Tag Archives: January 2012

Review: Sunrise with a Notorious Lord by Alexandra Hawkins

Sunrise with a Notorious Lord by Alexandra Hawkins
Historical Romance released by St. Martin’s Press on January 3, 2012

Dashing, decadent, and deliciously seductive, the notorious Lords of Vice indulge their every desire—from dusk until dawn…

Christopher Courtland, Earl of Vanewright—known around London as “Vane”—is the very picture of a rich, handsome ladies’ man. Why shackle himself to just one lady when he’s free to sample them all? In spite of his own mother’s attempts at matchmaking, Vane has sworn to stay single. Until he has a chance run-in with Miss Isabel Thorne…

A modest and refined beauty, Isabel is a lot more brazen than she appears. When a pickpocket tries to make away with Vane’s bejeweled snuffbox, Isabel attempts to thwart his escape…and manages to steal Vane’s heart. But the harder he tries to seduce the sharp-tongued, strong-willed Isabel, the more she resists. Now it’s up to this tried-and-true bachelor to find a new way to play the game…or risk losing the one woman who’s ever captured his heart.

I liked Sunrise with a Notorious Lord [even] more the second time I read it. Both times I read the book in a day. (The first time in an afternoon, in fact.) I distinctly remember debating the merits of taking a bath, watching the Gator Bowl, and/or reading this book. I wanted to do all three concurrently. Obviously that couldn’t happen. Anyway. I thought I’d reviewed this book age ago, so imagine my chagrin when I saw I hadn’t. Nevertheless the next “installment” of the Lords of Vice is out in a little over a month, so the timing is perfect! (Don’t argue.)

Alexandra Hawkins is an author I follow closely. Her first book (All Night with a Rogue) was one that helped me make my way out of a two year reading slump. If for no other reason than that, she gets a starred place on my “likes” list. Her writing has all that lofty place implies – great writing, characterization, and plot. As well as some very nice steamy scenes. Her Lords of Vice definitely live up to their names.

What I also love about the stories is that each book can stand alone.

Isabel Thorne is a lovely person. Literally and figuratively. Ms. Hawkins seems to enjoy writing heroines that carry the weight and responsibilities of their families. This generally makes them strong, pragmatic, and wise individuals. Definitely so in Isabel’s case. Not only that, but she’s lived her life putting her younger sister before herself. Isabel thinks of herself as not as important. And with her mother and sister’s selfishness, they’ve only underlined and synthesized that belief. For all that Isabel is such a strong character, she doesn’t have a very good sense of self. As in, she is uncertain as to her own worth, or undervalues it. She’s a very sympathetic, and likable character.

Christopher Avery Courtland, Earl of Vanewright is simply put, a fun hero. He’s something of a scoundrel, and not only does he know it, he embraces it. He knows he’s not that good, and while he doesn’t apologize about it, he also knows when what he does was wrong, and feels badly for it. I liked that Vane could admit his faults, and regretted some of his actions. He’s quite human, but definitely true to himself. He doesn’t become a paragon of virtue, he simply falls in love. Vane focuses his attentions on one woman, and is constant, rather than focusing on various women. I loved that he felt protective of Isabel, and jealous when she received attention from other men. Vane cared and that’s what’s really important in a hero.

Two things bothered me about this book. I’m having trouble deciding how much – but basically, the premise. I go between finding it somewhat believable, or not. I don’t think it’s giving the plot away, since the back cover copy clearly shows Isabel and Vane are the hero and heroine. But the book starts with the Marchioness of Netherley – Vane’s mother – asking Isabel’s assistance in matching Vane with Isabel’s younger sister, Delia. It’s clear from the start (at least to me) his mother never meant it, and always wanted Vane to be with Isabel.

However, neither Isabel nor Vane realize this. I had a hard time believing that was true, because Isabel and Vane are both astute. Especially Vane, who knows his mother will do almost anything to get him married. He’s on to her tricks and has been on to them. For her part, I can see Isabel being duped because it makes sense for someone – or anyone – to want their son to marry Delia. Not her. (That whole self worth thing.)

I didn’t think a loving mother, who has a good relationship with her son, would want him tied to a girl who is rather mercenary, selfish, and self centered. Delia isn’t a very nice girl – although in a way she can be forgiven because she was indulged so much by her family. Delia isn’t a static character, actually, but she doesn’t do much. She’s a perfect secondary character. So for such a smart character, Vane (and even Isabel) are rather thick when it comes to the motherly machinations.

I normally don’t go into such detail with the plot, but as you can see, that was my hang up. I think the second time around, I knew what my issues were, so I was expecting it. Also I knew to not let me bother it as much. The other thing was the abrupt ending. Someone actually messaged me on goodreads when she saw I’d rated the book to ask how my copy of the book ended. Obviously this isn’t as big an issue.

I loved the progression of Vane and Isabel’s relationship. It was fun to see a hero and heroine who don’t get on from the start. In fact, Vane decides Isabel intrigues him, while she’s oftentimes annoyed with him. It’s always nice when a hero has to work for it, and he does have some convincing to do here.

Lastly, I loved that Ms. Hawkins wrote an equal partnership. I never felt one character ceded too much to the other. They were moving together, and forward. Yes, some things were a bit rushed (I think Isabel capitulated to Vane too quickly, but I might not have felt she was as guilty as she did.) You’ll see when you read it.

It’s obvious I was very invested in this book. I’m actually not quite sold on the premise of the next Lords of Vice book (All Afternoon with a Scandalous Marquess), but I depend on Ms. Hawkins to convince me, as I know she can. If you enjoy reading historical romances, I definitely recommend Sunrise with a Notorious Lord as well as any and all of the other books in the series.

Grade: B

*Sidenote: ZOMG! Ms. Hawkins finally changed her website and it’s no longer flash based! Yay!!!

Sadly while there’s no excerpt, she has a book page with trailer here, and you can buy a copy here.

Guest Review: How to Dance With a Duke by Manda Collins

Liz’s Review of:

How to Dance With a Duke by Manda Collins
Historical romance released by St. Martin’s Press January 31, 2012

What’s a wallflower to do when she’s suddenly in need of a husband? Use all the pluck and moxie she can muster to get what she wants…

She’s in need of a partner

Miss Cecily Hurston would much rather explore the antiquities of Egypt than the uncharted territory of marriage. But the rules of her father’s exclusive academic society forbid her entrance unless she weds one of its members. To clear her ailing father’s name of a scandalous rumor, Cecily needs to gain admission into the Egyptian Club—and is willing to marry any old dullard to do it.

And he has all the right moves

Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, is anything but dull. He’s a dashing and decorated war hero determined to help Cecily—even if that means looking the other way when she claims the dance card of Amelia Snow, this season’s most sought-after beauty. But Lucas has a reason for wanting Cecily to join the Egyptian Club: His brother went missing during one of Lord Hurston’s expeditions to Egypt. An alliance with the explorer’s bluestocking daughter could bring Lucas closer to the truth about what happened…or it could lead him to a more dangerous love than either he or Cecily could have imagined….

Cecily Hurston is an innocent, bookish young woman who acts without thinking things through in many aspects of her life. When she decides to marry a man simply based on his acceptance into the society, she doesn’t really understand what being married would mean for her. Enter Lucas Dalton, who offers to help her sort through the would-be prospects of eligible men to select an appropriate one, all the while determining to help her see the error of such a future. What neither of them expect is that their working together for both separate and dual purposes would ensconce them in scandal, life threatening danger, and…finally…love.
Lucas wants to know what happened to his brother; Cecily wants to know why her father is ill. For both of them, the answer lies in the fated expedition in which her father returned near death and Lucas’ brother did not return. As they search for answers together, deciding two heads are better than one, the book takes suspenseful turns amid an attempt on Cecily’s life as they draw closer to the truth. Things heat up between the two during an unsuccessful attempt to find her father’s journals, and Lucas’ charming and chivalrous behavior won my heart.
I enjoy a romance with a rogue that turns into a hero and Lucas was just such a man in spades. And I also like a romance where the hero is the one with his heart on his sleeve and the heroine is the one running away. Cecily doesn’t have a confident bone in her body when it comes to love or her worth as a woman, and has a broken heart to boot. Lucas keeps telling himself that finding out what happened to his brother is paramount to everything else, but Cecily has wormed her way steadily into his heart and mind and it’s exciting to read his transformation from bachelor to a man willing to step out on a limb for love. As they uncover the truth of her father and his brother, their relationship both blooms and wilts at varying times as misunderstandings abound on both sides. It was both sweet and upsetting to watch them struggle with their feelings, and the ending was surprising in more ways than one.
Duke contains a generous cast of characters, from the uppity Amelia to Cecily’s conspiring cousins. One of my favorite scenes in the book came early on during the ball, when she swiped Amelia’s dance card. On the back she found Amelia’s flirting cheat sheet. Cecily’s internal monologue as she tried to flirt her way into a marriage proposal and thus into the coveted club was hilarious and made me like her character right away. After all, who doesn’t appreciate when the ugly duckling realizes there really may be a swan underneath after all? Normally, I don’t go for historical novels, but in the interest of expanding my reading horizons, I was curious to read Duke. I am very glad I took a chance on reading this book and stepping outside of my comfort zone and I look forward to reading Manda’s future writings.
I enjoyed the book, and it is one I would recommend to people who enjoy period romantic suspense novels.
Grade: B-
You can read an excerpt of the book here.