The Bad Luck Bride (5/2 release)

All were shocked at the announcement of the “cursed” Lady Claire Cavensham to Lord Alexander Hallworth, the Marquess of Pembrooke, especially since she is already engaged to another unfortunate Lord. Perhaps she will make it to the altar this time with one of these fine gentlemen! —Midnight Cryer

No one is left breathless at the imperious pronouncement of her engagement to Lord Pembrooke more than Claire. She hardly knows the dangerously outrageous man! But after three engagements gone awry and a fourth going up in glorious flames, she isn’t in a position to refuse…

Alexander requires the hand of his enemy’s fiancée in marriage in order to complete his plans for revenge. It’s his good fortune that the “cursed” woman is desperate. However, what begins as a sham turns into something scandalously deeper…

We’re kicking off a new series and a debut for Janna MacGregor. Cavensham Brides begins with two gentlemen ready to battle.  Alex, Marquess of Pembrooke, faces off with his once-friend Lord Paul. It is easy to instantly dislike Lord Paul, as he evades every question and seems to show no remorse. The problem is that Alex does not seem to be much better a speciman of humanity, as he holds himself accountable for his sister’s actions and take the blame for them out on another. Luckily both are saved by the timely arrival of our third gentleman, one Lord Somerton. Somerton seems to be the voice of reason and common sense and I’m hopeful we’ll see more of him soon.

Alex has claimed for himself, as justice for his sister, everything that was once Lord Paul’s – which includes his rather wealthy fiancee. Lady Claire is on the verge of finally having something go her way as the letter is delivered, breaking the news of her engagement. What I enjoy most about this scene is not the meeting between Alex & Claire but the contrast between their experience of what a marriage between peers should be. Alex tells Somerton

Neither of us witnessed sterling examples of happy marriages growing up…My father was miserable after my birth when my mother died, and he never remarried.

…you need to come to terms with this betrayl, or your grief will never heal. You’ll continue to live in isolation. That doesn’t bode well for a happy life or a contented wife.

Here, he’s the voice of reason. He doesn’t like what Alex has done to exact his revenge, but believes firmly that Alex can be redeemed. Alex makes a great start at this by sheltering and protecting Claire from the brief storm that introduces them to each other. He then protects her again from the impending scandal of yet another broken engagement.

There is much in the middle as Alex slowly wins over his wife’s affection and her love, but not enough for her to trust him completely with her heart. This causes further complications as Alex fails in trusting her. To be fair, I wanted repeatedly to smack both of them upside the back of the head, tie them to chairs in the sitting room and tell them to talk to each other. He failed to tell her why he initially married her, he failed to tell her he fell in love with her and he failed to explain why he was so driven. Conversely, Claire failed to open up about her superstious reasoning she was to blame for everything bad her life, failed to tell him when she was starting to trust him and failed to properly warn her cousin of her concerns about Lord Paul.

On the grovelling index, I’m not even sure where I’d put Alex at a single puppy level — not the adorable dogs gifted in Hardly a Husband nor the puppy cannon of Suffragette Scandal. He himself might qualify as a lovesick puppy with the way he shadows Claire. He does manage to be in the right place in the right time, and does confess his sins most admirably.  It just takes him a while to get there.

I’m looking forward to the next book, given my guess at who is going to be our pair.

 

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Review: The Irresistible Rogue by Valerie Bowman

When I was pitched this book, I was offered a Regency version of Philadelphia Story with a spy twist. Not having seen the Grant/Hepburn vehicle, I had to google the reference. Secret marriage to protect the girl and now she wants out for her “real” marriage that would be appropriate for society? Sold.

I started reading the book and it begins right in the thick of it all. If you have read the previous entries in the Playful Brides series by Valerie Bowman, you’ve met Lady Daphne Swift as she first disappears for two weeks, then is caught trying to sneak out of a ball and finally as a co-conspirator. Getting to read her story is like icing on the cake after reading the previous entries. We had glimpses of her brother, his friends and the couple she helped bring together while not being overwhelmed by their happy lives. It was good to see that Lucy was still causing trouble, Jane was after all the teacakes and Cass was the calming influence on them all.

If you haven’t read the previous entries, this book does work like a bottle episode. While we get glimpses of the couples from the previous novels, none of the actors or their interconnected lives has major roles to play with the unfolding spy work being done by Lady Daphne and her Captain Rafe Cavendish. Lady Daphne is the younger sister of Julian (hero of Accidental Countess) and he served with Captain Cavendish. To be honest, there were times where my first read through were more enjoyable than the second time through after re-reading the previous books in the series. Lady Daphne seems to have gotten significantly more timid and proper at the start of the novel than we saw her in the previous novels. I’d love to know what happened between her trying to sneak out a window (to see the injured Rafe) and the start of this novel to make her want to be so perfectly prim.

What I loved about this book was that we jumped right in. Everyone wants what is best for Daphne, but the only one who is willing to contradict her and point out that what she thinks is best is not what she really wants is Rafe until after the fact. Daphne is sure that she is making the right decision and has a list with rankings to back her up on her selection of a husband, even if he is dull and a social climber that none of her family or friends would willingly seek out for friendship. Everything breaks after a few glasses of champagne and we are tossed into the spy portion of the book.

I will say that this is where it gets a little muddy for me. I understand a slip of a girl in her mid-teens being able to pose as a cabin-boy, but from the descriptions of Daphne, other than her opposite of tall status she has the figure of a girl which might be a little harder to hide when she’s in her breeches role. But assume the role she does and works hard to earn her place with the other men onboard, even convincing Rafe to teach her to throw knives (Chekhov’s skill, anyone?). Rafe keeps her out of the way, using her when the mission calls for her Russian language skills, but otherwise avoiding her to keep his hands off of her. As required in a story like this, the girl he’s sworn to protect has to get in danger at some point – and despite her proving that she can defend herself, Rafe gets her out of harms way as fast as possible. This is where the Daphne we know returns, and convinces Rafe that he needs people and more specifically he needs her.

The push-pull in this book was an interesting one. We have the Big Misunderstanding — Daphne saw a blonde doxy in Rafe’s bed on their previous outing together and firmly believes that she was there for him, despite what he says. We have the heroine masquerading as a boy to have the freedom and adventure she wanted as a girl. We have the non-titled hero who thinks that all the titled folks are worthless snobs unless they served in the war or came at their title from some other way. We have spies to hunt down in France and revenge for a lost brother/associate. We have the hero thinking he can’t have the girl because of guilt and her being too good for him — despite him believing someone who (on paper) is good enough for her is wrong for her. All these elements blend together quite nicely and allow for a lovely story that wraps up quite well, right up into the epilogue, but that’s another’s tale.

TBR Challenge 2015: February!

It’s time for the monthly update via TBR Challenge. If you want to participate, it isn’t too late for you to join in the fun…head over to Wendy the Super Librarian’s post and see what trouble you can get into with us. This month, we are trying for the Recommended Read (A book recommended to you by another reader/blogger etc). For me, Sarah Morgan fills this role and courtesy of Paperbackswap deciding to start charging people for things (sigh), I acquired A Night of No Return during my credit spend blitz. This recommendation actually comes via SuperWendy herself, but via blog — I’m not cool enough to have met her in person.

This book actually manages to lamp-shade itself. The heroine blatantly says (towards the end of the book) that she doesn’t want to fall in love with her boss because her mom did that and stayed there trying to win him over even after having a kid. The hero is the product of a woman having an affair with her rich boss. And here, the two repeat the mistakes, despite best intentions.

Being a Harlequin Presents, it goes pretty darn quick. A snowstorm makes roads impossible. A boss forgets important papers for gala event and meetings related. A dedicated personal assistant delivers them, delaying her personal life. Weather locks them in, they both try to get past it in the morning only to purposely avoid getting past it. Why? reasons.

There are things that happen in this novel that are not items I prefer in my romance. The boss is a bit of a alphahole at points. He decides that his PA is going to travel with him now and delay the start of her vacation principally because he no longer has a date and he wants to force proximity with her (just to torture them both?). When she brings up legitimate reasons why not to go with him, he just brushes them all away. When she has legitimate concerns over wardrobe, travel arrangements and inconveniencing others he brushes them away with money and bluster. When she tries, repeatedly, to resign based on their experience together he refuses to accept – despite knowing he could quite easily help her find a new position and remove all awkwardness. Then, she conspires to fix him. Granted, it is hand-waved that it really is his buddy’s idea and she just needs to stay out of the way. And then, once she sees that he is on his way to be fixed, she finally is allowed to resign, to resume her life and go home to her shrewish sister and her beloved baby brother.

Being HP, I can buy in to the fluffy quick fix…but it would be nice to see these characters a few years down. And I would have loved to see more meat to her relationship with her sister. This tells me I am not really the key market for HP, since I want more book than is present here. Overall, a nice read for a ice & snowbound day.

TBR Challenge 2015: January reads

Here’s my much-belated first entry into the 2015 TBR Challenge. The official theme for the month is  We Love Short Shorts! (category romance, novellas, short stories) but instead I knocked out the books I had via Kindle Unlimited before my subscription ended. There were two that needed to be finished: Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom (1/10/2015) and Reluctantly Lycan (1/18/2015). This resulted in a 50/50 split in how I felt for the month.

Starting with the “meh” book of the month: Reluctantly Lycan. Meh is about as strong as I can muster for this novel. We start off with an excellent image of a single mother on a fire escape sneaking her cigarette and wine to keep the inner wolf at bay as the full moon rises. If you’re familiar with PNR, you’ve probably seen some variation of this before as the lycan tries to pass for human and has to drown under vices the inner animal that wants to break free. We continue to build tension as we see said single mother scraping a living together for herself and her almost-teenage son. There’s the diner where she works very hard. There’s the son who is working hard in school to get ahead in the world. There’s the customer at the diner who looks forward to seeing her every day. Then, the customer becomes a pushy bastid and insists on a date. Things go well, and then out of nowhere the baby-daddy shows up. Who happens to be her destined mate and generally peeved that there’s another guy honing in on his territory. Growling ensues, a bit of quick make-up sex and suddenly all is right with the world because baby-daddy leaves behind some money and tells her to come home whenever she wants. We then have teenage girl behavior of our reluctant lycan mom wanting her guy back, but still mad about an incident years ago that she never has confronted him on the details. We also then have a drastic character shift in darn near everyone: Mom becomes okay with going back home, Son is suddenly accepting of having a wolf as a parent, Dad wants them home even though all heck is breaking loose and he wants them safe, Skeevy Customer gets even more stalker-ish by following everyone back (and trying to pick up an almost-18yo girl). From there, everything rolls downhill quickly. Mom & Dad make up, Son totally accepts being in this new culture and blowing off school he’s been working hard at because vinyl records solve all problems, Skeevy Customer turns out to be a good guy with just very questionable methods on dating. And the mystery aspect of it all? Such a letdown on everything. It was an entertaining little side trip, but really didn’t do anything for me.

The other book, Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom, actually gave me happy moments. Witty dialogue! Nobility in seemingly sketchy characters! A hidden baby (that is not actually anyone’s immediate responsibility!) A mother found! and yet…I feel like I was missing something. Part of the problem is that this is a book #2 in a series, which means that some of the characters and their motivations are things that I had to dust off from reading the first novel back in April and some of the remaining issues won’t be resolved until the fourth book. While I enjoyed the book to pass the time of a fun, lovely historical it didn’t really make me want to sigh in good book noise.

So of the two books we have one that falls into the “meh” bad side and one that fell into the “eh” good side. Luckily I had Courtney Milan’s Trade Me to cheer me up.

2015 TBR Challenge

I recently opened my Kindle only to discover I had 46 pages of titles in my reader. The predominant listing, however, is that I keep sending samples to myself to look at the different books and then either add to my TBR pile or I just feel guilt free about investing only 15 minutes of my time to decide I didn’t like the author’s voice or the characters after all (despite whatever review made me think I might).

This was kind of a little scary. Then I went to my Amazon WishList that’s my hidden TBR and was even more shocked…there’s 86 books there. And this is after I nuked everything a few years back to my Shelfari list of TBRs. When I moved that to GoodReads, it didn’t import correctly. So I’m seriously giving thought to nuking that as well for anything prior to January of 2014 and starting over slowly. It’s a scary thought process, but do I really want to see what’s on my TBR from three years ago?

To help chip away at the chaos, I bit the bullet and decided to start reading a single sample a day to get rid of the backlog. To help put a dent in the TBR pile, I’ve decided to try Wendy the Super Librarian’s TBR Challenge. Added bonus? at least once a month I’ll remember to blog! Go me!

Book buddy

Last night I got a message via Facebook that someone I once knew well had passed away. As often happens in the world life drew us apart. Her marriage and child while I was still in the early stages of the relationship that would lead to marriage and our two children put us at slightly different points in our lives. I had seen, on Facebook, that she was going through a rough patch, dealing with chemotherapy and all things associated with it. I put off doing anything more than the meaningless response online, because I was no longer super-close to her and did not want to intrude. I thought of her in odd moments and sent, in my own way, healing thoughts toward her home and her family. I thought about the book I was reading and how I should send her a copy, then realized she probably already had a copy and stopped thinking further. I didn’t reach out, for fear it would be the wrong thing or unwelcome. This, I regret.

When I moved from Ohio to sunny NC, I moved knowing one individual here. I moved with a car full of stuff to see me through eight weeks of a show and trying the city on for size. It was probably the bravest thing I had ever done. That one friend of mine was someone I knew from college, and he introduced me to the woman he later married. She, at the time, had two housemates that later married, had a child and then divorced but remained close. One of the housemates was the woman who passed, the woman who I was very different from but we shared something very intimate – reading selections.

I know that sounds strange, but she is the only person I have met that perfectly intersected book styles with me. On our Sunday dinners we would occasionally search the bookshelves at each other’s homes and see familiar titles, also worn. She is the only person who has bought a book for me not using a list and gotten it right – introducing me to a new author and with nothing other than “I thought you’d like it” – and she was right. We would, in moments between other conversations, discuss whatever our latest book we had at hand or what we may have been looking forward to reading. Over those first couple of years in NC when I was still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted, dinner on those Sundays was a touchstone of friendship and welcome that made living here so wonderful. We six together had fondue nights and made lasagna, talked movies and got married off, changed careers and bought homes. But what I remember most is the book she first gave me and the girls’ night at the farmhouse.

So I’m going to spend a little more time being grateful for another day. I’m going to try to remember to reach out even if it isn’t perfect. I’m going to hug my kids because there’s an eight year old boy who won’t be hugged by his mom again. But first, I think I’ll go find that book.

Plagarism: it’s what’s for breakfast

Courtesy of the fabulous ladies at Smart Bitches Trashy Books, we’ve got another fun case of editors who don’t quite think before speaking. Specifically, we’re talking about Judith Griggs of Cook’s Source who sent back this fabulous email:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

in response to an author (the above mentioned Monica) asking for a small payment for the post she had done being lifted wholesale for use in an ad-heavy magazine without her permission or even a polite notification.

The ladies from SBTB linked to here, which had more of the full story. And the request, for a fun little google-bomb. To which, I’m spreading the love. Continue reading Plagarism: it’s what’s for breakfast

Summer reading!

Okay, yeah, I have a kid. A “newborn” even. But I’m still reading. (I’ll stop when you pry the book from my cold, dead hands.) And since the melodious sound of my voice is more important than content, it doesn’t matter if I’m reading the latest Nora Roberts (cannot wait for book four of the Brides in November) or The Pokey Little Puppy.

I’ve slowed down a bit since I started having a kid in my arms most of the day (or sleeping other parts), and part of the problem exists with the whole hard to hold kid and book issue. Lucky for me, I have an iPhone…which has a few digital readers on it. Downside: I’ve read all the free eBooks I have. Must…acquire…more…

Lucky for me, a summer reading program was born:

The first book has already been announced, even…One Dance with a Duke. Off to acquire some club soda & lemonade concentrate and party down. After I get the book loaded on my phone…

Fluffy reading is educational?

One of my fave romance blogs posted this op-ed piece one of their contributors wrote on Tango. She raises a good point though – romance isn’t the stuff of movies. It isn’t running down the streets of Paris to find that one person on the bridge and tell them you can’t live without them. It isn’t running off to the islands and being wined and dined. It’s the small gestures on a daily basis…often seen in the build up to the big romantic gesture at the end that wins the damsels heart. Wait – my escapism is actually teaching me something?

I might joke about my mom having been mad enough at my dad to throw a vacuum at him. (1 – she didn’t throw it, she pounded it on their floor. 2 – she was pissed.) But, I know that they actually love each other – from the little things like how he takes her elbow over icy patches or watching them prepare breakfast for each other with hardly a word said. The Bald One and I have similar little things that say daily how we love – he turns the electric blanket on for me in winter and I’ll leave little notes for him to find or indulge his goofy side even when it involves tickling me to death.

It’s February, and with it comes reminders from the AHA that it is heart month and the biggest Hallmark & florist holiday comes right in the middle of the month. The stores are scattered with tokens big (diamonds! a new car!) and small (a single rose, the perfect chocolate). Charities ask that you adopt an animal or make a donation in someone’s name to show you care about them and the things they’re interested in. As par for the course, I’ll be working on a play when the big VDay happens. I jokingly told the director I’ve spent more Valentine’s Days with him than with my husband. (In the 9 VDays we’ve been together, I worked five shows with this director, two elsewhere — if you go by hours in the day, I’m right.) Luckily, it’s a matinee (second time that’s happened) and not a archival photo night. This means I’ll get home at a decent hour to have whatever wonderful concoction the Bald One creates this year.

Ever since our first Valentines Day, the Bald One has done something wonderful for the holiday. While it is often a grand gesture in the terms of our relationship, it means just as much as knowing that he kills the random bugs before our cats turn them into toys. And I guess that’s how I know we’ll be fine when we go from being just us two to being parents.

Reading /is/ fundamental

I don’t remember story time, but my mother tells me she took me every week when I was growing up and it was a highlight of the week for me. I do remember being in elementary school and breaking away from my classmates hovering around the grade-level appropriate books and looking at the books for kids anywhere from one to three years older than myself. I remember the grandmother-ly librarian who reached down to the Henry novels and introduced me to Misty of Chincoteague. I ran quickly through the entire series of books, even reading one of her novels not taking place off the coast of Virginia but in the depths of the Grand Canyon.

Later, having run through everything “girl appropriate” in my small elementary school’s library, I turned to my dad for direction. My dad was the reader of my parents while we were growing up, and I figured if someone could get me my next series of books that person would likely be him. He took me from the female child appropriate fiction of ponies and into a land of dragons and music. The first book he placed in my hand then was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong. I read quickly through this, finishing its sequel in less time than the book’s seven days covered. Being the parents that mine are, I got to finish reading all the books McCaffrey had published at the time – meeting strong women like Lessa and learning about sex in very abstract terms.

I learned about the science in the paranormal as I continued reading McCaffrey’s novels, giggling over the date having been passed but no evidence showing of these people existing yet. I tried to get to read the leaders of science fiction (RAH, JRRT) but could not finish the Hobbit and wasn’t allowed to touch Friday. Eventually, I started choosing my own books and found Mercedes Lackey, Robert Jordan (who I still despise), Tad Williams, David (& Leigh) Eddings  and George RR Martin. Sometimes I go more towards the fluff of the romance entwined in fantasy, other times the gritty realism of war in a world not quite like ours can capture me for days.

What prompted all this is an interview on GeekDad of Nathan Fillion on Why Kids Need to Read.

I haven’t been in a school library since I left middle school. Any time I needed to do research, I went to the local public branch for a better selection and was usually too involved to actually have time at school to go research. The idea that libraries in schools are being decimated scares me. I had involved parents, I plan to be involved in getting the Gummi Bear into reading…but not every child is so lucky. One of my girlfriends recently told me that she’s not worried for us putting our daughter in public schools because we read and are likely to get our children to do so as well. Granted, reading won’t solve everything, but it does open many a door.