3.5 star review

Review – If He’s Daring by Hannah Howell

If Hes Daring

In a dazzling new novel in the Wherlocke family saga, New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell creates an unforgettable story of intrigue, jeopardy, and desire…Stealing a stranger’s carriage is the second most reckless thing Lady Catrin Gryffin de Warrene has ever done. The first is succumbing to her powerful attraction to the carriage’s owner. Catrin has heard the rumors about Sir Orion Wherlocke’s family and their otherworldly gifts. He’s the one person who can keep her son and his inheritance safe from her late husband’s ruthless brother. As for how to protect herself…it may be too late for that.

Orion is facing the worst danger a man of his ilk can find: a woman he can’t walk away from. Catrin is an intoxicating blend of innocence and sensuality, and for the first time, seduction is far more than a game. But her beauty and fortune have made her a target–one that will dare him to risk everything he’s known–in pursuit of everything he’s ever longed for…

After reading the first five books in the series in fairly short order, I took a bit of a break and here I am on number 6. It was a good break and kind of gave my mind something to think about besides being immersed with the Wherlockes and Vaughns.

It was a fun story, despite some darker moments and incidents. Catrin and Orion are a very comfortable couple. There was travel, and adventure, a handful of adorable plot moppets, and of course, the indomitable Wherlocke-Vaughn family. THere were secrets to ferret out and a villain to overcome, and a family to be made.

Other than that there really isn’t a ton to say about this book. It fits into the mold with the rest of the books in this series, right down to some rather useless interest in another woman at the beginning, and a pregnancy to hide until love has been revealed at the end. If you happen to be happy to step into that mold then you’ll enjoy this one too, as I did.

If He's Daring (Wherlocke, #6)
Standard
4 star review

Review – If He’s Tempted by Hannah Howell

If Hes Tempted

Lady Olympia Wherlocke has the gift of foresight. When Lady Agatha Mallam asks Olympia to locate her brother so he can rescue her from an arranged marriage, she knows exactly where to find Lord Brant Mallam, Earl of Fieldgate. What happens next is something she never envisioned…

Since his betrothed died, Lord Brant Mallam has drowned his sorrow with wine and women. His dissolute ways have only emboldened his calculating mother. But with the help of the enchanting Olympia, he concocts a daring plan to end his mother’s devious designs for his sister. While each step in their bold scheme works to perfection, the sins of the past could unravel a growing desire that neither Olympia or Brant can control…

This 5th book in the Wherlocke series features one of the other most present characters in the series. I’ll admit, for some reason I wasn’t really looking forward to her story. I don’t know, for all her bawdy conversations, she just felt so spinster aunt-like that I didn’t even foresee her story until I came to it. And it wasn’t even a logical reason, for me, because I like spinster heroines. But I started looking forward to this one once I realized the hero was Brant, who had been so cruelly betrayed in If He’s Sinful.

And then we are in Olympia’s head and she has quite the sense of humor regarding her overt spinster like status, particularly as she is a widow. And I realized how ridiculous my reticence truly was. Which brings me to my trigger warning for this book. Nothing is really described,but there are children in jeopardy and also discussion of past events. Olympia is admirable and also very funny and charming. All I can say is she seems very much like someone I would be pleased to be friends with. And Brant was simply sweet and yummy, and in no way deserved the bum deal he got. I liked them both, and even better I liked them for each other.

There was no real mystery in this, just the unraveling of the villainy of Brant’s mother, but there was plenty of action and intrigue involved in it. And always, family ties are key and were lovely to watch.

There is just one thing that bothers me, and it does so only because of the glom, but I am realizing every single one of these ends with a pregnant woman waiting for the hero’s return. Since none of them relied on the trope of married because of child, I didn’t really note it at first. It didn’t make me like it any less, but I have decided to take a break before the next ones.

If He's Tempted (Wherlocke)
Standard
3.5 star review

Review – If He’s Dangerous by Hannah Howell

If Hes Dangerous

New York Times bestseller Hannah Howell’s extraordinary Wherlocke family returns with the story of a passion that will heed no resistance, no matter how deadly…When Lorelei Sundun first finds Sir Argus Wherlocke in her garden, she’s never heard of the mysterious Wherlocke clan-or their otherworldly abilities. That changes the moment she watches Argus-the most tantalizing man she’s ever seen-disappear before her very eyes. What she’s witnessed should be impossible. But so should falling in love with a man she’s only just met…

Pursued by a madman intent on harnessing the Wherlockes’ talents as weapons, Argus meant to seek help from his family, not to involve a duke’s lovely daughter in the struggle. But now, the enchanting Lorelei is his only hope for salvation-and the greatest temptation he’s ever faced…

This is book 4 in the Wherlocke series, and my glom has become that much more enjoyable, as there wasn’t a single woman entwined in the story. So yeah!

Argus has been heavily involved in the previous books and while I have been seriosuly anticipating his story, I can see why people might fear his particular gift. Adding that on top of his horrible home life with the Wherlocke/Vaugh curse of unfaithful spouses was more than enough of a relationship impediment for Argus and Lorelei.

The mystery that took the place of previous female entanglements was pretty interesting and in line with the family’s differences. A shadowy organization is after their gifts by hook or by crook. Fun stuff, it kind of reminded me a bit of Quick/Krentz’s Arcane series, another highly glommable series.

And Hannah Howell, seriously writes the best eccentric families. The best. Now that I am sitting here really analyzing WHY she is so utterly glommable for me, it has never been the romances, it is the families. And now she has added the Sundun family which is every bit as charming as the Wherlocke/Vaugn family. One scholarly minded patriarch who seems to have his head in the clouds but has his feet firmly planted on the ground, an imperious butler (I adore imperious butlers), 13 sons, and 4 daughters and a phalanx of extended family that he has infected with logic and fair-mindedness. They are seriously delightful. Additionally, we got a nice little epiphany about the so-called Wherlocke family curse that makes me feel rather pleasant and rosy toward the whole rest of the series.

I actually don’t have much to say about the romance itself. It was warm and fuzzy and more than enough when plopped into the midst of these delightful families.

If He's Dangerous (Wherlocke #4)
Standard
4 star review

Review – If He’s Wild by Hannah Howell

If Hes Wild

SHE SEES HIS FACE EVERYWHERE…

Lady Alethea Vaughn Channing is haunted by a vision of a man in danger—the same man who she has seen in dreams time and time again. She doesn’t even know his name, and yet she feels the connection between them, knows she is the only one standing between him and disaster.

…YET THEY HAVE NEVER MET

But rakish Lord Hartley Greville is capable of protecting himself, as he has proven more than once in his perilous work as a spy for the crown. If he’s to carry out his duty, he’ll need to put aside the achingly beautiful woman with the strange gift. And yet, when Alethea’s visions reveal a plot that could endanger children, Hartley will not be able to ignore the destiny that binds them together—or resist the passion burning between them…

I can fortunately say that Howell is definitely stepping further and further away from entanglements with the evil woman as the relationship conflict, and I couldn’t be more pleased. No horrible spouses nor plotting evil fiances littered this particular story. This time we have a plotting, evil would be mistress. But since the hero never did the deed with her, and since it would have been for crown and country and he was never really deceived by her, I’ll take it as a win. What I’ve won, I am not sure of, but I’ll take it. In fact, our hero’s thoughts turned to marriage almost immediately and the two were married for a good half of the book which was a rather nice change of pace.

We also have the usual meandering in and out of Wherlockes and Vaughns with their fortuitous gifts coming in just when they are needed. There was also plenty of action to keep things entertaining. So here’s the thing, and I am not sure I can really explain. When I am reading romance, I read it because I know (J.R. Ward notwithstanding) that there will be a happily ever after, even when like the previous two books there is another woman standing in the way. But, I am still much happier when that isn’t the impediment. That sort of story tends to leave me with a sick feeling to my stomach throughout that I simply don’t enjoy. With this book, knowing who the villain was and that the hero and heroine were already together made the unraveling of the mystery so that good could prevail over evil and the unraveling of the hero’s heart just flat-out enjoyable. I could enjoy the whole ride without any reservations.

This is still escapism fiction for me, this book didn’t change that, but I did like it quite a bit more than the other two, and it will keep me on my glom a bit longer, though I do doubt I will be able to read all 7 in one go.

If He's Wild (Wherlocke #3)
Standard
3.5 star review

Review – If He’s Sinful by Hannah Howell

If Hes Sinful

It is whispered throughout London that the members of the Wherlocke family are possessed of certain unexplainable gifts. But Lord Ashton Radmoor is skeptical – until he finds an innocent beauty lying drugged and helpless in the bedroom of a brothel.

The mystery woman is Penelope Wherlock, and her special gift of sight is leading her deep into a dangerous world of treachery and betrayal. Ashton knows he should forget her, yet he’s drawn deeper into the vortex of her life, determined to keep her safe. But Penelope is no ordinary woman, and she’s never met the man strong enough to contend with her unusual abilities. Until now…

Crackiness of this zany paranormal family or not, I am going ton find myself very frustrated if the main thrust of relationship conflict in every book is that the hero is entangled with the most evil woman on the planet. Very frustrated indeed.

At least in this case the hero isn’t married, and the engagement wasn’t entirely his own doing and he actively seeks to fix the situation. That was enough for me to not feel quite as frustrated with this one as I was with the last one. But just barely.

Despite their rather bizarre meeting, and some touchy actions by the hero at the start, throughout the story I really came to like and admire the hero, and Penelope was kind of awesome from start to finish. And putting two characters you can legitimately like in such a crazy over the top situation, surrounded by mysteries and intrigues, it is just my sort of catnip.

The mystery itself was multi-faceted and with enough twists and turns to make it a satisfying romp even though you could see those turns coming from a mile away. For me at least the joy is in the close-knit family and all their crazy antics and “gifts”. I can’t really explain it, but there is something I just love about settling in with a whole clan of eccentrics and seeing what they’ll do next. The romance itself didn’t blow me away, but for something like this, so long as it doesn’t disappoint me, that is more than enough to see me pleased.

I think it is fair to say there are also a fairly large number of plot holes that wouldn’t stand up to close scrutiny. But that is ok, this isn’t a close scrutiny sort of book. For me, this sort of thing is pure escapism, and this was a very pleasant escape for a few hours. I am uncertain how many of these I’ll be able to read in a row, but I’ll just have to keep reading to see.

If He's Sinful (Wherlocke #2)
Standard
3 star review

Review – If He’s Wicked by Hannah Howell

If Hes Wicked

Hannah Howell is comfort reading for me, and she is one of those historical authors that I have reread so many times. But I’ll admit, when she left the Murray/Macenroy families I kind of just stopped. I wasn’t sure I wanted a new commitment, and a new family. So I just kind of avoided her for the past 6 years, until earlier this year when Highland Guard came out and it reminded me why even the books that don’t blow me away make me so happy to settle in and read them. So I looked around and realized Oh heck, there’s like 7 books in this “new” series, where do I even start? Well at the beginning actually, so I got my Houston library card and settled myself on the waiting list.

And once I started reading this, I remembered the other reason I passed this book over, and consequently the series as a whole. It was my old bugaboo; spousal infidelity. Granted, in this case Julian’s wife is one of the most evil women imaginable, but yeah, this is not my favorite trope. It wasn’t so bad, because Beatrice is so completely, irredeemably, evil, but that is kind of another issue for me, the cardboard evil woman. But, we never see them living as husband and wife, so it is not the worst handled way for this trope. I judged it tolerable.

Honestly, I don’t have a ton to say about this book. The paranormal aspects are fun and like the Murray’s times 100, plus it looks like we have a fun cast of familial characters to dig into. I liked the hero and heroine though they might be a tad too blandly perfect. And the story was oddly happy despite any horrible things that happened. So it was a pleasant way to while away a few hours. I don’t regret reading it and would recommend it to fans of wall paper historicals who like to glom series, as I will likely keep reading the rest of it.

If He's Wicked (Wherlocke #1)

Standard
4 star review

Review – A Lady’s Guide to Skirting Scandals by Kelly Bowen

Ladys Guide to Skirting Scandals

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Lady Viola Hextall is bored – of the sea, her chaperones, and the woeful lack of available dukes on the ocean voyage from London to New York. Scrambling for any diversion short of jumping overboard, Viola strikes up a conversation with the ship’s rough-hewn, blue-eyed surgeon – and discovers an immediate cure for what ails her…

To Nathaniel Shaw, Viola has the bearing of a lady and the spirit of an adventurer – an unlikely combination that he finds utterly irresistible. So he’s hoping to convince Viola to leave the stifling ballrooms of London high society behind because there is a big, wide world just waiting for them to explore – together.

I’ve kind of gone about this series all backwards, the first book I read in this series was You’re the Earl That I Want, which is the third book in the series. I enjoyed it and felt it worked well as a stand alone, so now I am working my way backwards I guess. I suppose I could have slipped this review in before publishing the other, but since that wasn’t the way I read them, it isn’t the way I’m going to present it. (Does that sound snarky? I swear I heard neener-neener-neener in my head as I wrote it.) Apparently my beleaguered brain finds posting reviews of a series out of the order I read them an even more abhorrent thing to do than actually reading a series out-of-order.

This I suppose could be considered a New Adult, but I would consider it significantly more successful than my last foray. While Viola is a bit of a twit at the start, she’s also sort of charming and funny. And in this case, I kind of think having read these out-of-order was a good thing. Since this is a short story, there wasn’t a ton of room to flesh out backgrounds and characterizations, so already knowing a lot more about the Hexall family, I think let me understand and appreciate Viola more. She is so clearly a young woman on the brink of adulthood, trying to figure herself out. I am sure I have read historicals with heroines as young before, but they always seemed more adult-like, or maybe just reading this directly after thinking about New Adult stories and themes just made me aware of her young age more.

But I especially enjoyed Nate, he was so earnest about being the best surgeon he could be, that I found him absolutely adorable. And he was so passionate about the perils of basing society on the assumed merits of the aristocracy, and I do so enjoy historicals where everyone isn’t an aristocrat.

As for the plotline, yes Viola was young, but Nate always treated her as an autonomous thinking adult woman. In fact he treated her like more of a sentient being than she seemed to think of herself. And much like the other Bowen book I read, this took a hefty dose of willful suspension of belief, especially pertaining to how quickly they bonded and started being intimate, but neither of them seemed like cardboard cutouts of characters, they felt very real.

All in all, I found this short story fairly delightful and would recommend it to anyone who might enjoy a fairly ridiculous historical with two very endearing, if not entirely believable, characters.

A Lady's Guide to Skirting Scandal: A short story (The Lords of Worth)

Standard
3.5 star review

Review – You’re the Earl That I Want by Kelly Bowen

Earl That I Want

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I broke a personal cardinal rule here, I started in the middle of a series. Now I didn’t realize it was a series when I requested it, the heroine just intrigued me so I grabbed it. But when I went to put it into Goodreads to track it, I definitely saw that it was a series. The heroine, “brilliant, beautiful chaos in a ball gown” still demanded I read her though (when the predominant description is intelligence-yeah, an author likely has her hooks into me for it), so I went for it.

And I am happy to say that this can indeed be read as a stand-alone. You can tell that there are books before it, and those stories are mentioned, but it didn’t feel like there was anything we missed regarding the two main protagonists, so I was satisfied with my choice to start here. I will say though, willful suspension of disbelief is an absolute requirement here, so if that isn’t something you can manage, this may not be the book for you.

Josephine “Joss” Summerhall is not your average English lady. She’s widely traveled, knows multiple languages and has worked as an interpreter, and she reads widely and has opinions on most any topic under the sun. She’s smart, almost fearless, and definitely relentless and dauntless. Which is hardly surprising with an eccentric mother who carries around live chickens. Don’t worry she has her reasons too, and she is the main reason I am so inclined to read the preceding books.

Heath Hextall however, far from being the teasing youth who put toads down her dress when she was younger, has turned into something of a stuffy prig and thinks he wants to find a nice, boring, respectable wife. Unfortunately for us, he remains wrong-headed for entirely too long, but I will admit that isn’t entirely his own fault, Joss helped keep that unsettled for entirely too long as well.

The book focuses mainly on their relationship and them learning what they thought they saw and knew of each other wasn’t entirely accurate, and the romance portions of it were quite sweet, even when you wanted to beat some sense into their heads.

Where willful suspension of disbelief comes in is with the mystery. That was some crazy sauce, and the shenanigans surrounding it were quite insane, particularly Joss’ parts in it. But if you are prepared to put that aside, then it was a fun, mysterious romp that has the potential to keep you entertained throughout. Just don’t take it too seriously and I think you’ll find it an enjoyable read.

You're the Earl That I Want (The Lords of Worth, #3)

Standard
4 star review, Thoughts and Opinions

OpenLibrary Review – The Touch of Fire by Linda Howard

Touch of Fire

Romancelandia is no stranger to controversy, but the most recent dust-up over a Rita nominee finalist where the heroine is a Jew and the so-called hero (see I’m not biased or anything) is a Nazi in charge of a concentration camp, has really caught my attention. A lot of people have said all the things, but here are the two most relevant to me, and to why I am FINALLY starting this blogging category, which for lack of a better term, I am calling my “Shame Files”.

AztecLady over at Her Hands, My Hands has a nice explanation of the entire situation and links to more information, and she’s much more succinct and precise than I would be if I tried to unpack the whole thing the way she did. But we’ll just say that I have so many issues with the premise of the novel, from the power differential, to the genocide and the idea that everything is forgivable, to the religious aspects.

And then Wendy over at The Misadventures Of Super Librarian wrote this really pointed piece about how we as romance readers need to take a look in the mirror on this issue of the power dynamics, because the genre as a whole and in its various parts, is rife with this issue. And she is absolutely correct.

So I had been contemplating starting up my Shame Files segment for a while now. Not because I am ashamed to read or enjoy these books, but because I am always vaguely ashamed and reticent about recommending these books, even if they are on my re-read list. And the reason that I am ashamed to recommend them or discuss them, is that there is that problematical power dynamic and elements of non-con, and I liked it and forgave the hero any way.

So, here are your warnings: there will be spoilers in this review, and in any other in the future tagged Shame Files, because I can’t start unpacking the issues and my actual opinions without actually talking about what happened. There will also likely be non-consent scenes of some sort discussed, because I can’t think of anything else I’d be reticent to recommend over. Also, I am aware that when it comes controversial subjects, there isn’t always a good way to stay on the side of explaining and critiquing rather than sliding into justification, particularly when it comes to something as personal as reading preferences. I’ll do my best, but that is really all that I can do.

This book is available at OpenLibrary, all the usual disclaimers apply.

The Touch of Fire was originally published in 1993, so more than 20 years ago, so perhaps it isn’t entirely fair to use this book as my first example, but since It was my first example, it is what I am using. Once upon a time I glommed Linda Howard, and there were a ton of firsts for me in her works. This one counts as the first book I can remember reading a non-con scene and not being revolted and feeling like my stomach was turning over.

So for me to start unpacking this, you need to know a little bit about our main protagonists. It is the late 1800’s, and our heroine, Annie Parker, is a DOCTOR. She is almost 30 years old, she’s never been married, and when she grew up she wanted to be a doctor, and so she did it. Despite all the jeers and put downs, she went to Geneva Medical College and pushed through and became a doctor. And then when people in larger cities wouldn’t go to her practice, she moved west until she found a wild and rowdy mining town without a doctor, and she opened her practice there. Because being a doctor is who she is. She had fortitude and gumption.

Rafe McCay is a murderer on the run from the law and with an enormous bounty on his head. He’s killed people and expects to do so again. And then when he is injured by a shot from a bounty hunter, he ends up in Annie’s practice and when she informs him she needs long-term care, he kidnaps her. He holds her at gunpoint and actually kidnaps her. He drags her out into the wilderness, embarrasses her modesty all over the place, makes her sleep nearly naked in his arms, basically has complete control over every aspect of her life, is very pushy for physical intimacy, and then the first time they have sex, it is in a way I’d consider very dubious of consent even if it weren’t for the kidnapping, only since he was her captor it was so much worse.

So why wasn’t I completely appalled by this character, why did I find him a hero at all, even a “redeemable” one? Yep, this is where the unpacking comes in. For one thing, we spend a ton of time in Rafe’s head, so we know that he was pushed into this and that he was innocent of the thing that started this chain reaction. We also know how he feels about Annie, how fascinating he finds her and how he wants her and respects her. Annie however doesn’t know all these things, however, she does see how he has cared for her and protected her (yes he put her in this situation in the first place, but he isn’t as bad as he could be) and that there are inconsistencies in the whole situation. She is of course also wildly attracted to him, and she was attracted even before he kidnapped her, so I think that also helped keep me from completely repudiating Rafe. And she even admits her attraction to Rafe. Was she stupid to fall for a man showing her the behavior he already had shown? Yes, I’d say so. However, the other thing that I think kept me on board with this one, is that in all other ways Annie is such a level-headed and rational person, so when she says she wanted him, when she seems OK with their encounter, I feel comfortable taking her word for it.

Did it take away the awful power dynamic? No, that still existed up til that part of the book. So for the first half of the book, we are still working the captive/kidnapper scenario, even when they begin their sexual relationship. The other thing that worked in this book’s favor, in my opinion, is that this dynamic finally changed, a bit after the half way mark, that power dynamic dissolves and they become partners with the same goals. That certainly, by itself, doesn’t make what he did forgivable, but it does smooth out the rough edges of continuing a relationship, and as I said before, the heroine whose opinions I have already learned to trust, was fine with the whole thing.

So that handles the unpacking business. The rest of the story focuses on Annie and Rafe’s growing relationship, a real relationship between partners, and then getting to the bottom of the mystery that set Rafe on the run and getting it all resolved so that our heroine and hero can have their happily-ever-after, which definitely includes Annie going back to being a doctor. That part of the story was interesting and exciting.

Suffice it to say, I do enjoy this book very much, it remains on my re-reads shelf, and I do acknowledge the problematic elements, but I enjoyed the book in spite of those elements, and maybe even at times because of them. Because reasons, but your reasons may not match mine. So, will I start recommending this book in future? I am not entirely sure. It really is quite a bit of baggage to unpack, but I think I am going to try, with the caveat that I will certainly mention that there are problems, and maybe a bit about why I thought those issues were mitigated or ameliorated.

I am also going to try to do more of these types of posts, but I have a feeling poor Linda Howard and old school Jayne Ann Krentz, may be getting the bulk of such critiques as they are the authors I have loved the longest.

The Touch Of Fire

Standard
5 star review

Review – Dangerous by Amanda Quick

Dangerous

Now that I have introduced you to one Prudence, let me introduce you to my favorite Prudence. Sebastian may not have quite the charm that Gideon does, but this Prudence, in my opinion, more than makes up the difference. This book has been on my keeper shelf for a long time. The cover is beat to heck, the pages are dog-eared, yellowed and smudged. Eventually I even replaced that ratty copy with digital, but I still hold onto it, because love. And it gave me all the happy feels right from the start.

There are actually a number of similarities to The Perfect Rake. A heroine named Prudence who is no great beauty, an unchaperoned meeting with the hero, a hero who finds the heroine fascinating, a sham engagement, a hero who wants to marry the heroine long before she is interested, and a heroine who has quite a bit of agency and is willing to take matters into her own hands. But the areas where they diverge make all the difference for me.

Dangerous is a romp, no two ways about it. And Prudence has a very strong sense of her own worth and a hobby she devotes significant time and energy to. Granted, it is sort of a silly hobby; the scientific study of paranormal phenomenon, but she goes about it in a logical and scientific way. She’s smart and feisty with it. Sebastian also has his own interesting little hobby, a sad backstory, and an abysmal relationship with his extended family. Prudence and Sebastian always felt real to me, from first to last. And their conflicts were between them, not some outside forces or misunderstandings. They fought with each other, they disagreed and argued. And I enjoyed that aspect of their relationship very much. They seemed very much a part of their world as opposed to Prudence and Gideon who seemed somewhat closed off from the world.

Mysteries were solved, fights and family relationships were resolved, and two strong-willed people fell into like and then into love, all very naturally and the whys of it all were perfectly clear to see.

For me, this is a 5 star read, but I’ll admit my biases, in that I read this again through a rosy glow of nostalgia as I have been reading it for a very long time and never ‘outgrew” it. But I think anyone who is a fan of “wallpaper” historical romance (that is a new term or me and I am not sure how I have survived this long without it) could still enjoy this story, despite the fact that it was published in 1993.

Dangerous

Standard