Mastered by Love (The Bastion Club, final volume), by Stephanie Laurens

Stephanie Laurens lives in a completely different hemisphere from me, and hits best-seller lists with pretty much every book she produces. She has written, oh, approximately 40 volumes of historical romance, including the sprawling Bar Cynster series, which has expanded to include in-laws, friends, and people who are almost entirely unrelated to the original six Cynster cousins. She started a side series, based on an old novel called Captain Jack’s Woman, regarding seven or so gentlemen, all friends, who have come back from the Napoleonic Wars and realized that, well, they need wives. Neatly sidestepping any possibility of PTSD, each of these gentlemen has either recently come into a large fortune, a title, or both (generally both), and would be a major catch on the Marriage Mart, if they weren’t almost entirely certain to avoid it. This is the last book in the Bastion series, and kind of a bonus story: the boss of the other gentlemen, the mysterious Dalziel.

I’m cutting plot discussion, just in case Dalziel’s identity isn’t known to those reading this review. Continue reading Mastered by Love (The Bastion Club, final volume), by Stephanie Laurens

The Rake and England’s Perfect Hero, by Suzanne Enoch

Suzanne Enoch loves Star Wars to a rather unreasonable degree, which I very much appreciate. She writes primarily historical, Regency-era romance novels, with a second contemporary series floating around. I discovered her from an anthology of stories related to Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, called Lady Whistledown Strikes Back. These are two books that bookend the “Lessons in Love” trilogy, but they form an interesting pair, being that the heroes are a pair of brothers, and what happens in the second volume isn’t necessary to know to read the third. They even come after a related volume whose title I’ve forgotten, but I’ll Google it when I’m not in Torts class. (Ahh. A Matter of Scandal.)

At the ends of their wits, one day three young women become frustrated with the general quality of the young, eligible men in the ton, and determine to teach three of them — one each — lessons. In The Rake, the first volume, Lady Georgianna Halley decides to instruct Tristan Carroway, Viscount Dare, with whom she has had an adversarial relationship for the last eight years. Of course, their adversarial relationship is masking the fact that there’s a deep attraction there. A year or so later, Lucinda Barrett, the last of the three friends, realizing that the other two ended up marrying the objects of their lessons (oh, come on, not a spoiler), chooses Lord Geoffrey Newcombe. Lord Geoffrey, aside from being handsome, is safe and her father, General Barrett, likes him. Unfortunately, Robert Carroway, Tristan’s younger brother, has sort of gotten in the way . . . Continue reading The Rake and England’s Perfect Hero, by Suzanne Enoch

Brighter than the Sun, by Julia Quinn

This is one of Ms. Quinn’s earlier works; it was published quite a long time before Mr. Cavendish, I Presume? and The Lost Duke of Wyndham I reviewed a few weeks ago. It’s actually a sequel to Everything and the Moon, featuring a Miss Victoria Lyndon and the Earl of Macclesfield. Ms. Quinn is an Ivy League graduate; her husband seems to find her career as a best-selling romance novelist both cool and highly amusing, evidenced by his random suggestions for titles. Her main series of books was the eight-volume Bridgerton series; I strongly suspect I can not only name the titles for each volume but the main Bridgerton involved, but I don’t think I’ll try.*

This is, as the introductory note says, Julia Quinn’s marriage-of-convenience story. Two weeks before his time runs out, Charles, Earl of Billingsley, falls out of a tree onto Miss Ellie Lyndon, the sister of Miss Victoria Lyndon and a vicar’s daughter. Due to some vague attraction and the determination that she might not be so bad to be married to, he explains the situation — if he doesn’t marry in the next two weeks, he loses all of the monetary portion of his inheritance. Ellie understands this, being that she’s in her own monetary difficulties — she’s been investing her pocket money and cannot get to it. (Also, there’s an Evil Stepmother involved.) So they have a go of it. Will it work? Continue reading Brighter than the Sun, by Julia Quinn

Delicious, by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas is a relatively recent entrant into the world of historical romance; her first published novel, Private Arrangements, I reviewed a mere year and a half ago, here. She’s a current resident of Texas, but she moved to the US from China at the age of thirteen and apparently had a taste for historical romance even then. This work is her second novel; she’s since published a third, entitled Not Quite a Husband. A fourth, called His at Night, is to be released next May. I believe that the secondary lead in Delicious and the lead in Not Quite a Husband are brothers, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary to read one before the other.

Verity Durand is the most famous — and infamous — chef in England. Famous, because her food makes angels weep and grown men slaver; infamous because, well, she had an affair with her last employer, Bertie Somerset. Of course, Mr. Somerset has since died and his younger half-brother, Stuart, has inherited the entire place, including Verity’s services — as a chef, of course. Stuart Somerset is a politician; originally a barrister, he’s now an MP and holds the ear of the Prime Minister; he works twenty-four hour days trying to get bills past. He rarely has time to eat, let alone enjoy his food. Oh, and he’s engaged to a Miss Lizzy Bessler. However, ten years ago, he had one amazing night with a lady he’s never seen since, despite searching. Only a totally crazy situation would throw them back together . . . wouldn’t it? Continue reading Delicious, by Sherry Thomas

Bright Star (2009)

[Happy birthday, Andy! Not that you read this, but maybe someone’ll tell you about it. Love, Your Sister.]

One of my study group members (I’m in law school) was, er, less than enthralled with whatever it was we were supposed to be doing so took a moment out to look up the upcoming movies for this week. One of them was described as ‘hot Regency chastity,’ I think by the New York Times, and was clearly a costume drama, so we made plans to see it as soon as possible. Directed by Jane Campion, it starts Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne and Ben Whishaw as the poet John Keats.

Fanny is young — late teens or early twenties — and rather more interested in fashion than poetry when she makes the acquaintance of John Keats and his friend and collaborator, Mr. (Charles Armitage) Brown. The two come into closer acquaintance and then fall in love, despite the fact that Keats has less than no money and Fanny, whose father is dead, cannot marry him. Nonetheless, they enter into an affair of the heart, and although the world — and Keats’s health — conspire to keep them apart, they find ways to remain together. Continue reading Bright Star (2009)

The Dream Thief (The Drakon, book 2), by Shana Abe

Apparently The Dream Thief was Amazon.com’s #1 Romance of the Year, and the first book in this series, The Smoke Thief (review here) was RT (Romantic Times)’s #1 Historical Romance of the Year (presumably in different years). The Drakon series is up to four books now; the third volume is entitled Queen of Dragons and the fourth is The Treasure-Keeper. There’s at least one more planned after that, but I can’t find a title. Yet. I’ll report it when I do. Shana Abe has a Tchouvatch dog which apparently is large and white and sheds a lot, and a house full of rabbits, mostly rescued.

This is a book 2, so I’ll cut here. Continue reading The Dream Thief (The Drakon, book 2), by Shana Abe

The Smoke Thief (The Drakon, book 1), by Shana Abe

I saw this book and the second (review forthcoming) in a bookstore recently on a shelf much too high for me to reach, so I asked my husband to retrieve them for me, thinking, “I’ve seen someone recommend these recently.” Well, it turned out that it was one of the Ja(y)nes at Dear Author who recommended it, so not exactly something Ben would be interested in — but he read them anyway. Shana Abe, for those who are wondering, lives in Colorado, has five rescued house rabbits and a dog, and majored in drama in college.

Kit (Christoff Langford) is the Marquess of Langford and the head of the clan of drakon in England; the drakon are eldritch beings of long life and magical abilities including transformation to smoke or the form of a dragon. They hide in plain sight among the eighteenth-cenuty English ton, and there aren’t very many of them left — especially powerful ones. Clarissa Rue Hawthorne is half-drakon, half-human, and as such doesn’t fit in with the rest of the young women particularly well. When she disappears around her eighteenth birthday, no one searches very hard for her. However, when a thief in London is reported to be able to turn into a mist, Kit listens — and goes to investigate. Continue reading The Smoke Thief (The Drakon, book 1), by Shana Abe

Silver Falls, by Anne Stuart

Anne Stuart (not, coincidentally, the deceased member of the English royalty) is apparently one of the grand masters of romance, having won the lifetime achievement award from RWA. She’s been publishing novels since 1974 (when she was twenty-five) and has worked with every publisher I can think of, and in every subcategory except (as far as I can tell) paranormals. I’m sort of confused as to how this is the first novel of hers that I’ve read, what with her prolific output. Currently she is concentrating on romantic suspense/thrillers and historical romance, published by MIRA. She lives in Vermont and is inordinately fond of Japanese rock music. She also appears to have bellydanced at one point in her life, but then again, so did my grandmother. (No joke!)

Rachel Chapman is a photographer; as a single mom, she traveled around the world with her daughter Sophie for thirteen years, until, during a brief time settled in San Francisco, Sophie’s best friend Tessa was murdered. That event spooked Rachel so much that she decided to get married and settle down so that Sophie would have a safe rest of her childhood. Enter David Middleton, an English professor on sabbatical — charming, mild-mannered, smart, and a little bland, but attentive and, above all, safe — or so Rachel thinks. Some months after they return to his hometown of Silver Falls, Washington, another young woman — or three — are murdered, coincidentally right after David’s black-sheep brother Caleb returns to town. Is it a coincidence? If not, then why is Caleb so devilishly attractive?

Spoilers behind the cut. They’re always possible, but in this case, I’m telling you that there are definitely some there. Continue reading Silver Falls, by Anne Stuart

The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn is one of the most popular writers of historical romances set during the Regency era. A graduate of Harvard and Radcliffe, she adds to the diversity among education and background that has come to characterize both readers and writers of romance. Her series of eight novels following the various siblings in the Bridgerton family (it started with The Duke and I and ended with On the Way to the Wedding) increased her popularity; each of the eight siblings’ names starts with a different letter of the alphabet, based on birth order. (So Anthony is the oldest, then Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth, the youngest. Yes, I knew that off the top of my head.) She has written quite a few other novels; many are tied together by similar characters or ideas, including Lady Whistledown, a pseudonymous gossip columnist, who features prominently in several books and stories.

These two volumes are mirrors, each telling one half of the same story, although presumably to be read in publication order (how I listed them above). Jack Audley is a highwayman who generally donates his proceeds to wounded veterans of the Napoleonic Wars; he makes the mistake, one night, of attempting to rob a dowager duchess who seems to recognize him. She knows his father’s name, even, and as it turns out, Jack is the son of the duchess’s favorite, and second-oldest, son. More interesting to Jack than his possible elevation to the peerage is the duchess’s companion, Grace Eversleigh, an impoverished young woman of good but not excellent birth. On the other side of the story (in the other volume), we have the current duke, Thomas, who has been putting off marrying his fiancee, Amelia, to whom he has been affianced for all but six months of her life. Then, all of a sudden, she becomes surprisingly attractive — at about the same time that Jack Audley shows up. Will he still be able to marry Amelia? Continue reading The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn

Virtually His, by Gennita Low

Gennita Low is unusual among authors in that not only does she have a day job — she runs her own roofing company — but it’s sort of a working-class day job, and she celebrates it. Her blog is at rooferauthor.blogspot.com, and she doesn’t pretend she’s just doing it until she can write full-time, as so many other authors do. A student of languages, she apparently yells at her employees in Chinese and Malay, and is learning German and Russian in her spare time. (What spare time?) She got her start in publishing by entering a lot of contests, and even being a finalist in a good deal of them. She writes primarily in the romantic suspense genre, but she includes some science-fictional themes in her works.

Elena Rostova — now Helen Roston — was a Russian orphan, but she joined the military and eventually was selected as the best candidate for a top-secret experiment, in making a supersoldier-spy. One of her primary qualifications was that she has psychic abilities. The supersoldier part included intense physical and mental training, and the spy part included virtual reality and clairvoyant training — which they call bilocation. Her mentor in this is a man she doesn’t meet; in the virtual-reality world where they see each other, she has designed his avatar. They are very attracted to each other, but will she ever find out his real-world identity? And will the experiment that is her life succeed? Continue reading Virtually His, by Gennita Low