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Kalen Hughes

REVIEW: Ripe for Pleasure by Isobel Carr

REVIEW: Ripe for Pleasure by Isobel Carr

Dear Ms. Carr,

Thanks again for sending an advanced copy of your newest book “Ripe for Pleasure” to Dear Author so we can get an early sneak peak at it. When I heard that it would be set during one of my favorite historical periods, Georgian England, that’s all it took for me to be eager to see what I’d find in it.

In 1783 one of London’s most sought after courtesans is working on her second volume of memoirs which is making several high profile men very anxious. Viola Whedon knows that but frankly doesn’t care. With the proceeds from her books, she can feather her retirement nest against the day when she can no longer command the exorbitant price rich men pay for the privilege of her company. But although she expects to rattle some cages and piss a few people off, she never counted on having her house invaded, her servants terrified and having to flee into the night to escape the hired thugs. Luckily for her Lord Leonidas Vaughan is out on the street and takes command of the situation.

Ripe for Pleasure by Isobel CarrOr was it luck? Unknown to Viola, Leo has been planning to enter Viola’s life ever since he and a cousin discovered hidden family letters which lead them to believe that a Jacobite fortune is hidden somewhere on Viola’s property. Now things have turned ugly as Leo believes Charles will do anything to recover the treasure first. In order to protect Viola, and continue the search himself, Leo devises a plan. He offers himself as a literal protector to Viola and allows her to believe that the cause is a man angry about her upcoming book. Given his reputation in bed, he also challenges her to a game of seduction – something her friends urge her to agree to. But who will fall to whom and what lengths will Leo go to in order to keep the woman he loves safe and in his life?

There are lots of tropes and well used themes here. Let’s see: band of male friends, super hot studly hero who makes all women in London swoon for him, the hero who wagers he’ll seduce the heroine into something, a heroine who initially seems cool to him but who caves almost immediately and joins the swooners, hot sexing with tons of orgasms, a headstrong younger sister who is always getting into scrapes, the fallen heroine who nevertheless is readily accepted into hero’s family. The one thing that I haven’t seen in every third book is the fact that the hero’s Ducal family is unabashedly uncaring of the restraints which hamper those beneath their exalted social rank. Sure, I’ve seen some Dukes do what they want but here the whole family frankly doesn’t give a damn.

You’ve also included not one but TWO secret groups – The League of Younger Sons and the New Female Coterie. Okay, I’m used to seeing the group of guys – must have other future heroes already introduced and ready for sequels – but the society of fallen ladies – whoa, that’s new. But aside from having a tea party or two, nothing comes of it and I still don’t understand the point of it. Will there be future demi-rep heroines?

As for this book, at least heroine is truly fallen. Well and truly a woman who’s been paid for sex and not just a one off but for a number of years and by quite a few protectors with no chance of having her past swept under the rug. Brava. If the heroine’s going to be a whore, then have her be one with no pussy footing around, I say. I like that Viola’s an author and making her own way before Leo crosses her path. She’s intelligent, well spoken and, as seen early in the book, can handle herself in a fight.

What I don’t like how Leo lies and lies to Viola. His actions cost her a great deal and almost get her killed and though he chooses her over his cousin, his repeated actions in placing her in danger don’t sit well with me. And after Charles has shown his hand and his feelings to Leo – and this early in the book – does Leo seek to warn anyone about him? I can see not informing any authorities but if Leo wanted to keep it in the family, he could warn his father the Duke so that he could do something about Charles and keep the snarling villain away from the family. However Leo stays mum and at that, I really did shake my head as to me these aren’t the actions of a hero.

Expanding on this, I hate the villain. I hate that he gets away with as much as he does. Yes, he’s family to Leo but good Lord how much more infamy does it take? His actions have already cost Viola’s footman his life, injured several of Leo’s footmen, burned down a mews, torn up a house and ultimately allowed Viola to be abducted and brutally beaten. When he makes his final play for the treasure I wanted to scream “enough already! I’m ready to shoot the bastard.” I even cocked my finger and fired it at the page.

I’m not sure I saw Leo fall in love with Viola. Lust certainly, possessiveness oh yeah but love….hmmm, not so much. Meanwhile, Viola loves her orgasms, she loves the hot springs bath at Leo’s country estate Dyrham, she lusts after Leo but it seems she falls in love with him because the plot says so. And in the beginning, Leo promises seduction. He further vows that Viola will give into his seduction. I’m anticipating a long, slow, arousing seduction but instead after one public scene at the theater – whamo! she collapses into his arms like a “simple assembly required” item that’s missing two bolts and a nut listed as things that should be in the packaging.

However once the plot tells me that Leo and Viola are in love I don’t have a problem with their marriage. 1) hero is from a Ducal family which I imagine has a lot of clout and is slightly more above the rest of society. 2) the hero is a younger son with at least two nephews. 3) you mentioned the historical examples of Charles Fox’s marriage to Elizabeth Armistead and the antics of Lady Sarah Lennox – daughter of Duke of Richmond. And 4) it seems like Leo and Viola plan to live a life in the country thus not inflicting themselves on society.

The book is well written, as always, fast paced and filled with sequel bait but I must say I’m disappointed with the feeling that I’ve read the same – or at least similar – plots and characters in the past. It’s all nice and fairly safe but nothing new. The relationship between the hero and heroine shown in the except for the second book sounds promising but for this one, I’d give it a C.

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Lord Scandal by Kalen Hughes

REVIEW: Lord Scandal by Kalen Hughes

Dear Ms. Hughes,

lord-scandal-coverLast year I found “Lord Sin” to be a great and happy surprise. As you’d already written a follow up to it, I was poised for more happiness. Well, I was sorta happy but, alas, not quite as much.

Gabriel Angelstone can’t believe his luck when he discovers that the subject of the infamous divorce portrait is also a guest at the country houseparty of his newly married female BFF George. Gabriel happily anticipates some sexual fun until Imogen sets him straight. “No huggie or kissie” from this woman attempting to edge her way back into polite society.

After her boorish first husband believed the rumors which circulated through London society, he went to the extraordinary length to get a divorce. Can’t have rumors about one’s wife ruining one’s political future. Tossed out on her ass by her husband, banished by her family, Imogen has eked out an existence until George takes her under her wing and decides to resuscitate her life. Imogen’s hopes for this endeavor are simple and she’s aware that she needs to be Caesar’s wife. If only she didn’t find Gabriel so damned attractive and unable to resist.

Though the book follows “Lord Sin” and features many of the same characters, I don’t believe it necessary to have read “Sin” first. One thing that I noticed again is that there are a lot of characters. A ton of the ton, shall we say? So many that I had to sit a spell to try and remember who they all are and their relationships. And even after I was well into the story, I was still having to stop to untangle them in my mind.

I adore Gabriel Angelstone even though his name makes me wince. But at least his given name not some variant of Devil or Lucifer or some other totally asinine moniker. The nickname Brimstone I actually found kind of cute. Anyway, he’s great. He stays the same character through the whole book without suddenly doing an about face at book’s end. He knows what he wants, he’s open about it, he gives Imogen plenty of time to make up her mind. And then make it up again. He flirts with his body as well as his mind which just sounds like a delicious combination.

The grin that I got while reading how Gabriel routs Imogen’s bully of a brother almost split my face. Richard is such a rat bastard that I could fully picture Gabriel grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, like a terrier, and shaking him til Richard’s teeth rattled.

His unholy glee at challenging Imogen’s first ass of a husband practically radiated off the screen of my Sony. The duel scene was a hoot and along with the initial challenge shows how the sporting set is ready to stand behind Gabriel and Imogen. The fillip of humiliation that Morpeth adds with the doctor’s bill was the icing on the cake.

And if I’d had to chase after Imogen after she hightailed it for Scotland, riding in the pouring rain, on mud filled streets and roads, she would be shrinking back a little from me too. Gabriel goes to excessive lengths to get this woman and I hope he’s happy with her.

Because, oh sweet Lord, I got sick of waffling Imogen. At first she is living the quiet life just content with slowing easing her way back into society after the disastrous divorce from her husband.

– And by the way, but what exactly was up with the portrait? Why was it painted, who painted it and how did the rumor about Imogen’s infidelity get started? I would hope her husband had something besides tabby gossip on which to base his House of Lords suit for divorce. –

Then she’s depicted as having somewhat of an impish sense of humor – which could desert her at a moment’s notice and not show up again for most of the book – when she trods on Gabriel’s boots and routs him in George’s country garden. Then she’s determined to keep him at arm’s length. Then she wants him and allows liberties in the garden. Then she changes her mind when her brother threatens her and her emerging place in society is at risk. Then, wait, she decides to give in since they’re at the lodge after the rained out hunt but oh, she can’t make up her mind – should she let him come to her at night for the rest of the houseparty? Yes, let’s fuck like bunnies.

But no! After he asks her to freakin marry him – she can’t possibly allow that! She’ll be ruined. He’ll be ruined. Must deny, deny, deny him. But her traitorous body urges her to kiss him when they’re in London, and maybe they wouldn’t be ruined after all. Yes! Let’s get married. But only until Gabriel does what he must and faces down her ex-husband then – whoops, wedding’s off again and she must flee…

One minute she’s skirting around Gabriel the next she doesn’t want to let him take the lead. Then she’s shy then she’s going after sex like a cat in heat. I felt I needed a score card to try and keep up with her weathervaning changes of mood and mind. And I got truly tired of trying to understand her since I couldn’t.

The sporting men of the ton still worship George – which was no change from her own book. She’s still the same person as her book along with almost all the other characters so at least I wasn’t dealing with any 180 flips but it was easier to deal with all this worshiping in “Lord Sin.” It’s getting tiresome here. Let George sit the next book out and have its own heroine be the one who shines.

I like learning about life in the eighteenth century but others might be bored by the slow pace of large chunks of the book. Imogen learns to shoot a gun. Imogen learns about horse races. Gabriel grins and swans around searching out Imogen at house parties. George gets worshipped by her “set.” At times, it began to get tedious.

The head hopping might also drive some readers berserk. I didn’t have a problem with it as you quickly gave some clue as to whose head we were currently in but I know this is a bugaboo for others.

I’d snap up Gabriel in a heartbeat but Imogen annoyed me to no end. Still, I’ll be looking forward to your next book and hoping it delves even more into the emerging events in France. B-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Kindle ebook format. (can’t find in other formats)