Review of “Catch a Falling Heiress” (An American Heiress in London #3) by Laura Lee Guhrke

Guhrke, Laura Lee. Catch a Falling Heiress. New York: Avon Books, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-233465-7. Print List Price: $7.99.

3.5 stars

As a whole, this book was probably the weakest in the series so far. The plot had some promise, but as the story played out, I could not help but wonder what it was that would make the relationship last. The two of them spend a lot of the book clashing due to Linnet’s perceptions of Jack as a fortune hunter, and Jack tries to win her over because he’s attracted to her, not to mention he compromised her while trying to save her from someone else. And once they do get together, there really isn’t a lot that I saw that they shared, and there were a lot of lies that he told her that just seem to get forgiven a bit too easily by the end.

The characters individually are somewhat charming, however. I did not know what to think of Jack, given the fact that he’s the brother of Belinda’s ne’er-do-well first husband, but I am glad that his backstory and his relationship with his family was fleshed out, showing that despite being a Featherstone, he doesn’t want to marry a wealthy wife just so she can fund his hedonistic exploits, the way his father and brother did. And while Linnet’s independent streak did get a bit annoying at times, I thought it admirable that she did want to choose for herself.

I was pleased to see the plot threads with Frederick Van Hausen, carried over from the previous book, resolved, after only getting only vague hints as to what happened in How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days. As such, I would recommend any newcomers to this series to read them in order, if possible, at least these two, although this book does an decent job of at least explaining the blackmail aspect, which is how Jack ends up in Newport at the beginning of this book.

Review of “How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days” (An American Heiress in London #2) by Laura Lee Guhrke

Guhrke, Laura Lee. How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days. New York: Avon Books, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-21189-6. Print List Price: $7.99.

5 stars

Upon reading the synopsis for this one, I thought it would be similar to Sarah MacLean’s recent release The Day of the Duchess, with the basic plot of a husband wanting to win back his estranged wife. But as is often the case with fiction, this is a case where there is a similar premise, but the two stories go in two completely different directions in terms of plot and character development.

The circumstances that led to Edie making the choice to approach Stuart with the marriage of convenience are laid out in greater detail, and they highlight a problem with victim blaming in situations of sexual assault that persists today.

As a result, the romance between the two is very much slow-burn, and their first sexual encounter, despite happening late in the novel (past the 300 page mark) isn’t all sunshine and roses, the way it often is when a couple in a romance have sex for the first time, giving it an essence of realism that you don’t often see in the genre.

The hero and heroine are both wonderful characters. I love that Stuart is patient and understanding of Edie and how her past affected her. And while Edie was not always the most likable, particularly at the beginning when she had her walls up, I found it refreshing to have a woman who dealt with trauma in her past that was keeping her from finding happiness in the future, after reading too many books with brooding alpha heroes.

Review of “Beauty and the Clockwork Beast: A Steampunk Proper Romance” by Nancy Campbell Allen

Allen, Nancy Campbell. Beauty and the Clockwork Beast. Salt Lake: Shadow Mountain, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-1-62972-175-0. Print List Price: $15.99.

5 stars

I was leery of the Proper Romance series when I first heard about it. While I’m definitely all for romance novels without sex on occasion, the idea that these books were being released by an imprint of LDS publisher/chain bookstore Deseret Book made me uneasy, due to my (most likely inaccurate) preconceived notions about LDS people. Not to mention I resisted picking up this one in particular, because I was writing a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling and feared that it would influence my own work. But as I finally gave in and picked it up.

And I enjoyed every second of it. This was the first steampunk novel I read, so I fully expected to be bothered by some of the weird anachronistic, yet imaginary technologies and fashions. But once I adjusted to the concept of the genre, I became more and more engrossed in the possibilities of a world where these concepts were possible.

The book is much less of a straight retelling than some of the others, although there are some aspects that you might recognize from the original story and the more popular Disney adaptations. The book is preceded by a quote from the original tale which discusses the Beast’s goodness despite his monstrous exterior, in comparison to others, “who, under a human form, hide a treacherous, corrupt, and ungrateful heart.” This quote is reflected in the narrative, with Miles not being the “beast” society believes him to be, whereas another in the story who presents a friendly facade turns out to be the real villain of the tale.

I was surprised how much I loved Miles by the end. He is standoffish at the beginning, which is very typical of the “Beast” character, but as the story unfolded, and we saw how he protected Lucy, even to the point of getting into fight with his boorish cousin who kissed her at one point, I was in love. I don’t normally like the overly protective or broody heroes, but he is written in a way that works. And Lucy’s a wonderful heroine as, well, being determined to be involved in all the action and save her cousin, even when it leads to her getting a number of injuries.

 

 

 

Review of “The Captain’s Daughter” by Jennifer Delamere

–elamere, Jennifer. The Captain’s Daughter. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-1920-7. Print List Price: $14.99.

5 stars

I won this book in a contest from the publisher, and I decided to post a review with my thoughts on it, since I loved one of Jennifer Delamere’s previous books, published with mass market publisher Forever/Grand Central Publishing.

And this is a wonderful book. I love stories that feature working class heroes and heroines, as well as narratives that incorporate real historical events, and this has both, as the penniless Rosalyn and injured army sergeant Nate both find themselves working as part of the crew for the Gilbert and Sullivan play, HMS Pinafore. However, contrary to how the theatre is portrayed in many other historical novels, many of the characters view this is honest work and aren’t nearly as scandalous as the stereotypical actors and actresses of the day.

The one glaring exception is Tony, the rogue/rake/scoundrel, whose flirting with Rosalyn is not as innocent as she initially believes. There is actually a moment in the book where another minor character says that the girls always seem to go for the rogues, and while he doesn’t respond in his mind he thinks that this had not up to this point been the case with women he knew. I found this amusing, because of the frequency of the “redeemed rogue” in historical romance.

As for the romance itself, it does happen slowly, with the characters not getting together until the end, when they’ve come to an accord as to their plans for the immediate future. However, the tension between them is believable, and the payoff is ultimately rewarding.

The secondary characters are equally interesting, especially Rosalyn’s sister Julia, who is on the cusp of attending the London School of Medicine for Women, and will be the focus of the next book in the series. I would also love to see more of either Jessie or Lilly, as their own struggles were alluded to, but not fully discussed, and I would like them to find lasting love.

Review of”When the Marquess Met His Match” (An American Heiress in London #1) by Laura Lee Guhrke

Guhrke, Laura Lee. When the Marquess Met His Match. New York: Avon Books, 2013. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-311817-2. Print List Price: $7.99.

4.5 stars

I first picked this up and read this when it came out, per Julia Quinn’s recommendation, and while I loved it, for some reason, I didn’t read any of the further installments in the series. As I finally made plans to read them, and book 4 won a RITA award (a factor which only amplified my desire to get my hands on this series), I decided to give this book a reread to refresh myself.

And this book is just as great as I remembered, if a bit cliche now, what with there being many historical romances with plots revolving around rakish men with “daddy issues,” or widows who lived through a first marriage to a horrible man who only wanted her for her fortune. But what I enjoyed was how Guhrke expands on these archetypes to make them into people. In Nicholas, we see someone who wants a purpose, but is kept from it, due to the fact that everything he wants are things that go against what is considered proper behavior for a peer. And Belinda has become a career woman through matchmaking, with the mindset of guiding these women away from men like her late husband.

 

Review of “The Very Thought of You” (MacLeod #2; de Piaget/MacLeod #4)

Kurland, Lynn. The Very Thought of You. New York: Jove Books, 1998. ISBN: 0-515-12261-0. Print List Price: $7.99 (Reissue price)

5 stars

Lynn Kurland is one of those authors I told myself for years I would read, and collected books by her when I could, but never got around to it, aside from reading one of her Nine Kingdoms books, which while decent, did not wow me enough to continue on to the next.

But this one was brilliant from start to finish, in no small part due to the the lovable hero and heroine. I tend to stay away from both contemporaries (too modern) and medievals (an awful world for women to live in), but Alex’s modern sensibilities made me laugh and I loved the fact that Margaret is a woman who can wield a sword and wears armor.

Kurland also differentiates her characters by the way they speak and think, something I don’t often see in romances with a historical setting. Parts from Margaret’s perspective have a more refined, older style to it, whereas you can tell you’re in Alex’s head through the more modern word usage.

 

Review of “The Duke and His Duchess/The Courtship” (Windhams 0.5 and 0.6) by Grace Burrowes

Burrowes, Grace. The Duke and His Duchess/The Courtship. Naperville: Sourcebooks Casabalanca, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1-4926-2617-6. Print List Price: $6.99.

Note: This is a compilation edition of The Courtship (2012) and The Duke and His Duchess (2013), which were previously ebook-exclusive.

The Courtship

3 stars

This was an enjoyable read about, as the title suggests, the courtship between Percival Windham and Esther Himmelfarb who become of the parents of the Windhams, Grace Burrowes’s most well-known fictional family. While charming, it didn’t feel original, in that common tropes are present throughout, including falling in love at a house party, and the concept of a man of lofty status falling for a woman of a slightly lower class, not to mention the whole “virgin heroine who wows the sexually experienced hero into forgetting about his  experienced former paramours.” But it is a fast read, that sets the stage for the follow-up novella.

The Duke and His Duchess 

5 stars

It’s very rare that we see a a couple encounter new significant problems after finding their HEA, but it is more realistic to real life, and considering there weren’t a lot of obstacles to Percival and Esther’s love in the first novella, we see their love truly tested here, with different problems facing them, like Esther’s health, the possibility of Percival inheriting the dukedom if both his father and sickly elder brother die, and the reappearance of both of his former mistresses, both of whom have children by him.

I love how Burrowes showed how difficult life could be for women who are forced into the position of selling their bodies to survive, and shows how it can affect women differently. I also admire that how she had Esther behave about it, visiting one of the women as well as she and Percival agreeing to raise both of them children, despite the fact that this is not something that most historical wives would have done.

 

Review of “The Dream Thief” (Drakon #2) by Shana Abe

Abe, Shana. The Dream Thief. 2006. New York: Bantam Books, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0-553-58805. Print List Price: $6.99.

4.5 stars

One complaint about the prior book, The Dream Thief (which I forgot to put in my review) was that the chapters (particularly the prologue) establishing the mythos of the drakon felt a bit disjointed from the main story. But upon reading this book, I found a lot of these chapters made things a lot clearer, with Abe expanding on the world she built in the first book, and while she did time jump to show the Rue and Kit from the first book older with their children fully grown and prepared for romance and adventure of their own, it is still very much just the second part of a larger story.

And while the chemistry between Rue and Kit didn’t work at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between Lia and Zane. Zane was a fun character in the first book, and I like that he isn’t a conventional historical romance hero, in the fact that he was raised as a street urchin, and has rougher ways than his aristocrat counterparts, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t truly care about Lia.

Some of the bits with her dream sequences of the future were a bit odd to read, but it shows that despite the feeling of Giftlessness she has compared to her siblings, especially in the beginning, that she does have her own unique powers.

 

 

Review of “The Smoke Thief” (Drakon #1) by Shana Abe

Abe, Shana. The Smoke Thief. 2005. New York: Bantam Books, 2006. ISBN: 0-553-58804-4. Print List Price: $6.99.

3.5 stars

Shana Abe is an author that has been on my radar for a while, but it was not until I found this book at a recent used book sale that I took the effort to try her work. And this book is enjoyable as a fantasy, even if it is somewhat awkward as a romance.

Abe puts effort into worldbuilding, seamlessly melding the fantasy aspects of her shapeshifter dragon world of the north with 1730s-50s England. This might not appeal to everyone who likes either fantasy/shifter romance or historicals, but if you enjoy stories that merge the two, I would recommend this book.

I really enjoyed Rue, who always felt like an outsider, due to being a "halfling," and grows up to become a thief, after faking her own death. There were some moments, however, where I felt like Kit was rather annoying. The dragon possessiveness stuff is somewhat believable, but there are mentions on two separate occasions that he would be fine with raping Rue. He doesn't, but these bits did leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Review of “The Scandal of it All” (The Rogue Files #2) by Sophie Jordan

Jordan, Sophie. The Scandal of it All. New York: Avon Books, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-246362-3. Print List Price: $7.99.

5 stars

Many historical romances require some suspension of disbelief, due to the pairing of virgin heroines experienced men, with most heroines being under 30, and the heroes often being at least a few years older than them. But Sophie Jordan’s latest is charming in that in features a widowed heroine, Graciela, who is 35 (almost 36) at the beginning of the novel, and is six years her junior. And in doing so, Jordan is allowed to tackle topics that not many historicals do, such as fertility struggles.

I’ve always been a sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope, and this is a great variation of that. While in other stories, I might question whether the characters have anything beyond passion that bind them together, the shared history between the two, with Colin being Graciela’s stepson’s best friend, works.

Having read the first book, While the Duke was Sleeping, I was already familiar with many of the characters, and only grew to love them more, including Enid and Clara, who I hope will have their own books sometime soon. One character I was not prepared to want to see more of the Duke himself (in part due to the fact that this ducal infestation of historical romance is incredibly tiresome, and also in part that some of his actions in this book made him come off as a bit off a jerk), but by the time I reached the end, I definitely wanted to know what would happen with him.