Tag Archives: November 2014

Review: Never Judge a Lady by her Cover by Sarah MacLean

Never Judge a Lady by her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels by Sarah MacLean
Historical Romance released by Avon on November 25, 2014

Never Judge a Lady by Her CoverBy day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking—in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered . . . until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems, and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear . . . including her heart.

Ten years after her ruination, Lady Georgiana has re-entered society in hopes of finding a suitable husband. Not that she really wants to be married. Instead, Georgiana wishes to marry a titled gentleman to secure her daughter’s future and the life she might someday want.

Duncan West, the powerful owner of five London papers, knows a great story when he sees one and Georgiana’s search for a husband is bound to be great copy. But after innocently discovering one of Georgiana’s identities, Duncan sees an opportunity to finally escape his own buried secrets from his past. In exchange, his publications are at her disposal while searching for a husband.

Their bargain is dangerous, yet necessary. Duncan is considered to be the most powerful man in all of London, second only to the mysterious owner of the Fallen Angel, Chase. One slip in this game of cat and mouse could reveal too much and result in each losing everything. For Duncan, it is his empire of publications. For Georgina, her gaming hell.

Their relationship is one of mutual respect and admiration. Their conversations are witty and intelligent and sexy. And the chemistry between the two is straight up combustible.

But as with any good romance, smart people aren’t always so smart, so of course her fellow scoundrels recognize they’ve each found their perfect match long before our hero and heroine. Even better, her business partners have no problem with teasing Georgiana mercilessly about it.

She looked down at her cards, cheeks hot. “I hate you.”

Which one of us?” Temple asked, playing a card.

All of you.”

It’s a pity, as we are your only friends,” Bourne said.

It was true. “And asses every one of you.”

They say you can tell a man by his friends,” he replied.

It is a good thing I am a woman,” she said, discarding.

MacLean manages to fill in all the gaps and wrap up all the loose ends of not only this series, but that of her Love by Numbers series. All those characters readers have come to know and love have their happy ending. With one exception – Caroline. And I have faith MacLean will remedy that situation in the future.

Grade: A

You can buy a copy here.

Guest Review: Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Ana’s Review of Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip
Historical fiction released by Kensington on November 25, 2014

Secret of a Thousand BeautiesSet against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip’s enthralling novel explores one woman’s defiant pursuit of independence.

Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother’s belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws’ protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a “bad-luck woman,” Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor’s love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting–a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete–betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman’s story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip is the story of Spring Swallow a young Chinese woman who comes of age in the tumultuous 1930’s in and around Peking. Chinese culture is in flux, Western missionaries are ever more present, revolutionaries are stirring in the mountains and universities but old cultural traditions and social norms are not yet forgotten. I requested this historical novel (it is not a historical romance) because I was intrigued by the setting, and time period. Last year when I struggled to find historical romances to enjoy, I found the most success the farther I moved from England and the Regency. Jeannie Lin’s The Lotus Palace and Jenn Bennett’s Bitter Spirits were two of my favorite books last year.

Spring Swallow had the great misfortune of losing her parents while just a child. She is left to be indifferently raised by an aunt, who considers her a burden and a source of bad luck. Mean Aunt as Spring Swallow refers to her throughout the novel forces Spring Swallow to agree to marry a ghost at the age of 17. Her ghost groom was her mother’s best-friend’s stillborn son. The arrangement would essentially transfer Spring Swallow to her ghost husband’s family, where Spring Swallow would then owe them a lifetime of celibate servitude. Although she endures the ceremony, she refuses to accept a farcical pseudo-marriage as her lot in life, and flees her village. Hungry and homeless she is befriended by young secretive woman, named Purple who brings her into the home of her teacher Aunt Peony. Aunt Peony is a master embroider. Aunt Peony who runs an embroidery workshop from her solitary country home. Aunt Peony’s household is filled with other ill-fated young women. While Aunt Peony’s manner is harsh, and she is secretive about her history, she nevertheless teaches these young women skills and provides them a home where they can live without prostituting their bodies. For a short-time Spring Swallow find a home, among these women, before greed, secrets & men tear them apart.

The novel is best described as melodrama. The novel covers a roughly 3 years span in the life of these young women. We learn of their tarnished pasts, small diversions, faithless lovers, dashed dreams and tragic choices as they come and go from Spring Swallow’s life. We follow Spring Swallow from her days as a timid runaway bride to a ghost, to her romance with revolutionary and her eventual contentment in an unconventional marriage with a unlikely groom.

While the novel is a treasure trove of information about the everyday life of villagers and poor city dwellers in 1930’s China and provided a rich history lesson about the often forgotten artisans who created China’s gorgeous embroidery, the story relied to often on coincidence & chance. Too often Spring Swallow learns life changing news by running into just the right person or reading just the right newspaper. I grew dismayed that not one Chinese character in the novel treated Spring Swallow with disinterested kindness or compassion. Everyone including her beloved revolutionary husband Shang Feng, always wanted something from her or betrayed and abandoned her. The only beacons of generosity and love in the novel are a pair of Catholic missionaries, Father Edwin and Ryan McFarland, who take Spring Swallow in when she most needs them. Spring Swallow is heroic in that she survives a life that killed so many of her contemporaries, and that she is able to make opportunist choices of survival without harming others. In the end when her sacrifice, loyalty and tenacity are rewarded with safety, security and recognition, her story feels like a uncomfortable & self-congratulatory fable about compromise.

Grade: C-

I received a review copy of Yip’s Secret of a Thousand Beauties from Kensington Books via NetGalley.

You can buy a copy here.

Review: A Bride for the Season by Jennifer Delamere

Cheryl’s Review of A Bride for the Season by Jennifer Delamere
Historical Romance released by Forever on November 25, 2014

A Bride for the SeasonLucinda Cardington doesn’t care that she is close to being “on the shelf.” She has more serious pursuits in mind and is perfectly content to leave dreams of romance to silly young ladies like her sister. Yet when her sister places herself in a compromising situation with London’s most scandalous bachelor, the entire family’s reputation comes perilously close to ruin. Suddenly Lucinda is in the limelight . . . and in need of a husband.

James Simpson’s rakish ways have finally caught up with him. Snared in a scandal that for once is not his doing, he is forced to do the honorable thing and offer marriage to the lady. But her father won’t agree to a dowry unless James can also find a suitable husband for the lady’s elder sister-quiet, reserved Lucinda Cardington. As James gets to know the vibrant, charming, and passionate woman behind Lucinda’s shy exterior, he comes to the distressing realization that he doesn’t want her in anyone’s arms but his own . . .

The third book in The Love’s Grace Series, A Bride for the Season is a sweet romance with strong Christian themes. Delamere captured the Victorian setting beautifully. The story was well paced from the start and never lost momentum.

Lucinda considers herself a godly woman, one who hopes to live a solitary life in the future, enabling her to focus on her faith and her charitable work. However, she often participates in what would be considered scandalous behavior for the time period. She goes on unchaperoned outings with her sister’s husband to be, unconcerned about proprieties especially if he is indulging her love of photography. Lucinda even shares a kiss with her brother-in-law to be. In other stories, I would not find this bothersome, but with a heroine that is often described as godly and upstanding, I find it difficult to reconcile her behavior.

James will one day inherit a property from his great aunt which will require a substantial amount of money to maintain. It is for this reason his marriage to Emily, Lucinda’s younger sister, must be profitable. Wanting his eldest daughter married, Lucinda’s father makes Emily’s dowry contingent upon James finding a suitable husband for Lucinda. It is for this reason he searches out Lucinda and often tempts her with an opportunity to put her photography knowledge to use.

As these two characters become friends, their attraction for each other grows. There are several touching moments where James encourages Lucinda to stand up for herself. But in the end, there were just too many things that didn’t work for me, the ending especially.

Grade: C

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.