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REVIEW:  King of Threadneedle Street by Moriah Densley

REVIEW: King of Threadneedle Street by Moriah Densley

Dear Ms. Densley:

Historical romance reviews are hard to come by not just at Dear Author but around the internet. In an email exchange with Jayne, we joked about putting a bounty on historical reviews meaning we’d pay extra for every historical review that appeared in our inbox. But change starts at home so I pledged I would read and review one new historical every month in 2014.

The King Of Threadneedle Street (Rougemont #2) by Moriah DensleyI started early with The King of Threadneedle Street. It was the number one Victorian romance over at Amazon and it was a bargain price at 99c. The concept is tantalizing but the execution left a lot to be desired.

Alysia Villier is the daughter of a famous courtesan who married well enough to die a Countess but because of Alysia’s notorious parentage, the likelihood of her marrying well is low. Or so we are told. Alysia’s position in the Courtenay household is bizarre. She serves as almost Lord Courtenay’s secretary cum steward, sorting correspondence, sending out replies, handling tenant complaints. She also plans the wedding of Lord Courtenay’s daughter to Duke of Belmont.

Andrew asks his father “Where is the steward? Who is the mistress of the house? Is my mother so addle-brained that Alysia must manage your estate?”

Unfortunately for Andrew, Alysia and the reader, there is no response.

In a convoluted set up, Alysia grows up in the home of Marquees of Courtenay where she and the heir, Andrew Tilmore, Lord Preston, share a childhood romance. Lord Courtenay does not want his bloodlines tainted with the likes of Alysia and he warns her off constantly. Initially a bargain is struck to send Alysia to another home to ostensibly be a companion to Viscountess Harringer but really she’ll be the son’s mistress.

When Andrew suggests a different position for her – any position she desires whether it be lover, mistress, or wife – Alysia refuses. She’d rather, I guess, be the mistress to some stranger than be with her childhood beloved because she fears his social ostracization. Andrew continues to pursue Alysia throughout the story as she runs from him and his desire to give her a legitimate place in society, one beside the man she purports to love.

To tarnish her even more, Alysia goes to Paris where she becomes an actress and–unbeknowst to her–a demimonde in training. Fortunately Andrew has been searching for her and finds her before she can be sold to someone else. All this happens and Alysia remains untouched.

Alysia’s continued rejection of Andrew makes very little sense to me. He’s a man of great fortune. He’s brilliant. He’s the son of a Marquess. The idea that in the late 1800s him marrying a Countess’s daughter even if the Countess had a poor reputation would somehow ruin his ability to make money trading stocks wasn’t well conveyed in the book.

None of the surrounding characters made much sense either. Andrew doesn’t squawk when his sister’s new husband wants to invite Alysia on the honeymoon. While he might warn Alysia away from the Duke of Belmont, he makes no moves to warn his sister. His mother continually pushes awful women at Andrew including ones that have about as poor of a reputation as Alysia, yet shuns Alysia.  His father raises his mistress’s daughter in his household but won’t countenance a relationship between her and his son. Instead, he does everything he can to push Alysia into high class prostitution.

And it’s not that Alysia will be poor either. Thanks to the management of her money by Andrew, Alysia will be very wealthy when she comes into her inheritance.  So none of the choices made by any major players in the book seemed authentic. The plot became even more convoluted as the story went on. The twists in the story seemed melodramatic rather than interesting as we discover Alysia’s parentage and Alysia and Andrew’s social standing almost flips. Perhaps with tighter editing or a more focused plot this could have been interesting.

Andrew was a sweet beta hero who was head over heels in love with Alysia. They were two nice characters who probably belonged together but the effort to keep them apart was too artificial.

It’s a fairly long book,  made longer by the unnecessary addition of nonsensical plot point after nonsensical plot point.  It took me six days to finish this book. It’s an inauspicious start to my renewed commitment to historicals. D

Best regards,

Jane

 

 

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REVIEW:  In Love with a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle

REVIEW: In Love with a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle

Dear Ms. Carlyle,

I’m a fan of many of your early historicals, but in recent years I have found most of your books more miss than hit. Nonetheless, I’ve always enjoyed your writing style and when I saw that In Love With a Wicked Man apparently features a new cast of characters and no paranormal elements or secret societies, I was happy to give it a shot. In doing so, I somehow missed the fact that it includes an amnesia plot, but having liked some romance novels that included amnesia plots, I was not too concerned.

In Love With a Wicked Man by Liz CarlyleKate Wentworth has been the Baroness d’Allenay for several years, since the title can be inherited by a woman. She has always been considered the “sensible one” in her family, while her late brother James was the beautiful one and her eighteen year old sister Nancy is the charming one. After a London season and a broken betrothal, Kate now manages Bellecombe, the family’s ancestral home, and does not wish to marry and cede control of it:

“No one will look at me and see a plain woman with a good heart. They will see only the heiress of Bellecombe. But my father and my brother nearly bled this place dry, and I’ll be damned before I’ll let another man do it.”

When Kate and another rider almost collide, he is thrown off his horse and suffers a head injury and subsequent amnesia. The man, known only as “Edward”, is taken to Bellecombe to recover. Edward is actually Ned Quartermaine, the illegitimate son of a gaming hell owner who now operates his own club; he was in the neighborhood to look at a property he had taken in payment of debt. Kate and Edward get to know one another while he tries to regain his memory, and begin to develop a relationship. Edward is impressed with Kate from the beginning, trying to decide which goddess she might be (he settles on Vesta):

“… her eyes were keen with intelligence and wry humor; one got the feeling Lady d’Allenay laughed often—and frequently at herself. Yes, there was a vast deal of color inside her. And her hair—though it appeared not to have so much as a wave in it, and despite the fact that she had dressed it as severely and plainly as was possible—it had suited her; it had looked efficient and practical.”

The first part of In Love with a Wicked Man is somewhat slow paced and reminded me a bit of your first novel, My False Heart, which also featured a jaded man who stumbles onto the country home of a very capable and independent woman. In addition to Kate and Edward’s relationship, there is also the matter of running Bellecombe, the anticipated visit of Kate’s mother Aurélie and her wild friends, and Nancy’s desire to marry the local rector, whom Kate approves of but Nancy’s guardian does not. Edward is concerned that he himself may not be a good man and warns Kate, but the two nonetheless become more involved and spend one night together.

Shortly afterward, Edward regains his memory (helped by a servant with a very good memory regarding the peerage): he is the second son of a Duke who was actually born from the Duchess’s extramarital affair, and was expelled from his home at the age of ten, when the Duke found out the truth. Kate is more concerned about his choice of career than his family background, but both conclude that they cannot be together. Almost immediately following this revelation, Aurélie and her friends descend upon Bellecombe, and the plot changes rather abruptly into something of a house party romp. Aurélie, who refuses to be called Mamma by her daughters, is rather unconventional and is happy to engage in behavior that generates much gossip in society. She is also considerably cleverer than she lets on and is able to achieve her goals – mostly to do with the romantic relationships of herself and others – very effectively.

I really liked Kate, who is capable and smart, and not afraid to stand up to others and go after what she wants. The secondary female characters are also very good – Nancy, who is much more than just a pretty face and whose chief aspiration is to marry the rector and work together for the benefit of the community; the clever Aurélie and her entertaining schemes; and even the housekeeper, Mrs. Peppin. I was disappointed when Nancy’s subplot resulted in her essentially being written out of the final third or so of the book.

The men did not hold my interest to the same extent. Edward has an interesting background, but he is unaware of it for a long time, during which he seems a fairly standard romance hero, handsome and honorable. Even when he regains his memory there’s not as much depth to his characterization as I would have liked. There’s also Bellecombe’s steward, who is practically a member of the family, and Aurélie’s friends and acquaintances, not all of whom have the Wentworth women’s best interests at heart.
While I enjoyed many of the characters and your writing style remains engaging, I wasn’t so enthusiastic about the plotting. As I noted, there was a fairly abrupt transition in the middle between what felt two completely different books. In addition, neither part really worked all that well on its own: the first half could have done with a lot less internal monologues and rumination from both Kate and Edward, while the second half seemed a bit too farcical at times, with a rather predictable ending and an overlong epilogue.

Ultimately, I very much enjoyed many of the characters and their interactions, but didn’t find the story strong enough to justify a higher grade. I still hope that one day I might enjoy one of your books as much as I liked the earlier ones, but my grade for In Love with a Wicked Man is a C+.

Best regards,
Rose

Rose lives in a country where romance readers are few and far between, so discovering romance websites was a welcome development. When not busy with reading and graduate school, she can often be found online discussing romance novels or sports –occasionally both at the same time. She has no TBR pile and is forever looking to change this unfortunate fact; recommendations for historicals, romantic suspense and contemporaries (preferably of the non-small town variety) are welcome.

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