Book Anxiety, Part 2: Untamed by Anna Cowan

Untamed by Anna Cowan

  • Title: Untamed
  • Author: Anna Cowan
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Australia, May 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 432 pages
  • Trope(s): Heroine Who Says the F-Word, Hero Who’s Prettier Than The Heroine, Evil Gambling Father, Tragic Pasts, Sibling/Parent Issues, Deceit & Manipulation
  • Quick blurb: A dandy in disguise changes the lives of a disgraced and debt-ridden family.
  • Quick review: Again with the Book Anxiety, but a better outcome this time.
  • Grade: C+

“I will write a book of bad ideas,” she said, pulling viciously at the buttons on her sleeve, “and the final chapter will be dedicated to this epic, gravity-defying feat of stupidity. And in a hundred years a celebrated English wordsmith will come across it and write a poetic tribute to the very bad idea that malformed in the brain of one demented duke. His work will run to eleven volumes before his vocabulary has even begun to do justice to how extremely bad this idea is.”

Oy. I need to quit whining for new and different, because more like this is going to kill me.

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Book Anxiety, Part 1: A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

  • Title: A Spear of Summer Grass
  • Author: Deanna Raybourn
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Harlequin (MIRA), April 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Bad Girl with a Heart of Gold and Hidden Depths, Enigmatic Loner Hero, Colorful Cast of Supporting Characters, Very Convenient Coincidences
  • Quick blurb: Disgraced socialite exiled to stepfather’s crumbling estate in 1920s colonial Kenya
  • Quick review: After much pre-reading anxiety and post-reading obsessing, it didn’t work for me — but for more reasons than I expected.
  • Grade: D+

“For Christ’s sake, woman. Don’t stand there mooning about. This is Africa. Go inside before something eats you.”

I’m a huge fan of Raybourn’s Julia Grey mystery series (countless re-reads, book trance every single time), so when I saw the cover and blurb for A Spear of Summer Grass, I sighed happily and thought, “Ohhhhh, she wrote a new one just for me.”

So why the Book Anxiety? It started with the usual “She’s one of my favorite authors, what if I don’t like it???” I sucked it up and made it through the two chapters with an initial dislike for the heroine, but no major red flags – so far, so good.

But then a quick glance at a few reviews – “horrible” and “DNF” from The Book Smugglers and the enlightening discussion at Dear Author – sent me flailing into the worst-case scenario of “What if I like it – but I shouldn’t???” So I moved it from currently-reading back to the to-read shelf and let the anxiety fester. For weeks.

I started reading again last night, and finished this morning around 3 a.m. It was a one-sitting read, but not a full-on blissful book trance. Instead of wallowing in the language and characters, I could not stop myself from focusing on all the elements that were so problematic for other reviewers.

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My Bookshelf of Actual History with Little or No Smooching – The Brit Edition

I bought myself a few Mother’s Day presents. Because Santa didn’t bring me anything from my wish list.

These arrived on my doorstep this week….

Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Fashion in Detail - V&A MuseumWhat People Wore When - Melissa Leventon (Editor)The Impossible Life of Mary Benson by Rodney Bolt

The obsession started with watching the (wildly inaccurate) movie Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett. Then I found the book I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles at the library, and then I discovered Jean Plaidy, and the rest is…um…history (sorry, couldn’t resist).

The new additions will take their places of honor alongside….

Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail - V& Museum Lost Mansions of Mayfair by Oliver Bradbury London: Life In Maps by Peter Whitfield

The English Town by Mark Girouard Royal Palaces of Tudor England by Simon Thurley The Regency Country House: From the Archives of Country Life by John Martin Robinson

And I read history without pretty pictures too!

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One-Quote Review: Hold Me Down Hard by Cathryn Fox

Hold Me Down Hard by Cathryn Fox

  • Title: Hold Me Down Hard
  • Author: Cathryn Fox
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Entangled (Flirt), May 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 51 pages
  • Trope(s): Small-Town Girl in the Big City, Sexy Cop
  • Quick blurb: Actress gets sexy cop neighbor to “run lines” so she can nail (wink, wink) an upcoming role.
  • Quick review: Too short for Full Snark. Almost DNFed it.
  • Grade: D

“Actually, these lines seem a bit cheesy.”

I had to choose that quote. How could I not choose that quote? I requested this solely for the “naive Iowa farm girl” bit in the blurb, and the nicest thing I have to say is that it’s exactly what I expected.

This short story (a very strange choice for Entangled’s Flirt line) is one erotica cliché after another (except a billionaire CEO), with some eye-rolling attempts at ridiculously superficial characterization.

One-Quote Review: After Hours by Cara McKenna

After Hours by Cara McKenna

  • Title: After Hours
  • Author: Cara McKenna
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Penguin/Intermix, April 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 281 pages
  • Trope(s): Loners, Annoying Siblings, Tragic Pasts
  • Quick blurb: A rookie psychiatric nurse gets involved – very reluctantly – with her enigmatic coworker.
  • Quick review: Just add me to all the other “holy shit wow” reviews.
  • Grade: A-

“What we have between us is strong and stupid.”

When I beg for “something different,” THIS is what I mean. Difficult, dark characters in a desperate, almost desolate setting, and McKenna makes it all subversively romantic.

One-Quote Review: The Seduction Hypothesis by Delphine Dryden

The Seduction Hypothesis by Delphine Dryden

  • Title: The Seduction Hypothesis
  • Series: The Science of Temptation, Book 2
  • Author: Delphine Dryden
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Carina Press, May 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 97 pages
  • Trope(s): Nerds/Geeks, BDSM, Big Misunderstandings
  • Quick blurb: A group outing to a fan convention allows a former couple to reignite their relationship — with the help of a few costumes and props.
  • Quick review: Despite their frustrating Little Big Misunderstandings, it’s a helluva of a lot of fun to read about kinky nerds who can laugh in the bedroom.
  • Grade: B+

Oh God, the eyebrow thing again.

I adore love stories about geeks, and even more so when both main characters are equally smart and nerdy. Lindsey and Ben’s lack of communication was annoying, but believable and necessary to the story, and Dryden makes the most of it in rebuilding their faltering relationship into a funny and wickedly sexy kinkfest.

As with the first entry in the series, the only thing keeping this story from an A grade was the heroine — Lindsey comes across a little too self-righteous for much of the story, blaming Ben’s confusion rather than her own for their estrangement, and I had a little trouble accepting her insistence on being in the lifestyle for life after only one awkward sample.

A plea for a third in the series:  Ms. Dryden, write us female dom/male sub story — pretty please??? *bats eyelashes*

Backlist Binge: Sophia James

This took me longer than I thought, because I wound up doing a full re-read of one, and I had to buy and read the newest because it finished off a series.

So… Here are the highs and lows of Harlequin Historical author Sophia James, presented in chronological order (minus the anthologies). Cover images link to Goodreads.

In summary: James is on the dark and angsty edge of Harlequin Historicals — her characters are complex and conflicted, and when she stays away from rakes and pirates, her storytelling skills are memorable. But it’s hit or miss whether all the pieces and parts coalesce enough to suck me into a full-on book trance.

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