Book Review: Nothing Like a Duke

BookNothing Like a Duke

Author: Jane Ashford

Status: Don’t bother.

This book was one in a series. It may have been better if I’d read the rest of the series, but I doubt it.

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Premise: I’m sure there is a premise… Woman goes to a house party and the man she loves happens to be there, but she didn’t know he’d be there, and he didn’t know she’d be there. Yeah, I’m still not sure what the story was supposed to be about, and I read the book.

Plot: I couldn’t find one. The hero goes to a house party to forget the heroine for reasons. Didn’t read the other books, so I don’t know why. Heroine goes to the same house party for reasons. I never really figured out why she went. It’s not clear other than she wanted to see the ton, but why she does must’ve been in another book.

While nothing in this book was deep, the part that was very disturbing to me was the way the author treated PTSD. I don’t think she did any research on it, or if she did, it was very superficial.

  • The heroine was apparently captured, tied up, and helpless at one point in an earlier book.
  • We’re told this is a big deal toward the end of the book. We’re never shown her nightmares, her fear of men, her fear of being in tight places (which happens). Even her being caught in a brier bush is told to us from the hero rather than a very deep and dramatic scene for the heroine.
  • The “cure” for this was for her to be attempted to be raped by another man and for the heroine to escape on her own.

I know very little about PTSD. Maybe this would work, or maybe it would deepen her fears. I don’t know. But the way it was handled was not believable to me.

Romance: The hero, Robert, already loves the heroine, Flora, from another book. Flora also loves Robert and has no real reason not to want the romance to happen. I’m not sure why this book wasn’t over in less than 50 pages rather than the 352 it took.

Steamy Scenes: There were none. Not one. So this isn’t where the filler came from to get to the 352 pages.

Imagery: Nothing was ever really brought alive for me. Nothing felt sumptuous or beautiful. So, this isn’t what filled the 352 pages, either.

Characters: There is no character development. Robert starts out as Robert and ends as Robert. We’re told he’s celebrated by the ton, what all gentleman aspire to be. Perhaps we were *shown* that in previous books, but not this one.

Flora learns all people in the ton are people rather than caricatures, but that’s really not a lot of growth, either. We’re told Flora is smart so freaking many times I was ready to scream. And she’s beautiful. And she’s smart. And she’s charitable. And she’s smart.

One of the things I hated most about this book is that so much of it focused on a rivalry between the heroine and another female character over the hero. It started to boarder on the absurd, and frankly, I am tired of the trope. I prefer to see female friendships rather than competition over a man. It was such a blatant competition, the one woman literally called the other her competitor. Yuck.

 

All in, I’d rather do the dishes or vacuum than read this novel a second time.

Book Review: A Devil in Winter

Book: A Devil in Winter

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Recommendation: Worth a Listen

I haven’t listened to audiobooks in years. I live to close to work, so it’s not worth queuing one up for the short commute. However, we’ve recently been struggling with a toddler who can climb out of her crib, and who will the moment she’s laid in it. As we’ve been working through these nightly issues, it has meant a lot of time in a darkened room.

I decided to borrow an audiobook from the library, and this was one of the few available in the romance genre. I’d picked up two other of Lisa Klepas books in the past, and I didn’t get far in either of them as I didn’t much like the characters. I hated the heroine in one and the hero in the other.

But a bad book was better than no book, so I borrowed it without much hope.

I was pleasantly surprised.

The narration was quite good. It took me almost twice as long to listen to the book as to read it, but as speed wasn’t a concern, I was okay with it.

Plot

A wealthy heiress is desperate to escape her horrible relatives. They beat her, starve her, and otherwise abuse her. She has no recourse as she’s a woman and cannot control her fortune herself. As they plan to force her to marry her abominable and disgusting cousin,  she takes action. I overlooked the absolute heartless family. It’s such a trope in books, that you find it even in modern classics like Harry Potter.

The heroine (Evie) steals out of her house and manages to get to the house of one of the most notorious rakes in London. And, one who is about to have his debts called in. So desperate to find an heiress to marry, he had actually tried to kidnap his best friend’s fiancee. (I assume this is all in another book).

Evie proposes to him. Sebastian St. Augustine marries her, gets her fortune so he gets out of debt, and she gets her freedom. She knows he doesn’t love her, or care about her, so she will be able to come and go as she likes.

He agrees, and the rest of the story revolves around them going from a marriage of convenience to one of love, and all of the changes that both of them undergo for that to happen.

 

Characters

There are lots of characters who make an appearance that I believe are from previous books. If I’d read those books, it probably would’ve meant more to me. I didn’t, and it didn’t detract from the story.

Overall, I was pleased with the characterization. Both Evie and Sebastian had upbringings that shaped them. The reconciliation between the two as they fell in love was real. The emotional distance real. This wasn’t something a 5 minute conversation was going to fix.

Evie needed to come to terms with how her own family had treated her and her ability to care for another. Especially a man with such a jaded past.

Sebastian had to come to terms with the abandonment he’d felt as child, and how he’d responded to it.

 

Steamy Scenes

These were quite good. If I had the book in kindle form, I would go back and reread them. Study them for ways to make my own writing better. I may yet open up the two books from this author I have and find the steamy bits.

 

All in, I am glad they had the book at the library and that I gave the author a second try. I may even go back and take a look at the two books of hers I have.

"Saving" the Bad Boy

So, while we know that in the real world that women actually prefer nice guys, lots of fiction has the heroine living happily-ever-after with a bad boy.

While I appreciate Star Wars portraying how that worked out for Princess Leia, in romance writing, we expect the ever-after to stay happy.

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Biggest problem I’ve seen is how does the writer get there.

Most of us can believe that Han has reformed after being frozen in carbonite and putting his life on the line for the Rebellion even after Jabba has been “paid”.

In romance novels, I see heroes as colorful as Han, but rarely do I see the crucible of the story they’re put through strong enough to elicit the change in them required to give the audience their happily-ever-after ending.

And in Romance, if there isn’t a happily-ever-after ending, it isn’t Romance. That’s a key component of the genre.

I won’t name the book, but in a novel I put down recently, the hero was a classist jerk. He was born an earl and had nothing but contempt for the lower classes. Until along comes the heroine who is a girl from the streets. She might be a viscount’s long-lost daughter, which of course she is because this is fiction, but the hero doesn’t know that.

Somehow he overcomes his classist jerkiness because he’s in lust with the heroine.

Ad yes, lust, because they’ve known each other all of three days and he’s been unpleasant most of it because he’s “put out” having to host her.

Um, yeah, not buying it. When I opened the book, I was willing to suspend disbelief. I’m willing to believe this girl is the missing viscount’s daughter. I’m even willing to believe that the earl can be shown the error of his ways.

But I need a lot more than he wants to bed the heroine for that change to be believable.

I see this same issue over and over again in Regency fiction. The number of reformed rakes is amazing. Yet, few authors give me a really good reason why that rake reformed. The love of a good woman just isn’t enough.

According to my grandmother, a tiger doesn’t change his stripes, and if someone shows you their true colors, don’t try to repaint them. Must run in the family.

But she’s onto something here.

rake

Can people change? Yes!

Do they change often or easily? No!

So, if you want me to believe that your rake has reformed, he needs to go through something that causes the reformation. Perhaps he has a brush with his own mortality, or something significant happens that shows him what a hollow life he’s leading. Maybe falling in love does this to him, but there has to be some depth there.

If he’s in love with the heroine because she’s attractive? Sounds to me like he’s still a rake.
How about you? What do you need to believe a real or fictional person has changed?

Book Review: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
Rating: 5/5
Author: Jennifer Ashley

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This story was a pleasant surprise. The hero, Ian, appears to be autistic in Victorian England. While the son of a Duke, his upbringing was marred by violence and a lack of understanding or compassion.

I know little about autism, but the author seems to have done her research, and she never deviates from the character she creates for Ian. He is not magically healed or suddenly “made right”. He does learn how to love, and the foundation is laid that he’s always had emotions but he struggles with names for them.

His father sends Ian to a private asylum at the age of 12 for reasons that are divulged later in the book. The author does satisfy this curiosity, and I appreciate that.

As a matter of fact, this romance is a combination romance and murder mystery. The author does an artful job of leaving clues throughout the book that culminate in the ending. She handles the fact the heroine is a widow extremely well, not glossing over her first marriage but also leaving room for the heroine to fall in love again.

Ian, after being freed by his eldest brother upon their father’s death, uses his amazing memory and skill with numbers to significantly increase the family’s already massive wealth, helps his brother with treaties and laws, and collects Ming bowls.

In the process of acquiring a Ming bowl, he learns of Beth Ackerly. He decides she’s worthy of saving, like the Ming bowl, and proceeds to tell her truths about her fiancée and propose to her himself.

Beth investigates his claims, finds them to be true, and dumps her fiancée. She goes to Paris and Ian follows her.

This is where the murder mystery really begins, both a current one and one from years before.

I liked the hero a lot. He’s vulnerable and yet can be very much the alpha male. This, in the hands of a lesser author, is a recipe for disaster. I thought Jennifer Ashley handled it very well.

The heroine I also liked, but a bit less so. She was feisty and beautiful. While she came from the gutters, she’s cconfident, smart and now very rich. She is actually the one that solves the murder mystery.

I also appreciate that while there was love-at-first-sight, the heroine also considers the issue of lust. Rather than giving in, she takes some time away. Of course more hijinks ensue, but I liked that she didn’t just fall into the hero’s arms.

All in, I was engaged throughout the story. I liked the mystery elements. They kept things going and kept the romance interesting.

The characters all stayed true to themselves throughout the book, and I appreciate that most of all

Loving a Mage Lord: Part 5

Continued from Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 should you wish to catch up on the story. Or just jump right in.

Not sure if you all are enjoying this. Let me know in the comments below. I can either keep posting pieces of the story, or go back to my regular writer ramblings on Friday.

 

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Post 5

Aenwyn studied the deep red blooms, thinking through the spells she knew and how she could repurpose them.

Reaching for her magic, she teased off a strand and wrapped it around the blossom, coaxing it to change color.

The flower stayed red.

She tried again, taking a different approach and modifying a different spell.

“Closer,” Dryden said.

He linked his fingers with hers so her bare palm pressed against his, and she felt the rush of his magic. Strong. Powerful. Controlled. He could overwhelm her if he chose, sweep her away with the sheer intensity of his magic.

Instead, he guided her, nudging her closer to the correct answer without showing her how to do it. The touch of his magic and the quiet gentleness of his guidance revealed more about him than words ever could.

Her wards offered only a whisper of protection, and she felt as if he could see all she was, all she’d ever been.

Tamping down the fear and vulnerability, she started to pull back.

He allowed her to ease away, but he also lowered his wards for her, wards that were far stronger than any she could hope to breach. By letting her through, Dryden gave her a glimpse of the man who shared her magic.

With both of their wards cast aside, the magic mingled more freely between them. A deeper and more intimate joining that both terrified and delighted her.

Swallowing hard, she forced herself to focus on the flower. She wove the spell, accepting his guidance, and watched the bloom turn yellow.

Excitement swelled through her. She touched another flower and turned it yellow. This time without his help.

“Yes, just like that,” he said. He reached up and caught an escaped strand of her flame-red hair, then trailed his fingers over the exposed flesh of her shoulder.

She closed her eyes as a delicious shiver of pleasure coursed through her.

She felt him strong and powerful beside her, felt his magic flowing through the gardens and around her. The heady fragrance of flowers filled the air, but she barely noticed them over the rich almost electrical scent of him. Like the air after a storm.

He leaned closer, the planes of his chest brushing against her, teasing over the skin her dress left exposed.

Her breath hitched as desire snaked through her. Tightening her hold on his hand, she pressed closer to him, enjoying the sensual contrast of his heavy mage robes against her bare flesh.

Dryden’s hand slid down her back and held her tightly against him as he touched his lips to hers.

Loving a Mage Lord: Part 4

Continued from Part 1Part 2, Part 3, should you wish to catch up on the story. Or just jump right in.

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Post 4

His words weren’t a request. Aenwyn sucked in a breath. While she and most of the Empire knew of Mage Lord Dryden, what was said about him wasn’t complimentary. She almost regretted letting Caewyn go.

Almost. She wanted to see her friend happy more than anything.

Gathering up her courage, she walked to the edge of the dance floor then turned to face Dryden. “My apprenticeship? I’m the duchess’s companion, nothing more.”

“I can protect you from Lady Melisandra better than a half-trained wizard can, duchess or not.”

Aenwyn swallowed, and her eyes darted to the crowd.

“Come, let’s talk. I promised to be a gentleman, and I will be.” Dryden offered her his arm, and Aenwyn bit her lip but took it, forcing her hand to remain still despite the fluttering in her stomach.

The sea of guests parted before the mage lord, and he swept her outside and along the paths of the garden.

She could feel the change in him, feel him relax under her fingers as a whisper of his magic seeped through his wards. Sky magic, she was almost certain of it. Sky mages were some of the most powerful, though the title of archmage meant he’d mastered all schools of magic.

No small feat, and it was a testament to his tenacity as well as his intelligence and skill.

They were deep in the gardens when he took a deep breath and let it out. His magic flowed over her like the quiet blanket of night.

“You don’t like the crowds.”

Dryden lifted his shoulders. “Do you?”

“I’ve learned to deal with them.”

“To be Lady Escadia’s companion?”

“A companion is of little use if she never leaves her rooms.”

“And a mage of great potential is of little use if she spends her time as a companion.”

Straightening her spine, Aenwyn glared up at the haughty archmage. “How can someone as offensive as you have such serene magic?”

“The truth is seldom flattering.”  He paused then looked at her. “You can feel my magic even through my wards.”

“It leaks. Less so inside than out here. Probably because you’re back under the sky.”

“Gifted and observant. You’re squandering your potential.”

“Not all of us have the birthright to get to do as we choose.”

“A failing of a crumbling empire.”

“I do what I must.”

“Which is why you’re hiding behind Escadia. Listening to her tutors and doing her work for her.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“I don’t have to.” Dryden paused beside a flowering shrub. “Can you turn the blossoms yellow?”

“Why?”

“Because I want to know if you can.”

“I never learned that spell.”

“You are an elven wizard. Can you do it anyway?”

Aenwyn frowned, but she accepted his challenge.