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review 2020-05-10 22:41
First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn
First Comes Scandal - Julia Quinn

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Georgiana was kidnapped by a fortune hunter but even though she managed to save herself, her reputation is in tatters.
Nicholas is called down from medical school in Edinburgh by his father who orders him to marry their neighbor and Nicholas' childhood friend, Georgiana.
It's a marriage of convenience but a close quarters carriage ride with a grumpy cat might turn it into a marriage of love.

“There is only one thing to be done,” his father said. “You must marry her.”

First Comes a Scandal is fourth in the Rokebys series but I think you could jump into the series here, it would probably be even better to read the Bridgerton series before this. Rokebys is a prequel to Briderstons and heroes from the first couple books in the Bridgerton series make an almost center stage showing in this. As much as I enjoyed seeing the heroes as little kids, it was too much. Instead of focusing on the leads of this story, the little Bridgertons got too much of the spotlight; it started to feel like a cheap trick to get readers to like this book, trading on the Bridgerton love. If you haven't read the Bridgerton series, you'd probably be bored and think a good chunk of the first half was filler.

“She doesn’t need your time. She needs your name.”

I'm a sucker for little sister/big brother's friend trope but this was a little different with neither having a hidden or long standing crush on the other and we don't get much of Nicholas and Edmund (Georigana's brother) friendship. Not getting much, unfortunately, was a problem I had for the majority of the story. I had a problem with feeling Nicholas and Georgiana were strangers, to me and to each other. It wasn't until after the 50% mark that our two get married and then it is a carriage ride to Edinburgh. However, instead of scenes of these two bonding and dialogue to provide emotional and relationship building blocks, we get pointless cat drama, medical dramas needing Nicholas, and the story just seemed to want to focus on everything but Nicholas and Georgiana.

He’d been married a day and he’d barely even kissed her. He was going to have to do something about that.

The sentence structure had a tendency to veer to shorter and this made a good amount feel choppy but even though I didn't feel engaged with the story or characters, the pace did ping pong through pretty quickly. There was also a couple times where Nicholas or Georgiana expressed themselves a certain way that felt too casual of verbiage, not creating the historical feel I tend to look for when reading this sub-genre. This was also set in the late 1700s and besides some talk of hoop skirts to visit the Queen, it was indistinguishable from Regency set romances.

She liked being near him. She liked his quiet strength, his sense of purpose. And when his hands had been on her hips, even just to help her down from the saddle, she’d liked the way it had made her feel like she was his.

Georgiana and Nicholas felt like strangers to me and therefore, I wasn't invested or felt any emotional attachment to the conclusion of their romance. If you like some slapstick humor, there were a couple scenes when they take their carriage ride that might help drawn you into the story more than I. There were couple moments where I felt a hint of the chemistry between Georgiana and Nicholas but they were so buried in the numerous insignificant scenes the author decided to add, that it couldn't save the story for me. I went into this anticipating more of a focus on exploring their marriage of convenience and instead got a grumpy cat in a hammock.

I buddy read this, for more quotes and comments while I read: First Comes Scandal buddy read
 

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review 2020-03-10 22:43
Loose plot threads with some sweetness
Claimed By A Scottish Lord by Melody Thomas (June 07,2010) - Melody Thomas

I was pleasantly surprised with how sweet the hero was in this, pretty gone for the heroine once meeting and getting to know her.

 

Had some magical elements trying to tie in Arthurian legends but was ignored for most of the middle of the book. Some other mystery murder, hidden villain threads that were too loose to make a lot of sense and care about. The last 15%ish was about wrapping those up and I felt it killed the HEA good feelings a bit.

 

Wish this had focused on the couple more because they were so very sweet and good together. There was a scene towards the end where the hero arrived home after weeks of being away that nailed the emotion and heat perfectly.

 

Definitively worth a read if you can find it

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review 2019-05-29 19:15
Swashbuckling fun
Lord Johnnie - Leslie Turner White

Thank you to Linda Hilton for the rec :)

 

This book was so much fun, Raiden wanted to get into the spirit. I told him to give me his best pirate mean mug

 

 

He did not disappoint, lol.

 

 

"The road of life leaves as strong an imprint on the man as the man leaves on the road, Johnnie. We are all the fruits of our experiences. You can't change that."

"A bitter truth," he agreed.

She studied him a long while in silence. "That girl has altered your outlook, hasn't she?"

"Let's say she clarified it, your Grace."

 

If you're a fan of Errol Flynn movies or any of variation of Robin Hood tv shows, you'll want to get a copy of this. 

 

Johnnie Rogue was born a bastard, his father supposedly died at sea and didn't make it back to marry Johnnie's mother, while she died in childbirth. With an English mother and Scottish father, living in France was difficult and Johnnie had to turn to thievery to survive. When he makes it back to England he becomes a bold and brash highwayman who eventually gets caught. 

 

"The procedure is simple enough: ye marry a condemned rascal, who as yer 'usband becomes legally responsible fer yer debts. We promptly 'angs 'im, leavin' ye a pretty little widow, free as a bird o' both 'usban' an' debts."

 

Lady Leanna is dangerously in debt and looks to marry a condemned man, using the loophole of her "husband" being responsible for the debts and when he gets hung, the debts are wiped out because he paid for his "crime". As rogues are want to do in these stories, Johnnie escapes the hangman's noose. 

 

"All right—I'll be honest, I'll tell you something I never spoke aloud before, because, until the moment you walked into Newgate, it was nothing but a vain, silly, hopeless wish." He talked rapidly, as if trying to keep ahead of the restraint of reason. "I have always wanted to be a gentleman! I've hated sordidness and poverty, hated coarseness and vulgarity. Then, miraculously, you came into that hell-hole and married me. In that I saw the hand of Providence. I would have been a fool to have thrown the opportunity away."

 

While Johnnie might be a rascal, he's actually only wanted to live a lawful life, poverty and circumstance led him down a different road. When he finds Leanna after escaping death, he sees her as his salvation, Leanna does not feel the same way as she has someone else in mind for marriage. There's a sex scene that fades to black very quickly and a deal struck between the two that after one night of pretending to be husband and wife, Johnnie will disappear from her life forever. They leave on good terms but a later possible betrayal leaves Johnnie bitter towards Leanna and leads him to berate himself for thinking he could go legit. 

 

These sodden creatures were without initiative; blindly they subscribed to the old rule of the sea: Grumble you may, obey you must.

 

We leave land to take to the high seas because Johnnie gets captured by the press gangs, which eventually leads to him starting a mutiny and becoming a captain. He decides to travel to America, because he saw Leanna board a ship with her beau headed there and decides he can't live without her. This desire for Leanna feels a bit empty because the reader doesn't really "know" Leanna and what we do of her, doesn't make her a sympathetic character as Johnnie is the lead and is the one the reader's are endeared to. 

 

There is some highseas action and conscious searching in regards to Johnnie helping out England in what is the tumultuous climate of America and England about to go to war and France slithering around. Strong secondary characters help round these parts, Ben Bottle - also press ganged and helps Johnnie pull off the mutiny and becomes his right hand man, Old Ames - Johnnie searched him out to get information on his father, Ames gets press ganged with Johnnie and becomes his source of information on how to survive at sea as Ames is an old sea dog, and 1st Lt. Yew - forced to stay on after the mutiny and spends most the time being frenemies with Johnnie. There are a couple others, like the Duchess of Tallentyre, Reggie, who I would delight in reading their own books.

 

For first being published in 1949, this has aged remarkably well. The dialect of the sailors was a little hard to read and understand, forcing me to reread some parts and Johnnie's friend Ben had a tendency to use the saying "Rape me" as a sort of replacement for "I'll be", which threw me a couple times. Other than that, the writing, characters, and story stand strong in this time. 

 

For me, this was more of a swashbuckling adventure than romance. We hardly get to know Leanna and she and Johnnie spend very limited time together. This was more of the journey Johnnie goes on and the five women who send him on it:  Mother - dies in childbirth, Leanna - marries Johnnie, betrays him, and inspires hope for him to go legit, Moll - starts off as his friend helping to rescue him only to betray him, Mrs. Bloodsymthe - helps reinforce his loyalty to Leanna and rescues him after she sees him as rescuing her, and Reggie - helps him get the opportunity to escape New York. 

 

Johnnie stays loyal to Leanna after he meets her but he also has a moment where he kidnaps her in front of society, thus taking away any decision she would have made and ruining her reputation; he does eventually leave her to make her own decision on staying with him but I wish we could have gotten a stronger sense of her feelings.

 

All in all, this was so much fun. If you miss Errol Flynn characters, Johnnie the Rogue's courage, ingenuity, charm, luck, and wit, while longing for Leanna and a life of legitimacy, is a story you'll want to pick up.

 

Johnnie the Rogue is dead, and John Ballantyne has emerged."

 

 

 

 

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review 2019-04-06 16:57
Pain hiding from love
The Prince of Midnight - Laura Kinsale

"You come to me." His mouth lowered, but he didn't quite kiss her.

"To forget. To not hurt any more—" She bit her lip. "To hurt all my life."

"I won't hurt you," he whispered.

She closed her eyes. "You tear me apart."

"Leigh," he said, "I love you."

The intensity in his voice made her turn her face away. "Leave me alone," she said.

 

Gawd, the emotion in this one. Quickly, Leigh travels from England to France looking for "The Prince of Midnight" a highwayman that the people of her town looked upon as Robin Hood. Her town has been taken over by a cult leader and she thinks the Prince of Midnight will be the legend that can break the townspeople's blind following of Rev. Jamie Chilton, she also wants the Prince to teach her how to fight so she can kill Chilton. When she finds the Prince, he turns out to be S.T. Maitland, deaf in one ear and experiencing serious balance problems because of it. He's a forced into retirement highwayman living in an abandoned castle with a pet wolf. 

 

S.T. rubbed the wolf's ears and smiled to himself. He'd charmed wilder things than a dour girl, after all

 

To say the least, Leigh is crushed, her savior can't even ride a horse. In what is a bit of a role reversal from what we usually see in our heroines and heroes, Leigh is the cold, shun love, and blindly bent on revenge while S.T. is the romantic, heart just wanting to burst with love, more sensitive one. S.T. was a little uneven in the beginning for me because his love and trust in a woman is what led to the end of his highwayman career but he is pretty instantly all-in on his want of Leigh. What saved this insta for me was the author underlying acknowledging that it was insta. It is mentioned how S.T. hasn't had a woman in 3yrs, insta-lust of Leigh, and as the story goes on, you see how love and human contact is necessary for S.T.'s personality but as S.T. and Leigh travel and spend more time together, we begin to see S.T. actually get to know her, which I need to believe in couple's love. It's a bit, well, S.T. got lucky in his love at first sight but I can't help it, I really enjoyed his yearning and putting himself out there for Leigh, while, with insight from personal thoughts from Leigh, the reader could see and feel how hard Leigh was fighting her feelings. 

 

"He murdered my family. My mother, my father, and my two sisters."

There wasn't a tremor in her voice, not a trace of emotion at all. S.T. gazed at her cool moon-washed face. She stared back at him, unblinking. "Sunshine," he whispered.

 

********

 

"The others are frightened."

"Such cowards as that?"

"No." She shook her head, watching the ground ahead of her. "Not cowards. Frightened."

He considered that. It was a telling point, a subtle, crucial difference. Miss Leigh Strachan was no fool. "Of what are they frightened?"

"Of what happened to my sisters," she said. "They have daughters, too."

 

"Wasn't a tremor", "not a trace of emotion", ugh, I could barely take Leigh's pain. There is definitely a solid background and foundation behind Leigh's tough exterior and her telling the story of what happened to her family, while trying not to breakdown, had me breaking down a bit. The author wonderfully conveyed how hard Leigh had to keep herself together, another brick in the character's personality wall, because if she didn't, she would shatter. The events that lead up to and the scene where Leigh finally does breakdown was heartbreaking. I thought it was masterful how the author used S.T.'s working and relationship with animals to mirror what was happening with Leigh. 

 

"I don't want your rotting gratitude," he said. She lay perfectly still, a mirage of the impersonal moonlight, as lifeless as the ruins. He couldn't even feel her breathing.

"Then I'm sorry." She spoke suddenly. "Because that's all I have to give."

 

*****

 

Forbidden worlds. Wild joy and romance. A midnight ride with an outlaw prince, and life, and life, and life. He burned with it. And she would have gone. Her throat grew thick with longing. She thought: you should have come sooner. You should have come when I could feel.

 

I can see how some readers would have issues with Leigh (I read some reviews not liking her coldness) and while she frustrated me at times, again, the author provided credible reasons for it. Leigh was a painful character and every time S.T.'s reaching out was cruelly rejected or bounced off her wall, I was mad but I still understood her. The only misstep I think the author did was not having somewhat of a grovel scene, I demand it of my heroes when they have personalities like Leigh.I think if the author had shown the scene where, I'm going to put this in spoiler tags because it deals somewhat with how the story ends, 

Leigh worked to get S.T. pardoned for his highwayman crimes and how she missed him in London, showing her longing for him and how she was nervous to proclaim her love for him, I think readers would have softened to her more. It was kind of glossed over at the end and I think some missed feeling how she was ready to open herself up to him finally. 

(spoiler show)

As it was, it kind of felt like S.T. constantly beat himself against Leigh's wall and Leigh never repaid or responded in like to prostrate herself like he did. 

 

She closed her eyes. When she opened them, the horse was still there. The Seigneur was still there. She was still hurting, still alive, still drowning in love and grief and rage.

 

******

 

She'd gone to France to find the Seigneur with no family and no future and no fear, with a well-spring of hate in her heart. But now she was afraid. Now she was cornered and desperate. Now she had something to lose.

 

The plot involving the cult leader was interesting but towards the end when the author tied it into The Hellfire Club, it got a bit loose and didn't completely work for me; felt like forced danger added in. This had quite the epilogue, lol, but I enjoyed seeing these two happy together. Overall, this was a painfully emotional read at times and I enjoyed these two together, their pain, their yearning, and their connection, there is no doubt that these two fought for their HEA. There was a lot of layers to the story and I would suggest reading this a little slower to let it soak in. I wanted a little more from Leigh, S.T. was so earnest in trying to connect with her that I would have loved seeing her put herself out there too, but maybe the argument could be made that just isn't her personality. Anyway, read this for S.T.'s loving soul, Leigh's tightly contained heartache, and Nemo.

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review 2018-12-11 00:26
Not the Duke's Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt
Not the Duke's Darling - Elizabeth Hoyt

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

 

First in the new Greycourt series, Hoyt starts us off with a spot of danger as our heroine, Freya, is on the run from some men and finds herself face to face with her childhood crush, Christopher, but who she also blames for her brother's downfall. There's some background foundation to the hows and whys of where are characters are at in life. The main thread is Freya's brother, Ran, tried to elope with Julian Greycourt's sister, she ended up dying (we aren't given specifics), and Christopher just stood by while Ran was beaten bad enough he ended up losing his right hand. Ran, Julian, and Christopher were bestfriends but this fractured their bond and they all separated, the other members of the family cut ties all with each other also.

 

The Wise Women had long been hunted by Dunkelders— nasty, superstitious fanatics who knew about the Wise Women and believed they were witches who should be burned.

 

While the ill fated elopement gave us the underlining emotional tones, the Wise Women that Freya is the Macha (spy) for, gives us the suspense as she is trying to stop a law in the House of Lords that gives free reign to declaring women witches along with her trying to hide from members of the Dunkelders, men who hunt “witches”. These are the two main plot threads but there are numerous other ones, some slight and others weighty, that at times only clog an already full story. Christopher has PTSD induced anxiety from his time in India, we get povs from an old friend of Freya's, Messalina Greycourt, who's storyline looks to be set-up for the next in the series, an imprisoned wife, and a whole slew of secondary characters that get little mini-plots of their own. I like full stories but none of these threads or plots were fully fleshed out and it left a lot feeling shallow and dull.

 

This, this was what he’d been missing without even realizing it: genuine conversation. Genuine feeling.

 

The romance and chemistry between Christopher and Freya was severely lacking for me; I had more fond feelings for the relationship between him and his dog. Hoyt has been a favorite with word play, sexual and taunting, but these two never sparked; it felt like he just found her attractive out of nowhere, while she relied on childhood feelings and the color of his pretty blue eyes. While their bedroom scenes didn't start ridiculously early, besides kissing once or twice, when they do start to get hot and heavy, Freya's first move is to give him a blowjob, because of course. The latter second half brought more sexual scenes but I almost found myself skimming them as their emotional connection wasn't there.

 

He might be a duke now, but she was a de Moray woman , small, swift, and above all ruthless.

 

My biggest disappoint and what frustrated me the most was that Hoyt introduced these interesting ideas, plots, or instances but they all happen off script. The intense ill fated elopement? Happens before this story takes place, no prologue to introduce, show, and explain the basis for the whole the series. Christopher's time in India? No flash back scenes to help immerse the reader into the emotional turmoil of his PTSD or his relationship with is first wife. Freya spending time with the Wise Women? It takes an absurd amount of time for the reader to even get a full explanation of who and what the Wise Women are, let alone the author writing and showing scenes of Freya interacting with the women. This could have been a great emotional fulfillment moment of showing women taking care of one another, bucking the system in a way they could, and female bonding while providing a solid and understandable reason for why this group was so important to Freya and why she might shy away from marrying Christopher.

 

I missed Hoyt's normally atmospheric writing, I did not feel the time period at all, and the sexual heat between the leads that she has a knack for expressing. This honestly felt kind of generic and with dukes popping up everywhere, I'm not sure I could pick this book out of a lineup. The second book is set-up here and with two leads that at least seem like they have some spark, I will give it a try but am hoping for more showing than telling and emotion.

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