Tag Archives: Jo Beverley

December 2008: Some Comments

31 Dec

Books

  • Jo Beverley – Christmas Angel
  • Suzanne Brockmann – Body Language
  • Kristin Hardy – Bad Behaviour
  • Kristin Hardy – Hot Moves
  • Julie James – Just the Sexiest Man Alive

beverley-jo-christmas-angelJo Beverley – Christmas Angel

A marriage of convenience
This is book # 3 in the “Company of Rogues” series and while some of the characters from the previous novels appear 1) they are actually integral to the story and 2) Christmas Angel is well able to stand on its own. It’s the story of Leander, Earl of Charrington, who “wants a home, a wife and a good old-fashioned English Christmas.” Thanks to the marriage of his parents, he’s afraid to fall in love – he honestly believes he just can’t – and so he looks for a sensible wife who isn’t likely to fall in love with him either. Enter Judith Rossiter, a impoverished widow with two young children. She has a reputation for having loved her late husband a lot and after his death, she is known as the “Weeping Widow.” Judith can’t turn down Leander’s proposal for the sake of her children, and they enter into a marriage of convenience.
I enjoyed reading how the characters adjusted to each other. Leander is a few years younger than Judith for example (not much of an issue but I liked it), and Judith worries about doing the right thing. After all, marriage means giving someone a lot of power over herself and her children. I liked this part of the story the most. Later, the focus shifts to the mystery surrounding Leander’s inheritance, and there are more revelations about Judith’s poet husband. But despite the title, it’s only at the end that the “Christmas spirit” invades the story a bit much.

Grade: 4 / 5

~ * ~

brockmann-suzanne-body-languageSuzanne Brockmann – Body Language

Friends-turned-lovers
I bought this one because I liked Kiss and Tell. It’s a friends-turned-lovers story and it’s quite sweet. If there is one drawback, it’s that both characters are actually in love before the story starts. One of them for years, while the other realized it only recently. So the realization part is actually over before the story starts. But there are still quite a few awh!-moments to be had because before Clint can say anything, Sandy tells him she’s in love with someone (figuring she would always just be seen as a good friend by Clint). He agrees to help her get that man, wanting the best for her, and so he teaches her about body language. There are quite a few fun scenes and despite Clint being and expert on body language, the mis-communications continue. At the end, they got a bit much and I wondered why they didn’t talk about what was happening. I mean, they ruined their friendship with pretending to be lovers and I don’t think they once voiced concerns about the potential for that when they got into it. But all in all, a good and nice read.

Grade: 4 / 5

~ * ~

hardy-kristin-bad-behaviourKristin Hardy – Bad Behaviour

Second chance at love
This is the sixth and the last book in the mini-series “Sex and the Supper Club” by Kristin Hardy about six girlfriends making their way in life and finding love. Delaney Phillips held out the longest of the women, always on the lookout for fun and leaving the men before it could get ugly or hurtful. On a vacation, she meets her first boyfriend, Dom Gordon, by accident (and you could make the case that her way to deal with men comes in part from that time). They spent a few wonderful days full of fun and sex, and for Delaney, that’s all that it is supposed to be. But Dom, even though he has a lot on his plate with his expanding business, doesn’t want it to end just like that, so after some time, they resume their affair again back home.
This was a fun read. I probably liked it a bit less than Hot Moves but this could easily have to do with the fact that I read them both on the same day and Hot Moves was the first that I read. Incidentally, the heroines are nearly opposites in the way they deal with men. Delaney, always the one to leave, and Thea, the heroine from Hot Moves, always the one unable to leave.

Grade: 4 / 5

~ * ~

hardy-kristin-hot-movesKristin Hardy – Hot Moves

A one-night stand turned into something more
This is the fifth entry in Kristin Hardy’s “Sex and the Supper Club.” As always, the other women of the “Sex and Supper Club” are part of the story, but it’s not like you need to have read the previous novels to read this one. Thea just turned thirty and her one wish is for her to get her life back on track. She worked as a model in her past but something happened in New York, and she turned her back on that life and now works “Mcjobs” to keep her occupied even though she doesn’t need the money. A call from a friend leads her to Portland to help that friend with her dance studio. Dancing was the first and is now the only passion of Thea’s life. There she meets Brady and – totally blown away by the instant attraction between them – she has a one-night stand. Only, Brady doesn’t see it that way, for that it was way too good. But there is something in Thea’s past that made her swear off men – she has a clean record of always picking the wrong man and Brady shows all the signs to be one of those controlling assholes.
I really liked this story. Their first meeting and their instant attraction – very good. And despite the short page count, there was enough room to deal with Thea’s issues with men in an satisfying way.

Grade: 4 / 5

~ * ~

james-julie-just-the-sexiest-man-aliveJulie James – Just The Sexiest Man Alive

Lawyer meets movie star
Overall, I liked this story. I had a few problems with Taylor. Her sarcasm seemed too forced at times and in general, I felt there was a bit too much “nudge-nudge, look-look” going on with Taylor’s character (especially for the first half). I also wondered a bit about her willingness (and having the time) to be seen repeatedly with several celebrities when she’s in trail.
That said, I loved the beginning of the novel. The cross-examination scene of Jason is great. Taylor’s reluctance to be impressed by Jason was understandable – she had already done the womanizing-man thing, so no. I thought the middle part a bit sagging and off. But the last few chapters, reminiscent of Notting Hill IMO, made up for that. Jason’s line, “Not this time, Taylor. No sarcasm.” Awwh.

Grade: 3,5 / 5 (for the sagging middle part)

~ * ~

Comments planned*:
– Ann Aguirre – Grimspace
– Lisa Kleypas – Devil in Winter
– Sherry Thomas – Private Arrangements
– and look at this:

laurens-stephanie-a-secret-love_draft

Stephanie Laurens – A Secret Love – draft written on December, 4!

If A Secret Love wouldn’t be a re-read, I probably would need to read it again to finish writing that draft.

* We’ll see how that turns out!

Games

Shadow Hearts: From the New World (PS2)

see: Currently Playing: “Shadow Hearts – From the New World”

~ * ~

Civilization 3

Yes, I’m trying for a Deity game in Civ 3. So far, no chance because I don’t even manage to get a decent starting location. I have started over 10 games now and I always – always – end up with the worst starting location for my civilization compared to the AI’s starting locations. No water, no iron, no luxury in my immediate surroundings. I play til the Middle Ages come around and then I’m so ticked off that I quit and start new. I mean, is it too much to ask for at least a decent starting location and not the worst when I’m already heavily handicapped on this difficulty level? Bah!

~ * ~

Titan Quest

Finished this game on the first difficulty level. I don’t think I’ll play the other two. I liked it but (at the moment) I don’t want to take the time to really get into it like I did with the similar Diablo 2. Titan Quest is more comfortable in the gameplay than Diablo 2 (it’s also not as “old”) but something is missing. I don’t know. My Grade would probably be 4/5 or 4+/5.

Also:

titan-quest-next-difficulty-level

For all my troubles I just get this measly info window informing me I made the next difficulty level?
Meh!

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Jo Beverley – “Deirdre and Don Juan”

15 Aug

GENRE: Romance / Regency
PUBLISHED: in: Lovers and Ladies; NAL; 2008

WHY THIS NOVEL: I liked other novels by Beverley, I wanted to read one of her traditional regencies but they were oop + it was a good bargain


The back blurb:
” ‘Don Juan,’ the dashing Earl of Everdon, married young and for love, but his beautiful wife ran off with another. Now newly widowed, he needs to marry and produce an heir, but thistime he’ll choose a woman no otheer man will want. He expects Lady Deirdre Stowe, a plain wallflower, to be honored, but not a bit of it. Deirdre is furious at him for ruining her plan to marry another. A promise compels her to pretend for a while, which gives the intrigued earl time to try to win the exasperating woman he has come to love.”


I don’t know why but I had a difficult time writing this post. Together with The Fortune Hunter, Deirdre and Don Juan is part of the omnibus edition Lovers and Ladies. I enjoyed reading it and, due to its stronger focus on the romance, I liked it probably a bit more than The Fortune Hunter.

Don Juan is a very nice hero (except that I thought the name a bit much). He has a loving relationship with his mother and he’s rather caring about other people, especially women who seem a bit sad. It seems he can’t help himself, he feels compelled to cheer them up. After his disastrous first marriage (his wife left him for another man), he has a cynical view about marriage and compares wives to lottery tickets. Deirdre seems like a good draw to him and so he proposes.

Deirdre isn’t happy about that. She calls him an oaf. His proposal ruins her plan to marry a man her parents are not happy (Howard) about but promised she could marry if she wouldn’t receive a marriage proposal during her stay in London. So Deirdre calls Don Juan an oaf (I liked that) but right then they can do nothing but to go along with their engagement. The plan is for Don Juan to do something so outrageous that the engagement will be called off by her parents. Then Deirdre can marry her man after all and Don Juan gets to draw another lottery ticket.

Don Juan is intrigued by Deirdre and if it weren’t for Deirdre being in love with Howard, he would be perfectly willing to marry her. His fascination is partly because he sees her as one of the women with hidden fire. And since he likes women and cares for them, he can’t help himself but stir that hidden fire in order for her to make her enjoy life more. Something Howard failed to do, as he observes. Of course, while he’s at it, he falls in love with Deirdre. It’s a slow process and something he only realizes very late. Suddenly he finds himself in the same situation the man was who ran off with his wife. Or, as Deirdre points out, he makes her the same as his wife by wanting her to break her promise to Howard and marry him instead. His wife wasn’t loyal when someone better represented himself to her, as he says himself, so where does that leave her loyalty. Is there a difference and when, where is it?

Sometimes it was difficult to understand why Deirdre remained so set on marrying Howard. He and Don Juan get a lot of contrasting scenes and Don Juan always comes across as the better man. He’s very good looking, he’s wealthy, he pays attention to Deirdre, he has excellent social skills, he kisses better, … But in the end, for Deirdre it all comes back to loyalty. That and the fact that Deirdre feels needed by Howard, whereas Don Juan seems so perfect it’s hard to imagine he would / could need someone. While it took Don Juan quite some time to realize that he fell in love with Deirdre, so it took Deirdre quite some time to realize that there are different kinds of need, and that Howard doesn’t need her in the way she thinks and wishes for.

On the whole, Deirdre and Don Juan was an enjoyable read with a lot of banter between the main protagonists but there are also some more serious moments.

To think that I got Lovers and Ladies mainly because it was a bargain – sometimes it pays to be cheap and get books just because they’re on sale for a price you can’t possibly ignore. Now I hope the other traditional regencies by Beverley will get published too because I want to read the other stories alluded to in these two novels.


Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Probably yes.

Grade: 4 + / 5


Jo Beverley – “The Fortune Hunter”

12 Aug


GENRE: Romance / Regency
PUBLISHED: in: Lovers and Ladies; NAL; 2008

WHY THIS NOVEL: I liked other novels by Beverley, I wanted to read one of her traditional regencies but they were oop + it was a good bargain


The back blurb:
“Amy de Lacy and her brother and sisters face poverty. There is only one thing for it: One of them will have to marry money. And Amy, the family beauty, is the obvious choice. Amy’s willing to try, even after she meets a handsome, charming stranger. Harry Crisp might attract her, but he’s not rich. Amy takes her quest to a London Season, but when she meets Harry again, she’s torn between her duty and her heart.”


The Fortune Hunter is one of Jo Beverley’s traditional Regencies. It was out of print for a long time and now is published again in an omnibus edition together with Deirdre and Don Juan. I enjoyed reading it very much. It is a subtle story and I thought it witty and smart. I also liked the sense of friendship and connectedness that came from all the other characters in the story.

The title refers to the heroine of the novel, Amy. Amy is an exceptionally beautiful woman and since her family is on the brink of poverty, she has to marry a rich man to be able to help her family. She’s also very unhappy, disgusted even, about her exceptional beauty and the effect this can have on people (men and women alike). I think in some way that her wish to “sacrifice” herself for her family is motivated by that.

I liked Amy’s matter-of-fact approach to the situation. Amy isn’t happy about the things she has to do but nevertheless is determined to see them through with grace. Her no-nonsense character is established from the beginning. She’s the one to remind her family that just because they have now some money (won in a lottery) it doesn’t mean they can spend it on everything they liked. There are still debts to be paid and even with the money, their home is far from what is once was.

Complications arise when, due to a storm, Amy’s attempt to meet the richest man in their area goes wrong and instead she ends up at a farm with Harry Crisp, a young gentleman. It’s a nice first meeting and I thought their immediate attraction was done well. It’s also one of the few times that Amy feels her beauty doesn’t interfere with how she is treated and she enjoys that a lot. She’s attracted to Harry but she suspects that he isn’t wealthy enough to also help her brother and two sisters if they would marry. Her feelings for him frighten her, and Amy knows that seeing and meeting Harry isn’t good for her because it might very well lead to her giving up on her goal to marry for money and letting her family down as a consequence of that. So she tries to push him away. Her refusal of the hero’s marriage proposal is very blunt (after he wouldn’t listen to her before):

“Very well, sir,” she snapped. “If you want logic, you may have it!” She looked him straight in the eye. “I am holding out for a better catch. I plan to marry a fortune, and you are nowhere near rich enough.” She laughed at the shock on his face. “I could be wrong, of course, our acquaintance being so slight as to be nonexistent. If you are a regular Croesus, pray tell me now and I’ll say yes, and thank you, sir, and be as grovellingly grateful as you clearly expect me to be.” (p. 93)

For me, Amy’s characterization worked. I didn’t read her as a martyr, intend to sacrifice all for her family, first probably because her brother and sisters are not like the gambling/drinking father/brother often used in this kind of story; it’s not their fault that the family is struggling with poverty. And second, an important point in this story is Amy’s realization that there is more to marriage and that it shouldn’t be just a bargain.

She found her mind dwelling on the kind of parties that had doubtless been held here in his bachelor days, with the ladies and gentlemen finding and losing each other in these dark green passageways, feeling alone together here, apart from the world and all the burdens of responsibility and correct behavior.
[…]
There would me none of that for her. No teasing romps, no romantic trysts. Amy allowed her mind in a direction she had never permitted it before. She knew, in general terms, what marriage involved. She imagined her marriage bed when Sir Cedric joined her. He would kiss her, and then do what he had to do. She supposed he would enjoy it, for men apparently did, but it was hard to imagine Sir Cedric looking at her with the hunger she had seen in other eyes today.
Having opened her mind to these thoughts, they could not be shut out. She saw new dimensions to the world around her. She had thought Lord Templemore’s gaze at his wife heated, but now she recognized hunger. It was decently controlled by maturity, civilization, and, she supposed, the expectation of satisfaction, but it was hunger all the same. She remembered the way Sophie had said, “Married life is so exhausting,” and the gleam in her husband’s eye. Hunger again.
[…]
It had been there in Harry’s and, she suspected, in her own. She sighed. Was she to go hungry all her life? (p. 192/193)

Of course, right after that she comes face-to-face with Harry.

Compared to Amy, Harry is a rather stock character. He’s nice, falls in love with Amy at first sight, then proposes on their third meeting. There is something sweet about Harry’s misconception about Amy. He sees her as some kind of Cinderella, mistreated and exploited by her family, and he wants to help and rescue her. It’s quite a shock for him when he realizes that it is actually Amy’s own doing and Amy doesn’t want to see him as Prince Charming. But he also calls her a bitch after her blunt refusal of marriage and doesn’t want to have anything to do with her after that despite his continuing attraction to her. When they meet again, they, or more precisely Amy, have to figure out what’s more important: love or duty.

So on the whole, The Fortune Hunter is Amy’s story, IMO. There’s a strong focus on her and in contrast, the romance, while convincing for a love-at-first-sight story and nice, seems to take second place, especially since there is no contact between Amy and Harry after she refuses his marriage proposal. It’s only when Amy goes to London for the Season that they meet again. And there, Amy avoids Harry as much as possible. In that way, The Fortune Hunter is perhaps more a story about a woman than a romance, but I liked to read about Amy, thought the romance worked for the story and I had fun while reading it.


Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Probably yes.

Grade: 4 + / 5


Jo Beverley – "An Arranged Marriage"

18 Oct


GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Zebra Books, 1991


The back blurb:
“Eleanor Chivenham didn’t put much past her vile brother, but even she had not anticipated his greedy scheme to dupe a rich earl into mistaking her for a lightskirt! With her reputation in shreds and her future ruined, a defeated Eleanor was forced to agree to a hasty wedding. But marriage to the mysterious Nicholas Delaney, with his casual elegance and knowing smile, was more than she bargained for. He doubtless thought the worst of her, but when society gossip soon told her all about his beautiful French mistress, Eleanor tried to act with the cool dignity required in a marriage of convenience. But how long could she hold out against his undeniable charm – or the secret desires of her heart?
For the sake of family honor, Nicholas Delaney agreed to wed a wronged lady. In truth, such chivalry ran counter to his carefully wrought image of a carousing, dissolute rogue – the guise so vital to his secret political mission. He hoped to keep his new wife in the background until a spy was trapped, but Eleanor’s beauty and fighting wit were impossible to ignore. In fact, she presented quite a challenge to his prowess with women – and a test of his formidable will!”


An Arranged Marriage has a lot of plot elements which are right out of the only-in-romance-novels box: the heroine is raped (arranged by her eeeeeevil brother), then married to the rapist’s brother, who then cheats on her with a former lover to get information for the sake of his country.

Rendered this way, this story sounds awful.

But for me, it worked because of the heroine, Eleanor. I thought it interesting to read about a level-headed woman with everything that happens to her. She is raped (conveniently, this doesn’t seem to impact her much; she was also drugged during the rape); her husband cheats on her, she knows it and she tells herself she has no right to be jealous because he was forced to marry her. She thinks about her feelings and emotions and realizes that sometimes her expectations are pretty unreasonable. That’s different than just accepting Nicholas behaviour (letting him walk all over her), IMO, and that I found refreshing. And Beverley shows that, despite Eleanor’s best intentions, the marriage gets more and more strained. Eleanor’s perhaps too level-headed or maybe even too passive to be comfortable if you tend to transfer character behaviour into real life, but as a fictional character, Eleanor worked.

On the surface, it seems as if An Arranged Marriage is Eleanor’s story. There are only very few scenes from the hero’s, Nicholas, POV. But in a not so obvious way, An Arranged Marriage is more Nicholas story. He has the bigger character arc. And in this context, Eleanor’s “passiveness” serves a purpose, IMO. Nicholas is shown, among other things, as take-charge and knowing what to do. In less flattering words, he’s high-handed and arrogant (in thinking he knows what’s best). He’s repeatedly called manipulative. He thinks he has all under control. To pair him with a woman who isn’t as level-headed as Eleanor, who would question him about his behaviour and act very emotionally, would lessen the impact of his revelation that he doesn’t have everything under control, that in trying to protect Eleanor, he hurt her the most. His “fall” wouldn’t be as deep.

That is not to say I had no problems with this novel. In fact, there are quite a few.

The scenes with Eleanor and Nicholas brother (her rapist), needed just a little too much suspense of disbelief for me to work despite Eleanor’s being drugged and her “amnesia.” I can’t believe she could be comfortable in a room with him. There’s no mention of the rape, let alone an apology. It’s mostly treated as if it never happened and that bothered me (on the non-fictional level).

Then there’s the spy plot. I didn’t buy wholly into the idea that having an affair was the only way to get the information. Also, there wouldn’t be much of a story if Nicholas had told Eleanor form the beginning what he did “for his country” because the story, as it is told now, relies on misunderstanding after misunderstanding.

Early in the novel, Eleanor states that she at least can have an honest marriage (she reasons with herself about what to do): “It would be pleasant to be honestly married, the facts of the situation, however distasteful, acknowledged by them both” (p. 33). I would have liked to see this angle more openly pursued in the rest of the story. It’s there, of course, but it’s in the background. The misunderstandings are mostly misunderstandings when they could have been something more.

Also, it’s a bit difficult to believe that these two really were in love with each other. They spent hardly any time together.

Now, how to grade it? There’s a lot to say about Eleanor and Nicholas as characters and, depending on my mood, I tend to view it one way or the other. I enjoyed reading An Arranged Marriage. It is well written and I liked to read something different (and how sad is it that I wouldn’t expect to read something like this in a historical published today?). So, in the end, I’ll settle on the higher grade which reflects on characterization and difference, not moral / ethical quibbles resulting from a mixture of fiction and real life.


Would I recommend this novel? Probably yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4 / 5