Malin’s #CBR5 Review #148: The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Sebastian Malheur has been scandalising polite society for years with his scientific lectures on the passing on of genetic traits, to the point where riots are now likely to break out when he presents any new findings. The truth, however, is that the discoveries he presents as his own, are actually those of his best friend, Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. Violet is as proper and respectable as Sebastian is scandalous and reviled. But now Sebastian refuses to be Violet’s decoy any longer.

Violet’s marriage was not a happy one, and she sought refuge in her scientific discoveries. The daughter of a woman who wrote the ultimate guide to proper ladies’ behaviour, Violet is all that is respectable, decorous and decent. Yet Violet and her sister learned early, after their father committed suicide, that there were unwritten shadow rules as well as the written official rules, and most of them amounted to a lady doing anything in her power to keep scandal from her family’s door, using any method at her disposal. If the truth were to come out, that the shocking discoveries that Sebastian has been presenting, were actually all the work of a woman, the scandal would be immense and instantaneous. More on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #147: Knaves’ Wager by Loretta Chase

Thanks to Mrs. Julien for her awesome romance review template!

Knaves’ Wager is a romance of the you are everything I never knew I always wanted AND opposites attract variety: Boy meets girl. He is the reprobate former best friend of her now-dead husband. She hates him because she believes he drove her husband to his early death, and is left owing him crippling gambling debts. He agrees to a foolish wager to seduce her against all odds. Boy and girl move forward together secure in their love and commitment.

A historical romance set in the Regency era just around the end of the Napoleonic wars and written by Loretta Chase, Knaves’ Wager is my fourteenth book by this author. I generally find her work at least enjoyable, and at its best, spectacular and infinitely re-readable. Chase is, most famously, the author of Lord of Scoundrels, the book All About Romance’s readers have voted as the number one in their top 100 for more than a decade. Personally, I prefer The Last Hellion, but what do I know? I found Knaves’ Wager, one of her early romances diverting, enjoyable and romantic.

The rest of this review, can be found on my blog.

loulamac’s #CBRV review #82: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris; audiobook read by Johanna Parker

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I watch True Blood, but I am not a fan. I don’t like Anna Paquin’s performance, and Stephen Moyer makes my skin crawl. I watch True Blood for Eric, I swoon over True Blood for Eric, I rewind and pause True Blood for Eric. So that, plus my monomaniacal loathing of all things Twilight might have you wondering why on earth I would go to the trouble of downloading this audiobook for my gym and running sessions. Why indeed? It just sort of happened, and now that it has, it’s not right but it’s ok. I won’t be reappraising the ghastly TV Sookie’n’Bill any time soon, but I didn’t mind this book.

For any of you who don’t know already, Sookie Stackhouse is a telepathic waitress in rural Louisiana. Vampires have recently ‘come out of the coffin’, although they are still something of a rarity in Sookie’s hometown. All that changes when Bill Compton, veteran of the American Civil War, walks into the bar where she works. The two are thrown together when Sookie saves his life, and before long they’ve fallen into bed, and in love. Alongside this unusual love story is a murder-mystery, as someone is killing local chicks who’ve got history with vampires. Sookie looks like she’s lined up to be the next victim, and her brother Jason is the prime suspect.

The murder element of the plot had much more traction in the book than I remember from the TV show, which is part of the reason I enjoyed it more than I was expecting. Johanna Parker’s reading is another. She manages to overcome the more banal sequences (much of the book is given over to descriptions of what Sookie is putting on as she gets dressed, down to the colour of the scrunchy she has put over the elastic band that’s holding her ponytail in place), and gives Sookie a voice that is down-home without quite being hokey. Sookie is selfish and frightened, but also loves her friends and family, and really cares about what happens to them. Johanna Parker gives her dignity and stops her from coming across as shrill (Anna Paquin, take note).

Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #105: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

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Because reading one YA novel dealing with cancer this year simply wasn’t enough. I had to have more. And effing eff, am I glad I read this book. Of course, everyone else in the world already has read it, so you all know how bloody wonderful it is. But don’t let that stop you reading my full review. It’s on my blog here.

Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Review #88: The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

A historical romance featuring two people who are desperately in love and desperately terrified by it, The Luckiest Lady in London is by turns enjoyable and discomfiting, but always entertaining.

Felix, Marquess of Wrenworth, is ironically named. He is not happy, although he is in control of his world and has fastidiously created a public persona for himself that both he and Society refer to as the “Ideal Gentleman”. Felix is objectively perfect: smart, rich as Croesus, handsome, polite, athletic, and debonair. It is a beautifully crafted shell hiding a wounded heart.

Given a hero named Felix, I chose to look into the meaning the heroine’s name and I learned that Louisa means “renowned warrior”.  It’s appropriate. She needs her battle skills and instincts for self-protection. Too old to be a debutante, Louisa nonetheless has one Season to land a husband who can provide financial security for her family, including an invalid sister. Like Felix, she has meticulously fashioned the image she presents to the world: bright, relaxed, and winning. She has a realistic view of her charms and prospects, and she conducts herself accordingly. Louisa is not necessarily conniving, just extremely pragmatic. Felix is not even on her list of suitable husbands; she has set her sights on two appropriate men and while she does not expect to marry for love, she will not martyr herself for her family either.

Louisa and Felix first meet at a soiree and instantly recognize the truth, and its danger, in each other:  they are kindred spirits with carefully maintained facades. When their acquaintance expands and Louisa’s best prospects are found to be wanting, she and Felix begin their dance. They spar and tease even as something much more potent lingers beneath the surface. Felix and Louisa are intellectually fascinated, sexually volcanic, and emotionally fearful of each other.

My previous forays with Sherry Thomas have resulted in “I just can’t” as I usually find her books too heavy and serious. The usual sobriety is still present in The Luckiest Lady in London, but it was couched in such delightful writing and sincere characters that it did not get in the way for me this time. My only carp is that the angst did indeed make me writhe (and not the good kind of writhing I look to these books for) and that when the denouement proceeded, I felt it moved a little too close to cutesy given the tone established by the rest of the book.  But never mind that, I would still recommend The Luckiest Lady in London to readers looking for entertaining, slightly intense, and well-written escapism.

This review and The (Shameful) Tally 2013 can also be found on my tiny little blog.

Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #101: The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

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A beautiful cover done a disservice by some ugly jacket copy (“A noir novel that turns all the lights on” indeed). It’s a very funny, very smart book, but ultimately not as funny and smart as it thinks it is. Undoubtedly original, falls short of being truly great. Full review is on my blog here.

Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Review #87 – How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn

(This was written using the romance review template I created for my post on Mary Balogh’s A Handful of Gold)

How to Marry a Marquis is a romance of the “you are everything I never knew I always wanted variety”: Boy meets girl. He is the wealthy nephew of a marriage-minded aunt. She is the impoverished companion of said aunt and also responsible for her younger siblings. Boy and girl move forward together secure in their love and commitment.

 A historical romance set in rural Regency England and written by Julia Quinn, How to Marry a Marquis is my 15th or 16th book by this author.  I generally find her work fun. Quinn is a deft and witty writer who excels at spinning light-hearted romance. I have covered all of the novels in her justly famous Bridgerton series in previous reviews. I found How to Marry a Marquis enjoyable and romantic. I will continue to seek out Quinn’s other novels because this one was really good, and I would recommend this particular effort.

The main plot of How to Marry a Marquis  focuses on the reformation of a rake. James Sidwell,  Marquis of Riverdale is that rake. He is urbane, charming, and sincere. He handles challenging situations with humour and aplomb. The heroine, Elizabeth Hotchkiss, is a victim of circumstance. She is also charming, resolute, and hardworking. Elizabeth’s parents have both passed away and she is responsible for the financial well-being of the family. She works for local harridan (and Quinn fan favourite) Lady Danbury to help get by, but her financial situation is worsening. Elizabeth finds an instructional book called How to Marry a Marquis in Lady Danbury’s library and decides to “practice” on the new estate manager, James. What Elizabeth does not know is that James is a family member or his true purpose in the house. They are instantly attracted to each other. Over time, they come to discover that despite any challenges they face, they make an excellent team.

How to Marry a Marquis is one of Julia Quinn’s earlier efforts and it is delightful. I have read just about everything in her oeuvre and as her recent efforts are experiencing a, relatively speaking, fall in quality, it was nice to read something written when Quinn was coming into the phase in which she would produce her best work.  I recommend Quinn highly as a gateway author for those looking to give historical romance a try. She is the genre’s best at crafting deceptively simple, sincere, and funny romance.

This review and The (Shameful) Tally 2013 can also be found on my tiny little blog.