Sunday, January 31, 2010

DIK Reading Challenge: Lord of Scoundrels

Title: Lord of Scoundrels
Author: Loretta Chase
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Scoundrels (#3)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Tough minded Jessica Trent's sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian ballister, the notorious Marquess of Diain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And When Daines reciprical passion places them in a scandously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction...

Dawn the minx for tempting him, kissing him...and then for forcing him to salvage reputation! Lord Dain can't wait to put the infuriating bluestocking in her place -- and in some amorous position. And if this means marriage, so be it -- though sebastian is less than certain he can continue to remian aloof...and stell his heart to the sensuous, head strong lady's considerable charms.


For the past few years I’ve heard a lot of hype about this book. I’ve only read one other work by Loretta Chase (Your Scandalous Ways) and loved it- 5 out of 5 stars. So, when I decided to take on the DIK Reading Challenge, Lord of Scoundrels seemed like a good book to kick off the year with. The book is excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the kind of book I couldn’t set down, even when there were other things I needed to get done. Lord of Scoundrels has great characterization and depth and I can see why many people put it on their favorite.

I would love to add to Lord of Scoundrel’s praises, but as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t find it memorable. This can be a major problem when trying to write a review, or even keeping track of the plot. For the life of me I couldn’t remember who was angry with Dain, who wanted revenge, who was manipulating who, and why anyone was doing any of those things to begin with. In the end, I’m writing this more based on impressions than memories.

Dain is the definition of the tortured hero. His mother abandoned him. His father didn’t love him and packed him off to school as soon as he could. The other boys beat him up, called him ugly, and said his mother was a whore. The traumatic childhood resulted in the belief that no one could ever love him, and that the best way of dealing with it was to engage in as much debauchery as is humanly possible. Normally I’m not a big fan of this plot as I don’t believe true rakes can be “reformed”. And Dain was a true rake. If his character had been any less well written I would not have been able to believe the HEA. His childhood explains his determination to revolt against anything “respectable”, but at the same time didn’t excuse his behavior. Even though you know the type of man he will become, it’s impossible not to feel sorry for him as he spends all of his childhood being looked down on and degraded. From his thoughts it’s clear how his lack of self-worth has been ingrained in him. A lot of time is spent in Dain’s head, which is consumed with the “no one could love me/I’m ugly/I’m evil” monologue. It could get repetitive- he’s pretty whiny and insecure. Essentially, Dain is stuck as a child for most of the book. He hasn’t grown emotionally, and whenever he doesn’t get his way he starts stomping around and yelling like a little boy. I think watching the emotional development made his groveling much more satisfying later on. Despite all of his brutishness and stupidities, Dain does some really good groveling in the end.

I know a lot of people had issues with how Dain treated his son. It was heart wrenching to see him do what his father did to him. All in all, the book has a plethora of bad parenting. However, Dain reacting to his son differently wouldn’t have been realistic, especially since he was still so emotionally immature. I did think it was resolved (Dain gained the ability to be a father as he began to sort out his own issues) and I like that once shoved into the situation, he managed to figure a bit of it out without Jessica’s help.

I think I had more problems with Jessica. I liked that she was intelligent and witty. Her ability to hold her ground in any situation was necessary considering how overwhelming Dain could be. But she was often just too perfect. She could walk into an antique store and in minutes find a priceless antique than no other collector had noticed. She was a spinster, but by choice. Despite her age and lack of fortune she still had no shortage of suitors. She was uncommonly beautiful and could reduce the average man to rubber by batting her eyes. She was infinitely patient with Dain. She managed to let not only him into her heart, but his bastard son who even he didn’t want to deal with. Just on principle. I think I would have liked her more if she showed some flaws. However, any less of a character could not have taken on Dain. Since she was neither a wet rag nor TSTL, I can forgive that at moments she felt like a Mary Sue.

I would recommend Lord of Scoundrels to any of my friends. It’s easy to get into, has complicated and realistic characters, and was a satisfying read. Even with the annoying blip in my memory I know it was an excellent book and I’m up for reading any of Loretta Chase’s other novels. 4 out of 5 stars.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: Chasing Stanley

Title: Chasing Stanley
Author: Deidre Martin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Blades (#6)
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I'm surprised I even picked up this book considering the cover...


What do a New York City dog trainer and a pro hockey player have in common? They both love Stanley, an adorable but naughty Newfoundland...

When dog trainer Delilah Gould spots a rambunctious Newfoundland disobeying orders, she can't help but stepping in and teaching the gentle giant to heel. But it's his hunky owner she's really like to teach a few tricks. Too bad he's clearly the untrainable kind.

Professional hockey player Jason Mitchell is thrilled when he's traded to the New York Blades--the team of his dreams. There's just one problem: his pooch isn't adjusting to city life too well. Good thing he crosses paths with dog trainer Delilah Gould. At least that's what he thinks--until he realized he's fallen for her.

Now, with the season heating up, Jason realizes he'll have to score big-time to win the Stanley Cup and the woman who had tamed his dog and unleashed his heart.

I found Chasing Stanley to be a disappointing book. The first few chapters leading up to Delilah and Jason getting together were fun, light-hearted, and amusing. Jason had hero potential- I loved that he was attracted to Delilah despite her being shy and always covered in dog hair. However, once they got together it was all downhill from there.

Neither Jason nor Delilah showed any character growth throughout the novel. Delilah is painfully awkward and shy, interacting better with dogs than people. Whenever she is in a social situation she ends up babbling and embarrassing herself. Neither of these are particularly horrible traits, except that she has no spine. Not only is she socially awkward, but she spends most of the book on the brink of tears about one thing or another. She’s overly vulnerable. She doesn’t have a lot of common sense. She runs out of parties the minute she thinks someone doesn’t like her. She’s been traumatized by her parents fighting and bickering, so it makes some sense that she’s hesitant about relationships, but she literally becomes a nervous wreck just thinking about her parents. The only character who is less mature than her is Jason.

Jason is essentially a little boy now living in the big city playing hockey. He’s impulsive about everything. He buys digital cameras before furnishing his apartment. He goes out to get drunk with his teammates and his brother. And he’s about a zero on the maturity scale. I had major issues about Delilah and his first major public outing. Jason wants to go have dinner with some of his teammates. Delilah was clear she didn’t want to go and that her social anxiety would probably cause some problems. They go, and she babbles. It wasn’t much of a shock, but at the same time it wasn’t a major deal. Yes, she embarrassed herself, but she didn’t say anything offensive or anything that should have embarrassed Jason. Jason, however, gets really angry about what happened. In the car ride home he starts lashing out that she needs to get help about her social anxiety problems at that she hasn’t been doing anything to fix it. Hello! Delilah clearly stated that she didn’t want to go, that it would be hard on her, then Jason pressures he into it and gets mad when it doesn’t go the way he wanted? I was so annoyed by the whole incident I had to put the book down for a while. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to bother to finish it.

Jason spends a lot of time in the book considering Delilah a liability, which makes me really doubt that they belong together. She’s a homebody, and he likes to go out and party the night away. A lot of couples can overcome this, except Jason wanted Delilah to start partying and Delilah wanted Jason to stay in more. They weren’t very good at compromising. For a few months, they take a break from dating and stay friends. They work way better this way, and even though they get back together at the end, their future as a couple appears doomed. I’m not sure what it says about Jason’s character that the moment he and Delilah break up he starts going to Victoria Secret fashion shows and clubbing with models- to “distract him from missing Delilah”. I had trouble seeing him as long-term relationship material. (Why were they together again?)

Jason’s twin brother Eric isn’t particularly likeable either. I know he has a book later on in the series, but I had trouble ever seeing him as a hero. He’s smooth and charming, but mostly uses that to cause trouble for everyone else. During the book Eric starts a fling with Delilah’s father’s fiancée, which isn’t resolved by the end of the book and feels like a loose plot thread.

Almost every other character was a two dimensional stereotype. You have the high strung Jewish mother. The gay best friend. The father with the midlife crisis, horrible fake tan, and blonde bimbo on his arm. The darling parents from Minnesota who love each other, live on a farm, and don’t worry what people think of them. The list goes on. There are several large group interactions which involve the team, coaches and past players. I could sort of guess which characters were in past book in the series, but consider how uninteresting they were, I doubt I’ll be reading their books. They were generally described as beautiful people with beautiful children who are beautifully happy. Yay.

I think the biggest problem with this book is that there is absolutely no tension. I’m not a sports person, but I really like hockey which is one reason I chose this book. But not even the hockey was interesting. There was no suspense built up. The descriptions of the games didn’t convey at all the adrenaline rush the players would be having. They won the Stanley Cup before I even realized they were in the finals. The sex was basically the same. There was no spark. It would have been better if those scenes were never included- they were so bland.

The only thing I really liked was Jason’s dog Stanley’s connection to everyone. He brings most of the humor to the book with his antics. He’s a very lovable dog and eventually becomes the team mascot. However not even a big lovable Newf could save this book. 2 out of 5 stars, and I doubt I’ll be reading anything else in the Blades series.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Babies

It's almost ironic that my last post was about addictions: I came home today with four new purchases from Borders. To be fair, I had a $10 off $30+ coupon and five Border's Bucks, which seemed like a deal just too good to pass up. I ended up choosing a dozen romances then staring at them all for twenty minutes trying to decide which ones I was actually going to buy. I splurged on some YA romances as well. I don't read YA too often, but as I was browsing through the shelf I realized I was in the mood for something light and fun. I'm hoping to get a review up in the next day or two, but in the meantime, here's what I got today:

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side was something I saw on Anna's Book Blog a while ago. YA fiction seems to be drowning in vampires/werewolves/paranormal (and the never ending gossip girl) so I wouldn't have picked this one up except for already having read a review.

The undead can really screw up your senior year ...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of
Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

After reading the first page or two, it seems like what Twilight would have been if it hadn't taken itself too seriously.

I read a review for this (possibly years ago) on Dear Author. It reminds me of the sort of books I read and loved as a pre-teen. I was into anything historical (and still am). It's a bit of a walk down memory lane, fuzzy feelings included.

After the Russian revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination. Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is nearly overwhelmed by her new duties—not to mention her instant attraction to Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme. To make matters worse, Rupert appears to be falling for her as well. As their attraction grows stronger, Anna finds it more and more difficult to keep her most dearly held secrets from unraveling. And then there’s the small matter of Rupert’s beautiful and nasty fiancée...

Forbidden love. Childhood friends turned more. Undeniable passion. Yup, sounds up my lane. But really I got it because of that sticker on the front: $4.99. Take that Subway!

Millicent “Missy” Armstrong is entering her fourth London Season, but not for lack of suitors. Since her debut three years ago, Missy has received twenty marriage proposals. But she is interested in only one man—her brother’s best friend, James Rutherford. As a child, Missy looked up to James. As a grown up, her admiration has blossomed into the longings of a beautiful, sensuous woman—and she won’t rest until James admits his love—and desire—for her…

James Rutherford rues the day he let his physical weaknesses get the better of him by kissing Missy. His best friend has made it clear that Missy is off limits, and though he’s avoided her for three years, he hasn’t forgotten the feel of her soft lips pressed against his—and it seems neither has she. For no matter how much James tries to discourage Missy, he keeps winding up in her arms, sharing heated caresses that promise the most delirious pleasure...

This was an unexpected pick. I haven't read anything from this author before or read any reviews. I liked the title, the cover and the summary, so I took the risk and got it.

Nell Anslowe and Julian, Earl of Wyndham, are an unlikely couple in every respect. Injured in a riding accident ten years ago, Nell was left with a fiance who abandoned their engagement, a slight limp, terrifying nightmares, and the firm belief that she will never marry. The abrupt end of Julian's unhappy marriage formed his resolve to remain a bachelor until the end of his days. But as Julian chases down his reckless stepsister, he seeks shelter from a summer storm in a cottage - and finds it occupied by Nell, who has escaped from a fortune-seeking libertine bent on carrying her off to Gretna Green. Discovered together by Nell's family, the couple's hasty wedding is the only way to save Nell from scandal - but the polite union each of them expects blossoms into something much more powerful...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Adikshun: I Has It

Somehow over the past two years, reading romance has moved from a pleasurable past time to an addiction. I remember when I used to only read romance novels during a vacation, or if I happened to find a few at a garage sale. I never kept track of authors or series, so my selections were fairly ecclectic. And, after reading and enjoying them a time or two, I would later sell them or donate them to the library.

Now, two years later, I have a collection of two hundred romance novels (seventy of which were '80s Harlequin romances I bought in a lot off Craigslist. Awesomely bad covers). I have lists upon lists tracking the romances I read: by author, by title, by series, by what I plan to buy, what I plan to read but won't buy. Even without those lists I track everything again on Goodreads, which I check more than my Facebook.

All this popped into my head today when I went to the library to return ONE book and came home with THREE. I already had a large pile of TBR books from the library sitting on the floor, not to mention the two shelves of TBR books that I own. I finally understand what it means to have an "addictive personality" >.<

Recent Reads:

I'm fairly apathetic about this book. I didn't dislike it, but I found it too dull to merit a real review. There wasn't much tension and most the events seemed disconnected. I couldn't figure out what was keeping Charlotte and Rafe from getting married way sooner other than contrived stubbornes. 2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Review: Don't Bargain with the Devil

Title: Don't Bargain with the Devil
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: School for Heiresses (Book 5)
Grade: 3 out of 5 stars

The future of Charlotte Harris’s finishing school is in jeopardy when a charming Spaniard, world-famous magician Diego Montalvo, arrives to turn the bordering estate into a scandalous pleasure garden.

Valiantly ignoring his wicked flirtations, outspoken Lucinda Seton intends to derail his plans and save the school--unaware that Diego’s true mission is to spirit the long-lost heiress away to Spain for a handsome reward!

But before long Diego’s heart is playing tricks on him, and Lucy is falling under the conjurer’s spell. How can the Master of Mystery go through with his devilish scheme when all he wants is to make the lovely heiress his own?

I place Sabrina Jeffries on the second tier of my favorite authors list: her books may not be my top picks, but I can always rely on them to give me a fluffy but satisfying read. Don’t Bargain with the Devil was both fluffy, satisfying, and a good set up for the next book in the series involving Charlotte Harris and cousin Michael.

Initially, I enjoyed the passionate sparring between Diego and Lucinda. They have an instant, fiery connection that made me root for them from the beginning. However, somewhere toward the middle of the novel, Diego and Lucy begin to go back and forth between love, lust, betray, angst and anger so much that it becomes dizzying. It’s not the big misunderstanding- it’s the misunderstanding that never ends (until the last five pages).

The book is mainly set in England and is a fairly traditional historical, but still has an enjoyable exotic element from Diego and Lucy’s Spanish heritage, the use of the language, and the few scenes set in Spain. Though Don’t Bargain with the Devil was not my favorite, I’ve still enjoyed the School for Heiress series and plan on finishing it shortly.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Movies: The Young Victoria

Last night I was in the mood for seeing a movie on the big screen. My first choice would have been Avatar, but since no one else wanted to see that with me, I went with my second choice: The Young Victoria.

I've been interested in seeing it for two reasons. First, I absolutely love Emily Blunt. I think she is incredibly talented and can't wait to see what she does in the future. The second reason was that Sarah Ferguson was one of the producers. The New York Times had an article a few weeks back about Fergie and her role in making this film.

I was not disappointed in the film at all. Emily Blunt's performance was wonderful. She just seems to absorb her characters, completely becoming them. Her portrayal of Queen Victoria wasn't what I expected. While Victoria can be considered the "heroine" here, especially since the film heavily focuses on her romance with Albert, Blunt captures the nuancies of her character. She portrayed both her strength as well as her insecurities and childishness. Rupert Friend (Prince Albert) was equally memorable. He was a man torn between giddy young love and lost without a role in his wife's court. I fell in love with his character. The rest of the cast was equally memorable, including Miranda Richardson as Victoria's weak-minded but power hungry mother, and Paul Bettany as the slightly sinister Lord Melbourne.

Unfortunatley The Young Victoria finds itself torn between being a dramaticized documentary and a romantic drama. There is no one story line to follow. Half the film seems devoted to chronicling Victoria's seccession to the throne and its perils and the other half to portraying her romance with Albert. For this reason the film lacks a conclusive ending. Victoria is still young and fairly niave, and we never see her master her role as Queen, make decisions based on her own beliefs, or find satisfying independence, which was her goal. Despite their love Albert and Victoria still have many trials ahead of them, mainly balancing Victoria's role as queen with the dinamics of their husband/wife relationship.

The stylistic filming was distracting at points. While I liked the use of shadows, the camera frequently went out of focus and I was unsure why that technique was used. It didn't seem to enhance any moments or convey a particular feeling.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who loves period dramas or romances. The costumes and settings were gorgeous, the love story was captivating, and the acting was superb. I would give it four out of five stars.