Reading Fanatic Reviews

Historical Romance

Where We First Began by Rebecca Elise

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Where We First Began*

Time-Slip Romance at the Time of the Alamo

What a well-written story, and what a twist at the end! I would love to know how Aubrey and Tapley’s story continues after that! I’ll admit that I tend to pick up most time-travel or time-slip romances because I love both history and romantic tales. This one was definitely different but in a good way. The heroine is a modern-day Texas college student. A truck accident somehow pulls her back 1836 before the infamous Battle of the Alamo. She has assumed, apparently, another young woman’s life, complete with a somewhat of a jerk fiance. Life in 1830s Texas is rough in general and particularly tough on women. Unlike many historical romances, the author doesn’t sugarcoat the role of women at the time. The true hero, Tapley, is the almost stereotypical strong-and-silent type, though the author has given him more depth than that would suggest. It’s easy to see why Aubrey falls for him, and of course, we do too. But what is Aubrey to do and how is she to react, knowing what history has in store for people that she has come to care about? The author brings all the feels as Aubrey faces all of this and the aftermath. I love, too, how the author wove in real people like Davy Crockett and actual events. An exceptionally well-done time travel romance that explores a unique moment in American and Texas history.

Mr. Darcy’s Downfall by Valerie Lennox

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Mr. Darcy's Downfall*

One of the Worst Variations I’ve Read

I am a huge fan of Jane Austen fanfiction. It started a couple of years ago when I came back to reading fiction after having my reading time taken up with schoolwork and business matters. Even though I’ve read so many JAFF variations, I am still on the lookout for new and good authors and stories. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed with this book. In fact, it has to be one of the worst Pride and Prejudice fanfiction variations that I have read. I feel like I do not know where to start talking about all that is wrong with this book.

Mrs. Bennet is beyond the pale, even more than usual, as she sets up a particularly hideous compromise for Elizabeth as Mr. Bennett lays dying. Both Darcy and Elizabeth act like 10-year-olds for most of the book, with immature actions, reactions, and especially dialogue. The dialogue itself is stilted and strange as well as juvenile. Darcy for most of the book comes across as entirely reprehensible—in manners, in the way he treats Elizabeth, and, frankly, the way he is just so un-Darcy like. While he didn’t want to offer marriage after the compromise, he decides to do so because he believes that Georgiana’s reputation and prospects on the marriage mart in the future could suffer if he doesn’t. As the newlyweds travel to Pemberley, Darcy outlines his vision of their marriage: After Elizabeth bears an heir, she and Darcy will live separately; he will take up with a mistress immediately, while she is free to have lovers discreetly after she provides the heir. The consummation scene, which happens quite late in the book, is actually what I would call icky. And even after it, Darcy hightails it to London in search of a mistress! Ever so, NO, NO, NO! This book is just wrong on so many levels. Avoid it like the plague and find much better Pride and Prejudice variations out there if you love JAFF as I do.

Miss Felicity’s Dilemma by Eileen Dreyer

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Miss Felicity's Dilemma*

Odd Combination of Events

I’m always drawn to historical romance novels. This one had an unusual beginning, where at the meet-cute of the hero and heroine, he declares that she will be his fiancee. Apparently, his father, a duke, has required that his third son marry this particular young woman or he will lose his home. Felicity is an orphan who spent some very unpleasant years at a school for young women before moving on to become a teacher herself. She has no idea why she is summoned to the hero’s estate.

The book had some serious issues with pacing and plot development. It almost felt as though it were two different books cobbled together in the middle. Forty percent or so of the book feels like the setup; the heroine tries to figure out what’s going on and attempts to leave the estate, but the hero convinces her to stay and get to know him before turning him down his offer. There are some humorous moments as they get to know each other, as the hero has a wicked sense of humor. The heroine has clearly led a difficult life, which is slowly revealed, and is a bit out of her depth at times in this aristocratic household, yet she has insight into human character that is missing in the hero. After this extended introductory section that takes up so much of the book, all of a sudden the novel switches to romantic suspense with an actual danger element. I swear there were no clues given in the earlier portion that that was where the book was heading. So that second half felt like it came from out of the blue and seemed very strange to me. The author should have foreshadowed what was going to come. The first 40% made it seem like it was going to be pretty much a straight-up historical romance where at two unlikely people get to know each other and fall in love despite inner and outer conflicts. But that wasn’t quite the case here.

A Baron for Becky by Jude Knight

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A Baron for Becky*

Second Half is an Emotional Read

I am of several minds about this book. I found it confusing to start off with. The heroine’s name is Becky, but the prologue and the first part of the book don’t refer to a Becky. The woman who is Becky is first called Rose, by the name she is known as a courtesan. The prologue itself was confusing because I had no idea who the man or the two children were or who the woman he referred to was. Was he talking about the heroine in the past tense? Sometimes prologues are like that. A bit too confusing for my liking. The first half seemed to be filled with crime with nasty characters and various types of debauchery. The men in the first half of the book did not comport themselves as gentlemen. But the second half, or so, of the book was a surprise, especially given what the first part of the novel was like. The story turned into something completely different. I found myself completely caught up in Becky’s story then, her horrible past as well as the future that she was trying to make with her husband. Even with all she had been through, she is a kind and compassionate person, trying to do her best for those in her sphere—all the while thinking poorly of herself because of her past. Reading her backstory and seeing her grapple with postpartum depression certainly brought tears to my eyes. So if you’re willing to slog through the first part, the second half is much better.

Behind the Baron’s Mask by Penny Fairbanks

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Behind the Baron's Mask*

Who Was that Masked Man?

This book started off really well for me. The hero, Henry, is a Darcy like one. He shuns society except when forced by his friend. Like Darcy, he tends to either skulk around the edges of a ballroom or hang out in the back. He is a baron with a secret; he writes Adventure novels. He is very dedicated to his task, preferring to spend nearly all of his time writing to just about any other activity. The heroine, Cecilia, is just starting her third season, and her social-climbing parents are demanding that she marry this year. She is determined to find a love match, which is why she has turned down past suitors. She not only wants love but companionship and a true meeting of minds (including the arts because she is an avid pianoforte player). At a masquerade, she meets a mysterious man who says all the right things, but they part before they learn each other’s identities.

Of course, the masked man is Henry, but when Henry and Cecilia meet later, he is his normal, closed-off self. But his friend is interested in Cecilia’s younger sister, and that friend insists that Henry accompany them on outings. It certainly isn’t easy for Cecilia and Henry at first, but they eventually find common ground, and their feelings start to grow for each other. I thought this part of the book had some issues with the development of the romance because Henry seemed against it for so long, and then suddenly, he’s saying he has a deeper attachment. It just didn’t seem realistic.

But the story for me went off the rails when Henry unilaterally decided that he and Cecilia couldn’t be together because of his intense interest in his writing career and his belief that she would suffer playing second fiddle to his muse and his reclusive ways. The way that he just pulled away and the way that she just accepted that and wallowed in misery—just didn’t feel like good romance to me. Probably because he was a Darcy-like hero, I wanted him to act more like Darcy here. I wanted him to be more constant and to move heaven and Earth for his woman, even when personally uncomfortable. All good love stories need a proof of love moment near the end, and the story didn’t have that. So, it fell a little flat.

I did really like the heroine’s character. She had moments of introspection, but she did love her friends and was well-liked in her close society. And I absolutely adored the relationship between the two sisters. Having grown up in a house with four sisters, I thought that their relationship was believable and quite sweet at times. They both looked out for each other and had each other’s back. I appreciated that the author did not go down the road of so many other books, where sisters are pitted against each other. Juliet, the younger sister, was stronger than I would have imagined. The sisters were definitely the bright spot in this book. I did like Henry when he wasn’t being stupid… LOL.

Meant to Be by Sara Bennett

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Meant to Be*

Non-Heroic Hero

I am not quite sure what to make of this novel. It certainly isn’t your standard hearts-and-flowers Regency. The book starts with a prologue that is set in the current timeframe of the novel, but the next couple chapters go back in time to show the hero and heroine’s relationship starting when they were small children. The heroine comes across as very naïve, which unfortunately is probably true to the times. She certainly trusted the hero more than she should have. Because of a scandal instigated by the hero’s father to keep the couple apart, the hero and heroine are separated for a few years. In that time, the heroine has remained true to her memory of her childhood love and hopes that he will rescue her. But the hero is actually not the rescuing kind, shall we say, and frankly I didn’t find him terribly heroic. Or at least not the way I like to see a hero in a historical romance. I don’t think he treated Sophy, whom he is supposed to care about so much, very well. When they were small children, he was better, but as he developed feelings for her, things became a little sordid. And I just didn’t like the way he treated her when they found each other again after the three-year break. Silly me, but I like my romantic heroes to actually be decent men who live up to the term of hero, even if it is in a small way. It’s never good when you hope that the heroine will end up with someone other than the hero. I thought this book was way overly sexual, too. For those who have triggers, there is an attempted rape in this story. I just did not like this book.

Infatuated by the Duke’s Daughter by Eliza Heaton

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Infatuated with the Duke's Daughter*

Odd Viewpoint Shifts

While I have enjoyed at least one other book by this author, this one just didn’t work for me on so many levels. The author had a strange writing style in this one, where she interspersed omniscient viewpoint with a third-person viewpoint. For me, that was very awkward. And it made for long stretches of exposition that were more telling rather than showing. Telling rather than showing is definitely a danger in a novella anyway, but it is heightened when the omniscient viewpoint is used, especially as it done so often in this book. I also found the language to be stilted and awkward. Not that it’s completely germaine, but the cover is completely inappropriate for a Regency romance. The style of dress is about as opposite from Regency as you can get. Regency dress is known for having high, empire waists; the dress shown on the cover has the waistline below the hips. This just isn’t realistic for Regency at all. I had so enjoyed her other book, but I just did not like this one.

Kissing by the Mistletoe by Cora Lee

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Kissing by the Mistletoe*

A Sweet, Brief Holiday Romance

This is a rather short novella that can be read quickly, in a sitting or two. For such a short book, it is actually pretty well done. The author didn’t do any significant information dumps, as seems to be common in novellas. I absolutely adored the relationship between the heroine and the Mathison brothers. They had long been friends, and it truly came across as such. In fact, everyone assumes that the heroine is going to marry the older brother. So much so that no other young man in the area has shown any interest in her in the slightest. She comes up with the brilliant idea to fake a courtship with the younger brother while keeping her distance from the older one so that others will not see them as an item. Unfortunately for the younger brother, Thomas, he actually has held a tendre for her and wishes the courtship could be real. As you might imagine, as they get to know each other in their faux courtship, she begins to warm to him as a potential suitor. I absolutely adored the scene with Thomas and the little boy, just like the heroine did. I thought the hero was perfectly swoon-worthy, even if he did have some awkward moments at the end. A fun little Christmas romance.

The Dreamer and the Debutante by Ava Devlin

The Dreamer and the Debutante*

Didn’t Buy the Romantic Relationship

It just so happens that I read The Viscount and the Vixen first because that’s how they were available at my favorite book reviewer site. This book is definitely a prequel for that book, as it sets the stage for the premise of it. This love story shows the difficulty of having a relationship across class boundaries in 19th century England. Lady Heloise is the sister of a viscount, and the young man that she falls in love with is the housekeeper’s son who is currently a stablehand. This book details their story from when she comes home on a summer break from her finishing school to when she has to go back before the start of the London season.

The book definitely had moments of romantic interest, including a steamy scene or two, but I didn’t really feel like the relationship was well developed. I just didn’t buy from the beginning that they would have such feelings for each other so quickly. She was often his tormentor when she was younger; at the very least, she talked him into doing some untoward things to help her with her capers. Yes, she returns as a beautiful young woman, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more of a transition given their complicated past. Some of those romantic moments I mentioned before are quite lovely, but I just had a hard time buying them as a couple. The book does end on an HFN, but if you’ve read The Viscount and the Vixen, you know that her path is not smooth. I definitely recommend that you read the books in order, this one first before the other one, though it isn’t strictly necessary. The other story doesn’t need this one; it stands well enough on its own, but this story illuminates the reason for that story. I quite enjoyed The Viscount and the Vixen, much more than I enjoyed this one, as I thought that was a very well-done historical romance.

NOTE: This book does not appear to be available at any bookseller. The page at Goodreads said it is only available for the author’s newsletter subscribers, but I got it from one of the book review sites I use.

Highlander’s Touch by Joanne Wadsworth

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Highlander's Touch*

Disjointed Book with Much Action Off Screen

I have read several books in the Matheson Brothers series, and unfortunately, I have found them to be of variable quality. I find myself disappointed in this particular installment because the presentation is choppy and just odd. So much action seems to happen outside of the pages of the book, off screen so to speak. We are just told of things happening, not shown them, and then are only shown some repercussions of what we were told about before the book moves on to the next somewhat discombobulated telling portion. This book is just odd. And I would call it steamy to the point of being crude, which is not my favorite. I don’t mind a certain level of explicitness in intimate scenes, but it can be taken too far in a book that isn’t specifically called erotica. This book, I think, teeters on that edge. While some of the books in the series are worthwhile, this one was just disjointed and strange.

Disclosure

The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

The Amazon book links on this site are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny percentage if you choose to buy a book linked from this site.

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