Tag Archives: Julie Anne Long

Julie Anne Long – “Like No Other Lover”

6 Mar

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Avon, 2008

WHY THIS NOVEL: Reason I bought it: bargain price;
Reason I read it: it’s been on the dining table since the day it was in the mail which was 2 (?) weeks ago (yes, that’s how it is around here)

The blurb:
“It’s the last chance for Cynthia Brightly, the ton’s most bewitching belle. Driven out of London by a secret scandal, she must find a grand husband at the Redmonds’ house party before word of her downfall spreads all over England. Unfortunately, someone at Pennyroyal Green is already privy to the whispers of broken engagements and dueling lovers: Miles Redmond, renowned explorer and–thanks to his brother’s disappearance–heir to the family’s enormous fortune.
Miles set his sights on Cynthia once, at a time when the ambitious beauty thought herself too good for a second son. But now he’s heir apparent, relishing his control. He strikes a bargain with her: he’ll keep Cynthia’s steamy secrets and help her find a husband among the guests–in exchange for a single kiss.
What could be the harm in a simple kiss? Cynthia is about to discover that it’s enough to unleash a fierce passion–and that Miles Redmond is most certainly like no other lover in the world.”

This is the third book I read by Julie Anne Long. Right away, I was reminded that I actually like her voice (and wondered why I waited so long to read another of her books). Like No Other Lover is a novel where on the surface nothing much happens. It tells of a house party in the country and of the people attending it, mainly Cynthia and Miles who both try to secure their future in the two weeks the house parts lasts.

Cynthia is all alone and on her own in the world and therefore she desperately needs a husband. A wealthy husband, preferable, and she does and uses anything to get herself just that. She’s mercenary and calculating. She studies other people and then acts accordingly. She knows what kind of effect clothing has and she uses this knowledge to achieve the image she wants to project in a certain situation. She isn’t ashamed of that because she lived her whole life on the edge of survival with no money or family to fall back on in time of needs. At one point she says to Miles:

“I know what you think of me, Miles, I know what you have* thought of me. But I have a heart. I do have a heart. I just cannot afford to use it. Don’t you see? Why can’t you see this? Whereas you–may play at all of this as much as you like. There will always be someone for you. And that is the difference: I cannot afford to use my heart. And you–you choose not to use yours.” (283)

[* Words in bold are in italic in the book.]

She’s charming and since she uses (needs to use) her charm to charm every one into “helping” her. And so she has rather no idea what it’s like to be just herself and be liked for it (I really liked how the spider played into that).

Miles on the other hand is “driven by a simple but quietly ferocious need to know things.” His great passion is discovering new things and he made a name for himself with his expedition to Lacao and the books he wrote about his adventures there. He’s planing another expedition now. On the outward, he’s a studious and scientific kind of man, complete with spectacles. So I really liked it when I read this: “Miles never failed to take note of a bosom.” Miles is far from the usual scholarly type who’s absent-minded and only thinks of his studies. In fact, he has quite a certain reputation among the widows of the ton for being good entertainment.

Cynthia and Miles meet at his parents’ house party in the country. But unknown to Cynthia, Miles has “met” her before. He saw her at a ball a few years back and this happened:

“But Lacao seemed to be relinquishing him only gradually, the way a dream dissolves into wakefulness. And suddenly, as Lord Albemarle stood at his elbow and pressed him for stories of warm-blooded women of easy virtue, it happened: the heat of the ballroom crush became tropical: the fluttering of silk fans in the hands of women became jungle foliage. His two worlds kaleidoscoped into one.
Which was why he reflexively turned when a flash of iridescence caught his eye. His first thought was: Morpho rhetenor Helena. The extraordinary tropical butterfly with wings of shifting colors: blues, lavenders, greens.
It proved to be a woman’s skirt.
She’s altogether too shiny for a woman, he decided, and began to turn away.
Which was when she tipped her face up into the light.
Everything stopped. The beat of his heart, the pump of his lungs, the march of time.
Seconds later, thankfully, it all resumed. Much more violently than previously. (6)

and then Miles overheard Cynthia speaking about him and other suitors. He was summarily dismissed without her even knowing him. This irked him, so when she turns up at his parents’ house party (where he would be the best catch for her), he makes sure to let her know what he thinks of her and finishes by telling her, “I’m quite out of the question for you.”

I liked the conflict in this novel. Miles great passion is studying and exploring and he really wants to go on another expedition. For that, he needs money and his father isn’t forthcoming except if he marries the daughter of a man his father wants as a business partner. The problem is, as cutting as his set-down of Cynthia was, underneath there is still the tropical heat he feels when Cynthia is around and – more the horror – he is sprouting off things like

“he could, however, say quite definitely that the effect was like watching the mist pull back from the Sussex downs in the morning in response to the first rays of the sun” (43)

in his mind (he describes Cynthia’s dress there) when before he prided himself on that

[…] he had never, for God’s sake, challenged anyone to a duel, written terrible poetry, climbed balconies […], or otherwise embarrassed himself over a beautiful woman. (4)

At the house party, Cynthia again makes Miles’s two worlds collide and turns his world upside down as she shapes up to be his other passion. But Miles also turns Cynthia’s world upside down. Thanks to Miles’s blunt dismissal of Cynthia, they have honest and, because of their underlying attraction, raw conversations which let Cynthia be herself probably for the first time in a very long time. And they discover that they are actually not all that different.

Long is really good at showing attraction

The music began. Jaunty, irresistible, demanding.
And they both had what appeared to be a simultaneous realization: they would need to touch each other.
Oddly, never had anything so innocent as a reel seemed so fraught.
They stared at each other for an absurd moment while all the other dancers began the steps.
And then Miles took her arm as though it were a fragile, breakable thing. (106)

and the small steps of falling in love in this novel. Together with Cynthia’s and Miles’s conversations, these are my favorite parts of the novel.

I liked the quiet humor in this novel:

“He reminded himself that he genuinely did not like her. The realization restored his breathing and senses to something resembling normal. And he was a Redmond, after all: his manners were as fine as cognac, as instinctive as breathing. He would say something innocuous and polite now.
“I must leave,” he said, and turned and did just that. (15)

whereas I thought the small numbers of scenes written for the laugh-out-loud fun (the scene with the statue, for example) a bit jarring in this character-driven story that explores questions of honor, station in life and marriage.

The beginning seemed a bit slow, probably because I thought the premise of this novel (how the house party came about, Miles parents needing to leave on urgent business, making him the host of the guests) slightly contrived. There were also a few examples early on when things got explained that were just shown. But later, you get a scene where Violet, Miles’s sister, picks up something from the ground, and either you know what it is because you remember it reading chapters earlier, or you have to wait for it to be revealed a few chapters later.

As you can probably see, I’m looking for things to find fault with. While Like No Other Lover is not perfect, sometimes maybe even a bit too melodramatic, I found it a very rewarding read in terms of characterization. It shows two people who thought love not necessary for marriage and makes them realize what loving someone actually means; and what it means when you have to give it up due to circumstances. Both Cynthia and Miles are better for the other. And especially Cynthia comes a long way in the end when she is finally able to face her life-long fear, the fear that fueled her dream of marriage to a wealthy man, and finds herself whole so that she can say: “She was the richest woman in the world” (347), even without nearly a penny to her name.

Verdict: A really good novel (4,5/5) with complex characters. A novel I definitely will read again to catch all of the nuances because, as surprising as that may sound considering the length of this post, there are actually things I didn’t mention.

Novels Read – Some Comments

10 Oct

Jessica Bird: The Billionaire Next Door

Genre: Romance / Contemporary

I ordered this because I liked Bird’s A Man in a Million. The Billionaire next Door (now it’s billionaire? *snort*) is a nice read. The heroine, Lizzy, is a nurse and Sean, the hero, is some high-level New York something. It’s a story about trust and the lack of it, and although this premise leaves a lot of room for misunderstandings – and they do happen – they’re not stupid and handled rather well. Plus, Lizzy doesn’t take crap from Sean, tells him what she thinks of his behaviour, and acts accordingly.

Grade: 4 / 5

Meljean Brook: Demon Moon

Genre: Romance / Paranormal

This is a very character-driven story. In terms of action, there’s not much that happens: some creatures discovered a way to escape Chaos and Colin’s the only one who can fix it. And yet, there’s nothing boring or slow about this story. I had fun reading it. The end felt a bit too wrapped up and fast and why is it that every on in this story is super smart?

Grade: 4,5 / 5

Julie Anne Long: The Secret to Seduction

Genre: Romance / Historical

Previously, I read one other novel by Long and what I remember best about it is that I liked her voice and that I thought she showed the falling-in-love part rather well. And these are the things I like best about TSTS also. There are some wonderful parts in there. I know this is the end of a series, and I the other novel I read by Long was not part of it, but I didn’t feel too lost. I found the parts about the sisters a bit annoying/distracting but that’s probably because I didn’t read their stories. At the end, there is something I just couldn’t wrap my head around that it could happen. It involves a newspaper, and even an editor would do such a thing (*snort*), I would doubt the amount of money mentioned here.

Grade: 4,5 / 5

Robin D. Owens: Heart Duel

Genre: Romance / Science fiction (Futuristic)

Robin D. Owens’s “Heart Mate” series features a lot of elements I’m not too crazy about: cutesy names for people and things along with cutesy animals, an abundance of apostrophes, the soul-mate premise, and a writing style that, while it’s not bad, doesn’t really click the way Long’s does, for example. And yet this is the third novel by Owens I read. Why? Well, I like Owens world and I think there is a lot of potential to create conflict because of the strong ties that exist between character and Flair. In Heart Duel we have a hero with a Flair for fighting and a heroine with a Flair for healing. The problem I always have with her novels is that in my eyes Owens’s has yet to realize fully the potential for conflict. It’s all a bit understated. For example, when the hero learns about his heartmate it goes something like this: “lalala heartmate lalalala.” For me, this short scene didn’t convey the emotions I expected after a) suddenly discovering that there is a heartmate for you (thinking your whole life you don’t have one) and b) it’s the daughter of the enemy. It felt anti-climatic and I had to “fill in the blanks” more than I liked. There are other instances where I got the same feeling which often made for a disjointed read. I think a few sentences now and then (“telling” would suffice) would help my over-dramatic and melodramatic little self there. Anyway, I keep buying and waiting and hoping that one day there’s a story that hits all the right notes for me because somehow I like Owens world. This one got better after a slow start.

Grade: 3,5 / 5

Julia Quinn: On the Way to the Wedding

Genre: Romance / Historical

I really enjoyed this story. Starting with the climax was a good way to keep me reading. After all, romance readers know that the hero and the heroine will end up together. So in OTWTTW, there’s not only the question how the hero and the heroine will fall in love but also, what happened that the heroine is about to marry another man at the end of the novel. And all that is delivered with nice characters and a closer look at falling in love at first sight, being in love, and loving someone. In the whirl of all this, the historically incorrect solution didn’t bother me at all. I was pleasantly surprised with this novel.

Grade: 4+ / 5

Karen Rose: I’m Watching You

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Now this is a romantic suspense novel deserving of of both its name. Too often, I find romantic suspense lacking in suspense and/or romance. It’s a combination that’s not easy to get right, at least to keep me interested. But Rose hit nearly all the right notes for me with this one.

Grade: 4 / 5

Julie Anne Long – "The Runaway Duke"

30 Apr

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Warner Forever, 2004

The back blurb:
“No one could ever accuse Rebecca Tremaine of being a proper young lady. She’s wretched at embroidery, pitiful at the pianoforte, and entirely too informed about the human body, courtesy of her father’s scientific journals. And now she’s been compromise by a dandy she despises! When her parents arrange a hasty marriage, there is only one man she can turn to for help.
No one knows that Irish groom Connor Riordan is the fifth Duke of Dunbrooke, ‘killed’ in action at Waterloo, and he wants it to stay that way. But a true gentleman never turns away a damsel in distress. Soon Connor and Rebecca dash away – only to be pursued by bumbling highwaymen, a scheming duchess, and Rebecca’s fiancĂ©.
Being with the beautiful anddesirablee Rebecca jeopardizes Connor’s secret every day – and tests his willpower every night. For if ever there was a reason to bring the Duke of Dunbrooke back from the dead, it would be to make Miss Tremaine his Duchess!”

I believe The Runaway Duke is Julie Anne Long’s first published novel. As such, I consider it one of the better offerings in romance lately. I thought it had some kind of “freshness” to it even despite tried romance elements and the “wallpaper-history “feeling.

After reading the back blurb (see above) I thought that I was in for a story with romance elements I’ not too keen on: a characterisation that more often than not translates into a feisty heroine (“wretched at embroidery, pitiful at the pianoforte, and entirely too informed about the human body”), a hero who miraculously turns out to be someone titled, and a road romance.

Then I read this characterization of Rebecca:

“[…] Rebecca was widely loved by the servants and the neighbors, partially because she was everything Lorelei [Rebecca’s sister] was not: she laughed loudly and easily, she was curious, she read far more than a decently bred girl ought to read, she galloped her horse hard (astride, no less) and came home happily sweaty. She was affectionate and kind and immensely opinionated about things she should really know nothing about, but then Sir Henry Tremaine was a trifle careless about where he left his scientific journals.”

(p. 13)

and added a Mary-Sue aspect (widely loved by the servants) to the possibility of “feisty”. Uh-oh.

Rebecca is outspoken and prefers to do things considered more suitable for men, but Long doesn’t make her feisty. Rebecca is not contrary for contrary’s sake, and that she likes to do things which are considered not the ‘done thing’ for women. Rather than making her behaviour seem anachronistic, it works in Rebecca’s favour: shows the limitations of her life. As a result, I thought Rebecca not an annoying or even unrealistic character but a likeable character

The story in The Runaway Duke happens over the course of a few weeks. During this time, Rebecca turns from a girl (she’s 17 at the start of the novel) into a woman. Long manages to illustrate this process rather well. At the end, you really get the feeling that Rebecca, then 18, is a woman and that the age discrepancy between her and Conner (29) is not that problematic (any more).

So far, so good. And now for the bad.

There is one thing I found really annoying and distracting. (Nearly) Every time the hero calls the heroine by name, he uses the word “wee” with it. You get things like “wee Rebecca” or “wee ‘Becca” all the time. It really grated on my nerves while reading – it’s not endearing, it belittles the heroine. And after Connor and Rebecca had sex, I found this not only belittling, it bordered on creepy for me. Now and then would maybe okay, but (nearly) all the time? Enough is enough, especially if it undermines the characterisation of the heroine. Nobody prior to publication found the constant “wees” odd? It sure is the one thing that bothered me most.

Small quibble: The prologue. While the first part of it worked, I had trouble believing the second part of it. The hero, Connor, works hardly a week for the Tremaine family, but he’s given the task of coaxing the daughter of the house, the heroine Rebecca, down from a tree. That made me go “no way”, although I understand the reasoning behind it. Thankfully, it’s the only time I had such trouble believing things.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes, but please remember to mentally cross out the “wees”.

Would I read this novel again? Maybe.

Grade: 4 / 5