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review 2016-07-10 01:06
Mostly a winner
Gambled Away: A Historical Romance Anthology - Rose Lerner,Molly O'Keefe,Joanna Bourne,Jeannie Lin,Isabel Cooper

***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

All or Nothing by Rose Lerner

This was easily my favorite short story in this anthology and not just because it had a Jewish character and a bi character. There is just something about Rose Lerner’s story-telling style that manages to sweep you off your feet and make you so invested in a story that not even extreme tiredness can stop you from finishing. Her stories are always engaging and rarely ever have dull moments. All or Nothing tells the story of struggling architect Simon Radcliffe-Gould who is starting to feel burned out because he really cannot seem to make a living off of his chosen career. He wins a bet that allows him to ‘have’ Maggie da Silva for the time period in which her best friend (and sexual partner) is gone taking care of business and instead of taking advantage, he basically takes her to his ex flame’s house party so he doesn’t have to deal with him and his advances. Basically, a slow burn kind of romance happens between Maggie and Simon as they learn more about each other and sparks fly. YAY.

The Liar’s Dice by Jeannie Lin

This short story was really fucking great. It wasn’t my favorite but it came really really close. It isn’t as romance oriented, focuses more on the mystery aspect, is set in China (AND NOT IN the UK/US where most HRs seem to be set) and has a wonderful, dark atmosphere. The subtle romance is just enough to get my heart beating and I REALLY REALLY want an entire novel with the two main characters of this short story. I need to know all the things about them. Either way, I know I have a new author to add to my TBR list.

Raising The Stakes by Isabel Cooper

I don’t really know how I felt about Raising the Stakes. I don’t usually mind magic in my HRs but the magical elements in this short don’t really work for me. Sam, the mc, is pretty darn awesome and badass in that she is a con artist but Talathan--who is fae (I think???)--does not work for me at all as a character. I have 0 emotional attachment to him and therefore care nothing about his presence and contribution to the story. I do think that is just a ‘me’ thing though.

Redeemed by Molly O’Keefe

If you like tortured heros and heroines, this short will 100% be for you. The best part about this short story is that just because the characters are ‘tortured’ doesn’t mean they are angsty. O’Keefe does a great job of characterizing them through and outside their torturedness. They have legit reasons to be the way they are given the horrors they have lived through but they also exist outside of those bad things. They can both be charming, sweet, courageous and awesome. The best thing about this short story is that even though is technically a short story, it is well plotted and well thought out. It functions like an entire novel instead of just a short novella that leaves you wanting more. Basically Redeemed is another winner for this anthology.

Gideon and the Den of Thieves by Joanna Bourne

In theory, I like a lot about this short story but really, I struggled with it because it almost seemed too lengthy. This short story is exciting, features a rescue and lots of other fun things but I literally did not connect with the MC and the love interest. They seemed very bland and more like plot devices than actual characters. It makes sense because the plot of this short is great but the characters made it so that I couldn’t actually enjoy this short in the ways I wanted to. That isn’t to see that all the characters sucked but the two that I should have liked, I couldn’t and that made it really hard to enjoy this story.

Overall, with me more than liking ⅗ of the short stories in this anthologies, I can safely say that Gambled Away is a winner. It features diversity of characters and locations and very well worth the read if you love your Historical Romance as much as I do!

Note that I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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review 2015-07-25 18:18
better than i thought it would be
The Spymaster's Lady - Joanna Bourne

The cover of this book makes me giggle, as I stated earlier, it kind of looks like his pecs have a six pack, but I think it's because it appears that he's missing nipples (that shirt is open wide enough that there should be some nip).


Chapter one of this book put me off, so I was pleasantly surprised when I started somewhat enjoying the read.


What really intrigued me was one of the characters being (temporarily) blind - I liked the idea of a rather capable and deadly woman not being able to see and still hand you your ass.


I think that historical romance spy novels aren't really my thing after reading this, may give another a chance at some point, but not actively looking for it.

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review 2015-07-21 02:10
Mischief and Mistletoe - Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, et al (Zebra - Sept 2012)
Mischief and Mistletoe - Mary Jo Putney,Jo Beverley,Joanna Bourne,Patricia Rice,Nicola Cornick,Cara Elliott,Anne Gracie,Susan Fraser King

Christmastime in England - a time for passionate secrets, delicious whispers, and wicked-sweet gifts by the fire. From a spirited lady who sets out to save her rakish best friend from an unsuitable engagement, to a bold spy who gets the unexpected chance to win the woman he's always loved, to a vicar's daughter who pretends to be a saucy wench, these holiday tales will make you curl up in front of the fire for a memorable season of mischief and mistletoe.


Overall,  I enjoyed all the stories. Many of them I would have liked to see as full length books, or at least novellas.


She Stoops to Wenchdom - Mary Jo Putney


Lucy is the daughter of a vicar who has been in love with one of her father's former students since she was seventeen. She hadn't seen Gregory in five years, until she encountered him at a Christmas celebration. She was heartbroken when he didn't recognize her, and dismayed when he left right after dancing with her. Gregory was surprised to see what a beauty his old friend had grown into. He is drawn to her sweetness and innocence, but after five years at war he considers himself unworthy to pursue her. He has been unable to overcome some of the things he has seen and done, and has been hiding from his memories.


I really liked Lucy. Even suffering from her heartbreak, when she hears that Gregory spends his time drinking at the local tavern she's determined to go see him and try to get a kiss from him before she moves on. So she disguises herself as a barmaid to try to get closer to him. Gregory notices the attractive new girl, and steps in when she is accosted by a couple drunks. He find himself opening up to her about his experiences in the war, and is comforted by the things she tells him, gaining a new perspective on his ordeals. I liked seeing the way he took back his life after his talk with her. He wants to see her again, but she has disappeared.


I liked the ending of the story, as he finds his barmaid in a most unlikely place. His words are sweet as he shows her just what effect she had on him. He's now ready to think about a future with her.



Miss Brockhurst's Christmas Campaign - Jo Beverley


Pen is a young woman who has been engaged three times, but has broken them off each time, unable to go through with the marriages. After seeing her childhood friend Ross for the first time in years, she finally realized she'd always loved him, and that was why she couldn't settle on anyone else. When she and her mother are invited to spend Christmas with his family, she has hopes of making her dreams come true.


She's dismayed to discover upon arrival that there is another young woman who has her sights also set on Ross. As the visit progresses, she worries about Ross selecting this other girl, who seems so very wrong for him. She's determined to show Ross just how wrong.


I enjoyed seeing the descriptions of the various Christmas traditions that were celebrated. Each one was used to illustrate the differences between the two young ladies vying for Ross's attention. It was easy to agree with Pen's assertion that Cassandra wasn't the right one. She and her mother both seemed to be much more suited for a conservative household, than one that enjoyed even the pagan Christmas traditions. 


I loved seeing all of Pen's efforts. She knew what she wanted and she had no trouble going after it. The ending was very good and I liked getting Ross's side of things. It was great to see him make sure she understood his concerns. I loved the final bit on Twelfth Night.



Intrigue and Mistletoe - Joanna Bourne


Elinor is one of several people on a coach that is stranded by a snowstorm. They take refuge in an inn with other travelers caught in the storm. Another one of those travelers is Jack, a man she had known and loved two years earlier. She felt betrayed by him when she discovered he was a spy catcher who was after her uncle. 


Jack had asked her to wait a few days so he could tell her everything, but she disappeared instead. He has been looking for her ever since, and fears that she is somehow involved in his current case. He is on the trail of a spy who has a list of English contacts. He knows the person is at the inn, but not who it is.


Jack is determined to gain Elinor's forgiveness, and she is just as determined not to give it. She had risked her heart with him before and didn't want to do it again. But as they are forced into each other's company, Elinor discovers that her feelings for Jack haven't changed. She's still wary of trusting him, but her heart knows what it wants. I enjoyed their conversations as they got to know each other again. It was also interesting to see how they worked together to figure out who the spy was. I wasn't entirely surprised by the spy's identity, but the code used was intriguing. I enjoyed the confrontation between Elinor and the spy. While being a bit dangerous for Elinor, it was also pretty amusing to see what Elinor did. Jack's reaction was great, and I loved how his protectiveness came out.



Wench in Wonderland - Patricia Rice


Damaris has been the companion to her cousin for many years. Her uncle took her in when her parents died, and made her responsible for the care of Alice. He doesn't approve of the man that Alice has fallen in love with, and has betrothed her to a young nobleman, Mack Trevelyan, who needs her dowry. As Damaris and Alice are on their way to visit her fiance, Alice informs Damaris that she is eloping with the man she loves and asks Damaris to continue the journey alone to give her a chance to get away.


Nearing the end of the trip Damaris is caught in a blizzard, which causes an accident with the coach. Damaris is knocked unconscious, and when she awakes discovers that the family of Alice's fiance believes that she is Alice. The fiance is not at home at the time to clear up the confusion and Damaris is suffering some confusion due to her injuries. By the time she realizes what has happened she doesn't know quite how to fix it.


Mack's older brother Adam is a widower who has been in charge of the estate for many years. He has three children who run wild and he has no idea how to deal with them. He has hoped that his brother's fiancee would be willing to step in and help. 


I loved seeing the way that Damaris immediately took to the children. She was able to do things with them that no one else had done. I liked her common sense methods and that she was able to explain to Adam just what he should do. The kids were a lot of fun with their sweet natures but tendency to get into scrapes. She feels badly about her deception, and when it all comes out she feels she has no choice but to leave. It took Adam a little while to find her, and then he had to convince her that he really does want her. I loved the part the kids played in convincing him to go after her.



On a Wicked Winter's Night - Nicola Cornick


Johnny is a viscount who has inherited his uncle's estate in Wales. He has fond memories of it from when he was a child, and is determined to fix it up and live there. He's involved in a carriage accident when he arrives near the town, and is taken to the local inn for the night. There he finds Lydia, the girl he had loved when he was younger. She owns and runs the local inn and takes care of her young daughter.


Lydia had been good friends with Johnny when they were young, but never saw him as anything else. Instead she fell for a man who turned out to be less than honorable. She turned Johnny down when he proposed in order to take care of her, not wanting to ruin his life. Publicly ruined, she moved to Wales and passed herself off as a widow. She never expected to see Johnny again.


Johnny was surprised to see Lydia again, and realized that his feelings for her had never gone away. He still wants her and sees he as the woman he needs. I loved the way that he tried to show her that her past makes no difference to him and confesses his feelings for her. Lydia loves him too, but doesn't want her past to create problems for him. A near tragedy shows her what she would be giving up and she has to decide if love can overcome all her fears.



Weathering the Storm - Cara Elliott


Very fun story. Sophie Thirkell, daughter of a Boston merchant, is on her way to London to make a Christmas delivery to her father's estranged family. Lord Leete, British diplomat, is on the same ship, one belonging to Sophie's father, when it is damaged in a storm. The story opens as Leete is trying to make arrangements to get himself to London in time for a critical meeting and is running into obstacles, not the least of which is Sophie. 


These two have been striking sparks off each other for awhile. They met on several occasions in Boston with explosive results. Sophie thinks Leete is a stuck up stick in the mud, and he thinks she's a hellion. Sophie isn't one who thinks much of the rules that govern a woman's behavior and takes great pleasure in flaunting them. In their current situation, they discover that they have to work together if either has a hope of getting to London on time. 


I loved their interactions as each tends to poke at each other, but underneath can't really deny that there's something immensely appealing also. I loved seeing the way they cooperated throughout the hazards of their trip. There were some pretty funny moments, especially as Leete deals with being ordered around by Sophie. I really enjoyed seeing the effect that their adventures had on him, as his diplomatic stuffiness had to give way to the needs of some quick thinking. I loved seeing him admit that his attitude in Boston hadn't been disapproval, but the inability to think when he was around her. And Sophie had simply been trying to protect her heart from rejection. The scene at the end was pretty sweet. The only thing I would have liked to see, would be her arrival in London, and the reaction of her family.



The Mistletoe Bride - Anne Gracie


Ronan needs a wife if he's going to get the money from his inheritance. His great-aunt made it a condition of her will, and he isn't happy about it. He was married before, for five terrible years, before his wife left him and later died. He doesn't want to do it again, but if he wants to make the repairs to his estate, he'll have to do it. His lawyer suggests paying a woman to marry him would work, and if he marries one who's dying, it won't matter. He feels a bit guilty about that idea, but goes along with it.


Marguerite has come back to England from India after her father's death. She would have stayed there, but the climate made her ill. Her uncle in Scotland has agreed to take her in. On the way there, she meets a woman who is very ill. Peggy confesses that she's on the way to marry a man who needs a wife but doesn't want one. She's doing it to get the money to take care of her two little girls. Along the way, the woman passes away, after extracting a promise from Meg that she will take care of her girls.


When someone arrives at the coach stop to pick her up, Meg believes it is her uncle's people. Instead, it is Ronan's, and he believes she is his bride to be. Though she tries to explain the mix up, Ronan doesn't listen and marries her anyway. Meg intends to fulfill the contract, then go find Peggy's girls and raise them herself.


Neither one expects to develop feelings for the other. I liked seeing the two of them get to know each other. It was sweet to see how easily Meg fit in and how Ronan began to wish that she would stay. When Ronan finally learns the truth, he feels betrayed, thinking Meg is like his first wife. Though he stays angry for a few days, he soon starts to realize what he will miss if Meg leaves. I loved the end as he really listens to her reasons and realizes how much he cares. I loved what he did for Meg that showed her just how he felt. The epilogue was really sweet.



A Wilder Wench - Susan King


The story begins with a young Cristina and her little brother hiding from the tax men who are looking for her father who has been smuggling whiskey. She is discovered by a teenaged boy named Ned, who doesn't expose her. Eleven years later she is living with her vicar uncle, who is entertaining the local magistrate and the new sheriff, Viscount Dunallen. She overhears them talking about transferring the prisoner that they have, once the transfer papers arrive later that night.


She is determined to get those papers, because the prisoner they have is her brother, falsely accused of smuggling. She comes up with the idea of holding up the coach with the courier and stealing the papers, delaying the transfer until she can think of something else. An unwanted distraction is the fascination she has for the handsome viscount.


Dunallen has come to the area after inheriting from his grandfather. He doesn't plan to stay long, as he has a law practice in Edinburgh. He is a quiet man, preferring his history books and his job to the social life of his peers. He likes his life as it is, and doesn't plan to succumb to the matchmaking wiles of the local mothers and aunts. But he has to admit that there is something very appealing about the vicar's niece. They seem to have much in common, with their love of history and Sir Walter Scott's writings.


Cristina's plans to stop the coach don't go quite as planned. I loved seeing her politeness as she attempts to get the courier to turn over the papers. When Dunallen comes upon her, she flees, trying to get away before he can recognize her. Naturally, he catches her, and the truth comes out. I loved the parts with the pies and the dogs, and also what the papers were that she had taken. As they talk, Dunallen realizes that Cristina is the same girl he protected all those years ago. I loved the twist at the end that involved one of his grandfather's letters and her father.

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text 2015-07-17 05:15
The Spymaster's Lady - Joanna Bourne

First chapter and we already know the villain is not only the type to rape a female prisoner as a form of torture, but does so because he likes it. And likes having an audience (of both other chained up prisoners in the same cell as well as the guards) while doing so.



Yes, I get it.  Rape is honestly generally a very effective way of breaking someone, particularly a lone female (who's kept in the same cell as a bunch of men?) who you know has state secrets.  But something about how the passage was written just... meh


Hopefully the book improves rapidly or i'm lemming it.  Haven't been the happiest with this bookclub's picks lately, hoping those improve as well, though watching their discussion videos are pretty hilarious.


Also, I'm pretty sure that the man on the book cover has a second six pack instead of pectorals.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-04-16 09:03
The Spymaster's Lady - Joanna Bourne

DNF at 53%. And that means something, I am less picky and critical when it comes to HR than any other genre, because, well, HR is my guilty pleasure and I enjoy just being able to turn my mind off and just enjoy a book. So it takes a lot, and I do mean a lot, to make me dislike an HR book.

The book starts out on a strong start. Annique Villiers is a French spy, she’s tough, she’s smart, she kicks ass…or at least she does in the beginning of the book.

When she is locked into a cell with the British spy Robert Grey and his accomplice, she single handedly rescues both of them from certain death and helps them to freedom. Grey shows his gratitude by betraying her, abducting her, treating her with a complete lack of respect, and practically sexually assaulting her.

I found Grey’s character unredeemable and just couldn’t understand why Annique kept saving his stupid ass and how she could actually like him.

For example the ‘hero’ drugs her with opium (for a couple of days) and when she comes on to him in her drugged out of her mind state he takes advantage of her and has an honest to God conversation with his accomplice (who’s life Annique saved twice) about how he should just go ahead and screw her because she obviously ‘wants it’. What the fuck!

After she has saved all of their lives!!! (for unfathomable reasons)

I suppose this would not have bothered me so much had Annique not fallen in love with Grey, very early on in the story when he had not done one fucking thing that should have redeemed him in her eyes. Let’s see: he broke his promise to her, abducted her, placed her in mortal danger, kept insisting that he knew better how to keep her safe and what’s best for her, drugged her for days, took advantage of her more than once, and treated like a whore and without an ounce of respect.

But what finally made this book land on my DNF pile was Annique. We learn that she is this super tough, smart master spy, so one could assume, that she knows how to actually be a fucking spy. But she just happily blabbers on and on to a stranger, practically telling him that she is a French spy. As a fucking master spy shouldn’t she know to keep her big mouth shut? She doesn’t know who that stranger is, he could be an enemy spy for all that she knows (he is), and she just blithely told him who is trying to kill her. Another spy would recognize the name and know that she is a French agent (the enemy!!!) with very important information.

“I would most certainly be dead if you had not happened by. Leblanc must kill me, you see, to shut my mouth, as I know certain discreditable facts about him. Leblanc is the one I put my knife into.

Good God! Why not just tell the fucking stranger that you hold REALLY IMPORTANT MAJOR SECRETS THAT POWERFUL PEOPLE WILL KILL FOR!!!

What the hell where they thinking, everybody who went about praising her to the skies and calling her a master agent? She let herself get backed into an alley. She’d done major injury to one man, hadn’t followed in for the kill, then just about missed Leblanc altogether.

Really, I hate to agree with Grey on anything, but I keep wondering the same thing.

But this book just takes everything we know about Annique from the beginning of the book and takes am major dump on it.

“Monsieur…No. I will break myself of the habit of speaking French in a day or two.

In a day or two? She is a fucking spy, she is fluent in multiple languages and has already proven that she can switch to another language and speak that one fluently without reverting back to French. But apparently this ‘master spy’ has to break her habit of speaking her native tongue 'in a day or two'. She didn’t have to do this last time, she just switched to German on a seconds notice (after being drugged for days) and did not fall back onto her native language then.

But whatever. Master spy my ass.

And that’s where I gave up, I refuse to believe that she became a ‘master spy’ with that huge mouth she can’t control.

The writing was not very good either. They speak French in the beginning of the book, which is translated into English. But it does not make sense that the dialogues would be translated word for word as they would have been spoken in French. That is not how translations work. A translation should translate the words into the same standard as the original language. But it tries to sound ‘more French’ or something, instead it just manages to sound like bad English.

“I do not feel talkative. It is the being kidnapped, you comprehend.”

It doesn’t matter how it would have been formulated in French, as it is an English translation, it just makes the language sound unauthentic.

And then the book keeps mixing in actual French words in the dialogue that is already in French.

“You are a man of the most remarkable cold blood, Monsieur Doyle. Mon Dieu, but your reputation is fully deserved.”

The reader has been told multiple times that they are speaking French, so why the occasional French words interspaced in the translated English? It makes no sense, pick one and stick with it, this changing back and forth was really annoying. And this happens so often, the same with the German.

“Do not be sick upon the lieutenant, Liebling.”

And by the way a brother would not call his sister ‘Liebling’ (at least I hope not..).

The world descriptions are also sadly lacking, there is so much imagery that this book could have used, to describe the settings, the landscapes, and the scenery (as they travel from France to England).

He had no strength to waste, so she did not argue when he told her he would do this thing or that. She just ignored him and did them herself.

It was not easy in her darkness to do those things needed to make camp

Things???? Really? That is very lazy writing.

Sadly the rest of the writing isn’t any better.

Why this wood is completely full to the brim with dead bodies everywhere

‘completely full’ means it is already full, ‘to the brim’ is redundant.

I was very disappointed by this book, it took off to such a great start but just went rapidly downhill from there.

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