Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Born to be Wilde by Eloisa James (The Wildes of Lindow Castle #3)

untitledSummary from Goodreads:
The richest bachelor in England plays matchmaker…for an heiress he wants for himself!

For beautiful, witty Lavinia Gray, there’s only one thing worse than having to ask the appalling Parth Sterling to marry her: being turned down by him.

Now the richest bachelor in England, Parth is not about to marry a woman as reckless and fashion-obsessed as Lavinia; he’s chosen a far more suitable bride.

But when he learns of Lavinia’s desperate circumstances, he offers to find her a husband. Even better, he’ll find her a prince.

As usual, there’s no problem Parth can’t fix. But the more time he spends with the beguiling Lavinia, the more he finds himself wondering…

Why does the woman who’s completely wrong feel so right in his arms?

Surprise! If you thought you’d have to wait another year for the next Wilde installment, guess again – Eloisa has gifted us with Parth and Lavinia’s story.

At the end of Wilde in Love, we left Parth and Lavinia with a lot of mutual loathing. He thought she was just an empty-headed, society clotheshorse (although this is a bit rich from a guy who owns lace factories). She thought he was a Johnny-come-lately who made his money through child-labor (and the only man who didn’t fall at her feet). At the end of Too Wilde to Wed, most of those feelings haven’t changed except that Lavinia has discovered that her mother is a thief; Lady Gray used Willa’s inheritance to fund their lifestyle. And now, in Born to Be Wilde, if Lavinia doesn’t want to be destitute and shamed in Society, she’s going to have to go cap-in-hand to Parth and ask him to marry her.

This does not go particularly well. He turns her down. Parth is planning to marry an Italian countess (Elisa, who has other plans). Lavinia comes down with the stomach bug from hell, Lady Gray is revealed to also be a laudanum addict, and Parth offers to help Lavinia find a suitable husband. Embarassing. But when Lavinia and Parth actually start talking to each other, rather than sparring, and Lavinia stumbles into a career of her own, they just might fall in love.

I really liked this installment in the Wilde family series, but I didn’t LOVE IT like I did the two previous books. Something about Parth and Lavinia’s story just didn’t grab me. I think I had been expecting Beatrice and Benedick, a couple who have a serious history but work it out, but they didn’t quite get there. It may also have been the B-plot/potentially complicating plot threads, and there are a lot of them, which didn’t feel nearly as woven into the fabric of the story as I know they could be (Elisa, while a nice character, was extremely superfluous by the end of the book). I also felt that Parth and Lavinia’s story was so very spread out over time, we didn’t get to see them growing together. Then there is the crucial problem of people not actually talking to one another, which was a problem that didn’t exist in Wilde in Love. One thing that has kept getting better through the books so far, is the character of Lady Knowe, the duke’s sister, and the aunt of all the Wilde children. She gains dimensions in her character with each new book and I wonder if, when Eloisa is done writing a serial novella about the Duke of Lindow and Ophelia, if she will tackle Lady Knowe as well. She has to have a story to tell, too.

Born to be Wilde is out today.

Dear FTC: Do you not know me already?

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Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Too Wilde to Wed by Eloisa James (The Wildes of Lindow Castle #2)

36341200Summary from Goodreads:
The handsome, rakish heir to a dukedom, Lord Roland Northbridge Wilde—known to his friends as North—left England two years ago, after being jilted by Miss Diana Belgrave. He returns from war to find that he’s notorious: polite society has ruled him “too wild to wed.”

Diana never meant to tarnish North’s reputation, or his heart, but in her rush to save a helpless child, there was no time to consider the consequences of working as a governess in Lindow Castle. Now everyone has drawn the worst conclusions about the child’s father, and Diana is left with bittersweet regret.

When North makes it clear that he still wants her for his own, scandal or no, Diana has to fight to keep from losing her heart to the man whom she still has no intention of marrying.

Yet North is returning a hardened warrior—and this is one battle he’s determined to win.

He wants Diana, and he’ll risk everything to call her his own.

I will always get a little weepy at a good Happily Ever After.

Because at the very end of Wilde in Love, Eloisa James gave us an Epilogue, wherein North visits his ex-fiance Diana to inform her that he is going to lead a regiment of the British Army against the rebel Colonists in America….and as he is leaving, a baby cries. And that’s the end of the book!! GAH!

Too Wilde to Wed picks up two years later, when North returns home to Lindow Castle – whole in body, but broken in spirit and mind – and finds Diana installed in the nursery as the nursemaid/governess to his little sister. And a strange little boy that is not a member of the family. And a gossip mill rumor that has tagged him as the little boy’s father.

Diana has her own reasons for hiding herself away in the Wilde family nursery – most of them personal and potentially extremely embarrassing, if not actually dangerous to a member of her family. North’s return presents an annoying problem – Diana didn’t jilt him because she didn’t love him or find him attractive, she just couldn’t handle the social pressure of becoming the duchess of North’s future dukedom (not that the current Duke of Lindow was going anywhere soon – he’s a pretty healthy guy in his fifties). Plus her mom was the actual worst and Diana decided that her sister came before a fiance.

love a good second-chance romance. Like, my favorite Austen is PersuasionToo Wilde to Wed has second chances galore – but also a lot of real-world baggage. North doesn’t come sauntering back home a war hero; he’s disillusioned, haunted, and suffering from PTSD. Diana, while she is still attracted to North, is extremely averse to the social whirl surrounding the Wildes, particularly since she cannot afford to please only herself. But Diana and North have a lot of late-night talks – and snacks – and very slowly begin to find a way forward that is their own path together. And they get a lot of pushes and shoves from the rest of the Wilde clan who are absolutely in their element trying to match-make North and Diana.  I loved it.

And that cover model is welcome to get crumbs in my sheets any time. Hummina hummina.

Too Wilde to Wed is out today!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss – and I pre-ordered it because if you did, and sent Eloisa the proof, you get access to an exclusive novella about the Duke of Lindow and his third wife Ophelia.

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Wilde in Love by Eloisa James (The Wildes of Lindow Castle #1)

34121896Summary from Goodreads:
Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks. Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.

Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.

Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own . . . until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.

But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy. . . .

The first book in Eloisa James’s dazzling new series set in the Georgian period glows with her trademark wit and sexy charm—and introduces a large, eccentric family. Readers will love the Wildes of Lindow Castle!

Eloisa James, who is basically the romance writer that got me back into reading romance with A Kiss at Midnight, has a new series!  Cue the confetti cannons!  She’s going back to the Georgian era of her Desperate Duchesses series and focusing on the romantic exploits of a single family: the Wildes, headed by the Duke of Lindow, who live in Lindow Castle on the edge of a bog.  The series doesn’t start with the Duke (more on him later).  It starts with the third son, Alaric.

Now, Alaric has become famous – infamous, really – as a globe-trotting explorer, sending back accounts of the people and places he’s seen.  There are books and broadsides and a play (which has all the worst parts of cheap Georgian melodrama) detailing his exploits. And maybe some of those exploits were embellished by someone other than Alaric?  And miniatures, that women buy and swoon over. When Alaric arrives back in England after an absence of five years he finds a horde of women ready and willing to be his next “wilde” adventure. (To use a “wilde”-ly anachronistic twenty-first century comparison, the ladies are into Alaric as if he were all the members of 1-D rolled into one.)

Except Willa. When Alaric meets Willa at his father’s castle – where a party has gathered to celebrate his older brother North’s engagement (North is something else, more on him a bit later, too) – he is immediately intrigued by the only woman in the room who isn’t trying to get into his breeches. Plus she’s a sharply intelligent women. And she has a love of good books and dirty jokes. When an emotionally disturbed young woman appears claiming to be Alaric’s long-lost would-have-been fiancée from a Christian mission in Africa, Willa agrees to be Alaric’s pretend fiancée to spike the girl’s guns. And we allllll know how long “pretend” engagements remain pretend….

It’s always so, so much fun to start a new romance series. This one has many of my favorite elements (Georgians, smart ladies, fashion, cute pets…although I feel bereft that my favorite fashionable Duke, Villiers from Desperate Duchesses, doesn’t even get a mention, le sigh, but I do agree with Eloisa that Villiers tends to just take over any narrative you allow him into). Willa and Alaric have a slow-burn romance, the kind that makes them friends first and lovers after. I love it. Eloisa James’s romances are high on my list of favorites, not just for the couples, but because they’re all so meta-textual. I enjoy the puzzles Eloisa leaves her readers with references to other books, whether within that time period or not. She also gives us excellent B-plots – North and his betrothed Diana present a unique problem of their own (and a cliff-hanger!).

I said that I would get back to the Duke of Lindow later. Actual warm, affectionate, live fathers in romance are rare (possibly rarer than mothers who aren’t terrible or dead) and the Duke is a wonderful addition to this book. There’s a scene late in the book between Alaric and his father that is just so warm and wonderful. You can also get the Duke’s romance with his third wife, Ophelia, in parts when you submit proof of your pre-order for books in the series (details are on Eloisa’s website).

(And check out the cutie on the cover!)

Wilde in Love is out Tuesday, October 31! (Just a few days!)

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss and I have a copy pre-ordered on my Nook.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #12)

27240748

Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.

A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS

Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.

CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER . . . AND DESIRE

Much to Raphael’s irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he’s drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael’s past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael’s own demons?

When I started reading romance again in 2011/2012, there were only three books in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series.  And then three more…then three more.  Now, the twelfth and final book has arrived and I was really looking forward to this.  The series has evolved in a direction that I don’t think anyone expected and I really wanted to know how Hoyt was going to wrap it up. Besides, Raphael was introduced in Duke of Pleasure and that was very…intriguing.

Duke of Desire was not the book I was expecting.  It’s a good book, and I really liked it, but it felt more a conclusion to the 10-12 trilogy (Duke of SinDuke of Pleasure, and Duke of Desire) than to all twelve books as a complete entity. I suppose I had wanted a “get the whole band back together” type of ending for the series.

The timeline for the book is too compressed, in my opinion, to really allow a solid relationship between Iris and Raphael to fully develop. Also, I think Raphael’s original plan – infiltrate the evil cult to take it down from the inside – was pretty half-baked. (Because you sort of have to participate in something icky then? like when the undercover cop has to do the line of coke so no one thinks he’s the narc…only this cult deals in rape and murder, not substance abuse, so what did Raph think he was going to have to do to gain the group’s trust? I have logistics questions. He didn’t answer Iris’s questions satisfactorily.) Lucky for him Iris showed up aka was served up to him because she was kidnapped by the cult by mistake forcing him to abandon his original plan. Iris surprised me as a heroine. She may not fight with swords like Alf but she stands her ground and picks apart Raphael’s mental blocks until he is able to function as a human again. (Speaking of Alf, boooo, no Alf. Kyle shows up, but not Alf. Humph. Also, no Val…because I would have relished his appearance at the climax of the plot.)

But a big trigger warning. This book gets dark, really dark. Hoyt had been dancing around depicting what the Lords of Chaos get up to for a few books now, but she really went for it in Duke of Desire. Raphael has PTSD and I think Hoyt really gave a good depiction of what it was like to suffer from psychological trauma at a time when those issues weren’t recognized. TW for descriptions of child abuse and rape.

(1,000,000 negative points to the cover designer. Got a scarred hero? Sure, put an unscarred dude on the cover. *side-eye*)

So that is it for Maiden Lane novels (there are a few novellas in the pipeline still).  Lord of Darkness with Megs and Godric is still my absolute favorite of the series, followed by Dearest Rogue and Duke of Sin.  Can’t wait to see what Elizabeth Hoyt has up her sleeve next.

Duke of Desire is out today!

Dear FTC: I read an advance copy of this book from the publisher, but I also have it pre-order on my nook.

mini-review · Read My Own Damn Books · Readathon · Reading Diversely · stuff I read · YA all the way

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Guide #1)

29283884Summary from Goodreads:
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is ridiculous, rompy, and touching YA novel about Monty (a grade-A, Capital D, Capital R “dissipated rake” and bisexual, sent on the Grand Tour by his dad to shape up or face disinheritance), Percy (Monty’s bestie and unrequited crush), and Felicity (Monty’s younger sister and a bluestocking) in the 1730s. There are pirates, accidental garden nudity, French political shenanigans, and an alchemical secret that chases them across Europe. This was a delightful one-sitting read.

Dear FTC: I read Read My Own Damn copy.