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review 2018-12-08 04:20
Reading progress update: I've read 7%. And I can't read any more
Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Victorian Historical Romance - Tammy Andresen

(Prior reports linked at the end.)


I really tried.  I kept telling myself there would be a story, a romance, that I could read and review.  Somehow I would be able to set aside the problems and read the book.  But it's not going to happen.


Piper and her mother are set upon by thieves/kidnappers, but they are rescued by our caped hero, who turns out to be the Barrett Maddox, 6th Duke of Manchester.  What he's doing in Boston we don't know yet.


He rescues Piper, almost kisses her, then discovers she is with her mother.  He suggests/invites them to join him sailing to New York.


Here's where things about the writing just got really, really bad.


First, we don't know what an English Duke is doing in Boston.  Dukes have responsibilities that they can't just up and leave for extended periods of time.


Second, we learn that Piper's mother used to be "Lady Carolyn Vesser," but not how that title applied to her.  Is she an earl's daughter?  Why would she have left England and married an American in the 1830s?


Third, the original implication is that the duke is sailing on the same ship, the Maria, as Piper and her mother.  When Piper asks him where he is taking them,


“To the Maria.” He paused as his eyes drank her in again. “Although it’s an awful ship. I am travelling to New York as well, and you could both travel with me. You would, most assuredly, be safer.”

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 9). Kindle Edition.


A few pages later, however, we learn that he has led them -- distance not described -- to his own "boat."


“Lady Vesser, why don’t I send a note to the Maria that you will be travelling with us tonight? My boat is right here and I am sure you will be more comfortable.”

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 10). Kindle Edition.


Fourth, there are a couple references to Piper's cleavage.  She tries to cover it and Maddox's eyes travel to it.  I'm just not comfortable thinking that a well-bred young woman traveling from Boston to New York in 1854 would be wearing something that bares her bosom.  Even though it's May, the weather in the evening might be cool, and it almost certainly will be once they're at sea, so shouldn't she have some kind of cloak or cape or other covering?


Fifth, there is the matter of their luggage.  These two women are essentially moving to New York, so they have trunks.  TRUNKS.  Only one apiece?  Or more?  Oh, who knows?  The author isn't specific, and she just has the driver of the carriage pick up both trunks and carry them to the bottom of the gangplank to Maddox's "boat." 


Sixth, we get this nonsense about peerage titles, something that drives me up the ever-loving wall.


Piper and her mother are going to New York to visit (or live with?) Piper's cousin Sybil, who has already been referred to as "Lady Fairfield."


But now, in the company of the duke, Mrs. Baker says:


". . . Piper, I was girlhood friends with Mr. Maddox’s mother, Lady Priscilla Fairfield Maddox. Now the Duchess, of course."

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (pp. 11-12). Kindle Edition.


I thought I had misread something, but later on that same page, Piper replies to a question about having family in England:


“Yes, of course,” she replied. “Actually my cousin, Lady Sybil Fairfield, Viscountess of Abberforth, is waiting for us in New York.”

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 12). Kindle Edition.


The same family name????  And a viscount is never "of" something.  Viscount Abberforth would be the correct form.


Okay, that's bad enough.  But how is Sybil a viscountess?  She's already been described as being in desperate need of a husband, so we know she's not married to the viscount.  If she's the daughter of the viscount Abberforth, we know he's dead because that's already been established, too.


Her cousin, Sybil, also needed to marry but had yet to choose a suitor. A sigh escaped her lips to think of her cousin. Beautiful and titled, she supposed most women would be jealous of Sybil, but Piper knew the truth. After the death of her parents, Sybil felt weighed down with responsibility. She was having difficulty running the estate.

Andresen, Tammy. Taming A Duke's Reckless Heart: Taming the Duke's Heart (Taming the Heart Book 1) (p. 2). Kindle Edition.


If her father the viscount died without a male heir, the title would have gone to another male such as a nephew.  In the absence of a direct male heir, the title would have gone in abeyance or reverted to the crown.  The idea of Sybil, a young woman in America, being given a title in her own right is utterly implausible. 


And what is this business of running an estate?  In New York?  Rural New York, perhaps, but the implication is New York City, since Piper is counting on Sybil's ability to introduce her to New York society.


Furthermore, while Mrs. Baker may have given up her own title when she married an American, she would not not NOT have referred to His Grace the Duke of Manchester as "Mr. Maddox." Never, never, never.  If there is an explanation for this, it needs to come at the spot the event happens, not more pages into the book.


Once again, the point is to make the pages disappear so the reader is lost in the story, not wondering why there are all these unexplained anomalies.


Eighth -- the overall effect.


The pacing is completely off.  The opening scene does nothing to set the plot in motion; all it really does is raise questions.  When Piper and her mother go to the docks to board their ship, there's still not enough explanation.  And there's no description at all!  I don't know what Piper looks like.  I don't know what kind of night it is.  Warm?  Breezy?  How does the air smell in the harbor area?  We get some of Piper's reactions to being touched by the duke, but it's kind of silly description.  Her heart is pounding.  Something happens to her nerves.  It's beyond clichéd.


This is one of those books that might have a decent romance plot buried in the garbage, but it desperately needs competent editing.  It needs to be fleshed out with good description, reasonable background development, and for the love of Queen Victoria, some historical research!


DNF, because I refuse to waste any more time on this piece of crap.












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text 2018-07-07 02:24
A wrap-up on a bad book
Breaking the Rules - Kitty Wilson

Because I screwed up my log-in on the library's digital site, Chapter Nine of this dumb book opened up this afternoon when I tried to read something else.  It was like a train wreck that I couldn't pull my eyes way from.


I guess what bothered me the most about this book was how it upended my trust in readers.  As of today, it has another review, 4-stars, and the consensus seems to be that it's a light, fun summer read, nothing heavy, nothing that would require the reader to actually think.


But reading requires the reader to think, doesn't it?  I mean, isn't that the point of reading?  You look at the little symbols called letters that make up the words and the sentences and the paragraphs, and you turn that into something inside your mind so you can "see" what's going on.  Unlike television or movies, where all the action and all the voices and all the sights are put in front of you for passive enjoyment, books require you to activate your imagination at least a little bit.


This book didn't provide the necessary detail to prompt the imagination.  At the 25% mark, I had no idea what Rosy looked like, or Matt, or any of the other people.  I didn't know what Rosy's house looked like, or Matt's.  Or the school.


Those were just the visual cues.  What about sounds?   Smells?  Textures?  Virtually all of that was missing, along with stage directions and even speech tags.


Also missing was consistent, coherent motivation.  Rosy behaved out of character without sufficient reason.  She tossed over her Rule about dating locals without hardly a thought.  She proved to be absolutely spineless in the face of a confrontation with a student's parent and with a school official. 


She even ignored basic better judgment more than once by engaging with Matt while still believing he was in a relationship with Angelina.


So after I had skimmed through two or three more eye-rollingly horrible chapters, I shook my head in frustrated dismay and returned the book to the library, prepared to move on to something else.


This is one of those bad books that's going to stick with me for a long time.  It's one thing for an author to self-publish a book that reads like a rough draft.  It's another for a publishing company to put out something so poorly written.  But it's an entirely different thing when readers don't -- or can't -- recognize even the more basic flaws.  I guess I expected more from readers.

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review 2018-07-04 05:15
Reading progress update: I've read 61 out of 236 pages. DNF, you wall-banger, you!
Breaking the Rules - Kitty Wilson

All prior updates, in order from first to last.
















Disclosure:  I accessed this book from my public library's ebook collection.  I do not know the author nor have I ever communicated with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of historical and contemporary romance and non-fiction.


Breaking the Rules: The Cornish Village School just got thrown against the metaphorical wall.


Breaking her rule against dates from the village, Rosy takes Matt to the local pub for Sunday dinner.  I've previously mentioned the Big Miz conversation, which ends up going nowhere.  She doesn't even give the issue another thought.  Is Angelina really Matt's girlfriend or isn't she?  What is their relationship? Does Rosy even want to know what their relationship is?  If not, why not? What changed her mind?


More important, what will everyone in town think about now that they've all seen Rosy out in public with this new guy?  This is The Rule for her, that has directed all of her social life.  Suddenly, she throws it all to the winds.  Why?


Okay, that's bad enough.  There's no motivation given for this woman to be breaking her sacred Rule already.  No explanation is forthcoming at all.


And then she gets drunk.


She got drunk the night before and had such a hangover that she was getting ready to barf when Matt called on her that morning.  But here she is, not only breaking her rule and going out in local public with a guy she hardly knows, but getting drunk with him.



Getting drunk, in public, with a man she hardly knows, breaking her solemn rule.  My eyes nearly rolled into the kitchen.


There was also the issue of the word "woah," which my fingers have severe difficulty typing because the correct spelling is "whoa," but even a grammar dragon like me isn't going to report the book to Amazon for that misspelling.


And then, at the end of Chapter Eight, as Matt is thinking back on all the things they did in the pub that day . . .




One doesn't pluck a harpsichord.  The harpsichord plucks itself, but the player plays the keyboard.  That was the point at which Breaking the Rules went sailing into the metaphorical wall.


Never mind that Matt has made Rosy an absolute paragon, to the point I was afraid I'd have to check my blood sugar. 



This isn't a bad book, and I am quite certain there are many readers out there who will enjoy it.  That's what makes me sad.  This is a poorly written book that could have been made a whole lot better with good editing.  I don't care that the point of view hops willynilly from Rosy to Matt to the omniscient narrator to . . . whatever.  I do care that the character of Rosy is inconsistent and insufferably shallow.  I do care that the plot -- what there is of it so far -- hinges on a misunderstanding that neither of the characters then pays any attention to.  I do care that everything is told and nothing is shown, that I can't picture anything in my imagination because the author offers so little description.


I do care that a so-called publisher put this book out and didn't have the expertise on staff to turn this into a cute bit of entertainment.


DNF at approximately 25%, no stars.


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text 2018-07-04 04:19
Reading progress update: I've read 57 out of 236 pages.
Breaking the Rules - Kitty Wilson

Prior updates














So, the Big Miz continues.  And my eyes roll.



Rosy friend Lynne is the one who told Rosy she had seen the famous Angelina in the village, and Rosy identified the model as Matt's "girlfriend."  But the reader knows Angelina is Matt's sister.


Why would Rosy, who is taking Matt on a tour of the village, even bring up the supposed girlfriend?  Would she do it to try to find out how serious the relationship is?  If so, shouldn't that motivation be revealed to the reader?  Well, it should, but it's not.


How did Rosy know anything about Angelina's alleged therapy?  Had she learned this from the People-type magazines Lynne showed her?  We don't know.  And why in the name of goodness would she bring up a subject like the woman's heath status with the man she (Rosy) believes is Angelina's boyfriend???


I'm just rolling my eyes all over the place!  This is nuts!


What makes it even more nuts is that author Wilson exacerbates the Big Miz contrivance by having Matt fail to explain. 


Matt is supposed to be a "famous" gardener, but he hasn't told Rosy that.  He hasn't told her he's a gardener at all.  So she would have no way of knowing, even if she recognized his name that he is Angelina's brother.


I'm now nearly 25% into this book.  The conflict mentioned in the description about the school being closed still hasn't been mentioned.  But I do know that the local Ren Faire troupe performs at the pub every other Sunday.

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text 2018-07-03 20:42
Reading progress update: I've read 46 out of 236 pages.
Breaking the Rules - Kitty Wilson

I'm actually a bit further than page 46, but I needed to update with links to all the prior updates anyway.














Chapter Six starts with four pages of Rosy's hangover.  Four pages.  No dialogue, nothing but Rosy imagining what she'd do with 70 days in bed, because she'd heard NASA used that to train astronauts??  Or something.


Then gorgeous Matt comes over.


Now, here's the question.  Matt surmises that she's home because he's heard noises from in the house.  BUT, her friend Lynne's husband Dave walked Rosy home the night before because she was too drunk to drive.  So where is Rosy's car?  Does Matt think it's in the garage?  Does she even have a garage?


These are the questions and issues that would have been raised in virtually any critique group I was in over the past 35 years.  The writer is always free to ignore the comments and suggestions offered in a detailed analysis, but she does so at her peril.


At almost 20 percent through this book, I don't really know what's going on, and I really don't care.  All I'm seeing are the problems.  Who cares that Rosy lies in bed with a hangover and fantasizes about weaving tapestries?  How does that further the story, which should be her relationship with Matt?  The book's description says that there's going to be a conflict over the closing of the school, but at this point, the reader hasn't really even been introduced to the school or Rosy's position in it. 


When a writer has to look at her work through the eyes of a critical reader, she can focus better on the meat of the story and flesh it out.  I know that's some kind of horribly mixed metaphor, and if I had a critique group for this review, I'd probably go back and improve it.  That's the point of a detailed critique.


A review of a finished work isn't the same thing.  "I loved the characters" isn't the same as "What the hell does Rosy look like?  What's she wearing?  What kind of car does she drive?"  Instead of telling the reader that Rosy doesn't handle liquor very well, show the reader how Lynne persuades her to drink just one more glass, and Rosy explains to Lynne how devastating the encounter with Simon was and lets Lynne talk her into one more glass and then one more.


So back to the text.


Matt shows up at her house to return the plate on which she had gifted him a cake.  He's hot for her, and we already know she's hot for him, except for The Rule.  Sadly, there's no romantic conflict being built.  Other than Rosy's self-imposed local celibacy, there's nothing keeping the two of them from having a nice little romance.


Romance stories need both internal and external conflict.  There have to be personal reasons why the two lovers can't get together as well as outside reasons.  If you think back to your favorite -- or even not so favorite -- romance novels, you can see how the internal and external forces keep the lovers apart and how they work to overcome those obstacles to achieve their HEA.


The movie version of Practical Magic illustrates this very well. Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock) wants to deny her witchiness and be normal.  She struggles to find normal, non-witchy happiness, only to be blocked when her husband is killed due to a family curse and she's forced to return to live with her two witchy aunts. 


When her sister Gillian (Nicole Kidman) gets mixed up in witchcraft and murder, Sally is forced to help out using the same witchcraft she wants to renounce.  Unfortunately, it brings into her life lawman Gary Hallett (Aidan Quinn), someone she thinks she can really fall in love with and have that "normal" happiness she so craves. . . .if not for the curse.


As Sally struggles with her internal fears and Gary ponders falling in love with a woman who may be an accessory to murder, Gillian's witchy meddling comes back to haunt them all -- pun of course intended.  The external and internal conflicts have to be resolved for the HEA.


It's not uncommon for a romance novel to rely on The Big Misunderstanding ("Big Miz") to sustain the external conflict between the would-be lovers.  There's some of this in Breaking the Rules in that Rosy thinks famous model Angelina is Matt's girlfriend.  But this kind of misunderstanding is far too easily resolved -- even though I haven't got that far in the book to find out if it is or not -- so that if it's not resolved, it becomes a contrivance and eyes tend to roll.


Coincidences and contrivances can work, but they have to be handled very delicately.  There's a hint of slapstick in this book that's not coming off very well, and if the author can't handle that -- or if the slapstick impression is unintentional -- then I have my doubts  anything else will be handled well.


This is not an author-published book.  There is some publishing apparatus at work, but I'm not seeing the results that I personally would have expected from competent editing.  It's possible that Canelo Publishing doesn't have competent editors who are familiar with the conventions of romance fiction.  Maybe they only have line editors and proofreaders.  It's also possible that they don't have anyone on staff who is even familiar with romance fiction.


Why would they do that?  Because there are a lot of people, especially men and especially men in the business/tech world, who think romance is for women, women will read anything they can get their hands on, anyone can write a romance, and therefore no professional expertise is needed to make lots of money off the dumb women.  The founders of Canelo Publishing are all men.  The company appears to have no presence on Twitter.    Twitter account has been located, but I'm still having bad feelings about this.

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