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REVIEW: One Night in London by Caroline Linden

REVIEW: One Night in London by Caroline Linden

Dear Ms. Linden:

I picked this one up when I realized I hadn’t read many historicals lately. This is the first in a three book series involving the de Lacey brothers who discover that their recently deceased father may have been a bigamist threatening their standing in society and their inheritances. Edward, the second son, has been managing the estates of the Duke of Durham for some time and thus it falls to him to see to securing the legal claim to their estates while his younger brother searches for the blackmailer. The eldest, and new Duke of Durham, appears to be a dissolute do nothing (I’m sure he’ll have some dark secret to regale us with in his own book).

One Night in London by Caroline Linden Edward’s plans however, upset those of Francesca, Lady Gordon who is trying to retain a solicitor to assist her in obtaining guardianship over her dead brother’s daughter. When Francesca’s solicitor abandons her case to help Edward, she flies into a rage and confronts Edward, demanding that he compensate her loss by assisting her obtaining a new solicitor. Her fiery demeanor incites a passion in Edward that has been heretofore undiscovered.

The story starts out with Edward engaged to Louisa, a gently bred woman with whom he is in love. Despite his brothers’ urging to NOT divulge their scandal to Louisa, Edward does.

Edward nodded. “Agreed, except . . . I must tell Louisa.”

“Louisa!” Gerard frowned. “Must you?”

“How can I not?” Edward frowned back. “She deserves to know.”

His brother looked unconvinced. “I know you care for her, but I suggest you reconsider. You’ll have to put the wedding off because of Father’s death, but there’s no need to tell her of . . . this.”

“Gerard, she is my fiancée,” Edward replied, each word coated in ice. “I cannot keep something like this from her.”

Gerard hesitated. “Perhaps you should, if you want to keep her as your fiancée.”

Edward stilled. “I will pretend I didn’t hear that,” he said quietly. “Louisa is a woman of understanding and discretion. Moreover, she is the woman I love, and the woman who loves me. I wouldn’t dream of keeping such a terrible secret from her.”

Of course, Louisa doesn’t keep his secret, breaks their engagement and sells the story to a scandal sheet. From that point on, Edward spends most of his thoughts contemplating Francesca’s beauty:

Now that he was staring at her, he seemed unable to stop. His eyes roamed over her face, beautifully flushed, and her gleaming hair, so glorious against her skin. The other day, when she railed at him for stealing her solicitor, she’d been magnificent, in the manner of an avenging Fury. Francesca Gordon in a passion was quite a sight. The little devil that had invaded his mind tonight couldn’t stop comparing her to Louisa, who went pale and silent in emotional upset. Francesca—he really mustn’t become accustomed to thinking of her as such—reacted with anger and action. She stormed his house, the home of a total stranger, and upbraided him for inadvertently ruining her hopes. She said she would never forgive him, and smiled wickedly when he called her a managing female. By God, one could have a rousing good row with a woman like this, and then. . .

In fact, it isn’t until 43% of the book (mine was a digital arc) that Edward ponders Louisa’s betrayal, this woman that he loved so greatly that he could not countenance keeping such a secret from her. I think Francesca may have spent more time contemplating Edward’s loss than he did. This bothered me a great deal during the first half of the story. So much of the first half is Francesca and Edward thinking lustful thoughts about the other and that just didn’t fit. Shouldn’t Edward have felt a twinge of hurt, after all, he referred to Louisa as his “idealized model of womanhood” and despite this passage in the middle of the book, his broken engagement has little affect on him.

It hurt too much to think of the woman he had loved, honorably and faithfully, betraying his confidence and jilting him without a qualm. He wanted to know why. He wanted to demand she explain herself, even though he had no desire to repair the breach now. He wanted to know how he could have been so deceived in her character; he had thought her loving and loyal, trustworthy enough to hear his darkest secret and keep it so.

On the one hand, I am supposed to believe that Edward was deeply in love with Louisa. On the other, I’m to believe that this emotion can be cast off in a matter of hours and transferred onto Francesca. Once I gave up thinking about this, I appreciated the story once more. In other words, if I, like Edward, totally forgot about his prior love and Louisa altogether, I enjoyed the romance between Francesca and Edward.

I liked that Francesca, a widow, had a prior good marriage. There were definitely surprises that occurred in the second half that I hadn’t anticipated and that added a level of poignancy to the story. The dispute over the dukedom was set up well and read very plausibly. There was one scene in which Edward was yelling at Francesca for acting dangerously when she kissed him to shut him up which I thought was a nice gender reversal. I actually found the agnst free way in which they embarked on their affair was refreshing and I enjoyed how completely they enjoyed each other.

Having said that, I never saw Francesca as a lively, passionate woman outside of Edward’s previous experience. Sure, she showed a strong desire to be a mother to her niece, but that just didn’t seem very “fiery” to me. And Edward’s character wavered between kind of uptight in the beginning to completely unfazed about having his affair with this widow be well known amongst society. In short, I never got a good handle on either character. I didn’t feel like I knew them. I felt more like their actions were played out according to what the scene dictated rather than having the scene dictated by their characters. Both characters are perfectly likeable, but not very real. C

Best regards,


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What Jane Has Been Reading, Week of August 29

What Jane Has Been Reading, Week of August 29

Like my previous post, this is actually a retrospective list of what I had read the past couple of weeks:

Mistress Bride by Michelle Reid – A discussion of Reid’s books prompted me to pull out this favorite of mine.  I really like how Reid uses societal constraints to keep the protags apart. She did this in the Sheik’s Chosen Bride by having the loved wife of a prince of an Arab principality leave her husband because of infertility.  In Mistress Bride, the Arab Sheik is supposed to marry a nearby Arab heiress but has instead carried on a public affair with a wealthy Englishwoman.  The question of why the Sheik never asked Evie to marry him before she becomes pregnant is never satisfactorily answered.

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The Father of Her Child by Emma Darcy – Michael Timberlane is a famous Australian literary agent whose marriage fell apart when his flighty society wife starts flinging bits of wisdom from some Lauren Magee with whom she works.  When Lauren and Michael meet each other Michael has every intention of eeking out some revenge but after one night together, Michael realizes that his conclusions regarding Lauren were wrong and that they are meant to be together.  Their HEA is put in jeopardy when Lauren realizes Michael obfuscated his identity and by Lauren’s ex husband.  I liked that the two had to confront their own biases conclusions about each other that they formed from other’s hearsay and accusations.

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The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark – this was a decently written UF but it’s not got the romance that I like in a cross over book and because of that, I’m not compelled to read the second.  Much of the story is setup as well.  I’ll write a full review later this month.

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Too Proud to be Bought by Sharon Kendrick – very silly story.  Zara is a waitress who catches the eye of Russian Billionaire, Nikolai Komarov.  She resists his advances and thus places herself in the whore category in Nikolai’s eyes.  She would also be in the whore category if she accepted his advances.  No winning with Nikolai.  His own desire for her is blamed on her whorishness.  So Nikolai arranges for Zara to be his personal waitress when he travels. She also eventually falls into his bed, thus confirming her whorishness. Somehow she becomes a whore no longer, but I wasn’t sure at which point she crossed over that line for Nikolai.

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I realized I hadn’t read (or purchased) Thread of Fear and Whisper of Warning by Laura Griffin. After reading those two, I went on to re-read Untraceable, Unspeakable, and Unforgivable. I generally agree with Jayne’s reviews here. It was because of Jayne’s reviews that I read these books. She isn’t a regular reader of romantic suspense and when Snapped came to my door, I finally broke down and read her. It was great and I had to buy her backlist titles. Thanks Jayne!

Cover Me by Catherine Mann – I bought this because I wanted to read more romantic suspense. This book had 23 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4 and 1/2 stars. The story features a heroine who lives in an off the grid community in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and a pararescue Army person. I probably won’t read another Mann story. Her writing style doesn’t appeal to me. She info dumps and overexplains all the time. At one point, late in the book, she has one pararescue guy say to the other while they are searching for explosives: “I think the explosive sniffing dogs have found something.” Plus, she was always violating the rules she had set up. I.e., no one who left the Islands could return yet when the heroine is taken off the Island, she doesn’t question that she’ll return at all. The off the grid community is comprised of about 150 people but they all have their own business and seemingly a lot of ready cash. What does an off the grid community need with cash and how do they get it if they are off the grid?  Ironically, the villain in this story does everything for the love of a woman which made me think of last week’s op ed post.

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In looking over my list of September book reviews, I realized that my historical reading was way, way down so I read three historicals:

One Night in London by Caroline Linden – The 1st half of the story was bit irritating because so much of the internal monologue was spent on the mental lusting between the characters. What made this so irritating, beyond the obvious, is that the hero had  been jilted by a woman that he professed to love. It wasn’t until about the midway point that he began to think about his feelings of loss and betrayal.   the 2nd half of the story however picked up quite a bit and I ended up liking the book much more than I thought it would.   Full review here.

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Whisper of Scandal by Nicola Cornick.   I’ve wanted to read Cornick ever since I talked to her editor Tara Parsons at RWA this summer.  I choose  Whisper of Scandal because it’s an adventure book that takes place, in part, in the North Pole.    The book had several three-star reviews at goodreads that read like 4 or 5 star reviews which I found baffling until I read the book.  Cornick is a smart writer  and she’s got great dialogue. The story was unusual but part of it wasn’t completely satisfying. I know I’ll read her again because her voice is good and her plots feature different types of characters.

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In the Arms of the Marquess by Katherine Ashe.   Much of the conflict in the story depends upon the hero’s willful misunderstandings of the actions of the heroine.  While the prose is lovely, the hero is one of those who thinks all women are jades and whores.  He seduces the heroine when she is purportedly engaged to another to prove to himself and to her that she’s just like every other woman he has bedded and who has wanted to bed him. My enjoyment of the prose wasn’t able to overcome my dislike of the way in which the angst was contrived.  Full review here

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The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin.  I liked the world and the characters but the denouement was a let down, much like I felt the denouement disappointed in Butterfly Swords.  Full review to come.

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Blood of the Demon by Rosalie Lario.   This is the first book I’ve read from the new publisher Entangled Press, and I liked it.  My  biggest problem was that the story felt short for a paranormal.  It’s around 74,000 words and there definitely was room for more development of the characters.  Full review here.

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Mark of the Sylph by Rosalie Lario.   This October release is the 2nd in the series and while it’s full of interesting and weighty ideas that are never fully explored.  Much of the story is spent on the 2 characters coming onto each other and resisting each other’s advances and ultimately falling in bed.   I really had to force myself to finish this one as I didn’t  feel like it advanced the world that was set up in the 1st book.  I’ll probably read one more in the series to see if this author is one to watch.  Full review to come.

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Fighting Fair by Anne Calhoun.  This is a self published short story that is under 15,000 words and deals with marriage in trouble.   Calhoun has a great voice and her characters feel modern and real.  Unfortunately, I felt that the length of the story was too short for the subject matter.   The story opens with the characters in couples’ therapy  which the husband doesn’t think that they need. One of the impediments to their relationship is the husband’s work and I felt that that was too easily resolved which allows the characters to fall to bed with each other.   I wasn’t convinced that their marriage troubles have been resolved and thus found the story unsatisfying. It’s more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” here, I think.

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