Review of “This Scot of Mine” (The Rogue Files #4) by Sophie Jordan

Jordan, Sophie. This Scot of Mine. New York: Avon Books, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062463661 | 344 pages | Victorian Romance

3 stars

This Scot of Mine has a premise that has a lot of potential…but it was unfortunately not executed well. However, one of the good points was the characterization and the dynamic between Hunt and Clara. While it could have gone all wrong, and even predicted it going wrong, due to the fact that they each had some big secrets that they were keeping from one another, I did like that it didn’t take until the end for it to come to the fore, and that the potential ramifications of the curse was something they tried to navigate together.

However, this resolution of that conflict, and the book sometimes describing long stretches of time passing led to my interest in the book flagging. There just wasn’t much of a plot to speak of in the second half. And I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but I found the wording of the curse, and how it was meant to be broken super confusing. There is an attempt to establish some of the mechanics of how it works, with the mention of the ways his forebears met their end, but I just didnt’ really get how the curse was broken this time. This was only one of the things that was left rather vague, with her ruination not described in detail, beyond the fact that she apparently faked a pregnancy to get away from her awful fiancee.

I’m also beginning to wonder how long this series will go on for, especially as there’s a cliffhanger (in the tradition of this series) setting up the next book, which is about Clara’s uninspiring friend, Marian. I will probably read it to see what happens and if it is any better, especially that since I do hope that Clara’s sister, Enid, will still have a book in the future, and how it will be handled.

However, I feel like this book could have used some improvement in terms of pacing and further clarification in terms of plot elements, as a lot of it felt a little too rushed. I do still think it is worth checking out if you like a fun historical romance, but I’m not sure if it is one I would enthusiastically recommend.

Review of “TheDuke Buys a Bride” (The Rogue Files #3) by Sophie Jordan

Jordan, Sophie. The Duke Buys a Bride. New York: Avon Books, 2018. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062463647 |351 pages | Victorian Romance

4 stars

I was hesitant about The Duke Buys a Bride for a long time, since compared to the relatively unique plots of the prior two compared to the standard tropes in romance (disregarding that While the Duke Was Sleeping is a retelling of While You Were Sleeping, especially since I haven’t seen that movie), this one was yet another romance with the ever-popular rakish, arrogant duke hero paired with a commoner heroine, a setup I typically avoid whenever possible. But the other elements, like the setup with the bride auction, still had me somewhat intrigued.

And I more or less got what I expected. The duke isn’t the worst hero I’ve read, especially recently, but he is a bit annoying in places, like when, in the aftermath of a passionate interlude with Alyse, he accuses her of “throwing herself at him” and contemplates going to the tavern wench over whoever it was to satisfy his urges (he ultimately is able to resist, but only because of his growing attraction to Alyse and realization that he would forget the random woman soon after being with her). However, I did like that there were those moments that showed his capacity to be a good person as well, like how his sisters served as inspiration of sorts for him to do the honorable thing and rescue Alyse, even if it did have unintended consequences. I did also find myself a bit bothered by the miscommunication between him and Alyse, like how he omitted some general facts about who he was, and it was kind of just brushed aside once it was revealed.

Alyse was mostly likable, being intelligent and determined. And while I did feel like they were an unlikely couple, and saw it quickly veering into the territory of another trope I hate, the philandering rake who is suddenly ablee to resist other women because of the virginal heroine, I felt their relationship felt a bit more authentic than the others, and I did like that ultimately it was him who made the move of declaring his feelings (albeit without actually saying that he loved her right away) by making it clear he was interested in seeing the marriage become real.

All in all, this was a surprisingly enjoyable read, much more so than I thought it would be, although I continue to be aware my tastes can be incredibly specific. I would recommend this to fans of light historical romances, especially those who are huge fans of alpha hero dukes and feisty virgin heroines. This is definitely one of the better ones I’ve read in recent memory.

Review of “How the Dukes Stole Christmas” by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe

Dare, Tessa, et. al. How the Dukes Stole Christmas. [United States]: Rakes Rogues & Scoundrels LLC, 2018.

Hardcover | $27.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0999192337 | 409 pages | Historical Romance

I was excited by the prospect of four great authors teaming up to work on a holiday anthology together, but also a bit reticent due to the fact that it was yet another historical romance book adding to the endless duke train, especially since the blurbs applied the common adjectives like “surly” and “heartless,” which are catnip for many readers but instead lead me to roll my eyes. However, I was willing to give it a chance, especially since what I heard about it was generally good.

Meet Me in Mayfair by Tessa Dare

4.5 stars

Tessa’s contribution was definitely better than I expected, given that this is one that blatantly uses the word “heartless” to describe the hero. But to my relief, he’s not, that’s more an assumption on Louisa’s part, since he’s evicting her family from their home. In fact, I like that James does care for the less fortunate due to his background as a younger son and not expecting to gain the title, and being raised in the country, thus having more sympathy for his tenants there. I liked how neither of them being the bad guy gave Louisa and James an opportunity to see from each other’s point of view more quickly. While there were still misunderstandings (and groveling), I liked that story was sweet and fun, and stressed the message of togetherness with one’s family during the holidays.

The Duke of Christmas Present by Sarah MacLean

5 stars

People have been saying this story is the standout of the collection, and I have to agree. Novellas have a limited space to truly make the reader believe in love, and this is one of those that truly did it for me. Eben and Jacqueline have a believable love and good conflict, and it was beautiful watching them get their second chance to be together, given the things that stood in their way the first time.

Heiress Alone by Sophie Jordan

3 stars

This one was my least favorite in the collection, as while it had great ideas, the execution didn’t work well for me. Part of it may have to do with the fact that it’s “based” on Home Alone, one of my favorite holiday films, and it just didn’t live up to the spirit of that (I may be judging this one unfairly for that reason, since I didn’t see any of the other films that directly inspired the other novellas). I wasn’t expecting it to match up scene-for-scene, but I just felt like it was an odd fit, and I felt the humor of that film was missing in this story.

The characters were interesting enough. Calder was nice in that he cared for his servants and for the welfare of a young woman he just met. I also didn’t mind Annis, at least initially.  The story also felt like it relied a bit more on lust than love, and after a while it just felt a bit hard to engage with them, and I ended up skimming a bit towards the end.

Christmas in Central Park by Joanna Shupe

4 stars

This one seems to be the weak link for a lot people, and while it isn’t perfect, I don’t think it’s that bad. To be fair, part of it may be due to the fact that the hero is just called Duke, and he’s a New York newpaper tycoon in the Gilded Age, providing a nice change of pace after the first three. While he is kind of haughty, I like how Shupe explored why he was like this, due to his father being controlling and instilling that work ethic in him. And I love the comparison it evokes with Rose, who has few opportunities due to her class, but needs to work for her livelihood.

The romance itself is a bit rushed, as it progresses from them being employer and employee to a brief affair, then to him firing her, then to him groveling and proposing, and the plot is rife with deception and misunderstandings. That being said, the story was more or less believable in all other aspects. And given the way some in this group of authors have often been involved in speaking out about romance as a denigrated genre, I was glad to see an interaction highlighting how men and the public in general often undervalue women’s writing, and romance in particular.

***

I would recommend this anthology to fans of historical romances — especially those who love dukes. Even as someone who doesn’t like them, I found this collection enjoyable and would love to see these authors team up again to do another one.

Review of “Firelight” (Firelight #1) by Sophie Jordan

Jordan, Sophie. Firelight. New York: Harper, 2010

Hardcover | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0061935084 | 326 pages | Young Adult Paranormal Romance

2.5 stars

I am a fan of Sophie Jordan, her historical romances in particular, so in keeping with my plans to broaden my genre choices, she was my first choice for an author to read for the Young Adult Paranormal square for the Ripped Bodice Bingo, especially since, despite some lackluster, and even negative reviews, the premise of a romance about dragons sounded so promising. But while I didn’t find the book horrible, I definitely felt like it’s one of those YA books that’s written for a very specific audience, making hard for older readers to really enjoy it, and a lot of what the story contains has already been done by other, more prominent series.

I can’t really blame Jordan for this, as this was her first foray into the genre, and at the time, the Twilight films were still being adapted, and they likely informed a lot of the tropes of the paranormal subgenre, at least in YA, if not overall. But I could not help but feel that I had read a lot of this before, including the overly angsty, and sometimes annoying, heroine, and the fact that she’s in a forbidden love with a boy who has the potential to kill her. And also, most of the characters, with the exception of Will at points, didn’t seem well fleshed out enough to be sympathetic. There also seems to be the setup for a love triangle (and based on the review of the next two books in the trilogy, it seems like it turns into a square) that sets up even more pointless drama, which have put me off reading further books in the series any time soon.

However, despite the many flaws in this book, Jordan’s skill as a writer shines through, with her prose being one of the things that kept me invested in the book. And amidst the moments of teen drama, the aspects involving the draki are interesting enough that if someone liked that, and didn’t mind the heavy focus on teenage angst, they might enjoy this book more than I did.

 

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.