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B+ Reviews

GUEST REVIEW:  How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries

GUEST REVIEW: How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries

Elaina started reading romances in high school, but only started telling people she read romances within the last few years. Historicals will always remain her favorite, although she finds herself reading other genres depending on her mood. Favorite authors include Elizabeth Hoyt, Lisa Kleypas, Tessa Dare and Meredith Duran. She’s always on the hunt for innovative historical romances—especially non-Regency historicals—so drop her a line if you have a recommendation.

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Dear Ms. Jeffries:

You are one of the few romance authors that I’ve continued to read over the years. When I began reading romances years ago, I ate your books up like candy, inhaling any I could get my hands on. I dropped off reading your books for a little while but picked up your newest series, The Duke’s Men, and have thoroughly enjoyed each installment. Your books are like a pan of brownies: simple, tasty and comforting. You won’t find anything overly complicated in your books—which is a good thing. They’re entertaining and fun and romantic, and sometimes all I want is the romance novel equivalent of brownies.

How the Scoundrel Seduces, the third in The Duke’s Men series, focuses on private investigator and half-English, half-French Tristan Bonnaud and Lady Zoe Keane. Tristan’s family tree is a little complicated, but here’s a run-down: his father was Viscount Rathmoor and his French mother his father’s mistress, thus making both Tristan and his sister Lisette (heroine of the first book What the Duke Desires) illegitimate. They also have two half-brothers: George Manton, the current Viscount Rathmoor, and Dominick. George hates his half-siblings, while Dominick takes their side after the death of their father. Confused yet? Well, the family tree gets a little dicey, but you do a nice job of differentiating each sibling to avoid too much confusion from the get-go.

Tristan fled England with his mother and sister Lisette at the age of seventeen after the death of their father. Their brother George burned a codicil to their father’s will, completely negating any support their father tried to provide his illegitimate children on his deathbed. In a fit of both pique and desperation, Tristan sells the horse his father promised to him but is seen taking the animal. Charged with horse theft by his half-brother George, Tristan cannot return to England until years later. Once he returns to England, Tristan continues to seek revenge against his half-brother while working as a semi-private investigator with his other half-brother Dominick.

Lady Zoe Keane is one of those rare ladies who will inherit her father’s title regardless of her gender, as she will be the Countess of Olivier and heir to a grand estate. Raised in a happy home, Zoe becomes suspicious of her true parentage after her Aunt Flo (I admit to giggling at this name) drops hints that her mother was not her true mother and that she may have been sold to her parents by a Romany woman. Fearful that her title and estate may be in jeopardy if her true parentage is revealed while desiring to know the truth regardless, Zoe turns to the Duke’s Men to investigate as her father will not speak of the matter. She’s quickly paired with Tristan, as he can speak Romany and is the best resource for searching for answers within the Romany community.

Tristan and Zoe butt heads from the beginning, as Tristan finds Zoe to be a spoiled, pampered aristocrat and Zoe thinks he’s a womanizer without any scruples. Their attraction proves fiery from the beginning as they circle each other, trying to ignore their desires while also figuring out the mystery behind Zoe’s parentage. I enjoyed their bickering and teasing. Although, perhaps, slightly cliché in terms of romantic relationships, their fighting never devolves into viciousness and is used to reveal hidden parts of their characters. In one particular moment, Tristan tries to rile Zoe, but realizing what Tristan is doing, Zoe calls him out on his behavior:

“You always do that.”

“What?”

“Say provoking things to cover up the fact that you inadvertently allowed me a glimpse of the real you.”

 

As the story progresses, you add layers to both Tristan and Zoe’s characters, allowing them to be not just the rake or the lady but characters with their own hopes and desires unique to them.

I also appreciated how you represented the Romany people. From the very beginning, Tristan decries the notion that a Romany mother would sell her baby and even refuses to countenance Zoe’s farfetched tale until Dominick convinces him otherwise. Secrets are revealed as the narrative goes on while also showing the Romany as normal people living their lives as best they can in a country where they face great discrimination.

I do, however, have a few quibbles with this novel that keep me from giving it an A: one, Tristan, due to his father never marrying his mother and thus sentencing him to illegitimacy, cannot believe in love. Heroes who think love is stupid and pointless are innumerable in romances for whatever reason, and I’m rather tired of the trope, especially since it’s almost always linked to something a parent did or did not do. Decrying love entirely because your father was a jerk seems extreme to me, yet it’s so common in romances.

Second quibble is with the villain and half-brother George, who is not just evil, he’s what I term EEEEEEEVIL. I was surprised he isn’t twirling his mustache while cackling maniacally in every scene. Couple that with the reasoning behind George’s EEEEEEEVIL behavior and you had me rolling my eyes.

Despite those quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed this third book in The Duke’s Men series and am definitely looking forward to Dominick’s story next.

Grade: B+

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REVIEW:  The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

REVIEW: The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen

Dear Ms. Bowen:

Angela James recommended I read this. I actually found it on my Scribd subscription (although not Kindle Unlimited for those who were wondering but it’s quite cheap at $2.99 and definitely worth the three bucks). It’s a terrific read, contains everything I love about New Adult and none of the things that irk me. I’ve spent the weekend recommending it and the thing that struck me most was that this wasn’t a story I felt like I had read before which, given how many books I read a year, is rare.

Corey Callahan planned to start Harkness College as a hockey player, just like her older brother before her. She’d been coached by her father and was a highly coveted high school recruit. A tragic accident places her in a wheelchair due to partially damaged spinal nerves.

There is no miracle recovery in this book. Yes, Corey can and does walk at times with the help of arm crutches but most of her time is spent in a wheelchair. Who she is physically at the beginning of the book is primarily who she is physically at the end of the book. But she never lets you feel sorry for her. As you lose yourself in the story, Corey becomes just a student who has a crush on her neighbor across the hall, is adjusting her dreams to something different, and learning to make new friends.

Adam Hartley lives across the way in McHerrin Hall, the “gimp ghetto”. The first floor of this dormitory has been made handicapped accessible with ramps, wide doorways and bigger rooms. Adam’s broke his leg in two places and is mending nearby. The two bond over their love of hockey. Adam is a would be hockey star frustrated by his own lack of healing but humbled by Corey’s no nonsense attitude about her own predicament. They end up spending a lot of time playing RealStix, a hockey video game, talking therapy, and learning about each other in ways that healthy Adam and Corey may never have.

There are little slices from Corey’s point of view that drive home how many accommodations she has to make in order to live in an abled society. When she’s in a dining hall, for example, she’s always staring at people’s asses. Sometimes the counters are too high for her. And in an old Ivy league school like Harkness, many of the buildings don’t have ramps or elevators.

When Corey goes to a party, she sits in a corner and has to be patient with people coming to her, rather than moving about freely. None of this is shared in a oh poor me fashion but rather good humor, self deprecation, and understandable frustration. It’s hard not to be charmed by Corey.

Adam is a roughneck from a poor part of town with a loving mother and an absentee father. (Don’t call him bastard. He hates that) He dates a high maintenance girl who leaves for a semester abroad. While she is away, they have an understanding which is why he is unperturbed that her facebook photos from Prague to Greece are filled with an Italian guy. It’s obvious to the reader that Adam likes Stacia, his rich girlfriend, for what she represents than who she is. But even that self awareness only lends to his attractiveness. He recognizes that it doesn’t say something good about himself and he wrestles with that particularly in the face of his growing feelings for Corey who is everything that Stacia is not.

I loved the college setting which was perfect for this book along with the hockey aspect. Neither of the main protagonists play hockey but it’s a huge part of their lives. The virginity scene (which was completely understandable) along with the dildo scene was one of the better, fun, sexy love scenes I’ve read in a while. I had a huge smile on my face in the last half of this book. B+

Best regards,

Jane

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