Books I Read, Vol 44

Dec 31, 2017 | Blog, Books I Read

This subtitle for this post is TORSOS FOR DAYZ.

One Fine Day meets regency. Get on that curricle, girl! / Cheerful blind buy mucks up marriage with stupid marriage of convenience pact. / Scarred duke. Need I say more? / Three girls Parent Trap a Not-a-Rake spy and a redheaded previously ruined decorum teacher.

Mad About the Major (novella)

Author: Elizabeth Boyle

Series: Bachelor Chronicles #8.5

Tags: Regency, mistaken identity, arranged marriage

Format: eBook

Rating: Yay!

What a cute book!

Our heroine, an impulsive daughter of a duke, runs away from her family just when they are about to send her off to marry a man she’s never met. She wants just one day of adventure before she marries someone boring, dusty, and old. And, wouldn’t you know it? The first person she runs into is a dashing young man who just happens to be (spoiler alert) the man she is supposed to marry.

They keep their identities hidden from each other. She extracts a bargain that she will go back to her family at the end of the day only if he takes her on three adventures of her choosing.

It’s utterly adorable, and as long as you take some things with a grain of salt, you can have a lot of fun reading it.

Don’t spend a lot of time, for instance, thinking about Birdie’s “poor little rich girl” attitude, or that her going off on her own in London is a helluva bad idea, apparently supported by her servants. Or like how the fact they manage to go through the book without ever once hearing the other person’s name is just a liiittle too improbable.

In fact, if you have trouble with improbable serendipity, you should probably skip this one altogether.

Yeah, don’t focus on that stuff. Instead, focus on the witty dialogue, hijinks, and RomCom-esque run-ins and accidental touches. Adorable!

I think I would characterize Elizabeth Boyle’s work as good, solid fluff. I’ve read a bunch of Boyle’s stuff, and they are in general pretty solid. The one that I liked the least is Brazen Angel, and it was one of her earlier works. (Knave of Hearts was pretty wonderful.)

Solid, lively characters, interesting dialogue, fun hijinks, and absolutely nothing bad or trigger-worthy ever happens. That goes double for a novella. There just isn’t enough time to get into trouble.

Boyle uses the abbreviated space of a novella by doing a day-in-the-life thing. Real time, as it were. It’s pretty great! We just stay with them while they are having their adventures pretty much the whole time.

Kingsley is charmingly suave, and Birdie is pretty cute.

So, great! I’m going to put Elizabeth Boyle on my Go-To List, and probably read some more of hers!

The Arrangement

Author: Mary Balogh

Series: The Survivor’s Club #2

Tags: historical, regency, ex-soldiers, blind!, marriage of convenience

Format: ebook

Rating: Yay.

Omygoodnessgracioussakesalive! What a puppy this boy is!

Balogh is a favorite of my mom’s and sister’s, but I haven’t read that much from her. For some reason my OverDrive doesn’t carry very many Baloghs in the audiobook section, and you know I take most of my romance via audiobook.

I really didn’t know what to expect, but blindness! That’s one of my things! Oh, that is so silly that that is one of my things.

The answer to “what’s this book like” is TOTAL SQUISHY STICKY SWEETIE PIE GOODNESS.

The hero is really sweet. Like, unbelievably so. I don’t think he has a bad bone in his body.

Our hero was blinded during the war, and now navigates the world as a cheerful, chill guy who happens to be blind. Since he also happens to be a viscount (enter Surprise Inheritance from Distant Relative), he ends up entangled in a plot to entrap him in marriage. Our heroine helps him out of it, and is thrown on the streets for it. He decides to help her out by marrying her.

And here comes the obligatory major conflict: he proposes a marriage of convenience.

Do or have people ever successfully proposed and executed a marriage of convenience? Because romance novels are, like, 60% arranged marriages with a 0% success rate (as in, they all fall in love by the end). Good thing no one has ever offered me a marriage of convenience. I’m sure I would have been like, “oh, so you’ll love me in six months, then? Great. I could probably wait that long.”

There is no reason that a feeling, nice fellow such as the hero would ever think he would be capable of keeping a marriage separate from emotions, so unless he’s particularly obtuse, this plot line seems like a stretch. I mean, he could be obtuse, after all. He seems generally like a nice jock: cheerful, playing practical jokes, recognizing others feelings, but not particularly introspective.

But whatevs. Romance novels do what they must do.

She is a mousy (literally, she calls herself The Mouse) wallflower from a forgotten branch of a nearby family. She’s very timid and has no self-esteem, is scrawny and plain besides. Thank GOD he came along to encourage her to shine. Nothing like male validation to get yourself on the path of independence.

I actually took a break with this book for a bit. Once they hooked up, and I got to the first sex scene, I was a little disappointed. I get the sense that Balogh is not big on the sex scenes. I mean, I know he’s blind, but a little foreplay at least, come on!

Their timid, respectful, perfectly comfortable relationship only has one snag, and it’s the marriage of convenience thing. If it weren’t for that, they might have sailed into the sunset with a happy ending halfway through the book.

Perhaps my cynical (post-break up) heart can’t believe that men, other people, other humans can be as nice as this dude. He literally did no wrong. He didn’t even do wrong in the past as a rake or a scoundrel. He’s just a floppy puppy.

And when he decides to confront her childhood bully for her! Be still my heart!

He really goes above and beyond the requirements for an SO listening to your past trauma.

Do you realize how well he did on his Significant Other Active Listening Skills (SOALS)?

SOALS Grading System:

F: never feel comfortable telling the SO about childhood trauma

D: SO constantly interrupts and dismisses your childhood trauma story

C: You can finish your story, by way of him tuning you out while you tell it

B: SO actively listens, and, bless his heart, tries to problem solve your trauma into a solution.

A: SO actively listens, and empathizes.

A+: SO actively listens, empathizes, and incorporates new understanding of you psyche into everyday living.

Do you see what’s not on the list? SO actively listens, thinks about later, and then trains himself to fight in the dark so that he can best your childhood bully in a fist fight, therefore publicly and privately shaming him in the only way your bully will understand.

Holy hell! That’s super plus A++! Do you want to go through my childhood bullies next? I mean, it was a long time ago, and they don’t really bother me anymore, but if you are taking names anyway, I have a few for you…

In the end, I couldn’t get 100% behind our hero, who seemed altogether too nice, or 100% behind the heroine, who was altogether too weak. The story seemed lacking in conflict, and, I guess the word would be “bite.” As much as I’d like to believe that one day my prince will come, give me a makeover and self-esteem, and then Rick and Summer DMX Montage of Revenge away my childhood hangups, I am not necessarily holding my breath.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

Also, the sex was lame.

The jury’s still out on Mary Balogh. We will see how I like another book of hers.

 

Duke of Desire

Author: Elizabeth Hoyt

Series: Maiden Lane #12

Tags: historical romance, pre-regency, shotgun wedding, scarred hero, dark and brooding, cheerful heroine, vengeance, kidnapped!, trigger warning

Format: ebook

Rating: Yay!

 

Hooray! I love Elizabeth Hoyt, I love the Maiden Lane series, I love brooding heroes, I love no nonsense heroines.

 

I didn’t remember that it was part of the Maiden Lane series until just now, actually. It has gone off the rails a bit, which might be why she is discontinuing this series. The series ran its course with its original over-arching plot: a masked vigilante in pre-regency England. I mean, we’ve gone through like five Ghost of St. Giles.

Now we are focusing on this nefarious secret society called the Lords of Chaos, which is super unrelated. But whatevs.

 

Suspense! Broodtasticalness! Our heroine manages to keep a cool head whenever the hero is being his crazy broody self. There should be a male version of hysterical. Whatever that word is it’s definitely whenever romance heroes throw a little fit and tell their women they should marry someone else or something.

Hysterectomy = hystera + ectomy

Hysterical = adjective of hysteria

Vasectomy = vas + ectomy

…Soooo, hysterical men are vasical?

That’s it. Now all romance heroes have vasical fits.

 

Anyway, he’s having vasical fits, and she is calmly fixing up his wounds. So, she’s a smart cookie. Most of the time he’s a huge broody vasical dick about everything, but takes time out of his busy schedule of revenge to get to know her.

Also there’s a great part where they are getting married in the middle of the night, and our hero is trying not collapse from the blood loss of his wound. A wound he got from his wife, when he tried to kidnap her. She shot him with his own pistol and he almost died from it.

 

The story is one of those “brooding hero must marry her to save her life, but he tries not to get to know her because he doesn’t have feelings, woops, he has lots of feelings and they are gooping out all over the place, turns out he loves her but he has the social skills of an orphaned ant so he mucks everything up for a while” kind of stories.

Which I love!

I swear, that’s a subgenre.

 

I think this book delivered its purpose very thoroughly. I was very satisfied with it. Watch out, though: the Lords of Chaos also use their power for sexual deviance, so there’s a lot of that. Incest, orgies, rape, and child abuse all show up to take a bow.

Our hero has Major Childhood Trauma stamped on his forehead, so we have to solve it in the way that only romance novels can. With a healthy dose of vengeance and love.

 

Welp, that is the end of that fun series. I am excited to see what else Hoyt has coming down the pipe. She’s on the top of my Go-Tos list. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of her stuff. If you are super bored, you can read my reviews of some of her other stuff:

Leopard Prince

For the Love of Pete, Once and Always, and Hot

Raven Prince and Serpent Prince

 

 

 

This Rake of Mine

Author: Elizabeth Boyle

Series: Bachelor Chronicles #2

Tags: historical romance, regency, ruined woman, mistaken identity, not-a-rake, spies!, governess, forced cohabitation, parent trap

Format: ebook

Rating: meh.

I’m a little disappointed that I ruined my streak of Nearly Identical Men In the Middle of Removing Their White Shirts as cover art.

That’s what happens when I have a vacation: my audiobook challenge is put on hold in favor of unrestricted reading time with my eyes. I get to read whatever I want! And what I want is… torsos?

TORSOS FOR DAYZ.

In this one, he is in the middle of taking off his white shirt, but you can’t see his torso, so it doesn’t count.

Elizabeth Boyle, I sing your praises, and then I read this lackluster book.

She’s a redhead that was ruined when he mistakenly kissed her at the opera. He is a reformed rake who now dedicates his life to running transportation for spies over the English Channel. Our heroine, now a teacher at a boarding school, under a different name, is chaperoning three of her students to their homes. They are all caught in a thunderstorm, take shelter at his run down castle/ base of operations.

The girls were really quite adorable. Apparently, they orchestrated the whole thing. “Oh no! We are caught in a storm! How awful that we have to stop at the castle of this eligible single gentleman, coincidentally of appropriate age and temperament to our teacher! The horror!”

While the girls are busy parent trapping, our hero has no idea who she is. Then also, spy stuff, and some other stuff, and of course stolen kisses in the library or whatever.

The spy stuff got pretty boring, but frankly it was the hero that was the downfall of this story. I have considerable talent in suspension of disbelief, but his whole side of the story tested it. I can believe that she held some (albeit misplaced) infatuation for the man who years ago mistakenly kissed her, but him? Really? Dude, you didn’t even know what she looked like. I dislike not-really-a-rake stories (“Look! He’s not really a rake because he’s a SPY!”), but this goes farther. Apparently he martyred his reputation and social life over guilt at leading the heroine astray. Their kiss haunted him, and hasn’t had a woman since.

Oh, fuck off.

Ain’t nobody gonna have a boner for a simple kiss for eight years. I can hardly remember the names of guys I dated eight years ago, much less a single encounter while drunk.

Boyle is just reaching too hard for that One True Love poetry in this one.

I would have liked it more if he had come to terms with his lot in the eight years that they had been separated. That might have earned Acting Like an Adult points, and carried this book higher in my esteem.

As it is, it’s just a regular ol’ romance novel.

Oh well. I have liked a good majority of Boyle’s work, still, so I look optimistically towards reading more of her novels. Rakes and Not-a-Rakes are my least favorite plotlines, so this could be another sore spot.

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