Sunday, September 14, 2008

At the Bride Hunt Ball

Author: Olivia Parker
Published: May 2008 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 5/10

I picked up At the Bride Hunt Ball after Julia Quinn recommended it on her website. The premise sounded interesting, a sort of regency twist on The Bachelor. I'm always amused by the ridiculousness of reality shows that promise romance and happy endings, and I like Julia Quinn, so this book should be good, right? Not really.

Gabriel Devine, Duke of Wolverest (odd name for a duchy, more of an excuse for the females to liken the Devine men to wolves), doesn't want to marry because his parents didn't have a love match, so he dumps the responsibility on his rakehell younger brother Tristan. He's pretty much forcing Tristan to marry, setting up a private ball/house party with invitations to seven perfect specimens for Tristan to choose from. However, one of the candidates has caught the eye of Gabriel.

Madelyn doesn't want anything to do with any of the Devine men because they are awful, awful rakes! She's only going to the ball because her scheming stepmother is making her go and she wants to protect her best friend Charlotte, who's been in love with Tristan for so long, ever since he helped her family out of a carriage accident. Madelyn's stepmother thinks she should aim for the duke, and has promised Madelyn the little cottage where she grew up if she makes a decent effort in chasing Gabriel.

I thought the book was sloppy. There are all these clues of a side romance between Charlotte and Tristan, but that was yanked away at the very end, without even a hint for Charlotte's happy ending. If Parker was intending to leave Charlotte's story open ended for a future book, it was a terrible way to do so. Madelyn's horrid stepmother never got her comeuppance, just a buttload of money from Gabriel when he anonymously purchased the cottage that Madelyn wanted so much. I was waiting for Madelyn or Gabriel to put the wicked stepmother in her place, but no, nothing of the sort. The "bride hunt" wasn't featured very well, just mentioned briefly in the background, when it could've been so much more amusing. The book turned out poorly balanced as a result.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Lady Chosen

Author: Stephanie Laurens
Published: September 2003 (Avon)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Bastion Club #1
Rating: 8/10

I think I saw Stephanie Laurens recommended to me on B&N and figured I'd give her a try. She's got favorable reader reviews, appears to have sufficient bodice ripping, and has a big back list. I had no idea the back list was so huge with just her Cynster Family series. I'm hoping it's sort of like Nora Roberts' MacGregor clan. I decided to start with her Bastion Club series, which is about seven titled gentlemen, all former spies, who have retired from service only to find that they're very eligible bachelors. They decide to form the Bastion Club, a place where they can get away from the matchmaking mamas and power-hungry papas. While the men know they must marry, they want to do it on their own terms. As I was such a fan of Rebecca Hagan Lee's Free Fellows League, I liked it before I opened the book.

Tristan, Earl of Trentham, is overseeing the renovations of the house purchased by the Bastion Club, and in the course of doing so, he observes a lovely lady walking in the gardens of the house next door. She is Leonora Carling, a spinster who runs the house for her uncle and brother, and also the only one dealing with the threat to her family. Someone wants to get into their house for an unknown reason and has taken to scaring her and attempting to burgle the place. She introduces herself to Tristan, inquiring if he was the man who wanted to buy their house, and he decides to help her and satisfy this attraction he feels for her. Soon he is drawn into the plot as the Bastion Club is also invaded by the burglar, and Tristan's protectiveness of Leonora only grows stronger.

Thankfully, he realizes she's the only wife he'll ever want, but there's a problem, as he has to marry within the year or lose his income but not his responsibility to his fourteen aged female cousins and great aunts. I was afraid that Leonora would go ballistic when she found out about this condition and think that he's only after her because he'll lose his money, but she came to her senses very quickly, avoiding the drawn out drama that I was expecting. You know, like whenever a heroine finds out she was originally the subject of the bet, she flips out, despite the fact the hero is trying to explain that he fell in love with her and it's not about the bet anymore?

My biggest problem was the flitting about of Leonora sans chaperone. Was it because she was 26 and therefore a spinster and could do whatever she wanted? I'd think you'd need to be more firmly on the shelf before you can go running off without even a maid all over London and its surrounds. In most historicals, the couple will sneak off to neck in the garden, but Tristan managed to sneak off with Leonora to some secluded room and do the nasty with her every night at different events. I understand he was a very good spy and great at collecting intelligence, but finding out which room will be the best place for dalliance at a party is a stretch even for me, a very romantic reader.

This book is long for a historical romance written recently. I remember historicals being much longer several years ago and feel that recent novels are much shorter. The Lady Chosen was very well paced, with a gradual building of love. The descriptions of Tristan's first improprieties are filled with tension, like when he opens her glove to kiss the inside of Leonora's wrist. *swoon* This is going to be a great series! I have the first two Cynster novels on their way to me, if the B&N same day shipping guys can figure out that my office isn't open at 7 p.m., and I may pick up the second Bastion Club novel tomorrow if I'm feeling crazy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Marie Force - Guest Blog!

Marie Force, author of The Line of Scrimmage is doing a guest blog here today! I'm so happy that she's graced my little blog with her writing as I loved LOS and can't wait to read her next book! I'm also a wee bit romance-happy because the football season has started and my boyfriend will be decidedly unromantic until it's over.

Let's get to Marie's post, shall we? She's even being generous and giving away a signed copy of LOS to a commenter who responds to her question at the end!

How does she do that? by Marie Force

One of the questions I’m often asked is, “How do you write a book?” Stephen King says, “One page at a time.” The writers out there will attest that it’s as simple as Stephan suggests—and much more complicated. Most of the time, I’m convinced I could never teach my process because it’s so bizarre. However, as I’ve connected with more and more writers, I’ve decided we’re all a little bizarre, but that makes us better writers.

So how do I do it? I’ll try to explain my process using my debut novel “Line of Scrimmage” and my spring release “Same Time Sunday” as examples. The seeds of “Line of Scrimmage” began with a vision: boots dropping in a fancy foyer. From that came a series of questions and answers: Are those boots welcome? No. Work boots or cowboy? Cowboy. Definitely cowboy. What if the house is his but he doesn’t live there anymore? And what if the mistress of the house is entertaining her fiancé and his parents when her soon-to-be ex-husband shows up? And what if that ex-husband happens to be an NFL superstar who just won his third Super Bowl championship? And what if he blackmails his wife into spending their last ten days as Mr. and Mrs. together or he’ll stop the divorce? Since she’s due to married in a month, that’s going to be a problem.

That’s exactly how it unfolds in my mind. Then come the decisions about where they’re from, what brought them together, and what broke them up in the first place. Often I don’t have those answers before I start a book. I tend to discover these things as my story unfolds, which I’m told makes me a “linear pantser” in writing vernacular. I write the story in chronological order, I edit as I go, and nothing gets in unless it propels Character X or Character Y’s story forward. Because I go back, re-read, and edit often during the writing process, I end up with a pretty clean first draft. In fact, I recently stumbled upon the hand-written opening scene of “Line of Scrimmage” and discovered that other than a renamed character, not much had changed.

For my second book, “Same Time Sunday,” I began with a conversation I overheard in an airport. Two twenty-somethings, on their way to visit their significant others for the weekend, discover they are on the same flight home and agree to meet up again to compare notes on how their weekends went. That part actually happened in the overheard (note I don’t say eavesdropped”) conversation. From there I wondered, what if both their weekends were a disaster? What if they strike up a friendship that leads to love? What if their exes don’t go quietly? What if he’s a prosecutor on the eve of the biggest murder trial of his career and she gets sucked into it in ways that endanger them both? From there, it was off to the races!

Since I don’t plot, I spend a lot of time staring off into space when a book has me by the throat. During these phases, my kids often ask, “ARE YOU LISTENING TO US?” at the top of their considerable lungs. I have to confess that Mom just took a brief trip to Pluto, but I’m back now and you have my full attention. I do my best zoning/plotting when I’m driving (watch out for a green Honda Odyssey), doing dishes, showering, drying my hair, and vacuuming. I’ve solved a lot of plot issues while sucking up a few days’ worth of dog hair. I’ve run dripping from the shower to the computer to get something down before I forget it. Bizarre? You bet. My friend Chris likes to say that my mind is a strange, scary place. Of course I take that as a compliment!

To the writers out there, are you a plotter, a seat-of-the-pantser, a linear plotter, a linear pantser, an organic or what? To the readers, are you more convinced than ever after reading this that all writers are a little bit nuts? I’ll give away a signed copy of “Line of Scrimmage” to one lucky commenter, so let’s hear from you!

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Book of Scandal

Author: Julia London
Published: August 2008 (Simon & Schuster)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 9/10

The Book of Scandal reminds me very much of another book I read recently, The Line of Scrimmage. Like LOS, the hero and heroine of BOS became estranged after the death of their baby (although LOS was a miscarriage). Rather than being set in the modern day, BOS is set in England during the Delicate Investigation, which was looking into the Princess of Wales' behavior and possible birthing of a royal bastard. In retaliation, Princess Caroline is threatening to publish correspondence with the King, which contains many details of scandals at court.

The Earl and Countess of Lindsey have been estranged for three years, with Evelyn residing in London and Nathan in the country. Evelyn serves Princess Mary and Nathan has earned the reputation as the Libertine of Lindsey, holding house parties filled with gambling, drinking, hunting, and loose women. When Nathan learns that Evelyn may be named in Princess Caroline's Book of Scandal, she may disgrace his family and possibly result in their family lands being taken away by the Crown. The most obvious solution? Drag her home to the country and put on a show that they've reconciled so Evelyn's supposed actions will be less likely to be punished.

Once home, Evelyn and Nathan are at odds, bickering with each other at first, but drawing closer and closer, talking about how badly they had handled the mourning of their son. At such an early stage of their marriage, they weren't friends enough to understand each other. With three years of life past, they've grown up some and fall in love for real. Just when they're almost reconciled, an attempt is made on Evelyn's life and they realize someone believes she knows something about the royal scandal. The only way to ensure Evelyn's safety is to go back to London and get to the bottom of the mess, and London's the last place she wants to go, as it brings up the uncomfortable subject of the man she almost had an affair with before Nathan showed up.

This is Julia London at her best, with a fantastic dramatic love story full of easy-t0-understand historical detail. I never knew very much about the Delicate Investigation or Princess Caroline, so it was nice to learn something new.