Tuesday, March 27, 2012


LONDON'S PERFECT SCOUNDREL (Lessons in Love #2) by Suzanne Enoch

Mass Market Paperback, 372 pages
Published April 29th 2003 by Avon Books
Genre: historical romance
Rating : 5 stars plus

What a GLORIOUS reading!!! I could reduce my review to two simple words: MUST READ.  Together with Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas and Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, London’s Perfect Scoundrel  has a stardom quality and holds a place of honor among the HRN classics. LOVED IT, LOVED IT, LOVED IT!!! Well executed and DELICIOUSLY WICKED
Opposites attract and in this book they do with an extreme magnitude…Devilish Michael Marquis of St. Aubyn aka ‘Saint’ is a self-centered, ill-famed, unrepentant scoundrel with one goal in mind, to enjoy life at the expenses of other people’s feelings. Evelyn Ruddick is a pure, caring, kind-hearted and headstrong young lady with a mission: make a difference in other people’s lives with her charitable spirit and selfless generosity. She takes an interest as a funder and volunteer in The Heart of Hope Orphanage, where Saint happens to be Chairman of the Board of Directors. They engage in a battle of will over the improvements desperately needed by  the orphanage but their initial antagonism will immediately turn into a wicked and irresistible game of seduction. In a breath-taking mix of physical attraction and mutual fondness, their relationship will evolve relentlessly and ultimately into love.
LPS reminded me of all the reasons why I love this genre.  It brims with all the features that make HRN so appealing: the deliciously wicked, heartwarming, “weak-in-the-knees” kind of romance, the perfectly paced and enthralling storyline, pristine prose, captivating characters (Evelyn  and ‘Saint’ are among the most charming and well assorted h/h couples), emotional depth, sizzling sensuality. The love scenes aren’t that many (and those few are extremely steamy and yet tasteful), but the chemistry between Evie and Saint is so intense, so palpable  that every dialogue, every stolen kiss, every secretive touch and look exchanged between them will make your pulse throb…they pour passion and desire from start to finish!
I like reformed rakes, I think they make great HRN material and in this book the theme has been mastered with such a craft that sets it leagues and leagues above an ocean of sameness and shallow imitations.  H/h characterization works beautifully: Evie and Saint are believable characters, their actions are always consistent  with their personalities, the change from ‘scoundrel to gentleman’ and from ‘plain, unassuming young lady’ to ‘self-assertive and passionate woman’ is gradual and so well-portrayed, not to mention the chemistry and romantic/sensual tension between them…steamy!
LPS really spoiled me for other “reformed rake” HRN! As hard as it would be to top perfection though, Suzanne Enoch could have upped a farther notch above if she had wrapped it up with a brief epilogue showing how this match made in heaven evolves.
To be placed on a Deliciously-Wicked, All-Time-Favorite shelf. Highly recommended!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


CONFESSIONS FROM AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE (The Burgundy Club #4) by Miranda Neville
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Avon 
Genre: historical romance novel
Rating: 4 stars
Many thanks to Goodreads First Reads Giveaway for providing me with a free copy of this book.

 I would have loved to rate this HRN five stars, because I liked it and I believe the premises for a riveting romance were there. Yet, despite the great potential provided by the interesting main characters and their issues, the first half of the book falls short of all the very things that make a romance novel  appealing: the romantic tension is lacking, the characters too tame.  At some point the storyline is heavily loaded with historical references and although I appreciate a certain accuracy and consistency in my readings, the “historical element” with all those details about politics and elections were just too much for my “romance-reader” frame of mind.
Luckily, halfway into the novel something clicks in the right way and the storyline stirs in the right direction, giving depth and intensity to a love story that would have been otherwise very shallow. The second half of the book definitely deserves five stars and redeems all the shortcomings of the first part: the steamy love scenes are emotionally charged and extremely sweet. What started as an arranged marriage between two people who loathed each other turns slowly but relentlessly into a heavenly  love-match. 

Minerva Montrose is a young and pretty debutante at her first season, a typical English rose with an unusual interest in politics. Her highest ambition, in fact, is to marry a young and brilliant politician and help him advance in his parliamentarian career. And instead she gets involved in a scandal that will force her to accept the marriage proposal of a dissolute (and extremely handsome) marquess she utterly detests, Lord Blakeney. The feelings of dislike are mutual, at least in the beginning.
Although it wouldn’t be fair to judge a book from the first one hundred pages, at an early stage the storyline doesn’t captivate me, emotional depth is lacking and h/h are rather shallow. But don’t worry, things will totally change. The readers’ patience will be rewarded. An interesting as well as original twist will stir great emotion and sympathy towards our characters, especially the male hero: from this moment on the romantic tension will be much more palpable, rather sizzling and heartwarming.
Lord Blakeney (a soon to be duke) has a well-guarded secret: he is  dyslexic, a condition not recognized or treated at that time. He is barely literate, he is  unable to read and he can hardly write. His inadequacy makes it impossible for him to engage in any of the educated and elevated activities (involvement in politics or discussions about literature, knowledge of dead languages or fluency in French and German) a man of his station should be able to perform. In order to hide his inability, he spends his young and adult years building the reputation of a lazy, shallow  and impertinent  aristocratic. He rather and successfully engages in sports, outdoor activities or less intellectual tasks such as the running of his father’s estate. In the eyes of society (and what hurts him the most, in the eyes of his wife Minerva) he has only good looks and no brain.
His dyslexia causes major trust and self-confidence issues and prevents him from showing his real self (he’s not just a pretty face, Blake is a good, pleasant and practical man). His sense of being inferior holds him from establishing deep and confident relations with people, especially with Minerva who on the contrary is highly educated and extremely bright. Despite his lacks, Blake emerges as a very human and endearing character, certainly not fluent and articulate, but extremely sweet and capable of true and deep feelings . Even Minerva, initially all ambition and superficiality (due also to her very young age, she is barely twenty), will redeem herself showing a more vulnerable and loving aspect of her headstrong personality. She will understand her husband’s condition, support him in his effort to fill his father’s shoes as a duke and a political leader, and get to love him for what he is,  with passion and pride.
The second half of the book definitely unfolds in a much more romantic and delightfully sexy way.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

SUGAR DADDY by Lisa Kleypas

SUGAR DADDY (Travises #1) by Lisa Kleypas

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by St. Martin's Press 
Genre: contemporary romance novel, women's fiction
Rating: 5 stars plus
Sugar Daddy nailed me at the first page…it actually had me at the epigraphy as a further proof that Lisa Kleypas could rewrite the phone directory and be great at that too! If there were any doubts in my mind that a contemporary romance novel could top her historical gems, SD  erased them with the emotional depth of a soulful and  poignant love story.  Ms. Kleypas touches deep layers of emotion exploring a manifold kind of love: unfulfilled and unforgettable teenage love, selfless sisterly love, love when and where you least expect it.

What may probably amaze most of the readers  is that LK spends a good part of the book building up a great emotional connection between Liberty Jones and Hardy Cates, two Texan kids born on the wrong side of the tracks, without getting them together at the end, as we would expect according to the usual pattern of a conventional  romance novel. The storyline unfolds in a time span of ten years during which fate will wistfully bring Liberty and Hardy together through unthinkable hardships, separate them and reunite them again (their life-paths cross under much different circumstances since they both have achieved success beyond their best expectations) without fulfilling their mutual longing and desire.
But then, Liberty herself finds the answer to the ironic twists of fate that characterize her coming of age and her quest for love and self-elevation: life has a way  to give you what you need, but not in the shape you wished for. She ultimately finds a new love (Gage Travis ), as deep and healing as unexpected and initially disguised in apparent (seeming but not real)  antagonism.  

Liberty and Hardy are two extremely resilient characters, vibrant and vivid like few others. He is strong, patient  and ruthlessly self-confident. After years of hard work as a welder on oil rigs around the world, he will mature in a splendid self-made and extremely wealthy business man. She will warm your heart as a very young girl fending for herself and her little sister, meeting life head-on completely alone and undefended, living on next to nothing and forced to live the life of a single parent with very poor means and still loving  her sister to bits. Although the relationship between these two intense characters will not unfold as sweetly as the reader might expect,  the storyline has an unmistakable fairytale spin, where everything works out well in the end, with a great cinematographic quality that would work beautifully on screen.

Whatever formula, approach, choice of plot or narrative style LK uses in her novels, she is a consistently good story-teller. Having said that, the first person POV, although flawless and smooth (extremely pleasant especially in the audio-book format) limits our possibility to read beyond the actions and discern each character’s true motivations  and inner thoughts. We miss so much of what goes on in Hardy’s and Gage’s minds (these two are men of few words and heavily armored to begin with), whereas a third person omniscient POV would help us to better explain and understand some abrupt changes of attitude or a certain course of actions (see for example the way  Gage Travis  goes from making of Liberty the focus of his targeted dislike to admiration for her self-sacrifice to love and passion).

But then again, for me it was an extremely intense and heart-wrenching read… it  got me emotional and  misty-eyed quite a few times. Superb and unputdownable!


Saturday, March 10, 2012


A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME (The Rules Of Scoundrels #1) by Sara MacLean

Mass Market Paperback, 386 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Avon
Genre: historical romance novel
Rating: 3.5 stars

Off to a good start with the heated meeting between h/h  childhood friends Penelope and Michael on the snow covered ground surrounding Falconwell, the property which used to belong to Michael Marquess of Bourne and now part of  the “almost on the shelf” Lady Penelope Marbury’s dowry. Penelope’s initial happiness and excitement in seeing his long lost friend (and love of her life) after ten years turns into disappointment when she realizes he has changed beyond recognition: the amicable and smiling mate of so many childhood adventures  is now cold, bitter and resentful, a complete brute. Great emotional tension here…
But then, when he kidnaps her, compromises her (not against her will, though, because she’s always been in love with him) and forces her into marriage in order to regain possession of Falconwell, that same property he lost on a card game when he was twenty-one and obsessed him ever since , I really started to feel uncomfortable with the whole thing. Despite his complete honesty about his intentions (I owe him that), Michael doesn’t treat her with the respect due to a woman, a lady, a childhood friend and for this reason he ruins from the start his chances to become an endearing character. Anyway, it puzzled me even more that Penelope seems to underestimate herself to the point of accepting him!
In light of this very rough beginning, the intimacy that immediately follows between them sounds to me rather awkward and rather insulting for Penelope: Michael openly admits that he is going to marry her, plain spinster, for the land that comes with her dowry. He compromises her and after the act he leaves her alone in the middle of the night in a cold and unfurnished room of his desolated mansion. A scene  that would have been extremely sizzling if played with a bare minimum of emotional connection between h/h, turned out to be off-key and disturbing. What upsets me even more is Penelope’s inconsistency: she goes from smacking him in his face to craving his touch.
I usually don’t give up reading a book halfway, even when it disappoints my expectations, so I read on, hoping to see Michael redeeming himself and Penelope regaining her self -respect and she does, but two thirds into the novel Michael was making himself even more hateful.
Now, I like reformed rakes, I think they make great HRN material and the gambling house setting intrigued me (Michael’s business partners most of all), but I think that in this case the author pushed the roguish element a little too far. His final redemption sounds difficult to believe and unconvincing although true: for me it happens too late and he has been hard and cold with Penelope for too long. In the end all is well and the final pages offer a juicy preview of the next installment in this series.