Review: Someone to Love

Someone to LoveMary Balogh, Someone to Love

The earl of Riverdale has just died, and his family is putting his affairs in order. Obviously his son will inherit the title, the estate, and the bulk of the money. But the late earl also had an illegitimate daughter, Anna Snow, who grew up in an orphanage and is now a teacher there. The earl’s widow wants to give Anna some money, both as a kind gesture and as a way to forestall any future claims on the estate. But the lawyer she employs for this purpose makes a shocking discovery: Anna is actually the earl’s legitimate daughter, and her existence effectively disinherits his widow and his other children. Anna would like to be close to her newfound family, since she was previously alone in the world, but they all resent her for depriving them of their wealth and status. Her only ally is Avery Archer, a friend of the family, who decides to help her acclimate to her new life. But he never expected to be so drawn to her; and Anna never thought she would be so tempted to lose her heart to a (seemingly) shallow leader of society.

I was craving a good romance novel when I saw a review of this one at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed this book! First of all, I think the setup is pretty genius; it may not be the most plausible premise, but it certainly sets up some great conflicts, both for this book and (presumably) for future books in the series. I very much liked Anna as a heroine — she’s confident in herself but also has a deep longing for intimacy and connection that she’s not sure how to express. In this respect, Avery is a great match for her, since he also conceals deep loneliness under a bored and detached facade. I really enjoyed his urbane quips and his witty conversations with Anna, and I loved that he’s not a typical alpha-male hero. My only quibble with the book is Avery’s practice of martial arts, because every time Avery engages in violence in the novel, it’s portrayed as being sexually appealing. Additionally, a somewhat stereotypical “Chinese gentleman” is the source of Avery’s knowledge (see the SBTB review and comments for a great discussion of this). Aside from that, though, I liked this book a lot and will definitely seek out more by Mary Balogh when I want a well-written Regency romance.

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Mini-Reviews #12: December, part 2

This is officially my LAST BATCH of reviews for 2016! I’m looking forward to starting next year (aka tomorrow) with a clean slate. These last books are all rereads, and it was lovely to revisit some books I’ve enjoyed in the past!

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Rainbow Rowell, Attachments — I’ve loved all of Rainbow Rowell’s books, but this one (her first novel) remains my favorite. It’s the story of Lincoln, an Internet security specialist whose job is to monitor all emails sent from company accounts. When the emails of Jennifer and Beth get flagged for “inappropriate” usage, Lincoln has to read them; it’s his job. But before long, he gets caught up in the women’s stories and becomes genuinely interested in learning more about them. Then he begins to fall for Beth…but how can he transform his one-sided crush into an actual relationship?

Sharon Shinn, Summers at Castle Auburn — The first time I read this romantic fantasy novel, I didn’t quite pick up on the romance and felt it was a little abrupt. I don’t know what I was thinking, because this time I was all about the romance! It’s subtle and builds slowly, which is just the way I like it. 🙂 I also really enjoyed the vivid fantasy world, and I liked the fact that the heroine truly grows and changes throughout the novel. Definitely recommended for fans of this genre!

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Georgette Heyer, The Corinthian — One of Heyer’s excellent Regency romances, featuring a jaded young man and a scrappy girl (dressed as a boy) who’s running away from home. The plot gets a bit convoluted, comprising highwaymen, elopements, and even a murder. But of course, everything turns out right in the end!

Patricia Wynn, The Birth of Blue Satan — I read this book, the first in a series, a few years ago, but for some reason I didn’t continue with the series. Recently I decided I’d like to read book two, but I had to refresh my memory by rereading this one first. As a mystery novel, it’s not particularly strong — the solution basically comes out of nowhere — but I loved the period setting (1715! More novels about Jacobites, please!) and the main characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading book two and seeing what happens next!

Mini-Reviews #6: Dog days

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for these mini-reviews! I’ll do this post and one more, and then I should finally be caught up! *sobs with relief*

Murder on the LusitaniaSingle Girl's To-Do List, The

Conrad Allen, Murder on the Lusitania — This is a fairly pedestrian mystery novel set during the Lusitania’s maiden voyage, where ship’s detective George Porter Dillman thinks he’ll have to deal with nothing more exciting than a few thefts. Of course, when an unpopular journalist is murdered on board, Dillman has to investigate–and choose between two women, the beautiful but aloof Genevieve and the happy-go-lucky Ellen. I didn’t particularly like this book, mostly because the characters annoyed me. Dillman is too smug and superior, and Genevieve seems more like a male fantasy than an actual person. The solution to the mystery was fine but seemed to come out of nowhere–or perhaps I just stopped paying attention too soon. Overall, a very “meh” read, and I feel no desire to continue with the series.

Lindsey Kelk, The Single Girl’s To-Do List — After enjoying Always the Bridesmaid, I had to track down another Lindsey Kelk novel, and this one did not disappoint! Rachel has just been dumped by her long-term boyfriend and has basically forgotten how to be single, so her two best friends create “the single girl’s to-do list” to force her out of her comfort zone. I really liked that Rachel’s friendships were so central in the novel, remaining constant throughout her tumultuous love life. Of course, the ultimate romance comes as no surprise, and I would have liked the hero to be a little more fleshed out. Nonetheless, I liked this book a lot and will continue to read more by Kelk.

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Georgette Heyer, Cotillion — One of my very favorite Heyer novels, mainly thanks to its delightful hero, Freddy! He is a wonderfully unconventional leading man: not particularly handsome, not a ladies’ man, not overly burdened with brains. In fact, he reminds me of a slightly more functional Bertie Wooster. But of course, his “street smarts” and kind heart ultimately win the day!

Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Gray — This World War II novel centers around an aspect of the war that is sadly often forgotten. The narrator, Lina, is a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl who is abducted one night, along with her mother and brother, by the NKVD. Lina describes the horrible tortures and indignities she and her fellow prisoners suffer, as well as the desperate hope that somehow her father will find her. My favorite thing about this book is that many of the characters are portrayed with some complexity. For example, one of Lina’s fellow prisoners is a cranky old man who constantly complains, yet in the end he manages to do something heroic. Similarly, one of the Soviet guards is deeply conflicted about his cruel actions. But some of the other characters–particularly Lina’s saintly mother–remain annoyingly simplistic. I also wasn’t a fan of the flashbacks to Lina’s carefree earlier life; they were too jarring for me. Still, I liked the book overall, and I think it tells a story that needs to be told.

Julianne Donaldson, Blackmoore — Kate Worthington wants nothing more than to escape her horrible family and go to live in India with her aunt. But her mother refuses to let her go, finally delivering an ultimatum: if Kate wants to go to India, she must first receive–and reject–three marriage proposals. Since Kate is not beautiful and flirtatious like her sister, she despairs at first. But when she is invited to the estate of her old friends, Sylvia and Henry Delafield, she reasons that she can at least try. Of course, she doesn’t expect to fall in love along the way. While this book is extremely predictable, I have to say that I enjoyed it anyway! My biggest complaint is that it takes Kate far too long to realize that her ideal mate is right in front of her, head over heels in love. The Big Misunderstanding could easily have been solved with a little rational communication! I should also note that the book is subtitled “A Proper Romance,” which essentially just means it’s rated PG; there’s nothing explicitly religious or preachy about it. All in all, this was a pleasant read that satisfied my craving for a Regency romance.

Review: In for a Penny

In for a PennyRose Lerner, In for a Penny

The young Lord Nevinstoke, known to his friends as Nev, loves nothing more than a good time, whether it’s drinking with his friends or dallying with his mistress. But when his father dies unexpectedly, Nev suddenly inherits the responsibility of being head of the family, as well as a mountain of crushing debt. With a large estate to repair and no money for the task, his only choice is to marry a rich woman, and heiress Penelope Brown fits the bill nicely. Since Penelope’s father is a tradesman, she is not of Nev’s class, but her money seems a fair trade for his title. Nev and Penelope marry quickly, but despite their growing attraction to each other, they encounter many obstacles. Nev’s estate is in even worse shape than he thought, and he has no knowledge of business matters. His tenants have grown increasingly discontented as the estate has become less prosperous. And meanwhile, Penelope feels uprooted from everything familiar and thrust into a place where she doesn’t belong. Will Nev and Penelope be able to solve these problems and finally find happiness together?

I enjoy a good Regency romance every once in a while, and I’d read that this one is the next best thing to Georgette Heyer. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I do think the book is very well written and often entertaining. I enjoy the “marriage of convenience turns into something more” trope, so I was predisposed to like the plot, and I also liked both Nev and Penelope as characters. Specifically, I was a big fan of how Nev grows and changes throughout the book. He starts out as a careless young man — albeit a likable one — who lives entirely for pleasure. But when he is confronted with his responsibilities for the first time, he takes them seriously and tries to learn all he can. I also sympathized with Penelope quite a bit, as she experiences a lot of insecurity when she marries “above” herself. I did get annoyed at all the misunderstandings between her and Nev, though; every time it seemed like they were finally on the same page, one of them would second-guess the relationship for no good reason. There was also a lot more, ahem, “romance” than I was expecting. But overall, as Regency romances go, this is a fairly enjoyable one.

Review: Just Like Heaven

Just Like HeavenJulia Quinn, Just Like Heaven

Lady Honoria Smythe-Smith is desperate to be married. Though she is part of a large, affectionate family, things have been very quiet in her parents’ house ever since her brother Daniel fled England after seriously wounding a man in a duel. Honoria longs to start her own family and once again feel surrounded by love; and as an added bonus, once she is married, she’ll no longer have to perform at the Smythe-Smiths’ infamous musicales. Meanwhile, Marcus Holroyd, the Earl of Chatteris, is Daniel’s best friend and has always felt more at home with the Smythe-Smiths than with his own distant family. Marcus and Honoria have always been friendly, but when a sprained ankle and a dangerous illness throw them together, they both begin to suspect that their relationship is deepening into something more.

I basically picked up this book for two reasons: 1) It shares a title with a really great Cure song, and 2) I’m a sucker for ridiculous British surnames. Fortunately, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit! Marcus is a delightful hero; he comes across as proud and brooding, but only because he feels shy and socially awkward (shades of Mr. Darcy!). And Honoria is a sweet girl with just enough humor to keep her from being insipid. Somewhat unusually for a Regency romance, most of this book doesn’t take place during the London Season; rather, Honoria spends a good portion of it nursing Marcus back to health from a life-threatening fever. Some might find the sickroom scenes tedious, but to me they underscored why Marcus and Honoria make such a great pair. All in all, I’d definitely recommend this light, quick read to fans of Regency romances, and I’ll probably pick up something else by Julia Quinn in the future.

Review: Julia and the Master of Morancourt

Julia and the Master of Morancourt: A Novel…Janet Aylmer, Julia and the Master of Morancourt

Julia Maitland, the oldest of three sisters, is expected to marry well so that her family will be supported when her father dies. She vows that she will not marry a man she doesn’t love, but she nevertheless agrees to her mother’s various schemes to introduce her to eligible men. While visiting a friend of the family, Harry Douglas, Julia becomes acquainted with his son Kit and is immediately attracted to him; however, as a younger son, Kit isn’t a good match from a monetary standpoint. Throughout the course of the novel, Julia strives to reconcile her familial responsibility with her heart.

I’m a sucker for a good Regency-era love story, so I was expecting to enjoy this book much more than I did. The “marry rich to support the family” plot is horribly overdone in this genre (and no one has ever done it as well as Jane Austen, so part of me wonders why people are even still trying). Also, there was no suspense whatsoever. Even a subplot about possible illegal activity involving Kit’s servants failed to hold my interest, mostly because the solution to the entire thing was so blatantly obvious from the beginning. There was also something jarring about the writing style; though the book tries to imitate period language, it comes off sounding stilted and awkward. All in all, I was disappointed in this book. Should have picked up a Georgette Heyer novel instead!