All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke

All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke

I collect Christmas stories throughout the year and save them to read at the end of the year. All I Want for Christmas Is a Duke looked promising, but I couldn’t finish it. And I won’t be picking it back up.

“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson” is Delilah Marvelle’s contribution to the anthology, and it had a lot of things going for it. Older woman, younger man–I love this trope. Woman falls in love with letters written by another man is another idea I like. So I jumped into this story with great expectations. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. I think Marvelle’s writing simply isn’t for me. It’s quite melodramatic, and I couldn’t suspend my disbelief. The story opens at a party where Jane Robinson discovers that her husband didn’t write the letters she fell in love with. She confronts him; they argue; he dies. Afterward, she sells all her belongings and moves to a rooming house where Martin’s aunt lives. Martin, of course, is the man who really wrote the letters.

I liked Martin well enough, but Jane was another matter. I don’t get how she flitted through any social circle she wanted. She’s also quite prickly with Martin, a man she knew in their adolescence. I guess she was supposed to be spirited, but I didn’t understand why she couldn’t be a little courteous. And how realistic is it that she would turn down money from her dead husband’s brother because she wants to make her own way? I kept reading for a little while, but I soon realized I didn’t care what happened to Jane, so I stopped reading.

Enter Maire Claremont’s “The Twelve Days of Seduction.” It begins with Adriana on the verge of losing her position as governess to a duke. The duke, it seems, has learned that she “is nothing like a governess should be.” She is *gasp* a novelist. So she can’t be governess to his ward. But he will consent to having her as his mistress. And he kindly states that she can still see his ward, because they care too much for each other to be separated. For some reason it’s not appropriate for her to tutor the child any longer, but she can spend time with her after she becomes his mistress.

Ick.

I gave both stories a try, but this is a DNF all around.

Reading Marathon

After a rather-long reading drought, I am back to lots of reading. Yay! It feels great. Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep things fun.

  • I have accepted that I am so SICK of paranormals. I read (and loved) them for so long. The problem is I overdosed. So I’m on a paranormal hiatus.
  • I have stopped pressuring myself to finish a book that doesn’t keep my attention. Some books I stop reading because I’m not in the mood for them. Others clearly don’t work for me. Whatever the issue is, I simply stop reading once it stops being fun.
  • I’m reading lots of new adult books. These are the books I wish had been around when I was in that demographic. Since they weren’t, I’m catching up on them now. For now, I can’t get enough.
  • I break things up by reading in a few genres. I’m reading more true crime these days. By the time I finish with them, I’m ready to get back to romance (and vice versa).

I’ve had the urge to write about what I’m reading again, so I’m going to do it.

Locked Out . . . but I’m Back

I’ve been locked out of this blog for months after my PHP was upgraded last autumn. Turns out I had a number of features that didn’t work so well with the new PHP, and that led to a bunch of error messages where a dashboard should be. Lots of searching turned up a solution, finally. And I celebrated by updating the look of the blog. I kind of miss my reading girl heading, but I needed a refresh. Designer Blogs is my go-to place for a new look these days because they offer a nice range of premade designs for WordPress.

I want to start using this blog again, even if it’s just to log what I read without providing much commentary. And I plan to write about a variety of things. For instance, Free Comic Book Day is coming this Saturday, so check to see if your local comic store is participating.

I am about halfway through Dancing with Death, a true-crime book about the murder of Jay Orbin.

Dancing with Death

It’s a fascinating read so far. It helps that the author was able to interview the suspect as well as many of the peripheral characters. It creates a fuller picture of the people involved. More on that when I finish the book.

Thanks to Dear Author, I just picked up Sandy James’ All the Right Reasons. Yet another e-book on the TBR . . . my Kobo is packed with books, but this one sounded good (and is free!) so it’s on my reader now.

Not sure if anyone out there is reading this, but if so, tell me what you are reading these days.

Moody Reader

Moody

I like to read in a lot of genres and subgenres. There’s always been some element of “Am I in the mood for this?” when I pick up a book. Nowadays I’ve gone past reading when I am in the mood and am downright moody. I am making Wendy proud by frequenting my local library. Last week I picked up several graphic novels and a few romances, including one I picked up from the new books section. It looked promising, so when I got home, I picked it up.

Then I noticed the copyright page.

The book is by an author I’ve read several times before. None of her books have been keepers. I’m gonna pass on this one too; it’s going back to the library. Life is too short and I’ve got too many books around the house to read something I’ve lost interest in.

See what I mean? Moody.

Now I just need to figure out what I’m in the mood for . . .

Disturbed

Disturbed

I ordered a new Kobo. It was probably inevitable. I just couldn’t bring myself to switch to another device, and I can’t afford a tablet at the moment. So it’s on the way, along with a two-year warranty. I’ll reevaluate then.

I downloaded a book by an author I typically enjoy. I read it this week and did not enjoy it. It’s set in an unconventional time period. It’s also a setting I know a bit about, so I kept ticking off inaccuracies and things that seemed unlikely. That wasn’t the worst of it, though.

The heroine is raped about 2/3 of the way through the book. Frankly, if I’d known this, I wouldn’t have bought the book. I was of course disturbed by the scene but I was also disturbed by the ease with which the heroine overcomes this. Sure, she pulls away from her lover at first, but after one tentative, yet passionate interlude, she’s back to normal, more or less.

It didn’t work for me.

I have read a number of books where a heroine (and sometimes a hero) struggles with rape or sexual abuse from the past. I very much appreciate it when this process is shown as a process, and not a simple one. It seems inappropriate to introduce it more than halfway through a novella and then expect readers to feel it is wrapped up nicely by the end.

So, yeah, the book disturbed me.

Oh well. I’m moving on to the next one. Just haven’t decided what that will be yet. Any non-disturbing suggestions?

Decisions

The Kobo screen went kaput.

Kaput Kobo

I’ve been without an e-book reader for a while, and I’m finally starting to feel it. For months I just didn’t read much; I had no interest in anything but magazines. Then I started reading again but have mostly been rereading books or checking them out of the library. But now I want some e-books. And I just bought one, too. :(

So now I need to figure out what to do. Buying another Kobo is the path of least resistance, but I have doubts that it will hold up any better. I’ve debated the Kindle and Nook but am resistant to being locked into a specific device. I have irrational prejudices against the Kindle and I’m not sure I can get past them.

I could buy a tablet, but I don’t want to spend that much. Advice?

TBR Challenge: Make Me Over

Make Me Over

Harlequin Temptation, how I miss you. These days I turn to the Harlequin Blaze line for a sexy, fun read, but I loved Temptation while it lasted. So one of the books from this line was a natural choice for the TBR challenge. This month’s TBR theme is the ugly duckling. Leslie Kelly’s Make Me Over doesn’t really qualify, but I figure the makeover theme is close enough.

Professor Drew Bennett is thrilled when he learns he’ll get the chance to promote his latest book, Beyond Eliza Doolittle, on national television . . . even if it means getting involved in reality TV. But still, how hard can it be? All he has to do is turn five country bumpkins into ladies. Too bad Drew doesn’t know that he’s the prize . . .

Tori Lyons only agreed to embarrass herself in front of a nationwide audience in order to fulfill a not-quite deathbed promise. But she’s going to be the first to leave–she’ll make sure of it. But that’s before she falls head over heels in love with the sexy professor. And realizes that if she plays the game right, Drew’s heart is the one thing she can’t possibly win. . . .

Make Me Over has a copyright date of 2004, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had it since then. Leslie Kelly is an author I’ve enjoyed before, so I figured it would be a good read. I was right.

I’ve said before that Kelly has a talent for creating vivid and interesting characters, and that’s true in this book. I found myself really liking Tori and rooting for her, despite her . . . shall we say, colorful language.

The plot itself was a bit predictable. You can probably guess it too just from the blurb on the back cover. I have to admit that I’m not too interested in reality TV, so I wasn’t all that interested in the twists and turns of the TV show. And the result of the show . . . well, I know it is supposed to be funny and cute and statement making, but I just found it corny.

So here’s the thing: I enjoyed the story when it focused on Tori and Drew. Not so much when the reality show took center stage. Because of the dramatic difference in my enjoyment level depending on which part of the book I was reading, I’m struggling on putting a rating on it, but I’d probably give it a 3.5 out of 5.

When the Lights Go Down

A new year, a new TBR challenge: here we go!

This month’s challenge is to read and review a category romance. I chose When the Lights Go Down by Heidi Betts. The copyright is 2005, and I’ve had it a while. Not sure why I picked it up; I suspect it was because of a positive review somewhere, because it doesn’t seem like the kind of book I’d pick up otherwise.

Today is Gwen Thomas’s 31st birthday. She’s given herself T-minus 24 hours to change her life.

8:00 a.m.: Call out sick from library.

8:01 a.m.: Scour phone book for Emergency Beauty Technicians.

10:00-Noon: Hair. Goodbye, mousy. Hello, auburn.

Noon-5:00 p.m.: Nails. Makeup. Clothes. Be bold!

10:00 p.m.: Arrive at The Hot Spot. Pretend you’ve gone clubbing before.

11:00 p.m.: Fight polyester lizard’s advances–and the disappointment of a failed mission.

11:30 p.m.: Revel in being rescued by Ethan banks. Don’t let the sexy club owner’s chivalry prevent mission completion.

When the lights go down: Lose virginity . . . finally.

When the Lights Go Down is a bit of a fairy tale. I’ve said it before—I don’t read romance expecting complete realism, but this book had a significant lack of it. The main problem is Gwen. She’s not easy to relate to from the beginning. It’s not that she has negative qualities like she’s judgmental or bitchy. It’s that her motivations are not well explained. She wants to lose her virginity because she’s turned 31. Really? There’s no buildup; it seems like she just woke up one morning and made the decision. OK . . .

Then, there’s the way she goes about it. She heads to a nightclub (owned by Ethan) and heads out with a creepy polyester-wearing guy. This does not speak well of her judgment. Luckily for her, Ethan intervenes. Gwen then goes home with him. The sizzling sex between them is the best part of the book and the thing that kept me reading.

Gwen falls for Ethan pretty quickly, but somehow decides that her life as a single librarian isn’t interesting enough to keep Ethan’s interest. So she refuses to let Ethan come to her home and see all her cat figurines (I’m not joking), and she tells him that she’s a fashion buyer.

Ethan is a little on the too-good-to-be-true side. He owns a nightclub, picks up women while there, but falls for Gwen. Plus he doesn’t really mind when he finds out that she’s been lying to him.

As you can see, I had some problems with the book, but it was a quick, light read as long as it’s not taken too seriously. When the Lights Go Down: 2.5 out of 5.

Bespelled by Austen

Bespelled by Austen

The Bespelled by Austen anthology is the second book I read on my new Kobo. (Yippee! Still loving this.) Since I love Jane Austen, it was an obvious choice when I was offered a free review copy. I liked it, but not as much as I hoped.

What if Austen had believed in reincarnation and vampires? Join four bestselling romance authors as they channel the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen.

Almost Persuaded In this Regency tale of Robert and Jane, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh brings together former lovers who have seen beyond the veil of forgetfulness to their past mistakes, and are determined to be together in this life, and forever.

Northanger Castle Caroline’s obsession with Gothic novels winds up being good training for a lifetime of destroying the undead with her newfound beau, in this Regency by Colleen Gleason.

Blood and Prejudice Set in the business world of contemporary New York City, Liz Bennett joins Mr. Darcy in his hunt for a vampire cure in New York Times bestselling author Susan Krinard’s version of the classic story.

Little to Hex Her Present-day Washington, D.C., is full of curious creatures in Janet Mullany’s story, wherein Emma is a witch with a wizard boyfriend and a paranormal dating service to run.

Almost Persuaded is the story I was most excited to read. I felt there was a little too much reliance on the connection from the past lives, as this was discussed frequently in their conversation. A longer story with more time to develop the romance in this life could have added a lot.

Northanger Castle was both interesting and frustrating. The heroine did a lot of speculating about the people around her based on the books she read, which was a big part of Northanger Abbey. I must admit I found it frustrating in the Austen story, so it’s no surprise that I struggled with it here. I love the way the story played out, though. Would have loved more time to strengthen the romance.

Blood and Prejudice was the weakest story of the anthology. It stuck to the original story a bit too closely, and used much of Austen’s dialogue for Darcy. Yes, Darcy has been a vampire for two hundred years, but his formal language combined with Elizabeth’s modern lingo seemed rather jarring. Unlike the other stories, which could have benefited from a longer page count, Blood and Prejudice went on a bit too long. I have to wonder if my familiarity with the original story kept me from enjoying this one more. I’d love to hear from someone who read this who hasn’t read Pride & Prejudice.

Little to Hex Her was a charming story. This one followed the plot of Emma quite closely but gave it a enough of a twist to make it fun. I loved the matchmaking element—it was perfect for Emma. This story was a lovely way to close the anthology. I don’t agree with her thoughts about Knightley, though.

All in all, Bespelled by Austen was worth reading, but I don’t think I’ll go back to it: 3 out of 5.

She Woke Up Married

She Woke Up Married

I decided to jump in and participate in December’s TBR challenge as a warm-up for next year. The challenge is to read and write about a contemporary romance. I chose Suzanne Macpherson’s She Woke Up Married. It has a 2005 copyright date, and I got it at a writing conference in 2005 or 2006, so it’s been in the TBR for a while.

Paris James has come to Las Vegas to take the sting off turning the dreaded “Three-O.” But one glass of bubbly leads to another—and when the redhead wakes up the next morning, she finds to her astonishment she’s in bed with . . . Elvis! The good news it’s the young, sexy Elvis. The bad news is there’s a diamond ring on her finger. Sometime during the evening, she actually married The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll! Well, what happened in Vegas better stay in Vegas, right?

But not if Turner Pruitt has anything to say about it. Because years before he put on his first pair of blue suede shoes, Turner knew the real Paris . . . She’s running away, as usual, but he knows her deepest secrets, and as much as she struggles against love, Paris is going to need him by her side as she faces her demons head-on. Because this time, Paris James has met her match.

It’s a staple of fiction for at least one of the main characters to undergo a transformation throughout the novel. However, it helps if that character is likeable to begin with, so that the reader wants to go along on the journey. That wasn’t true for Paris. She’s self-absorbed and moody, and those are just a few of her unattractive qualities. I had no idea why Turner was in love with her. He knew her from high school, and after their night of drunken passion, he decides he wants to stay married to her. Um . . . OK.

Turner has his own eccentricities. He is a reverend (which seems to consist mainly of counseling and marrying couples in a wedding chapel), an excellent singer, and his favorite musical is Mamma Mia. Yes, this book is a comedy, but I still found this to be a little weird.

Anyway, Paris turns up pregnant, so she leaves her life as a model in New York and goes to live with Turner in Vegas. Her plan is to have the child, put it up for adoption, and resume her modeling career. Turner, of course, has other plans.

Don’t get me wrong. She Woke Up Married was a quick read. But the humor simply wasn’t to my taste, and I thought the situation resolved far too predictably.

I’m pleased to have read one of my TBR books, but it wasn’t one of the better ones I’ve read. She Woke Up Married: 2 out of 5.

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