If Jane Austen Met a Hot Gambler: Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

She stood at danger’s threshold—then love beckoned her in.

In the shelter of her country cottage, Sara Feilding puts pen to paper to create dreams. But curiosity has enticed the prim, well-bred gentlewoman out of her safe haven—and into Derek Craven’s dangerous world.

A handsome, tough and tenacious Cockney, he rose from poverty to become lord of London’s most exclusive gambling house—a struggle that has left Derek Craven fabulously wealthy, but hardened and suspicious. And now duty demands he allow Sara Fielding into his world—with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But here, in a perilous shadow-realm of ever-shifting fortunes, even a proper “mouse” can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress—and a world-weary gambler can be shaken to his cynical core by the power of passion…and the promise of love.

Source: GoodReads

This book could also be known  as Jane Austen Did Have a Happily Ever After and Married a Reform Rouge.

Okay, Sara is not exactly Jane Austen.  Instead of writing witty commentaries on society, she writes gritty books about undesirables that might even have Dickens blush.  And she’s out researching a novel-because unlike certain authors she doesn’t rely on Wikipedia as her only source material (Not that there was Wikipedia back in her day) and ends up saving super hot and rich Derek.

Of course, things develop from there.

But first Derek and Sara have to deal with obstacles.

And while the obstacles in romances always annoy me to some degree, I couldn’t help but swoony at them throughout it.

Lisa Kleypas is one of those authors I can usually count on for a solid experience.  Some of her books are better than others, but none of them I’ve read so far have been bad.

This one while not the best Kleypas’s book I ever read, was thoroughly enjoyable.  The characters were richly described.  Particularly, Derek.  The side characters also held my interest enough where I’ll probably-okay, I know-I’ll be indulging in their stories later (I bought a lot of Kleypas’s books on Amazon a couple of weeks ago).

The characters also deviated enough from the typical Regency stereotypes which made it more enjoyable.  I liked that Derek was a self made man-something you hardly ever see in these books and that Sara wasn’t a the stereotypical pathetic spinster.

Instead, she was a kick ass activist with a pistol.

The characters themselves were stellar.

The plot.

Eh….

It was just sort of stagnant, while there was more excitement than Again the Magic, the villain though annoyed me.

I just really expected more from Kleypas than to use that trope of all things. I just didn’t like how one note that villain and it made what was a good book a bit over dramatic.

Still though, Dreaming of You is probably one of the better historical romances I’ve read recently. I liked the characters and their backstories, and their romance was charming.  I just wish there wasn’t that over the top melodramatic villain.

Overall Rating: A solid B.

EW: A Kiss at Midnight Eloisa James

Miss Kate Daltry doesn’t believe in fairy tales . . . or happily ever after.

Forced by her stepmother to attend a ball, Kate meets a prince… and decides he’s anything but charming. A clash of wits and wills ensues, but they both know their irresistible attraction will lead nowhere. For Gabriel is promised to another woman—a princess whose hand in marriage will fulfill his ruthless ambitions.

Gabriel likes his fiancee, which is a welcome turn of events, but he doesn’tlove her. Obviously, he should be wooing his bride-to-be, not the witty, impoverished beauty who refuses to fawn over him.

Godmothers and glass slippers notwithstanding, this is one fairy tale in which destiny conspires to destroy any chance that Kate and Gabriel might have a happily ever after.

Unless a prince throws away everything that makes him noble…

Unless a dowry of an unruly heart trumps a fortune…

Unless one kiss at the stroke of midnight changes everything.

Source: GoodReads

Ew.

Just ew.

I hated this book.

The good news is I got it very cheap, the bad news in the words of the great Gordon Ramsay it sucked Donkey’s balls.

To sum up this book you could make a drinking game whenever any of the following things are mentioned/happened:

  1. Kate tells us how she’s so unattractive because she’s skinny/old/tan/etc. (this happens around  5k times throughout the novel)
  2. Kate slut slams her half sister (about 1k times)
  3. Kate wears a wig (oh, a good three hundred and some odd times).  You can vary shots on this one depending on the color of the wig-the more audacious the color the more fancy the cocktail can be.
  4. Anytime, the prince comes up with a lame excuse why he can’t be with Kate(pretty much anytime save for the last chapter).
  5. A conflict is solved with little to no fall out (the entire book)
  6. Kate becomes miraculously beautiful or is told she’s beautiful and instantly rebuffs it

Based on this impromptu drinking game I made it, it’s very obvious this book was grating to me.

To be fair, I read it in the course of another very boring work day where I had nothing to do because I reviewed my notary chapters and I can’t calculated the figures yet for the report I’m working on.  So…reading time.

Yay!

Until you read crap like this.

I purchased this book because I read somewhere it was nominated for some award and was fairly cheap.  I don’t know how this got nominated for an award because it was awful.  The characters were flat, I didn’t really get the conflict, and any semblance of a plot there was was pretty much resolved with no freaking fall out save for a rushed explanation in the epilogue.

Epic suckage.

The sex scenes even felt lifeless.  Grant it, in historicals I usually skim them anyway-because the imagery is more often than not painful-BUT in this one those scenes were more or less an afterthought.

To be honest, I didn’t think the characters liked each other enough to have sex.

The plot, also was a hot mess.  There was no logic at all holding it together.  I didn’t get how this scheme was suppose to work, or why the sister’s boyfriend was in on it.

It didn’t make sense.  Let alone, why the Idiot’s (hero) approval was needed.

Yes, he was a prince.  But they downplay that a LOT through the novel.

While this wasn’t offensive in a way a old fashion 70’s or 80’s bodice ripper would’ve been, it’s its own brand of offensive.   It’s the sort of book that thinks their readers are raging idiots.  I understand that sometime that you have to stretch you imagination to believe that some things in a book can/have happened, but this was just ridiculous.  The author was just plain lazy.

Look, I’m going to advise you to pass on this one.  I feel like it got way more recognition then it really deserved.

Overall Rating: A big fat F.

Second Chance Romance: Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas

Lady Aline Marsden was brought up for one reason: to make an advantageous marriage to a member of her own class. Instead, she willingly gave her innocence to John McKenna, a servant on her father’s estate. Their passionate transgression was unforgivable—John was sent away, and Aline was left to live in the countryside…an exile from London society.

…and he took her love.

Now McKenna has made his fortune, and he has returned—more boldly handsome and more mesmerizing than before. His ruthless plan is to take revenge on the woman who shattered his dreams of love. But the magic between them burns as bright as ever. And now he must decide whether to let vengeance take its toll…or risk everything for his first, and only, love.

Source: GoodReads

I feel like if I hadn’t read Judith McNaught’s Paradise, I would’ve enjoyed this one much more.  Paradise is a contemporary that covers many of the same things that Again With the Magic did, except in my humble opinion better.

Again With the Magic isn’t a bad book.  I managed to finish it within like four hours.  That’s not bad at all.  Especially since I was very tired and I could’ve been doing other things like shopping online for my two new Chihuahuas.  However, it just didn’t live up to what I wanted.

One of the things I really like about the second chance romance trope is that you get to explore the characters at different points in their lives.  I felt like the “before” period was a bit rushed here and we were told not shown more or less McKenna and Aline’s romance.

Not that McKenna and Aline are that bad of characters, I just didn’t really feel like I “got” them.  Maybe this was in part that this book heavily featured a side romance with Aline’s sister and McKenna’s business partner.

The side romance was cute BUT…

I think it hindered my enjoyment of McKenna and Aline, who by all accounts should’ve been fascinating characters to explore.

First you have McKenna, who’s origins are kind of murky and honestly never get explored as much as I liked.  With Aline, something terrible happens to her, but it really doesn’t effect her life in a way that she has too much difficulty.  When she should.

Oh, yes, she didn’t marry…but what happened to her should’ve had more effect than what it did.

While I didn’t get to know the main characters as much I liked, I did think Kleypas did do an excellent job with depicting the side characters.  Save for one very, very, minor characters all of these characters showed many quirks and facets.

The plot here was fairly boring.  There wasn’t really anything driving it, but angst.  And angst can get very tiring after awhile.  And I think a part of me kept reading it because I wanted something more to happen.

If you like second chance romances that take place in the Victorian era this is probably a fairly solid one to read, but nothing extraordinary special.  It did make me want to revisit Paradise though.

Overall Rating: B+

 

The Victorian Era Might’ve Been Prudish But Not This Book The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly–so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don’t get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match…

Source: GoodReads

I first came across Courtney Milan’s name when reading about the Ellora’s Cave/Dear Author case.  Her legal analysis on the case were pretty much on the ball and entertaining to read (something that’s difficult to do when it comes to talking about law stuff).  So, I decided that, hey, if she can make boring old law interesting, she can probably write a mean book.

When browsing through her catalogue, The Duchess War really caught my eye for a lot of different reasons and I had to give it a shot.

To be frank, I haven’t read a lot of historical romances published in the past few years.  Most of my historical romances are from my mom’s catalogue and it includes a lot of 80’s bodice rippers that arent’ very smart.

This book is smart.  When it comes to the time period and its characters.  It has it down pact.  Especially in the first half of the book.  The depiction of the characters was my favorite thing about this book.  I loved how the attraction that Robert had towards Minnie wasn’t one of initial physical attraction and that Minnie was never really described as a great beauty.  They really shared great chemistry and I actually felt the swoon for once in a romance novel.

That was a nice change.

I loved that both of them were damaged and that it effected their lives realistically.

What I didn’t like was how the fallout of the revelations of their secrets and character development of the second half was done.

It just felt rushed to me.  The first half, I was more than a little impressed.  But the second half was more or less a disappointment.  While Robert did get some resolution, Minnie really didn’t.  Oh, yeah, she got a happily ever after but it really didn’t feel like to me she confronted all her issues. And whatever happened to the aunts?

Which is sad, because the first half of the book really felt like it was going more towards the road of character development which I liked.

Still though, I was pretty impressed with the book.  The sex scenes weren’t awkward by any means or overwhelming.  A lot of the time I usually roll my eyes when there are like one hundred page sections-total-in a book devoted to the sex.  But there are only a few scenes in this novel, and it’s done tastefully.

I will definitely be reading more of Courtney Milan’s stuff in the future.  While The Duchess War wasn’t a perfect book, there were a lot of things that keep my interest.  At the very least, it allowed me to use period gifs again and that’s always a good thing.

Overall Rating: A B+

Out of Genre: Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught

Bestselling author Judith McNaught masterfully portrays a remarkable heroine, and an unforgettable passion, in this powerfully moving love story — one of her most beloved novels of all time!

The tempestuous marriage of Alexandra Lawrence, an innocent country girl, and Jordan Townsende, the rich and powerful Duke of Hawthorne, is about to face its ultimate test of tender loyalty. Swept into the endlessly fascinating world of London society, free-spirited Alexandra becomes ensnared in a tangled web of jealousy and revenge, stormy pride and overwhelming passion. But behind her husband’s cold, arrogant mask, there lives a tender, vital, sensual man…the man Alexandra married. Now, she will fight for his very life…and the rapturous bond they alone can share.

Source: GoodReads

Welcome to a new quasi recurring series called Out of Genre.  In which I review books that are non-YA related because occasionally I need to break from the world of YA.

Today, I decided to look at a historical romance.

To be honest, I don’t read a lot of historical romance because the male dominance of the time period really grates on my nerves.  Call it the  feminist or decent human being in me, but it really annoys me when the H is able to boss the h all the time-even when it’s technically historically accurate.

And Jordan Townsende deserves to have his butt kicked back all the way to wherever he was imprisoned for all the crap he put Alex through.  But it’s still one of the more tolerable McNaught historicals.

Also, given the fact that the book was actually published in 1988, Jordan wasn’t near as jerky as expected-reminder to self, start reading historicals that my mom doesn’t recommend.  She seriously has a thing for abusive dickwads-she gifted me with the complete set of Catherine Coulter books and I can tell you that the most offensive McNaught hero looks like a gentleman in comparison to some of Coulter’s heros (don’t even think about making me reread Midsummer MagicI will just rage on and on on that particular stinker).

Apart from being a historical lead and written in the 80’s, Jordan is really a dick.  He is horrible to Alexandra in every regard.  And I’m just glad she didn’t get back into his bed right away-even though I knew it was going to happen.  Honestly, I would’ve liked the book together if Tony (Jordan’ cousin who Alex almost married)would’ve been the hero.  Form his character a little more, make him the dark horse hero who Alex fell in love with over a long period when Jordan was “dead” and then have her tell  Jordan adios after the usual “who I will choose” period.  Or better yet negate the “who will I choose” period and figure out how to get out of the marriage to Jordan and be with Tony, while trying to convince Tony NOT to do the noble thing.

Obviously, I am trying to create a fan fic out of this book.  I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

But Alex, honey, you deserved better than that walking case of syphilis of a husband of yours.

Though, admittedly, Jordan occasionally has his moments.  But I keep wanting Mr. Darcy to come in and smack his pretty Wannabe Wickham face a little bit.

This is one of the reasons I don’t read a lot of historical romances because the heroes make me so mad.

Historically speaking, I know how Jordan was acting was probably fairly accurate to how a man of privilege would of acted in the period, but I just can’t help but feel my blood boil.  Also, I hate how he immediately slams Alex for moving on and not being completely swallowed in grief in a society where women are essentially forced to be married or live a life of squalor.

Yes, I get it’s comedic relief to a degree. Because of the sheer ridiculousness of it all, but it just makes Jordan look like  a narcissistic  dick.

And that’s how I kept referring to him while reading this book.  Although, he is a lot better (I’ll reiterate) than a lot of historical romance books from the period.

And I am fond of McNaught.  I think because I really get a feel for the characters.  While there is some instant love in this book, she actually addresses these issues and you get to see the characters relationship evolve.

Do I regret revisiting Something Wonderful?

Hell no.  It was nice to revisit and made for a nice Sunday afternoon, but it is with flaws.  I think I am going to branch out and see if I can find books like Something Wonderful in the current moment but with a hero who respects the lead and isn’t a walking case of syphilis.

Overall Rating: A solid B.