Pick of the Week: January 22, 2014

No Good Duke Goes UnpunishedI loved Sarah MacLean’s No Good Duke Goes Unpunished and stayed up late into the night reading it. For twelve long years William Harrow has been stripped of his rightful place in the world. He is called Temple by his friends and The Killer Duke by everyone else. Even Temple doesn’t know what he is guilty of: he cannot remember a thing about the night he allegedly killed Miss Mara Lowe. So when Mara shows up in his life, alive and well, it is an incredible relief. It is also enraging – Mara is responsible for ruining his life and could have fixed everything for him at any time. She has decided to do so now, but only for a price. Mara really ought to be very unsympathetic. She has done Temple wrong – really seriously wrong – and to add insult to injury she is now trying to shake the man down for money.

A story must have a conflict and in romance that conflict must be resolved in such a way that the reader is rooting for the happy ending. Original, interesting conflicts can be hard to find in romance. Ms. MacLean has delivered exactly that and she makes it work. I wanted Mara and Temple to work out their issues and find their happily-ever-after through every page of the novel. Mara’s actions are explained satisfactorily. Moreover Temple is no victim – in many ways his struggles have forced him to become the wonderful man that he is. It would be a stretch to say Mara did him a favor, but his success took the edge off her bad behavior for me. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is original, sexy, romantic and sweet. I can’t recommend this novel more.

Pick of the Week: January 15, 2014

Once a RakeEileen Dreyer’s wildly entertaining Drake’s Rakes series continues with Once a Rake.  Ian Ferguson is wanted for treason but has proof of his innocence – he simply needs to figure out how to clear his name.  Ian is injured and on the run.  By the time he gets to Sarah Clarke’s farm, his wounds have become infected and he is gravely ill.  Sarah nurses Ian back to health at great risk to herself – aiding a known traitor is a crime – but Sarah’s gut tells her Ian is innocent.  As they get to know each other, Ian and Sarah fall in love, but many hurdles must be overcome before they can find their happily ever after.  Once a Rake is as action-packed as the rest of the Drake’s Rakes series and a real page turner.  However, I wouldn’t recommend it if the romance wasn’t also strong.  I am happy to report the love story definitely satisfied.  I have enjoyed every novel in this series, highly recommend it, and cannot wait for the next installment!

Pick of the Week: January 8, 2014

Summer is for LoversJennifer McQuiston’s Summer Is for Lovers is a lot of fun.  Caroline Tolbertson, an expert swimmer, has carried a torch for David Cameron ever since she saved him from the rough ocean water in Brighton one summer when she was a young woman.  She never expects to see him again, but when he unexpectedly vacations in her hometown a decade later, Caroline’s feelings for David grow even stronger.  David soon returns her feelings, but he is tortured by the past, and with a twisted piece of logic that makes sense only to him, he has decided he must never marry.  The pair end up spending a good deal of time together and David’s increasing passion for Caroline becomes harder and harder for him to fight.  I had a few moments in which David annoyed me – the reasoning behind his mental problem felt a bit forced to me.  But I nonetheless really enjoyed this novel.  Ms. McQuiston’s writing is charming, the book moves at a good clip, and the ending satisfied.

Pick of the Week: October 30, 2013

When the Marquess Met His MatchLaura Lee Guhrke’s latest novel, When the Marquess Met His Match, lived up to my high expectations.  Ms. Guhrke writes engaging, emotional romance and I am a huge fan of hers.  Nicholas Stirling has a terrible reputation and when his father cuts him off financially, he is forced to face the consequences: his mission to find and marry an heiress may well be hampered by his notoriety.  Belinda Featherstone is a matchmaker and seems like the solution to his problem.  But when Nicholas seeks her help, he discovers that not only will Belinda not help him, but that she, inexplicably, despises him.  Belinda was deeply hurt when she discovered the man she loved and married turned out to be nothing but a fortune-hunter who had never loved her.  She is determined to keep other naïve heiresses from the same sad fate and Nicholas is the last person she would allow near one of her clients.  Belinda is almost always a good judge of people, but in this case she is wrong.  Nicholas is not the scoundrel he is reputed to be and while he may not be perfect, Nicholas just might be the perfect match for Belinda.

Pick of the Week: October 23, 2013

Duke of MidnightDuke of Midnight is the sixth novel in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series.  Maximus Batten is the Duke of Wakefield by day and the infamous Ghost of St. Giles by night.  He has been trolling the streets for years, hunting for his parents’ murderer.  Maximus is also half-heartedly courting a beautiful heiress who he thinks will make an appropriate wife.  But his attention is snared and held by a much less appropriate woman: Artemis Greaves, the heiress’s companion.  Artemis is equally intrigued by the Duke, but she has her own problems and her romantic interest in him takes a backseat to her need to rescue her brother from prison.  She will stop at nothing to free her brother and when she discovers the Duke’s secret, Artemis finds she is not above using blackmail to achieve her goal.  I adore Elizabeth Hoyt’s books and Duke of Midnight did not disappoint.  This novel is entertaining, romantic and hot.  Ms. Hoyt’s writing is wonderfully atmospheric – if you aren’t reading this author, you are really missing out!

Pick of the Week: October 16, 2013

The Ruin of a RogueThe latest novel in Miranda Neville’s Wild Quartet series hooked me immediately and kept me entertained through every page.  The Ruin of a Rogue tells the tale of Marcus Lithgow and Anne Brotherton.  Marcus is a scoundrel – he was raised by a disreputable gambler and thief who taught Marcus everything he knew.  Anne is an heiress and every bachelor in town would love to get his hands on her (and therefor her wealth).  Anne is wary of fortune hunters, but Marcus is clever and manages to get under her guard.  However, as Marcus gets to know Anne, he becomes genuinely enamored of her, so it’s a shame when Anne discovers his original intent was that of a gold digger.  The story has quite a few twists and I wouldn’t want to spoil the plot for you, so I won’t say more.  But I will say that Ms. Neville writes engaging, smart romance.  Marcus and Anne are sympathetic, interesting and loveable.  I always look forward to a new book by this author and have already added Lady Windermere’s Lover to my to-be-read list.  It will be available next June.

Pick of the Week: October 9, 2013

Days of Rakes and RosesDays of Rakes and Roses is the second book in Anna Campbell’s Sons of Sin series.  The novella is short, sweet and a great choice if you are in the mood for a quickie.  Lydia Rothermere and Simon Metcalf shared a moment of scorching passion when they were teenagers.  Years later, neither has ever forgotten the other, but both assume their feelings are unrequited and hopeless.  Lydia is hardly thrilled when Simon shows up at her engagement ball.  She doesn’t want her sensible marriage plans disrupted by her childhood fantasies.  But Simon isn’t the womanizing cad he is reputed to be.  His intentions are serious and honorable.  I love Ms. Campbell’s writing and always look forward to a new book of hers.  Days of Rakes and Roses is romantic, entertaining and fun.  I’ve got the next novel in the series queued up to read already:  A Rake’s Midnight Kiss has been available since August.

Pick of the Week: September 18, 2013

The Heiress EffectCourtney Milan writes smart, moving romances.  The latest book in her Brothers Sinister series is The Heiress Effect and I highly recommend it.  Under normal conditions Jane Fairfield would be a social outcast.  She says, wears and does the wrong thing in every situation.  Jane is extravagantly wealthy, however, so people put up with her.  Oliver Marshall, on the other hand, is the pink of perfection – he has made a point of it for most of his life.  Oliver has serious goals and doesn’t feel he can risk achieving them because of a social misstep.  So when oh-so-proper Oliver and always-outré Jane begin to develop feelings for each other, it doesn’t exactly thrill him.  But Jane is who she is, and she isn’t going to change so that she can have Oliver.  Jane knows it would be an absurd exercise anyway, because the very things Oliver loves about her are the things he doesn’t seem to be able to accept.  I love romance novels in which the conflict is emotional and is part of the protagonists’ journey as a couple.  Oliver and Jane struggle with issues of love, acceptance and personal integrity.  Their story is engaging, romantic and my guess is that you will really enjoy it.

Pick of the Week: September 11, 2013

The ArrangementI always enjoy Mary Balogh’s writing and the latest installment of her Survivors’ Club series did not disappoint.  The Arrangement is emotional and romantic.  Vincent Hunt was blinded in battle and desperately wants to lead a more independent life than the one he has led since becoming handicapped.  His loving family means well, but they suffocate him with their concern.  On the other end of the spectrum, Sophia Fry has almost no family – and the relatives she has are hardly loving.  When Sophia does Vincent a favor she is punished for it: she is turned out of her relatives’ house and finds herself homeless.  When Vincent learns of Sophia’s situation he proposes marriage in order to solve her problem.  He suggests they come to an agreement, insisting that their marriage will solve problems for both of them.  Then he proposes that after certain goals are met, they lead separate lives. Their bargain loses its appeal as Vincent and Sophia fall in love, but neither knows the other feels the same way.  I found The Arrangement moving and sweet.  The story moves at a good pace, has a satisfying ending, and is a definite recommendation of mine.

Pick of the Week: August 14, 2013

It Happened One MidnightJulie Anne Long writes wonderful romances with nuanced depictions of the emotional highs and lows associated with being in love.  It Happened One Midnight, the eighth book in her Pennyroyal Green series, lived up to my high expectations.  Jonathan Redmond and Thomasina de Ballesteros (Tommy) are beautiful, captivating, and almost universally wanted by the opposite sex.  Neither is taken in by the other’s superficial charms, but as they get to know one another, they come to genuinely respect, admire and like each other.  Scorching sexual chemistry is added to the mix after an impulsive kiss and soon they have both fallen – hard – for the other.  But the happily-ever-after doesn’t seem to be in reach: Jonathan will be cut off without a dime if he doesn’t marry someone his father approves of and his father will never approve of Tommy, who is the bastard daughter of a nobleman’s mistress.  Moreover, Tommy has her own ambitions – and they don’t include ending up with a financially-challenged mister.  I enjoyed every page of It Happened One Midnight.  I found Jonathan and Tommy interesting, funny and very dear.  Their story is heart-warming and a definite recommendation of mine.