The Courtship by Grace Burrowes

Overall

Novellas are rarely my cup of tea. I’m not a huge fan of the short romances because, ninety percent of the time, the author not only writes the romance but also tries to fit in a subplot with a mystery or an external villain trying to play as an antagonist. That’s a lot to ask of a shorter story, particularly if the two leads have not yet met. Something always gets short-changed.

In this case, I also remember that I didn’t read The Courtship when it was released because I simply wasn’t overly interested in the relationship between Percy and Esther, the parents of the eight Windham siblings. Then, Grace Burrowes released The Duke and His Duchess which sought to provide back story as to how Their Graces came to raise Percy’s two illegitimate children alongside their legitimate ones. I wanted to read that story, so I kind of felt obligated to read the first novella. I’m glad I did.

Percival Windham, the spare to the Moreland duchy, has been dispatched to a house party along with his younger brother, Anthony, in order to secure a bride. Their mother is worried that their ill elder brother, the heir, will die from a lingering illness without siring a son, leaving the duchy’s future in doubt. Once there, Percy meets Esther Himmelfarb, no-nonsense spinster who does not expect to marry due to her lineage and lack of dowry.

I’m glad I read it in 2014 and even happier to find on my reread that I like it as much I did the first time. Burrowes eschews a larger external narrative, preferring to make Esther and Percy’s romance the entire focus. We have some minor deviations in switching to the POV of either Percy’s father or Sir Jasper, the rake who tries to importune Esther, but overall this is a very good attempt to flesh out the supporting characters of Percy and Esther. Percy in particular benefits from this deeper look into his past as he has, at times, played the antagonist in his children’s books, so I appreciate getting to know him more outside the POV of his children.

This is a really sweet story and a good introduction to the world that Burrowes begins with the stories that not only unfold with the Windham children but the larger world of family and friends.

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Summer Reading

Master List for Summer 2019 Reading

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Summer Reading

It’s that time of year again — I’ve fallen behind in my reading this year and I want to increase the numbers so I’m focusing on a few areas.

  1. I want to work on the Ripped Bodice’s Summer Romance Bingo card which has a couple of categories that will push me out of my regular boundaries.
  2. I want to reread a handful of series, though I’m not entirely sure which ones yet. I wanted to do that from the beginning of this year, so I’ll probably pick some from there.
  3. I also want to read Grace Burrowes’ book series in order — she has several series that take place within the same universe and I read them as they were published but not how they are arranged chronologically. She had a lot of novels written when she began publishing, and her editor picked out a trio that actually take place closer to the end of her universe. So I want to try to read them in order and watch the richly developed world unfold.

Grace Burrowes

This list is taken from her website, though some of the books in the True Gentlemen series are not listed. I’ve put them at the end, but I’m not sure that’s where they go. I’ve actually contacted Grace Burrowes in hopes of sorting it out — I suspect they probably fit in around Will’s True Wish, but I’m leaving at the end for now.

  1. The Courtship (Windham Novellas)
  2. The Duke and His Duchess (Windham Novellas)
  3.  Gareth: Lord of Rakes (Lonely Lords)
  4. Andrew: Lord of Despair (Lonely Lords)
  5. Douglas: Lord of Heartache (Lonely Lords)
  6. David: Lord of Honor (Lonely Lords)
  7. Thomas (Jaded Gentlemen)
  8. Matthew (Jaded Gentlemen)
  9. Axel (Jaded Gentlemen)
  10. The Heir (Duke’s Obsession)
  11. The Soldier (Duke’s Obsession)
  12. Darius: Lord of Pleasures (Lonely Lords)
  13. Nicholas: Lord of Secrets (Lonely Lords)
  14. The Virtuoso (Duke’s Obsession)
  15. Jack (Jaded Gentlemen)
  16. Ethan: Lord of Scandals (Lonely Lords)
  17.  Hadrian: Lord of Hope (Lonely Lords)
  18. Beckman: Lord of Sins (Lonely Lords)
  19. Gabriel: Lord of Regrets (Lonely Lords)
  20.  Trenton: Lord of Loss (Lonely Lords)
  21. Worth: Lord of Reckoning (Lonely Lords)
  22.  Tremaine’s True Love (True Gentlemen)
  23. Daniel’s True Desire (True Gentlemen)
  24. Will’s True Wish (True Gentlemen)
  25. His Lordship’s True Lady (True Gentlemen)
  26. My Own True Duchess (True Gentlemen)
  27. A Truly Perfect Gentlemen (True Gentlemen)
  28. A Lady of True Distinction (True Gentlemen)
  29.  Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish (Duke’s Daughters)
  30. Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal (Duke’s Daughters)
  31. Morgan and Archer (Windham Novellas)
  32.  Ashton: Lord of Truth (Lonely Lords)
  33. Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight (Duke’s Daughters)
  34. Lady Eve’s Indiscretion (Duke’s Daughters)
  35.  Jonathan and Amy (Windham Novellas)
  36. Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait (Duke’s Daughters)
  37. The Trouble with Dukes (Windham Brides)
  38. Too Scot to Handle (Windham Brides)
  39. No Other Duke Will Do (Windham Brides)
  40. A Rogue of Her Own (Windham Brides)

Summer Romance Bingo Categories

Beach on Cover Next Door Neighbor

Axel (Grace Burrowes)

29 June 2014

On the Page Atheist Show Business Queer Paranormal

 

Assassins Eloping Takes Place in Multiple Countries Sassy Grandparents Heroines Smells Like Flowers

A Lady of True Distinction (Grace Burrowes) 

2 June 2014

Both Leads Over 50 Titles Included Character’s Names

Gareth (Grace Burrowes)

21 June 2014

Happily Ever After Dragons Kilts

 

YA Historical Wine & Spirits Cowboys Roadtrip Epistolary

 

Royalty Tarot Someone Wears Costume Prom F/F Contemporary

 


Rereading Series

That was kind of my plan for the entire year, but I only got about halfway through a few series before the semester took over and I had to switch my energy to my graduate work. So I’m picking out a few series I want to finish off this summer and then finishing the entire list will be my fall project.

Catherine Anderson – Mystic Creek

  1.  Silver Thaw
  2. New Leaf
  3. Mulberry Moon
  4. Spring Forward
  5. Strawberry Hill

Tessa Dare – Girl Meets Duke

  1. The Duchess Deal
  2. The Governess Game
  3. The Wallflower Wager

Olivia Drake – Cinderella Sisterhood

  1. If the Slipper Fits
  2. At the Stroke of Midnight
  3. Abducted by the Prince
  4. Bella and the Beast
  5. His Wicked Wish
  6. A Scandalous Flirt

Anne Gracie – Marriage of Convenience

  1. Marry in Haste
  2. Marry in Scandal
  3. Marry in Secret

Charis Michaels – Brides of Belgravia

  1. All Dressed in White
  2. Any Groom Will Do
  3. You May Kiss the Duke

Silver Thaw (Catherine Anderson)

Overall

The first time I read this book, I rated it as three stars. This is mostly because I’ve been kind of held by back by being annoyed by two Anderson tropes that pretty much appear in every single book she’s released in the last decade or so. During my reread of the Keegan-Paxton series as well as re-reading Stephanie Laurens, I’m not going to take those aspects into account anymore. This is who she is as a writer, and since I keep buying her books, I don’t think it’s fair to make that part of my analysis.

Those two tropes are heroines with incredibly melodramatic and tragic backstories as well as her slightly unrealistic dialogue, both of which are present here. Since I like everything else about this book, we’re taking them off the table.

Amanda Banning is a young single mother on the run from an abusive husband, trying to care for her young daughter. Jeb Sterling is a typical Anderson hero who comes from a large family of mostly boys with pretty much the perfect parents and a lot of money. It’s set in central Oregon in a new setting for Anderson: Mystic Creek. Previously, her contemporary books were set in Crystal Falls. It’s sort of a shared universe because Mystic is near Crystal Falls, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some sort of overlap at some point.

Jeb and Amanda meet because of a really  bad winter storm that destroys her rental home, but Jeb already knows a lot about Amanda because she’s been writing things on strips of paper and letting them fly off into the wind.

This is a really sweet romance with a great dog, some interesting twists and turns, and a lot of family around the holidays which is nice to read these days. While in the past I might not have really liked just how insane they made Amanda’s husband, I’m fully cognizant of the fact that men like Mark do exist and women like Amanda are often left completely powerless, so that’s another thing we’re not judging for.

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The Duke I Once Knew (Olivia Drake)

Overall

This is one of the books that you like while you’re reading it, but that you can’t entirely remember all that much a week or so later. In fact, I was trying to remember the lead characters’ names and I simply couldn’t. It’s been like two weeks since I read this and I had to flip through it to remember the details.

I mean, I liked this book. I always like these stories where the leads fell in love as teenagers and are separated by circumstances to find each other as adults. This is probably my second favorite trope after marriage of convenience. I liked Max and Abby and most of the supporting characters — I definitely hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Max’s sister and Abby’s cousin.

I’m not entirely sure why this book isn’t going to stay with me. I guess maybe I’m just tired of daddy issues being the only thing that drives male protagonists. Max is a horrible rake who doesn’t ever come home to see his sister because of his father? Eh. It’s just over done.

I’ll probably reread this book, but only because I like rereading books that I don’t remember that well. They always feel new again 😛

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Bella and the Beast (Olivia Drake)

Overall

Of all the books in this series, this is the one that closely aligns to a specific fairy tale and features references from the Disney 1992 movie, down to being forbidden to go into the west wing. That 1992 movie is one of my favorite movies of all time so I was already predisposed to like this story.

The characters and the romance make up for a little bit of a lukewarm plot. I love the heroine–Bella is incredibly self-sufficient and her own person. I liked Miles a lot — there are few things I did not love him about him, but they’re more about the plot. I liked the way they worked together, I liked watching them get to know one another.  They just worked.

I think my main problem with the plot of the story is that there are a few extraneous characters who don’t serve a purpose and the murder of Miles’ father happened more than two decades before the book opens, so it feels a little dusty as a motivation. When you find out who the villain is, it’s hard to believe it could have stayed hidden for so long.

But all the pieces line up and I like the romance so much that this is one of my personal favorites to reread.

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Abducted by the Prince (Olivia Drake)

Overall

Objectively, this is not a stellar book. It’s fine and everything works for the most part, but there’s nothing here that should blow me away or that’s special. Yet, for some reason, I love rereading the second half of this book from time to time. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

Ellie is a spinster poor relation who has spent her whole life tending to her younger cousins because of her gambling father. Damien is an illegitimate gambling club owner who has a childhood connection to Ellie’s cousin, Walter, who stole something that relates to Damien’s murky past. To get it back, Damien decides to kidnap Beatrice, Walter’s cousin, but ends up with Ellie. They don’t know that until they’re up in an isolated Scottish island.

There are a lot of readers, particularly these days, that would be turned off by the kidnapping trope. It’s not really a deal breaker for me–it usually depends on the context and the way it’s written. It’s not great, but it’s not as bad as others I’ve read.

The romance is actually pretty good — I buy the slow build and the reasons these two come together, their bumps in the road. I like both the characters, but I think the overall plot is pretty weak and the supporting characters are cardboard and one-dimensional.

I think it’s a good book that’s worth reading once, maybe twice. With a tighter plot and better supporting cast, it would have been much better.

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Stroke of Midnight (Olivia Drake)

Overall

There’s something about this book that I just don’t connect with. All of the elements should be there, but something is missing — I think it’s in the characters and the romance after a certain point. This is one of the books that does the setup just right but misses the dismount.

Laura Faulkner returns after ten years abroad–she and her father were once the toast of the ton but forced to flee when he was accused of stealing one of the most valuable diamonds from a leading hostess. Until then, Laura had been courted by Alex, the Earl of Copley. It was Alex that found a set of earrings and publicly accused her father. Laura cut his cheek, scarring him, as she and her father left. She returns after her father is killed in London, and wants to clear his name. Through Lady Milford, Laura becomes the companion to Alex’s aunt and that’s how they run into each other.

I think maybe I wanted more from Alex and from the romance after the middle of the book. Alex is supposed to have a tragic backstory, but I never quite felt that. I like this book, but it just left me meh and I usually skip over it when I reread the series.

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If the Slipper Fits (Olivia Drake)

Overall

I really like this book, and it serves as a really good introduction to the series (which lasts another five books).  I think it was my first Olivia Drake book and I’ve been relatively happy with her all along.

There’s a bit of a fairy tale element with this series and with this book specifically. Annabelle is an illegitimate orphan left to rot in a boarding school where she now teaches.  She’s given a position as a governess to an orphaned duke by a slightly mysterious benefactor, Lady Milford, who also gives her a pair of elegant shoes. It’s the shoes and Lady Milford that ties all six books together rather than the characters. She’s sent to Cornwall where the duke, Nicholas, is living with his guardian, his uncle Simon. It’s very much a Cinderella story.

I really like Annabelle and Simon for the first 80% of the book. Simon is a bit of a bitter soul–Nicholas’s mother was a woman Simon had courted but married George, the duke. He didn’t speak to his brother again before George and his wife died. He went into the army, had plans for his life–but now he’s guardian to a little boy that he resents.

And Simon is unlikeable for the first third of the book. He really resents his nephew. I applaud Olivia Drake for actually writing a guardian who doesn’t like his ward rather than paying lip service.  It gives Annabelle something to do when she shows up.

My main problem is that Simon’s POV disappears in the last part of the book, leading up to the climax. He does an about face that we don’t get to see, only experience when Annabelle does. I expect my main leads to do equal heavy lifting in my romance novels, and Simon’s epiphany happens off screen. There are a couple of things that happen this way towards the end. The background plot with attempted killing and whatnot — it happens in a bit of a hurry, and I think that’s why it feels rushed at the end.

It’s an overall satisfying read, but if Simon had just showed up at the end of the book, it could have been one of my top favorites.

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2019 - Reading Project · Books

2019 Reading – Master List

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series 2019 Reading

Instead of picking a summer project filled with rereads, I’m going to stretch the series out over the whole year and pick books that I haven’t read in years or that are getting new entries this year.

Catherine Anderson – Mystic Creek

  1.  Silver Thaw
  2. New Leaf
  3. Mulberry Leaf
  4. Spring Forward
  5. Strawberry Hill

Renee Bernard – Jaded Gentleman

  1. Revenge Wears Rubies
  2. Seduction Sapphires
  3. Ecstasy Wears Emeralds
  4. Passion Wears Pearls
  5. Obsession Wears Opals
  6. Desire Wears Diamonds

Kerrigan Byrne – Victorian Rebels

  1. The Highwayman
  2. The Hunter
  3. The Highlander
  4. The Duke
  5. The Scot Beds His Wife
  6. The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo

Tessa Dare – Girl Meets Duke

  1. The Duchess Deal
  2. The Governess Game
  3. The Wallflower Wager

Olivia Drake – Cinderella Sisterhood

  1. If the Slipper Fits
  2. At the Stroke of Midnight
  3. Abducted by the Prince
  4. Bella and the Beast
  5. His Wicked Wish
  6. A Scandalous Flirt

Anne Gracie – Marriage of Convenience

  1. Marry in Haste
  2. Marry in Scandal
  3. Marry in Secret

Elizabeth Hoyt – Maiden Lane

  1. Wicked Intentions
  2. Notorious Pleasures
  3. Scandalous Desires
  4. Thief of Shadows
  5. Lord of Darkness
  6. Duke of Midnight
  7. Darling Beast
  8.  Dearest Rogue
  9. Sweetest Scoundrel
  10. Duke of Sin
  11. Once Upon a Moonlight Night
  12. Duke of Pleasure
  13. Duke of Desire
  14. Once Upon a Maiden Lane
  15. Once Upon a Christmas Eve

Lisa Kleypas – The Ravenels

  1. Cold-Hearted Rake
  2. Marrying Winterbourne
  3. Devil in Spring
  4. Hello Stranger
  5. Devil’s Daughter

Charis Michaels – Brides of Belgravia

  1. All Dressed in White
  2. Any Groom Will Do
  3. You May Kiss the Duke

Julia Quinn – Rokesbys

  1.  Because of Miss Bridgerton
  2.  The Girl With the Make Believe Husband
  3. The Other Miss Bridgerton

 

 

Books

2018 in Books

I set my challenge at Goodreads for 200 books but I’m not going to make it this year — I’m going to probably finish around 160. I’m at 155 at the moment, but there are a few releases left in 2018. I had no problem reaching 200 last year, so I never thought I wouldn’t get there in 2018. I really didn’t take into account just how exhausted I would be after student teaching and losing my grandmother in the middle of my semester. It honestly took me a few months to bounce back and I’m not really sure I did all the way.

Still 155 books is nothing to sneeze at and I’m going to set my target for 175 next year to be a bit more realistic.

My favorite books this year:

  1.  Aggressive Nationalism by Richard E. Ellis. I read this for my Early Republic graduate class, and apparently, I was the only one who didn’t find it blindingly boring. I LOVE legal history. I love anything to do with the law. I could watch episodes of Law & Order for hours and true crime podcasts that focus on the law are my catnip. This book was about the rise of the Supreme Court and the battle with the Second Bank of the United States. Incredibly fascinating.
  2. The Highlander by Kerrigan Bryne. This was the year I found Kerrigan Byrne, and the Highlander was my first. I was looking for new Scottish romances because I am completely obsessed. I had the entire house to myself for a weekend, I had finished what I needed to do for classes and student teaching — and I read this book in about two hours. Then I immediately bought everything else in this series. I love her so much!
  3. Slavery and the American West by Michael A Morrison. Another read for the Early Republic class. It was really interesting to read about American expansion through the lens of slavery. Political history is one of my favorite nonfiction genres, so this was a really good read.
  4. A Fine Passion by Stephanie Laurens. During this summer, I did a reread of the Bastion Club and I was stunned by how much I loved this book even when I held up under intense criticism. Not all of the series survived this kind of scrutiny, but this book emerged as my favorite of the series.
  5. Slavery and the American Historians by Peter J. Parish. Historiography is so fascinating to read — so much about what we know about history depends on the construction of the narrative. I really liked seeing how the study of slavery has shifted and transformed in the last few decades.
  6. Barefoot in the Dark by Suzanne Enoch. RICK AND SAM ARE BACK. That is all.
  7. Japan at the Crossroads by Nick Kapur. This was assigned for my global history 1945-Present — and my professor actually wrote it, so that’s always fun. I know almost nothing about Japan after WW2, and that really opened my eyes to areas of history that I need to know more about. This analyzed the 1960 Anpo protests in Japan and how the event set Japan on a certain trajectory for the future.
  8. Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman. I’ve never studied voting rights after the 1960s, but I’m hyper aware of them in the current time period. This book did a great job at filling in the gaps about how we got here.
  9.  Marrying Winterbourne by Lisa Kleypas. After the semester ended last week, I started myself on a little LK reread marathon. I reread most of the Ravenels and Devil in Winter to get myself ready for February — and I also started rereading the Hathaways but I don’t have all of them in digital format. Anyway, rereading Winterbourne gave me a new appreciation for it. I was worried it would be too similar to Tempt Me at Twilight but it went in a new direction, and I enjoyed Helen more this time around.
  10. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. I don’t read as much true crime as I used to–podcasts have just made it easier for me to get my true crime while I’m doing other things. Reading this book was bittersweet–the portions McNamara finished are so truly amazing that I am even more sad that we lost her before the book was completely visualized. An incredible book by a soul we lost way too soon.

I wasn’t completely blown away by a lot of the books I read this year but honestly, that’s probably more about me than it is the books I read. This was an incredibly difficult year, personally and professionally. Books were there to distract me, but I wasn’t really able to lose myself in reading the way I used to.  I’m hoping for better next year.