Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser

The story starts out with Jack Armstrong returning home to England after living life as a military man for the past five years in the wilds of Canada. He is returning home to an estate and a wife whom he married in name only and hasn’t seen since the day he married her five years ago. All those many years ago, he went to visit one of his lifelong friends, Giles Hamilton. Giles had only just married. When Jack arrived, it was to find his friend gravely ill and his new bride Elizabeth grief-stricken. While on his deathbed, Giles makes his friend and his wife promise to marry so that his wife will be taken care of when he’s gone. Though shocked, they both agree. After Giles dies, Elizabeth tries to let Jack off the hook but Jack says he is honor bound to keep the promise. After getting his new wife set up at his estate, Jack immediately takes off back to the military. The marriage is never consummated before his leaving. While gone, they exchange letters. While not amorous in nature, Elizabeth is extremely heartened by the missives from Jack and starts to have tender feelings toward him. However, about two years into their marriage, Jack’s mother dies. Elizabeth had been her caretaker while he was away. It’s at this time that a gossipy matron brings Elizabeth stories of Jack’s current liaisons with all kinds of women from a native woman to a married woman. She tells Elizabeth that no one is even aware he is married because of how flagrantly he flaunts his conquests. She tries not to show how hurt she is by this news. She had never believed that her husband gotten from a deathbed promise, marriage never consummated, would be entirely faithful while he was away in the military. However, she thought that he did have more respect for her than these wild tales of his escapades would have her believe. So when his mother dies, she sends him a shorter, more curt note than was her custom. Meanwhile, Jack notices the difference in his wife’s letters which he actually enjoyed and wonders for the reason. What the old gossip had told his wife was pretty much accurate except that he was foolish and arrogant enough to believe that she would never find out. When he comes home at last, he brings his wife presents in hopes to soften her up so she will fall in with his plans to start producing an heir. He is very surprised to find a more confident woman, made more attractive by that confidence. In no time, without any shouting or violence, just with clever maneuvering, Elizabeth is able to get him to explain himself and to let him know how things will be from now on. Jack agrees to start being faithful if she eventually provides him with children. However she says that they have to get to know each other and ease into a physical relationship at her comfort level. I really didn’t think I would like this book because of Jack’s past behavior. However once he came home, this became a really sweet love story as they got to know and appreciate each other. As their relationship progresses and you watch them fall in love, you become more invested in the story. In spite of all obstacles, their love wins out. I would definitely try another book by this author.

Rogue Rider by Larissa Ione

This is Book 4 in the “Lords of Deliverance” series. Some readers might think that it is imperative to read the previous books in this series before reading this one. However, I have always believed that a good book can stand on its own merits – especially when the story is character driven. I feel like this is one of those books. I have not read all of the previous books in this series but I was able to really enjoy this one.
Jillian Cardiff moved to a remote mountain town in Colorado after a brutal attack by demons. She was attacked while working down in Florida. Fortunately somebody came by and the demons scattered, and she lived to tell the tale. It’s while out collecting firewood on a snowy day, that she finds a naked man frozen, yet still alive, in a snow bank. She immediately takes the man home and warms him up. All Reseph manages to remember is his name. Everything else is a blank to him. While staying with Jillian, he helps her out while flirting pretty heavily. Even though there is an intense physical attraction between them, Jillian is reluctant to give in to the feelings for a few reasons. Reseph has amnesia and she doesn’t want to take advantage of him while he’s vulnerable. Also, there is a killer on the loose which doesn’t make the best time to start an affair. The biggest reason is that she has had bad luck with relationships – her ex-fiancĂ© is a prime example. She’s reluctant to get physically involved and risk getting emotionally involved. For me, this is the best part of the story – the two of them getting to know each other and fall in love. Things would be perfect if not for a few things. Something or someone is killing animals and people in the surrounding area. It could be a psycho or it could be the work of demons. Some local suspicion falls on Reseph at first because he is a stranger and nobody, including himself, knows his past. Reseph starts to doubt himself when he senses the presence of evil and suspects that the demons are drawn to the area because he’s there and he has some kind of affinity with the evil. I enjoyed the drama of Reseph trying to control the part of him that was Pestilence and I was very happy how things worked out in the end for Jillian and Reseph since I was totally sucked in by their love story. My heart broke for them at times. I will say that the revelation that connects Reseph/Pestilence to Jillian’s past was almost a little too much, but other than that I loved this story. I look forward to Reaver and Harvester’s story.

Lords of Passion by Pearce, Henley, & Robinson

Rating: 4.5 stars

“How to Seduce a Wife” by Kate Pearce

Louisa (the heroine) is from a wealthy family but not from nobility. She is intelligent and loves to read. Although Nicholas (the hero) married Louisa for her quiet demeanor, obvious intelligence, and huge dowry rather than for her looks, he thinks her smile is lovely and likes her warm brown eyes. Nicholas was a notorious rake in his early days. However, after watching his wastrel father destroy himself and those closest to him with his gambling and flagrant womanizing, he vowed to be nothing like him. He aims for stability, both financially as well as personally. His wife is very unhappy with their unsatisfactory sex life but is unsure how to communicate that to her husband so she sublimates her desires by reading gothic romances. Nicholas thinks that he is doing right by his wife by not ravishing her and overwhelming her with his masculinity and sexuality. It is somewhat of a shock to him when Louisa first tries to clue him in. However, after talking to others, he quickly realizes that he needs to figure out how to fix the situation and take action. I like that it didn’t take him long to figure things out. I also liked the gradual seduction of Louisa’s sense – given the time restraints of a short story. I also liked the fact that Nicholas read one of his wife’s romances to see what some of her erotic triggers might be. I also love that he made one of his wife’s favorite fantasies come true in a very real and vivid way. This is the first thing I’ve read by this author and have been reluctant in the past to try some of her books based on the content but I liked the focus in this book on the hero & heroine.

“Beauty and the Brute” by Virginia Henley

The hero & heroine in this story went through with an arranged marriage in name only when she was 13 and he was 18. The main story takes place 3 years later when she is 16 and he is 21 and they have been apart for those 3 years. Some readers had a problem with the ages of the main characters but I didn’t for a few reasons. First, I realized that back then (circa 1719) & with lifespans being what they were, that was the norm. Comparing people that age then with people that age nowadays is like comparing apples and oranges. Also, the age difference between the two was only 5 years – for me that’s different from an old man deflowering a young girl.
After exchanging wedding vows, he goes off on his Grand Tour and she goes to a London academy for young ladies. Sarah can’t get over the very bad first impression of him. Charles was a typical thoughtless 18yr old boy and said some insulting, snarky things to Sarah when he had just met her. Perhaps an older, more mature woman would have either brushed off his comments or else set him straight, but for a young girl those comments stuck with her. During their time apart, they both matured, physically and in all other ways. Sarah’s figure became more womanly and less girlish. She also gained more self-confidence and became very intelligent and known for her fine wit. Charles likewise became more manly in appearance and, after traveling, sickness, and being exposed to different cultures, gained an empathy for others and depth as a person. Charles is captivated by Sarah when he first sees her after 3 years, not realizing she is his wife. When he does find out who she is, it only strengthens his resolve to win her heart. Sarah, by comparison, is intent on plotting revenge for the way he acted toward her when they were younger. Her plan is “love’em and leave’em”. In the end, of course, she falls for him just as much as he fell for her. I was very happy that, perhaps because of the story length, there was not a long estrangement at the end.

“Not Quite a Courtesan” by Maggie Robinson

Prudence Thorn is a prudish widow of 10 years. It takes collector and auctioneer Darius Shaw to awaken her sexuality. I liked the hero in this story much more than the heroine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Unnatural Acts by Kevin J. Anderson

I was hooked after the first book in this series so I was very anxious to read book 2. It did not disappoint. There were three main baddies in this book. I thought for sure that one of the bad guys would end up being Harvey Jekyll but was proven wrong. Like the first book, a lot of this book focuses on the persecution suffered by “unnaturals”. It seems very fitting to me, that Jekyll now gets that same kind of treatment being an unnatural himself now. I enjoyed meeting the new supporting characters like Bill the golem, as well as characters from the first book like Tiffany, the mummy Ramen Ho-Tep, Mrs. Saldana, & Jerry the zombie. I look forward to reading more about how Bill is doing in future books. As soon as I was introduced to the mummy madam Neffi, I was hoping that she & Ramen would get together. I really ended up getting invested in Jerry’s storyline and Dan’s investigation into finding Jerry’s heart & soul. Senator Balfour was a truly loathsome villain. I was hoping for his demise and that of his “Unnatural Acts Act”. Given the fact that I read this around election time, I saw a lot of parallels between Balfour and some real life politicians. Between the Unnatural Acts Act, and the Smile Syndicate the unnaturals had so much to deal with and there was a definite oppressive mood in parts of the book.  In spite of some of the heavier stories, like the plight of the mixed race couple (vampire/werewolf), there are a lot of funny & sweet characters & moments in this book that make it worthwhile for me. I liked the developments in Dan & Sheyenne’s relationship.
I look forward to book 3!