Review of “First Comes Scandal (Rokesbys #4) by Julia Quinn

Quinn, Julia. First Comes Scandal. New York: Avon Books, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0062956163 (paperback)/978-0062956170 (eBook) | $7.99 USD (mass market)/$6.99 USD (ebook) | 375 pages | Regency Romance 

Blurb

She was given two choices…

Georgiana Bridgerton isn’t against the idea of marriage. She’d just thought she’d have some say in the matter. But with her reputation hanging by a thread after she’s abducted for her dowry, Georgie is given two options: live out her life as a spinster or marry the rogue who has ruined her life.

Enter Option #3

As the fourth son of an earl, Nicholas Rokesby is prepared to chart his own course. He has a life in Edinburgh, where he’s close to completing his medical studies, and he has no time—or interest—to find a wife. But when he discovers that Georgie Bridgerton—his literal girl-next-door—is facing ruin, he knows what he must do.

A Marriage of Convenience

It might not have been the most romantic of proposals, but Nicholas never thought she’d say no. Georgie doesn’t want to be anyone’s sacrifice, and besides, they could never think of each other as anything more than childhood friends… or could they?

But as they embark upon their unorthodox courtship they discover a new twist to the age-old rhyme. First comes scandal, then comes marriage. But after that comes love…

In the series

#1 Because of Miss Bridgerton 

#2 The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband

#3 The Other Miss Bridgerton

Review

4.5 stars

A new Julia Quinn book is always a reason to celebrate in my book, and First Comes Scandal is no different, the delivery of which (while late) was one of the bright spots of self-isolation, followed soon after by cracking it open. And while I understand some of the concerns about it being low-conflict and lacking in plot, JQ somehow makes it work in a way other authors don’t for me, with her signature wonderful characters and trademark humor.

The two leads are charming and wonderful. I admired Georgie, especially in terms of how she handled the scandal she found herself in; she ably and comically disarms her abductor,  both when he tried to kidnap her initially, and later when he’s still pressing his suit. 

And Nicholas! I love that she wrote a virgin hero without him having a super deep moral reason for doing it, and also acknowledging the risk of disease, something that most historicals include in the “things we pretend don’t exist” pile. And the way he grows more enlightened about medicine and the inequities between men and women through his discussions with Georgie is great, and doesn’t feel out of place.

But of course, given this is a prequel to her original bestselling Bridgerton series, the best part is the tie-ins, as this is where things begin to come together, in a way previous books have only had a reference here or there (if that). Edmund and Violet appear, along with young Anthony and Benedict, and Baby Colin, the latter of whom has undoubtedly stolen the show. He mostly shows early signs of his massive appetite, and the other two display their thirst for mischief. But it’s nice to see that the Bridgertons were always a close knit clan across the generations. 

I really loved this book, but I am aware I am a bit biased where Julia Quinn is concerned, especially as the Bridgertons are involved. I think if you love either of the two as much as I do, then you’ll enjoy this book. 

Author Bio

#1 New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn loves to dispel the myth that smart women don’t read (or write) romance, and if you watch reruns of the game show The Weakest Link you might just catch her winning the $79,000 jackpot. She displayed a decided lack of knowledge about baseball, country music, and plush toys, but she is proud to say that she aced all things British and literary, answered all of her history and geography questions correctly, and knew that there was a Da Vinci long before there was a code.

In 2020, Netflix will premiere Bridgerton, based on her popular series of novels about the Bridgerton family.

To stay up-to-date on all Bridgerton-on-Netflix news, subscribe to JuliaQuinn.com Site News & Updates.

Buy links

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Review of “Not the Duke’s Darling’ (Greycourt #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Hoyt, Elizabeth. Not the Duke’s Darling. New York: Forever, 2018.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1538763520 | 468 pages | Historical Romance

2 stars

I held off on Not the Duke’s Darling, due to becoming disenchanted with the direction Elizabeth Hoyt’s previous series took around the tenth book, when I stopped reading. However, while the mixed reviews from Maiden Lane fans did not restore my faith in the possibilities for this new series, I heard good things about the hero, and that, along with the elements of the heroine’s arc in the blurb, was enough to persuade me to pick it up.

And I have mixed feelings about this one. In some ways, it feels like classic Elizabeth Hoyt, with the parallel fairy tale story and an engaging romance that builds in the midst of other things going on. And the romance itself, while sometimes sidelined, is well written, with the complex Freya on the run, and her the development of her conflicted feelings for Christopher, given the dark events of their shared past. She’s not bad, and neither is Christopher, who is a genuinely good person.

Sometimes the chemistry does feel a little forced, with the attempts to deliver heat feeling more tepid than sexy. The romance just doesn’t feel like it’s all there, with even the most preceding the sexy bits leaving me cold. I was more invested in the fairy tale the than actual romance.

Hoyt also fails to deliver in terms of demonstrating the stakes, not depicting the dark events of the story, and the characters and their connections feeling a bit too overly convoluted. In some ways, this could be blamed on the fact that this is setup for a larger series, as in retrospect, book one of Maiden Lane is also one of the weakest in that series for the same reason. And I’m hoping that the long delay in release for book two means that Hoyt is taking greater care in terms of bringing together some of the plot threads left loose in this one for greater coherence.

While this book is a disappointment, I feel a lot of it is to be expected due to it being a first in a series, as well as being Hoyt’s first new series after writing so many books in a highly successful series and having to figure out how to follow that up. While I wouldn’t suggest newbies to Hoyt start here, I do think it’s got a great idea, even if it did get lost in the shuffle, and might be able to more enthusiastically recommend it to historical readers once I know more about the direction of the series (perhaps after book two comes out?)

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/2vDcRl4

Review of “The Earl I Ruined” (The Secrets of Charlotte Street #2) by Scarlett Peckham

Peckham, Scarlett. The Earl I Ruined. New York: NYLA, 2018.

eBook | $4.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-2940161853542 | 242 pages | Historical Romance

5 stars

The Earl I Ruined is a great second installment in the Secrets of Charlotte Street series. It has a similar vein of some of the sexual/kink elements, while also being an overall much more fun and light-hearted read that still manages to balance that with dealing with some tough issues.

Let’s start with Apthorp. I loved his character. He’s both incredibly sweet, in that he’s been pining for Constance for years, in spite of her less-than-stellar feelings about him, as well as emotionally complex. As a certain reviewer on Goodreads pointed out (and shamed him for), he has a past as a male courtesan. And while I used to be squeamish about courtesans and sex workers myself, I’ve become more enlightened, and recognize how he felt he had no other option to do this for his livelihood, and if he happened to also enjoy it and be able to distinguish sexual pleasure without attachments from his love for Constance, then that’s totally fine. I also think it makes for an interesting twist on the common trope (based in life) of the woman in reduced circumstances who sees no other option than to do the same.

Constance is also a wonderful character. I I was ROFL-ing at her witty comments, like how she (and her young cousin) ended up coining the nickname “Lord Arsethorp” in an early silly exchange. However, in spite of not liking Apthorp, she was never truly malicious, and do like that she does her part to help him in proposing the scheme that gets the plot in motion.

This book is wonderful, with two absolutely wonderful characters who at first seem mismatched but ultimately show how well they complement each other in the end. And as with the first, I recommend this to those looking for a subversive historical romance.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/39haMK6

Review of “The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy” (Montague Siblings #2) by Mackenzi Lee

Lee, Mackenzi. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 

Hardcover | $18.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062795328 | 450 pages | Historical Fiction

4.5 stars

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is another winner from Mackenzi Lee. While I admit I prefer the first book, it has a lot to do with the charm of Monty as a narrator. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to love about Felicity and her journey. While it’s been done before in other books, and with perhaps a greater punch, I liked reading about a heroine who was so determined to break barriers and become a doctor in the face of patriarchal objection. And I love the fact that Felicity defining her identity is a major part of her growth, especially with the hints that she’s asexual, without being able to fully articulate that, due to the fact that it wasn’t a term that would have been used at the time.

I also love that, in addition to supporting roles from the ever-lovable Monty and Percy, she teams up with an awesome set of other girls who have unique pursuits of their own. And like with the prior book, the characters’ desires and motivations are molded to examine issues of the time period while also telling an entertaining story, with colonialism being one that I really enjoyed being explored, through the growth of Johanna’s character. And Sim was fabulous in terms of being an awesome kick-ass pirate with some tender edges too.

This is a very good follow-up and a great book in its own right, and one I would recommend to fans of fun(ny), action-packed historical fiction.

Review of “The Love Letter” by Rachel Hauck

Hauck, Rachel. The Love Letter. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018. 

Paperback | $15,99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0310351009 | 342 pages | Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction/Contemporary Romance

4.5 stars

The Love Letter is another great book by Rachel Hauck, about a time period I had long wanted to read about, and from a perspective that isn’t often talked about when the Revolutionary War is taught in schools. While I did note a few errors, chiefly when it came to editorial issues concerning persons from “across the pond” in England, it was the only flaw in what was otherwise a fun and entertaining book.

What I enjoyed most about the present day storyline was seeing how Chloe and Jesse navigated not only their personal woes, but issues with the film industry as well. As an outsider looking in, being a movie star or director looks so glamorous, but having to deal with all of those production issues along with all of that personal baggage sounds terrible. But I enjoyed living it through Chloe and Jesse’s eyes, and exploring how they let go of some of their difficulties in the past to finally pursue of a relationship with each other.

Inevitably, I did enjoy the past storyline involving Hamilton and Esther more, and the new perspective it brings by focusing on the doomed love between a Patriot and a Loyalist in the South. And while fate does conspire against them having their own happy ending, I love the way their story connects to the present storyline, so Chloe and Jesse can, in some way, be a fulfillment of the happy ending that Hamilton and Esther were meant to have.

This is a great read for those who love stories with dual timelines. It would also be worth reading for someone who wants to read about an aspect of the Revolutionary War that isn’t often discussed outside of more serious academic research.

Review of “The Legend of Nimway Hall: 1750: Jacqueline” by Stephanie Laurens

Laurens, Stephanie. The Legend of Nimway Hall: 1750: Jacqueline. Melbourne: Savdek Management Proprietary Limited, 2018. 

Paperback | $13.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1925559095 | 202 pages | Historical Romance

3.5 stars

Stephanie Laurens is one of those authors I’ve always wanted to read, but thanks to her large, interconnected backlist, and the increasing difficulty of getting older titles, I have largely held off, apart from reading one of her reprinted Traditional Regencies some time ago. But the premise of this series, with novellas in different time periods ranging from 1750 to 1940, following the descendants of Merlin and Nimue, seemed like a promising premise, especially given that it would also expose me to authors I had not read at all, or not read much of, as was the case with Laurens.

I enjoyed parts of the book more than others. I liked the romance and that, despite the shorter length of the book, it didn’t feel rushed. The story is a slow-burn, making the moment when Jacqueline and Richard get together feel worth it, especially considering the conflicts they have to face, including a suitor who is determined to do anything to force Jacqueline into marriage. I  also like that while there is a sense of the lore that will connect the women to their ancestress, it doesn’t feel too overbearing, so I don’t think those who prefer straight historicals to historicals with paranormal or fantasy elements will be too put off by this book.

However, I did find the prose a bit hard to take in at times. It might be due to the fact that Laurens’ writing style is not the sort I am used to, as I have heard others comment on that, but it just felt a little dense, and it didn’t allow me to feel as engaged as I would have liked with the characters. However, I do think this would be a great book for longtime fans of Laurens who are open to her trying something a little different, and engaging in the world she and the other authors have created. Having read and enjoyed some of the work by other authors involved, I will definitely be reading the others currently released, and looking forward to future installments.

Review of “Temptation Has Green Eyes” (The Emperors of London #2) by Lynne Connolly

Connolly, Lynne. Temptation Has Green Eyes. New York: Kensington, 2014. 

Paperback | $15.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1616505943 | 207 pages | Historical Romance

3.5 stars

Lynne Connolly has once again proved herself to be an author one can count on for unique historicals rich in historical detail. I enjoyed the plot of this one, especially as it delves deeper into the feud between the Emperors and the Jacobite Dankworth family. Having only been aware of the basics of the conflict and various uprisings in the eighteenth century, it was wonderful to read a story that focused on the lingering animosity toward Jacobites themselves after the 1745 rebellion, I was excited reading a story rife with conspiracies, especially as it concerned the parentage of the heroine, Sophia.

Something I find refreshing is that, even with the number of marriage of convenience/forced to marry type stories, this is one of the few that explores the heroine’s carnal innocence with an initial uncomfortable consummation of the marriage between Sophia and Max. I love how that played into the trauma of her past experience with the man who tried to seduce her and got her into the predicament where she needed to be quickly married, and the difficulty they had as a couple working through that.

However, the resulting distance that follows this encounter means that there isn’t a lot on the real romance front. They do eventually come together and enjoy each other sexually, but there isn’t a lot of substance to it beyond that, and as a result, I didn’t know if they would have a bond that would survive the sort of revelations that were made about her background over the course of the book.

Review of “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” (Guide #1) by Mackenzi Lee

Lee, Mackenzi. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2017. 

Hardcover | $18.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062382801 | 513 pages | New Adult Historical Fiction

5 stars

I had heard a lot of about this book, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try it, given that while I don’t see anything wrong with m/m romance, those books seem to dominate the market, particularly of adult romance, leaving the other identities, and especially women who identify as queer, unrepresented. But the recommendations for this book and finding myself with limited options for the LGBTQ historical square for the Ripped Bodice Bingo, led to me taking a chance on it, as well as Mackenzi Lee’s demonstration that she truly does care about representation across the board, as shown through her nonfiction book and her videos on EpicReads.

And I found myself blown away by this book. And a good part of it has to do with the characters. Monty is a character who is not always likable, given that he is often concerned with himself and what would make him happy, but he is a sympathetic character, and by the end of the book, I loved him, especially as he did evolve as a character. And despite the fact that I normally dislike the first person present tense narration, this is one of those books where it really worked for me.

Another strength this book has is the fact that in addition to openly discussing the difficulties faced by homosexual men who chose to pursue relationships with each other during the eighteenth century, there is also a focus on racial issues and the plight for people with disabilities, in this case epilepsy. Given the harsh realities for all of these populations throughout history, and how selectively romances seem to focus on these issues, it is refreshing to read a book that is unafraid to talk about them, while also being an entertaining adventure-romance story.