Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover


Hero: Duncan West, aka Jamie Croft
Heroine: Lady Georgiana Pearson, aka Anna, aka Chase

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover


I love the cover of this book.  In an awful twist of irony, I did not love the book.  I should have heeded the title's warning.

Here are reasons why I did not like it:

• Georgiana has made appearances in the previous books of the series, as Chase.  She is an established character.  I saw her as a strong, confident, ballsy woman.  The best scoundrel of them all.  But in her own book–where she should shine–she came across as an insecure, subdued mess.  Sure, she had moments of confidence, but they were overshadowed by her ridiculous moments of uncertainty.  One example: in the scene where she touches Duncan's penis, he tells her to stop, and she misunderstands, thinking she's doing it wrong due to her inexperience; this comes moments after she teases him, refusing to open her legs to him in a power play of sensual sorts.  She should have been able to recognize arousal in his voice; her sudden insecurity was lame, especially given the fact she was able to pass herself off as a courtesan for six years.

• Duncan was in earlier books, too.  In fact, there was a scene where he was playing cards with Anna, aka Georgiana.  The two had done business together the past six years.  If any member of the Fallen Angel was likely to see past Georgiana's disguise (she wore a wig, makeup, and a low-cut dress as Anna), it would be Duncan.  But he didn't realize Georgiana was Anna until he followed her carriage from a society event to the club and saw Georgiana emerge as her Anna persona.  I'd like to point out that he wasn't following Georgiana on purpose; he was merely on his way to his club.  He was surprised when her carriage didn't turn toward her brother's home, and started watching more closely, but he didn't use any powers of deduction to stumble upon Georgiana's alter ego.  That made him look like an idiot, in my opinion, especially when you consider his profession (newspaper magnate).

• Georgiana's quest to marry a title irritated me on several levels.  1) She claimed to be doing it for her daughter, but never asked her precocious daughter what she actually wanted.  2) She wasn't a fan of the ton.  She had been using them for financial gain, learning their secrets, and exploiting their weaknesses for years.  3) She planned to run off and marry her lover Jonathan, a stablehand: "Georgiana didn't care.  She was going to be Mrs. Jonathan Tavish.  She wouldn't even keep the 'Lady' to which she was entitled.  She didn't want it.  She only wanted him."  If she had married him, their children wouldn't have any titles.  I don't buy the argument that as a bastard, Caroline would need a stepfather with a title to lend her prestige.  Money could buy her a husband, and Georgiana had plenty of that.  After all, isn't that why Georgiana gave herself such a large dowry?  And read this passage that discusses Duncan's sister: "Cynthia West.  A pretty girl, welcome in Society despite her lack of breeding.  West's money had purchased her support."  The quote is from Georgiana's consciousness, and it made her own assertions that her daughter needed a titled stepfather ridiculous.

• Duncan's desire to protect his sister would have held more weight if we saw more of Cynthia than a scene or two.  She was described as intelligent, bold, unruly, and cheerful.  If she was a shrinking violet, it might have made sense to shield her from her parentage and evil half-brother.  She wasn't a child; she was eighteen.  Why didn't Duncan sit her down and tell her about their past?  Why wasn't Cynthia herself more curious about their parents?

• Georgiana's motives regarding her daughter seemed erratic.  She raised Caroline for the first four years of her life, and then just turned her over to Caroline's uncle?  Now she was willing to marry just so her daughter could have a "normal" life and a chance at a "good" marriage?  She made the decision to form the Fallen Angel.  She left her daughter with her brother and his family so she could run a club to learn secrets about the aristocracy and shatter their glass houses?  She realized her neglect when Caroline was confused by a surprise visit, but instead of sharing her workload with her partners or stepping down to spend more time with her daughter, she jumped into the social season to land a titled husband.  It didn't make sense.  Her behavior was inconsistent.

Even though I did not like the book, I didn't quit.  I kept plodding right along.  I hoped the ending would resolve some issues, or at least appease my disappointment.  It didn't.  Ugh.  I don't know if I'm just super irritable and uncharitable right now, but the ending was as disappointing as the majority of the book.  Perhaps I just hold Ms. MacLean up to a higher standard; I enjoyed the first three books of the series.

Spoiler alert!

Here's why I didn't like the ending:

• Duncan realized Georgiana was Chase moments before she told him herself near the end of the book.  I think that was a lost opportunity.  First, if he could figure it out then, he should have been able to figure it out sooner; he didn't have more information then than he did earlier.  Second, an earlier reveal would have allowed the couple to spend more time on the idea that Chase was super powerful.  Maybe Duncan would feel emasculated.  How could he protect the all-powerful Chase?  Would he even need to?  Would he feel superfluous?  Would Georgiana overstep and try to tell him how to run his newspapers?  Would they have power struggles outside of the bedroom?  Third, why didn't Georgiana lie and say her brother was Chase?  It would have placated West in some aspects, while highlighting how he good of a brother he was ("I saved my sister from the Tremley's") compared to poor Georgiana's (fictitious) experience with her brother ("He let you pose as a whore?!  That's whore-ible!").  That lie could cause plenty of conflict, especially since Georgiana's brother gave her the money to open the club (he was actually a good brother).

• Georgiana's plan to reveal Anna as Chase was not the smart plan for which I hoped.  It was nice that all her friends and employees chimed in that they were Chase.  It was endearing, but a bit too much "I am Spartacus!" to be original.  Georgiana could have just said there was no Chase; he was an amalgamation of the three public owners.  Lame, sure, but at least it wasn't stupid: Here I am!  If Anna was revealed to be Chase, people would have taken a closer look at Anna and discovered her other identity: Lady Georgiana Pearson.  Georgiana was trying to repair her reputation throughout the book.  It didn't make sense that she would jeopardize that by drawing more attention to herself as the (pretend) prostitute Anna.

• The villain gets shot by his wife.  (The scene in which it occurs is a farce, but I'll touch on aspects of that later.)  When a villain gets his comeuppance in a book, I want the hero or heroine to be dishing it out.  I'm not saying they should have shot him, but they could have exacted revenge with the proof of his treason.  Would anyone listen to what a traitor had to say about a newspaperman?  West had proof of Tremley's treason; the villain didn't have proof of West's horse theft, which occurred when he was only fifteen.  (The kidnapping charge doesn't make sense; did the Earl of Tremley claim Cynthia as his legitimate daughter?  If not, she would have been Duncan's ward once her mother died.)

• The villain gets shot.  Well, that's the end of that conflict.  West can marry anyone he wants now without worry about saddling them with his past.  His sister's illegitimacy won't come out.  No wondering if Tremley had proof squirreled away somewhere.  Just "ding, dong, the witch is dead."

• It seemed all Georgiana needed (to not marry a titled man) was her daughter's assurance that Caroline did not want her mother to marry for anything other than love.  Well, wonderful!  Nothing stands between her and West anymore.  Why didn't Caroline say something sooner?  Georgiana has already been illustrated as a neglectful mother, so at least her failure to ask for Caroline's input is in character.

I called the scene where the villain was shot a farce, and here are the reasons why I feel that it was:

• Everybody up on the tables.  It just seems wrong, and a bit ridiculous.
• The "I am Chase" announcement, followed by all the other claims of being Chase.
• Tremley's sudden tantrum came out of nowhere.  He was established as a wife beater, but there wasn't any indication that he would suddenly draw attention to himself in such a crowd by being a hothead.  He came across as manic.
• Georgiana's eyes were full of fear because of Tremley's question "What is [West's] name?"  Why does she have to be such a timid character?  Why?
• Tremley gets shot, and Georgiana's main concern is protecting Lady Tremley?  So she (and her partners) blackmail their entire clientele, threatening to reveal their secrets if the truth about how Lady Tremley shot her husband in cold blood becomes public?  Even West pipes up that he'll print their secrets in his papers if they squeal about Lady Tremley.  It was nice they cared about Lady T–, but I didn't.  The Fallen Angels could have made up whatever story they wanted; the police would have believed it, especially since the club belonged to the "all-powerful" Chase.  It would have made more sense to offer a police detective membership in the club than to blackmail their entire clientele.

Now I will quibble about minor issues I had:

• After having sex, West "cleaned" Georgiana.  I don't like any reference of cleaning after sex, but it seemed even more creepy since West was slightly obsessed with being clean since he was dirty as a young boy.
• Georgiana let West spill his seed inside her.  She consciously made the choice to gamble on getting pregnant. With one daughter already born out of wedlock, her begging him to come inside of her seemed irresponsible.
• In the epilogue, there was a reference to the eight people playing a card game; at most there could only have been seven because Bourne didn't play.
• Duncan has corresponded with "Chase" and seen "his" handwriting.  Georgiana writes him a note as herself, and he doesn't recognize the handwriting.  No mention was made of her trying to disguise her handwriting.  No mention of the similarities of the handwriting.

Monday, December 8, 2014

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover

Hero: Cross, Jasper, Earl Harlow
Heroine: Pippa, Philippa Marbury

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover

This is one of the few romance novels where I liked the heroine more than I liked the hero.  It may be because she takes control of her own destiny.  It may be because society considers her to be "odd. " It may be because she's smart.  In any case, Pippa Marbury is a delightful heroine.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Sea King

Hero: Kol Thorleksson
Heroine: Isabel



I loved this book.  In my opinion, the hero was dreamy.  The heroine wasn't quite as awesome, but she was okay.  I understood her actions for the most part.  The Kindle version is only 99¢ (as of 11/4/14).  That's an awesome deal.  I definitely recommend it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Aftershock

Heroine: Lauren Boyer
Hero: Garrett Wright

Aftershock

Whoa.  This book was a great ride.  Lots of sexual tension and danger.  The characters were well developed.

The storyline is this: massive earthquake hits San Diego area, killing lots of people.  Nine people are trapped between two collapsed freeways.  Fortunately, one of those people is a paramedic with an ambulance full of medical supplies.  Unfortunately, an escaped convict stole the dead guard's gun and is wasting limited resources (food and water).  Alliances are formed, friendships are created, and love blossoms.  The pace is fast, the situations are realistic, and the book is awesome.  I highly recommend.

I Married the Duke

Heroine: Arabella Caulfield
Hero: Lucien Westfall, aka Comte de Rallis, aka Captain Andrew

I Married the Duke

I was disappointed with this book.  Some scenes seemed more like dreams than reality.  Scenes which should have been fraught with drama were anticlimactic.  There were aspects of the book that didn't make sense or weren't adequately resolved.  Things were alluded to, but not really confirmed.  The loose ends that were resolved, were a bit too tidy.  (This is the first book in a three-book series, but my feelings of discontent have nothing to do with the overarching theme.  I do intend to continue reading the trilogy.)  The following opinions contain massive spoilers, so please quit reading if you hate that sort of thing.

Luc is the heir to a duchy (dukedom) via an uncle.  His uncle dies, leaving a pregnant wife.  The baby will inherit (before Luc) if it is a boy.  Of course, the aunt has suffered many miscarriages and stillbirths prior to this pregnancy, so they don't even know if the baby will survive.  The uncle and aunt haven't been in the same location for at least 14 months.  Obviously the baby is not legitimate, meaning Luc will inherit, but only if the aunt publicly admits to her adultery.  The villain is not the aunt, as one might suspect.  The villain is her brother; we'll call him Bishop (His name is Absalom Fletcher, Bishop of Barris).

Bishop raised Luc and Christos (Luc's younger brother) after their dad died and their mother ran away to France.  Their uncle had guardianship of them, but he let his friend/brother-in-law raise them.  Bishop was clearly a poor excuse for a man.  His inadequacies include imprisoning his nephews and withholding food.  He also, it is alluded to but never stated outright, molests pre-pubescent/pubescent boys.  I gathered that Christos suffered more molestation than Luc, but since the issue wasn't discussed in a forthright manner, I'm merely guessing.  Luc believes Christos is unfit (presumably because of this abuse) to inherit the duchy.  Bishop created Whitechapel School, a school for boys, by allegedly using money he extorted from the duchy's tenant farmers.  It is supposedly due to this extortion (and perhaps a recent famine) that the tenant farmers are so destitute.

None of that really has anything to do with the first twelve chapters.  Bishop is referred to in the first chapter, as well as Christos, but the story mainly focuses on Luc and Arabella.

Things started to fall apart for me in Chapter Nine, entitled "The Vows."  Luc's cousin and the ship's doctor/priest rush to help an injured Luc on the beach.  Luc is near death, and he and Arabella had just made love.  The cousin decides that Luc and Arabella need to marry immediately.  The reasons given are 1) Christos is unfit to inherit the duchy, 2) Arabella might be carrying Luc's heir, 3) Luc may not survive his injuries (unrelated to the love making).  Marriage will make Arabella's child (if she is pregnant) a legitimate heir, keeping Christos from having to inherit.  No one has told the cousin or the doctor/priest that sex occurred, but they can tell apparently.  Arabella confirms their suspicions, but the cousin suggested the wedding before that.  Arabella consents, and they wed.

This might be the time to mention that Arabella was nearly raped that same evening by three or four men.  Her reason for having sex was that she wanted to lose her virginity on her own terms.  She didn't tell Luc she was a virgin, but he realized it after the fact.  Those three or four guys then attacked Luc on the beach.  We later discover that the band of merry men were hired by Bishop's henchman; the rape was not part of the plan, the murder of Luc was.  So Luc's cousin declares Luc dead, allowing him time to recover aboard the ship before would-be murderers can attack again.  No one tells Arabella that she is not a widow; she finds out when her husband shows up alive.

I'm going to have to skip a lot of parts, but it turns out that the Church of England won't recognize the wedding on the beach since a Catholic priest performed the ceremony on French sand, so Luc and Arabella need to redo the vows, complete with reading of the banns.  Before the actual ceremony, Arabella leaves to do a little detective work, and they never say their vows (until the epilogue, presumably).  Arabella goes to Bishop's house, looking for something that would prove he was responsible for the poverty of the tenant farmers.  (She thinks it's the best time to go since he's at her wedding.)  She finds some papers on the Whitechapel School with donations from a tenant farmer in the name of his son(?).  Her detective work is thwarted by the henchman, Luc shows up and gets thrown in the room with her (so she won't be alone), and she realizes Luc had to grow up in this prison-like room (bars on the window).  He sort of reveals his child abuse, and then pops the bars out of the window.  He can't escape that way (too heavy for drain pipe), but she can.  Some more stuff happens, and they get free.  He only has one eye (I'm not even going to get into that), and his remaining eye was blinded by pepper in the escape, so he's blind temporarily.  He makes plans to meet Bishop on a bridge (while blind, with no one to help him) so he can get back a ring Arabella lost to the henchman.  They have a scuffle, his sight starts to come back, and Bishop dies (he lost his balance and fell off the bridge).  Meanwhile, Arabella convinces the aunt to admit publicly that her newborn son is illegitimate.  Everyone's happy.

The Whitechapel school is never mentioned again.  Some tenant farmers came to Luc (while he was still blind, before Bishop died) and told him that Bishop had extorted them, but the boys needed Luc to save them.  Why did they wait so long to tell him?  No reason I could discern.  Christos was at the wedding and seemed quite lucid; he alluded to the fact that he couldn't have children (and thus produce an heir for the duchy), but that was the only sign that he was "unfit" to inherit.  It was never stated if he was damaged below or simply unwilling to have sex after being raped by Bishop.

There was just so much going on in this book.  The beginning was so nice, but it just fell apart.  It was like three jigsaw puzzles on one table with pieces missing out of all of them; even if you could fit the pieces together, you were still missing some.