Tag Archives: category novel

Carly Kelly – “Beau Crusoe”

19 Nov


GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Historical, 2007

WHY THIS NOVEL: good reviews + I always wanted to read something by Carla Kelly

Shipwrecked!
Stranded alone on a desert island, he had lived to tell the tale. A triumphant return to the ton saw James Trevenen hailed as Beau Crusoe–a gentleman of spirit, verve and action. But only he knew the true cost of his survival!

Scandalous!
Susannah Park had been shunned by Society. She lived content with her calm existence–until Beau Crusoe determinedly cut up her peace! The beautiful widow wanted to help him heal the wounds of the past–but what secrets was this glorious man hiding?

[I read this book for this month’s TBR Challenge, then didn’t find the time to write and post my comment in time. Not that I have much today, either.]

My first novel by Carla Kelly and it won’t be my last. I loved the twist Kelly put on the story of a woman and a wounded man falling in love. It made the novel different. I loved the impression that the characters were real people with flaws and not 100% perfect and drop-dead gorgeous to boot. I loved the way Kelly showed the growing attraction and love between Susannah and James. I loved the look at society and the concept of heroism, and yes, I loved the gritty and graphic descriptions. They provided a good contrast to James and Susannah’s relationship and the civilized English society.

In fact, that is what I probably liked best in this novel. Parts of this novel, especially in the first half, showed how uncivilized civilized society actually was/could be. This got a bit lost towards the end, IMO, and overall, I thought this and the more darker themes in this novel didn’t fit well with the lightheartedness and humor this story also has (the toucans, for example). They both muddied each other a bit. There are quite a few lucky coincidences in the story and I also thought that the conflict between Susannah and her sister Loisa resolved much too easily. It was like James waved a magical wand and years of resentment and hostility just vanished overnight.

Susannah says this about James:

“[…] An ordinary man comes to London to accept an award and finds himself in great demand to rescue a large portion of the population from some crisis or other.” (180)

and it describes the external part of the story rather well.

James acts rather than stands around and waits. In this he is different than most other people in society and it’s here that civilized society shows that it can be rather uncivilized. People tend to look on instead of help. Of course, James has his own inner demons and when he’s faced with them, he rather stands around and waits, or even flees, instead of acts. Susannah helps him there and in doing so, she does something she never thought she could do: face a large crowd of people. I liked that.

I think Beau Crusoe is a novel that offers much to take a closer look at and talk about. Overall, I enjoyed Kelly’s voice and reading this novel a lot and I’m looking forward to reading more by Carla Kelly.

Verdict: Very, very good (4,5/5).

Advertisements

Re-Read Challenge: “The Return Of Luke McGuire” By Justine Davis

1 Oct

re-read-challenge-2009

Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009
This month:Re-Read Challenge: September!

Davis, Justine - Return of Luke McGuire
GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Mills & Boon, Silhouette Sensation, 2001

AVAILABILITY: out of print

You always want…

Dark and dangerous Luke McGuire was everything shy Amelia Blair had been fascinated by as a girl but too terrified to go near. And now here she was, the only person in the whole town prepared to give him the time of day, caring enough to stand up for him…brave enough to get close.

What you can’t have

Luke knew that Amelia was off-limits. But, reformed or not, he’d never been able to abide by the rules. He only hoped that the quiet beauty would fall for the man he had become instead of the one he used to be.

Then

The Return of Luke McGuire was the first category novel I ever read. This was back in 2002 and for a long time, this category novel stayed the only one. But I loved it enough and remembered it fondly enough that when I started to read category novels more regularly 1-2 years back, I bought and still buy novels by Davis even though they have a slight romantic suspense bend to it now.

Now

The Return of Luke McGuire is one of those novels where the blurb doesn’t do the story justice. I know, this goes practically for nearly every romance novel, but I always think it especially annoying when 1) it can lead to slightly false assumptions about the story and 2) when the real story is so much more than what you would expect reading the blurb.

Yes, Amelia thinks of herself as quiet and unassuming. A mouse. But she’s determined to be the bravest mouse she could be. And as the story develops, she learns there are different kinds of strength and that perhaps hidden underneath her reserve there is a fire raging that would do her namesake Amelia Earhart justice. And yes, Amelia is drawn to Luke despite herself.

But Luke doesn’t think Amelia off-limits exactly. Sure, it’s present because he’s been the bad boy of the town and Amelia is the goody-goody girl of the town, but it’s not really as important between them as it might seem because of the back blurb. And well, Luke doesn’t see Amelia for the first time and thinks, “wow, but uhm, she’s off-limits.” His attraction is growing slowly and he starts to notice more and more things about her as he gets to know her better. He hesitates, yes, but not because he thinks himself not good enough for her or something like that.

The novel starts when Luke comes back to his home town because he received a letter from his younger brother David asking for help. Before this letter, there wasn’t actually any (real) contact between Luke and David. Luke left his home town the day after he graduated from high school and hasn’t regretted or looked back since then. Now David hopes he can come and live with Luke to escape their controlling and nasty mother, something Luke knows won’t be possible. So he isn’t sure if coming is the right move. Besides, he only has bad memories of the town and is glad he left all the nastiness he faced there behind.

But despite all of this, he does, and that is when he meets Amelia who’s a friend of David and owner of the town’s bookshop. David has acquired a worrisome set of friends trying to set off his mother and live up to his older brother’s bad boy reputation. Amelia and Luke’s concern for David brings them closer together. Without David, Amelia and Luke probably would never have talked to each other, at least not in Luke’s home town where just his being back brings out some of his old reactions to the way people treat him. They assume the worst of him because of his history and he doesn’t bother to show them he’d changed. But there is David. And trying to help David brings Amelia and Luke closer together, makes Amelia discover new things about herself, and makes Luke face his past and deal with it in a way so that he really can leave it all behind.

If there is one thing where this novel falters a bit it’s the way the villains are depicted. David’s nasty friends are up to some very bad things but I thought what they are willing to do in the end, though actually believable, still a bit out of nowhere. But more than that, I thought the people’s antagonism towards Luke slightly overdone. He did some cruel and bad things in his youth, yes, but that was nearly ten years ago. When he comes back, nobody (except Amelia of course) gives him the benefit of the doubt, they just assume the worst. Even more, they go and outright say it to him. I don’t know, I just thought that really rude and intolerant, and that everyone was like that was just a bit hard to believe. (To be fair, there is some change at the end with some people, but still.)

But that is just a very small complaint. The Return of Luke McGuire offers more than enough to make up for it. There’s the believable and slowly developing romance between two people who look like they have nothing in common and only meet because of special circumstances, Amelia and Luke. There’s the relationship between the brothers Luke and David that starts out with Luke as David’s hero for all the wrong reasons and that needs to adjust as the story and characters develop. There’s David’s struggle with growing up and finding his own way. There’s Luke’s struggle with his past and what his mother did to him (IMO the most important thread of the story). And there’s Amelia who makes all this possible and who discovers that maybe she was wrong to think of herself as a mouse.

Verdict: Despite my disbelief about the total rudeness of all people, 5/5.

Ally Blake – “Dating The Rebel Tycoon”

13 Aug

Blake, Ally - Dating the Rebel Tycoon
GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Romance, 2009

WHY THIS NOVEL: I like Ally Blake’s voice.

As a gawky teenager, Rosie knew she never stood a chance with heartthrob Cameron Kelly. She had pigtails and glasses, and washed dishes by night to help support her and her mother, while Cameron came from one of the richest and most revered families in Brisbane.

Years later they meet again, and Rosie finds herself on a date with the devastatingly attractive billionaire! There’s something different about him–he’s darker, more intense, dangerous. But she’s determined to ignore his three-dates-only rule and get to the heart of the rebel tycoon…

This is the third novel I’ve read by Ally Blake. Although it didn’t blow me away either, I really like Blake’s voice and will continue to read her. I think this is the novel I did like best so far.

The blurb is actually a bit misleading because both Rosie (short for Rosalind) and Cameron (Cam) are commitment shy. If there’s one problem with this novel, it’s that I had trouble buying into Cam’s reason for being that way.

Cam has trust issues because when he was around seventeen, he discovered his almighty father cheated on Cam’s mother. So he knows “that even the most solid relationships ultimately fail beneath the weight of secrets and lies” (118). What I knew about this wasn’t enough to make me believe his “I do fun but I don’t do relationship” stance.

But even if there would have been more, I guess I would have had trouble buying into that idea. Is it really that you don’t believe in relationships because someone you loved, honored, respected cheated on the partner? Wouldn’t it occur to you once that you are your own person and responsible for what you do? (If not, it makes you appear a bit stupid, IMO.) Or maybe it’s the thought that the person Cam is with could cheat on him that makes Cam commitment shy. Either way, I didn’t think it a strong enough reason. But it did explain why Cam is estranged from his family.

I had less trouble believing in Rosie’s reason for why she’s not really looking for something solid. She’d seen firsthand what opening up to someone can do to a person. Her mother never was the same after her father had left them (not that Rose actually knew him). This meant a childhood for Rosie that rendered her invisible at home no matter what she did. Like being good at school for example which, by the way, was another place where Rosie felt invisible, especially with her crush on Cam. She was the poor student that went to school with rich kids thanks to a scholarship. So Rosie has more than enough experience with what it feels like to be left out and ignored (and a failed relationship would mean just that to her) so as a rule, she dates only men who for whatever reason can’t make a commitment.

So both Cameron and Rosie actually make their decision to stay out of serious relationships because of something they witnessed, not something that happened to themselves (they’d never been in a relationship that had failed). Yet I’m more willing to go with Rosie’s reason than with Cameron’s. Maybe it’s really because I’m not sure why Cameron thinks that way. I guess I would have had less trouble if he’d be afraid to be the one who gets cheated on. But that’s not really what it sounds like when he explains himself.

In any way, my impression that Cameron’s reason was a bit weak wasn’t a deal breaker for this novel. It’s more like a minor niggle that made me sometimes feel left out, but nothing more. And contrary to what you probably would expect from a woman with a background like Rosie’s, Rosie isn’t a shy person (though she has her insecurities). She’s an open person who knows herself pretty well. Rosie says what she thinks, she says how she sees things, and she isn’t afraid to look at the truth.

Together with her thoughts and feelings about her own father, it’s this that enables her to draw Cameron out and to get him to reconcile with his family. She finally makes him see that humans can make mistakes and that even he, who doesn’t want to hurt/disappoint anyone he cares for (his reason for staying away from other people), inadvertently hurts people by his behavior. Rosie shows Cam the value of talking openly about things. They (eventually) do this in their dealings with each other and Cam does it eventually with his family as well.

What I liked this novel for, and where it really shines, IMO, is in detailing what happens when you get to know someone. The reader really sees Rosie and Cameron dating. Their first date covers several chapters and they actually do talk. It’s not the “they talked for hours about…” thing. There’s flirting, there’s fun, and it’s clear that there’s always an undercurrent of attraction between them. So although the characters agree to a date for reasons that has nothing to do with pursuing a serious relationship – Cameron thinks to use Rosie as a distraction from the problems he has with his family and his father, for example – this attraction of course gets the better of them in the end.

Verdict: I liked it (4/5).

Re-Read Challenge: “Courting Trouble” By Nonnie St. George

31 Jul

re-read-challenge-2009

Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009
This month:Re-Read Challenge: July!

St. George, Nonnie - CourtingTrouble
GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Zebra Books (Regency Romance), 2004

SERIES: related to The Ideal Bride

AVAILABILITY: no longer available

PERHAPS YOU’VE HEARD OF ME?
The Duke of St. Fell, at your service. The women of the ton call me cynical, accuse me of gambling, drinking, seducing, and wanting to marry only for money. Guilty as charged. As for romance? Pure twaddle invented by brooding spinsters. Thank heavens for Arabella Swann. With her sharp wit, strong will, keen intelligence, and utterly delightful fortune, she’ll make a perfect wife for me–as soon as she gets over her ridiculous notions of romance and realizes it. After all, I am a duke and devastatingly handsome and charming. It’s not as if she could possibly find a better suitor than me.

Except for that pestilential Lord Stonecraft. The sap remembers Arabella’s favorite flowers and perfume. He even writes epic poetry. He’s everything she’s ever wanted, damn him. Now that he’s wormed his way into her affections, how can I possibly compete with such romantic perfection? And how will I ever prove to Arabella that this cynical duke no longer cares a whit for her fortune (heaven help me)…but only for her heart…

Then

Nonnie St. George wrote (afaik) two novels. Both are regencies, both are very funny (IMO), and I like both a lot, Courting Trouble maybe a bit more than The Ideal Bride. At least, Courting Trouble is the one I’ve re-read more often.

Now

For this challenge, I’ve read Courting Trouble for the fourth time and I still find it as laugh-out-loud funny as the first time. Actually, I think Courting Trouble is one of the funniest romance novels I’ve ever read. It’s fast, it’s sparkling full of wit, it makes me laugh no matter how often I’ve read it, and it does it all without throwing in a dog. It reminds me of old screwball comedies or modern sitcoms.

Of course, as with all stories that rely heavily on humor, the humor in this story either works for you or it doesn’t.

If the humor doesn’t work, you see a simplistic plot, no real conflict, slightly exaggerated characters bordering on clichés (especially the secondary characters), a too modern tone (regency in disguise), and on the whole, a story that seems unrealistic and is over after three meetings between the heroine and the hero.

If the humor does work, you see a masterfully written comedy based on a three act structure that has sparkling dialog, good timing, is tongue in cheek, and laughs at itself and the genre. By chapter two, I had already more slips of paper sticking out of the book than I needed to illustrate why I think this novel is wickedly funny. Sentences, paragraphs, whole scenes, chapters, well, the whole novel – on every level, intricately linked, you find something witty.

The plot: Arabella comes to London looking for a husband. Her father promised her complete freedom in her choice, but he also wants a titled son-in-law. So he takes care that Arabella doesn’t meet eligible gentlemen despite her being in London for two weeks now. When he meets a likely candidate, the Duke of St. Fell who’s in dire need of money, at one of his business meetings, he goes behind Arabella’s back and makes a deal with said candidate. Of course, Arabella can’t have that!

The conflict: Arabella doesn’t want to marry a fortune hunter. St. Fell freely admits that he is just that. Arabella wants courting, romance and love. St. Fell doesn’t see the point in that. The trouble, eh conflict, is, they fell in love with each other at first sight but both are too stubborn to admit it.

And that’s it.

But oh, how St. George uses this to have fun, skewering romance clichés left and right.

The fortune hunting business? (Apologies, several quotes follow to give an idea how this novel works.)

Arabella’s heart began to hammer. She was going to have her first private conversation with a gentleman! And heaven only knew the kind of conversation a fortune hunting rake would get up to. Not that he would admit that he was a fortune hunter or a rake, of course. No, she had no doubt that he would try to convince her that he was truly interested in her for herself. […]
As soon as her family reached the far wall, the Duke of St. Fell leaned across the sofa toward her. His lips curved into a smile and he looked deeply into her eyes.
Arabella held her breath.
“What the devil is your aunt’s name?” he asked. (40/41)

“I am not going to marry you just because that is what you and Papa want!”
“Then marry me because that is what you want,” he said.
“I do not want to marry you!” Arabella said. “I barely know you.!”
“You know everything of importance. I am a duke. You are a rich heiress. We are a perfect match.”
She folded her arms across her chest. “To think that in all the years I dreamed of coming to London, I never dared hope I would receive so romantic a proposal.”
“I thought you said you didn’t read Minerva Press romances?” He had the nerve to sound injured.
“That does not mean I want to be married for my fortune!”
“But you have such a fine fortune!” he said. “Why not use it to acquire the best husband you can.”
“Which would be a duke, I suppose,” she said dryly.
“It is hard to do better than a duke. We are as scarce as hen’s teeth , you know.” (46/47)

I do not know what my father has told you, but I’m going to choose my own husband.”
The duke shrugged. “Choose me.”
“I want to marry for love!”
“Love me.”
“I want my husband to love me!”
“I love you.” (48)

A bit later:

“In any event,” he continued, still merrily smirking, “it doesn’t matter if I love you. You don’t marry someone because they love you. What matters is whether or not you love me.” (48/49)

Romance clichés, conventional views and perspectives of the characters and reader get turned around all the time in this novel. There are lots of references to Minera Press romances throughout the story. The thing about dukes being scarce as hen’s teeth? Arabella’s aunt made this comment prior to Arabella meeting St. Fell for the first time. Then there are the bonbons the characters eat (they come with meaning – sugared almonds are dull and by implication if someone picks one…), the ongoing discussion about rakes (St. Fell), rogues, rascals, or for example St. Fell’s mother who has a lorgnette and isn’t afraid to use it because that’s what Arabella and her family expect of her, a duchess. Her qualifications to become a duchess: intelligence, determination, firm opinions, and a monkey; which she amends to any unusual pet or cursing.

Arabella curses. She’s also of the firm opinion that she’s just infatuated with St. Fell (any guesses what’s his given name?) and not in love. After all, she wants to beat the smirk off his face whereas her sister Diana says she knows she’s in love because she wants what’s best for Belcraven, her suitor. Never mind the fact that Arabella’s thoughts often wander off to St. Fell while she’s in conversation with other gentlemen and that she pants whenever he is around.

St. Fell knows that Arabella curses just from looking at her face. Because she does it frequently, Arabella’s cursing turns into a constant element of their meetings and it’s one of the main inducements that brings St. Fell to his knees and close to kissing Arabella whenever he dares her to curse aloud. Despite the fact that St. Fell is smug, smirking, and so self-assured that he seems rather full of himself, he nevertheless tries to give Arabella what she wants because he knows its important to her: he lets her be courted by other gentlemen (though of course he’s sure she’ll pick him at the end). He also does the St. Fell slink whenever he catches sight of her.

While both Arabella and St. Fell might be too stubborn to admit it, it’s clear that they are perfect for each other – with or without St. Fell’s slink/hitch and Arabella’s panting – because they understand each other.

Verdict: 5/5 for the sheer hilarity and fun. It hardly gets better than that.
(If I slightly take into account how realistic this story is – not that I do because that’s not its point – 4,5/5.)