Book Review: A Gentleman’s Honor

Rating: 4/5

Title: A Gentleman’s Honor

Author: Stephanie Laurens

butterfly-1327814_1280

When you pick up a Stephanie Laurens book, you are not reading it for plot. I knew this when I selected the book, so I wasn’t disappointed when the plot was weak and threadbare. The basic plot is a lovely “widow” is being blackmailed into marrying a scoundrel. After he blackmails her, he is murdered in the gardens by someone else. She, however, finds the body just before the hero arrives. The hero is put in charge of finding the murderer as he has connections in Whitehall. All the more important when its discovered that the blackmailer was involved in treasonous activities during the Napoleonic War.

This might sound like a rich plot, but the search for the traitor is really just an excuse to keep the hero and heroine together and for the hero to have the opportunity to seduce the heroine.

The actual plot is the seduction of the heroine and all of the steamy scenes and romantic encounters between the widow and the hero. Lots of steamy scenes and romantic encounters.

This is not the kind of book you can’t put down and stay up reading until 3 am to see what happens. That’s okay. It’s like a bubble bath. You thoroughly enjoy it because it is pleasurable and luxurious.

 

Pros

  1. Steamy scenes are some of the best I have ever read.
  2. Sensuous. You feel the silk slide over your skin, the scent of cologne, the grandeur of the mansions. This book really appeals to your senses. All of them. And transports you there.
  3. The lust is there, but there is also a genuine compassion that builds between the characters.
  4. Strong Alpha male if that’s your thing.
  5. Did I mention the steamy scenes?

 

Cons

  1. The plot is contrived at best. I have never moved in the upper circles of society, but the Haute Ton is depicted a lot like the popularity contests in high school. No idea if its accurate or not, but I found it silly. Much of the plot revolves around the heroine maintaining her respectable appearance in society so her ravishing sister can make a good match. She has to “deal” with the rumors and gossip saying she commit the murder. *Eye Roll* Somehow society can believe that a tiny woman who was seen talking to the dead man at a social event was capable of killing him with a single dagger blow. I was baffled that Bow Street thought it possible, but then, my modern mind is used to forensics. You know, means, motive and all that. No one knew he was blackmailing her, so no one would be aware she has a motive. And not only did she not have the height or strength to kill him, but she’s implicated because she talked to him. At a social gathering. But no one else was implicated who talked to him. Remember, the only one who saw her near the body was the hero who isn’t telling anyone.
  2. The characters are perfect. And because of that, they’re flat. No foibles, no flaws, nothing to let you identify with them.

 

All in, this would blow the star rating out of the water if there was a plot. There isn’t, not really, but that’s not what I was reading this for.

Book Review: Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club)

Rating: 3/5

Title: Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club)

Author: Joanna Shupe

book-1291164_640

I call this a book review, but after I purchased it, I realized it was a novella. Easy read I finished in less than a night.

This is a tough review to write because there is so little to say about it. It’s vanilla at best. The heroine witnesses a crime, and the criminals see her. They give chase, and she throws herself at a gentleman who, fortunately for her, is a gentleman.

They have a budding romance in the course of 2 days on the train in his private car that is convoluted by all sorts of mistrust between both of them. He thinks she’s a scam artist, and she’s not ready to trust a man she just met.

One of the criminals managed to get passage on the same train, and he forces the issues between them as he tries to kill the heroine.

Pros

  1. The steamy scenes are good.
  2. I liked the hero. He’s the white knight that is really my cup of tea. But there is so little to him. Not a lot of depth or character building, and I find that so odd as he was an Ohio farm boy that is now one of the richest men in America. It seems like there should be so much more to him.
  3. I never liked the heroine, but I never disliked her either.

 

Cons

  1. The romance just wasn’t all that believable to me. I guess falling for someone in two days does that, especially as I could see so little in common between the characters. There was no depth, no connection. But then that might be because the characters were rather flat.
  2. I liked the peripheral characters of the Webbers probably the best of anyone in the book. Especially Mrs. Webber. That says something.
  3. I didn’t feel like the tension between the characters was all that believable.  I can see where he’d think she was a scam artist, but the way he waffles on it back and forth – doesn’t seem like the same man that would propose after knowing her for 2 days.
  4. Odd that she trusts the hero enough to sleep in the same train car as him, but not enough to tell him the truth as to why she needs his help

Book Review: Journey’s End (Gilded Promises)

Rating: 0/5

Title: Journey’s End (Gilded Promises)

Author: Renee Ryan

book-863418_640

This has to be one of the worse books I have read in a very, very long time. I only finished it because Amazon gave it to me free for a review.

The premise of the book is that the heroine’s mother was cast aside by her very rich family when she married a stable hand. When the stable hand died before his daughter was born, her family refused to take her back and she raised her daughter in destitution on the “mean streets of London”. How I wish that phrase wasn’t used in the book…

The heroine is coming to America to find her grandfather and destroy him after he’d destroyed her and her mother’s lives.

So, this blurb had me intrigued, except, of course, she forgives her grandfather like 5 minutes after meeting him…

Pros

  1. The book, mercifully, is short.
  2. The heroine had a cool backstory. She may not have lived up to it, but it’s a great set-up.

 

Cons

  1. The heroine, apparently, is Rain Man with her numbers ability. She is able to make a fortune in a few months gambling, more than enough to get her across the Atlantic Ocean and set her up in high style while she searches for her grandfather. So why, again, was she and her mother destitute? Oh, that’s right, because picking pockets and stealing food is so much less amoral than winning legitimately at cards. You are not even sort of convincing me on this. People who are hungry and poor do what they must to survive. Why she wouldn’t have used these talents to potentially save her mother, I don’t know.
  2. Oh, and yeah, why would men play cards with her for her to beat them? I am going to tell myself she dressed as a boy . . .
  3. How, exactly, did her mother teach her to walk, talk and hold herself as high born lady when her mother was bed ridden by the time the heroine was eight?
  4. Why couldn’t her mother get a role as a governess, companion, or something else? She was highly educated in a time when not even most men could read.
  5. The Irish girl, Mary, that the heroine met on the boat to America is a blatantly contrived device. Because of course her name is Mary. And of course she is so pure and sweet and Christian. With nary a sin in the world. Um, yeah. Sure. Hence, plot device rather than a real, breathing character, one that the heroine doesn’t even bother with again other to think how kind and Christian Mary is from time to time.
  6. The “instant” lust, love and attraction between the hero and the heroine was laughable and unbelievable.
  7.  So tired and annoyed by how “gentle” and “kind” everyone is. People are people, with personalities, and flaws, and foibles. I almost vomited in my mouth over the repeated saccharine description of her cousin. And, its always a description. We never see her cousin be any of these wonderful things.
  8. This author does not get the concept of show don’t tell.  I never see any of these characters behaving charitably, kindly or whatever else. It is constantly told to me.
  9. Oh yes, and let’s talk about how much is repeated. I never did a good description of houses, or the slums, or even the hotel the heroine was staying in. I never once felt like I was there. However, I was told over, and over and over what her cousin looked like, and the hero. Of course the hero. Over and over.
  10. The hero and heroine both clearly had Google Glass over a hundred years before it was invented as they must have been reading teleprompters in everyone’s eyes. That is the only way I can figure out how they knew so much from looking into people’s eyes throughout the book.
  11. The heroine, who promised to be so cool, so strong, so amazing . . . well, she wasn’t. I was angry when a girl from the “mean streets of London” couldn’t take down a bunch of “society matrons”. Or froze under their censure. Come on. I was also shocked how quickly she went along with what people wanted. Mean streets of London, remember?!? Strong and confidant, remember?!? Must be why the author had to tell me these things about the heroine . .  .
  12. I never once cared in the entire story if the heroine got what she wanted. I wasn’t even sure what she wanted.
  13. The romance was . . . not believable. Not even kind of. No idea how two people could go from hating each other and distrust to engaged in a week.
  14. There is no plot. I was looking for it on page 42, 156, and at page 240 I realized there wasn’t going to be one. The heroine came to New York to get vengeance for her mother. She had no plan on how to get it. I liked the careful reconnaissance she does at the very beginning of the story, but that all gets tossed out the window at her first meeting with her grandfather. Where she instantly forgives him. Because of course he never knew his beloved daughter was in trouble. And she totally knows he’s honest and sincere. For reals.
  15. Despite how much dear old grandpa and uncle say that they loved the heroine’s mother, they sorta gave a half-assed attempt at best to find her when she first ran away and then said, “Oh well!” Neither came looking for her again. Neither bothered with her again. And, somehow, neither managed to get wind of any of the dozens of letters she sent.
  16. Um, how did the aunt get every one of these letters, anyway?!?  Why would the servants give them to her when the letters were addressed to her father-in-law?
  17. This is an Inspirational Romance. I didn’t know what that meant, but apparently, it means it’s religious. There are no steamy scenes, which is fine. However, the author beats you upside the head with the religious bits. Maybe this is normal for this genre. I was fine with the characters quoting scripture as appropriate to see them through a tough scene. I was fine with them looking for their faith. Could have been very touching and moving. Instead, it was cliched at best. There was no deep moment of religious awakening. No spirituality at all.
  18. Done now. There was still so much more wrong, but I am done writing about it and done thinking about this book

I do NOT recommend this book, even if you get it for free. Still cost me a couple of hours to read it. Hours I’d rather spend cleaning out the linen closet.

Book Review: The Courtesan Duchess (Wicked Deceptions)

Rating: 5/5

Title: The Courtesan Duchess (Wicked Deceptions)

Author: Joanna Shupe

 

I seldom give five stars unless a book is truly exceptional, and this one was.

I liked this book so well I stole time to read it in less than a day. This has been extremely unusual for me lately.

book-759873_640

The premise of the story is the hero married the heroine 8 years ago and then fled England for the continent, having never consummated their marriage. The heroine is abandoned by his family and has none of her own to see to her interests. So when the hero’s cousin starts using his influence over her missing husband’s finances to force the heroine into his bed, she decides to find her degenerate husband and get pregnant with his heir so she can take back the finances.

After getting lessons from a prominent courtesan in London, the heroine accomplishes her mission, but falls in love with her husband in the process. He falls in love with the courtesan she is pretending to be, and then flies into a rage when he learns of her deception. The rest of the story is based on their reconciliation and happily-ever-after ending.

 

Pros

  1. I actually liked the heroine. This has been rare for me as of late. She has a problem, she tries to solve it. I don’t have to be told how bold she is, I see it in her actions. In her desperation to save herself, her aunt and their servants. She is willing to buck society and learn from a courtesan, she hunts down her husband, and she seduces him. Yes, she runs off when she realizes she’s in love with him, especially given her deceit. I found that a little harder to believe, given her dire straits and need for an heir, but okay, I still liked her.
  2. I liked the hero. Yes, he’s a cad, especially at first, but you can actually sympathize with him when you learn more about him. And you see it for yourself when he cares about his friend (who is actually helping the heroine with the deception). I also felt like his actions and responses were genuine. He didn’t suddenly become a gentleman when he returned to England, and I love, love, love how he handled his cousin who was trying to force his wife into performing sexual favors.
  3. There were genuine sparks between the characters.
  4. There was also genuine tenderness between the characters.
  5. I wanted the characters to get together. I really wanted to see them get their happily-ever-after.
  6. I liked the supporting cast, too. They each have personalities. Simon, the white knight. Quint, the disheveled gentleman. Fitz the devoted bodyguard. Aunt Theo with her cakes and sherry. And I like that they care about their friends, look out for them.
  7. The steamy scenes were good. Not just passable, but good. Some of them worth reading twice.
  8. There was a plot, and it made sense in the context of the story. Yes, I predicted the ending and the whodunit part. But this is a romance, not a mystery. The fact that the author laid foundations so I knew who was behind it and what they were about is so much better than the dues ex machina I see in so many romance novels.

 

Cons

  1. (Spoiler alert) I never understood why the villain killed the hero’s older brother if her motivation was to be the duchess. She was already married to the heir of the dukedom. Never understood why she hires someone to kill the hero years ago, either.
  2. I did get a bit tired of some of the contrived reasons the characters couldn’t get together in the last quarter of the story. I literally rolled my eyes when the hero took up rooms in the nearby village because he worried his wife wouldn’t want him near as her due date approached. There was a bit too much of cutting off their nose to spite their face going on. I get that they were angry with each other and that it took time for them to build trust, but I would have rather seen them building this while being true to their feelings and let external issues play more of a role in keeping them apart.

 

All in all, one of the best romance books I’ve read in a long time. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Learning Curve

The next couple of weeks are going to be filled with book reviews so that I can “catch-up” on posting reviews. Once I’m all caught up, I’ll go back to my posting 3 times a week.

binary-1414324_640

As I’ve been reading these books, I’ve learned a few things about what I don’t like. Things that turn me off to the book, make me roll my eyes, or make me want to put it down altogether.

If I am writing for myself, or other readers like me, it’s a starting place for me to consider what not to have in my own work.

  1. Sad Ending. The book better not have one. If it doesn’t have a happy ending, I won’t like it. As a matter of fact, I will probably actively dislike it. I see enough sadness in the real world. I want my escape to be a place where happy endings are guaranteed.
  2. Unearned Ending. The ending still needs to be earned. I feel ripped off when a happy ending just sort of lands in characters’ laps.
  3. Rape. Sex that isn’t consensual is rape and it’s not okay. I wish it didn’t happen in real life and I have no desire to read about it.
  4. Stupid Characters. I don’t like them. More than that, I actively dislike them. No matter how lovable or endearing an author tries to make them.
  5. Characters that make bad decisions. I can’t feel much for them. I get that we all make mistakes. A character trying to climb back from a bad choice in their past I can cheer for all day long. A character that keeps making bad decisions so there’s a plot? I stop caring about them quickly. Sort of a “what did you expect”? For example, it’s easy to feel sorry for Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle when they buy droids that end up leading to their deaths. They didn’t know the droids were wanted by the Empire. But if they had bought them knowing that the droids were being actively sought by Darth Vader, you get a whole different feeling for them and the beginning of Luke’s epic journey.
  6. Characters who don’t talk to each other. I hate plots that could be resolved with a 5 minute conversation. I hate misunderstandings because two adults can’t act like adults.
  7. Plots that aren’t. Have one. Make sure it’s clear what it is. Make sure it’s an actual problem.
  8. Unfulfilled romances. If you’re going to put a romance in your story, point #1 above applies to the romance. I am beginning to find I can’t tolerate a series of stories about the same character. Why? Because the author can’t let them settle down with their love interest. After four or five books, to keep the lovers apart, they have to bring in a rival. And then another. And, of course, the rivals have to be amazing. If you’ve read the Laurie Hamilton series about vampires and werewolves you’ll get what I mean. Regular girl suddenly has every studly vampire, shape-shifter, and serial killer in love with her. If that’s your cup of tea, this is a good series for you. But it’s not for me. Probably related to my love of romance novels. I want the couple to get together as part of my happy ending.
  9. Uncertain humor. I guess I don’t have a mainstream sense of humor. I probably knew this already as I don’t find sitcoms or romcoms funny. Never have. I also don’t find the following funny:
    1. Financial troubles, especially after 2009.
    2. Inappropriate use of firearms funny.
    3. Pregnancy scares.
    4. High school rivals coming back to haunt a grown adult
    5. Transvestites funny.

      The list goes on and on. Do I have a sense of humor? Certainly. I couldn’t stop laughing at Lewis Black’s commentary on candy corn. A little smile tugs my lips thinking about it even now. When an author can make me laugh, they have me hooked. When an author tries to make me laugh and fails, they get an eye roll at best.

 

Back to Business

I rewrote my query, and after taking a deep breath, I sent my “baby” back out into the big mean world.

I have been trying to push myself so that if I am not feeling inspired to write, then I can work on the “business” aspect of writing.

team-spirit-207319_640

It’s gotten me to at least get my work back out there. I need to push myself a little harder on this, but frankly, it’s probably not going to happen. It’s asking me to change a fundamental part of myself that pushes hard to succeed, but tends to push in areas where I know I can be successful.

Failure is painful and not something I have ever taken well. Probably because for most of my life failure wasn’t permitted. I never learned how to do it with grace.

This article in Elle that states women are much less likely to takes risks than men because we are punished more for failure really resounded with me. I saw myself in several aspects of the article, up to and including why I changed my major in college.

But, as I told DD1 in the car this week, you can never succeed if you don’t try. Time to put my keyboard where my mouth is.

I have also contemplated trying to find some quality “craft” books. Books that teach you how to be a better writer. I’ve read Stephen King’s autobiography. It was a good read, and perhaps I should reread it as it’s been many years since I read it.

Interestingly, I haven’t been able to find any craft written by Nora Roberts, Stephanie Laurens, J.K. Rowling or the like. Not sure how much stock I put in a craft book written by someone that isn’t a bestselling author. It does seem that a lot of people make a lot of money on writers trying to get published.

I do follow some blogs on the craft of writing, but I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten much out of them. Partially, because none of them are geared to Romance writers. And partially, I think, because I learn by example. Theory does little for me. I learned more my first year in public accounting than I did all four years of college.

I also contemplated a writer’s conference, but that is out of the question. The expense makes it impossible, and DH would kill me if I thought I was leaving him alone with the two girls for a week. And, being an introvert, going to a conference where I wouldn’t know anyone would be a personal hell.

For the moment, I’ll stick to reading and see if that helps my writing. I will go back and pull out Stephen King’s autobiography. I’ll keep reading blogs. And I’ll keep clicking away on the keyboard.

Book Review:The Earl Next Door

Rating: 3/5

Title: The Earl Next Day (Book 1 of 3 in The Bachelor Lords of London)

Author: Charis Michaels

book-1291164_640

This is actually a hard review to write. Not because I hated the book, but because it was merely okay but had the potential to be great.

In a nutshell, the story is an American heiress flees to London to avoid her mother trying to marrying her off to one of her step-brothers. She meets a meets a broke earl and they fall in love, against his better judgement.

 

Pros

  1. I actually liked the heroine most of the time. She was vibrant, full of life, and she was not formal by nature. She was strong minded and strong willed . . . except when it came to her mother. This was actually irritating, but I will get to that in the cons.
  2. The hero was likable.  I didn’t necessarily connect with him, but he still made a good male lead.
  3. The chemistry between the characters was quite good.
  4. The steamy scenes were pretty good.

 

Cons

  1. Historical inaccuracies. If you are actually looking for a historical romance that has done its research, you will be disappointed. There are glaring errors, such as Scotland Yard being a thing in 1806.
  2. The hero and heroine are not together much at the beginning of the story.
  3. Jumping between viewpoints. I am used to seeing the world through the hero and heroine’s eyes. But this books also jumps between several other supporting characters’ viewpoint.
  4. The plot. It is so full of holes, I think Swiss Cheese would hold more water.
    1. The heroine, who is strong willed and admirable in most of the story, simply wilts  whenever her mother is around. Why does she even allow her mother around her? The heroine is very rich and I assume has servants aplenty that would keep her mother away from her in New York, and once she’s in London, not even her mother’s position in society would allow her to harass the heroine.
    2. The villains might as well have mustaches to twirl. I mean, they have no redeeming qualities, not even bathing, apparently. Within minutes of meeting a pretty maid, they’re accosting her. It is hard, as a reader, to take them seriously. Especially in London. Not sure why the heroine doesn’t report them to Bow Street.
    3. Mother doesn’t care which of her 5 stepsons the heroine marries as she has made an agreement with all of them that if she helps them get her daughter’s hand, they give her half of her daughter’s fortune. No idea what the agreement is over the dowry. So Mother brings all 5 stepbrothers to London. A crossing of the Atlantic ocean was not a small undertaking in 1806. Weeks on the ocean, and not all ships made it. Now, let’s remember, mother got the other half of this fortune when the heroine’s father died. And she remarried. Granted, it appears the man she remarried doesn’t have the large fortune he boasted. And, of course, not sure how Mother is certain the stepson will even share with her once her daughter is married.
    4. Mother continues her tantrums even after her daughter marries the earl. Really?!?  And the earl doesn’t have her hauled off? She is now bothering a Countess, and the earl now has access to his wife’s money and her dowry. He is now quite rich.
    5. The hero’s past “catches” up to him. Still not sure how a man and his two goons, who speak no English, not only find the earl in London rather quickly, but manage to find him 2 days hard ride from London in the English countryside. Really?!? And they don’t speak English?!?
    6. Also trying to figure out how a man and his two goons are not brought to the authorities. They are Greek, and if they are harassing an English Earl in England . . . I can’t see the authorities being very sympathetic.
  5. The hero and heroine could have solved a lot of their troubles with a conversation. I give this a lower priority than the horrible plot as it does seem to be common in the genre. Still, I wish they would have both acted like adults, especially when the mostly likable and level-headed heroine decided to “run away” when she’s injured.
  6. Still wondering about the earl’s country estate that is commented upon but never followed up.

 

This book could have been amazing if:

  1. We could have spent more time with the hero and heroine together and really let the sparks between them fly
  2. Cleaned up the plot to be a lot more believable. Give the mother something real and tangible to hold over the heroine and get rid of the supercilious step-brothers. Do something better with the Greek villains. Make them believable.
  3. Clean up the historical inaccuracies.