Review: The Devil’s Delilah

Devil's DelilahLoretta Chase, The Devil’s Delilah

Delilah Desmond is coming to London to make an advantageous marriage; but because her father is the notorious “Devil” Desmond, she knows being accepted by high society will be an uphill battle. Adding to her difficulties, the Devil has written a highly improper and scandalous memoir; though he’s promised not to publish it until he truly needs the money, Delilah knows that even a whiff of scandal will destroy her matrimonial prospects. When the memoir goes missing, she immediately flies into a panic. Luckily, she has the dependable, albeit absentminded, Jack Langdon to lean on. Jack has always been more comfortable with books than with people, especially women. But Delilah attracts him like no one else, and he’s determined to help her, even though the far more charming Lord Berne has his eye on the young beauty as well.

I’m really enjoying making my way through Loretta Chase’s traditional Regencies. Though she’s not quite Georgette Heyer, she’s definitely the next best thing. But I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as Viscount Vagabond (to which this novel is technically a sequel, though it can be read as a stand-alone). I loved the idea of Jack as a hero — someone who seems bookish and absent-minded but who comes through when it counts. But I felt like his character was a bit inconsistent; he doesn’t spend very much time enjoying his scholarly pursuits because he’s always in turmoil about his feelings for Delilah. I also thought the scenes between Jack and Delilah were quite repetitive; they keep having the same fight over and over, which is frustrating. The book is still a fun, fast read with some witty dialogue — I especially enjoyed the Devil’s character — but it’s not my favorite by Chase.

Advertisements

Review: One in a Million

One in a MillionLindsey Kelk, One in a Million

Annie Higgins is a master of social media, and she co-owns a digital marketing company that manages the social media accounts of various internet content creators. Unfortunately, the company isn’t doing so well, and Annie’s getting desperate for a way to turn things around. Then a conversation with her office landlord turns into a bet: she has to make a random stranger Instagram-famous in 30 days, and if she wins, she doesn’t have to pay rent for a month. Annie jumps at the chance — until she realizes that winning the bet will be a lot harder than she thought. Historian Samuel Page, PhD, is stiff, socially awkward, and absolutely hates social media. But the more time Annie spends with him, the more she genuinely enjoys his company, and the less important the bet seems.

This was a cute, enjoyable chick-lit read with more than a few nods to My Fair Lady, but I liked that the makeover wasn’t all one-sided. Annie helps to give Sam a more marketable public persona, but he also helps her to realize that there’s more to life than the perfect Instagram selfie. (Come to think of it, Eliza Doolittle also changes Henry Higgins in a much more profound way than he changes her.) The central romance is adorable, and I love that Sam is an unconventional hero with his awkward, slightly too formal demeanor. I also enjoyed Annie’s funny first-person voice. I didn’t love all the emphasis on social media; at times the book reminded me of those thinkpieces about whether technology is ruining our lives, which I found tedious. But overall, I liked this fun and breezy rom-com, so I’d recommend it if you’re into that kind of thing!

Top Ten Tuesday: Love is in the air

TTT-NEW

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is favorite couples in books. I’m a sucker for a good romance, so the hardest thing for me was narrowing my list down! But here are 10 of my favorite romances in books:

1. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) — Obviously these two are my absolute top OTP. The greatest thing about their romance is that love makes both of them better people. Darcy learns that he needs to get over himself and be a kinder, more generous person, while Lizzy realizes that she needs to be less judgmental.

2. Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley (Emma) — I don’t want to fill this entire list with Austen couples (although I could!), but I had to include Emma and Mr. Knightley. My favorite thing about their friends-to-lovers romance is that Emma subconsciously reveals her feelings for Mr. Knightley long before she actually recognizes them herself.

3. Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables series) — Looking back, I’m pretty sure this was my first OTP; I shipped them before shipping was even a thing! Gilbert is the perfect “boy next door” type, and I love that he and Anne are both so smart and competitive (especially with each other!).

4. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series) — These two are just so adorable together! I know some people think Ron’s not good enough for Hermione, but I think he’s exactly the right person to balance out all her type-A neuroticism. She’s obviously going to be the alpha in their relationship, so it’s a good thing that Ron is excellent at taking a backseat and supporting her.

5. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (Lord Peter Wimsey series) — I adore watching these two banter and bicker their way into true love. I also love how Sayers examines some of the difficulties facing women of her era through Harriet’s eyes; though Harriet is attracted to Peter, she really struggles with the idea of giving up her independence and autonomy as a single woman with a career.

6. Beatrice and Benedick (Much Ado about Nothing) — Speaking of banter, this couple is the quintessential example of the hate-to-love trope, wrapped in an incredibly fun and witty package. When Benedick says, “Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably,” that really says it all!

7. Anna and Rupert (A Countess below Stairs) — If there were an award for Sweetest Book Ever, I’m pretty sure I’d give it to this one. The story contains elements of forbidden love — Anna is a maid, while Rupert is an earl (and an engaged one, at that) — and it’s just a delight to watch them struggle to suppress their feelings. I let out the happiest sigh every time I finish this book.

8. Gen and [spoilers] (Queen’s Thief series) — Sadly I can’t talk too much about this couple without revealing spoilers. But I will say that Gen is a wonderful hero: he’s a thief (and I love a good thief hero!) who is super smart and witty and always a step ahead. And his love interest is more than a match for him. Their relationship starts in a pretty dark place, so it’s amazing to see how their complex feelings for one another grow.

9. Sean and Puck (The Scorpio Races) — This is one of my favorite books, and I love Maggie Stiefvater’s subtle, magical writing style. This romance is so delightfully understated; it’s all about what isn’t said.

10. Lincoln and Beth (Attachments) — This book has such an adorable rom-com plot: Lincoln’s job is to monitor workplace email, and he ends up falling in love with Beth through reading her correspondence with her friend Jennifer. I can absolutely see why this storyline doesn’t work for some people, but Lincoln is such a sweet and likable character that I was totally along for the ride. And I adored Beth’s snarky voice . . . I really believed that she and Lincoln were well matched.

What are your favorite literary love stories? Please share your recs, because I’m in the mood for all the romance!

Review: Hunted

HuntedMeagan Spooner, Hunted

Yeva has a comfortable life as the youngest daughter of a prosperous merchant: she is a lady-in-waiting to the local baronessa and has a chance at a good marriage. But Yeva has always been happiest hunting in the nearby forest, following in the footsteps of her father, who was a skilled hunter before becoming a merchant. So when her father loses his fortune and must return to hunting to support his family, Yeva is not heartbroken — until her father begins raving about a mysterious, cunning beast in heart of the forest. When he does not return from his latest hunting trip, Yeva goes after him, only to find that the mythical Beast is real . . . and that he has plans for Yeva.

So, that plot summary pretty much covers the setup of the book, but I feel like it leaves out all the interesting parts, which of course happen after Yeva encounters the Beast. I love a good Beauty and the Beast retelling, and this is now one of my favorites, along with Robin McKinley’s Beauty. The Beast is appropriately terrifying at first, and Yeva has a very good reason to hate and distrust him (she thinks he killed her father, though the reality is more complicated), yet he can also be thoughtful and kind. I loved how their relationship develops throughout the novel and how the Beast’s human side becomes more prominent the more time he spends with Yeva. I also really enjoyed the magical setting with its nods to Russian folklore. In short, if you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings or of this fairy tale in particular, I highly recommend this book!

Also, thanks to Angie for the wonderful review that inspired me to pick up this one!

Review: 99 Percent Mine

99 Percent MineSally Thorne, 99 Percent Mine

Darcy Barrett has always been more comfortable moving around than staying in one place. For the past 10 years or so, she’s been traveling the world, tending bar to make enough money to support her wanderlust. Now she’s forced to stand still for a while so that she can renovate and sell her dead grandmother’s house. Helping her is contractor Tom Valeska, who just so happens to be Darcy’s perfect man. She’s been in love with him since they were kids, but as her twin brother Jamie’s best friend, he’s always been off limits. Now Tom is around all the time, and Darcy is determined to take their relationship to the next level. But she knows that by pursuing him, she may do even more damage to her strained relationship with Jamie. And then there’s the little issue that Tom may not actually reciprocate her feelings. . . .

After loving The Hating Game, I was so excited for this book to come out. Now, having read it, I’m having trouble deciding how I feel about it. I don’t have that same LOVE feeling that I did about The Hating Game, but I’m not sure why . . . it’s equally well written, and I really like the premise. I had some trouble connecting with Darcy, which may have caused me to detach from the story a little. I don’t always need to like or relate to a protagonist, but I think I do in the romance genre because the plots are so character driven. Also, I couldn’t quite figure out why it took Darcy and Tom so long to get together. While the fear of Jamie’s disapproval certainly explains part of it, I think the real obstacle to their relationship is lack of communication. I got frustrated wishing these characters would just talk to each other! Overall, I did find this to be a fun and absorbing read, but I haven’t decided whether I’m keeping it yet.

Review: Crazy for You

crazy for youJennifer Crusie, Crazy for You

Thirty-something Quinn McKenzie is stuck in a rut. She has great friends, she likes her job as a high school art teacher, and she’s dating the football coach, whom everyone in town recognizes as a total catch. But she still wants a change, and change arrives in the form of an adorable stray dog. Quinn wants to adopt the dog, but her boyfriend doesn’t. This small disagreement soon leads to a much bigger fight, and Quinn begins to realize that her seemingly great life is based on her always sacrificing what she wants for the sake of other people. Her friends and family are initially horrified at the change in Quinn, but she eventually inspires them to make changes in their own lives. In the most exciting change of all, Quinn is beginning to look at her longtime friend Nick in a whole new light, but it seems her old life isn’t quite ready to let her go. . . .

I’ve found Jennifer Crusie’s books to be somewhat hit-or-miss, but this one was definitely a hit for me! I don’t think it’s a book for everyone, though, for several reasons. There’s quite a bit of profanity and a few pretty graphic sex scenes, so if those elements would bother you, steer clear. Also, and more importantly, there is stalking and violence against women in this book, which makes it quite a bit darker than I was expecting. However, all that said, I liked this book a lot, and it’s almost entirely due to the relationship between Quinn and Nick. I love a friends-to-lovers romance, especially when one or both of the people involved are very reluctant to act on their feelings for fear of ruining the friendship. In this case, I totally bought into the romantic tension between these characters and was rooting for them all the way. So this book worked really well for me, but I realize not everyone will feel the same!

Review: Viscount Vagabond

viscount vagabondLoretta Chase, Viscount Vagabond

Max Demowery has always felt stifled by his aristocratic upbringing and done everything in his power to rebel. But now that he has succeeded to his brother’s title, he knows it’s his duty to marry and start producing heirs. He celebrates his last night of freedom in a brothel, where he is confronted by the last thing he’d ever expect: an innocent girl who needs his help. Catherine Pelliston is desperate to escape from her alcoholic father and loutish fiancé, but she now finds herself in even more dire circumstances, kidnapped and forced into prostitution. She appeals to Max for help, but even after he saves her from the brothel, she has nowhere to go. Against his better judgment, Max finds himself getting involved in Catherine’s future — and finding love in the process.

The premise of this book seems very implausible, but I found it so charming I didn’t care at all! I loved Max right away; he’s funny and likable from the very first scene. Catherine is a bit pricklier — understandably, given her backstory — but it’s not hard to warm up to her. She tries to approach everything logically and precisely, which makes for a humorous contrast to the impulsive Max. The plot is a bit contrived, involving multiple kidnappings and an over-the-top villain, and there’s an obligatory adorable urchin whom Catherine inevitably befriends. But for me, the book’s light and witty style, plus the utterly adorable main characters, more than make up for those shortcomings. Loretta Chase has written a few more of these “traditional Regencies” (so called because they don’t have explicit sex scenes), and I’m definitely going to seek them out!

Review: Red Queen

red queenVictoria Aveyard, Red Queen

In the world of this fantasy novel, people are divided into two classes based on the color of their blood. The Reds are commoners, forced to serve the Silvers or, if they can’t find work, be conscripted into the army to die in a never-ending war. The Silvers, by contrast, are nobles whose special blood gives them various supernatural abilities. Mare Barrow is a Red who hates Silvers more than anything, but in a twist of fate she discovers that she has a supernatural ability despite her red blood. Immediately she is thrust into the world of the Silvers, where she must constantly hide the truth of who she is. She ultimately becomes involved in a plot to overthrow the government and develops relationships with both of the royal princes.

It’s funny that I read Lyra Selene’s Amber & Dusk so recently, because this book has almost exactly the same plot: poor girl discovers magical ability, enters court full of intrigue and treachery, finds romance, and plots a royal coup. But I much preferred this book’s execution of that premise. The plot moves along at a good clip, and I was genuinely surprised by some of the twists. I also found Mare an interesting character to follow, although like many YA fantasy heroines, she’s too quick to jump to conclusions and too black-and-white in her thinking. But I appreciated that she’s always trying to do the right thing, despite her dark and morally ambiguous environment. Annoyingly, the book doesn’t really work as a stand-alone (the main plot is sort of resolved, but there are a ton of loose ends), but I liked it enough to read the sequels at some point.

Review: Worth the Fall

worth the fallBria Quinlan, Worth the Fall

This romantic comedy follows the misadventures of Kasey Lane, who loses her job, her boyfriend, and her apartment all in the same week. Luckily, she stumbles upon the Brew Ha Ha café, where she meets a bubbly writer named Jenna and her boyfriend Ben, who take Kasey under their wing and help her find a new place to live. They also introduce her to their friend group, including attractive policeman Max Darby, who just so happens to have seen Kasey at some of her lowest moments. As Kasey starts to put her life back together, she’s adamant that she wants to be single and figure things out for herself, yet she finds herself drawn to Max. But if she pursues a relationship, will she just be repeating her past mistakes?

This is a book that definitely requires some serious suspension of disbelief. Kasey is some kind of marketing professional who is great at her job (we are told), is fired through no fault of her own, yet somehow can’t find another job. Despite having no money (we are told), she secures a great apartment in an expensive part of town. She instantly becomes BFFs with a woman she randomly meets in a coffee shop. But despite all that, I actually enjoyed this book a lot! Kasey is a likable character who comes to greater self-knowledge in the course of the book. And I loved the development of her relationship with Max! They start out a bit hostile to each other but soon embark on a friendship (complete with banter) that is off-the-charts adorable. Overall, I liked this book and will look for the rest in the Brew Ha Ha series (this is book 2 but can definitely be read as a stand-alone!).

Review: What Happens in London

what happens in londonJulia Quinn, What Happens in London

After serving in the army during the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Harry Valentine now works as a translator for the War Office. It’s not particularly dangerous (which is just how he likes it), but it does require a certain amount of secrecy. So when Harry notices that his beautiful neighbor seems to be watching him, he knows there’s a slight chance she could be a threat. Meanwhile, Lady Olivia Bevelstoke is intrigued by her new neighbor, since rumors are flying about the mysterious gentleman who hardly ever goes out into society. When he catches her watching him, she is mortified — especially because, when they finally meet in public, he directly confronts her about it. However, Harry and Olivia’s initial dislike of each other soon turns into friendship and, inevitably, romance. But will a rival suitor, who may also be a spy for Napoleon, come between them?

When I want a light, fluffy Regency romance with minimal angst, I turn to Julia Quinn, and this book delivered pretty much what I expected. I found it a very enjoyable read, particularly because both Harry and Olivia are such nice, normal people. No tortured rakes or unconventional bluestockings here! Don’t get me wrong; those types of characters can be fun to read about, too, but they do tend to be overrepresented in historical romance. By contrast, Harry and Olivia are both fairly conventional, which I found refreshing. There’s plenty of humor in the book, too, mostly surrounding the lurid gothic novel that Harry presents to Olivia. There’s a fantastic scene in which Harry’s cousin Sebastian reads the book aloud to an assortment of spellbound listeners, and it’s an absolute delight. The plot does go off the rails a bit toward the end, with a tonally jarring kidnapping, but at least that storyline wraps up quickly. Overall, I doubt this book will stay with me for a long time, but it was certainly a fun read, and I’d recommend it to fans of historical romance.