is one of the highlights of the series. But one of the real standouts to me is Justin Prentice as Bryce. It is hard to imagine being able to get into the mindset of someone who sees others (especially those of the opposite sex) as objects they can violate in any perverse way they want, but Prentice was able to bring this loathsome character to life and make him believable.

One of the key themes I took from the show was the importance of being kind. While we do mess up on occasion, and we might not always be able to do the right thing in the moment (as this show depicts at various points with both Clay and Hannah), we should always make the effort.

And as a final note, suicide should never be the answer. There are ways to get help. If you or someone you know need help, please don’t be afraid to consult any of the resources here, or with someone you trust.

Review of “A Name Unknown” (Shadows Over England #1) by Roseanna M. White

White, Roseanna. A Name Unknown. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-1926-9. Print List Price: $15.99.

4 stars

Picking up this book made me so happy, for a few different reasons. For one, I loved her previous series, and this one definitely showed that she was going in a different direction in terms of the types of characters she was writing, while still keeping the elements I fell in love with, that being the seamless blend of romance and mystery. And for more superficial reasons, which I expect I will go into in a post sometime in the future, I was delighted to see a book that surpassed 400 pages, when it's rare to see books that make it to the 300 page mark, particularly in the romance genre, without padding with annoying and deceiving excerpts. But I digress.

One of the best features of this book is the main characters. While the leads of her Ladies of the Manor series could be somewhat hit-or-miss, both Rosemary and Peter are likable, but still flawed, characters. Rosemary's upbringing has caused her to be the token character who struggles with her faith, a common feature of many inspirational romances, but I don't begrudge White for using this trope, as she fleshes Rosemary out with traits that make her strong, like her love for her rag-tag family, and the way she is able to stand up for herself and for others when she sees a wrong being done. Peter is also a wonderful character who I gravitated toward instantly, because I love shy, awkward bookworm/secret-author heroes.

The story also has a colorful supporting cast, who I anticipate that I will love to see in the next installment, particularly Willa, Barclay, and the rest. I hope they all get their chances at happiness. And all the insights into what the Royal Family was like at the time provided a way of situating the story within the time period.

But while I enjoyed this book, at points I did find the plot a bit uninteresting, especially towards the end when the mystery is being wrapped up. I don't think it detracts from the benefits of the length of the book, however, as it may be because I was just not that interested in all the political goings-on that led up to World War I. But if that is something you enjoy, then you will enjoy those aspects more than I did.

 

Review of “The Lady of the Lakes” by Josi S. Kilpack

-Kilpack, Josi S. The Lady of the Lakes. Salt Lake: Shadow Mountain, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-62972-226-9. Print List Price: $15.99.

5 stars

Having not read anything by Sir Walter Scott before, I was somewhat hesitant going into this book. But I found that not knowing much about him ahead of time meant that I could be much more swept up in the story, with there being some mystery for me as to how these characters would all end up.

I admire Kilpack for the amount of effort she put into working with historical records and developing an engaging story. In the chapter notes, she discusses the parts where she had to take poetic license, especially in cases where there just isn’t enough information available to know for sure what happened.

One of the aspects that I love that Kilpack developed a bit more was the obvious signs that Walter and Mina would not make a good match, and later contrasting it with the signs that Walter and Charlotte would make a good match, such as Mina’s disinterest in the theater and in riding, and making Charlotte’s love of the theater more fervent. And while Walter and Charlotte do not share all the same interests, I love that it’s obvious they are willing to accept the same type of lifestyle, whereas Mina’s station in life being all she’s used to is a small factor in her acceptance of William Forbes.

Review of “The More I See You” (de Piaget #7; de Piaget/MacLeod #6)

Kurland, Lynn. The More I See You. New York: Berkley, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0-425-17107-3. Print List Price: $7.99.

3.5 stars

This is the first of Kurland’s de Piaget books I read, and I found that while it did have some of the same magic and worldbuilding as the MacLeod book I read, I found myself a bit confused at some points, due to the fact that the de Piagets started off as a much less linear/chronological than the MacLeods, and her helpful family tree only assisted in confusing me a bit more. And at various points in the book, I found the story dragging and becoming tedious, to the point where I almost gave up on it once or twice.

Jessica didn’t really grab me as a heroine. I never really understood what there was about her to like, other than the fact that, to medieval lords, she’s something of a novelty, with her ideas for human rights and such. Plus, she spent quite a lot of the book getting injured or captured.

But Richard is a redeeming feature in a novel that could have otherwise been rather forgettable. I love how complex he is as a character, especially the fact that Kurland didn’t try to make him into an anachronistic feminist, the way some historical heroes are. He is chivalrous, yes, and he is never physically violent towards women, but prior to falling for Jessica, he has very traditional values about women’s roles in society, and it takes meeting Jessica to accept that women don’t have to be limited to activities like cooking and sewing.

I also found myself wondering if there was any further resolution between Richard and Hugh. After Hugh’s final confrontation with Richard where he tried and failed to kill Jessica, they seem to just part ways and Hugh is never heard from again. And how does Lord Henry de Galtres, who one would assume is a modern descendant of one of them, fit in? Was Jessica being invited in the present time in the beginning by her own descendant?

 

Review of “The Vicar’s Daughter” by Josi S. Kilpack

Kilpack, Josi S. The Vicar’s Daughter. Salt Lake: Shadow Mountain, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-62972-280-1. Print List Price: $15.99.

4.5 stars

I picked up this book on impulse, in large part due to wanting to try more books in the Proper Romance series, but also because one of the characters mentioned in the back cover blurb was called Lenora (and I am a massive Lenora Bell fangirl). This put me at something of a disadvantage, however, as the blurb also makes it obvious that this book is not Lenora’s story, but that of her younger sister Cassie.

At the beginning, and at points throughout the book, I found Cassie a bit annoying, as she was somewhat self-centered, and had no concern for her sister’s limitations or how she could help, but more how the circumstances of her sister’s lack of suitors affected her. She does change over the course of the book, and I understand that is why she was written that way in the beginning, so we could see this personal growth. But as someone like Lenora, who deal with anxiety in social situations, I found her sister’s lack of concern prior to realizing what she might get out of helping her insensitive.

By the end of the story, Lenora has grown as well due to the experience, and while nothing to my knowledge has been announced concerning her own story, I feel like she should have a chance for her own happy ending, to give others like me with similar struggles with anxiety hope that they can grow more confident and possibly even find love.