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Bronwyn Scott

Reading List: Kelly’s Historical Romance Roundup for June/July 2013

Reading List: Kelly’s Historical Romance Roundup for June/July 2013

I’m slacking off on writing a full review because I blew through these pretty quickly, and I already used up my snark quota for the month. All but Jeffries and Willingham were new-to-me authors.


What the Duke Desires by Sabrina JeffriesWhat the Duke Desires by Sabrina Jeffries

If I didn’t own Jeffries’ entire backlist, I might have avoided this solely because of the dopey generic title. But she’s earned my trust, and she still has it. The illegitimate heroine is smart and vulnerable, the duke is full of hidden tragedy and repressed passion, and the intrigue revolves around their missing siblings rather than political maneuvering. It’s a typically enjoyable Jeffries book — nothing vibrantly new or different, but she’s such a good storyteller I never get kicked out of my reading trance. Grade: B

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To Sine with a Viking by Michelle WillinghamTo Sin with a Viking by Michelle Willingham

I’m pretty sure I need to read more by Willingham. This one starts out with the Irish heroine clobbering the Viking hero over the head and taking him captive, and you know how much I love stuff like that. She can’t let him go or kill him because she needs his strength to find food for their starving village, and he can’t escape because he needs her help to find his kidnapped estranged wife. Yes, he’s married, and they angst about it. A lot. But Willingham somehow works around the inherent squickiness, and she writes some really good action scenes. Book trance on this one too. Grade: B

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A Lady Risks All by Bronwyn ScottA Lady Risks All by Bronwyn Scott

The first half of this story had me hooked — the author used the theme of “risk” in different ways to define not only the hero and heroine, but also the heroine’s loving-but-conniving father. The plot revolves around billiards, and the early-Victorian historical world-building was vivid and completely believable. Until…(sigh)…the hero, a younger son of a viscount, suddenly became styled a “Lord” and the heroine a potential “Lady.” I finished the book, but I lost faith in the story and the author. Fantastic cover, though. Grade: C

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Lady Northam's Wicked Surrender by Vivienne WestlakeLady Northam’s Wicked Surrender by Vivienne Westlake

This 55-page erotic romance maxes out the short story format, but there just isn’t enough substance to sustain more. The writing is capable but uninspired, and with the sole exception of Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter, I have yet to read a “Dream Sex or Real Sex???” scene that doesn’t make me laugh. For 99¢, it’s probably worth a try for some readers, but I’m not inclined to seek out anything more by this author. Grade: C-

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The Lady and the Laird by Nicola CornickThe Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick

I didn’t make it very far with this one. The meet-cute in the prologue was really good, and I was intrigued by the set-up with the bluestocking heroine writing erotic letters for her brother to woo his beloved away from the crabby hero. I adore bluestocking heroines and crabby heroes. But then…(sigh)…the “jilted at the altar” scene has the idiot brother and his vapid lady love eloping to Gretna Green. From the Highlands. As in, the Highlands in SCOTLAND. I just couldn’t do it. Grade: DNF

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Forbidden Jewel of India by Louise AllenForbidden Jewel of India by Louise Allen

This one sat in my TBR queue for months because I had Significant Book Anxiety. I want to love any and every romance set in India, but the cover and description made me more than a little wary. This book is, unfortunately, a solid example of “exoticizing the ‘other’.” In her author’s note, Allen describes her recent trip to India with enthusiasm, and it’s obvious that she reveres the history and culture, but the authorial (or maybe editorial) choices of which bits to include didn’t work for me at all. There are several gratuitous references to sati ritual suicides, a superfluous scene featuring a Shiva lingam statue, a king cobra attack, and excessive use of Hindi words for fashion and furniture that served no purpose other than to show off the author’s research. In addition, the romance left me cold, the hero was too perfectly perfect, and the heroine (an Anglo-Indian princess, of course) was wildly inconsistent. Grade: D+

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Not Just a Governess by Carole MortimerNot Just a Governess by Carole Mortimer

I think I need to skim a Harlequin Presents title by this author to see how consistent her writing style and voice is across genres and categories, because it’s definitely, well, unique. Mortimer loves ellipses and em-dashes and exclamation points, which should endear me to her. But when every question in the dialogue ends in an ellipsis, and every expository paragraph has an interjection offset with em-dashes, and five paragraphs in a row end with an exclamation point, the punctuation becomes increasingly intrusive. Also disruptive were the repetitive words and phrases; the hero was described as “cold” more than 25 times (that doesn’t include his chilliness, frostiness or iciness), and we’re told he has stormy grey eyes nearly 50 times. I also had major issues with the plot, in which the heroine was grateful for the hero’s light-fingered Magical Orgasm Cure that allowed her to overcome the ickiness of her recent rape at the hands of her evil cousin. But, of course, her real post-rape trauma — the loss of innocence that renders her unfit for proper wifery — lingers until the cold, grey-eyed hero’s grand gesture. Grade: D-

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REVIEW: Libertine Lord, Pickpocket Miss by Bronwyn Scott

REVIEW: Libertine Lord, Pickpocket Miss by Bronwyn Scott

Dear Ms. Scott,

I noticed the new category of Harlequin Historical this month called “Harlequin Undone.” I assume this is sort of a historical novella kind of thing as this story (in Microsoft Lit) formatted to 101 pages on my reader. I also assumed that it would skew more towards erotic romance though that didn’t happen, at least for this one.

Julian Burke and Sophie DuPlessy are both after the same thing though for different reasons. Julian is charged to retrieve the priceless diamond jewelry for the English Royal family while Sophie has been hired by an Italian Count. He knows the jewelry was looted after the English Civil War while she’s been told that the jewels were stolen from the Count’s family. Right now, they’re in the possession of a French nobleman in Vienna and so it’s to there that both principals have traveled.

At a ball given by the Comte, Julian tries to use Sophie as an alibi to divert any pesky attention that might follow the loss of the jewels while Sophie returns the flirting and raises Julian some hot sexual petting in the stakes to claim the diamonds. When both discover that the other is somehow involved, they decide to settle their differences with some strip piquet. But when a determined Count comes after the diamonds, there’s only one way for Sophie to get out of Vienna and that involves Julian.

Novellas are tricky. There’s precious little space for an author to introduce the characters and plot then spin the story to a conclusion while making me believe in a HEA. It’s even harder if the hero and heroine don’t already have some kind of history together. “Libertine Lord, Pickpocket Miss” has this major handicap and while I enjoyed the characters and story, it was just too fast for my tastes.

I also didn’t enjoy being teased about Sophie’s level of experience only to discover otherwise. It goes along with the fact that though she essentially steals things, she makes sure that she’s in reality only retrieving goods stolen from their rightful owners. So she’s a thief but not really a thief. I’m tired of heroines who aren’t allowed to be truly bad but must be whitewashed for Romance consumption.

Julian is a good egg. He quickly realizes that Sophie is in trouble and doesn’t try and turn the danger she’s in to his advantage. He pulls a fast one during their wager yet he only plays on her assumptions. For someone involved in the type of shady shenanigans he is, he’s a straight shooter. Minuses for him: the fact that the hero, a younger brother of an Earl, is supposed to have a courtesy title. I have my doubts about this and, due to what happens in the epilogue, I wondered why it was even necessary. He also contains his sexual encounters to sophisticated, older women who “know the rules” so while he’s bad, he’s not really bad.

I’m not overly thrilled with this story but it’s more because the romance wasn’t handled well in the length of the novella and the fact that the heroine and hero are standard “bad” character wannabes. But I like the writing style and the secondary character who you mention will get his own story next year. C+

~Jayne

This is an e-novella that is not available in print. You can purchase the ebook at Harlequin.