Review of “Primrose and the Dreadful Duke” (Garland Cousins #1, Baleful Godmother #7) by Emily Larkin

Larkin, Emily. Primrose and the Dreadful Duke. [United States]: Emily Larkin, 2018. 

Paperback | $14.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0995105072 | 369 pages | Paranormal Regency Romance

5 stars

Primrose and the Dreadful Duke is a great continuation to the Baleful Godmother world, while also expanding it outside the realm of the initial series as the first in the subseries about the Garland Cousins. And as always, while you do gain context about the greater world Larkin built by reading from the beginning, this book can stand perfectly well on its own.

Oliver and Primrose are one of the best couples Larkin has written, in terms of their great banter, establishing their love-hate relationship from growing up together that grows into a more lasting love very well. While it is common to encounter bluestocking “Original” heroines in historical romance, I loved the way Primrose was written, with her passion for the classics, like Catullus and Marcus Aurelius and for alliteration.

And then there’s Oliver. While Primrose may call him “dreadful,” especially at the beginning, at his core, he is far from a truly dreadful duke, and one of the handful of dukes I truly fell in love with. I love his good humor which had me laughing, and made him a great partner for Primrose.

I was also love the development of the relationship between him and his cousin Ninian. With his life in danger, and two previous titleholders also having lost their lives in similarly suspicious circumstances, I liked how this situation brought them closer as not only cousins, but as brothers, and to the possibility of happy endings for both of them.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes a historical romance with a touch of paranormal/magic, and anyone who loves witty banter between an absolutely adorable hero and heroine.

 

 

Review of “Ruining Miss Wrotham” (Baleful Godmother #5) by Emily Larkin

Larkin, Emily. Ruining Miss Wrotham. [Place of publication not identified]: Emily Larkin, 2017. ISBN-13: 9780994144379. $12.99 USD. 

3.5 stars

Emily Larkin once again writes a great story full of magic, humor, drama, and romance. And while there are some flaws in characterization, I found the story as a whole engaging and charming with some great plot twists.

Mordecai is a wonderful hero, showing that his reputation is not always as bad as society paints it, but also that he really doesn’t care what they expect of him, given the circumstances of his birth and upbringing. I love the study of contrasts between him and his legitimate cousin, Roger, in terms of their attitudes toward sex: while Roger pursues sex indiscriminately with “women of a lower class,” even accosting his own servants, Mordecai looks for partners with whom he can find companionship with beyond what goes on in the bedroom.

And this is definitely the case with his relationship with Nell, although for much of the book, I struggled to see what he saw in her, given how dim she was, even in comparison to Letty, the heroine of the last full-length book in this series, Trusting Miss Trentham. While we can argue that Letty’s shortcomings come more from her sexual naivete which was common in the upbringing of young women during the Regency, Nell’s ignorance goes beyond that. She chafes at being “treated like a child” by the hero because she’s dealt with domineering people all her life, even when he tries to protect her. I know women in this time period often would not have awareness of what the outside world was like, but surely they would be told what might befall them?! I found it especially annoying that after she started softening to him and they began compromising, with them having an arrangement that she would be his mistress (which he intends as a means to seduce her into marriage, and she thinks, rather ignorantly is just something she can do because, well, she’s already ruined because of what her sister did), she then began to reconsider her feelings because he told her to get to safety in what was an obviously dangerous situation.

My feelings did soften toward her when they first began to deal with Mordecai coming to grips with the “gift” thing that runs in her family (complete with reappearances from characters from previous books) and we finally found out what happened to the sister she was looking for, showing that not all stories have the happiest of endings, but there is always a ray of hope, which is what brings them back together.

Review of “Claiming Mister Kemp” (Baleful Godmother #4) by Emily Larkin

Larkin, Emily. Claiming Mister Kemp. [Place of publication not identified]: Emily Larkin, 2017. ISBN-13: 9780994138477. $8.99 USD. 

5 stars

Prior to reading  this book past the first few pages (my first attempt), I thought this book was not for me. I believed everyone deserved to love who they wanted, yes, but I didn’t know if it was within my comfort zone to read about a homosexual relationship.

However, I was quickly proven wrong when I sat down to read this novel again, quickly becoming invested in the relationship between Tom and Lucas. My main objection was that I didn’t know if I would be able to relate to them, but I quickly found something to like and empathize with in each of them: Lucas and his struggles to reconcile his desires with what society considers proper and legal, and Thomas with his passions for art and his desire to pursue the relationship with Lucas more freely.

Larkin imbues the story with awareness of the stakes during the historical period she was writing about, as well as giving the characters close to the two leads a compassion for them being themselves and being happy that, while feeling a bit ahead of its time, allows for a convincing happily-ever-after for a couple who would face have faced a lot of scrutiny to be who they are and love who they wish to love.

 

Review of “Trusting Miss Trentham” (Baleful Godmother #3) by Emily Larkin

Larkin, Emily. Trusting Miss Trentham. [Place of publication not identified]: Emily Larkin, 2017. ISBN-13: 9781541378414. Print List Price: $18.99.

2 stars

What appears at first to be another intriguing book in this series quickly devolved as I got to know the ignorant heroine. The hero, Icarus’, story is compelling, even if at times he feels a bit too fatalistic in terms of his decision to end his own life, due to what he has been through during the war.

But I seriously questioned Letty’s intelligence at various places. She had the brains to choose a useful gift of distinguishing truth from lies, which has helped her as an heiress who is the target of fortune hunters. But despite her wealth and aristocratic connections, she is incredibly naive when it comes to sex, engaging in “oral congress” with Icarus (while he is unconscious!), because she saw her cousin, Lucas, engaged in the act with his friend and lover, Thomas. While it did not surprise me as much as I thought it would, given the history of old school “bodice rippers” featuring scenes in which the hero sexually assaults the heroine, it still left a bad taste in my mouth, and when she coerces him into letting her do it again, which leads to him doing it to her, I was pretty much done.

I am open to trying more of Larkin’s work in the future, however, especially the next book, which follows Lucas and Thomas’ relationship.

Review of “Resisting Miss Merryweather” (Baleful Godmother #2) by Emily Larkin

Larkin, Emily. Resisting Miss Merryweather. [Place of publication not identified]: Emily Larkin, 2016. ISBN-13: 9781536967739. Print List Price: $5.99.

3 stars

I was skeptical when I found out the second book was a novella, and that Barnaby was the hero, due to the fact that the blurb makes it clear that guilt over his past indiscretion (as recounted in Unmasking Miss Appleby) forms a substantial part of his arc, and a novella means less time to devote to fleshing the story out. And I found myself proved correct, because while I felt that part of Barnaby’s story, including the resolution of the breach between him and Marcus, was resolved, this didn’t have a chance to be a “proper” romance due to the length.

One of the major problems is that the story feels like insta-love, with no real obstacles in the way of their being together, besides the guilt he has over his past mistake, and that is resolved a little too neatly by having Barnaby and Merry trapped together in a cave, with the possibility of it being life-or-death, leading to them getting together.

But Barnaby’s character is well-written, with his arc focusing on his guilt. I love the friendship between Barnaby and Marcus: that Marcus was able to come to terms with what happened, and reach out to Barnaby, and Barnaby found redemption and felt like he deserved to be Marcus’s friend again.

 

Review of “Unmasking Miss Appleby” (Baleful Godmother #1) by Emily Larkin

Larkin, Emily. Unmasking Miss Appleby. [Place of publication not identified]: Emily Larkin, 2016. ISBN-13: 9781536967685. Print List Price: $11.99 (also available free in ebook).

4 stars

I love historical romance with paranormal elements, so I was excited to discover Emily Larkin through my local public library. This book has just the right amount of paranormal that I don’t think it will overwhelm historical readers who want to try something new, and it will surely delight those like me who are interested in a well-done combination of the two subgenres.

A shapeshifting heroine is a breath of fresh air, when shifter paranormals seem to be dominated by men, and pure historicals where the heroine masquerades a man often requires a strong suspension of disbelief. I love that when Charlotte is getting used to life as a man, she is disconcerted by the feeling of male sexual arousal she gets from Cosgrove. And every time she has to wish away her erection, I found myself laughing.

But the book has a healthy balance of serious stuff too. I love the mystery aspect, and while the culprit of the crimes against Cosgrove are somewhat predictable, the true intentions of the perpetrator are much darker than I suspected.

I’m unsure what to think of Lord Cosgrove as a hero. On the one hand, there is nothing to dislike about him, and he treats Charlotte with respect, regardless of which persona he meets her in. But a part of his arc is figuring out what was really going on with his wife, who was deceptive and histrionic prior to her sudden death, having affairs with other men including his best friend. He says at one point he wants a wife who won’t have affairs, with whom he’ll have a congenial marriage (I’m paraphrasing here), but just pages earlier he told Charlotte that due to the fact that his eventual remarriage would be one of convenience, she could still be his mistress. I know he was jaded by his first wife, and he hadn’t even picked out anyone suitable to marry, but that is such a double standard, especially considering his wife was hardly the only married woman in that time period engaging in affairs.

But on the whole, it is still a well-written, engaging book, both as a stand-alone novel or a first novel in a series. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants something a bit different in historical romance.