A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

In Which Things Do Not Improve

Kind of a follow-up to this post.

I’ve started Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole, and it’s even odds whether I’ll DNF. It opens with the paranormal version of an old romance classic: the heroine watching the hero having sex with someone else. Except in this case, it’s 6 or 7 someone elses, I forget exactly how many. He’s basically a spy, cold-bloodedly seducing women for information and to get them to do what he wants.

This line really struck me: “After just one bedding, non-nymph females uniformly grew attached to him, becoming jealous and possessive.”

I realized that the entire race of nymphs basically only exist in these books to be unproblematic receptacles for the heroes’ lusts. They’re used in the same way in Macrieve, Shadow’s Claim, and probably any number of other books in the series. I’m pretty sure there are no nymph heroines. The one succubus heroine is a freakin’ virgin.

I’m very cranky about books this month, but damn, I think I have a right to be.

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Static by L.A. Witt

Set in a parallel universe where some people are genetically “Shifters” — able to shift at will between male and female bodies — this is a good yarn and an excellent metaphor.

Damon heads out to his girlfriend Alex’s house, worried that he hasn’t heard from her since she has bouts of depression and heavy drinking. He find an extremely ill Alex… who is now also a man. Unbeknownst to Damon, Alex is a shifter, and his parents have forced an implant on him to prevent him from shifting back into female form.

As Alex struggles with the (many) ghastly after effects of this betrayal, Damon tries to figure out what their relationship now is. Alex is not bisexual — both forms are attracted to men — but Damon has always been straight.

When I started reading Static, I told my husband “This is the weirdest gay-for-you story ever.” * But towards the end I realized it was actually the most sensible gay-for-you story ever. Damon eventually realizes that Alex the man is still the same person he was in love with, and can still be attractive to him.

Although the slow unfolding of Damon’s feelings works nicely, the relationship is in a holding pattern for three fourths of the story, and the middle sags.  Also, Alex is truly in a dreadful situation and for me, the prose was not up to making that compelling rather than a complete downer. But I was really happy with how the plot went — it so easily could have been a wallbanger for me — and the imaginative take on being genderqueer.

*Hub’s reply: “Unless it was written by Chuck Tingle, no it isn’t.”

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TBR Challenge: The Sound of Snow by Katherine Kingsley

The theme: Kickin’ It Old Skool. Wendy defines this as “published more than 10 years ago” but to me, Old Skool means a nice fat historical with an ugly cover. This was published in 1999, so isn’t in prime old school territory, but the plot is kind of a mix of Violet Fire by Jo Goodman and Light And Shadow by Lisa Gregory (both read last April) so it has some roots.

Why This One: I own literally hundreds of possibilities for this theme, but really was not in the mood for sweeping stories of lover’s betrayal during wars. This Regency romance seemed pretty cozy. As it turned out, I might have been happier with a rapey hero and a long sea voyage.

The first part of the book is pleasant enough, albeit bland. The loss of her parents sent Joanna to live with her aunt and uncle, who were none too happy about the arrangement. Fortunately, Joanna had her younger cousin Lydia to dote on. When faced with a forced marriage to a man she loathed, Joanna escaped to Italy, but she and Lydia kept up a correspondence.

Six years later, a now-widowed Joanna returns to England after hearing of Lydia’s death. She’s heard all about how terrible Lydia’s husband is, and what a dreadful father to their son — and indeed, young Miles is in a state of great emotional disturbance. But Guy is by no means the villain Joanna expected, and he’s a very attractive man.

I doubt any reader is really surprised to learn that Lydia was not the basically good-hearted person Joanna thought she was. There are other non-surprising surprises to come.

Joanna using affection and art therapy to help Miles get over his trauma, and Guy and Joanna falling in love was, again, pleasant if bland. The second half of the story was where I started to wish this book had gotten lost behind a cabinet. Joanna is adored by absolutely everyone, and she gets away with some terrible behavior — forcing Guy to tell her his horror story from the war, for one thing, and then later lying to him about something he specifically tells her is very important to him, for his own good.

And then there’s the resolution of the plot. The Sound of Snow reads somewhat like an inspirational romance (though one with steamy pre-marital sex.) God and religion are very important to Joanna and become important to Guy. And religious themes are used here is a way that made me wish I’d read it while fasting. The characters act in a really callous manner, but it’s all part of God’s plan and there’s even a freakin’ heavenly visitation to show just how okay God is with everything that happens.

Perhaps if I’d been more in charity with the book as a whole, I wouldn’t have had such a visceral reaction to the end, but it felt ten kinds of wrong to me. On the bright side, I own at least three more Kingsley books, so the TBR will now be much reduced.

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When You Love It, But…

I’m over at Heroes and Heartbreakers with a post about The General and the Horse-Lord, a Problematic Fav.

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July in Book Bingo

July bingo

Full card!

Recurring themes of the month: An unusual amount of science fiction/fantasy, all with characters of Slavic origins. Rereads. Books with the same titles as other books I’ve read.

XXL: The Mountains of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold. Reread, science fiction novella. I chose this square because Miles believes he has to be twice as good as everyone else — larger than life — to compensate for his short stature/physical disabilities.

*semi spoilers*

I love this story, and have remembered its last paragraph for years, but I’m not sure I got the full meaning on previous reads. In my memory, it was a story about Miles fully accepting his responsibility towards the seriously impoverished people of his father’s district. But it’s actually much more than that; it’s Miles realizing that he has to be a voice for the people who are like him — different, disabled, considered useless by society — but without the privilege of wealth, education, and status he has. I expected to cry, but realizing that just killed me.

It’s Complicated: Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10: Relationship Status: Complicated. But filling this square could not be easier.  As long as my colon key works.

July: Playing for Keeps by Avery Cockburn.

“‘What’s the date of this music festival?’

‘First Saturday of July. I think it’s the fifth.’

John’s hand spasmed, making his player kick the ball far over the net into the stands.”

July 5th is a day of dread for John, because he’s promised his father to march with the Orange Order. And if his Catholic lover Fergus finds out, their relationship will go straight to hell. Reviewed here.

Insta-WHAT!: Macrieve by Kresley Cole. The hero is sickeningly manipulated to believe he’s found his fated mate.

Mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the hero betrays the heroine and treats her horribly, so I ate it with a spoon. And it doesn’t hurt at all that she stands up for herself and continually calls him on his crap. (The best part of New Old Skool.)

But — the hero’s backstory of being horrifically sexually abused as a child gave me certain expectations for the story around his healing, and those weren’t met. I was also disappointed that he could never really see the parallels between what happened to him and what he was doing to her, no matter how strongly she pointed them out. So I found it very enjoyable but it also left me yearning for the story that didn’t happen.

Quaint: The Bride Fonseca Needs by Abby Green.  Boss/personal assistant marriage of convenience because the hero needs to look stable and secure for a business deal. It’s adorable!

Joking aside, props to the author for modernizing the plot in other ways. I appreciated that the hero is grateful to the heroine for her help, rather than despising her for asking for payment in that annoying way of romance billionaires. And she’s no pushover. Also, I can’t resist a hero who falls against his will. On the other hand, boos for the heroine who feels dumpy and then turns out to have a tiny waist. Boo I say!

Tyranny of Distance: Bring Him Home by Karina Bliss. The heroine is a soldier’s widow, whose grief is complicated by anger at her husband for constantly leaving her and their son for another tour of duty.

A very slow burn romance, which is appropriate given that both characters are grieving and the hero is also suffering from survivor’s guilt. It almost went into “he’s just not that into you” territory, but the ending pulled it together beautifully.

Ghost Town: One Frosty Night by Janice Kay Johnson. The death of an anonymous girl metaphorically haunts many residents of a small town. Booya!

I read this because of Lynn’s TBR challenge review; Miss Bates also reviewed it. My reaction is pretty close to theirs. The characters and the depiction of the small town are believable and very well done, and the emotions were strong. I didn’t care as much for the mystery aspect, especially its resolution (or lack thereof.) And the big gesture that reminded me a touch of “Harper Valley PTA.” But I was attracted by the trope of lovers-reunited-after-betrayal and really enjoyed that aspect.

LICK: The Devil You Know by Jo Goodman. This couple has a jar of honey and they’re not afraid to use it!

I continue to struggle with former fav Goodman. This felt so overwritten to me it took me weeks to get through the first half — I actually had to put my Kindle in airplane mode so the library book wouldn’t disappear. Once they get in the sack, the gorgeous sex scenes made it more fun to read, but the ending was somewhat anticlimactic.

Pyrrhic Victory: Wedded, Bedded, Betrayed by Michelle Smart. The hero gets everything he ever wanted… but it means he’ll lose what he now wants most of all. Fun, angsty read. I wrote more about this book and the author at Heroes and Heartbreakers.

Fifty-Fifty: Angel by Victoria Dahl. Short story. I’m going with this square because the story reaches an unexpected equality in the happy ending. The heroine is a biracial prostitute in 1800’s New Orleans and the hero is one of her white clients. It’s a very sweet, tender story, but both realistic and with a strong feminist underpinning that saves it, in my opinion, from being a white savior narrative.

Crushed it!: The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold. The book starts with Miles literally crushing both his legs and thus figuratively crushing his dreams, but that crushing failure leads to a totally crushed-it triumph!

They: Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold. Reread

“‘It’s the one thing that convinces me that the Cetagandan haut-lords are still human, after all that genetic tinkering.’

Ivan grimaced. ‘Mutants on purpose are mutants still.'”

***

“‘Emperors are only human.’ Well, Emperor Gregor was. The Cetagandan emperor was haut-human. Miled hoped that still counted.”

***

“You can’t get anywhere with these people, or whatever they are.”

I was dreading this part of my reread, my least favorite Vorkosigan book. (Thankfully, it’s clear sailing after here for many books.) It wasn’t so bad. I still dislike the space mystery — a genre I can never follow — and Mile’s instant and completely unwarranted crush on an obnoxious haut Lady — a genre that always pisses me off. But there’s some humor, and his interactions with his cousin Ivan are entertaining.

True Love’s Kiss: Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt. Reviewed here. I expected to go with a fairy tale or something very innocent for this square, but it does end with a kiss and the words “She was with her true love.” Also, I kind of like going in exactly the opposite obvious direction, if you hadn’t noticed.

And the fandom rejoiced!: Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert. Cute, geeky former-friends-to-lovers stories. I was going to put this in “Pi” because one hero is a mathematician, but when you have a story that ends with Superman kissing Batman, even in cosplay, well….!

Ice Castles: Can’t Stand the Heat by Shelly Ellis. The Gibbons girls are a entire family of Gigis, literally trained from childhood to take men for as much money as they can without ever feeling emotions towards them. Castles of ice is a good metaphor.

(Content warning: domestic violence. The book is a little scary in parts, though not explicit.)

Lauren breaks away from the family goals after being brutally beaten by her “sugar daddy,” and resolves to change her life. But navigating a healthy relationship with retired football star Cris is complicated, especially with her ex constantly trying to ruin her life.

This African-American romance was really fun in a soap opera sort of way, though I kept wondering how the family kept finding new rich men to fleece in what’s supposed to be a small town. Despite the drama, the main characters are pretty straightforward and likeable; Lauren’s struggles for independence despite all her baggage are touching.

Some parts of the book made me squirm though, including short bits of: transphobia, iffy BDSM portrayals, and objectification of the half black/half Filipino hero. I was also bugged that Cris basically lies about his involvement with another woman while he and Lauren are apart, so if you’re sensitive about even minor cheating, avoid this one.

Pulling Out: Harlot by Victoria Dahl. Novella.

“Try to get him to finish on your stomach instead. It helps if it’s not all inside you. They like to show off that way, anyhow.”

Although I adored the angst and hate sex, I initially thought this was a bit disappointing after reading its prequel, Angel. It’s a more conventional romance, with a gently-used heroine who hates herself for selling her body even more than her childhood sweetheart hates her for it. But Dahl did not let me down.

Wicked: Try to Remember by Vanessa James. Oh, so much wickedness it’s ridiculous. But I love this one.

Summer Lovin’: The Cozakis Bride by Lynne Graham. The heroine frequently flashes back to her early romance with the hero, just like in the song. Okay, so it’s a bit strained, so sue me. The book is a bit strained too.

Pi: Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

“But I was no prize pupil: when I didn’t just forget the spell-words he taught me, they went wrong in my mouth. I slurred and mumbled and muddled them together, so a spell that ought to have set a dozen ingredients neatly out for a pie — ‘I am certainly not trying to train you on potions,’ he had said, caustically — instead mixed them into a solid mess that couldn’t even be saved for my supper.”

Magic + pie. That’s all I got.

 

Happy Dance: Marriage Under Fire by Daphne Clair.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.22.47 AM

“She loved to marriage under fire dance, and he took her dancing…”

Because funny formatting errors make me happy.

Betty: The Rawhide Man by Diana Palmer.

I think a “Betty” is what you kids today — or rather, what you kids today 20 years ago — call an attractive woman. Presumably Wilma is the ugly one? Anyway, the heroine of this story definitely thinks she’s the Wilma, and her stepsister is the Betty who steals all her guys. (Since I’m older, I think that should be the Veronica, but this is just getting way too complicated.) Her convenient marriage is a mess and she’s terribly afraid her sister is out to steal her guy again. The fact that her spoiled, selfish stepsister actually just wants to spend some time with her is one of the things I liked about this book. Very typical Palmer formula — if you want to know why on earth I read Palmer, this is one to try.

Going Solo: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold. Reread. A very protected character breaks free and runs away.

I’ve liked every Bujold book more on rereads except this one. It’s so dolorous and gloomy, like something Eeyore might write.

Delicate: Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair. Hero calls the tough heroine an “air sprite.” My tbr challenge read for July.

Sausage SIZZLE: The Banker’s Convenient Wife by Lynne Graham. She is helpless to resist the sizzle of his sausage.

18: Rage of Passion by Diana Palmer

“‘I was eighteen,’ she said. ‘Green as grass and infatuated, and every time he kissed me, I was on fire. And then we got married.'”

Also reads (or not):

Ms Marvel: Super Famous. Well bless my Torrid jeans, Ms. Marvel’s best friend has moved on and his new girlfriend is sweet, smart, and chubby-to-fat (depending on who’s drawing her, I guess.) AND when Kamala says something snarky about her size, he gives her what for! I love how this series draws on relevant concerns for its incredible adventures: this time it’s gentrification, and the stress of trying to live a normal teenage life and a superhero life.

Troublemaker by Linda Howard. DNF. If I wanted to read a book about the world’s most spoiled dog and constant definitions of Man-Food, I would… well, I don’t, so never mind.

Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase. DNF. I completely loathe Olivia and am giving this up before it ruins Lord Perfect for me.

Mr. Loverman by Mary Lyons. DNF. I was utterly baffled as to why I even own this — the merest glance at the reviews shows it’s not going to be my cuppa — and then remembered it was a Kobo error.

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TBR Challenge: Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair

The theme: Lovely RITA. This was a RITA finalist.

Why this one: I couldn’t seem to get through any of my historicals. To put it as politely as possible, the RITA committees and I seem to have tastes in historicals that’s about as opposite as you can get. (With some exceptions, of course.)

I was thinking that Finders Keepers was more romance than science fiction, but towards the end I realized it’s more that it’s a subgenre of science fiction I don’t read much — space opera. Not a lot of world-building or character development, but lots of scheming, shooting, and escaping. Since it’s also gorgeously romantic, I enjoyed it a lot.

Captain Trilby Elliot is flying solo (apart from a sweet, loquacious droid, Dezi.) Being dumped by her lover has left her hurting, and she’s struggling to make ends meet on a transport ship held together with duct tape and ingenuity. When she finds an abandoned, injured human from a planet her society has a hostile truce with, she takes him aboard, only to find the healed man is very sexy and very devious.

Rhis (pronounced Reece) is a pretty standard romance hero. Intimidating, somewhat emotionally scarred, and very alpha, in the sense that he’s extremely protective, possessive, and thinks he knows best. But he and Trilby work together really well, and when he gets tender with her…. oh my. Rhis teaching Trilby how to say “I want you” in his language is a running… a running swoon? There are all kinds of difficulties, from Trilby’s fear of being hurt again to aliens trying to kill her, but the combined courage and smarts of the couple make it all work.

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Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

I love reformed villain romances in theory, but in practice find that too often the villains get watered down in their own books. Duke of Sin did not disappoint. Val, Duke of Montgomery, might not be a textbook sociopath (he seems to embody aspects of both sociopathy and psychopathy) but he’s pretty damn close. He’s made more palatable with a ghastly backstory, love of his illegitimate sister, and a fastidious dislike of rape, but his lack of a moral compass is genuine.

What makes him stand out amongst historical romance’s other so-called blackhearted rogues, rakes, and scoundrels is not just how genuinely wicked he is — blackmail, abductions, premeditated murder — but his enjoyment of his own wickedness. Although he does have have some moments of tortured brooding, most of the time he’s either amused or bemused by himself, having been so thoroughly twisted that he embraces his own amorality. His gleeful self-satisfaction and mercurial temperament make him a lot of fun to read, even if you’d never want to actually meet him. (Oh good grief, is he a handsome, historical Donald Trump? Sorry! Forget I said that!)

So how does he get reformed? He’s matched with a woman with the courage and ability to tell him what’s what. A housekeeper in the old-fashioned sense — one who supervises a household — Bridget, nicknamed Seraphine by Val, is exceptionally competent and mature (although implausibly young.) She’s also self-contained and courageous, and though unable to resist Valentine’s golden charms, always sees him with a clear eye. And she’s the perfect person to provide him with moral guidance, though perhaps it might be confusing at times:

“‘But I don’t understand. You’re saying that at times it’s perfectly all right for me to kill a man.’

‘Well…’ She bit her lip and he could tell she was trying not to say it, but in the end she had to. ‘Yes.’

He smiled very slowly at her. ‘Seraphine, are you making these rules up?'”

I just had to quote that, it made me laugh so much.

There are some parts of the story I thought could have been fleshed out more, generally reactions or decisions by Val that we didn’t get to see. But overall, I’d put this in the top ten list of historical romances titled Duke of Sin.

 

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Feeling Very Happy Tonight

Also, rather prescient.

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Playing for Keeps by Avery Cockburn

This is one of the most fascinating romances I’ve ever been not all that into. To clarify, the romance itself didn’t do much for me, even though I’m no more immune to kilts and brogue than the next gal. But the conflict and setting kept me glued to the pages.

It’s the first in a series about a Scottish LGBT football (soccer) team and — much coolness — there are actually characters other than gay white men on the team! Even cooler, the author plans to write about some of those characters. The captain of the team is Fergus, who’s in a bad place emotionally since his former lover/former captain cruelly dumped him and the team. Then he meets John, a politics student who’s organizing a match to raise money for gay asylum seekers.

Although I really enjoyed the dialogue, liberally sprinkled with Scottish slang — “It’s you I love, ya big numpty” — Fergus and John didn’t work all that well for me. Their feelings come off as more mushy than sincere, and I felt like a voyeur during the explicit sex scenes. And Fergus is such a jerk. He not only stalks John — admittedly with some reason, since John is lying to him — but deserts him at the worst possible time. I couldn’t give him a pass just because of his previous experiences.

What drew me in was the setting, and fresh take (for an American reader) on star-crossed lovers. Apparently Protestant/Catholic conflict can be almost as fierce in Scotland as it is in Ireland. Fergus is Catholic, and John grew up as a member of the Orange Order, which he loathes but feels a complicated loyalty towards. The author draws a parallel between the anti-Catholic Orange marches and those in the American south glorifying the Confederate flag — justified by the marchers as “tradition” rather than bigotry. I don’t have the knowledge to comment on how accurate the portrayal is, but it’s certainly heartfelt and convincing. Discussions of class and immigration issues — Fergus’s housemate is from Nigeria — are also pertinent.

So although not a complete success for me, as a fictional trip to another culture it really worked. And there’s a powerful conclusion to end things on an upbeat note.

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June in Book Bingo

june bingo

This was a hard month for me, and I didn’t fill my whole card.

Recurring themes: “Angel” in the title. Horticultural interests. Rereads of favorite books. Being disappointed in books my friends loved. Heroes named variants of “Wolf.” (I should reread Scarlet.) Characters traveling someplace for no narrative reason and then going back. (My latest pet peeve.) Hero or heroine shoveling manure — no shit.

Naked: Archangel’s Enigma by Nalini Singh. Really enjoyed the hero of this one, a vampire who is also sorta kinda an animal shifter. Sweet “nature boy” type.

A Child’s Grief: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. Am tempted to put this one under “White Man’s Burden,” but I’ll be nice. Much, much grief in this one.

Favorite line:

“Blue had said that an Aglionby toga party went against everything she stood for. Maura had replied, ‘Private school boys? Using random pieces of fabric as apparel? That seems like exactly what you stand for these days.'”

June: Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas. Heroine wants to wait for a June wedding when she’s out of mourning, hero wants to elope. Guess who wins?

I’m not getting all the love for this one. It was a pleasant enough read, but nothing happened until the second half. The first half was just about arranging pieces on a board to get the characters into bed in a vaguely plausible manner.

Dust: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.

“Right into Gansey’s ear, he whispered, voice tinged in disbelief, ‘I didn’t — I just asked — I just thought –‘

‘Thought what?’ Gansey asked.

Adam released him. His eyes were on the circle around him. ‘I thought that. And it happened.’

The circle was absolutely perfect: dust without, dustless within.”

I was annoyed when I saw that the Raven Boys series was going to have four books instead of three, and reading the third book did not change my mind. The prose is gorgeous, but it’s a filler book. Gansey searches for Glendower. Blue worries about her missing mom. Noah continues to fade away. Adam waits for his abusive father’s court date. Ronan is, as always, pissed off. The introduction of a supervillain (or two) is curiously mundane. A few magical new things do happen but we don’t know why and I didn’t much care.

The book can kind of be summarized by pointing out that Gansey’s old professor friend from England arrives, does literally nothing except provide some vaguely comic relief, and then leaves at the end.

It’s too well written and funny to hate, but I really got tired of so much ado about nothing.

Delusion: Dreaming by Charlotte Lamb. The hero falls in love at first sight with a woman he’s barely glimpsed, not realizing she’s the same person as the nurse he thinks of as cold.

I almost cried with disappointment over this one. It’s classically emotional; the hero is unwittingly cruel to the heroine, never knowing she loves him. It’s like a great old movie. But then the ending pisses all the good stuff away, so there’s no cathartic resolution.

Au Revoir: Never Say No to a Caffarelli by Melanie Milburne. The hero often uses French endearments, and he dumps the heroine on their romantic trip to Paris. Le porc!

This is the second time I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a Harlequin Presents recently. I think perhaps the guidelines have changed, because authors I think of as being kind of  hysterically over the top have calmed down considerably and are using standard elements in a more believable way. Not a great book, but quite a nice read.

Interrupted Intimacy: Archangel’s Shadow by Nalini Singh. Elena and Raphael are cock-blocked by a call from his mom, which didn’t bother me at all, since I get really bored by continuing couple sex.

Mini: Manties in a Twist by J.A. Rock. One hero is quite short, which the other hero adores. Loved this one even more than The Sub’s Club, if possible. So sweet and funny. I especially love that this series is not just about different kinds of kinks and kinsters, but also different kinds of feelings around kink.

Gratitude: The Spy Who Spanked Me by Doreen deSalvo

“A deep groan left his throat as gratitude and release swamped his mind…”

Short Regency (?) story in which a woman accidentally witnesses an assassination and then has to submit to a bound interrogation she finds extremely hot. Romantic erotica. Well written — except for weird mentions of the heroine’s ‘privities’ — but a little scary.

Just the Tip: Wolf’s Hope by Lora Leigh. Betrayed (he thinks) hero teases the heroine something awful.

I’m So Sorry: Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold. One of the oddest apology scenes ever.

beautiful all along: The Italian Boss’s Mistress by Lynne Graham. Some might have put this one under “hero is a mountain,” since the hero is 6’5″, but I know exactly what I mean by that phrase and this guy isn’t it.

Gold Star: False Angel by Edith Layton. A book I’ve read many times, and it never fails to satisfy.

gesticulate: The Sicilian’s Stolen Son by Lynne Graham. It’s pretty much all there in the title.

Another one I didn’t love as much as others I’ve seen. There was a great good twin/evil twin set-up but the story pulled all the emotional punches so there was no real angsty payoff, not even a dark moment.

Broken pedestal: The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh. Reread.

“I tried so very hard to please you, because I thought you were like a god. I might have better spent the time pleasing myself.”

Oh, how fun it is to read something and then find an absolutely perfect square! (And no, I didn’t contribute this one… I don’t think that  far ahead.😉 ) Stephanie is totally stifling herself trying to become the Perfect Duchess, because she believes that Alistair is the Perfect Gentleman, who saved her life and her virtue. When she discovers the sordid truth, she has to figure out who she wants to be and whether to try and save their marriage. One of Balogh’s most thoughtful, insightful books.

Solstice:

Mary Sue: An Excellent Wife? by Charlotte Lamb. Cute book told entirely from the hero’s point of view. I actually didn’t mind the heroine all that much, after some annoying initial feistiness, but she is a Friend to Children, Animals, and Old People and wound up on one GoodRead friend’s “h-over-haloed-or-mary-sued” shelf.

White Man’s Burden: Regency Valentines by Jo Beverley

“Longevity was creating another problem. Many estates were carrying the burden of long-lived widows, and maybe more than one.”

A rather meh collection of two previously published short stories and some historical Valentine’s trivia; the most interesting part of of it was an article, also previously published, on “The Importance of Money in Regency Society,” with specific reference to Jane Austen.

With pleasure:

For your own good: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. Woof! An intense, intense read. I loved it for the spot-on depictions of New York neighborhood kids, which read EXACTLY like I remember them, only appropriately aged 40 years, and with some added racial aspects. The way they’re still playing kid street games while simultaneously experimenting with sex and drugs… I don’t think I’ve ever seen that weird in-between time shown so well before.

And I loved that what I thought was a derivative plot turned out to be… a starting point for a metaphor is the best way I can put it.

Shipping: Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. Reread.

Although this could go in Hero is a Mountain — admittedly, quite a short one — I could not resist the pun value of “Shipping” for a romance between two starship commanders. Also, Cordelia and Aral is a ship I will go down with, to the point that I refused to read Cryoburn for years. (I caved last month.)

Pride: Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. A reread inspired by this article. This is a contemporary old skool book and I love it to pieces.

If you had to choose one word to sum up Kiss an Angel, “pride” might be it. More about it by me here.

Pretty in Pink: Angel in a Red Dress by Judith Ivory. My June TBR challenge read. I chose this square, not for the book title, but because it opens on the young heroine totally grooving on the awesome dress she’s wearing. She also much admires the dandy hero’s lace.

Hero is a Mountain: Out of Nowhere by Roan Parrish. The author must love gentle giant heroes as much as I do, because she’s two for two. A pretty good redemption for the brother-villain of In The Middle of Somewhere, though I didn’t like it as much. High angst.

100: The Italian’s Mistress by Melanie Milburne. Should have checked the publication date on this one. I’m tempted to put it in “I’m so sorry,” as in “I’m so sorry I stayed up til 3am to finish this” but I’ll go with “100” as in “The hero and heroine argue over the same damn thing at least 100 times.” SUCH an aggravating book! And it’s even more aggravating because of all the lampshades the author tries to hang, pointing out how aggravating her couple is being. The hero is a seething cauldron of ridiculous illogic — he’s supposed to be driven mad with loss and jealousy, I guess, but he just comes off as mad. And then after all that, the heroine doesn’t even let him do the absolutely necessary grovel!

Also Reads:

“Season 9” of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (graphic novel.)

A Common Scandal by Amanda Weaver – DNF.

 

 

 

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