Harlequin / Mills & Boon Round-up

>> Wednesday, November 21, 2007

TITLE: Mr. Family
AUTHOR: Margot Early

PAGES: 296
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Superromance

SETTING: Contemporary Hawaii
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: I couldn't confirm it with a cursory google search, but it felt here as if Erika's brother and his wife have had their own book.

REASON FOR READING: I bought it because of the AAR review, but I've had it for years in the TBR. I dug it out after Rachel, who originally wrote that review, reposted it in her blog and reminded me of why I'd bought the book in the first place.

Kal Johnson is a still-grieving widower with a young child. He can't imagine marrying again - not for love, anyway. But it's becoming increasingly clear that his daughter needs someone besides him. A mother. Kal's solution is to place an ad in the local magazine...

Wanted: Woman to enter celibate marriage and be stepmother to four-year-old girl. Send child-rearing philosophies to Mr. Family...

Erika Blade is a woman who's afraid of love. And sex. She answers the ad, figuring she's probably the only person in the whole world to whom a "celibate marriage" would appeal. After all, she does want children but she doesn't want to acquire them in the usual way. As it turns out, Kal likes her letter - and soon discovers that he likes her. More than likes. He's attracted to her. The one thing that wasn't supposed to happen.
MY THOUGHTS: This was a pleasant, heart-warming book, a modern marriage-of-convenience story that didn't feel dated, but believable. Early made me really understand Kal and Erika and thus totally see why each would feel that a sex-free marriage is exactly what is needed in their lives (that is, I saw why they would think so, but it was so obvious that it was not, lol!).

Their romance is slow and gradual and not trouble-free. There's plenty of baggage in each of them, plus, the story doesn't take place in a vacuum. Their families play an important part, especially Kal's little daughter, Hiialo, who was very well done as a character. She's cute, but she has plenty of moments when she's a little nightmare.

Just as much as their families, the Hawaiian setting and culture play a big role in the book, and this was an element I loved.

Negatives? Well, I did have a stylistic issue: headhopping. This isn't something I usually mind, and I actually love it when it's skillfully done, but here I had to stop quite a few times to try to figure out in whose head we were.

MY GRADE: A B. It was a very enjoyable book, but I didn't love it.

TITLE: The Norman's Bride
AUTHOR: Terri Brisbin

PAGES: 289
PUBLISHER: Mills & Boon Historical Romance

SETTING: Medieval England
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: Comes after The Dumont Bride, which I read last month.

REASON FOR READING: I was very doubtful, but I wanted to see if Brisbin would succeed in redeeming the hero.


Though recalling nothing of her own identity, Isabel was certain her rescuer, Royce, had been a knight.Every fiber of his being bespoke a chivalry simple seclusion could not hide. And every sinew of his body bestirred a passion that would rouse her to her true self as Royce's heart-sworn lady!

Yet William Royce de Severin could not quell the waves of desire threatening to engulf him whenever he looked upon Isabel. Battered by life, she remained unbroken in spirit, making him yearn for the impossible-a life unfettered by his own dark secrets, with her forever by his side!
MY THOUGHTS: Those who've read The Dumont Bride will understand why I was so doubtful about Brisbin being able to redeem William de Severin. In the previous book, he did some horrible things. He was being basically blackmailed into it by Prince John, who was holding his sister's life over William's head, but still.

In this, his book, William (who now calls himself Royce) has been living incognito for a few years in the keep of the protagonists of a previous Brisbin book, The King's Mistress. Everyone thinks he's dead, and he feels this is just what he deserves. But one day he finds a woman who's been beaten up and left for dead not too far from his house, and that changes everything.

TDB was just very lukewarm. I didn't see much attraction between Royce and Isabel, and I spent most of the book feeling quite bored with it. The main problem might have been that I think I was supposed to believe Royce deserved to forgive himself and be happy, and so on, but I just wasn't completely convinced of this at all. This was not really because of his actions in the other book, because as I said, he was under duress at the time, but because of all the other things he did before that, things I thought were much worse and which were only very lightly mentioned here.

MY GRADE: Like the first book in the series, a C-.

TITLE: A Reputable Rake
AUTHOR: Diane Gaston

PAGES: 298
PUBLISHER: Mills & Boon Historical Romance

SETTING: Early 19th century London
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: Seems to be related to a couple of the author's other books.

REASON FOR READING: She was Author of the Month in my favourite yahoo discussion group.

After spending the last few years as a gambler, smuggler, and rogue, Cyprian Sloane is ready for a new life of respectability. As part of his plan to reform, Cyprian has moved into a proper new home and begun courting the eminently suitable Hannah Cowdlin. The only roadblock on Cyprian's new path is Morgana Hart, Hannah's cousin and Cyprian's new neighbor. To help out her maid's sister, Lucy, and three other young ladies who have escaped from a ruthless madam, Morgana has been secretly running a "school for courtesans." If the ton finds out, the potential scandal will ruin not only Morgana but Cyprian as well. Unless, of course, Cyprian reverts to the rake he once was to help the lovely and vexing lady with her daring and dangerous scheme.
MY THOUGHTS: I abandoned this one around the mid-point. As pleasant and readable as it was (and most of it was, quite), my suspension of disbelief was feeling too strained and I was muttering "are you fucking kidding me?" to myself a bit too frequently.

The funny thing is that it was not having the gently bred, innocent heroine found a school for courtesans that had me going. Oh, no, that was actually done in a way that it felt downright plausible. What baffled me was the hero's firm conviction that if Morgana's little school was discovered, the scandal would ruin his plans for respectability, because -wait for it!- he lived next door to her! Give. Me. A. Break.

MY GRADE: DNF for this one, although I would give this author another shot.

TITLE: The Roman's Virgin Mistress (heinous title, isn't it?)
AUTHOR: Michelle Styles

PAGES: 296
PUBLISHER: Mills & Boon Historical Romance

SETTING: Baiae, 69 BC
TYPE: Straight Romance



Silvana Junia knows what the gossips say about her - and doesn't care! Until a mysterious, dangerous stranger rescues her from the sea, and she's instantly drawn to him.


Lucius Aurelius Fortis is rich and respected. But his playboy past could come back to haunt him if he cannot resist his attraction to beautiful Silvana. And in the hot sun of Baiae their every move is watched…


Tempted beyond endurance, Silvana will become his mistress. But she has one last shocking secret…which will change everything between them!
MY THOUGHTS: You know, I've had this same problem with many of the "exotic setting" books I've bought. Great atmosphere, great research, a setting that feels and tastes real and is quite fascinating... but a blah story and characters.

Baiae was fantastic and I loved to visit there (even if at times the writing was of the "I've researched this and I'm going to cram every fact I've discovered into my story, whether it's necessary or not!" variety), but I wish I'd visited with other characters. I cannot stand the martyr heroine who sacrifices herself for her undeserving little brother who treats her like shit. I cannot stand her in a Regency setting, and I cannot stand her in ancient Rome, either. Fortis was nice enough, and Silvana did get her head out of her ass in the end, but... eh.


TITLE: The Greek's Bought Wife
AUTHOR: Helen Bianchin

PAGES: 185
PUBLISHER: Mills & Boon Modern

SETTING: Contemporary Australia
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: I don't think so

REASON FOR READING: An experiment. Pick one of those horribly-titled books at random and see if what's inside matches the quality of the title.

Made to marry-for her baby's sake!

Nic Leandros knows that most people want only his money. So when he finds out beautiful Tina Matheson is pregnant with his late brother's child, he's certain her price will be high...However, Tina must agree to his terms: no Leandros heir has ever been born out of wedlock; they will marry for the baby's sake...


MY THOUGHTS: There's one word for what I read of this book (about 50 pages, that is), and that's "bad". Bad, bad, bad, bad, BAD. An overbearing jerk of a hero, a doormat heroine whose character motivations had me scratching my head, awkward writing and my favourite: a crazy skank of an ex-mistress who's obsessed with the hero. I just couldn't subject myself to this, even for the sake of experimentation.

MY GRADE: A DNF, but it was heading towards low-D territory, maybe even the dreaded F.


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