Reading Fanatic Reviews

Regency Romance

A Stranger’s Promise by Tarah Scott

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A Stranger's Promise*

Love Story Not Truly Realized

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but the book seemed like it would be a historical romance. While much happened in the strange household of the hero, he and the heroine spent far too little time together for this to be really called a romance. It didn’t have the traditional build of a love story; there was no organic evolution of the romance. Parts of it were interesting to read, but I just kept waiting for a love story to kick in (it felt like). So, unfortunately, this story didn’t quite work for me.

Thief of Broken Hearts by Louise Cornell

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Thief of Broken Hearts*

Didn’t Quite Work for Me

I enjoyed the first part of the book as we got to know the duke and his estranged duchess. But then it felt like the story got a bit repetitious and didn’t really have an escalating progression of events that a story should have to keep it interesting. I soon found it a little tiresome, especially the continual reference to 17 years ago and other such concepts; yes, we know! Because the heroine had such contempt for the hero at first, I had a hard time believing her turn around. It’s one thing that authors need to consider. When the couple is very distant from each other at the start of the novel, the author has to work to show us a true evolution, which will be a rocky road but should mostly progress in a 3-steps-forward, 2-steps-back way. I did not feel that happened here. Therefore, I found this a somewhat disappointing read.

His Temptress, His Torment by Louisa Cornell

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His Temptress, His Torment*

Loved This Story

Oh, my gosh! Did I ever enjoy this story. The novel is slightly different than typical Regency romances. The heroine, who believes herself to be firmly on the shelf, decides that she must find out how her estranged nephew is doing. The boy is seven but has been separated from his mother’s branch of the family because his father didn’t like the way his bride’s family treated the couple, which caused them to elope. She has heard that her nephew nearly drowned with his father at sea, and she is concerned for his welfare. So she decides to act as his governess for a few weeks so she can see his living circumstances, make sure he is healthy and well, and get to know him. She is in part guided by the love she still has for her dead sister; she wants to assure herself that her beloved sister’s child is all right.

I love that the heroine is a super strong character. While, of course, she had no experience as a governess because she is actually from a wealthy family, having grown up with several brothers, she knows how to interact with young men and boys. Having had several stern governesses, she hopes to mimic them. She questions herself so much along the way, but seeing her through the hero’s eyes, especially in the beginning, makes you see her strength as seen by others (but not by herself).

The meet-cute of the couple is one of the best that I’ve read. As she approaches the door of the townhouse where the boy and his father live, she hears shouts inside, and all of a sudden, a young boy is streaking naked across the street to the small park that’s in the middle of this tony neighborhood. She doesn’t want to lose her governess job on day one, so she drops her bag and chases after him. The father, too, is hot on his son’s heels but behind the would-be governess. He gets to the small park just in time to see her try to struggle her way over the railing, and he gets quite a view as she tries to climb the fence and scramble over the top. It was very humorous. Then when he actually made it inside the park, she doesn’t know who he is—and he doesn’t tell her—so she very firmly puts him in his place repeatedly, definitely coming across like a very stern governess. I absolutely loved this scene and its witty dialogue.

When they actually get to the townhouse, she puts an important member of the staff in her place. I just loved these moments, even though she was sure she was going to be fired every minute! I quite enjoyed, too, the heroine’s evolving relationship with her nephew, who is a very troubled little boy.

This is a relatively quick read, and honestly, I wished it wouldn’t end. It was a book that took to a restaurant to read as I ate my dinner. One of the things I ordered was a bottomless salad bowl, and I think I ordered the last salad round so that I could sit and continue to read this book. I just didn’t want to stop reading. If you enjoy Regency romances that are just a little off from the normal—and with a lot of humor and sparkling scenes between the hero and heroine and her charge—pick up this book. I don’t imagine you’ll regret it.

Gingerbread Bride by Jude Knight

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Gingerbread Bride*

Short Novella Surprisingly Good Read

While I do enjoy quick fiction reads, I find the short format of a novella to be one that appears to be hard to master by authors. Often, rather than writing a story that fits the format, the author feels the need to do an information dump to set up the story rather than let it naturally evolve. Also, there doesn’t often seem to be enough time to develop the characters or the plot fully. Worse, though, is when authors try to shoehorn a novel-length plot into a novella; this makes for more telling than showing, which detracts from enjoyment because we want to get involved with the characters’ emotions or plight. This is hard to do if we are just being told the story rather than shown it through the eyes of the characters. So, I found this book to be a pleasant surprise. We actually do learn some background about the characters very quickly, but it is done within the construct of the hero and heroine meeting again unexpectedly. So we genuinely see that backstory through the character’s eyes as they reminisce mentally when they see each other again. And these reminiscences had some delicious humor that I found highly amusing and which made me smile more than once. (I love to some of these silly words the author incorporated, like collywobbles, as that added to the fun.) The author managed to create two very different but strong characters whose interactions were pleasing to follow.

I didn’t think, though, that the book description accurately reflected the novella. Much of what was stated in the book blurb was actually what happened before the story began. I never like that. I think the book description should match the book. However, when I actually got into the novella, of course, I ended up enjoying the story and characters. The heroine has had a very different past than most heroines in historical romance. She has lived on her father’s ship since she was a child, and she only has now returned to England to live because of her father’s death. She is shipped off to one aunt, who has designs for her son to marry her because they want access to her inheritance. In running away from these machinations to see another aunt, she runs into the hero who just happens to be in the area (right around the time when she is very nearly set upon by ne’er-do-wells. He began working on her father’s ship as a young man, so they’ve been nearly lifelong friends. I loved some of the stories that were recounted about their childhoods. He was not only her rescuer and confidante, but he also taught her how to defend herself when needed. Because the heroine has always seen the hero through a child’s eyes, she does somewhat see him as a knight-in-shining-armor kind of man. So when they meet again as adults, will that turn into something more?

I don’t want to give away too much more away, but I so enjoyed watching the unfolding romance between the two characters. I love how the hero was so protective, even though the heroine could often take care of herself (because of all that he’d taught her earlier). But some rescues aren’t physical ones. I liked how the heroine was very independent-minded and intelligent. If you enjoy short Regency fiction where the heroine is just a little off the norm, you will most likely enjoy this book.

Mission of Mercy by Amber Seraph

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Mission of Mercy*

Short Western Romance Read

This is the first book that I have read by this author. It is very short, probably about half of the length of an average novella. But the author is able to pack a lot into it. In the beginning, I thought she described the setting in the circumstances very well so that they could be easily visualized; however, towards the end, I felt like things were more told than shown, especially about the development of the romantic aspect. I would have loved to have seen more of that. I do so enjoy watching characters fall for each other; that’s part of the fun of reading a romance. I also thought that perhaps the author was slightly preachy in how the heroine had beliefs about Native Americans that would have been rare in those times. It is so tempting to rewrite history to make it more aligned with our modern sensibilities, and I think that is what happened here. Still, all in all, I enjoyed this short, romantic read.

Not Another Nob by Anabelle Anders

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Not Another Nob*

Fast, Funny Regency

This is a fun, super short read. It probably is the length of many romantic novellas out there, but it was just so pleasant and involving that it felt like it was over very quickly. What I enjoyed was the very humorous aspect of the story. It started on page 1 and continued throughout. I did think it was odd that the story is written in almost what I would call more of a contemporary style, with sometimes very short paragraphs of only maybe a word, a phrase, or a sentence. In general, I do not like that in historical romances. I like my paragraphs to be a bit more long and formal. But this author was able to make it work. Parts of it were very amusing. There is definitely a Romeo-and-Juliet vibe, as the families of the hero and heroine are sworn enemies. The heroine has a bit of an added difficulty in that her brother wants her to marry post haste; in fact, that is what the opening scene of the book is about. This novella is a delight if you enjoy humorous Regency romance.

Goodwill for the Gentleman by Martha Keyes

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Goodwill for the Gentleman*

Will Christmas… and Forgiveness Work Magic?

I have read a couple of other Regency romances by this author, and I have enjoyed them thoroughly. I’m happy to say that this one is no exception. She knows how to write complex characters with deep backstories who feel real and relatable. In this particular story, the hero and heroine have had a complicated relationship over time. They were friends when younger; he, in fact, was expected to marry her sister. But he just couldn’t because he actually was in love with the heroine. Rather than face these difficulties, he chose to break off the informal understanding with her sister and join the army. The heroine, even before he left, give him the cut direct, and when he returns, she can still recall the pain that her sister felt and cannot forgive him, even though her sister has moved on. What essentially happens in this story is that they are forced to be together at his parents’ house near Christmas during a snowstorm. Will calling a short-term truce while they are snowbound leave room for understanding, forgiveness, and perhaps more? if you like clean Regency stories that have a lot of heart and deep characterization, you will most likely enjoy this book.

I Dream of Darcy Book 3 by Andrea David

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I Dream of Darcy Book 3*

Plagued by Problems Like Second Book

I have read all parts of this serialized novel. I was quite enamored of the first book but became disenchanted by the second. Some of the things I disliked in the second installment were present in the final one as well. To me, Elizabeth Bennet in this variation was not the Elizabeth Bennet we all know and love from the original. In this particular book, she seemed to have a true lack of self-esteem throughout much of it, and her thoughts on her and Mr. Darcy’s chances could turn on the merest glance or phrase from him or others in the book. It bordered on ridiculous how she read so much into every little thing—and always in the worst possible way. Despite having three books to build it all up, Darcy’s shifts in regard didn’t seem wholly believable, even though it was lovely to watch at times. I always enjoy an in-love Mr. Darcy. I never did get used to the author calling Georgiana Giana as Mr. Darcy’s nickname for her; nor did I get used to everybody referring to Mr. Darcy as just Darcy, even Georgiana and the countess of Matlock. For a serialized book that started off with such promise, I ultimately find myself disappointed in this particular variation.

Pheme’s Regret by Sue London

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Pheme's Regret*

An Unusual Regency with Lots More Going on Than Romance

This is a very complex story for a Regency. It is not merely a Regency romance. Several plot lines run through this novel. In general, I thought it was well written. The characters were complex, although I thought the daughter was a little over the top, especially at the beginning. There was a villain plot, a mother reuniting with her daughter plot (she had to give her up as a baby), an expat living abroad because of a ruined reputation plot, the life of the haberdasher’s subplot, along with the romance plot. That romance was complicated because it was the hero’s reputation that was ruined, and the heroine caused it in the distant past. A significant part of this took place in France, which is unusual for a Regency, but I certainly enjoyed the French part of the story, which actually was the bulk of the book. I quite enjoyed following the convoluted twists and turns of this plot until it got to the very end, where the author disappointed me by pulling out a hackneyed Regency trick at a pivotal moment. Sigh. But all in all, I did enjoy this complicated, character-driven Regency romance.

Tempting Danger by Wendy Vella

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Tempting Danger*

Interesting Story and Characters, But…

Even though this is the sixth book of the series, I hadn’t read any of the previous Raven and Sinclair novels or any book by Wendy Vella. One thing in this book’s favor is that I did not feel lost not having read the other books; I was able to understand it and the characters completely without reference to any of the other books. I found the complex story and the couple at the heart of it to be fascinating to follow. The hero and the heroine are quite opposite, she a somewhat strident and sassy innocent and he a reforming rogue. Some dialogue and inner monologue were humorous at times.

But I definitely had some issues with this book. First of all, I absolutely hate it when I see an egregious grammar error in the first paragraph of the book. Since I had received an ARC copy, I looked at the first 10% on Amazon to make sure that this and other errors I was seeing in that section were in the published novel, and unfortunately, they were. This author ranks highly in historical romance and has so many published books, so I find myself disappointed that she either doesn’t get professional editing or has chosen a team that is not as well versed in proper English grammar, punctuation, and usage. Comma splices were all over the novel. The comma often required before a coordinating conjunction was either not used when it should have been or was used when it should NOT have been. Later in the book, even some spacing was wrong, as I found a contraction with a space after the apostrophe, which is just never done. I found these errors to be enough in number to be distracting. At times, I felt like I was just watching for the next mistake instead of enjoying the story. I am a copy editor, so this may be a hazard of the trade. I also thought that the dialogue was an odd combination of a somewhat stilted mimicking of Regency mixed with occasionally too modern phrases. So the dialogue quite often read awkwardly in my inner ear.

All in all, I liked the story and characters, but the other problems with the book detracted too much from my enjoyment of it.

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

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