Category: book reviews (page 2 of 81)

Say Yes to the Marquess

Say Yes to the Marquess For the past eight years, Miss Clio Whitmore has waited – first patiently, then not-so-patiently – for her fiancé, Piers Brandon the Marquess of Granville, to return to England and set a wedding date. Finally determined to live her own life, Clio sets out to end the engagement. Doing so, however, requires the signature of Piers’ brother, Rafe. Clio is adamant to end the engagement; Rafe is just as adamant that the engagement go forward, for his own (admittedly selfish) reasons. A former champion prizefighter, Rafe wants nothing more to go back to his life of winning fights and not caring about polite society. But with Clio threatening those plans, he’ll do whatever it takes to make her wedding happen, even if he has to plan it himself.

The second book in the Castles Ever After series, Say Yes to the Marquess is yet another clever, funny, and delightful novel by Tessa Dare. Thanks to Rafe’s madcap scheme to plan Clio’s wedding no matter her thoughts on the matter, the novel is filled with plenty of laugh-aloud moments with witty one-liners. Rafe’s trainer, promoter and erstwhile valet, Bruiser (*ahem* sorry, Bruno Aberforth Montague….Esquire) gets some of the best lines while attempting to plan a society wedding with the help of Clio’s fashion-obsessed and status-conscious sister, Daphne. (Clio’s other sister, Phoebe, is much too busy being a mathematical savant to care much about the wedding one way or another.)

As usual, Dare has created wonderfully well-rounded, imperfect and flawed characters that capture a reader’s attention. Clio is, in my mind, the best part of Say Yes to the Marquess. As a young woman finally coming into her own and learning to stand up for herself and her own desires, Clio is easy to relate to and root for. She’s loyal, kind and goodhearted, but with a hidden backbone that keeps her focused on her own goals, instead of someone else’s. I especially loved how she took her less-than-ideal upbringing (all those lessons!) and turned into a real talent and skill that she could capitalize on as a young woman of means. She managed to turn unhappy memories into opportunity. For his part, Rafe is honest and honorable – in some cases to a fault – and he does protest a few too many times about his unworthiness. But Dare does an admirable job of showing his struggle to find his own way in the world. In this respect, Rafe and Clio are perfectly well matched, and poor Piers never had a chance.

Dare excels at setting a scene in her novels (I’m still convinced Spindle Cove is a real place I might visit one day) and Say Yes to the Marquess is no exception. From Clio’s old but well-kept castle – complete with portcullis, handy for keeping out aggravating sisters – to the chapter in which she lovely described a host of delicious perfect cakes, it’s easy to get lost in her world and imagine yourself in Kent during the spring. And, as mentioned throughout this post, the secondary characters are hardly secondary at all – from Bruiser and an old, unfortunate dog to Clio’s very different sisters, Dare brings every character to life. (Except, perhaps for Piers, but since he’s absent most of the novel, we’ll let him off the hook.)

Say Yes to the Marquess is another fabulous, romantic adventure from Tessa Dare. Even if, like Clio (and me!), you’d be perfectly happy with a “good enough” wedding in the middle of the field, you’ll still enjoy the amusing, heartwarming, ultimately foolish attempts at wedding planning as Rafe and Clio find their way to love. Plus, there’s cake! Things are always better with cake. 

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

[Photo Credit: Goodreads]

Never Judge A Lady by Her Cover

Never Judge a Lady by her CoverFrom the publisher: By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a Duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking—in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered . . . until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear . . . including her heart.

There is always a risk, when you finally get the book you’ve been waiting such a long time for, that the reality will not match up to your (exceptionally high) expectations. For one, brief, fleeting moment, I did worry that Sarah MacLean’s Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover would somehow disappoint or fail to live up to the picture I had imagined in my head. I was wrong. Never Judge A Lady far exceeded my hopes for this final book in MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series. It was a phenomenal conclusion to the story of the Fallen Angel and well worth the wait. And while I feel certain I declare every MacLean novel the “best one yet”, I am convinced she really did save the best for last with Chase’s story.

The world is filled with doubters, critics and cynics when it comes to romance novels. They call is “fluff” (or worse) and deride the genre’s ability to tell a well-crafted, well-written and deftly plotted story. These people are idiots, of course, and I would shove a copy of Never Judge A Lady in their hands to prove them wrong. This story is filled with so much depth, and so many layers, it’s inconceivable to me that anyone could read it and think it’s “just” a love story. 

Of course, it is Georgiana and Duncan’s love story, but it’s so much more. Georgiana herself is glorious – a powerful, strong, bad-ass woman in her own right, faced with navigating the very world she ran away from. Her fierce devotion to and love for her daughter drives her in this novel, but she also struggles with what she wants for herself – and with who she wants to be, after years of juggling multiple personas. MacLean deftly explores Georgiana’s frustration with living in a society that prefers not to give women power – all while she is also being Chase, one of the most powerful people in London. MacLean carefully balances that with Duncan’s growing acceptance of Georgiana as she is, even in all her “Chase-ness,” even while he desires to spare Georgiana from society’s gossip and “fix” her problems. It takes a strong, self-assured man to equal a woman like Georgiana and Duncan rose the occasion.

“I think you want saving.”

“I can save myself.”

Naturally, with both an alpha heroine and an alpha hero, MacLean treats readers to a delicious battle of wits and wills. The banter between Georgiana and Duncan was my favorite part of the novel, as it provided a quick-witted backdrop for Georgiana and Duncan to wrestle with secrets, strive for control, and circle each other with increasing intensity. The fact that Georgiana knew what Duncan didn’t (i.e., that she was Chase) for most of the book just added to the sexual tension.

(As a side note, I’m now completely convinced that MacLean couldn’t and likely wouldn’t write a weak or meek heroine even if she tried. That’s just not how she rolls.)

As the last book in the series, Never Judge A Lady does feature several appearances by our favorite Scoundrels Bourne, Cross and Temple. And – of course – MacLean made me fall in love with them all over again. Throughout the series, there have been plenty of indications that these men treat Chase as an equal. Finally seeing it through Georgiana’s eyes, in her story, confirmed it. I’m not sure I can express how much I loved how Bourne, Cross and Temple treated Georgiana. For them, she simply IS Chase, gender be damned. And while they care for her and want her to be happy, they never once presume she can’t take care of herself. I just loved the idea that these strong, alpha men accepted Georgiana as one of their own.

There were a few parts of Never Judge A Lady that I liked less than the rest. As much as I adored Caroline, I did wonder if she was a bit too precocious at times. I understood the necessity of Tremley as a villain, but would have happily done without him, and for a supposedly intelligent man, it does seem to take Duncan an awful long time to connect the dots about Chase’s identity. I also would have loved more detail on how the club was founded. But compared to all of the good in this novel, I don’t even care. All I know is that I wanted more. More Chase, more of the Fallen Angel, more Scoundrels – just…more. I’m sad to see this series end, but thrilled that it ended on such a high note. Brava, Sarah MacLean!

[Photo Credit: Goodreads]

Note: somewhat irrelevant information: (1) I went out of my way to re-arrange my study schedule so I could have a whole afternoon free to read this book from start to finish, knowing I wouldn’t want to put it down once I started. It was worth the headache of cramming two days worth of studying into one. (2) I finished reading, took a short break, then sat back down and started over from the beginning. All of my MacLean paperbacks are worn with love, but I have a feeling Never Judge a Lady is going to be particularly well-loved.

Some Girls Do

Some Girls DoThe Internet is abuzz thanks to the steamy, revealing blog, Scenes of a Sexual Nature. The posts leave nothing to the imagination, detailing all sorts of delicious – and sexual – secrets. The author behind the blog, NiceGirl, is a bit of an enigma, but manages to catch the eye of Mark Bell, an up-and-coming London publisher. Little does Mark know that NiceGirl is really Claire Kennedy and her blog? More fiction than fact. When Mark offers Claire a book deal – and possibility of so much more, she panics, thinking that he’ll realize she’s a fraud with much less experience than her online persona. So Claire solicits the help of Luca, friend, artist, and commitment-phobe, to teach her how to live up to her alter ego. Strings-free sex with a friend? What could possibly go wrong?

Some Girls Do, the latest from Irish romance author Clodagh Murphy, draws on the world on blogging and imagines what might happen when Internet friends and real-life friends collide. I’ve read all of Murphy’s books, so I already knew I wanted to try this one, but I was also intrigued by the premise. I am, after all, a blogger myself, though not one who hides behind a fictional name or writes salacious things (unless, of course, my book reviews are somehow salacious in which case, that was totally unintended). In our 21st-century, Internet-obsessed world, so many people go online to try to be someone other than who they really are. Some Girls Do explores what might happen if our online self was suddenly dragged into the real world and forced to interact with (or as) our offline self. 

Claire is a woman after my own heart. She works in a bookstore, finds her creative outlet in writing, and thinks a quiet evening at home with a good meal, wine and some television is the perfect evening. But Claire also harbors a wish for so much more and when Mark walks into her life with the promise of everything she ever wanted, she decides to take drastic action. Murphy doesn’t shy away from the awkward or uncomfortable. Claire’s proposition to Luca is cringe-worthy and funny at the same time, as Claire has clearly never done that sort of thing before. Likewise, the realism continues once she and Luca do begin their “lessons.” Claire doesn’t automatically become a knowledgeable sexpot right away; it takes her time to grow her confidence and lose some of her inhibitions.

Though it was clear to see where the story was headed early on, I still liked watching polar opposites Claire and Luca learn about each other. And while I don’t think Some Girls Do develops Luca’s character as well as Claire’s, I did like watching him finally open up to someone and realize the benefits of having someone care for you. (Besides, who doesn’t like a reformed rogue, no matter what century he lives in?)

Fans of contemporary romances will enjoy Clodagh Murphy’s Some Girls Do, which is equal parts sweet and sassy. It’s got Internet secrets, friends-into-lovers, and a brooding starving artist. (And, as an added bonus, the excerpts from Claire’s blog are seriously hot). Give it a try – no one on the Internet has to know. It’ll just be between us.

[Photo Credit: Goodreads]

 

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