I Thee Wed, by Amanda Quick

>> Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I think I Thee Wed was the book after which I stopped adoring Amanda Quick's books and started just liking them as comfort reads.

It isn't easy making a living as a lady's companion when one possesses a sharp tongue and an original mind. That's why Emma Greyson has gone through three such positions in six months. Her current post at a tiresome country house party has her bored to tears--until an extraordinary encounter with the legendary Edison Stokes leads to a secret position as his assistant.

Stokes is on a peculiar mission, searching for an anonymous thief who has stolen an ancient book of arcane potions. He suspects his quarry is among the party's guests--and that the villain is looking for an intuitive woman on whom to test a certain elixir. A woman just like Emma...

For Emma, the new post brings unexpected passion and chilling danger. But when murder strikes, she realizes the awful truth. Unless she and Edison devise a scheme to outwit a merciless killer, she could forever lose the man of her dreams--and even her very life....
I Thee Wed is actually hard to grade. It's very easy to read and very engaging. I'd probably give it a higher grade if it had been written by new author X. I realize this is unfair, but I know Amanda Quick can do so much better, that the disappointment factor has to apply. My grade: a B-.

On the positive side are nice characters and Quick's trademark humour. What there was of the romance was quite nice, too. I really enjoyed certain elements like how Emma kept insisting that Edison write her her reference, and Edison's reaction, his annoyance, was a nice way of showing that he had started to care about her and simply didn't want to think about her going her own way when their investigation was over.

The problem was that I felt there just wasn't enough emphasis on the romance, and this made the book a bit flat. They were a bit too focused on the mystery, and this simply wasn't engaging enough for me to be happy to give up space to it that could have been devoted to the romance.

Oh, well, I think I'll do better to go and reread my old Quick favourites.


Lovescape, an anthology

>> Monday, June 28, 2004

I decided to read the anthology Lovescape based on a question from a friend's sister: "have you read the one with the alien hero?" Who could she have been talking about if not Dara Joy?

The anthology starts with a story by a new-to-me author, Anne Avery, titled A Dance on the Edge.

When interior designer Marlis Jones battles with architect Jack MArtin over email, they discover a love powerful enough to blow their circuits.
It was quite a nice story. The most interesting thing about it is that it's narrated almost entirely through emails. There are just a couple of regular scenes, very short, and the rest is just an email exchange. The gimmick actually works very well because, in effect, it means the protagonists spend the entirety of the very short story (about 65 pages) communicating and communicating. They share their innermost feelings and their dreams and goals, so in the end, though the recognition that they were "in love" did feel a bit abrupt, I believed in that love more than I have in many longer stories. A B-.

The next story was Toss The Bouquet, by Phoebe Conn. I've read only one of this author's books, but it was a futuristic, written as Cinnamon Burke, so this was completely different.

After her boyfriend falls short of the altar, bridal florist Regan Paisley spends her vacation days at the beach alone. Then she meets a seductive Italian cyclist who pedals his way into her bed - and her heart.
Not too bad. A yummy hero, an idiot heroine, but the hero was nice enough for me to enjoy most of the story, even while realizing the guy was a walking, talking stereotype of an Italian. I didn't see what on Earth he saw in Regan, though. A C+.

The third story was Heart Craving, by Sandra Hill, by far my least favourite in the entire book.

Nicholas DiCello is desperate - his wife Paula plans to divorce him. So when a fortune-telling floozy in a flowered dress swears the only way to win back his wife's love is to discover her heart cravings, he listens.
Hill is another author I haven't read much of, only one very forgettable book some years ago. I vaguely remember the humour simply didn't work for me, and this happened again with this story. I actually couldn't even finish it. I simply stopped after 40 or so pages and proceeded to the next story, because this was just unreadable. I found the humour forced and stupid, the hero a jerk and the heroine a weak, shrill little twit. After two scenes where the hero, in spite of the heroine wanting a divorce, practically forces himself on her, and she immediately allows him to, I only wanted to slap the two of them. A D.

My One, by Dara Joy closed the anthology, and it was the best story, IMO.

When Lois Ed pleads with the cosmos to help her through her hard times, she never expects her cry to be answered - by a hunk of an alien with the wildest sense of passion she's ever experienced.
Quite a fun story, this one. Trystan was very, very alpha, but he was so teddy bear sweet I actually liked him. I never did get a sense of who Lois was, though. Trystan I got, but not she. Probably wasn't space for her development, because there was so much sex here.

Really nice sex, too. I enjoyed that Trystan was a virgin in physical terms, having only practised his alien version of sex, one that was solely mental. The scenes where he's so bewildered at the things his body's doing when it's near Lois were a riot. And the humour worked for me just fine, including all that about how Trystan chose the T-Shirt he was wearing. LOL! This one's a B+.

So, a good story, two just ok ones and a wall-banger, which makes this a B- anthology to me.


The Kissing Game, by Suzanne Brockmann

As much as I enjoy Suzanne Brockmann's SEAL books, I have a soft spot for the books she used to write before, with no military in it. The Kissing Game is an old favourite.

Allowing Simon Hunt to play her partner on her latest assignment probably wasn’t Frankie Paresky’s best idea ever, but the PI found it just as hard as most women did to tell him no! When a chase to solve a long-ago mystery sparked a sizzling attraction between old friends, Frankie wavered between pleasure and panic. Could the best bad boy she’d ever known be the man she’d always love?
Well, The Kissing Game is nothing earthshattering, but it's a nice, light, funny read. I happen to think light commedy is as hard to do as dark, intense angst, so I'll give it a B+.

I'm always a big fan of stories about friends falling in love, and I especially liked that it was Simon who did the pursuing here, the one who decided he wanted more. I especially loved the scene at the hotel when he felt he was losing her to another man. Oh, and that last scene! One of the most romantic I've ever read.

It's actually a very sweet story, and one that's completely character driven. There's no suspense subplot to speak of, Frankie's case is simply to look for someone who has received an inheritance, and there are no dark secrets lurking there.



One Sultry Summer, by Laura Leone

>> Thursday, June 24, 2004

Laura Leone's old categories are among my favourites, and I have a few of them in my TBR. The latest one I read was One Sultry Summer.

A feisty young woman has only one summer to convince her reluctant new partner that her pet boarding kennel can be successful.
It's got some nice touches, but even so, I can't give it more than a C+, though some things were good enough that I wish I could.

From what I see in the author's website, One Sultry Summer was her first published romance novel, and I'm afraid it shows. I prize her books because she always has fascinating backgrounds, because she avoids contrived setups and because she always has characters who are grown-ups and who actually talk about things.

This book does well on the first front, setting the action at a kennel. This was really fun. On the second aspect, contrived setups, well, she has the heroine, Vicky, and hero, Race, each inheriting half of a business. Each has different plans for it, and they agree that if after that summer, if Vicky hasn't managed to make the kennel pay its own way, Race will be free to build on the land. So, they must spend the summer both on the estate. This isn't ridiculously contrived, not at all, but it's been done to death. What saves it is the way Vicky and Race deal with the situation, at least at first.

And here we go into the third aspect, the characters who are mature adults and reasonably always talk things through. That's what they are at first, dealing very well with the terms of the will, agreeing on a course of action that is obviously fair. Also at first, I liked how their increasing attraction was done.

But then, things start going downhill, with Vicky coming across as increasingly shrill. One minute she throws herself on Race and the next she pushes him away. And then come the big misunderstandings and stupid assumptions. She receives a phone call for Race from a woman so obviously, she's his girlfriend, and the guy's just toying with her. She finds Race's drawings of possible houses to build at the site and goes nuts because he's going to destroy her dream (I didn't completely understand this one, actually. She has made a deal, surely the guy has a right to make plans for what he might do if he wins?).

And then, near the end of the book, there's an extraneous plot that crops up, involving the family of the guy who left Race and Vicky the estate. A newspaper has broke the story that this guy has left this property to his illegitimate son (Race) and to a woman they suppose was his mistress, so they make this big scandal, so now the family want to contest the will. What drove me crazy wasn't the actions of the family, but the way we're expected to believe that this is such a HUGE news story, big enough that journalists are now staked out in front of the house. Please!

So, there were things I liked, especially at first, but the last part was simply a chore to read. I could see the promise of good books to come here, but this one wasn't good.


Tempted, by Pamela Britton

>> Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I first discovered Pamela Britton a few months ago, when I read the wonderful Seduced, and I immediately bought her next release, Tempted.

He is Alexander Drummond
Marquis of Warrick, one of the most feared Revenue Commanders to sail the high seas.

She is Mary Callahan
Smuggler's daughter, sent as a spy to his lordship's household under the guise of a nurse, only...she doesn't like children.

He thinks she's the most outspoken, sharp-tongued shrew he's ever met.

She thinks he's the most uptight, pompous bag of wind she's ever encountered.

However, then, did they ever fall in love?
I had lots of fun with Tempted.. A B.

The book was almost fairy tale-ish , which would be another way of saying that I didn't get much of a "period feel" from it. But then, I'm not much of a stickler for total accuracy. Yes, I do enjoy it when I get it, but I'm very flexible that way, and in a romp like this, I guess accuracy's not the point, and I can enjoy the book anyway.

The basic plot I liked. Mary was a really fun heroine, with zero torturedness (is this even a word??) in her because of her origin. She makes no apologies for her past, tells the truth at an appropriate point, and believes she deserves happiness. Good for her! I'm sick of all those martyrs, so it's very refreshing to get a heroine who refuses to be pushed around, be it by her father, by society or by the hero.

I loved to see her paired with Alex, so stiff-necked and priggish. I loved the way being around Mary made Alex more and more discomfitted by his feelings for her, and how he had to fight so hard to control his impulses. He was a nice hero, basically because his prigishness was tempered by kindness and a sense of humour.

I even had fun with the nanny angle, and the way Mary very definitely wasn't the perfect mommy. She didn't feel all gooey and motherly at the sight of Alex's daughter. In fact, she wasn't particularly fond of kids.

The only problem I had with it was that it may have been too much of a romp for me, too concentrated on being wacky and zany for me to absolutely and totally LOVE it. I did enjoy it and had a good time with it, but it just didn't deliver the kick in the stomach that is, IMO, the mark of a DIK. Still, it was a good way of spending some hours.


The Devil You Know, by Liz Carlyle

I read Liz Carlyle's The Devil You Know (excerpt) over a week ago, but I've been very remiss in posting.

Bentley Rutledge is a rake, a rogue, and an out-and-out blackguard. Scandal trails in his wake, and fair maidens steer well clear of him. Frederica d’Avillez knows better than to trifle with Hell-Bent, but her youthful heart has been crushed by a fickle suitor, and she burns to throw caution to the wind. Who better to burn with than that handsome, hell-bound scoundrel all the ladies whisper about?

Unfortunately, Rutledge is far from the carefree charmer he pretends to be. And when Freddie’s impulsive decision has dire consequences, Rutledge forces her to choose between the devil and her freedom. Soon, an innocent young woman is battling the dark undercurrents of Bentley’s life, struggling against an evil so poignant and painful, it could undermine even the deepest devotion. No one believes this impetuous marriage has a prayer...except Freddie.
This was a book with certain elements which I would have thought I'd hate, and yet given my reaction to it, I have to give it a keeper grade. An A-.

Since the AAR reviewer mentioned that one of the biggest problems she had with The Devil You Know was that too many important things were tied up to events happening in previous books, I decided I had better reread those books before tackling this one. I'd enjoyed them all and hadn't reread them in some time, so it wasn't much of a hardship.

TDYK is the story of Bentley Rutledge, brother of Cam (Beauty Like the Night) and Catherine (No True Gentleman) and of Frederica d'Avillez, niece of Evie (My False Heart).

Note: I'll try to be as cryptic as possible below, but be advised that there might be some spoilers.

I was so very enthusiastic about reading The Devil You Know, that I became more than a little worried as I started it. It fascinated me at once, so that was not the problem. What worried me was that I didn't know if I was going to be able to enjoy a book with certain elements that this one had. There was the very young (18 years old), very innocent heroine, paired up with an older, much more experienced, extremely promiscuous hero. Thank god, he was quite young, about 26 and a bit boyish, so it wasn't too icky in that sense (I didn't get the pedophilic vibe I would have got if little Freddy had ended up with a 35 year old, very serious and mature hero!), but I'm afraid Bentley was the most disgustingly slutty hero I've read in ages. There's something he says at one point, about how he didn't sleep with the same woman twice, never went more than two days without sex, that horrified me. That would be well over 1000 lovers! Add to all this that Bentley and Frederica end up married because she's pregnant, and she spends most of the book in this condition, and you get a set-up that looked pretty problematic for someone with my tastes.

I don't know how Carlyle did it, but I adored this. For hours after finishing it I couldn't stand to read anything else. I watched a couple of football games on TV, worked on a crossword puzzle, read newspapers... I just wasn't up to getting into another story, because TDYK, and especially Bentley, haunted me. I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd just read. I even went back and reread certain scenes, something I've done only very few times. One scene in particular (Bentley and his brother Cam talking, near the end of the book, the scene where B. reveals all) I think I must have read 4 or 5 times. A book this powerful, one that affects me so strongly, has to be a keeper! An A- for me.

How on Earth could I like Bentley so much? Carlyle gives us some circumstances that give him an excellent explanation for his promiscuous past. In general, I hate it when an author feels she needs to make excuses for a character's sexual past, when she implies that the sex was only a reflection of a deeper problem, especially when the character in question is the heroine, but in Bentley's case, I don't know, I guess I thought it was necessary. If he'd been so indiscriminate only because he enjoyed it, I don't know that I would have been able to buy that he'd now be faithful to his wife for the rest of their lives.

I guessed his secret pretty early, probably because I'd just finished reading the previous books, but, like Freddie, I didn't realize the significance of certain dates (was that cryptic enough?). Thus, I was as horrified as she and Cam, and the final scenes, where everything is revealed, hit me hard. I enjoyed that there was no psychobabble. It's pretty obvious the modern psychology behind Bentley's actions his whole life, but Carlyle doesn't make the mistake of anachronistically put it into the words of the characters. This is set in the 19th century, and she doesn't forget it.

I still think, though, that there was no need to make Frederica so young. Or rather, to have Bentley with such a young heroine. I got a definite feeling that there was a "saved by her purity" thing going on here, and that I didn't like at all.

Another great thing about this book was that there was no suspense subplot. It was all character driven, and I never thought it dragged. I noticed some books ago that Carlyle seemed to be adding more and more suspense subplot with each book, and this was something I didn't like, so I was very happy about the way this process seems to have stopped.

Anyway, this was very enjoyable. I have another new one to read, and then I'm going to have to wait for 2005.


For My Lady's Heart, by Laura Kinsale

For My Lady's Heart, by Laura Kinsale is a book I've long wanted to read, but I was a bit leery of Kinsale, as well as being a bit intimidated by the fact that the dialogues here are written in Middle English. After My Sweet Folly, however, I gathered my courage and took the plunge.

(Read what the author has to say about the book. Interesting!)

young knight will take up his sword for the honor of a beautiful and mysterious princess--and risk his life for the love that burns between them.
I can only say... WOW!!! I'm horrible at raving about books, but this deserves that I try. An A.

I've been waiting for years to read a heroine like Melanthe. I know many romance readers don't like her. I've seen many posts about it online, even one recently wondering if she changed later on, otherwise the poster felt she wouldn't be able to enjoy the book. Wow, I must be the complete opposite of these people! It was always obvious to me who and what Melanthe was and why she behaved the way she did, and it simply didn't strike me negatively. I admired her from the beginning, and loved her strength. If she's cruel, it's because she feels she has to. If she lies, it's because she feels she has to. The woman is in danger! I admired that she took her destiny in her own hands and did what she needed to do, instead of waiting around, waiting to be rescued.

And about lying, I can't believe how incredibly refreshing it is that she knows how to lie, and very well. I'm not overly fond of liars IRL, but I'm up to here with romance novel heroines who have to be so damned perfect that they can't tell a lie to save their lives. They start stuttering and blushing, even if it something like they're telling the villain they don't know where the McGuffin is. Not Melanthe, not by a long shot. Melanthe has been practically raised in the Monteverde court, and educated in the ways of court intrigue and deceit by a master, her late husband Prince Ligurio. She's excellent at it.

The problem is she simply can't stop doing this. She'll plot and plan even when she doesn't have to. Witness her behaviour and her fears at Ruck's holding. I found this heartrending, how she's so used to being always in the defensive, always figuring every angle, always afraid. No wonder she wants refuge, to be left alone by all these people who want either to use her or to destroy her, and to be safe.

Ruck is the perfect person to give her this refuge she needs. He's her complete opposite in this sense. Steadfast, faithful, kind and gentle, even if he's a trained warrior. A bit naive, contrasting with Melanthe's cynism, and sweet.

Their love scenes were wonderful, tender and sweet and actually funny, especially the way Ruck has educated himself about carnal manners by paying attention to the pointed questions asked by priests during confession. And there wasn't even one gratuitous line in them, it all served to tell us more about these people and their relationship.

The way Kinsale wrote the background for this love story was amazingly good. She's excellent at creating a setting that feels real, but what made it even more real to me was that these people were so definitely NOT 21st century people dressed in costume. Their whole mindsets were different to ours, and often felt foreign to me, and this was fascinating. Some things blew my mind, like Ruck's attitude towarts the Catholic church. He's been fucked over repeatedly by them, first with his holding and title, then with his first wife, Isabelle. He's seen its corruption and thirst for power first-hand and yet, he still heeds priests pronouncements about matters. He still feels they speak for God.

And all this about how real it all is brings me to the issue of the language. As I said, I was a bit apprehensive about the dialogues in Middle English, but these fears were proved to be unfounded. It was perfectly understandable. Even the words I didn't know were made clear by their context. Most important of all, it was beautiful. I can't imagine Ruck and Melanthe speakind differently to each other, now.

The plot was a good blend of external and internal conflict. I generally prefer internal conflict, and try to stay far a way from books too loaded with political machinations and court intrigue, but I did enjoy the plot of For My Lady's Heart even if it was very rich in all this.

Finally, Allegretto. Oh, wow! Lucky I bought Shadowheart when I had the chance. I'll have to rest a bit after reading this, but I'm definitely reading it as soon as I can.

Oh, and one last thing, not related to the content of the book itself. The cover. The stepback cover was one of the best I've seen. First of all, they are dressed ;-) And appropriately, too. They look exactly as I'd imagined. Their clothes are as described and beautiful, Ruck wearing chain mail and armour and Melanthe a green dress with embroidered dragonflies. And even the models fit my image of the protagonists. He's got that boyish but tough thing going on, while she looks very sophisticated. Perfect, and so is the background. I wish I could find an image of it to post here, but I haven't been able to find one online, and I've already returned the book to the friend who lent it to me (my very own copy's on its way!), so I can't even scan it :-(


No True Gentleman, by Liz Carlyle

>> Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I first read No True Gentleman (excerpt), by Liz Carlyle in mid 2002, during a time when the situation in my country was pretty unsettled - the whole financial system seemingly failing, supermarkets being looted, the local currency crashing... In the midst of that, I was reading this book and finding it hard to get into it. Was it the book or was I just (understandably) distracted?

After a year in mourning for her husband, Lady Catherine Wodeway has come to London to escape her grief. And even though she’s a country girl, Cat realizes that no true gentleman would presume to kiss a lady senseless without a proper introduction—not even to save her life. Yet somehow, police inspector Max de Rohan’s dark good looks and mysterious past make it all too easy to forget that she’s a lady.

Although de Rohan is stunned by Catherine’s beauty, honest, and charm, he knows firsthand that getting mixed up with a noblewoman can end badly. But when Catherine stumbles onto the key to his murder investigation, he will risk everything to pull her out of danger and into his arms. Too late, he realizes that Catherine’s brother Bentley is his prime suspect...
After rereading it now, I think I simply wasn't in the right frame of mind to read anything at that time. It wasn't my favourite Carlyle, but it was excellent. A B+.

Catherine and Max were mature people.

Max was a fascinating character. First of all, he wasn't British, which made him one in a million in the world of Regency-set romances. He was part Italian, part Alsatian and part Catalonian. Carlyle really worked to create his background. He was an aristocrat by birth, but his upbringing in England as a war refugee and his work as an investigator first for the River Police and then for the Home Office gave him some interesting rough edges.

These rough edges made his romance with Catherine earthier and more... carnal, I guess I could call it, than the other books I've read by this author. And Carlyle's prose adapted to this, and lost much of the sumptuousness and lushness that usually characterized it, becoming better suited to the story.

I liked Catherine, too, though she was a less interesting character than Max. I liked that she was no innocent virgin, but a widow, and one who had a good first marriage and enjoyed the sex. She actually missed this aspect of being married, and was open to the possibility of taking Max as a lover because of this.

What I enjoyed less here was the suspense subplot. That's something I'd noticed before, that Carlyle has progressively been giving the suspense subplots more and more space in each book. It was my main criticism of Woman of Virtue, and given Max's job, this aspect was given even more space here.

Still, that's a small problem, and on the whole, this was a very good book.


My False Heart, by Liz Carlyle

>> Thursday, June 17, 2004

My False Heart (excerpt) was my very first Liz Carlyle and it remains my favourite to this day.

When the dissolute Marquis of Rannoch pursues a spiteful mistress into the wilds of Essex, he is surprised to find himself hopelessly lost—in more ways than one. Drawn to a warmly lit house along a country lane, he is mistaken for an overdue guest, and dares not reveal his identity, lest they throw him back into the rain, a fate he admittedly deserves.

Evangeline van Artevalde is an artist of exceptional talent and extraordinary secrets. Isolated from society by choice, the beautiful Flemish refugee has fled her homeland in search of a secure haven for the children in her family. Essex seems a perfectly safe place to hide, until one rainy night when a dark stranger enters her home, her life, and eventually, her heart...
I've probably reread this one 3 or 4 times, and it's still an A-.

I really love everything about it, but what I fell in love with for starters was the writing style. Yep, I've said it before. Lush, sumptuous, etc. Carlyle can paint a picture with words that is 1.000 times richer than that of most authors. I felt the cold during Elliott's first ride to Chatham, and the warmth when he went into the house and I really saw Evie's paintings. I don't know if Carlyle's portrayal of the 19th century is accurate, but it feels very real. This style I like so much often entails a pace that is quite leisurely. I suppose it might feel "slow" to some people, but well, I'm not a big fan of fast, action-packed books in the first place, so, slow or not, it felt perfect to me.

I enjoyed the fact that the story was mostly character driven, as was all the conflict between Elliott and Evie. As for the characters themselves, I found them really likeable. Evie was sensible and no-nonesense, a strong and independent character. And Elliott I loved. This is a guy with a frightening, well-earned reputation for being a really mean son of a bitch. And yet his desperate need for what he sees at Chatham, the family and love and warmth rings true. What I like is that he was already dissatisfied with his life and, on a level, even before he met Evie and her family, he knew exactly what it was he really needed. He'd done his best to drown the needs of the young, naive boy he'd been, but he'd never been wholly successful. The only reason he'd become such a reprobate was the betrayal he suffered as a youth.

So, I was really rooting for him, and with him, I was dreading the moment when Evie and the rest of her households would discover his true identity and inevitably reject her. This was one romance which provoked its share of gut-wrenching moment, probably because of the single-minded desperation with which Elliott needed Evie.

I also loved to see the way mean Elliott slowly changed into a kinder version of himself. With his man of business, with his daughter, with his servants. It was lovely.

The book had a couple of little flaws though, and the foremost of them was the suspense subplot. Basically, it was completely unnecessary and only served to clutter up the book a bit and to add an unneeded bit of melodrama in the end, and to overshadow the romance there. It's always disappointing when a book that had previously been wholly character driven lets an extraneous suspense subplot overwhelm it in the ending. I would have scrapped it, no doubt about it. At 450 pages, the story could have withstood it easily.

The other flaw was that there were certain elements which felt like loose threads. Carlyle had set up certain elements in a way that made it seem like they were going to be dealt with in the story, but they weren't. They were simply dropped. Not left open-ended, which would have been ok, but dropped. I can't describe what the difference is, but I know it when I see it. I'm talking about things like the situation between Winnie and Etienne, which sounded really fascinating.

Still, these were pretty small flaws, and didn't prevent me from loving the book.


How To Treat a Lady, by Karen Hawkins

>> Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I've read quite a few books by Karen Hawkins, including only one I've really loved, a short story in the first Lady Whistledown anthology. This one I loved so much, that the memory of it alone makes me keep buying her other books, hoping she can do it again.

The latest I've read is How To Treat a Lady (excerpt), which is book # 3 in the St. John Talisman Ring series, following Confessions of a Scoundrel and An Affair to Remember.

Does she dare?

To save her family from ruin, Harriet Ward invented a fiancé—a handsome, wealthy sea captain. But now the bank wants proof of the elusive captain's existence. Just as Harriet despairs, fate drops a mysterious stranger into her arms, a man she believes has no idea of his own identity...Does Harriet dare convince the disturbingly handsome stranger that he is her fiancé? And if she does, what will be the cost?

Will he win?

Chase St. John knows exactly who he is. While quitting London to protect his family from scandal, Chase is waylaid by footpads and left for dead. Awakening in the care of the enchanting Miss Harriet Ward, Chase is astonished when the tempting maid brazenly announces that he is her long-awaited betrothed. Chase, ever a rogue, decides to dally and play the part of adoring lover for a price—heated kisses and more. But the price is rich, indeed, when it might mean losing his own heart.
I don't know, maybe it was my mood, but I really detested this book. A D.

Basically, everything irritated me. Everything felt stupid and forced and NOT funny. Things like those little quotes at the beginning of chapters, or the plot device of the talisman ring, supposed to make the bearer find his true love. Previously, in the other books, I hadn't loved them, but they hadn't really bothered me. Here, they made me grate my teeth.

The romance bombed completely for me. I found the main characters unlikeable, especially Chase. The thick-headed idiot brought his problems on himself, drinking and driving, and I was very pissed off by the way he was let off so lightly, with that stupid revelation at the end of the book.

Plus, I didn't get what Hawkins was trying to do with him. Was he supposed to be a tortured character? Because I just didn't see that. He was supposed to have a problem with alcohol, and yet that was completely brushed aside by the time he got to the Wards' house. He took a drink or two, but the issue simply disappeared after that. And all that guilt about killing an innocent woman, he went on and on about at the beginning of the book, well, that didn't prevent him from forgetting all about it when he got to the Wards' and concentrating on fun and games.

I also hated how he was so casual about taking Harriet's virginity, the virginity of the young daughter of the house where he'd been sheltered when he'd needed shelter. Never gave it a thought, planned to leave the next morning all the while. That speaks of a complete lack of honour to me.

Which brings me to another problem with the romance, and that was the fact that Chase and Harriet had 0 chemistry together. None at all. There was no sensual tension whatsoever in their relationship and suddenly, out of the blue, they were rolling around in bed.

In other areas, I kind of liked some of the secondary characters, especially Harriet's family, but I felt an intense irritation whenever the St. Johns appeared. There's an element of girlishness in how they are described, how they are the bestest and richest and handsomest and coolest and more elegant men evah! They are sooo popular! All the women want them, all the men want to be like them. How dare that upstart Harry Annesley, not well-born at all (the horror! *gasp*) run with one of them? Doesn't he realize non-aristocrats don't deserve to even look at them?

Finally, the humour was not really to my taste, either. I smiled *once* (at the sheep sheared like poodles... that was funny, actually!), the rest of the time the humour felt forced and I mostly groaned and rolled my eyes.

I think this was the last Hawkins I'll read.


My Sweet Folly, by Laura Kinsale

>> Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The first Laura Kinsale I ever read was the widely admired Flowers From the Storm, and I didn't care for it. Since everyone seemed to agree it was her best, I felt a little leery about reading anything else by her. Since then, however, I've read posts by many people who didn't enjoy FFTS but who absolutely adored other Kinsales, so I thought I'd try another one. A friend had My Sweet Folly, so that was the chosen one.

My dear girl! I could never fall in love by letter. Though I have no doubt you are a notorious breaker of hearts, not to mention a princess in disguise, and if I were a few miles closer to Toot-above -the-Batch I would be in great danger. From the safe distance of another continent, I will admit to a modest desire to see how your pearl becomes you, even to know the color of your hair and eyes, but this is mere curiosity, I assure you."

Through letters, a lonely young wife grows to love a man thousands of miles away. But when she finally meets him in truth, reality is turned upside down. She cannot find her own Robert in the frightening stranger who claims her love.
I'm very glad to say I can now say I totally "get" Kinsale! An A-.

The book starts with a prologue which is the best I've ever read. It's simply a transcription of the letters Folie and Robert exchange throughout many years, while she's in England, married to Robert's cousing, and he's in India. In a few pages, Kinsale succeeds in showing them getting to know each other and falling in love believably, which is actually amazing, if you think of it.

Then, some years later, Robert comes back to England and is appointed guardian of his late cousin's daughter, Folie's step-daughter. He immediately orders both women to his estate and Folie is understandably astounded when she meets him and, instead of the kind, funny man who shone through in the letters, she's received by a man who is seemingly a madman.

So the story goes slowly from there, and it's a fascinating process. I was greatly intrigued by what was going through Robert's head, didn't understand for some time what exactly was going on and, at the same time, I was even more intrigued (as was Folie), by the little glimpses of the man he'd once been that Robert a few times allowed to shine through.

After the action moves to London, about half-way through the book, the book became slightly less enjoyable to me, as I thought it became a bit more familiar. The first half I can truly say was composed of elements I'd never read before, the second half was more recognizable. Still good, but not as novel. The only thing I didn't like was the suspense subplot, which struck me as a little too fantastic.

All in all, it was excellent, from the story itself to the author's delicious writing style. Next, I'm going to read For My Lady's Heart, Middle English dialogue and all! I feel very brave :-D


Remember When, by Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb

>> Monday, June 14, 2004

When I first heard about Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb's Remember When, I didn't really "get" the concept. A regular "Nora" story that would continue in the future, when Eve Dallas would take up the case? Hmmm, but wouldn't the first story lack a clear resolution? I had some doubts.

Laine Tavish is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life in the small town of Angel's Gap, Maryland, as the proprietor of Remember When, an antique treasures and gift shop. At least, that's what everyone in Angel's Gap thinks. They have no idea that she used to be Elaine O'Hara, daughter of the notorious con man Big Jack O'Hara. Or that she grew up moving from place to place, one step ahead of the law . . .

Laine's past has just caught up with her, though-in a very dramatic way. Her long-lost uncle suddenly turned up in her shop, leaving only a cryptic warning before dying in the street, run down by a car. Soon afterward, her home is ransacked. Now it's up to Laine, and a sexy stranger named Max Gannon, to find out who's chasing her, and why.

The answer lies in a hidden fortune-a fortune that will change not only Laine's life but also the lives of future generations. And danger and death will surround that fortune for years to come. Until New York City detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas gets on the case.
Well, now that I've read it, I must say I thought it worked very well. A B+.

The first part, the Nora Roberts story, reminded me a bit of an old favourite, Hidden Riches. It was wonderful.

On the positive side were the characters, especially Laine. Sometimes it seems that Nora is the only writer "big" enough to get away with writing female characters with a liberal attitude towards sex. No, I'm not saying Laine was promiscuous (not that I'd have any problem with that, but that's just me), it's just that she knows what she wants, sexually, and has no problems in taking it. So she's sexually attracted to Max and likes him very much, too? Well then, she'll sleep with him, and if this starts a relationship, that's fine, too. No guilt, no hysteria, no tedious behaving like a ninny. So refreshing.

I also adored that she was actually intelligent! At one point, her house has been ransacked and Max doesn't want her to be there alone until the situation with the diamonds is resolved. Does she stupidly try to assert her independence by insisting in putting herself in a dangerous situation, just because she has the right to do so, so, by god, she's going to show she's independent? Hell, no! She asks Max to move in with her. And then, in the final confrontation with the villain, it's Laine who carries the day and beats him. This was one kick-ass heroine, and I adored her.

Max was a yummy hero, too. No tedious bagagge here, either. He likes Laine from the start, even when he believes there's a possibility that she might be in on the diamond theft, but he soon realizes it can't be her and falls head over heels in love with her. I'm not usually a big fan of "love at first sight" stories, but it worked here. I believed it. The only problem was that by having them acknowledging that they were in love so soon, their relationship lacked some tension. There was a little bit of conflict when Laine didn't yet know about what Max was doing in her town, but that was resolved early, too. Still, I found Max and Laine very enjoyable together.

On the negative side, well, I wasn't really fond of the suspense subplot. I guess I'm like Eve Dallas in not really seeing the glamour in diamonds. And I thought Jack was portrayed too positively. Yes, Nora was careful to portray how his cons were not a game, when Laine tells Max that when she helped her father at 10, she didn't realize that maybe the guy whose wallet she stole wouldn't be able to pay the rent that month. However, I think Nora was trying too hard to make Big Jack charming, to make us like him in spite of all this. It didn't work with me. Maybe this makes me rigid, but I despised the guy.

Also a negative, was the time spent from the POV of the villain. That was actually what I didn't like about Hidden Riches, way too much time spent in the psycho villain's head. Here it was a bit less, but still to much, as far as I'm concerned.

I'd give this first part of the book an A-, purely for the love story.

The second part, over 50 years in the future, in which Eve investigates a murder related to the 2003 diamond heist, wasn't as remarkable as the first part. Here, the mystery is interesting. It was what I usually love the most about the ...in Death books, the character dynamics, that didn't dazzle.

Mostly, it lacked some development in Eve Roarke relationship. I just didn't feel that they moved forward at all here as a couple. This felt almost like one of the JD Robb short stories, in that sense: like filler.

There were nice bits, like seeing Peabody as a detective and how she's acclimating to the change, but on the whole, this part rated no more than a B, and I was actually wavering between that grade and a B-.

Still, the wonderful first part is more than enough reason to read this one.


The Day After Tomorrow

We were talking about The Day After Tomorrow (which I saw the weekend before last) today at work and I mentioned that people had started clapping in the movie theatre in the scene where they show this supposed news clip saying that the Mexican government had agreed to open the border in exchange for the US forgiving all Latin American external debt. At that, one of my coworkers looked at me strangely, and mentioned that in his version of the movie, which he'd (yes, illegally) downloaded, the Mexican demand had been that all Mexican prisoners in US jails be released.

Seems like they've changed details for each version, doesn't it? I was wondering what had become of the scene of the Opera House in Sidney being washed away by a huge wave, which I'd seen in some stills. Now I know: it must be in the Australian version!


Smoke and Mirrors, by Barbara Michaels

>> Friday, June 11, 2004

I've been very busy this week, what with both computers at home dying (I actually had to reinstall Windows in both) and a very complicated week at work. The result was that I didn't have much time to post here. So, let's just start... first book: Smoke and Mirrors, by Barbara Michaels.

Joining the campaign of a charismatic congresswoman, young Erin Hartsock arrives in Washinton, D.C., filled with idealism and ambition. But her enthusiasm dissolves into terror when the campaign takes a malevolent turn. Someone...something...has begun threatening Erin and her colleagues. First come the strange fires, then a seemingly accidental death. As the election nears, Erin fears that she just may be a murderer's next candidate.
While this one's not one of my favourite Michaels, it was still very, very good. A B+.

The background was especially fascinating, with the heroine working for the campaign of a congresswoman who's running for the US Senate. Erin has absolutely no experience in politics, so her own role is very unglamorous (she's basically a gofer), but having her right at campaign headquarters gives her a privileged spectator spot.

As for the campaign itself... well, I really don't know if Rosemary Marshall's campaign was idealized by the author or if changes have changed so much in 15 years. As it's written, this one's just perfect. Plus, Michaels doesn't shy away from giving Marshall a party and a distinct ideology, and since she was pretty in line with me in this respect (to give you a clue, I'm pretty left-of-centre), I actually found it enjoyable to read.

With this backdrop, Michaels creates a fascinating plot, with characters who are excellently written. I especially enjoyed that the heroine wasn't a perfect character. Actually, it took me quite a while to warm up to her, because at first she came across as a passive-aggressive doormat. She came into her own later one, and I started to like her more then.

As for the "suspense subplot", that was very well done. Interesting and plausible, too. All in all, a very enjoyable novel.


Striding Folly, by Dorothy L. Sayers

As far as I can tell, Striding Folly is a collection of 3 unpublished short stories which were discovered some years after Dorothy L. Sayers's death.

I actually wasn't able to get Striding Folly, since it's extremely hard to find, but I got myself a copy of Lord Peter, which contains every one of the stories where Lord Peter (obviously) appears, including the 3 in Striding Folly.

The first one is a regular short story, similar to the ones you could find in In The Teeth of Evidence, Hangman's Holiday or Lord Peter Views the Body. In Striding Folly, Mr. Melillow is upset because Mr. Creech, a newcomer to the district, who only he (Mr. M.) had treated well, plans to sell his property to the electric company. This would mean that progress would come to the village and Mr. Mellilow's view would be spoilt, something he'd abhor. One night Creech fails to show up for their usual game of chess and a mysterious stranger appears instead. When Creech's body is discovered in a scene with some nice supernatural touches, Mr. Mellilow ends up with this stranger for an alibi, only nobody can vouch for his existence.

It was an interesting story, one in which Sayers plays a bit with some suggestions of the supernatural. The ambience is fascinating, too. Once the murder is discovered, however, it loses steam fast, though. Peter never does come to life here, he's just a shadowy friend of the Chief Constable who finally finds the way to prove exactly what happened. Another problem was that the resolution felt ill-defined and routine. Definitely not my favourite, I'd rate it as a C+.

The second story is The Haunted Policeman, and I liked it much better. It's one of the only two glimpses we get of Harriet and Peter's married life after Busman's Honeymoon (except for the parts she wrote of Thrones, Dominations). Anyway, this story takes place on the night when Harriet and Peter's first son is born, which would be some months after T,D. Right after this, in fact. The story opens as Peter is first shown his son, and a lovely banter between he and Harriet follows. Harriet then disappears from scene, as Peter goes downstairs to let her rest. As he's had a huge fright and is too tense to go to bed yet, he goes out to the street for a smoke, which is when he gets into a conversation with a passing policeman, who has a strange story to tell about a seemingly disappearing house.

Apart from the initial scene of Peter and Harriet together, which would have been enough to make this story worth reading (at least to me!), the puzzle here is fascinating. The characters are all wonderfully done, and I enjoyed the resolution. I'd give this one a B+.

The third and last story, Talboys, is the second look at Peter and Harriet's life together and I loved it. It takes place when they already have 3 children, and are rusticating at Talboys, the house where they spent their honeymoon in Busman's Honeymoon, in late 1942 (at least, according to this internal chronology of the Sayers corpus). There's no murder here, or even really a crime. It's just a domestic mystery which serves as an excuse to show Peter and Harriet (but especially Peter) interacting with their children.

What happens in the story is simple: Bredon (the child born in the previous story) is accused of stealing some peaches and Peter investigates what happened. Simple, and the mystery itself is nothing too remarkable. There's a friend of Helen's staying at the house with them, and this woman is exactly what one would imagine a friend of Helen's would be like. She keeps butting in and criticizing the way the Wimseys are raising their children, and it was wonderful to see the way she's dealt with by Peter. And this is what makes the story so good, seeing how Peter has adapted to the role of husband and father. He has definitely not lost his sense of humour! This story was an A for me.

My grade for the collection would be a B+.


Cherish This Moment, by Sandra Canfield

>> Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A recent spate of positive posts about Cherish This Moment, by Sandra Canfield, made me move it up in my TBR pile.

It's an old (1986) Harlequin Superromance, and I couldn't find any blurbs around the net, so here's what the Amazon.com user (Kate Garrabrant) who posted her views about it, wrote:

Sandra Canfield has a way of writing powerful stories and this one is no exception. Cherish This Moment has so many incredibly written scenes and such passion that readers will not want to stop till the very end. The characters move you, such as Tracy who is practically afraid of men or intimacy because of being raped and the betrayal of her first husband. Cole, the too good to be true congressman, comes along and sweeps her off her feet. He is not afraid to cry and moves so slowly so Tracy can love a man again. The love scenes are powerful, passionate and emotional and you feel for them deep to the core.
A very sweet, moving book, albeit one with certain flaws. A B, for me.

What really made the book, IMO, was Cole. He was so nice and good and patient and gentle with Tracy, that he was almost too good to be true. Good thing I love those kind, gentle heros.

Tracy I liked, too, but I'm afraid the author didn't do such a good job with her characterization. When I started thinking about the book, right after finishing it, I realized I didn't really know much about her, other than she'd overcome a rape. She wasn't a woman who was like this and that, and liked this and that and had overcome a rape. It was as if she was simply "Rape Victim", period. Not very good, that.

Another problem was that the book lost a lot of momentum in the second half, once Cole and Tracy's relationship is mostly resolved. They love each other, they've already made love for the first time and we get to see them endlessly shagging, which was boring, basically because, nicely written as those scenes were, they simply didn't add anything!

And then the final conflict was telegraphed miles before it happened. It was terribly obvious that a time was going to come when Tracy was going to leave Cole, for his own good, because her past could hurt his political career. Yawn. I had to fight not to skim, during this last part.

It was also here that a plot to destroy Cole's chances at reelection comes to center stage, and this was something I didn't enjoy, either. It felt that the only reason this was introduced was to demonize Cole's first wife. Really no need for this.

Finally, I felt a potentially very interesting setting was a bit wasted. This all happens during Cole's reelection campaign for the US House of Representatives, but we don't really get a good feel for what this is like.

As you see, quite a few flaws, but the first part, when Cole and Tracy are still dancing around each other, was so good that I just have to give this a nice grade. Lots of nice tension then, especially when Cole didn't yet know why Tracy acted as she did. This is a book that uses a Big Secret plot quite The moment when the it is revealed... wow! Gut-wrenching! And the parts after that, the way Cole slowly eases Tracy's mind and helps her get comfortable with his body and hers as well were also wonderful and tender and romantic.


The Ideal Bride, by Nonnie St. George

>> Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Ideal Bride, by new author Nonnie St. George, received great buzz online last year.

Why Look For The Ideal Wife…
Marriage is a serious matter according to wealthy businessman Gabriel Carr, not to be influenced by anything so frivolous as emotion—or the usually giddy female reaction to his striking good looks. Drawing up a list of the traits he requires in a bride is the first step; the second is asking his merchant tenants to introduce him to suitable young women. Lady Nola Grenvale, the first candidate, is far from ideal—especially when Gabriel learns that her interest in him has nothing to do with marriage, but with his Soho Square warehouse instead!

When True Love Has Just Arrived?
Nola's fondest dream is to create a bazaar where war widows might sell their handiwork, and Gabriel's warehouse is a perfect site for the enterprise. Yet the stubborn man—ridiculously handsome though he may be—refuses to lease it to her! Determined to prove that her scheme is sensible, Nola agrees to lend her aid to some of his other projects—and soon realizes that Gabriel's masculine appeal is not the only thing about him she admires. It's clear that that she fulfills none of his stated ideals, yet before long she yearns to offer the irresistible man the one thing he hasn't listed...her love.

*sigh* I must have been expecting too much, after the way everyone carried on and on about how The Ideal Bride was the funniest book of 2003. But I found the author's sense of humour delightful in her interview at AAR, and when she posted in the message boards as well, so I really was pretty sure I would find the book funny. However, for almost half the book, I didn't.

It was just too physical, way too many people falling down all over the place, and breaking expensive china, and generally humiliating themselves. Almost like watching the Three Stooges, which is simply painful to me. Just a small sample of the type of humour here, in the scene where the protagonists meet, the heroine is banging on the door so hard that she falls into the room when the hero opens the door. So he catches her, and she accidentally swings her reticule and bangs him on the nose, which immediately starts bleeding. If you don't find this funny, you probably won't enjoy this either.

And then, of course, there's the problem of the hero, who is a stupid, stubborn, arrogant mule. And rude servants. And Nola's aunts were rude, too. And after a couple of pages, I found Nola's obsession with Gabriel's warehouse tiresome.

But then, after the halfway point, the book suddenly improved. The physical humour gave way to a gentler one, more based on wit than on people getting banged up. I didn't exactly start to find it laugh-out-loud hilarious, but there were some smile-worthy scenes, like Gabriel waiting for Nola in a darkened room, posed as if he were sleeping, in order to get her overcome by lust... or Gabriel positioning himself with his "good profile" showing. Much better :-)

And what was even better: Gabriel and Nola started to spend time together, and fall in love, and that was very nicely rendered. Gabriel became nicer, Nola gave the warehouse a little rest, and those two were really nice and cute together. And for a book were the most that happened was a few kisses, it felt pretty sensual.

The only thing I didn't like about this last half was the way everyone and their mother seemed hell-bent on matchmaking and forcing Nola and Gabriel together. I really disliked all these people, most especially Gabriel's mother, for being so arrogant as to be that sure that they know better in matters that are supposed to be private. I have an almost pathological dislike of these obsessed people in romance novels, and can't help but wish they'd get a life of their own.

So, I guess I'll give it a nice grade for the second half, maybe a B, B+, since it wasn't at all perfect anyway, and a C-, C for the stupid first half. That would make an average of B-, maybe, but I'll round it up to a B because it ended on a high note :-)


Legacy, by Jayne Anne Krentz

>> Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I didn't really feel like reading much last Saturday, but I had an appointment at the hairstylist's, so I really did need a book... yep, magazine selection in beauty salons is probably the same (i.e. sucky) all over the world ;-) So I decided to just grab a Jayne Anne Krentz book at random from my TBR pile. The chosen book was Legacy, a 1985 Harlequin Intrigue.

"Come into my parlor," said the spider to the fly...

Honor Mayfield didn't know it yet, but she was about to walk into a trap. She thought that her chance meeting with Conn Landry was a fortunate stroke of luck, but actually Conn had planned to lure Honor into his web for a very long time.

As a member of the thoroughbred horse-racing industry in California, Conn was well respected. But Honor was about to discover the true man under the cool exterior. A piece of her past was linked to Conn, and he wanted revenge. She hoped that it was not too late! Only Honor would be able to fit together all the pieces of the puzzle.
It was a nice enough book to read while waiting for my turn, but it was ultimately pretty forgettable. I mean, I actually have trouble recalling much detail about it now! A B-.

On the bright side, the hero was not horribly dominating, a plus in those old JAK, where you never know if you're going to get a nice guy or a jerk (like those in books like Battle Prize and Golden Goddess, for instance). Sure, he was a bit overbearing and fond of giving orders, but that's something you've got to expect in an 80s series book, right? The heroine was basically ok, not too much of a doormat, either, so I was actually rooting for these two instead of wanting to scream at the heroine to run for her life.

On the negative side, well, of course, the suspense subplot. Telegraphed miles before it happened....

The book was quite a bit dated, and I'm not just talking about the hero's attitudes. My sister was with me at the beauty salon, and we had quite a few laughs when I'd share with her the descriptions of the clothes the characters were wearing. Veeery 80s ;-) That was superficial, though. In other aspects, there were some dated elements, too... some sexism, for instance, but it was basically readable.

So, to summarize, nothing too remarkable either way.


A Woman of Virtue, by Liz Carlyle

>> Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I just can't stop rereading my Liz Carlyle books! My next read was A Woman of Virtue.

In the months since her husband’s death, Cecilia, Lady Walrafen, has hidden her emptiness by devoting herself to a charity mission for the poor women of London’s slums. But when the man who once tried to ruin her reputation turns up at the Nazareth Society, Cecilia is outraged.

The womanizing Lord Delacourt is vain, vindictive, and merciless. But he’s a man who honors his wagers. And when one of them goes wrong, landing him in a charity mission for prostitutes, he comes face-to face with the young woman whose reputation he once nearly ruined—and whose lips he has never forgotten. Soon, however, evil is stalking the women of the Nazareth Society, and only Delacourt knows how to guard Cecilia from the consequences of her own principles.
Yet another fascinating read. A B+.

As always, I'm bowled over by Carlyle's way with words. I've described her style as lush and sumptuous and opulent, and this holds for this book, too. This makes for a slow read, because I want to savour every one of her words, but it's a very intense read, and it's worth it.

In this book we start seeing quite a few characters we've already met in previous books... the hero, Delacourt, for instance, is the brother of Jonet, from A Woman Scorned, and we see a lot of Bentley Rutledge, brother of Cameron, from Beauty Like The Night. I actually liked this, mostly because I'd read the previous books not too long ago. If this had been my first Carlyle, I might have been a little irritated. Though I always could have resorted to the author's website and her Who's Who">family trees... ;-)

The romance itself was wonderful, starting from an adversarial relationship that felt realistic and evolving slowly and believably to something more. David is an amazing character, vulnerable and hurt, needing Cecilia but not wanting to acknowledge it, and I loved that once Cecilia really sees him for the person he is, she immediately allows herself to follow her impulses and love him. My only problem with this two was a little thing about Cecilia... I groaned when I realized she was one of those strange creatures which for some reason abound so much in romance novels... the Virgin Widow! Wonderful love scenes, though.

I wasn't too crazy about the setup, actually, with Cole and Jonet, from A Woman Scorned, transforming into those stereotypical matchmaking monsters every single married couple in RomanceLand seems to become, for some strange reason. However, if one can overlook this, the situation set up is really good, forcing David and Cecilia together.

Any flaws other than that? Well, there's something that was a bit of a flaw to me, but I've got strange tastes. Suspense subplot. It feels like Carlyle has progressively been adding more and more suspense subplot to her books. My False Heart had practically none, A Woman Scorned and Beauty Like the Night had non-obtrusive ones. in A Woman of Virtue it becomes substantial, and we're "treated" again and again to scenes showing David and/or Cecilia following clues to the murders of some of the girls from the mission. It wasn't a bad suspense subplot, not at all! It's just that the romance was so much more interesting, that I resented the distraction.

Anyway, on the whole, A Woman of Virtue was wonderful. I've forced myself to wait a bit before tackling another by this author, but the minute I finished this one, the only thing I wanted was to grab the next.


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