Side by Side: Julia Quinn and Cecilia Grant

A Night Like This by Julia Quinn A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant
  • Title: A Night Like This
  • Author: Julia Quinn
  • Series: Smythe-Smith Quartet, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, May 2012
  • Source: Amazon, $6.99
  • Trope(s): Regency, Virgin, Beta Hero, Angst, Redemption
  • Quick blurb: Ruined-by-a-rake governess finds love with tormented-by-guilt earl.
  • Quick review: Everything I expected from Julia Quinn – in a good way.
  • Grade: B
  • Title: A Gentleman Undone
  • Author: Cecilia Grant
  • Series: Blackshear Family, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Bantam, May 2012
  • Source: Amazon, $7.99
  • Trope(s): Regency, Virgin, Beta Hero, Angst, Redemption
  • Quick blurb: Ruined-by-a-rake courtesan finds love with tormented-by-guilt soldier.
  • Quick review: Everything I expected from Cecilia Grant – and more.
  • Grade: A

I’m terrible at reviewing the books I love, which is why I cheat with my One-Quote Reviews. But with these two books, there’s no way I could have chosen just one quote – or even 10 or 20.

After several futile attempts to tone down the squee, I decided to take a more analytical approach to figure out precisely why I love these two very different authors. So I made a spreadsheet. Yes, I’m a nerd. I thought everyone knew that by now.

Why compare these two books? Both titles were released on the same day (May 29, 2012). Both are Regency-era historicals of similar length (approx. 370 pages) and both were published by imprints of Random House (Avon, Bantam). And, oddly enough, the basic plots are very similar, with ruined-by-a-rake heroines and tormented-by-guilt heroes finding love and redemption amidst secrecy and revenge.

Also, comparing them means I have one less positive review to write. I’m sneaky that way.

What sets each book apart – from each other and from other formulaic romances – is the author’s voice. While Quinn offers buoyant optimism with her trademark witty, lighthearted tone, Grant creates a much darker atmosphere of intensity and poetic despair.

Now I’m going to cheat again. Instead of trying to define or describe what “authorial voice” means, I’ll just let these two writers do the talking for me.

NOTE: The tables (colorcoded! to match the book covers!!!) below will probably look like crap in an email or RSS reader, but hopefully I’ve enticed you enough to click through to the real thing.

Continue reading

One-Quote Review: Off the Shelf by Lucy Felthouse

  • Off the Shelf by Lucy FelthouseTitle: Off the Shelf
  • Author: Lucy Felthouse
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica, Short
  • Publisher: Xcite Books, May 2012
  • Source: Amazon, 99¢
  • Quick blurb: Travel writer gets the hots for an airport bookshop clerk.
  • Grade: B

…something about the way he was cradling a book in his hands made Annalise suspect she’d found a kindred spirit.

Fun, sexy short story with – believe it or not – a believable romance.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I know the cover above is a stock Jimmy Thomas, but I’m glad they changed it because I just couldn’t recommend it with the original cover:

Off the Shelf by Lucy Felthouse

I’m all for beta heroes with bedhead, but good grief, that poor boy needs a decent haircut.

Series Review: Brook Street Trilogy by Ava March

  • Brook Street trilogy by Ava MarchTitle(s): Thief; Fortune Hunter; Rogues
  • Author: Ava March
  • Series: Brook Street, Books 1-3
  • Genre(s): Historical, M/M
  • Publisher: Carina Press, March-May 2012
  • Source: Thief: Free from publisher via NetGalley; Fortune Hunter: Amazon, $3.03; Rogues: Amazon, $3.03
  • Trope(s): In the Closet. Regency England
  • Quick blurb: Mayfair men and the men they love.
  • Quick review: Despite a sanitized setting, the focus on passionate relationships makes this series work.
  • Grade: B (Thief: B, Fortune Hunter: A-, Rogues: C+)

Regency London – where polite manners and spotless reputations reign supreme. Yet behind the closed doors of three elegant town houses along Brook Street, passion and lust reign as gentlemen dare to risk scandal by falling in love…

During my first reading of Ava March’s Brook Street novellas, I found her Regency Mayfair world to be sanitized and idealistic – especially compared to the claustrophobic atmosphere of secrecy and urgency and impending doom that characterizes many other M/M historicals.

All six main characters in this trilogy accept being gay without hesitation.* In Thief, the first novella in the series, youngest son Benjamin simply makes up his mind and never falters with his decision:

Before the not-so-subtle nudges from his brothers and sisters started anew to find a wife among the bevies of young ladies, he would know the truth about himself. And either way, he would accept it.

None of the Brook Street heroes are asked to deal with the pressure for an heir, nor do they confront threats of being disinherited or shunned. All are estranged, or nearly so, from their families for reasons other than their homosexuality, which feels like an easy cop-out avoid external conflicts. For these heroes, there’s no emotional trauma – or even angst – about the risks of loving another man in 19th-century England:

“Discretion is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.”

However, as I was reading more closely a second time for reviewing, I realized that by focusing on relationships rather than societal pressures, March gives her historical gay characters not only the happy endings they deserve, but the dignity they deserve as well. In the Brook Street world, we’re allowed a more intimate view of the heroes’ day-to-day lives, especially the importance of friendship in establishing and sustaining the “confirmed bachelor” façade.

Grading the stories individually….. Continue reading

One-Quote Review: One Naughty Girl by Alexx Andria

  • Title: One Naughty Girl
  • Author: Alexx Andria
  • Series: Landry James, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Self-Published, October 2011
  • Source: Amazon, free
  • Quick blurb: What. The. Hell.
  • Grade: F

The black buck noted her quickened breath and the way she reveled in the scene before her.

Yes, a character – a nameless hookup in a sex club – is described as a “black buck.” Since when is something like that considered acceptable??? I refuse to give any links to this insult to real erotica writers.

RITA Reader Challenge: Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

  • Love on the Line by Deeanne GistTitle: Love on the Line
  • Author: Deeanne Gist
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical, Inspirational
  • Publisher: Bethany House, October 2011
  • Source: Amazon, $8.54
  • Trope(s): Virgins, Alpha Males, Cowboys
  • Quick blurb: Undercover lawman gets unexpected help – and more – from a spinster switchboard operator.
  • Quick review: The sexy times may be “clean,” but whoo-whee, Gist knows how to write kissing scenes.
  • Grade: A

Cupping her neck, he ran a thumb from the tip of her chin to the indentation between her collarbones.

She opened her eyes. “Now I know why cats purr.”

If you shy away from inspirational romances – or even if you actively avoid them – get off your high horse and read some Deeanne Gist. Start with Maid to Match, and then read this.

Read the full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books