The Duchess by Jude Deveraux

Title: The Duchess, Author: Jude DeverauxThe Duchess. Finished 5-1-16, rating 4.25/5, 362 pages, pub. 1991

Claire Willoughby risked losing her millions in her inheritance if, as decreed by her grandfather, she did not wed an “acceptable” man. Harry Montgomery, the eleventh Duke of MacArran, seemed perfect. He owned a historical castle, he looked manly in a kilt, and he was as much a titled Scotsman as Bonnie Prince Charlie himself.

Their engagement announced, Claire’s future as a duchess was assured — and she set off with her family to meet the Montgomery clan in Scotland. Bramley Castle was a damp, chill place, overflowing with eccentric relatives. But there was also Trevelyan, a secretive, brooding man who lived in Bramley’s ancient halls. Whoever he was, he wasn’t at all like Harry: Trevelyan was the most exasperating, arrogant, know-it-all of a man Claire had ever met. And the most fascinating …

from Goodreads

The older Jude Deveraux historical romances, especially ones that have Montgomery men in hem, are comfort reads.  I used to read romances almost exclusively when I was in my teens and she and Judith McNaught were/are favorites.  I’ve read a few of Devereux’s newer books but they just don’t hold the same appeal.  This one did not disappoint.

Claire, a once-wealthy American, heads to Scotland to spend time with Harry Montgomery, laird of his clan.  It was 1883 and per her grandfather’s will, she must marry a man her parents approve of in order to collect her inheritance, an inheritance her lazy parents have already been spending.  Harry proposes and it looks like a happy ending is assured, until  she meets Trevelyan, the sickly man who lives in the hidden part of the castle.  She is drawn to him as she becomes disillusioned with life in the castle.  Trevelyan appreciates her curiosity and intelligence and Harry would be happy for her to silently watch him hunt all day.

There are evil mothers, mysteries to be solved, exotic people to meet and maybe more than one happy ending.  It’s also full of stereotypical tropes, but they are used well and easily forgiven.  Claire’s younger sister used language that was clearly not of the times, but meant to convey her young attitude.  If you like your romances to be politically correct then this is not for you, but as a lover of the genre I consider it a treat for my brain. I devoured it in two days.

This was from my personal library.

 

 

Seduction by Brenda Joyce

SeductionSeduction. Finished 10-13-13, rating 3.75/5, pub. 2012, 374 pages

Dominic Paget, the earl of Bedford, will do anything to resume spying upon Britain’s enemies. Badly wounded, he is put will do anything in the care of a beautiful gentlewoman, Julianne Greystone, only to discover that her sympathies lie with his enemies. Yet he can’t help but seduce the woman who saved his life—hoping she never learns of his betrayal.

Julianne is captivated by the wounded stranger she believes is a revolutionary hero. Until she discovers the truth…her “hero” is the privileged earl of Bedford. Devastated and determined to forget him, Julianne travels to London. But when she finds herself in danger, it is Bedford who comes to the rescue. Now Julianne must navigate the intrigues of a perilous city, the wild yearnings of her own heart and the explosion of their passion….  (from Goodreads)

I am a Brenda Joyce fan. I’ve probably read just as many of her books as any other author.  She writes great romances and lots of them, 54 to be exact.  Although I’ve only read about half of those I consider her one of my go to authors when  I’m looking for a romance, especially historicals.  This Regency romance is the first in The Spymaster’s Men series and is a solid first book.  It takes place during the French Revolution and I learned about a lot about the history of the time.  Joyce is obviously fascinated by the period and has done her homework.

Julianne lives in Cornwall with her sister and mother who has mentally checked out. They live in poverty even though the two older brothers do their best.  When they bring Dominic home to be cared for he is near death and Julianne nurses him back to life as she nurses a strong crush on him. A crush that Dom is willing to manipulate so that he might escape back France to continue spying for the Brits.  Julianne for her part is highly sympathetic to the the plight of the revolutionaries, even going as far as forming a secret society to support them.  She believes Dom to be one of the heroic freedom fighters and lets herself fall in love.

I actually found most of the story to this point bland. Both characters were lacking, especially Julianne. For a radical she seemed very naive.  It was after she found out about Dom that the story became fun.  She continued be be naive, but at least she wasn’t afraid to take action.  I thought the time the two spent together in London was classic Joyce and I loved it.  The end, while a bit hard to accept because of one of the pair’s abrupt turnaround, was satisfying.  I liked this one enough to try the next one in the series about Julianne’s sister, if only so I can see visit Cornwall again.

This is from my personal library.

The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James, TLC Tour

The Ugly DuchessThe Ugly Duchess, Finished 8-25-12, rating 4.25/5, romance, 331 pags, pub. 2012

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke’s passion.

Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime…until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it’s scandalized by their separation.

from Goodreads

The first few chapters were very ho-hum for me.  Two privileged people raised together became best friends and find themselves married.  James was a little bland but Theo was more sympathetic.  It’s what happens after they marry that had me reaching for this one every few minutes I could steal throughout the day.  Their lives apart were so interesting that when they finally did reconnect I was ready for the fireworks.  I wasn’t disappointed.

James, Duke of Ashbrook, or Black Jack, came back to London a force to be reckoned with.  He started as best friend husband, but came back as alpha male pirate.  Theo used the time alone well, excelling in all business matters and making their estate thrive beyond all expectation.  She remade herself from the Ugly Duckling to a swan and James is the only one that saw the swan the whole time.  This book will touch anyone who has ever been made fun of for their looks.

I love a good alpha male who is tamed a bit by the love of a smart woman (just a bit.  I don’t want him too tame) and this was just what I wanted.  I thought it was good.  Even the sex scenes, which I tend to skim over when they get too long, were hot.  I should note that finding a good name for a man’s most private part is a challenge in romances and the one chosen by Theo “tool” became a bit of an eye roller.  I read a romance many years ago that called it “life giver” over and over and over.  LG has become a household joke here.

Anyway, Eloisa James has written more novels based on fairy tales and I plan on reading them.  I’m excited to discover a new romance author since there are only a handful I read faithfully.  She has also written an article for USA Today about beauty.  Here’s the link to the insightful story.

Highly recommended for romance fans.

I received this as part of the TLC tour.  Thanks for book ladies!   Check and see what everyone else has to say.

Call Me Irresistible, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Book CoverFinished 3-2-11, rating 4/5, romance, 385 pages, pub. 2011

Lucy, daughter of the former President of the United States, is preparing to walk down the aisle to marry Mr. Perfect, Ted Beaudine ,when her best friend, Meg voices doubts about the marriage.  Lucy takes them to heart and walks out on Ted at the church.  Meg is blamed by everyone and is asked to stay in the small Texas town for a few days to see if Lucy returns.  But not only is Meg completely broke and cut off from her family, she is also stranded in the town when everyone blames her for the heartbreak of their mayor, Ted.  Needless to say, life is not easy for Meg as the women of Wynette blacklist her and do everything possible to make her life miserable.  But Meg was having problems before getting stuck in town and it forces her to confront her roaming and aimless ways.

I’ve read every Susan Elizabeth Phillips romance.  They are fast, fun, sassy, and usually feature spunky heroines and alpha male heroes.  This is as good as her best and it features wonderful secondary characters who jump off the page.  Meg was born with a silver spoon and yet has done nothing with her life.  This is her story of growing up.  Ted was also born with a silver spoon and can do no wrong.  When these two are forced together they come to recognize the best and worst in each other.

This book will feel like hanging out with old friends, especially if you’ve read any of Phillip’s past books.  Ted showed up in two previous novels (Fancy Pants & Lady Be Good), Ted’s parents were the story of Fancy Pants.  Meg was in What I Did For Love and her parents story was told in Glitter Baby.  Lucy and her parents appeared in First Lady and Lady Be Good had four of the citizens of Wynette.  With all of that the book could have seemed crowded with characters, but it wasn’t.  They each had their own personalities and because they were fully developed characters it made this story so much richer.  You do not need to have read any of the other books to fully enjoy this one.

I don’t read a lot of contemporary romances, but I make the exception for Phillips and am never disappointed.

This is from my personal library.

Historical Romances

As a teen historical romances were my favorite escape reading and this probably continued through college.  As an English Education major I had to read lots of classics and the historicals were like a reading vacation.  Many people don’t read romances.  Think they are predictable, all about sex, or poorly written and some of them are, but not the good ones.  I’m a romantic and I like knowing that when I pick up a romance it is not going to depress me.  It is a comfort read.

As a teen I read a lot of LaVyrle Spencer, but for the life of me I cannot remember any of them specifically.  I’m going to have to try her again and see what I think.  Here are a few current favorites…

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is not your ordinary historical romance.  It has adventure, history and magic too.  And best of all, it’s smart.  I always recommend this one for those that claim they hate historical romance.  This one is an original.  I’ve read the first four in the series and need to get to the next two.  And if you ever have a chance to hear Diana Gabaldon speak, do it!  She’s a delight.

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati is another great one and it doesn’t get enough attention.  This one is set in 1792 when an Englishwoman settles in New York village.  She meets a Mohawk and finds herself drawn to him and his ways.  Not your typical romance.  It’s smarter and full of great beauty.  It also has several sequels, although this one can be read alone, there are no cliff hangers to make you continue.

I have two favorite authors of historical romance.  The first is Judith McNaught.  I have read Almost Heaven many times over the years, followed  closely by A Kingdom of Dreams.  I’ve read every book she’s written and her historicals are the best.  It seems that she has stopped writing historicals, but her contemporaries are good too.  Brenda Joyce is another favorite.  I’ve never been disappointed in her historicals.  I reread her Deadly series this year and a few other recent favorites are The Fires of Paradise and Splendor.  She’s written so many books that I haven’t read them all, but hope to read all of the historicals someday.

So, do you read historical romances?  Do you have a favorite that I should add to my wish list?

Deadly Illusions, by Brenda Joyce

Cover ImageFinished 3-13-09, rating 4/5, romance, pub. 2005

This is Book 7 in the Deadly series (Book 1) (Book 2) (Book 3) (Book 4) (Book 5) (Book 6)

Francesca had always assumed she would one day marry a man like her father, someone respectable, admirable, honorable, a reformer and an activist – someone like Rick Bragg.  Instead, she was engaged to the city’s wealthiest businessman and most notorious womanizer.  She still remained uncertain as to how this had happened, and so quickly.  One moment she was friends with the enigmatic and oh-so-charismatic Hart and he was under suspicion for murder.  The next, they were secretly engaged – until he had taken matters in his own hands, tired of her procrastination, making a public announcement.  How had she fallen in love with Calder Hart?  And was it even love?

Chapter 2

It’s now April 1902 in New York City and the beautiful heiress and brave sleuth Francesca finds herself engaged to a man whose very look can make her heat up.  When she begins investigating a murder Calder tags along and she is again caught between her fiance and former flame, Calder’s half-brother, Rick Bragg, the police commissioner.  Rick has enough personal problems of his own as his estranged and now handicapped wife comes home from the hospital.

The mystery in this one was very good.  Women were being attacked and even killed by the Slasher and there was no shortage of suspects.  And I love how there is never a wasted character in this series – they all show up again at some point, making it easy to get invested in their lives.  I loved this as a continuation of Francesca and Calder’s love story, but all is not smooth sailing for the couple.  They are both plagued by doubts and Francesca’s father has decided not to allow the engagement to continue. 

This was from my personal library.

Deadly Caress, by Brenda Joyce

Deadly Caress by Brenda Joyce: Book CoverFinished 2-18-10, rating 4/5, romance, pub. 2003

Book 5 in the Deadly series (Book 1) (Book 2) (Book 3) (Book 4)

Francesca Cahill and Rick Bragg are having a few problems.  Rick’s wife is back in town a determined to make a go of their marriage.  Rick’s brother, the cad Calder Hart, is determined to marry Francesca.  There’s also another killer on the loose in the streets of New York City and the Cahill house is in disarray after Evan is almost beaten to death because of his gambling debts.  Francesca’s sister, Connie is still trying to come to terms with her husband’s infidelity and in 1902, women did not leave their husbands if they cheated.

So, you know by my reviews of the first four books that I love this series, but it is not perfect.  I haven’t mentioned yet, but this series starts in January 1902 and at the end of this fifth book it is February 1902.  That is a lot to happen in such a short time.  I don’t understand why she chose to write the series this way, especially since I distrust romances when the heroine falls in love so fast.  Because I love the characters I can overlook it, but it still doesn’t make sense to me.

There was sex in this one!  And it was angry sex.  I didn’t like it.  I don’t mind a little sex, it’s to be expected in a romance, but I like it to be romantic.  I’m surprised that of the five books of this series so far, only three actually have sex in them.  It’s a nice change of pace from your typical romances.

So, the series is fun, but not perfect.  Only three left to catch up.

 This was from my personal library.

Deadly Desire, by Brenda Joyce

Deadly Desire by Brenda Joyce: Book CoverFinished 2-9-10, rating 4/5, romance, pub. 2002

Book 4 of the Deadly series (Book 1) (Book 2) (Book 3)

I’ve now been rereading this series for a month and I am having so much fun.  This is the book where it does begin to feel a bit soap opera-ish, but in a good way.  The mystery that sets the book in motion is dropped halfway through and not mentioned again until the last page.  Another mystery did present itself, as did a surprising declaration of marriage, and a beating that was never resolved.  Actually,there was a lot that was not resolved in this book, which is why it is a bit like a soap opera with a big cast of characters and a lot going on.  

Francesca’s relationship with Rick reaches a tipping point when she receives a note from his wife and her friendship with Calder heats up.  Rick is the good guy out to reform the New York police department and his half-brother Calder is the cad only out for himself…and Francesca.

There is no way to read this one without having read the others and get any enjoyment.  I think it would be too confusing.  That being said, I love this series, so if you like romances I recommend finding book one.

This came from my personal library.

Deadly Affairs, by Brenda Joyce

Cover ImageFinished 1-29-10, rating 4.5/5, romance, pub. 2002

Book 3 in the Deadly series (Book 1 review) (Book 2 review)

Things are heating up for Francesca and the married, but informally separated police commissioner, Rick Bragg.  They are barely fighting their attraction to each other, there is a murderer on the loose and, of course, Francesca is vital to the investigation.  Two women have been brutally slain and Joel’s mother, Maggie, is in grave danger.  Francesca’s mother agrees to let Maggie and her four children move into the mansion, but only if Francesca agrees to be set up by her mother.  Calder, Rick’s cad of a brother, is the intended target of this matchmaking and Rick doesn’t like it.  Francesca’s sister is having her own man troubles after confronting her husband over an affair with a neighbor. 

There is romance, mystery and a wonderful sense of New York City in 1902.  The mystery was solid and it wasn’t until all was revealed that it made complete sense, which is a good thing!  And while I like Rick, he does have a wife and in 1902 he is really bringing scandal on Francesca by continuing to encourage her.  They are perfectly suited, but he is not available.  That is the interest in this series for me because it is so true to life.  Sometimes there is just no perfect choice and the journey to making a decision reveals so much about your character.

There is so much to like about this series, but I will say the same thing I said last week about the heavy-handed way men sometimes act toward the women, if it bothers you, read something else.  And you really do want to read this series in order.

This book came from my personal library.

Deadly Pleasure, by Brenda Joyce

Deadly Pleasure by Brenda Joyce: Book CoverFinished 1-23-10, rating 4/5, romance, pub. 2002

This is book 2 in the Deadly series (Book 1 review)

Someone grabbed her arm, hard.

Francesca whirled, knowing it wasn’t either of her parents.  A pair of black eyes met hers from beneath a huge gurtimmed hood.

For one instant Francesca stood there, shocked that someone would grab her and unable to to determine whether the person was a man or woman.  She was about to demand that she be released when the person said, “Miss Cahill?”

It was a woman.  Francesca relaxed slightly. “Yes?”

“Please.” The woman’s single word was an emotionally distressed plea.  “Please.  Please help me.” she said.

Chapter 1

Beautiful and wealthy heiress, Francesca Cahill, fresh off her success in catching a killer and falling in love with the new New York City police commissioner is now passing out business cards calling herself Crime-Solver Extraordinaire.  Life is looking good.  Rick asks her out, she has her first paying job, and her parents remain unaware of her college studies and most of her sleuthing.  But in the course of her investigation she catches her brother-in-law having an affair with a murder suspect and Rick confesses a devastating secret.  The dead body in this book is Calder Hart’s father.  Francesca hopes to mend the rift between the two brothers and needs to prove Calder innocent to do it.

I love the relationship between Rick and Francesca and there are so many great supporting chraracters like her perfect sister, snooty mom, and pickpocket assistant. 

If you like turn of the century New York, wealthy and powerful men and beautiful and smart women you should give it a try.  If you are sensitive to the way alpha males treat the women they love then this may not be the series for you.  It’s a favorite series of mine and they really need to be read in order.