Much Ado About Rogues by Kasey Michaels

Title: Much Ado About Rogues
Author: Kasey Michaels
Series: Blackthorn Brothers #3
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: 4/1/2012
Length: 379 pages
Format: Electronic Galley
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Challenges: 2012 E-book Challenge
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Purchase: Paperback | Kindle | NOOK
Rating: ★★★★★

Who is the darkly handsome Don John “Black Jack” Blackthorn? With his air of mystery and menace, the whispers about him hint of highwayman or government agent or even dark prince. But no one knows what it is Black Jack does… or how dangerous he can truly be. Now Jack’s mentor has disappeared, and Jack must track him down before it’s too late. His unlikely help: the man’s daughter—the very woman Jack had once wooed and betrayed.

Lady Tess Fonteneau knows more about the fine art of clandestine activities—and about the mysterious Mr. Blackthorn—than he realizes. As their journey leads them on the adventure of a lifetime, their reunion is fraught with passion, high-stakes danger and the one twist of fate Jack never saw coming….

This is most definitely the best book in this little trilogy. It’s definitely a close race, but I think Black Jack really outshines his brothers. I was positively riveted throughout the entire book, and only a little deterred by a little plot confusion.

Intrigue and cunning games can be confusing. I think any author writing about them needs to be very careful. While, I really enjoyed the book, the plot could get a little daunting and I had to spend a little time working through it. I will say that the confusion also kept me very interested in that part of the plot. I was eager to see how things with Tess’s father and the Gypsy would turn out. I did see some of the plot twists from a mile away though, and while it’s nice to say “I knew it,” I think I’d rather be surprised and blown away. But you know what, at least it had a good plot to begin with. Sometimes historical romances get too caught up in themselves to bother with that, and they end up just being about sex and fancy words. Fortunately, that was not the case in this book.

It’s really something to have the mystery of Black Jack revealed and realize that he’s just as likable and compassionate as his brothers. He’s just a little rougher around the edges, and he has a lot of ghosts from his past hauting him. Actually, it’s pretty simple to see why his story is the best. There’s a lot more to it. Tess was his rock. He would never admit it, but she’s the reason he developed. It took a lot of nagging and fighting to get him there, but she put in the effort. She is in love with him, after all. The two of them make quite the team and I really loved their banter. It was always entertaining.

I think Kasey Michaels perfectly executes regency language. It’s not too much. It’s easy to understand, but also not too current. Conversation is one of my favorite things about reading historical books. I love how witty people could be without being rude. You could cut someone down and still seem like a perfect gentleman. It’s pretty awesome.

This is a great one for historical and regency romance lovers, especially if you like intrigue.

Previous books in this series:
The Taming of the Rake
A Midsummer Night’s Sin

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One Wicked Sin by Nicola Cornick

Title: One Wicked Sin
Author: Nicola Cornick
Series: The Scandalous Women of the Ton #2
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 10/26/2010
Length: 360 pages
Format: ePub
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Challenges: 2012 E-book Challenge
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Paperback | Kindle | NOOK | ePub
Rating: ★★★★☆

Lottie Palliser was once the toast of the Ton but now is notorious for being divorced—and penniless. Shunned by society and disowned by her family, the destitute beauty is forced to become a courtesan in a Covent Garden bawdy house. Refusing to oblige her customers, Lottie is about to be turned out onto the streets when a dangerous rake saves her with a scandalous offer…

Ethan Ryder is the illegitimate son of an Irish Duke and a circus performer. He rose through the ranks as one of Napoleon’s most dashing cavalry officers—until his capture landed him in England as prisoner of war. Now on parole, Ethan is planning his most audacious coup yet. But he needs to create a spectacular diversion. And having infamous Lottie as his mistress will lull everyone into thinking he’s busily bedding her instead of plotting deadly treason. Both Lottie and Ethan believe that their cool heads and selfish hearts will give them the upper hand in their ruthlessly passionate union. Yet their unexpected bond will scandalize even them.

Though I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read in this series, this one felt a little different. I don’t mean that in a bad way either. I was immediately intrigued when I began and remained that way throughout the entire book. I also found myself wanting to squee a little because there were some seriously touching moments in this book. Those came off much more sincere than most love scenes in romance novels do.

I love the plot. It’s what really interested me. I went in disliking Lottie for her actions in the first book, but I was hooked by the plot. There was just something about the two characters and thier lack of morals that promised some nice intrigue. Though there was plenty of that, I was a little moved by their romantic development. While two months doesn’t sound like a long time, it might as well be a century in romance novels. Most often, characters fall in love in a matter of days. Though, I’ve always found this unrealistic, I’ve chosen to overlook it. It was pretty refreshing for it to take them a couple of months. Some of it was still stereotypical romance, but that’s okay. I like romances. The scene where Ethan declares his love was actually really sweet. One of my favorites ever!

The thing I really love about Nicola Cornick’s books is that it’s not all about sex and romance. That’s there, but the character always have something deeper going on within themselves that they have to get through. It’s where the romance comes in. They get through these things together. They get support from one another and their romantic connection. Lottie and Ethan are both hesitant to give their hearts away because of the possible hurt. They both have experience in abondonment, and though that is what keeps them from giving their hears away so easily, it’s also what binds them together. There’s development and some complexity, something that I can’t always find in romance novels.

I also really love Nicola’s style. She always creates a perfect balance in her dialogue. the characters speak in the language of their time, but it’s still easy to understand. I’m excited to get more of her style when I pick up the next book in the series.

I highly recommend this to historical romance lovers. I do suggest you read the first book in the series though. You don’t really have to, but I think it helps to understand how Lottie’s character changes.

 

Previous books in this series:
Whisper of Scandal

A Good American by Alex George

Title: A Good American
Author: Alex George
Narrator: Gibson Frazier
Series: N/A
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Release Date: 2/7/2012
Length: 11 hours, 27 minutes
Format: Unabridged Audio CDs
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Literary
Challenges: 2012 Audiobook Challenge
Source: Publisher (thank you!)
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★★

It is 1904. When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother, where better to go than America, the land of the new? Originally set to board a boat to New York, at the last minute, they take one destined for New Orleans instead (“”What’s the difference? They’re both new””), and later find themselves, more by chance than by design, in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together.

Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf.

“A Good American” is narrated by Frederick and Jette’s grandson, James, who, in telling his ancestors’ story, comes to realize he doesn’t know his own story at all. From bare-knuckle prizefighting and Prohibition to sweet barbershop harmonies, the Kennedy assassination, and beyond, James’s family is caught up in the sweep of history. Each new generation discovers afresh what it means to be an American. And, in the process, Frederick and Jette’s progeny sometimes discover more about themselves than they had bargained for.

When I began this book, I knew I was going to like it, maybe even love it. There was just something about the way everything was presented. I loved the narrator’s voice, by which I mean the character’s voice within the book. I did also enjoy the actual audiobook narrator. I do think the cover is slightly misleading. It left me with the assumption that there would be a lot of jazz involved in the story, and there really wasn’t. It’s very pretty though.

On the surface, this book chronicles three generations of the Meisenheimer family from Friederich and Jetta’s immigration to the U.S. to the trials of their grandchild, James, as he tries to find his place among his family, his town, and in the world. While there are some pretty improbable occurances in the book, I never really questioned it. I just laughed at the ridiculous and kept listening. I found James’s dry humor about the shenanigans his family seemed to find themselves in a good addition to the story. Had the events been told in a different voice or perspective, I’m not sure they would have had the same effect. I did have a moment toward the end where I felt a little unsure of how I felt about everything after a particularly jarring twist in the plot. It took me a few days of thinking to decide that I really did like this book.

I think some of the characters felt a little mysterious. I think it’s mostly because James is telling the story and his personality is more introspective than anything. For instance, he doesn’t dig into the personalities of his younger brothers very much. They felt more like surface characters. And his older brother was just a mystery to me. I found this interesting mostly because it seemed like there was so much insight into what his granparents and parents were thinking. It felt a little inconsistent. That said, his grandparents and parents, and James himself seemed to be very well-developed.

I thought Alex George’s writing style was perfect. It really fit the story and James’s personality. It just felt like James was writing the story (which is kind of important in this book), rather than someone writing it for him. I think that feeling also speaks to the depth of his character.

Gibson Frazier did a spectacular job narrating this audiobook. He read with pefect sincerety and his voice became the voice of James’s voice. That’s something I love in audiobooks. It’s what I hope for every time I begin a new one. He didn’t really change up character voices, but I don’t think that would have been appropriate for this story since it was told from James’s point of view. He delivered with perfect, natural flow, while still enunciating. The only teensy, little thing that bothered me was the way he pronounced culinary. Like cyulinary. Have I been pronouncing that wrong my whole life? Or is it just one of those words that people say differently in different places, like pecan or something.

I think this book is definitely worth picking up. I can understand why it’s on the Indie Next List. I don’t think it particulary appeals to a certain group or anything though. I would say, if the synopsis sounds interesting to you or this review draws you to it, pick it up.

Whisper of Scandal by Nicola Cornick

Title: Whisper of Scandal
Author: Nicola Cornick
Series: The Scandalous Women of the Ton #1
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 9/28/2010
Length: 362 pages
Format: ePub
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Challenges: 2012 E-book Challenge
Source: Purcased
Purchase: Paperback | Kindle | NOOK | ePub
Rating: ★★★★★

Lady Joanna Ware has no desire to wed again but that doesn’t stop the flurry of suitors knocking on her door. Desperate to thwart another proposal, Joanna brazenly kisses Arctic explorer Alex, Lord Grant. Unable to deny the blazing attraction that flares, Joanna knows she’s just set the gossip mill turning.

After suffering countless infidelities during her marriage, she’s accustomed to scandal. But nothing prepares her for the shocking news that her deceased husband has bequeathed his illegitimate child to her and his friend Alex. As rumors run rampant in the ton, Joanna and Alex travel to the Arctic to claim the orphan. Battling blizzards, dangerous wildlife and a treacherous plot, Alex must protect Joanna, but not before he wickedly seduces her …

I’m so excited to finally have Alex and Joanna’s story. Until now, I had only read the fourth and fifth books in this series. Alex and Joanna were small parts in those books, but I didn’t know their story. After I finished the last one, I just had to go back and read the rest. These really are some of the best historical romance novels I’ve read.

I mentioned in my review of Desired that I think what makes Nicola Cornick’s books so great is her grasp on the language and her obvious knowldge of the time and places her stories are set in. She even threw in an author’s note about how she had taken some liberties with her section set in the Arctic. She does her research and it shows in her work. It got me to thinking about how much work really goes into every book, even romance novels that many refer to as trash. My boyfriend says that about the romance novels I read, but I have come to a point where I can really appreciate romance for what it is. It can be predictable and cheesy and that’s what is so wonderful about it. I can count on the hero to be masculine and charming. I can count on the heroine to be intelligent and passionate. And I can usually count on them to hate each other and still fall madly in love in a ridiculously short amount of time. It’s what I’m looking for, going in.

I’m also looking for witty dialogue. The dialogue is what truly makes me love or hate a historical romance. There has to be a good medium between the language of the time and the way we speak now. Let’s be honest, the way people spoke in the Regency era can be daunting to read sometimes. At the same time, a historically set book needs to be authentic. That’s why I love Nicola Cornick’s writing. It feels authentic, but I don’t need to re-read something five times to understand what’s going on. She’s really becoming a favorite. After I finish this series, I might have to move on to another of her series.

Alex and Joanna fill their roles perfectly. He’s the manly adventurer who can be both intense and utterly charming. She’s the intelligent woman acting flighty to keep everyone from seeing the despair locked inside her. They overcome the tragic circumstances of the past together and find love again, and also manage to have an adventure together. Oh! and manage to have some very sexy alone time. It was the perfect recipe for a perfect romance.

If you like Regency romances, you’ll love this! Good news is, I already know that the others in the series are just as good since I’ve read two of them. Two more to go!

Desired by Nicola Cornick

Title: Desired
Author: Nicola Cornick
Series: The Scandalous Women of the Ton #5
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: 11/15/2011
Length: 384 pages
Format: Electronic ARC
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Challenges: 2012 E-book Challenge, 2012 TBR Challenge
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Purchase: Paperback | Kindle | NOOK | ePub
Rating:★★★★★

Her wicked ways were the talk of the ton…

Teresa, Dowager Marchioness of Darent, is rumored to have exhausted her four deceased husbands with her insatiable needs. So it’s no surprise that every rake in the ton wants to bed her. If they only knew…through clever marriages to men who would ask nothing of her physical self, Tessa has remained rather innocent in the ways of the bedroom. But now she’s on the verge of losing everything and wants to take care of the stepson she’s grown to adore.

Enter Captain Owen Purchase. The handsome American adventurer has come into the title of Viscount Rothbury. And the rumors surrounding his injuries at sea suggest that he could fit Tessa’s requirements. But little does Tessa realize that the gossipmongers are wrong. She just might lose her heart, and her desires, to the most unlikely of men…

Beware of the scandalous woman

Historical romance, why have I ignored you so? What was I thinking? You bring me such joy! You make me smile while I’m reading clever dialogue. I have to fan myself when things get hot and heavy (don’t judge, you know you do it too). I get a little rush of excitement when things come together in the end after all that the hero and heroine have been through. It’s so nice to have you back!

Seriously, this book was so good. It’s one of the best historical romances I’ve come across. Let me explain why Nicola Cornick’s books are so amazing. She gets it. That’s it. She understands the language, the society, the politics. It just clicked with me in this novel that she does such a great job because she knows what she’s talking about. Also, she writes some pretty sexy love scenes.

I loved Tess and Owen from the get go. The way they run into each other is just beyond perfect. It’s the forshadowing of naughty things to come. When I got to where they start courting, I feel in love with them. They’re both so tender, but also have a lot of passion. Owen even has this edge of violence that comes off more sexy than scary. They had the right amount of depth and though their courtship didn’t last long (whose does in a romance novel?), it never seemed rushed. The timing felt perfect. I loved this one more than the last book in this series because of the characters. I kind of want to read it all over again, which is seriously rare for me with romance novels. There are only a million of them out there!

I feel like I’m gushing a little, so I’ll try to get back to the point I wanted to make. This particular book has a good bit of politics involved in the plot. I’ll go ahead and admit to knowing absolutely nothing about British politics, but this felt so authentic. It really added to the book. I also love her grasp on the language. It was perfect! Sometimes when I’m reading historical romance I get thrown off because the language is too modern, but I never feel that way when I’m reading Nicola’s books. I think it’s time for a romance read-a-thon. I’ve got to read the rest of her books.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical romance.

 

Previous books in this series:
Whisper of Scandal
One Wicked Sin
Mistress by Midnight
Notorious

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    Some of the books reviewed on this blog were sent to me by the author or publisher for review. I did not receive any payment in exchange for the review nor was I obligated to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of these reviews. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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