Review of “What a Lord Wants” (Capturing the Carlisles #5) by Anna Harrington

Harrington, Anna. What a Lord Wants. New York: NYLA, 2019.

Paperback | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1798484678 | 309 pages | Regency Romance

3.5 stars

What a Lord Wants is a nice conclusion(?) to the Carlisles’ series, although I admit at first I completely forgot how this was meant to be a Carlisles’ book in the first place. Thankfully, this is explained for the most part, and, due to having the loosest connection to the other books (with the exception of book 3, with this book’s heroine and that one being sisters), it can more or less stand alone.

This book felt oddly paced to me at first, and I found myself boggled at my lack of investment in comparison to others’ glowing reviews for it. I could feel the romantic tension right away, but I wasn’t sure I connected with Dom or Eve until at least halfway through the book. There were things I enjoyed, like being enmeshed in the world of art at the time, and I liked that Eve, in spite of being enveloped in scandal, was unafraid of risking another when she found herself in one, but still, I was fully prepared to drag my way through it, which would not do any favors toward my perspective on the current stale state of the genre.

But somewhere after that halfway point, it got better for me, and I started to formulate what was wrong, along with seeing things be solved for me. And the crux of the issue was Dom’s dual persona. I’m not the biggest fan of heroes who put up walls for whatever reason, and while I found it to be a new take, it did not endear me to him, especially since I felt the solution to his problems of lacking inspiration so obvious. But as things progressed, I found myself warming to him somewhat, and a pivotal moment concerning a letter he receives from a past love moved me and showed a moment of revelation and growth, particularly as it’s revealed that the woman’s father (also his former mentor who instilled the “art before all else” way of thinking) also eventually found love that altered his perspective,c and I found that beautiful and poetic.

While I did not find it as enjjoyable as I had hoped, having really liked or even loved quite a few of Harrington’s other books, I feel it’s mostly me and my funk with historicals lately, and I would not dissuade anyone from picking it up, especially if they have consistently loved Harrington’s work in the past and also really love historicals.

Review of “How the Earl Entices” (Capturing the Carlisles #4) by Anna Harrington

Harrington, Anna. How the Earl Entices. New York: NYLA Publishing, 2018. 

Paperback | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1721620654 | 316 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

How the Earl Entices is yet another great book from Anna Harrington, and this one has one of the best premises yet — and a great execution of said premise. And part of it is the way Harrington incorporated a broad sense of the politics and legal protocols of the period and how they impact both Ross’ and Grace’s lives, making it feel much deeper than the increasingly common wallpaper historical.

Grace is a heroine that I immediately rooted for, given her dire situation of being on the run from a brother-in-law who would be more than happy to see both her and her son dead in order to solidify his claim to his brother’s title. I admired her strength and determination to prove that her son’s claim, despite the fact that suspicion was cast on it. Ross may also be my favorite member of the  Carlisle family, because of his sense of purpose in terms of his mission, and how easily his priorities evolve when it comes to helping and protecting Grace, and eventually, being open to spending his life with her, even if things did not initially get off to as auspicious a start between them.

I would recommend this for fans of historical romance who both like the sense of escapism and fantasy, but also like stories with depth and heart. And while it is fourth in the series, and characters from both this series and her prior one appear, it is also a great book to start with for new fans, as aside from brief appearances from these characters, it stands alone.

 

Review of “No Dukes Allowed” by Kelly Bowen, Grace Burrowes, and Anna Harrington

Bowen, Kelly, et. al. No Dukes Allowed. Hagerstown. MD: Grace Burrowes Publishing, 2018. 

Paperback | $7.46 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1941419632 | 308 pages | Regency Romance

When this anthology was announced, I was excited. As one of the rare romance readers who not only “doesn’t love a duke,” but sometimes loathes their constant presence in romance to the point where they’re invading subgenres and settings that I would normally go to to get away from dukes, it’s refreshing to have a new anthology that not only celebrates good, honest, hardworking Regency men, but portrays what I think would have been the more common archetype of the Regency aristocrat: self-absorbed with their own importance, to contrast with the many romanticized portrayals on the market.

Architect of My Dreams by Grace Burrowes

This story is promising, with a great reversal of the cross-class romance. I enjoyed seeing the development of the relationship between Adam and Eugenia, especially given Adam’s hostile feelings toward dukes for the way one treated his father, and the widowed duchess Eugenia being pursued and blackmailed by that duke’s profligate son. However, I did feel that the relationship between Adam and Eugenia was based on lust, and while I could see what she might find to love about him, I wasn’t sure what he really saw in her.

Pursuit of Honor by Kelly Bowen

My favorite from the collection, I enjoyed this story of friends-to-lovers and the stakes keeping them apart. I loved the conflict that arose from Oliver feeling the need to behave honorably toward his betrothed, even at the expense of his feelings for Diana. I was also pleased with how the situation was resolved, with Oliver not having to do the dishonorable thing, and with his fiancee Hannah’s happiness assured. I also thoroughly enjoyed the subplot that tied Oliver’s search for his sister to Diana’s own closed-minded, scoundrel duke suitor, and I was glad to see a happy resolution there, also with a good man.

The Double Duchess by Anna Harrington stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this second chance romance, and I loved the hero of this one. I love that Max chose to do the difficult thing concerning the woman he loved and let her marry someone else, given that his circumstances were so bad at the time. And while I could relate to Belinda’s feelings on the matter, that Max left her, I did feel like she could be hard to relate to in this matter, especially since she did have a decent life, compared to the hardships that she might have faced as the wife of a minor soldier. However, I did find the intrigues surrounding the debate between their two causes of the hospital for the pensioned officers and academy for the cadets interesting, and I very much enjoyed the way it was resolved.

 

 

 

Review of “As the Devil Dares” (Capturing the Carlisles #3) by Anna Harrington

-Harrington, Anna. As the Devil Dares. New York: Forever, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-1-4555-9729-1. $7.99 USD. 

4 stars

I started this book with a dose of skepticism, considering all the promotional material I’d seen calling Mariah “the Hellion.” And the early chapters had me even more prepared to dislike her, as she both seems to want her father to take her seriously as a potential partner for the company, but also demonstrate her lack of responsibility by doing mad things like driving a phaeton at breakneck speed. At those moments, I was prepared to throttle her in an attempt to explain that maybe her father wants her to gain some maturity, and he’s not just against her becoming a partner in the company due to her gender. And while I felt like the focus deviated from her “wild” behavior without any real explanation beyond her plans to pretend to be dutiful once the story got underway, I did like that there was a focus on her good qualities, like her love for her sister, which is the impetus for the final crisis, and the concern she has for orphans.

Of course, the real star of the show is Robert, as each time, the banter between him and his brothers has been an utter delight. And it is much the same here, although we don’t get as much of it this time around, what with both Sebastian and Quinn both having started their own families. But it’s nice to get a deeper insight into how his father’s death impacted him, and molded him into the person he is, given his past debaucheries. It is also refreshing to see someone rise from those deep depths on their own independent of their love interest (as that is a common trope in historical romance), and instead have the focus be on Mariah helping him to see that he doesn’t have to keep trying to be perfect and attempting to live up to what he feels his father wanted, because of the nature of unconditional love.

 

“Once a Scoundrel” (The Secret Life of Scoundrels #4) by Anna Harrington

Harrington, Anna. Once a Scoundrel. New York: NYLA Publishing, 2016 [Print edition published in 2017 via CreateSpace]. ISBN-13: 9781542548083. Print List Price: $11.99.

4.5 stars

I tend to view many reformed rake plotlines with skepticism these days, and the idea of a son being acting out as a reaction to the expectations of his so-called perfect family is something of a cliche among all novels with rakes. But what kept this novella from being like those for me is that it actually focuses on a very real tragedy that  compels him to change his ways, as well as the difficulty others might have accepting that he has changed.

And as this is a sequel set a few decades in the future, following the children of characters in the first three books, this story was of course a lot of fun, as we see the older versions of those characters.  Knowing more about Stephen’s family definitely helped me to understand why he might have made the decisions that he did. And while I did not have a lot of strong feelings toward Faith, I did feel like it’s incredibly obvious she takes after her parents in wonderful ways.

Speaking of her parents, I’m glad we got to see Edward and Kate play major roles. I definitely pictured Edward being an overprotective father as he aged, and was not disappointed in that regard. And the part where Kate agrees to accompany Faith to visit the sick tenant on Stephen’s estate was definitely one of my favorite parts of the 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 “If the Duke Demands” (Keeping the Carlisles #1) by Anna Harrington

Image belongs to Anna Harrington and Forever/Grand Central Publishing.

Harrington, Anna. If the Duke Demands. New York, Forever, 2017.

(2-ish stars)

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to review this, given the fact that I found myself actually giving up part way through, and to provide a review of a book I did not finish would not be fair. But I found some obvious problems with the part I did read (I got up to the middle of chapter eleven, so around page 230), so I decided I would discuss them.

My initial impression when I saw this book were, “Oh, yay, another duke *eyeroll*.” And while this book is the first in the Carlisle brothers’ series, they are introduced in her last book, How I Married a Marquess, part of her previous series.

That said, some of my complaints about this book are that the major obstacle keeping the hero and heroine apart is nearly identical to that of HIMAM. In that one, Thomas, Marquess of Chesney, is a future duke, and despite his feelings for Josephine Carlisle, he cannot marry her, because, despite the fact that she was adopted by a baron, she isn’t from a noble family by blood. Her adoptive brother, Sebastian, now Duke of Trent, due to actions explained both in that book and this one, can’t marry Miranda, because she’s simply a niece to one of his tenants. Additionally, Miranda basically grew up as their sister.

But in both cases, they end up sleeping together anyway. I can’t recall why I didn’t have issues with HIMAM, but at one point in this book, he talks about how his father was a great man, not a rake like him and his brothers, and it’s pretty obvious that his parents loved each other. Yet, he seems determined to go through with marry a dull society lady, because he thinks it would make his father happy. That just seemed completely implausible to me. I can understand having this motivation if your father was an exacting man who expected perfection all the time, and could be abusive, but I just didn’t like that becoming duke made him such a stick-up-his-ass prick.

And did I mention Miranda is being chaperoned by his mother in town for the Season during the course of this book, and that she is technically his responsibility as well? I am almost grateful for stories where we have fathers and guardians who look out for their daughters’ interests in other books, but it is a shame that Miranda did not have that.

But that’s not to say this is a book I absolutely hated. Despite the fact that I did not finish it, in the parts I did read, I found myself being charmed by the dynamic between the Carlisle family, especially the brothers. The banter early on works really well, but the hero was too much of an asshole, and the heroine, while a strong character initially, just kind of melted into his embrace, despite the fact that she would be ruined, and he CAN’T MARRY HER.