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Harlequin Undone

REVIEW:  The Awakening of Poppy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye

REVIEW: The Awakening of Poppy Edwards by Marguerite Kaye

Awakening-of-Poppy-Edwards

Los Angeles, 1924

Broadway producer Lewis Cartsdyke has come to Hollywood with a business proposition for starlet Poppy Edwards. But as he’s watching her sing in a downtown club, dressed in a man’s suit that skims her lush curves, a much more wicked proposal comes to mind.

Poppy has fame, wealth and an aversion to love. Lewis offers the kind of passion she craves—delicious, sensual heat without complications. Night after night she abandons herself to sensation, promising she won’t lose her heart the way her sister did. But for Lewis, uncomplicated is no longer enough—and soon he won’t be satisfied until he’s claimed all of Poppy in blissful surrender.

Dear Ms. Kaye,

After finishing reading the companion novella to this one,“The Undoing of Daisy Edwards,” I dove straight into this one. Since they’re from the Undone line that wasn’t hard nor did it take long to finish them. Two sisters who’ve sworn not to fall in love – hmmm, what is she going to do differently?

Poppy’s book isn’t initially quite as dark as Daisy’s. Poppy didn’t lose a husband in the killing fields of France nor did Lewis fight there as Dominic had. But in their own ways, they’ve suffered too because of what happened during the Great War. Poppy and Daisy grew up to be so close that when Daisy almost collapsed from grief, Poppy felt it and watched in dismay as her sister shriveled into a shell of who she’d been. When Daisy was no longer able to work in their act, Poppy had to make her own way and chose to leave for Hollywood. Lewis was an ambulance driver and saw things that haunt him still. But he also wrestles with decisions he had to make, things he thinks he might have done wrong and the awful randomness of death.

Both Poppy and Lewis think they’ve found ways to cope with the fallout of the war – for Poppy she’s sworn not to risk the same kind of heartache that wrecked Daisy while Lewis has sworn to make something of the luck of his survival but still hasn’t actually allowed himself to remember and deal with what he lived through. But like Daisy and Dominic, it’s falling for someone and the peace they find from that which will bring them safely home.

I enjoyed the compact, direct, conversational style of the writing. It gives the novella a very immediate “feel.” As Willaful pointed out in Daisy’s novella review, the time and place are delicately hinted at rather being ladled on with a heavy hand. Poppy says how much she enjoys being able to squeeze fresh orange juice then go sit by her pool while she likens something to being lit up with an arc light – very southern Californina/Hollywood premiere-esque. Meanwhile Lewis just knows the bourbon he gets near the night club stage will be awful – due to Prohibition, while if he goes to the bar he’ll quietly get the real stuff.

The sex is hot from the start. Well actually it’s sizzling without having to be described in detail. I have no problems with Poppy being sexually aggressive in a historical as not only is the setting in the flapper 1920s but it’s also in pre-code Hollywood when things were normally wild. But what makes me think these two are truly compatible is that along with the smoking sex, they bond and fall in love in other ways. Both are interested in the technical aspect of making films and the promise on the horizon of talking pictures and Poppy starts to lower her guard when she lets Lewis into the intimate areas of her house – first the kitchen and then only after they’ve admitted their love – into her bedroom. At the point where sex turns into making love.

I was impressed by the fact that both novellas feel complete without seeming rushed. That the emotions are strong and well described and that I finished both feeling good about where the couples are. They make me look forward to the full length book to come. B

~Jayne

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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-

~Jayne

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