Gareth: Lord of Rakes by Grace Burrowes

Overall

I started this book a week ago and found myself remembering exactly why I’ve only read this book all the way through exactly once. I was never all that fond of the premise, and the beginning of the book is excruciatingly slow. But I decided to persevere to get into the rest of the series and get this universe reread off the ground.

Felicity Worthington is the daughter of a viscount who died and didn’t make any arrangements for either Felicity or her younger sister, Astrid. A cousin leaves Felicity her brothel with specific instructions as to how she’ll inherit the business and property—allowing Gareth Alexander, the notorious Marquess of Alexander, to tutor her in the ways of the business which will include a written and possible physical examination to ensure the loss of her virginity.

Yeah, it’s kind of a weird premise and according to her official site, this book is Grace Burrowes’ first foray in romance writing. This makes sense. There’s not much of a plot for the first fifty pages which does make this book excruciating to get into, and I nearly abandoned it myself despite having already finished it once.

But then it gets going, and the romance is a bit sweet even if Gareth’s tragic backstory doesn’t quite measure up to what we think it will. There’s a nice cast of supporting characters, particularly Andrew and Astrid, whom we’ll see in the next book.

What makes this book enjoyable is the emotional vulnerability and honesty these characters possess by about 75% of the way through the book. I like a conflict where the thing that prevents the characters from being together is something internal to them—something they believe to be true about themselves or their situation that is incompatible for the Happily Ever After.

It’s a slow, and at times, painful read, but the seeds of what I love about Grace Burrowes are present by the end of the book and they show up full force in the second one. It’s worth reading and not giving up after the beginning.

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The Duke and His Duchess – Grace Burrowes

Overall

One of my absolutely favorite tropes to read is a couple who is already married and working towards their happily ever after. I know there are some readers and reviewers out there who think a marriage before the end of the book somehow ruins the tension of the book, but I’ve never seen it that way. We’re in the historical romance genre, and if your characters are heterosexual, there’s like a 99.88% chance they’ll get married, so why does it matter when it happens?

I mentioned in the review for The Courtship that the biggest aspect of the Percy/Esther relationship I was eager to read more about was the manner in which Percy’s illegitimate children came to live with the household and was raised as one of the Windham children. The Duke and His Duchess purports to tell that story.

I like this novella a lot less than the first one mostly because I feel like this is the wrong space to tell the story Grace Burrowes had in mind. She not only wants to address the presence of Devon and Maggie, but also a larger problem within the Windham marriage as Percy and Esther await the inevitable death of not only his father, but his perpetually ill elder brother. There’s a dark cloud over everyone in this book, but Burrowes wasn’t interested in this part of the story or doing anything with the world she set up back at Morelands.

I found myself frustrated with Percy and Esther for a few reasons I’ll get into in the spoilers section, but there was just too much plot for so little space and none of the stories were told with the capability I expect from Grace Burrowes. But this novella does what it sets out to do and explains why Devon and Maggie have been raised as part of the legitimate household. It’s fine, but honestly, you probably don’t need to read it more than once.

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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
Books · Summer Reading

Summer Reading Project

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Summer Reading

So I didn’t end up reading half the books I set out for my Master Reading List. I didn’t even read all of the series that I promised to when I cut the list in half a month ago. Oy. But I’m going to concentrate on the fact that I did read 46 books out of my overall 123 so far this year, which is roughly 38% of the whole total. So I’m actually pretty happy about that.

I want to finish up the Spindle Cove series because I am actually almost finished reading it — I haven’t written all the reviews, and there are about three more books to read.  But then I want to concentrate on making sure I write reviews for every single new book going forward. This was a fun summer reading project, though, and I’ll have to start thinking about what I want to do next year.

A Week to Be Wicked (Tessa Dare)

Overall Response

I actually wrote a review of this story when I first read it (I do that sometimes, just not enough). Here it is, posted on March 27, 2012:

Listen, until now there’s only been one Colin in my life and I’m not saying Tessa’s Colin has replaced Julia’s Colin, but there’s competition. There’s something lovely about a hero who so clearly–at the start–NOT really a hero. And yet, of course he is. He wants to do good. He has nice intentions, but things always get away from him. He’s charming and just a little damaged. He needs a good woman. A quirky woman. He needs Minerva. And isn’t Minerva lovely? She needs him too. God. If you loved Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, then Minerva and Colin will appeal to you because it’s quite the same type of relationship. An ugly duckling who turns out to be quite more than she seems and the charming man who is a lot more than he seems. And Tessa Dare, whom I picked up only on Julia Quinn’s recommendation, keeps getting getter. This is the eighth effort from this author and not only has she never stumbled, but she continues to exceed my expectations. Worth waiting for!

That’s actually a pretty accurate description of my overall response, to be honest, but I’ll try to be a bit more articulate with better spelling.

One of my favorite romance heroes has always been Colin Bridgerton from Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. I love a good beta romance hero. He’s not a man of action, but rather he’s a good, charming man who just hasn’t found the right woman yet. Colin Sandhurst from A Week to Be Wicked has given Colin Bridgerton serious competition.

In A Night To Surrender, Colin was a bit of a charming rake who didn’t seem to take anything seriously. Until the end of the book, when we saw a different side of him–and we got our first scene with Minerva. Minerva changes a bit from Surrender, or maybe it’s because we saw her through Susanna’s eyes. Minerva was a bit annoying actually early on, and I didn’t think I’d like her nearly as much as I did.

And then I read this book. And this book, my people, is everything. We take the usual tropes: a damaged hero who turns to women to avoid being alone and a bluestocking heroine, and somehow, when Tessa Dare writes these tropes, they feel fresh and original. Colin has good intentions and never sets out to hurt anyone. Things just always seem to get away from him because he’s not really great at thinking about the big picture. All Minerva ever does is think about the big picture, so she loses of a lot of every day details. And that’s what makes them fun to read.

Their mad dash to Scotland is filled with adventures, danger, and risk-taking along with highway men, missionaries, and princes. We spend time with the hero of a future book (Any Duchess Will Do’s Griff, who I did not like much until his own book) and we get a beautiful subplot with Kate and Thorne, the stars of my other favorite Dare book, A Lady By Midnight.

Everything about this book is clicking on all cylinders and it’s a joy to read it again and again.

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Once Upon a Winter’s Eve (Tessa Dare)

Overall Response

When I originally read and rated this story, I gave it three stars. After reading this time, I’ve definitely revised how much I like this novella. I’m always leery of novellas with characters I don’t really know or haven’t yet met because novellas are short spaces to write an entire romance. Often authors spend more time on on the plot than they do on the characters and romance which leaves me less than satisfied.

That’s not the case with Once Upon a Winter’s Eve, though these characters are basically strangers. Violet shows up in A Night To Surrender, but only briefly, and Christian is entirely new. Tessa Dare smartly doesn’t give us a separate plot for these characters or develop an entirely new romance between them. Violet and Christian knew and had a relationship before the story opens. This is the story of their reunion and what’s happened since he left for the West Indies–which turns out he went to war.

Because the plot is literally Christian being mistaken for a French soldier who speaks a dialect only Violet can understand, it puts their relationship at the center and that’s really smart. Violet doesn’t know if she can trust him, and Christian is trying to beg her forgiveness and understanding — it’s a great small-scale plot for a novella.

Character-wise, these are both shining examples of people I like to read about. Christian is layered, flawed, and determined. Violet is quick and capable of holding her own against basically the entire world. The romance is great and fun to read. This is one of the best novellas I’ve read in a long time.

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Series Reviews · Summer Reading

Series Review: Samantha Jellicoe (Suzanne Enoch)

This is, hands down, one of my favorite series. If I were to make a top five favorite series list, this makes it. (Oooh, I think I’ll have to do that.) I don’t read a lot of contemporary novels. I’m not really sure why I connect more with historical romances, but it’s likely because I am obsessed with history, and the romance genre allows me to explore worlds I study and write about.

In fact, most of the contemporary novels I read are authors who also write historical. I remember reading Suzanne Enoch’s historical romances — I’m not sure which one–and it had an excerpt from Flirting With Danger at the back. I read it and immediately bought it and got hooked.

What makes this series work? First and foremost, it’s fun. And that cannot be overrated in the current climate. This is the kind of escapism I go to my fiction for, and Suzanne Enoch delivers on every single page. Second, the characters of Rick and Sam are deep and layered, each with flaws that create good conflict and force the other to make adjustments, to compromise. Their relationship as it builds through all six books is the best part of this series.

So when I talk about weaknesses, least favorite, it is with this caveat: I love every book in this series.

The best book, objectively, remains Billionaires Prefer Blondes. It has the highest stakes of any of the other plots, and the romantic conflict between Sam and Rick is the closest they come to breaking. They’re each really forced to examine each other and whether they’re being unrealistic that this could actually work. It has the best supporting characters.

Don’t Look Down is probably the weakest book, only because the conflict between Sam and Rick is a little forced and I’m a bit less invested in the murder. It’s still a really fun read, and I never skip when I do a full reread, but it’s probably the book I open to reread the least of this series.

The other books fall between these in the spectrum. Flirting with Danger and Touch of Minx have strong plots, good romance, great cast. If you were to read one over the other, I think Minx is probably a bit more fun and frothy and has some really fun subplots. Flirting is still great, but it has to set up the world and has more heavy lifting to do.

Twice the Temptation honestly suffers because the first half of the book — the historical romance portion — is not nearly as strong as the series overall. When I reread, I generally skip the first half. That being said, the Sam and Rick part of the book is just fine.

Barefoot in the Dark is a special case. I like it a little less than Don’t Look Down, but I wonder how much of that is because it’s ten years later and I’m reading it knowing that. I’m still rating it above DLD because I like the character-driven nature of the plot, and I imagine the second time I reread it, I’ll probably like it even better.

My favorite thing about following couples through one series in the romance genre is that, if the author does their job well, the characters I read in the last book should be different from the first. I love to read the growth. J.D. Robb does this really well with In Death, and it’s really done well here in fewer books. Sam & Rick grow separately and together so that by Barefoot in the Dark, these guys are a team in the way they’re not in Flirting. That’s the best thing about these kinds of series and few authors can really do it well.

I hope that I get to come back and revisit my series review because I’m getting more Sam & Rick in my life.

Barefoot in the Dark (Suzanne Enoch)

Overall Response

For much of the decade since the last Sam & Rick book, Suzanne Enoch has pretty much specialized in Scottish Highlander romances.  Her last two series have been set or populated with wild Highlanders in the Regency period. Barefoot in the Dark takes all the contemporary fun and suspense of those historical romances and sets them in a historical setting — a village in the Scottish Highlands complete with a drafty ruined castle.

Considering the fact that this is the first book in the series in a decade, I was happy to see that Sam and Rick were still relatively the same. I’d say it took a chapter or two to get settled back into their old banter, but by the middle of the book, every piece of the plot and all the characters are trucking along.

Something that might be jarring to those of us readers who read the books a decade is that while we’re picking up two weeks after A Touch of Minx, Barefoot is set in contemporary times so there are references to Outlander (the TV series), a 2015 Honda Civic (I drive a 2009 Civic so this made me ridiculously happy), and even Downton Abbey. It jarred me a bit and took me a little out of the setting only because I had read the books when they were originally published. If you’re a returning reader like me, just be aware of this. People who are newer to the series probably won’t even blink.

This book had relatively low stakes–no one is trying to blow Rick and Sam up, slice them through with a sword, or making them commit a multi-million dollar theft from a museum. For the first time, we’re solidly in Rick’s territory. It’s his castle and his family–his history we’re steeped in for most of the book. I’m sure most readers have wondered about Sam’s mother (and I’m sure we’ll get something more about that at some point) but must of us didn’t think of about Rick’s.

I’m actually really happy that we got a more character-driven plot with ghosts and long-lost treasure to reorient ourselves to Rick and Sam. I remarked in my review of Minx that I wondered how these two would do with an engagement and predicted it would be rocky.

There were some definite bumps and bruises that told me that Sam is actually not the problem–Rick is. He’s very carefully trying to handle Sam all the time–he approaches things with the same precision he might approach a business deal. He tries to plan for all eventualities, predict all the ways she might react, and it’s probably exhausting. It also makes a lot of sense and was useful early in their relationship but it’s like a part of Rick is still pretty sure something is going to scare Sam off. I’m looking forward to seeing what is really going to convince him all the way down.

The supporting cast is great — we get a return of some of the usual suspects, Stoney and Tom, as well as Rick’s family. I liked his aunt and uncle–they’re a bit stuffy but they’re British upper class and they warm up by the end. The fact Mercia ends up loving Stoney is a huge point in her favor.  His cousin Reg and his girlfriend Eerika work great as antagonists, and there’s a small piece of me that likes Reg and hopes he finds someone better. I like exploring the dynamics of Rick’s family and how he juggles his massive success with relationships with his family.

The plot of the buried treasure was good, and I liked the resolution. I found myself as frustrated as Sam that Rick was being so cagey, so maybe if we’d gotten a more clear POV of Rick’s motives, that would have helped. I think it was halfway through before we learned Rick had made a promise not to tell the truth. Once everything gets clearer, it works just fine.

This is a great return to the world of Samantha Jellicoe and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Spoilers Ahead

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A Touch of Minx (Suzanne Enoch)

Overall Response

For about ten years, this book represented the end of Rick & Sam’s story, and I think it was a good finale. The romance gets to a resting place that serves as a HEA, the conflict is crazy over the top (and will make it hard to match), and the characters have come a long way in the chronological year since they met in Flirting With Danger.

I’m pretty excited that this isn’t the end of Rick & Sam’s story, though, so I’ll be reviewing Barefoot in the Park next week after its released. I’ll be holding off my on series review until I’ve read the final book.

I really love this book. It’s my second favorite in the series–my idea of favorite is for readability factor–the plot is just a smidge less entertaining than Billionaires Prefer Blondes, but the stakes are about as high as Flirting with Danger.

We find Sam returning to the idea that she could help museums recover stolen artificacts–which would allow her to use her black hat expertise and skills on behalf of the white hats. Rick is less enthusiastic since he knows it might bring Sam danger from thwarting other thieves, and the two conflict over how much danger she should put herself in and what lines she should break. Sam also investigates the theft of Donner daughter Olivia’s anatomy project which allows the mood to be a bit lighter in some areas.

The plot of Sam working in museum recover doesn’t just bring her conflict with Rick, it also brings conflict with her surrogate father, Stoney. Stoney isn’t in this book much (which is a plot point) and his absence is keenly felt. Stoney was left interested in retiring than Sam and this factor remains a thorn in their relationship. Aubrey plays a bigger supporting role here and I find him really entertaining.

One of the small recurring bits about Rick and Sam arguing about Aubrey’s sexuality hasn’t really aged very well. They go back and forth based on what trait Aubrey exhibits as part of one “team” or another. This was definitely more common a decade ago, so I’m not taking any points off. I have high hopes that it won’t show up in the next Rick & Sam books because it’s really just not funny.

It’s like watching the Chandler jokes on Friends about whether or not he was gay — and yeah, that was funny in the 1990s. It’s just not anymore. Like I said, I’m not going to take any points in this last 2007 outing. I just hope it’s gone going forward.

The new cast of possible museum thieves bring us some interesting supporting characters, and Wild Bill Tombs is…colorful. I also like that Kate and Tom are back–their normalcy is such a lovely contrast to Sam and Rick–and their kids are great too. Olivia reminds me of my own niece, Olivia.

This was a great finale to the series, but I am so excited to see where Rick & Sam go next.

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