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review 2015-03-19 16:14
Cheesy, Campy Catnip!!!
The Pirate's Secret Baby - Darlene Marshall

This is the second time one of Darlene Marshall's pirate-themed historicals have languished in my TBR, untouched, for such a long time, and when I finally get around to reading it, I've thought, "This is awesome! Why did I wait so long?!" Don't be fooled by the campy titles and cheezy covers: these books are really good. Yes, they're campy -- by design. Darlene Marshall knows and exploits all of the tropes of her genre -- this story has a secret baby (now a winsome eight-year-old plot moppet), a straight-laced plain jane governess, a cocksure pirate captain who is secretly an English lord -- but while you've probably read all this before, you've never read it the way Marshall does it: frothy and fun, yes, but also smart and surprising and very, very well-written.


If, like me, you have one or two of these books buried in your TBR, languishing because you can't remember what you were thinking when you added something so cheesy to your cart, do yourself a favor and give it a try. You won't be sorry.

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review 2015-02-09 21:12
Hmm, How Many Tropes Can We Fit in One Crazy-Sauce Romp?
I Married the Duke - Katharine Ashe

I really need to get better about writing reviews as soon as I finish a book, but I've been crazy busy lately. If I wait, I'm left with only vague impressions, no matter how many quotes I highlight or notes I make as I read.


I Married the Duke was my first book by Katherine Ashe, and I will read on in the series because I liked this fairly well even though I've been kind of "meh" on the whole historical romance subgenre lately. I also liked it despite the fact that the hero was actively misrepresenting his identity to the heroine for the first half of the book, and since dishonesty is a major turn off for me, the fact that I like this as well as I did speaks well of Ms. Ashe's skill as a writer.


The funniest thing about this book is that it hits so many of the tropes of historical romance, it's almost as if someone dared Katharine Ashe to write a book with as many stereotypical tropes as she could manage. Gypsy fortuneteller? Check. Penniless orphans? Check. Scarred hero? Check. Love affair between a lord and a governess? Yup. Mistaken identity? Marriage of Convenience? Big Misunderstanding? Sudden Blindness? Check, check, check, and check.


The plot was very, very complicated. I was able to follow it, but I think a lot of the layers and plot twists were only necessary to continue the hero's deception about his identity, which (as I've said) I could have done without.


Anabella is the middle child in a trio of sisters orphaned as children. They know very little of their past, except that it involved a shipwreck, and they have a very expensive ruby ring which a gypsy told them holds the key to learning their roots. That same gypsy foretold that one of the sisters would marry a prince, so Anabella has made that her life's ambition.


Fast forward a few decades; the girls have grown up and are in service. Anabella is on her way to France to be a finishing governess for a princess; she hopes to meet and marry the princess's brother, the prince, to fulfill the prophecy. Unfortunately, through a series of unfortunate events, she misses the ship that is supposed to take her to France and ends up hitching a ride with the hero, Luc, instead. Luc is a former naval captain with a Tortured Past who retired because he's in line to become a Duke when his uncle passes on, and he can't risk being killed in action (though he's still sailing, obviously).


During the story, Luc's uncle dies, but Luc's ascendency to the title is uncertain because the uncle's wife is preggers, and if she has a boy, the child will inherit. The wife is the sister of the story's bad guy, a priest who molested Luc and his brother when they were kids.


When Luc takes Anabella to France, he doesn't tell her who he is, even though her destination is (through one of the crazy coincidences that would never work outside of Romancelandia) a castle he owns, and the home of his brother.


During their journey, Luc finds himself in Mortal Peril and marries Anabella because he might be a Duke and she might be carrying his heir... and, oh, yeah, also because he might possibly be in love with her just a little bit. Then he dies, but not really, and Anabella is heartbroken, but maybe she'll get to marry the prince after all, so there's always a bright side. 


Yeah, this is the sort of crazy sauce plot you can't really explain... but I liked it anyway. I Married a Duke hits enough familiar tropes that most readers of historical romance will find something about it appealing -- catnippy, if you will -- but it can come across as chaotic and crazy, which isn't to everyone's taste.

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review 2014-10-21 15:27
Extremely Appealing Working-Class Heroine Helps Pull Me Out of Historical Romance Slump
Rules for a Proper Governess - Jennifer Ashley

I have been struggling to get into historical romance, lately, which has left me feeling adrift because historicals were my introduction to the romance genre, and a lot of my favorite, auto-buy authors (including Jennifer Ashley) write historicals. But even the last few Jennifer Ashley books I've read have been disappointing, so it was nice to pick up and thoroughly enjoy Rules for a Proper Governess.


Sinclair McBride is a barrister who prosecutes crimes in the London courts. Bertie (Roberta) is a daughter of a petty criminal from the East End. When one of her friends is accused of a murder she didn't commit, Bertie expects McBride to put his considerable legal skills to work crucifying her friend--that's his job, after all--but instead he tricks the main prosecution witness into all-but-confessing to the crime on the stand. Bertie is thrilled, until her father and fiance (one of her father's associates), force her to pick McBride's pockets. To her surprise, McBride gives chase. When he catches her, he convinces her to return his stolen pocketwatch (a treasured gift from his late wife) in exchange for freely-given coin.


Yes, you have to willingly suspend your disbelief a little bit to accept that a prosecutor would give a pickpocket money rather than clapping her in irons, much less that he'd hire that same uneducated, unpolished, Cockney-accented guttersnipe as a governess to his children, but if you can make that leap, it's a fun story and an unusually compelling romance.


I really, really enjoyed Bertie. She is so unflinchingly honest and self-possessed. Compared to the carefully calculated manners and behavior of so many of the husband-hunting ladies populating historical romance (who tend to be spunky or perky, sure, but only so far as propriety permits), Bertie is refreshingly relaxed. She is smart and savvy and strong -- she fights her own battles (literally), but also owns her flaws. She knows she's woefully unequipped for the job of educating McBride's children, so she sets out to read his entire library. She goes after what she wants--she's the one who initiates the first kiss with McBride, for example--but though she wants McBride, she doesn't need him. She doesn't expect McBride to marry her--(which is actually often a problem for me: I tend not to like historical romances where the lady takes the enormous risks to her reputation and possible pregnancy by becoming intimate with the hero, before he commits himself to the relationship--I think I was willing to forgive it here because 1) Bertie's reputation wasn't so pure it needed to be so well protected, 2) McBride's feelings for her were clear from the beginning, even before he spoke them out loud to Bertie, and 3) you know if anything did go wrong in the relationship, Bertie is strong and smart enough to look after herself)--but she loves him and doesn't play games with herself or with him about her feelings and her determination to experience and enjoy their relationship for as long as it lasts. 


Bertie also has a mindfulness that is very appealing, both to McBride and to the reader. McBride has gone numb, still in mourning over the death of his wife, overwhelmed by work and by the emotional needs of his unruly children, whom he loves but can't connect with. By contrast, Bertie feels everything, notices everything, appreciates everything. She loves McBride, loves the children, loves the books she reads, loves the fine soaps they use in the McBride house, loves the fine engineering of the train that takes her out of London for the first time. McBride shows her the world, but in exchange, she shows him how to see and appreciate it, how to be present in the world in a way he has not been since losing his wife.


The plot moves right along and there's plenty of stuff that would make a stickler for historical verisimilitude purse her lips in dismay (I am not such a stickler, except when it comes to grammar), and if you're one of those people who hates plot moppets (cute but unrealistic child characters who do little to advance the plot), this is not the book for you, but I really enjoyed it.


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review 2011-07-06 00:00
Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess - Christine Merrill This review is also published at http://thebookaholiccat.com

Daphne Collingham suspects fault play in her favorite cousin’s death, she thinks Clare’s husband is responsible for her dismissal. Daphne feels the need to find out the truth and bring the responsible to the courts of law.
Daphne is living as her cousin thought her to, trying to enjoy life as much as possible without thinking much about the consequences of her actions. Thanks to this she is found in a compromising situation. Her family decides to send her away from London for sometime until the scandal in which she was involved dies down. During her trip to the country Daphne meets with a governess bound to the Colton residence. Mrs. Collins is the new governess for Clare’s children. Daphne sees this as an opportunity to infiltrates the Colton’s household and decides to buy off Mrs. Collins and pose as the new governess. The only problem is that she has never been a good student, she is really bad for math and languages and doesn’t like children.
Lord Colton is not what Daphne was expecting, her cousin always describe him as a despicable man and in reality he could be anything but that. She is also caring for the children a lot more than what she ever thought possible.
Now more than ever she needs to find out the truth, not just for her but also for the wellbeing of the family.

Lord Colton is a torture hero, he was not just cheated and deceived countless times by his deceased wife but also received many public humiliations from her. Now he feels guilty because of the circumstances of her death and feels he doesn’t deserve anything good or positive in his life.

On the beginning Daphne is as a selfish and immature girl, but with the passing of times and the experiences she is living she grows and matures becoming a caring and a more real woman.

Lord Colton and Daphne’s chemistry was perceivable since their first meeting and evolved page after page. Their relationship felt real and was well developed, even though there were some things as their first “close encounter” that I found a little bit unrealistic and a bit shameful as Daphne first experience.

I loved the kids, they are caring and protecting of each other and of their family in general. But what I liked the most is that they behave as kids do. They felt real and it was very easy to begin to care for them.

My final thought: Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess was an entertaining historical romance with a gothic touch, a plot with some twists and turns and a nice romance to add-on to the story. The characters are developed really well; the setting is an interesting one and the transformation they characters experienced was plausible and feasible.
Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess by Christine Merrill was my first book by this author and I’m sure it won’t be my last.
I recommend this book to all historical romance readers.
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review 2011-06-27 00:00
Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess - Christine Merrill Daphne is convinced there is more to her cousin Clare's death than meets the eye. In fact, Daphne is certain that Clare's husband Timothy is to blame. So in order to find the truth, Daphne poses as a governess for Clare's children. The plan is simple: ingratiate herself into the household and expose Timothy as a murderer.

She never expects to care for the children. And certainly, she could never anticipate the undeniable attraction between Tim and herself. Yet, she finds herself falling in love with the entire family. With her changing feelings, she starts questioning whether Tim is really a man who could commit murder... and she realizes her cousin may not have been the woman she thought she knew.

I enjoyed this book. It had a kind of gothic, Jane Eyre feel to it. I know some people are put off by such a similarity, but it worked for me. There was solid sexual tension, steamy love scenes and some delicious angst from our brooding hero. All good things, as far as I'm concerned.

It wasn't perfect. It's kind of hard to like Daphne at first. She's pretty self-absorbed and callous about the children.... though that changes over the course of the book. And I was a little taken aback by the manner in which she lost her virginity. I won't get into specifics, but it's not exactly gentle and there was no acknowledgement that such a thing may not be all sunshine and roses for an innocent. But, in the grand scheme of things, I wasn't bothered all that much. It was sexy, dark and satisfying. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley
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