Review of “Lady Notorious” (Royal Rewards #4) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Lady Notorious. New York: Zebra Books/Kensington Publishing Corp., 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420145458 | 281 pages | Regency Romance

2.5 stars

Theresa Romain is one of the authors that I have…complex…feelings about when it comes to their work. There are some where I feel like I don’t gel with their characters, and thus am less inclined to read more of them. But Romain is one of those that I consistently want to love, and have enjoyed a few of her books in the past, but find myself a bit at a loss with not only Lady Notorious itself, but almost the entire Royal Rewards series.

The main thing that maintains my interest is her characters, particularly the heroes, and how they tend to be more beta than alpha. That is the case here, with George, Lord Northbrook. He is a charming and intelligent hero, and while he has some demons, they are handled in a way that I really enjoyed, not allowing these things from his past to fully dominate him in the present. I also love that he has a unique hobby concerning camera obscurae. And while Cassandra is a somewhat anachronistic historical heroine, I also found her reasonably likable as well, and I felt like they had pretty good chemistry with one another.

However, while there is a claim to a mystery plot here, I found myself at a loss to figure out what the point of it all was, except that it somehow involved a threat to the life of Nortbrook’s father, the Duke of Ardmore. The pacing of this dragged (an amazing feat, given that it’s less than 300 pages), and I didn’t feel any trace of the suspense that I was led to expect from the blurb. I almost wish she had tightened the plot a bit of this one (and perhaps even the others in the series as well) to novella length, as I found her recent novellas far superior in quality than this series, and there didn’t seem to be enough of interest going on to stretch out to four full novels.

I am massively disappointed in Romain after concluding this series, but I hope this is just a minor misfire, as I know she is still capable of writing great stories (not to mention I still have her other recent series, Romance of the Turf, in my TBR, and it sounds very different tone-wise). If anything, I would not suggest a newbie to Romain start here, but with one of her earlier works.

Review of “Lady Rogue” (Royal Rewards #3) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Lady Rogue. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2018. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420145434 | 277 pages | Regency Romance

4.5 stars

Lady Rogue is definitely the best in the Royal Rewards series yet, containing both Theresa Romain’s signature relatable characters with a much more cohesive plot than the other two, likely helped by the fact that it did have the foundations of those books to build on.

The setup for Isabel and Callum’s relationship takes some suspension of disbelief, but in this case, I’ll take it, as I love stories where the heroine is the aristocrat and the hero is the commoner. And Callum’s background does touch on his humble origins without it tending toward the bleak, which has been used as justification for the lack of commoner heroes in historical romance. And I love how they have a dynamic that works, even if I did find myself initially forgetting a bit from prior books concerning them if I had met them before and whether their prior relationship had been hinted at in the other books.

The heist plot had some great twists and turns, and I liked that it involved classic art, one of the things I always love to read about in fiction, especially in a somewhat suspenseful vein (blame The Da Vinci Code and its readalikes). And I love how the sinister nature of what Isabel’s late husband may have been involved in was hinted at, culminating in a shocking revelation.

This was a delightful Regency romance, and one that hit many of the rights spots for me character and plot wise. I would recommend this for fans of romances with a touch of suspense, as well as those who love sympathetic and different historical romance characters.

Review of “Passion Favors the Bold” (Royal Rewards #2) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Passion Favors the Bold. New York: Kensington, 2017.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420138672 | 294 pages | Regency Romance

3 stars

I found Passion Favors the Bold something of a disappointment compared to the first book in the series. However, there were some aspects I did like. Romain has an engaging writing style, meaning even with the story’s flaws, I still found myself interested in reading more. I also like that she is consistent in creating characters that for the most part feel easy to root for. Georgette is the star of the book, and I love that while she is a bit impulsive, she isn’t unintelligent. I also really liked the way her perspective of her family situation and her relationship with Benedict complemented and contrasted his, as shared in the previous book.

However, I did find other elements fell a little flat. While Hugo isn’t a bad character, I wish he had been fleshed out more, because while there are hints of his family history and how it impacts his present motivations, they weren’t well-drawn enough to make me feel he was an impactful character. And while I did see potential in their relationship at first, I felt there ultimately wasn’t much chemistry between Hugo and Georgette, and this one lacked a lot of the conflict that is necessary for a compelling romance.

I felt the pacing was a bit off, and I found myself confused as to some of the plot elements, like the fact that they had to hide their identities from this specific secondary character, so sometimes they’d be brother and sister and other times, they’d be husband and wife. I kept waiting for it to backfire on them, but it didn’t, or at least not in a major way. Also, despite being set up in the prior book, I felt that this one did not really fill in the gaps that were left in that book’s mystery plot.

However, I still found this to be a rather fun, easy read for the most part, despite the issues. I would recommend this to other fans of light historical romances.

Review of “Fortune Favors the Wicked” by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Fortune Favors the Wicked. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2016.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420138658 | 314 pages | Regency Romance

4 stars

One of the things I love about Theresa Romain is her ability to create both relatable heroes and heroines that don’t often fall into some of the more troubling tropes of romance, and Fortune Favors the Wicked is no exception.

Benedict is a great example of someone who can have a past as a charming rake and adventurous naval officer, but shows a natural evolution into a new focus over the course of this books, without wallowing in self-pity about the fact that he lost his sight. And paired with Charlotte, who ended up seduced by a charming man as a young woman and later becoming a courtesan for a decade, I love how they share this ability to live their lives and not mourn over their lost opportunities.

I did find the plot a bit weaker though, and surprisingly slow moving considering the short length and the attempt to present a suspenseful tone. And while Benedict and Charlotte’s desires were both fulfilled, it did seem a bit strange how the suspense aspect seemed to become less of a focus and it didn’t feel completely resolved. Even knowing about how Hugo and Georgette’s story connects, I felt some things that happened In the village where the Perrys lived got a little neglected.

That being said, I definitely continue to love Romain’s writing style. And if you’re like me, and prefer your heroes to be nice guys rather than alphaholes, then definitely try this one.

Review of “Season for Desire” (Holiday Pleasures #4) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Season for Desire. New York: Kensington, 2014. 

Mass Market Paperback | $6.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420132458 | 312 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

While the Holiday Pleasures series was inconsistent in terms of quality, I enjoyed them overall, and liked the concept of a series linked not only by a common cast of characters, but by the Christmas season. And Season for Desire is a sweet conclusion to the series, bringing together new and old characters for a fun story.

Like the heroines of books two and three of her Matchmaker Trilogy, I was initially skeptical about Audrina as a heroine, but Romain managed to win me over by making me understand what motivated her to behave in the way she did. Her family circumstances, being the youngest of five sisters who all had expectations put on them by their father resonated with me, especially when at one point, she expresses the sentiment that all of her other siblings have already done better before her, so she was the “last and worst,” or something along those lines. I also like that Giles struggles with his own sense of self-worth, and the exploration of how Regency society would have diagnosed and treated joint disorders like arthritis, and how it affected the lives of those who had it.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially the reveal about the duke being in love with his fiancee (Audrina’s sister) in spite of any scandals in her family, proving he’s different from her father and most of society. And despite not having a lot of time to develop the relationship, I was also happy that Lady Irving got her HEA with Giles’ father Richard, especially after having gotten to know her over the course of the series.

Review of “Season for Scandal” (Holiday Pleasures #3) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Season for Scandal. New York: Kensington, 2013. 

Mass Market Paperback | $6.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420132434 | 347 pages | Regency Romance

5 stars

After the disappointment of the previous installment, which while promising, lacked consistency in terms of the buildup of the conflict and stakes, this one was much better in terms of establishing obstacles that tested the relationship between Jane and Edmund.

Jane and Edmund are both sympathetic characters, with flaws that made me like them all the more, and I felt the difficulties they faced in entering a marriage of convenience and having these secrets and misunderstandings felt understandable, even if they might not work for everyone. I enjoyed how Edmund’s character was written in particular, portraying himself to the outside world as a kind and good-natured gentleman, but also maintains rigid control over himself, carrying around a private pain in his past that leads him to keep others at arm’s length. I could not help but feel for him as the circumstances that led to him being hurt were revealed, when he was blameless in the matter.

I love how this informed his relationship with Jane, who is more open and demonstrative, but also has a tendency toward more reckless behavior, like the gambling incident that leads to the necessity of her marriage to Edmund to begin with. However, while she is immature at the beginning, I love how marriage allows her to grow as a person, including helping to resolve the situation with Edmund’s old adversary.

Review of “Season for Surrender” (Holiday Pleasures #2) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Season for Surrender. New York: Kensington, 2012. 

Mass Market Paperback | $6.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1420128864 | 344 pages | Regency Romance

2.5 stars

I feel bad that I didn’t enjoy this one as much, as Theresa Romain has quickly become one of my new favorite authors. But compared to the other books by her that I have more or less enjoyed in the past, including her debut and the first in the series, Season for Temptation, this one is a bit of a miss.

There are things I enjoyed, like the fact that Alex and Louisa bond over books, and I enjoyed the exploration of both of them as people beyond how they appear to society, including delving into Alex’s past. However, the book felt like it moved at a snail’s pace, with not much of note really happening, and when something finally did, that being Alex’s cousin Lockwood threatening to ruin Louisa after being a boor to her at other points in the story, it wasn’t executed well enough to maintain my interest.

However, another positive is that it does set up the possibility for an interesting follow-up installment with the introduction of Alex’s other cousin Jane and her love interest, Lord Kilpatrick, so I will definitely be reading the next one to see how that pans out.

Review of “Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress” (Matchmaker #3) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2015. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1402284052 | 316 pages | Regency Romance

4.5 stars

Over the course of the Matchmaker Trilogy, while some were better than others, I admired how Theresa Romain introduced secondary female characters who I thought I wouldn’t like, then redeemed them in their own book. This is also the case with the heroine of this book, Augusta Meredith, who was seen in the last book propositioning the Duke of Wyverne to have an affair and was described as having more money than sense. And while I did find myself irritated with her at times, especially with her naivete, her history provides some justification for why she makes some of the decisions she does, so I did feel for her and understand her motivations, even if I wish she were a bit more meticulous when making her plans.

On the other hand, I loved Joss almost immediately upon getting to know him, even if I didn’t really notice him in his prior appearance in the previous book. And I love that his history of having a dishonorable father whose only good deed was marrying his mother in time so he wouldn’t be illegitimate has informed his sense of honor, which makes him a good foil for Augusta. And contrary to the historicals I have often had issues with, where despite them having slept together and there being the risk of a child, the heroine still says she doesn’t want to marry him because he doesn’t love her, I found the role reversal refreshing. I love that Joss wasn’t afraid to confess his love, even if Augusta wasn’t ready to confess her feelings, and that he had the utmost respect for her, even though she didn’t expect it.

 

Review of “To Charm a Naughty Countess” (Matchmaker Trilogy #2) by Theresa Romain

Romain, Theresa. To Charm a Naughty Countess. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2014. 

Mass Market Paperback | $6.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1402284021 | 373 pages | Regency Romance

3.5 stars

When I read the first book in the Matchmaker Trilogy, I found myself unsure if I would like Caroline, especially since that book itself was kind of “meh” in part due to Caroline’s cousin Frances being an uninspiring heroine, and Caroline seeming much more high-maintenance and frivolous by comparison. However, upon reading her book, I have found that she is much more likable and sympathetic, given there is more depth to her backstory, including the circumstances of her marriage to her first husband. I also feel like, given Michael’s challenges, she makes a good counterpart for him, being able to not only serve as the initial connection he needs socially, but in her skill to calm him in his more vulnerable moments.

Michael as a character excited me, because I was curious to see how someone with social anxiety, a condition I am intimately familiar with, would navigate the responsibilities of being a duke. On the whole, I was pleased with his portrayal and could empathize with his struggles, such as the need for control in every situation. I always find it fascinating when a historical author chooses to give characters disabilities that people in that time period had yet to understand and show how the condition was misconstrued, as it shows how far we’ve come as a society, but also how far we still have to go in providing understanding.

I did find the romance a bit weak, despite this. There is an undeniable attraction, but I wasn’t really sure what they saw in each other beyond that, and part of it may be due to their undeveloped past with each other. It’s acknowledged and alluded to throughout the story, but there isn’t really much explanation until the end, and even then it’s kind of vague and the details only suggest a physical attraction. However, despite these shortcomings, I would recommend it to readers of Regency historicals who want a break from the standard rakish/alpha duke historical.

Review of “A Gentleman for All Seasons” by Shana Galen, Vanessa Kelly, Kate Noble, and Theresa Romain

Galen, Shana, et. al. A Gentleman For All Seasons. [United States]: [self-published], 2015. 

Paperback  | No price available/book out of print/stories available individually in ebook | ISBN-13: 978-1518798672 | 375 pages | Regency Romance

This is a great anthology, featuring a mix of author I enjoyed and authors I was new to, and provides a great sampling of their work. While it does suffer from some of the typical anthology/novella shortcomings, as a whole this book is wonderful, making me upset that this edition was taken off the market, as you gain a lot more from reading the stories together. It is also one of those rare Regencies that, in addition to focusing on heroes without titles, has a style that is reminiscent of Austen without being too pretentious about it.

A Madness in Spring by Kate Noble

3 stars

This story had a lot of promise, with the exploration of the relationship between Adam and Belinda and why they hate each other. But I could not help but think that, since this was the novella that sets the stage for the setting and who most of the other major players are, that it is bogged down by characters. This made it hard to feel a connection to Belinda and Adam, especially when Bertram and Georgie seemed so much more interesting. The story also features an incredibly silly misunderstanding near the end, which I felt the story could have done without.

The Summer of Wine and Scandal by Shana Galen

5 stars

This one was my favorite in the entire anthology. Shana Galen once again deals with tough topics, this time looking at the poignant story of how Caroline was duped into entering a life of disrepute against her will. Given how easily a woman lost her reputation at the time, it would have been understandable for no one to want to associate with her, but I love that she had a father who supported her unconditionally, and that Peregrine was non-judgmental, pointing out that he and everyone else have also sinned in their own ways.

Those Autumn Nights by Theresa Romain

4 stars

Considering the way Bertram won me over early on in the prior novellas, I was excited when I got to his story, and was excited to find out his story was one that had some comparisons to Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Eliza was sometimes hard to like, but given her background, I think she was well-written. And I truly enjoyed seeing Bertram grapple with his feelings for Eliza.

The Season for Loving by Vanessa Kelly

5 stars

This one was also incredibly charming, and I loved the musing about how circumstance has made both Fergus and Georgie outsiders in their own way, and that, among other things, creates a path toward a bond. This was also the one where the stakes felt the most believable, especially given her past health issues, his reasoning for why he doesn’t want to marry, and the climactic moment that brought it all together.