Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: Scandal of the Year - Laura Lee Guhrke

Scandal of the Year is the second book in Laura Lee Guhrke's Abandoned At the Altar series. I read and reviewed the first, Wedding of the Season, and thought it was a fun story. I read this book a couple of months ago now, and held off on the review because I just couldn't quite decide how I felt about it. Let me say I was super excited to dive into it because I loved the hero and heroine of Scandal of the Year -- part of the supporting cast and crew of Wedding of the Season. So my expectations going into the book were high.

Our hero is Aidan Carr, Duke of Trathen, who was jilted by our heroine in Wedding of the Season. The heroine is Julia, Lady Yardly, cousin to Beatrix (heroine of Book 1), and the definite rebel of the family. Known for her scandalous behavior, the book starts off with a particularly scandalous event for the times...Julia's divorce proceedings. What we see then is a mix of looking back on Julia and Aidan's past meetings and (mis)adventures, leading up to the current time as Julia tries to get her life back on track. There are parts of this I absolutely loved. I mean, we all new that Aidan just couldn't be as stuffy and boring as he was portrayed...and there was never doubt that there was more to Julia than just a rebel. How it all plays out between them though is intriguing, although there was just something at the end that just left me a bit unsatisfied, even though overall I did enjoy the book and look forward to book 3 (after back to back releases of 1 and 2, we have to wait until January 2012!).

I think in part there was the same problem I had with Wedding of the Season - the ending seemed extremely rushed. Everything was wrapped up in a neat package in way too few pages after all the lead in to the issues the hero and heroine were facing. For the heroine to have a total 180 over the major dilemma she was agonizing over in about 45 minutes to an hour...seemed a bit too easy for me. I also have to say that after almost two books of hinting about the awful things that Julia suffered at the hands of her former husband, and the effects on her, I was sort of surprised at the reveal...I expected much worse. Not that what she had to deal with wasn't bad, it very much was, yet maybe it was just me but I'd had this big build up in my mind and wouldn't have been surprised with a story of human sacrifice...needless to say it didn't reach that level.

Overall, I have to say I did enjoy the book...just not quite as much as I hoped to I think. I love the family we focus on through the series, I love the other characters, I think the setting and time frame is fabulous, and I like the way that Guhrke puts a story together.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Review: One Night is Never Enough - Anne Mallory

Anne  Mallory's "Secrets" series continues with One Night is Never Enough. Interesting characters that are an intriguing blend of your traditional "ton" lords and ladies, as well as those who are on the fringes of proper society.

In One Night, Charlotte Chatsworth is the toast of the town, the perfect young lady and also a supremely unhappy one.  She is but a pawn in her father's plans, which include marrying Charlotte off to the highest possible title, and money, possible.  Believing she has little choice, particularly in light of the fact she has a younger sister she adores, Charlotte presents the face to the world that is needed.  The world is shaken upside down though, when her father includes a night with Charlotte as part of a wager in a card game...and loses.  The winner is not the man who suggested the wager, one of Charlotte's suitors, but instead, the winner is Roman Merrick, one of the most dangerous men in London.  As he gets to know the real Charlotte though, his initial plans are discarded and both he and Charlotte are forced to make hard decisions that affect not only their lives, but those of their closest friends and family as well.

An enjoyable story, if a bit improbable at times, the characters alone make it a good read, beyond just Roman and Charlotte.  Lots of intriguing side characters that I hope we see more of in future books.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review: What I Did For A Duke - Julie Anne Long

What I did for A Duke is the fifth book in Long's Pennyroyal Green series, and the first that I've read. I have to say, I'm now a fan and will need to look up the first 4 of the series (and perhaps the rest of her extensive backlist) from the local library.  I found her writing fun and spunky, with great exchanges between the characters.  I found myself laughing and smiling as I was reading, which I think drove my husband a bit crazy wondering what was so funny.

Genevieve Eversea is the youngest daughter of the notorious Eversea family.  Misunderstood by all, or perhaps underestimated by all, she appears as the calm, kind, voice of reason within the family.  That is the case until the dark Duke of Falconbridge arrives on the Eversea doorstep, intending to extract his revenge on Genevieve's brother, Ian, using Genevieve to do so.  This plan falls apart quickly, as the Duke finds himself actually liking Genevieve, who is much more than she appears.  The Duke even helps Genevieve attract the attention of the young lord she loves from afar, her old friend Harry.  Their relationship, however, continues to evolve as Genevieve begins to realize what it is she really wants and that it isn't always possible to make everyone happy.

What ensues is a fun story, light, but as I said before, with fun dialogue and interactions--between the Duke and Genevieve, but also as the Duke tortures poor Ian.  There was just enough backstory teases to make me seek out the previous books, and enough siblings left to make me look forward to those yet to come.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CHQ Quilt Along - The Fabrics

I'm already a week behind on the CHQ Quilt Along, but it was like the perfect comedy of errors with my order, from fabrics being out of stock, to be not being able to type, to the weather slowing delivery.  But yesterday, my fabric finally arrived for me to get started on this!

I'm doing two different versions of that's bright and cheery and I'm thinking I'll hang in my craft room, using the light orange as the background and the other colors as the accent squares.  

The second I'm thinking, depending on size, might go well in our bedroom since I'm using the colors we've got in the master bedroom and master bath (gray/silver, navy and orange).  I'm excited to get started on these!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Work in Progress - Baby Afghan

Last night I took the first of two classes on how to make a baby afghan at my local knitting/crochet/awesome yarn store, Knitting Next Door.  It's amazing how much longer this is going to take than the scarves I'm used to whipping together quick!  Lighter yarn, longer foundation chain, but I'm loving it.  This one will likely remain at our house for visiting babies to use as I need to work on consistency (not quite up to gift level yet), but I love the yarn and how it's coming together!

Review: Seducing the Governess - Margo Maguire

Seducing the Governess by Margo Maguire

The book opens with the request of a dying Duke -- find the granddaughters that I disowned 20 years ago upon the deaths of my daughter (who had also been disowned) and her husband.  The Duke had cruelly separated the children and had his representative find them homes -- not knowing himself where they ended up or if it was a good situation.  Now, as he is fading, he wants to make amends.

We then meet Mercy, who as we learn is one of the missing granddaughters.  Upon her mother's deathbed, Mercy learns that the people she always thought were her parents were in fact not...that at about the age of three she was delivered to the Reverend and his wife by a stranger and asked to raise her.  Assuming that she was the child of a fallen woman, the foster parents were not necessarily warm and loving to Mercy, thinking they had to keep her from following in the unknown mother's footsteps.  Now that her foster parents are both dead, Mercy is forced to make her own living, and takes a position as a governess.  It's an unusual household, with an intriguing Earl as Mercy's employer.  Her charge is the Earl's niece, a shy child that Mercy can't help by adore.  Her employer though, is a challenge, as Mercy is drawn to him, yet the Earl needs a well-dowried wife to restore the manor and lands.  Add in the mysterious deaths of the current Earl's two older brothers and a suspiciously friendly neighbor, and you have the setting for an interesting story.

This was the first of Ms. Maguire's books I've read.  Her last release, The Rogue Prince, was on my radar screen, but never made it to the TBR pile. So I was interested in having the chance to read her upcoming release, Seducing the Governess.  Overall, I found the book "ok".  Parts of it, I really liked.  The underlying story of the long-lost granddaughters of the dying Duke, trying to track them down and restore their inheritance, that had promise.  As did the story of the first granddaughter, Mercy, that we see in this book.  I liked the characters, although I felt like there should have been a lot more development than there was of many, and there was a lot more that could have been done with the side characters than what was.

The main problem I had with the story was that I felt like I was thrown into the middle of a series with backstory missing that would have been helpful.  I don't think this is the case, but it did seem that way at times.  I'm assuming (since there's still one granddaughter yet to be found) that there will be a second book in this series coming at some point, and that has the potential to resolve many of my problems with the end of the book I think.  I felt like it was one where the author either hit a page or a time limit and it all just got wrapped up nice and neat way too quickly...with a bunch of questions remaining.  Now, a lot of those questions may be answered, but given the focus of this book and how it progressed, I'm thinking there's only a 50/50 shot that they will.

Overall, I give the book a two star rating on the GoodReads was entertaining, but not a book that I fell in love with.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Moda Bake Shop Monthly Contest

Moda Bake Shop announced they are having a contest in March, April and May -- with a different theme each month!  More details can be found on the site or in this nice printer-friendly version.  It's easy...just pick any Moda Bake Shop recipe that matches the theme!  Now if I can get myself organized, I know I have several charm packs laying around...which just happens to be the March theme :)

Review: The Scandal Series - Delilah Marvelle

Prelude to A Scandal, Once Upon A Scandal & The Perfect Scandal are a trio of books from Delilah Marvelle that are being released in early 2011.  While considered a "series", the books are completely independent of each other in terms of story line (one slight carry over from book 2 to 3, but nothing that matters to the basic story) and can be read essentially in any order.  What links the series is a book - a book of etiquette or young women, which plays a role in each story in some form or another.

Before I summarize each book let me do an overall review.  I like Marvelle's writing style for the most part, and I enjoy her characters.  They are likable, independent and her books all have unique story lines (I read her School of Gallantry series, so these were not the first by her I'd read).  I get sucked in to the story hard core -- I read all three books within two days.  I like that investment into a story, and I think it bodes well for a book and an author.  I also have to say that I thought all three have great covers...I read ebooks, so I didn't have them in hand to see, but the screen versions are beautiful.

That being said, part of the reason I couldn't put the books down is that I'm left wanting at the end of each.  The way the story ends, I'm left wanting more.  I just don't quite feel satisfied with all I've invested in the previous 200 or so pages with how things are wrapped up.  That's both good and bad.  Could it have been solved with an epilogue? Maybe.  I'm not sure.  Maybe I just liked the story and the characters enough that I wanted the next book in the series to have involved them somehow.

Prelude to A Scandal (January 1, 2011) - Justine Palmer is the daughter of an Earl, but she spent most of her life with her parents in Africa as her father researched and explored the habits of the native animals.  Upon their return to England, her father's writings end up getting him imprisoned.  Out of desperation, Justine turns to the one person she thinks can help - her father's key patron, the Duke of Bradford (who, is also the man that Justine has been falling for ever since she first met him. Justine offers herself to Bradford, who declines, but counters with an offer of marriage.  However, Bradford has his own secrets that will challenge them as they attempt to move forward and earn a happy ever after.  Bradford's addiction, which plays a central role in the book, is one that is no doubt real, and serious, yet the way he (and it) are portrayed, makes it almost unnecessary.  He comes off like any other arrogant, entitled, alpha male who has too much responsibility at too young an age with no family support.  That is something we see often in the genre.  Using the addiction as the reason is one way to make it unique, but it just wasn't something I felt contributed a whole lot to the story.  The battle of wills between Justine and Bradford is interesting, as we see them both come into their own.

Once Upon A Scandal (February 1, 2011) - Marvelle's version of a fairy tale, this is a story of lost lovers reunited after years apart.  Victoria Emerson has not yet "come out" to society when she and Jonathon, Viscount Remington, fall in love and reach an understanding -- on the eve of his trip to Italy.  Due to forces (somewhat) beyond his control, Remington's trip ends up with him becoming the ciscebo of an Italian woman in order to pay off debts and save his family. Because of the woman's husband (an evil man) and because of his shame, Remington essentially cuts off all contact with Victoria, breaking her heart.  Fast forward five years, and Victoria's father is on his deathbed.  In order to fulfill his final wishes, and receive her inheritance, she must choose one of three gentleman that her father has identified and marry within a week.  Little does she know, that one is Remington, who has been in touch with her father.  Of the three, two end up withdrawing for various reasons, and while Victoria does not want to have anything to do with Remington, she ends up capitulating and becoming his wife.  Her plan though is to have it be a marriage in name only; Remington, however, agrees to this only if she gives him a month in Italy.  As they try to move on from the past and look forward, it's not an easy journey with several challenges thrown in.  An interesting story, I enjoyed it, but it was probably the least favorite of the three.

The Perfect Scandal (March 1, 2011) - Tristan, Marquis of Moreland, has structured his life to avoid scandal at any cost.  That is, until he meets his new neighbor, the beautiful Polish Countess Zosia.  Zosia has been sent, supposedly, to England under the Prince's protection, for her own safety and to be wed.  However, as she and Tristan determine whether or not they should move forward and act upon the attraction they undoubtedly feel for each other, other forces are at work that challenge them.  Zosia may be more than she appears, and there is a Russian officer with an interest in her as well, for a number of reasons.  When Zosia and Tristan's attempt to escape is foiled, the truth comes to light and we see Zosia and Tristan evaluate who they are, what they believe in, and how to become the people they want to be yet remain true to their hearts.  It's a wonderful story with great characters, wrapped in with a lot of history.