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review 2017-11-09 11:53
If you love Austen, Regency-period novels, and bad boys, you must read this
Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen's Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues - Joana Starnes,Amy D'Orazio,Katie Oliver,Karen M Cox,Jenetta James,Beau North,J. Marie Croft,Christina Morland,Lona Manning,Brooke West

Thanks to Rosie Amber from Rosie’s Book Review Team for alerting me to this opportunity and to the editor Christina Boyd for providing me with an early ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

After reading many great reviews of The Darcy Monologues, when I had the opportunity to sign up for this blog tour I could not resist. My fondness for Jane Austen’s novels cannot compare to that of the authors of this anthology, but rest assure that you don’t need to have read several times all of Austen’s novels to enjoy this collection (although I don’t doubt you might enjoy it even more if you have).

Each story centers on one of the rakes or gentlemen rogues in one of Jane Austen’s novels (sometimes several from the same novel). As the editor explains in her note, after The Darcy Monologues she and some of the authors started looking for another project and noticed that there are many characters that are fundamental to Austen’s novels, but we don’t get to know much about, and on many occasions we are left wondering how they got to be how they are, and what happens to them later. All the stories retain the historical period of the novels, sometimes going back to give us information about the background of the characters, to their childhood, early youth, and on occasion we follow them for many years, getting a good sense of who they become when they exit the novel.

Each one of the stories is prefaced by a little snippet about the character chosen, and by one or several quotations (sometimes spread throughout the story) taken directly from Austen’s novel, where the character is mentioned. I must say the authors remain very faithful to Austen’s words although they use their imagination to build upon those snippets, always remaining faithful to the language and the spirit of the period, although the modern sensibility is evident in the stories.

We have stories with happy endings, stories that are dark and sad, stories of broken hearts, funny stories (sometimes thanks to the wit of the characters involved, others thanks to the wit of the writers who follow in Austen’s footsteps and poke fun at the most preposterous individuals), and some touching ones. There are very clean stories and some steamier ones (as it seems only appropriate to these “gentlemen”), but the editor includes a very detailed classification of the degree of heat of each one of the stories, and apart from one of the stories A Wicked Game, the rest are not scandalous (even by Regency standards).

Many of the stories are told in the first person, and that helps us share and understand better the characters (however much we might like them or not), but the few told in the third person also work well, especially as they tend to centre on characters that are perhaps particularly insightless and more preoccupied with appearances than by the truth.

I imagine each reader will have his or her favourite stories. I was a bit surprised because I thought I’d enjoy more the stories featuring characters of the novels I was more familiar with, but that was not always the case. (OK, I truly loved Fitzwilliam’s Folly about Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice, but not only because of the novel, but because the character is wonderful, witty, yes, Darcy makes an appearance so we get to see him from somebody else’s point of view and someone who knows him well at that, and I loved the female character in the story too). Some writers managed to create a sense of a small society, as it must have felt at the time, where characters from several novels kept meeting or just missing each other but are all connected or know of each other. I know this was a book about the gentlemen, but I was very taken by some of the female characters, that on many occasions were the perfect match for the men.

If you are curious to know which of the characters are featured, here is the list: John Willoughby (Willoughby’s Crossroads by Joanna Starnes), George Wickham (A Wicked Game by Katie Oliver. This is the hottest one and there are some similarities to the previous story but, if you’re a fan of the character, I think you’ll enjoy this one), Colonel Fitzwilliam (Fitzwilliam’s Folly by Beau North. I’ve already mentioned this one. I love Calliope Campbell too. Well, love everything about this story and the style and the repartee reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s plays), Thomas Bertram (The Address of a French Woman by Lona Manning. How blind can one be, or perhaps not!), Henry Crawford (Last Letter to Mansfield by Brooke West), Frank Churchill (An Honest Man by Karen M Cox. One of these characters enamoured of himself who tries to do the right thing but only if it is convenient and at little personal cost. I suffered for poor Miss Fairfax), Sir Walter Elliot (One Fair Claim by Christina Morland. This is one of the stories told in the third person that do follow the character for a long time. The song “You’re So Vain” might as well have been written about him. I really enjoyed this one, first because the comments about the character were funny, later, because the tone changes and I liked his wife, who, of course, loves to read), William Elliot (The Lost Chapter in the Life of William Elliot by Jenetta James. This somewhat related to the previous story but is quite different and particularly interesting for the comments about life in the theatre), General Tilney (As Much As He Can by Sophia Rose. This story, that uses both third and first person, I found particularly touching. Appearances can be deceptive, indeed), John Thorpe (The Art of Sinking by J. Marie Croft. This is a farce, the character a buffoon and the story really funny, especially because the character is the butt of all jokes but remains full of his own importance), and Captain Frederick Tilney (For Mischief’s Sake by Amy D’Orazio. Another great story. The main character justifies his actions insisting that he is helping other men avoid mistakes, but eventually learns to see things from a female perspective. A great female character too, Miss Gibbs).

I highlighted many passages and lines, but I don’t want to make this a never-ending review. I’ll just say the language is perfectly in keeping with the period and the stories and I’ll be exploring the books of all these writers. (There is information included about each one of them after their respective stories).

I did not cry with any of the stories (although some were quite touching), but I did laugh out loud with quite a few. I recommend this book to readers of historical romance and romance of any kind, those who enjoy short-stories with fully-fledged character, and I’m sure anybody interested in Regency novels and Jane Austen’s, in particular, will love this book.

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review 2017-11-07 21:35
Review for Third Son's a Charm (The Survivors #1) by Shana Galen
Third Son's a Charm (The Survivors) - Shana Galen

This story has the best love declaration I have ever read! It had me having all the feels, specially for Ewan, the most alluring non-Viking Viking I've read. 
Lorrie is a young, passionate, spirited woman that has gone as far as try to elope because her parents won’t allow her to marry the man she loves. Seeing how his daughter will not be dissuaded from marrying the wrong man, her father hires Ewan Mostyn, the third son of an earl and an ex-soldier that’s mostly known for knocking heads together at a gambling club than for appearing at a dance ball. 
Ewan is a taciturn man, rejected by his father because he considers him an unworthy son, and judged by society because he is considered nothing more than a brute. Ever since he was a child, he was told he was stupid due to a learning disability and it wasn’t until he joined the army and later some sort of “suicide unit” that he finally felt he belonged somewhere. I fell in love with his honesty and quiet way of communicating. He had this genuine way about him that made him both charming and alluring in a very unique, gentle way. The author made a fabulous job conveying his emotions because to me they all felt real and relatable. 

People tend to forget that historicals include debutants and most heroines are barely of age when they are thrown into the marriage market. Lorrie is young so yeah, she’s going to act recklessly at times, but in my opinion she was not stupid but naïve. She was also determined, curious, and true to herself. She was capable of seeing in Ewan what he was not able to see in himself and that in turn gave him the strength to fight for what he wanted. If that’s not a worthy heroine then I don’t know what is. 

We get a secondary love story between Lorrie’s parents that I would have loved to see more of but at least it gave me more of an insight of why Lorrie and Ewan’s closeness was allowed. Oh, and let's not forget the other Saviors! There was such a brotherly banter and comradery among them that my heart melted a little bit every time I got to read about them. I was a little off put with something towards the end but other than this was a great book and a great start to a new series. 

** I was gifted a copy of this book and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.**
 

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review 2017-11-07 01:15
Political drama
A Lady's Code of Misconduct - Meredith Duran

First off, I just want to say, I could weep for how well written this was. I didn't catch a connection to other books in this series but if you read Duke of Shadows, two names (Duke of Auburn and Lockwood) are going to be familiar to you. The story structure, characters, and how Duran interweaved them all together was just plain great story telling. Why I ended up giving this three stars (solidly liked it) is all due to just personal taste. 

And so, in the very act of communicating an opinion, she had committed the egregious offense of insisting on her humanity. 

Again, why I read romance typically written by women and for women, are the underlining tones of women's personhood and how they have fought for it over the years. With the laws in place during the 1860s, our heroine Jane has no autonomy and has her life and money controlled by her uncle after her parents die. The author doesn't shy away from how crappy women had it and forces the reader to understand what those laws financially and emotionally do to women. Reading women’s pain, anger, and triumphs never fails to hit me in the gut and heart.

Where had this woman come from? Her voice was made of steel and her dignity, unbreakable. 

I'm glad I wait until December to do my yearly romance awards because Jane is going to be on my best heroines list with bells on. Her character gets 5 stars for me. From the way she had to survive under her uncle, to deciding she couldn't do it anymore, and how she owned her decisions. She is a bleeding heart liberal who gets knocked sideways by realities a bit but instead of shunning knowledge or being too embarrassed to acknowledge when she is wrong, she takes her licks and keeps on. Her courage was magnificent.

"You've been having a good deal of fun," he said slowly, "haven't you? Convincing the world that you're a mouse." 

I loved the beginning of the book before Crispin gets his amnesia. I loved his dark villainy to Jane's avenging angel. You could see where he starts to notice her (my favorite romance moment, when the hero "sees" the heroine in a way no one else does) and through this, the reader gets a deeper glimpse into his character and how he may have some shades of grey.

A squeak came from her. She had made that noise. His lips felt hot. He spoke against her skin.
"Your hair," he said, "is a glory. Promise me you will never pin it up again." 
The brush of his mouth sent static sparks along her skin. She felt flushed, shivering, light-headed. "I don't…it would be a scandal."
He turned her wrist ever so slightly, finding her pulse with his tongue. Her breath caught. She heard him breathe in deeply.
"Then unpin it just for me," he whispered.
 


The reason this got a three star rating from me was because I didn't fully connect with the hero Crispin and the romance between the two. I loved Crispin pre-amnesia and was settled in for some great sparking battles between him and Jane. When his amnesia reverts his personality back to before perceived betrayals (which kind of confused me, didn't all the betrayals happen before the 5 yrs he couldn't remember? Wouldn't the bitterness still be there for him? Felt kind of odd that he would only develop the bitterness the last couple years) and he lacks the dark bitterness that turned him distrustful and produced his self-isolation. It felt too easy; I wanted the journey and the work more. Since it wasn't "my" Crispin, I didn't feel the romance the way I think I should have between him and Jane. 

But the newspapers craft their headlines to sell papers, not facts. If crime has gone up in London, it has not gone up to such an extent that we should repeat the mistakes of the past. 

****
It would be difficult, after working alongside the poor, to forgot them in the halls of power. Impossible, too, to think of politics as a game, rather than the machinery through which real lives could be saved or squandered. 

Along with Jane’s character, I loved the political tone in this. The subtle jabbing Duran directs towards certain thoughts and ideologies. The pointed reminders of what the point of it all should be and the recriminations of how some people in power can shape and mold opinions and laws toward their benefit. There is a lot of political talk in this one, but in my opinion, the story only flourished from it. 

He had never realized how much could be communicated through touch, how much trust and warmth could travel through a hand simply laid over one's arm. 

Even though the hero and the romance didn't grab me the way other Duran couples have, there was no lack of her beautifully emotional lines. 

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review 2017-11-04 19:07
Historical Romance
The Wicked Earls Club: Regency Romance (... The Wicked Earls Club: Regency Romance (The Wicked Earls' Club) - Tammy Andresen,Maggie Dallen,Wicked Earls' Club

The Wicked Earls' Club by Tammy Andresen and Maggie Dallen is a wicked tease.  These ladies have created an amazing tease to what will be a new series.  The Wicked Earls' Club gives us an idea how the club came about and what it turns into and tips us off that the Earl of Coventry is a bit of a matchmaker.  The first of the 12 books of this series will be The Earl Of Sussex.  Luke and Tabitha's story, but you only get a tease.  Yes, this is a dreaded cliff-hanger.  At the same time, it's a peek at a book we'll surely want to watch for.  I can't wait to read The Earl Of Sussex.

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review 2017-11-04 03:13
Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh
Someone to Wed (A Westcott Novel) - Mary Balogh

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.

Wren has hidden herself away from the world but without her aunt and uncle, she has grown lonely. Deciding that her inheritance should be good for something, she decides to buy herself a husband. 
Alexander was happy in his life but now finding himself an earl of an impoverished estate, his life has been turned upside down. 
What starts off as a business proposition could end up being a fairy tale. 

"I am twenty-nine years old, very nearly thirty, and I would like…someone to wed." 

Third in the Wescott series we come to Alexander's story. The previous two books set the storyline of the previous Earl of Riverdale dying and exposing that his second marriage was bigamist. His three children are declared bastards while a daughter from the first marriage is found in an orphanage and suddenly legitimate. I did not read the previous two books and appreciated how Balogh smoothly and organically explained how Alexander became the Earl. Balogh relayed important information and characters but didn't info dump and in fact integrated all those previous characters into this story, creating a believable and familial world. You could feasibly start the series here. 

Her instinct was to hide behind veils within veils, and she had done it for so long that she did not know how to cast those veils aside. 

The star of this story and where most of the heavy emotional lifting comes from is our heroine Wren. She was born with a large birthmark covering half of her face and a mother who puts vanity above all else. When she is ten, her aunt takes her from her home and eventually she and her husband adopt Wren. Unfortunately, those important formative years with her cruel mother keep Wren from having any self-worth. Wren always wears a veil to cover her face unless around her aunt and uncle. When they die she becomes incredibly lonely and decides to buy a husband. Her new neighbor, the Earl of Riverdale, is third on her list for potential husbands but he may be just too good looking. 

You'll feel awful for Wren as she uses an ice queen persona to keep her pain and self shielded. Balogh masterfully created a perfect hero for Wren in Alexander. He perfectly complements the situation by being wary of the heroine's pain but also acknowledges it; there are no quick simple solutions in this story. This wasn't even a slow burn but a slow thawing; you'll need to wait until around the half-way mark before our couple starts to really get moving. 

I appreciated this building and forming of their relationship but I also thought the second half dragged on a bit. This is definitely not a "modern" historical, characters and mannerisms stay true to the time period, emotions and actions are a bit more constrained. While the larger cast of characters helped create a full world, it also stole away from my lead's romance more than I would have liked, the story had a tendency to slowly meander. 

Alexander's sister and mother and how they engaged and tried to understand Wren brought such a wonderful warmth to the story; I love when women characters kindly engage with each other. Alexander and Wren were such intelligent characters but I did think Wren’s internal declaration of love felt a bit quick as I don't think the "special" connection with Alexander had been quite made yet, he was the first and only man to show her attention in her life. 

A little slow and meandering towards the end but Wren will have you emotional and incredibly happy that she found the handsome Alexander. 

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