Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Review #86 – A Handful of Gold by Mary Balogh

I decided to fashion a fill-in-the-blank romance novel review to make these posts easier to write:

Part A. The Summary: (Title) is a romance of the (“you are everything I never knew I always wanted”/opposites attract/love story balanced with a strong subplot/teach me how to love/I know I am unworthy, but I love you so) variety: Boy meets girl. (Specify relationship obstruction). (Oblique hint at resolution). Boy and girl move forward together secure in their love and commitment.

Part B. The Introduction: A (historical/contemporary/paranormal) romance set in (location and time period) and written by (author’s first and last name), (title) is my (first/second, etc.) book by this author. (If this is an author you have read before, please complete the following:) I generally find her work (pleasant/a good time filler/spectacular/reliable/fun/vile, but the book was free). (Comment on previous work and link to other reviews where possible). I found (title) (suggested descriptors that can be supplemented as needed: enjoyable/lacklustre/misogynistic/soporific/,and/or romantic). I (will continue to/will not) seek out (author’s last name)’s other novels because this one (was nothing special/showed promise/was really good/passed the time pleasantly enough), (and/but/although) I (would/would not) recommend this particular effort.

Part C. The Plot: The main plot of (title) focuses on (the reformation of a rake/the awakening of a wallflower/a revenge plot/a road trip/an intrigue or mystery/their marriage of convenience/and/or the healing of a tortured hero and/or heroine). (Hero’s name and title, as appropriate) is (that rake/a protector). He is (insert three adjectives). (Comment on his general appeal or lack thereof, specify traits leading to this conclusion.) The heroine, (name and title, as appropriate), is a (wallflower/victim of circumstance). She is (choose three adjectives with special focus on her relatability). (Insert MacGuffin.) (Hero and heroine’s names) (are/are not) instantly attracted to each other. Over time, they come to discover that despite any challenges they face, they make an excellent team.

Part D. The Subplot: (Continue to Section E, if there is no significant subplot, or if it is uninteresting.)

The subplot in (title) revolves around (the reformation of a rake/the awakening of a wallflower/a revenge plot/a road trip/an intrigue or mystery/their marriage of convenience/and/or the healing of a tortured hero and/or heroine) It was (an excellent addition well-executed/cumbersome and got in the way of the main story).

Part E. Conclusion: (Reword opinions stated in Part B. The Introduction.) (Make general comments on the quality of the writing either positive or taking pleasure in being cleverly derisive). (If the book is not recommended, provide a suggestion for a romance with a similar theme more successfully presented.)

Part F. Closing: (Insert link to annotated list of available reviews for readers’ edification.)

© 2013 Mrs. Julien Presents

Let’s give the format a go with the Christmas novella A Handful of Gold by Mary Balogh …

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Malin’s #CBR5 Review #142: No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

4.5 stars

This is the third book in a series, and while romance novels are normally fine to read out of sequence, some of the really awesome developments in this book lose a lot if you haven’t read the rest of the series. These books are top notch romance, so just do yourself a favour and start at the beginning with A Rogue by Any Other Name. And yes, I know the titles are spectacularly cheesy. I recently discovered in a podcast that these are MacLean’s own puns, not anything imposed on her by the publishers. I don’t know whether to be impressed or slightly worried about her.

The great hulking brute known as Temple also goes The Killer Duke. He is one of four disgraced members of the aristocracy who own luxury gambling club The Fallen Angel. When the rich and foolish have lost too much, and have no other recourse, they can fight Temple in the Angel’s boxing ring. Should they win, all their losses will be restored. Not that anyone ever has, but it never stops them from trying. William Harrow, the Duke of Lamont, shunned by most of polite society because he is suspected of having killed his father’s fiancee, is more than happy to take every beating coming, because he’s honestly not entirely sure he doesn’t deserve his moniker.

Twelve years earlier, he awoke with only the haziest memories of the night before, to discover that the bewitching beauty who’d invited him up to her room was Miss Mara Lowe, his father’s sixteen-year-old child bride and soon to be the Duke’s third wife. There was no sign of the bride, only him, naked in sheets soaked in blood. Never convicted as there wasn’t a body, Temple was nonetheless driven from polite society, and survived in the less prosperous parts of town because of his boxing prowess. Now, walking home one evening, he is approached by a woman revealing herself to be Mara Lowe, who, desperate to escape her wedding, did an incredibly foolish thing twelve years ago, and has been in hiding ever since. More on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #139: Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

Briony Asquith and Leo Marsden grew up on neighbouring estates. Leo loved Briony long before she was even aware of him as anything but the baby Marsden, youngest of four brothers. So when the brilliant, yet socially awkward lady physician proposed to outgoing, talented renaissance man Leo, he was elated, but no one else in society thought it would last. And it didn’t. Growing increasingly more distant and cold from their wedding day, Briony starts to actually recoil from Leo’s touch, and no matter how he tries to get her to open up, physically and emotionally, their marriage seems doomed. When Briony wakes up one morning with a stark white stripe through her dark hair, she files for an annulment.

Three years later, Leo shows up at Briony’s medical clinic in a remote corner of India. Briony’s sister has been writing both of them for years with melodramatic stories trying to push the two back together, but this time he’s fairly certain she’s not lying about Briony’s father’s health being in danger. Much of India is at the the brink of rebellion, and he feels it’s his duty to get Briony back to England safely. Leo doesn’t know exactly why their marriage failed, but he’s convinced it must have been his fault, that he failed or mistreated her in some way.

Briony is not convinced her sister isn’t lying once again, but she also knows that she would never forgive herself if her father dies and she did not try to return to his bedside. She reluctantly goes with Leo, uncomfortable in his presence, but with no other choice of escort. As the couple make their way through the rough Indian countryside, dealing with first Leo’s malaria, then a violent and bloody native rebellion as they seek refuge in a nearby fort, they find that the three years apart may have allowed both of them to heal some of their hurts, and open up lines of communication to the other. Can they finally talk about all the things that made their all too brief marriage so miserable, and maybe begin to forgive each other and themselves? More on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #138: Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas

Lord and Lady Tremaine have the ideal marriage, according to society. Having lived apart, on separate continents, for the the last decade since their wedding, they are nonetheless all that is elegant and courteous in relation to each other. Until Lady Tremaine shocks everyone, not least her own husband, by asking for a divorce, so she can marry someone else.

Philippa “Gigi” Rowland was the wealthy only child of an industrialist, with a deeply ambitious mother determined that her only daughter end up a duchess. When Gigi’s noble, yet penniless fiancee (a duke) dies two weeks before the wedding, all their dreams seem crushed, as the duke’s handsome cousin, now a marquess (his father inherits the dukedom) is promised to another. Gigi still refuses give up on Camden Saybrook, manipulating and scheming to get him to marry her. Her plots are revealed the day after their wedding, and Cameron, who’d been a very happy bridegroom, leaves her in disgust.

Full review on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #137: The Luckiest Lady in London

4.5 stars

Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth is known in society as “the Ideal Gentleman”. He is handsome, wealthy, charming, generous and famous for his lavish hospitality. Men want to be him, or at least his good friend, and it goes without saying that he’s the most eligible bachelor on the market. He’s clearly not a virgin, but there is not a whiff of scandal surrounding him, either. Few, if any, suspect that his cheerful and impeccable demeanour is a clearly constructed facade. Having been used as a pawn in the emotional warfare his parents conducted against each other, he’s become deeply distrustful of strong emotions, and a master at manipulating those around them so subtly that they believe his suggestions are their own.

Miss Louisa Cantwell is the daughter of a country baron and and one of five sisters, none of whom are likely to snag the wealthy husband needed to secure the family’s fortunes. She is neither particularly financially or physically desirable as a bride, but is also fully aware of it, and has worked tirelessly for the last eight years to plan her perfect season. Using every trick in the book, including bust improvers to make it look as if nature gave her a generous bosom, she’s determined to find a husband by the end of the season, preferably not one who’s too disagreeable. She’s found two likely candidates, and uses every chance she gets to cultivate them and their relatives. She wouldn’t dream of setting her sights on Lord Wrenworth, and is rather appalled with herself when they finally meet and she’s both overwhelmed with lust for him, while at the same time convinced that he’s a scoundrel, who can see right through all her. She’s wondering why no one else suspects that he’s not entirely as he seems.

So what happens next? Read the full review on my blog.

Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Review #66 – A Man Above Reproach by Evelyn Pryce

This Regency novel won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in the Romance category, in addition to being an overall finalist. Very well done, Ms. Pryce. I can understand why she won. I will definitely be adding her to my Fingers Crossed for Potential list, so Caroline Linden best skooch over.  As this book clearly sets up a trilogy, there will be at least two more chances to see what Evelyn Pryce can do.

Josephine Grant has fallen from society and is eking out a living running the bookshop she inherited from her wastrel father and by playing piano in an upscale brothel, the Sleeping Dove, at night. Elias, the Duke of Lennox, an intimidating and often dour aristocrat, is dragged to the Sleeping Dove one night for a wallow in debauchery. The only problem is that he is not and does not want to be that kind of man. Elias sees Josie playing piano and is instantly drawn to her. He is arrogant and high-handed, but ultimately well-intentioned. Josie isn’t for sale, but she is drawn to the gorgeous, stern man who insists on speaking to her while she plays.

There are a couple of problems in the book, such as initial bumpiness in the hero’s conduct and the plot hangs on a Big Misunderstanding at one point, but they are issues that occur in lots of these kinds of novels and they can be ironed out.  The writing overall is excellent and entertaining, and you do really feel for the characters.

The book is a free loan for Prime on Kindle, but maybe go ahead and buy it to encourage a writer starting out. She has what it takes and needs the chance to write more.

The (Shameful) Tally 2013

This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #133: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

Having drunkenly challenged his friend Daniel Smythe-Smith to a duel after a round of cards, Hugh Prentice ends up shot in the leg, and crippled for life. He’s lucky enough to recover enough that he can walk, but has to use a cane, and will never be able-bodied again. After several years of Daniel Smythe-Smith being on the run from assassins hired by Hugh’s father, Hugh has had more than enough of the whole business and tells his father that if anything untoward happens to Daniel, Hugh will kill himself. As his father seems to count on Hugh to marry and provide an heir, he calls off his hired killers, and Daniel can return safely to England, which he does and promptly falls in love with his sisters’ governess, in A Night Like This.

Daniel and Hugh forgive each other, but Hugh has never been able to forgive himself. The only person who hates Hugh more than he does himself, is probably Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, who feels that he destroyed not only Daniel’s life with the disastrous duel, but ruined her chances at an advantageous marriage. Sarah was supposed to have her debut along with Daniel’s sister, Lady Honoria, when Daniel had to flee the country. The scandal meant they had to wait, and Sarah is convinced that one of the fourteen eligible gentlemen who proposed to someone else during that season could now have been her husband. So when Lady Honoria is getting married to Marcus Holroyd (see Just Like Heaven), and Sarah is asked to not only sit next to Hugh, but take special care of him, and make him feel like a welcome guest during the wedding festivities, she’s not exactly thrilled.

More on my blog.