Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Jayne S

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

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REVIEW:  A Dance with Indecency by Linda Skye

REVIEW: A Dance with Indecency by Linda Skye

New York City, 1920s

Bootleggers are breathing down hotelier Harry McMahon’s neck. So when a beautiful, young, and very wealthy widow from Paris turns up at the Cotton Club, Henry sees it as the perfect opportunity to combine business and pleasure. First he will take her body, then her heart, and finally, her money…

Elise Rousseau may not be the mousey innocent she once was, but she can’t believe Harry doesn’t recognize her–and she intends to punish him in the most wicked way. She will make him want her body, make him give her his heart. And then she will break it, just as he broke hers four years ago…

Dear Ms. Skye,

I noticed this Harlequin Historical Undone novella right as we at Dear Author started talking about wanting to read books with more unusual settings and time periods. “A Dance with Indecency” certainly fit the bill with a 1920s time frame plus the title gave me the impression that it wasn’t going to feature that character who only appears in Romancelandia – the dreaded Virgin Widow.

Harry and Eloise meet at a speakeasy in NYC – or should I say they meet again as they already have a history. Four years ago they graduated from the same college and mousy Eloise’s heart was broken when Harry rejected her declaration of love. Eloise has fixed herself up in Paris and is now radiant and sophisticated. Though Harry has already determined he’s going to scam her for as much money as he can get in order to pay off the bootleggers supplying his hotel before he’s even met her, thankfully Eloise avoids a plotline I dislike – the spurned heroine who is so fixated on a man that she’ll spend years planning ways to bring him low. Eloise does decide to get a bit of her own back but it’s only after Harry fails to recognize the new her.

Dance-with-IndecencyThe description of how Eloise married an older Frenchman might have led me to the erroneous belief that it’ll be Harry who initiates her into the delights of sex. Not so as someone has done a first rate job of seeing to Eloise’s intercourse instruction. She’s an enthusiastic pro who dazzles Harry after heating his blood with her penchant for going knickerless.

Harry shows signs of not being the cad he’s first portrayed as. After listening to what she tells him, he takes an enormous amount of time to bring to life a bit of Eloise’s favorite spot in Paris. He’s not all bad at all. Plus he’s a considerate lover and wants her to meet the folks. And that is the point when things head downhill.

There are two points of conflict in the story. When will Eloise’s true identity be revealed to – an almost unbelievably unseeing – Harry and then how will he react? And at what point will Eloise realize that Harry’s initial intentions were to take her for all the money he can get and how will she react? Neither denouement worked for me.

Eloise is humiliated enough when Harry – finally! – cottons on to who she really is that she flees the scene in tears. Harry chases after her and then they – I was hoping for talk things out but instead another sex scene appears with Eloise acting the flirtatious sex kitten. “The hell?” I thought. They do spend a few days getting to know each other again after that but this is like Prince Charming waving her glass slipper in hand chasing a coy Cinderella before catching up to her and doing her against the wall of the palace. I was sort of looking for “let’s talk” before “let’s fuck.”

Harry’s true purpose for chasing Eloise becomes clear and she decides – after saving his ass – that she isn’t sure she can trust him again. After all, he’s broken her heart twice now. Bully for Eloise in standing up for herself. That is until Harry tracks her down months later and promises to woo her with sex. Immediately she’s all coy and flirty. Really Eloise? That’s all it takes? No discussions of what went wrong in the past? Just plow straight on into a future? At this point not only do I doubt a HEA for these two, I’m not even convinced of a HFN. The setting is the cat’s pajamas but the romance is malarkey. C-


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REVIEW:  Alena by Merline Lovelace

REVIEW: Alena by Merline Lovelace

The wild heart of a warrior beat in the breast of Alena, daughter to a queen and mother to a king. A Celtic princess, she resolved never to bend to Roman rule. But how could she foresee that the iron fist of Rome would stoke her soul with the velvet glove of passion.

Marcus Valerius, Prefect of the Seventh Legion, had proven himself many times over in combat. Now newly come to Britannia, he would ensure the peace – despite the wiles of a tall, tawny-haired barbarian goddess with witchcraft in her lips!

Dear Ms. Lovelace,

I can’t remember when I learned of this book or when I first read it since that was before I began keeping my reading journal. But I loved it. Roman Britain with a native Princess recklessly pitting herself against a ruthless man she views as part of the subjugation of her people even as he fights his own growing attraction to this hellcat. What’s not to love?

Well, upon rereading it, the first 150 pages has a “Marcus gets mad and tries to yank a knot in Alena as she once again defies him” vicious cycle. Rinse, repeat, etc. But then Marcus is a hardened soldier and it seems plausible that a show of strength on her part would call to something deeper in him than mere lust – although he has plenty of that. Still this opening half of the book did begin to wear on my patience. How many times is Marcus going to bend Alena to his will without quite breaking her while she spits defiance in his face? It seemed endless.

Yet, I knew good stuff was lying in wait for me. Once the journey that Marcus endures as he takes his charge back to her venerable mother’s court in order that Mummy Dearest and her sot of a husband can, with Rome’s guidance of course, choose widow Alena’s next husband whom they count on to hold her young son’s lands until he reaches adulthood is finished the action truly picks up.

alenaMarcus gives in to his attraction, and yes lust, for Alena and with a clever maneuver secures her hot bod for himself. He’s also determined to win more than sex from her and goes about it with enthusiasm as he teaches her more than her dolt of a first husband ever did about coupling.

The road to their HEA is still rocky and no where near the end, though. It’s push and pull and some icy silences mixed with rages that apparently shake the stone walls of their house in the fort. Alena quickly wins the hearts and adoration of her husband’s men while he learns that she’s smart in addition to being fearless. The images I got are that these two give new meaning to “knock down, drag out” and that wise people steer clear until the dust settles. The final breakthrough that allows them to, at long last, admit their true feelings arrives in the heels of great personal sacrifice for each other and what must have been one hell of a battle. Which is entirely in keeping with a soldier of Rome x a fearless woman of the warring Brigantes.

Still when the book was over I realized that I’d actually learned a lot about these people and their world that I hadn’t known before. I also appreciated that you might have held back a bit in portraying them as people of their times but not by that much. The Lopocares enjoy nothing so much as displays of horsemanship preferably followed by a good free-for-all fight while most of the Romans view the Natives with a fair degree of disdain and patronage.

At times Marcus can come across as a highhanded Roman lout yet since the timeframe isn’t even a decade past the revolt of Boudicca, his iron hand becomes more understandable. Alena can appear pigheaded in her constant efforts to defy Marcus and shape her own destiny yet the difference in her self determination and strength as compared to the more staid Roman matrons of Marcus’s world is what makes her the woman he’s hell bent on winning. When they finally cry pax and yield to love, it’s all the sweeter for what they’ve gone through to get there. B


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