TBR Challenge: Kicking It Old School with Patricia Rice

Last year for Old School Month, I read two Jude Devereaux classics — a hit and a miss. This time, I’m kinda sorta maybe mostly undecided.

Moon Dreams by Patricia Rice

  • Title: Moon Dreams
  • Author: Patricia Rice
  • Series: American Dreams, #1
  • Published:  January 1991; re-released February 2015
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Tropes: Dimwit Runaway Innocent Ingenue, Illegitimacy-But-Not-Really (see “Back From the Dead” below), Evil Heirs, Kilted Kourage, Exotic Otherness, Cultural Appropriation, Fake Scottish Brogues, Cinderella Makeovers, Back From the Dead, Very Convenient Coincidences, Smuggler With a Heart of Gold, Actual Historical Name-Dropping, Metaphorical Metaphors
  • Quick blurb: Illegitimate heiress runs away from her lecherous cousin and gets rescued by a Scottish smuggler obsessed with avenging his own family dishonor.
  • Quick review: Stuffed with all the Old Schoolish WTFery you could ever possibly want.
  • Grade: C- (it was a loooong slog up the Highlands in the last third to avoid a D+)

Firstly, let’s wallow in the original cover for a moment, shall we?

Moon Dreams by Patricia Rice

THE FLAMING PASSION OF TROPIC NIGHTS LIT LOVE’S GOLDEN DAWN

Are you done wallowing yet? Need a moment? Need an ointment of some sort?

*~*waits patiently*~*

So. I bought this one and the follow-up a few months ago when I was looking for some American-set historicals. Despite the series name, very little of this one was set in Colonial America. The happy couple bounced around the northern hemisphere and it was pretty exhausting trying to figure out how they manuevered all that Near-Sex and Actual Penetrative Sex and Hate-Sex into their year-long itinerary.

I’m going do a full recap to help you properly appreciate the Full Glory Old-Schooliness of this Epic Adventure. I haven’t gone full-snark in over a year, so buckle up and gird your loins and grab a snack.

Chapters 1-2 — Cornwall, Fall 1759

Reality was the cold gray mist soaking her woolen cloak and clinging to her lashes and mixing with a torrent of tears.

Our heroine Alyson (yes, really) Hampton has a dog named Peabody. I was highly encouraged about this, but, alas, poor Peabody is never heard from again.

Alyson is the orphaned illegitimate granddaughter of an earl. She has Secret Rendezvouses (?) with a neighbor guy who Promises Things In The Dark. These Promises In The Dark do not, alas, include marriage proposals. (But you probably already knew that.) Innocent Alyson realizes she must Grow Up and Open Her Eyes.

Alyson’s Beloved Grandfather dies and leaves all the unentailed property to Alyson (because of course he does).The  Evil Drunken Lecherous Debt-Ridden Heir (aka The Macaroni, aka The Despicable Fiend),  arrives and announces Alyson will marry him. She rebuffs his tender attentions by pouring boiling tea in his lap.

Alyson’s only recourse, of course, is to Run Away. In the middle of the night. In a maid’s dress with a horse blanket for a cloak.

Chapter 3

Angels and half-wits and kidnappers all in a night strained credulity,

We meet our hero, Rory Douglas Maclean, of the disgraced Jacobite Macleans, as he’s scratching a flea bite in his armpit. No, really. I did not make that up.

Rory’s smuggling ship lands in Cornwall and he takes the mail coach to London because…IDK, we just need to move the plot along here. He’s squashed between an obese woman who is so fat she couldn’t possibly be raped (no, really) and a skinny shrewish  spinster. On the opposite seat is a Mysterious Waif who reads books and smells like the “barely perceptible evergreen scent of heather in the springtime.” That, and horses because of the whole horse blanket as cloak thing. The book-reading heather-smelling waif has smooth white hands.

En route, Rory foils the kidnapping of our smooth-handed, horse-blanked-yet-heather-smelling waifish heroine. Because of course he does. The kidnappers take the skinny shrewish spinster instead.

Our heroine is enchanted by our hero’s rolling Scottish R’s. We learn our heroine is half-Scottish because of course she is.

Rory just doesna ken. He just doesna. But he is very hungry.

Rory opened the napkin, and the scent of pickled salmon hit him. With wonder he sampled the rest of the fare, each discovery bringing another enraptured cry. “Bannocks! Ach, my bonny lassie, do ye not know what I would give for fresh bannocks? And spelding? It’s been years….” His ecstasy disappeared in the mouthful of bread and fish he deposited between his grateful lips.

So. Food metaphor as sex foreshadowing, amirite?

Anyway. Alyson tells this complete stranger her entire life story because she can totally trust him because he’s The Maclean.

Chapter 4 — February 1760

Alyson smiled. The Maclean was looking at her as if he couldn’t decide whether to eat her or strangle her, but she felt confident he would do neither. He really was a nice man for all that he tried to be an irascible curmudgeon.

Rory hires a chaise and horses and they somehow make it to London without having Actual Penetrative Sex or even Near Sex. However, he is “stunned to the state of shock by the force of her devastating smile.” But, alas, he must part from the only angel heaven would ever send to him. He leaves her with his aunt, who, of course, is a Dear Old Friend of Alyson’s Kindly London Solicitor.

Makeover time! Dress porn, powdered wig with fat sausage curls, blah, blah, blah.

Reunited!

The innocent cherub who had slept in his arms had become a much more worldy angel in satin and bows, but to Rory she still appeared to have wings and a halo. Where before she had been all heather and mint, now she was the sparkling, crystalline drifts of Ben Nevis in winter. 

So, remember: Alyson is still an innocent angel. This is important because this is an Old School Romance.

“No kissing?” Alyson stared at him in wonder. “But kissing is so very pleasant. Who should anyone be denied it?”

::HEADDESK::

Chapters 5-8

Cranville [our Evil Drunken Lecherous Debt-Ridden Heir] studied the pale nape of Alyson’s neck. It was a very fragile neck, topped by a thick cloud of ebony tresses. It wouldn’t take any effort at all to snap it, but he doubted that a murderer could inherit his victim’s wealth. It was the money he wanted, after all.

Rory Douglas Maclean (aka The Maclean) challenges our Evil Drunken Lecherous Debt-Ridden Heir to a duel because of course he does.

Alyson is upset. So she runs away. In the middle of the night. Again. Because of course she does. She’s a Dimwit Innocent Ingenue, remember? Also, it’s very foggy out. Because London is always foggy.

She’s kidnapped. Again.

Rory Douglas Maclean (aka The Maclean) just happens to saunter into the the very same slimy Bishopsgate tavern where the Half-Wit Henchman have taken their prize. Because OF COURSE HE DOES.

coincidence

Rory tricks the Half-Wit Henchmen into bringing Alyson to his smuggling ship (with only one sword-slit throat along the way), and the Sea Witch escapes into the storm-tossed Atlantic.

“I have always wanted to sail on a ship. Can I go up and see the sails?”

*~*sigh*~*

Imprisoned Alyson (no sails for her) befriends the cabin boy and the cranky ship’s cook and bakes bread in her undies. Somewhere in here Rory is knocked senseless by…something…and she sees his naked torso and touches his forehead and has tingly feelings in her ladybits.

Rory recovers and yells at her for being a dimwit without the sense that God gave a goose and she gets all weepy that he doesn’t respect her and ruffled feathers waaah waaah waaah.

They’re forced to share a cabin and there’s some awkward moments changing clothes and whatever Insta-Boner #377 yada yada yada.

Chapter 9-10 – Charleston, Spring 1760

Land ho. Her hair is frothing and he gets Insta-Boner # 417 whilst imagining releasing the wild ecstasy behind her demure features.

She runs away. Again. (OH MY GOD REALLY WTF BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE)

She finds her way to an attorney in hopes of contacting her Kindly London Solicitor. But guess what? The Charleston attorney is besties with The Maclean’s man of business! Who’da thunk it, amirite?

Reunited! And It Feels So Good! (sorry, couldn’t resist)

They finally kiss. Breasts full of promise (hers). Aching loins (his). He apologizes and she gets all huffy.

“If the moon is what leads a man to madness, I’ll be certain to lead all my suitors down the garden path in its light. Then they shall be as mad as they think I am, and I can choose the one who kisses me best.”

With a flounce of her skirts, she fled back to the house.

flounce

Chapters 11-14

Alyson hangs in Charleston while Rory sails off to do his smuggling thing. She has lots of beaux and buys lots of new clothes because that’s what Runaway Dimwit Innocent Ingenues do.

Until…our Evil Drunken Lecherous Debt-Ridden Heir shows up, having somehow figured out exactly where in all of the Eastern Seaboard she was hiding. She gets tricked into boarding his ship.

BUT WAIT.

JUST WAIT.

ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?

Alyson escapes from her captors and makes it to the deck. She spies — WAIT FOR IT — Rory’s ship just pulling into the harbor.

NO, REALLY. I am not making this up.

So. What’s an Abducted Dimwit Innocent Ingenue to do? She takes off her petticoat and waves it around and drops it into the harbor to get Rory’s attention.

It totally works.

“Jump, Alys, jump!” he shouted as the dinghy lowered into the water.

“I can’t swim!” she wailed, glancing over her shoulder.

He saves her, he yells at her, she tries to flounce in her water-logged gown, etc., etc., etc.

Rory stood there in his sodden clothes contemplating the insane but enchanting pixie who had danced into his life one fair morn….

Feeling as if he had lost complete control of the situation, Rory surrendered. Since he had met his personal angel, he had been held up by highwaymen, challenged an earl to a duel, killed a kidnapper, and fired on a British merchant. He was down to his last three decent shirts and one of those was clinging clammily to his shoulders right now. He was better off when he courted the devil, despite the fact that Alyson looked more delicious in a blanket and dripping ringlets than any other woman on the planet.

She changes clothes, he sees her boobs, Insta-Boner #818. Storm-clouded eyes, passions of a royal hellion, sweetness and tartness, etc., etc., etc.

More boobs. More boners. He makes her wear the cabin boy’s breeches and stares at her arse. You are not surprised.

But now you will be surprised, because SURPRISE!

“You have the Sight, don’t you?”

Yes, really. Half-Scottish Alyson has second sight. Because OF COURSE SHE DOES. Just like her mother and grandmother who were shunned as witches.

That was the beauty of Alyson’s deception. For years she had been convincing people of her half-wittedness with her vague habits, when in truth she had just adapted to the behavior expected of her, the one that explained her strangeness to everyone’s satisfaction.

So, you see, she’s not really a dimwit. She’s just…special.

I could really use Peabody the terrier right about now.

YAWN.

YAWN.

Chapters 15-16 – a deserted island in the Caribbean (yes, really)

Rory Douglas Maclean (aka The Maclean) machetes his way through an isolated lagoon. Our almost-happy couple gets naked separately to bathe. Because while Alyson is no longer a dimwit, she is still an Innocent Ingenue.

BUT NOT FOR LONG.

He tells her his sob story (1745 Jacobite rebellion, everything lost, boohoo), she comforts him, he gets a boner.

“Ach lass, I’ll take ye, will ye, nill ye, if we do not return to the ship now. There is time yet to do this with a little more ceremony,”

They return to the beach, where a Raucous Pagan Pirate Party is going on. He hand-feeds her tempting nuggets from a bowl of fruit. I don’t think that’s a metaphor, but you never know. However, she does get hot moisture in her nether parts.

They dance on the beach as the bonfire flames grow higher. I think that is a metaphor.

But what about that “ceremony” mentioned above, you ask? You shouldn’t have asked.

You’ll want to read this next bit with one eye closed and a full-on headtilt.

One of the crewmen, a giant African, had apparently been selected as spokesman, and he stood blocking their entrance into the circle. For some odd reason, the men behind him were waving a worn-out broom from the ship’s galley.

Yeah. Not making this up.

BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE. The Giant African has a Big Knife.

With further intonations, the African rubbed their bleeding palms together, and Rory’s fingers twined around hers. Their blood mixed and flowed into each other, and Alyson felt the completeness of this joining as her legs threatened to give way beneath her.

Something’s giving way over here, and it’s not my legs.

Rory hauls her off into the rainforest again and promises are pulled from the wind and carried on moonbeams. You think I just made that up but I totally didn’t.

So. The deflowering in the jungle is all about the music metaphors.

It was as if his body was the bow and hers was the string. He played her sweetly first, testing the notes, refining the tension until she quivered beneath his touch….

His fingers played across her skin….brought her closer to the crescendo he sought.

…Alyson’s wild cry as Rory entered her rang through the jungle, at one with the call of the other creatures around them. [NOTE: WHAT THE HELL NO NO NO NO NO where is that ointment]

…She only knew Rory had pulled her strings taut as he drew himself back and forth, and the music reached its height.

A crescendo built so that she could no longer control her own movements. The pulsing beat carried her away, rolling over her in wave after wave of pleasure.

Before you give in to the crescendoing swoon: He didn’t pull out. This is important later in the story.

Rory saves the virginal-blood-stained satin…something…they had sex on and wraps it around himself.

“I should have a flag made of this.”

Could ANYTHING be more Old-School Romance than that? I think not.

Chapters 17-18 — Barbados, August 1760

We’re only at 44%. Still with me?

So they pull up into Barbados. She marvels at the bright colors in the garb of the island inhabitants, but apparently fails to notice shackles or branding or other distasteful slavery-type things.

Instead, she spies a Tarted-Up Tart in pink pouring from a fancy carriage. And she gets a Sight. In her third eye, she sees the Pink Canary having sex with Rory Douglas Maclean (aka The Maclean).

Naturally, our Deflowered Ingenue gets upset about this (she barfs over the rail of the Sea Witch). So — WAIT FOR IT — she runs away.

AGAIN.

Because OF COURSE SHE DOES.

She somehow finds her way to a kindly lady (because of course she does). This family just happens to be besties with the Governor of Barbados, who just happens to be in cahoots with smugglers like Rory Douglas Maclean.

coincidence

Our hero and heroine meet up at a ball and she runs away again. Yes, that’s twice in one chapter. I am still not making this up.

He corners her (in his own bedroom, for the love of god do not ask) and declares that her choices are to (a) marry him in truth in front of God and All Of Barbados Except the Africans or (b) get hauled off to prison because she stole money from him about seventeen chapters ago and wrote him an IOU and he’s going to call it in.

This, apparently, is the Black Moment.

There’s a lot of crying and flouncing and they get married but she’s still totally miffed at him.

Somewhere in here, her long-dead father shows up. And the Evil Heir is on his way because he has a GPS tracker on them or something.

Chapters 19-22

Rory’s excellent plan of action to escape the Evil Heir involves booking passage on an Actual Pirate Ship. This pirate ship is a piece of shit that falls apart at the first flash of lightning and they founder on the coast of…somewhere…and there’s a mutiny and Rory must punch Alyson in the face to knock her out so she won’t get raped and he’s sorry he didn’t just go ahead and kill her to save her from the pirates.

Rory drags his unconscious bride to the deck of the pirate ship (after the mutiny is over, of course) and lo and behold, the Evil Heir. Who was following the chemtrails. Or something.

Chapters 22-24 — London, Fall 1760

These two really get around.

Back in England, Rory is taken away in chains but Alyson gets him freed on bond and she has another Vision of Doom and he refuses to use her money and they snub each other in the hallways. This goes on for weeks.

And weeks.

And weeks.

Rory befriends Samuel Johnson at a party. Yes, the dictionary-guy Samuel Johnson. Actual Historical Name-Dropping appears to be A Required Thing in Old-School Romance.

Chapters 25-26

Alyson is pregnant. Alyson is surprised. You are not surprised.

Chapters 27-33 — Scotland, November 1760

Two-thirds done. You will not believe what happens in the last third.

Our grumpy couple slogs off to Scotland and stays at Alyson’s ruined castle tower because of course she has one.  The one remaining servant of course remembers her dear sainted mother and grandmother who totally weren’t witches.

Meanwhile, Alyson’s Long-Dead Father reappears in Cornwall to Claim His Rightful Inheritance. Everyone believes him because OF COURSE he looks exactly like his childhood portrait and the portraits of all his ancestors in the portrait gallery.

The Long-Dead Father slogs off to Scotland.

The Evil Heir slogs off to Scotland.

Meanwhile, Rory gets all pissy that Alyson is using her own money to fix up her own castle so he stomps off to his own castle which isn’t his anymore because his Evil Drunken Lecherous Debt-Ridden Cousin (hereafter known as Evil Cousin #2) stole it during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Rory rouses the impoverished populace to his Rightful Cause and they hoard weapons and steal sheep.

Rory and Alyson finally have sex again but they’re still mad at each other.

With cries of joy, they discovered new heights, and clinging to each other, fell from the cliffs with dizzying delight.

That cliff thing was just a metaphor. The actual cliff-falling comes later. Sorry not sorry about the spoilers; I’m trying to get this mess of crap over with.

The Evil Drunken Lecherous Debt-Ridden Cousins conspire to kill off the Rightful Heirs. This involves shooting at the happy couple from across a loch in hopes of starting a landslide because they’re both too drunk to aim properly. But don’t worry. Rory saves them.

“‘Tis nothin’, lass. Dinna fash yerself.”

I did not make that up.

Alyson’s Long-Dead Father shows up on Christmas Eve in a snowstorm.

I did not make that up either.

Alyson’s parents were totally really married and therefore she is not illegitimate but there’s no proof OF COURSE because someone ripped the pages from the marriage register or ship’s log or something.

Rory gets an Illegal Kilt for Christmas and he totally Wears It In Defiance because he is a Rebel and the Rightful Heir.

Evil Cousin #1 finally gets disgusted with being an Disgusting Drunken Lecher and ditches Evil Cousin #2 to stew in his own juices (don’t ask).

Then there’s this swirling snowstorm and they all go out searching for…someone…because Alyson has Had A Vision. You know, that Second Sight thing because we haven’t had any blatant foreshadowing in like a whole chapter and a half even though it doesn’t really add anything to the plot.

Chapters 34-OH DEAR GOD WE’RE FINALLY ALMOST DONE

85%. We’re finally getting to the good stuff. Trust me.

Alyson is now approximately 57 weeks pregnant and she very innocently goes for a walk on a high, snowy, craggy hill because Scotland in the winter is really boring, duh. A scary dark-caped horseman appears out of the fog and there’s screaming and whatnot. Rory Douglas Maclean (aka The Maclean) naturally assumes his Paragon of Innocence ran away again so he gets all up in arms (literally, with, like guns and everything) and goes after her up the high, snowy, craggy hill.

Alyson goes into labor on the high, snowy craggy hill. Because — all together now — OF COURSE SHE DOES.

BUT WAIT. This is where it gets exciting. The bad guy (Evil Cousin #2, not the boiling-tea-in-the-crotch one) catches Alyson and ties her up and hauls her off to Rory’s Repossessed Castle. But on the way, Evil Cousin #2 shoots at Rory and makes him fall off the cliff (not a metaphor this time). But don’t worry — Rory pulls an Indiana Jones and clambers back up the craggy hillside.

Rory Douglas Maclean (aka The Maclean) calls his men to arms.

Men poured in from the blinding blizzard, summoned by a series of signals, As they arrived, the servants passed out torches. Outlawed swords, halberds, and hatchets were removed from the walls…. Even Rory, once  his injuries had been seen to, emerged sporting the plaid of war instead of a frock coat.

They’re going FULL KILT here, people. Like…Braveheart. Yeah, Braveheart.

braveheart

Or…maybe more like this:

mob-scene

But with, you know, kilts. Because we’re in Scotland, duh.

Meanwhile, Alyson is still in labor. Evil Cousin #2 tries to throw her out a window but she spits in his face. Rory is concerned that such”wayward behavior” will enrage the demented villain even further. I did not make that up.

The bad guy sets something on fire and makes a break for it.

Only when he flung open the door did Drummond realize the back stairs were filled with pitchforks, hatchets and carving knives of his own servants.

He turned and found Rory waiting for him in the doorway, claymore in hand, the fire blazing impossibly high behind him, glinting red off his hair as if he were a demon from hell.

Rory carries Alyson to safety and they argue if the baby will be a boy or girl.

It’s a boy. Because of course it is.

Bagpipe time! Rory does a sword dance in his kilt.

sword-dance

Because he’s the Rightful Laird, ye ken.

I just got lost for about 20 minutes looking at Highland sword dance pictures.

Epilogue

Post-baby sex in a meadow. You are not surprised.

Things I Have Learned About Old-School Romance

  • All the heroines are dimwit ingenues.
  • All the heroes are galumphing whiners.
  • Plots are magically driven by Very Convenient Coincidences.
  • Actual Historical Name-Dropping is required.
  • London is always foggy.
  • Virginal blood is a Big Deal and worth saving to share with friends and family and pirate crews.
  • Food and music metaphors are vitally important because otherwise the sex would be really boring.
  • Runaway ingenues never actually end up in brothels no matter how many times the exasperated heroes tell them they will.
  • People can have sex in a jungle but not get eaten by gigantic bugs.
  • People can have sex in a Scottish meadow and not get swarmed by gnats.

The final pronouncement

Moon Dreams was, indeed, full-on Old School Romance. complete with wild adventure and purple prose. The pacing was dreadful and every time Alyson ran away I wanted to scream, but the last 15% with the pitchfork mob was worth the effort.

Weekend O’ Random Lists: The Carla Kelly Backlist Binge

I expanded it from a day to weekend because I am Having Ideas.

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Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla KellyWhy I Am A Carla Kelly Fangirl:

1. The historical worldbuilding. Total immersion book trance, every single time. No one does military romance better than Carla Kelly, and from what I can tell, her accuracy is nearly flawless.

2. The joining of equals. The heroines always have — or find — their agency, and their heroes are quietly heroic in the best possible way.

3. The mix of drama, high comedy, adventure, angst (and more). Nearly every heroine is a direly impoverished (see below) orphan or widow, and nearly all the heroes are stoic military men, but the width and depth of CK’s storytelling is truly impressive.

The must-reads:

Channel Fleet Series
(Marrying the Captain, Surgeon’s Lady, Marrying the Royal Marine)
My first and truest loves. Connected, but each is unique in story, tone and romance. On my DIK list. A+ for all three. (Harlequin Historical, 2008-2010)

The Wedding Journey
A marriage of convenience between an army surgeon and a dying officer’s daughter who’s threatened by a lecherous major. If you liked Marrying the Royal Marine or Balogh’s Beyond the Sunrise, you will love this one. (Signet, 2002)

With This RingWith This Ring by Carla Kelly
Plain Jane debutante volunteers to nurse wounded soldiers and finds herself in a fake engagement to a lordly major. It’s a glorious road-trip comedy with a lengthy rest stop at a friendly village where the heroine opens a barbershop (no really). (Signet, 1997)

The Lady’s Companion
A penniless companion and her employer’s cranky bailiff. Quietly funny and achingly romantic, with a great side story about the lonely aging dowager who schemes to bring them together. Added to my “Best Beta Heroes” list. (Signet, 1996)

Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind
A poor relation caring for her orphaned nephew slowly learns to appreciate the mill owner who lives nearby. A slow-building romance (on her side) and Deep Dark Secrets (on both sides) make this a really compelling and memorable read. (Signet, 1998) Continue reading

The Heyer Project: Part II – A Matrix O’ Heyer Tropes

Bugger, bugger, bugger — I started this over a month ago and emailed it to myself so I wouldn’t lose it. *sigh*

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In which I color-code a spreadsheet and compare The Grand Sophy to Curious George.

heyer_part2

Holy crap, I cannot believe it’s been over a year since Part I. I haven’t ruminated on my Balogh Binge yet either. I am such a slacker.

But then, sometimes things like this happen:

heyer_tweet

I am serious about this. I have never met any of you, but I seriously love you guys.

So this is me:

heyer_dug

Yes. I used a gif. Get over it. It’s Dug, so you can’t complain.

On to the good stuff! My initial foray into Heyer included (in reading order):

  • The Black Moth
  • FredericaPowder & Patch
  • Pistols for Two
  • April Lady
  • Cotillion
  • The Nonesuch
  • The Masqueraders
  • Black Sheep
  • Frederica
  • Venetia
  • The Grand Sophy
  • The Unknown Ajax
  • The Convenient Marriage

Since then, I’ve done all the rest on audiobook (all dirt-cheap from Audible thanks to Amazon’s nifty “Hey, You Really Need This Ebook On Audio Too, Just Give Us All Your Money And Be Done With It Already” feature). So a shout-out to Sourcebooks for their incredible $1.99 ebook sale way back when.

Round 2, in reading order:

  • Bath Tangle
  • farosdaughterThe Toll-Gate
  • Regency Buck
  • Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle
  • Sprig Muslin
  • Devil’s Cub
  • The Quiet Gentleman
  • Faro’s Daughter
  • Arabella
  • The Foundling
  • False Colours
  • A Civil Contract
  • The Reluctant Widow
  • The Talisman Ring
  • Friday’s Child
  • Cousin Kate

I’m only doing the romances (not the hist-fics or mysteries), so I think I only have a few left to go: These Old Shades, The Corinthian, Charity Girl and Lady of Quality.

That’s a lot of Heyer. And since this is all about ME, I made up my own Matrix O’ Heyer Tropes. There are many, many cross-overs, but this is how I find myself mentally categorizing them.

heyer_matrixView larger image!  |  View and comment(!!!) on the spreadsheet!

As I’m typing the list and re-color-coding the spreadsheet, I keep realizing how brilliant Heyer was in using the same tropes to tell very different stories. Continue reading

TBR Challenge: Kickin’ It Old School with Jude Deveraux

I missed the March and April challenges, but I am all over this one because MY FIRST DEVERAUXS. (Is that the plural? I’m going with it.) I had a hit and a miss.

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A Knight in Shining Armor (1987)

It was a DUD. I was DISAPPOINTED. There, I SAID IT.

A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux (1987)

My less-than-enthusiastic reaction can be blamed on:

The Susanna Kearsley binge.

I listened to The Winter Sea, The Firebird, The Rose Garden, and Splendour Falls, and read The Shadowy Horses and Season of Storms, so my standards for timeslip romances were raised ridiculously high.

Knight was undoubtedly romantic, and the time travel was entertaining, but I wanted the intensity and emotion of the chapel/churchyard scenes to be sustained through the whole story.

The awkward and uncomfortable narration.

I do NOT recommend the audiobook narrated by Steve West. It appears that he’s done several historical romances, but his performance on Knight had a lot to do with my negative reaction to the heroine (see below).

The over-the-top ex and his bratty daughter.

Halfway through the first chapter, my only thoughts were “Really?” A little subtlety would have gone a long way to make the opening of Knight a little more palatable. Instead, we get sledgehammered with caricatures.

And the fat-shaming of a 13-year-girl? REALLY? I don’t care how obnoxious the child was, or when this book was written, there is no excuse for that. I almost DNF’d by chapter two.

The heroine.

I hated Dougless. I wanted to slap her upside the head and say GOOD GOD WOMAN STOP WHINGING. She’s the prototype of the Ditzy, Klutzy, Family Fuck-Up and she annoyed me from beginning to end. All she did was whine, pout, plead and cry through the whole damn book.

Grade: C- (saved from a D+ by the perfectly perfect ending)

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The Insta-Love Annual Sappy Holiday Romance Binge: The Contemporaries

Officemates are playing incredibly crappy Christmas music at full volume, so I feel no guilt whatsoever about writing blog posts at work.

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Don’t Miss; Have Kleenex

Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham

  • Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat LathamTitle: Unwrapping Her Perfect Match
  • Author: Kat Latham
  • Series: London Legends, Book 3.5
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Holiday
  • Publisher: Self-Published (November 2014)
  • Source: Amazon ($2.99)
  • Length: 119 pages
  • Trope(s): Reluctant Heroine, Gentle Giant, Plot Moppet
  • Quick blurb: Celebrity bachelor auction + rugby injury = sexy times
  • Quick review: I loved the heroine even more than the hero.
  • Grade: A-

I love love love Latham’s entire London Legends rugby series, and everything about this novella absolutely worked for me. And if you haven’t read Mine Under the Mistletoe, read that too. *~*happysigh*~*

Off the Map by Tamara Morgan

  • Off the Map by Tamara MorganTitle: Off the Map
  • Author: Tamara Morgan
  • Series: Winter Rescue, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Holiday
  • Publisher: Self-Published (November 2014)
  • Source: Author
  • Length: 88 pages
  • Trope(s): Reunited, Dogs, Kickass Heroine, Grumpy Hero
  • Quick blurb: Helicopter pilot risks her career to help grumpy ex rescue his rescue dog
  • Quick review: I ♥ Tamara Morgan
  • Grade: B+

You’ll need the kleenex because you’ll be laughing so hard you’ll be crying. Morgan’s In the Clear is still tops on my DIK contemporary list (OMG, that shower scene *swoon* <thud>), and this one is going to be a frequent re-read as well. Also, it’s about dogs.

Hero’s Homecoming by Rebecca Crowley

  • Hero's Homecoming by Rebecca CrowleyTitle: Hero’s Homecoming
  • Author: Rebecca Crowley
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Holiday
  • Publisher: Carina Press (November 2013)
  • Source: Scribd
  • Length: 88 pages
  • Trope(s): Hurt/Comfort, Snowbound, Reunited, Kinda-Sorta-Big Misunderstanding
  • Quick blurb: Wounded war vet stuck in blizzard with former lover
  • Quick review: Three hankies
  • Grade: B+

At first, I was all, “WHY is she making this all about HER???” But I kept reading and then I cried.

Christmas at Waratah Bay by Marion Lennox

  • Christmas at Waratah Bay by Marion LennoxTitle: Christmas at Waratah Bay
  • Author: Marion Lennox
  • Series: Christmas Around the World
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Holiday
  • Publisher: Tule Publishing (October 2014)
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 120 pages
  • Trope(s): Enemies to Lovers, Big Misunderstanding, Family Drama
  • Quick blurb: Supermodel clashes with business tycoon when she returns home to visit her dying grandfather
  • Quick review: Ah, the glorious, glorious angst.
  • Grade: B+

I think Marion Lennox is going to be my next Author Binge.

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan

  • Maybe This Christmas by Sarah MorganTitle: Maybe This Christmas
  • Author: Sarah Morgan
  • Series: O’Neil Brothers, Book 3
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Holiday
  • Publisher: Harlequin HQN (October 2014)
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Friends to Lovers, Angsty Athlete, Kickass Heroine
  • Quick blurb: Smooching in the snow
  • Quick review: Everything I wanted it to be
  • Grade: A-

I wasn’t all that impressed with the first book in this series that everyone else adored, but this one pushed ALL my buttons. The only thing keeping this from an A+ was the over-the-top Evil Ex. Other than that, this has everything I crave in a friends-to-lovers story.

One Night in the Ice Storm by Noelle Adams

  • One Night in the Ice Storm by Noelle AdamsTitle(s): One Night in the Ice Storm
  • Author: Noelle Adams
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Holiday
  • Publisher: Self-Published (December 2012)
  • Source: Amazon
  • Length: 81 pages
  • Tropes: Snowbound, Brother’s Best Friend
  • Quick blurb: See tropes above
  • Quick review: See tropes above
  • Grade: B+

Snowbound with brother’s best friend = here, take all my money.

The Mistletoe Effect by Melissa Cutler

  • The Mistletoe Effect by Melissa CutlerTitle(s): The Mistletoe Effect
  • Author: Melissa Cutler
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Holiday
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s (October 2014)
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 200 pages
  • Tropes: Fake Engagement, Crazy Family, Cowboys
  • Quick blurb: Hotel heiress fakes engagement to ranch hand to preserve her family resort’s reputation
  • Quick review: I really can’t believe I actually like this.
  • Grade: B

I prepared myself for another caricature down-home yee-haw festival, but Cutler redeemed the Christmas Cowboy trope with this gleeful farce.

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Not Bad; Worth a Read

  • Snowed In by Sarah Title
    Insta-lust in the grocery store, but it still charmed me. Grade: B- (NetGalley)
  • The Kent Brothers Trilogy by Jaci Burton
    A bit predictable, but I loved the brothers’ banter. Grade: B (Purchased)
  • Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne ThayneSnow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne
    Pleasantly surprised. Debating whether to read more by Thayne…. Grade: B- (NetGalley)
  • A Yorkshire Christmas by Kate Hewitt
    The Cameron Diaz/Jude Law bits of The Holiday. But with sheep. Grade: B (NetGalley)
  • Christmas with the Laird by Scarlett Wilson
    Coworkers snowbound in derelict castle = take all my money. Grade: B (NetGalley)
  • Christmas in Venice by Joanne Walsh
    Angst-o-rama. Probably won’t read again, but it was a lovely reunion romance. Grade: B- (NetGalley)
  • Wild Holiday Nights anthology by Samantha Hunter, Meg Maguire and Debbi Rawlins
    Everyone should read this for Maguire’s snowbound-with-the-high-school-crush story. Grade: B (NetGalley)
  • A Family for Christmas by Noelle Adams
    Stretched the marriage of convenience trope quite a bit, but Adams still rocks the sexy inspie thing.  Grade: B (Purchased)
  • Unwrapped by Maisey Yates
  • Again a bit predictable, but lots of chemistry. Grade: B-

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Meh; If You Like That Sort of Thing

  • Her Holiday Man by Shannon StaceyHer Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, everyone else loved it. I found it so bland and boring I almost DNF’d it. It has none of the zing and chemistry of Holiday Sparks.  Grade: C- (NetGalley)
  • Christmas Curveball by Shari Mikels
    A snowbound-with-brother’s-best-friend that fizzled quite disappointingly. Grade: C- (Scribd)
  • Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber
    My first Macomber. It was OK. The second, not so much (see below). Grade: C (Library)
  • Love Finds You in Frost, Minnesota by Judy Baer
    I bought this because I have relatives that live here. I finished it. Grade: C (Purchased)
  • Snowbound Surprise for the Millionaire by Michelle Douglas
    More travelogue than romance, but I liked the heroine. Grade: C (NetGalley)
  • A Mistletoe Christmas anthology by Carla Cassidy, Cathy McDavid, Marin Thomas
    None of these really stood out. I don’t think I even remember any of them after a week.Grade: C- (NetGalley)

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Blech; Don’t Bother

  • The Christmas Violin by Buffy AndrewsMr. Miracle by Debbie Macomber
    Schmaltz to the Nth Degree. D+ (Library)
  • Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham
    Loved the premise, but the execution was a complete mish-mash of Way Too Much Going On. DNF (Scribd)
  • The Christmas Violin by Buffy Andrews
    I’m usually a sucker for anything involving musicians, but this crossed that Schmaltz to the Nth Degree threshold too. (Purchased)
  • Just in Time for Christmas by Kim Boykin
    The Sassy Southern trope just does not work for me. DNF (NetGalley)

More Audiobook Adventures

I am now wishlisting books by narrator. I am officially addicted.

Highly recommended….

That would be “highly recommended” as in “read this NOW, dammit, your life is meaningless without this book.”

The Book Thief by Marcus ZusakThe Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Narrated by Allan Corduner

I avoided this for years because it’s told from Death’s point of view. I was a dumbass. It’s stunning. From start to finish. I can’t even begin to count how many times I nearly drove off the road trying to bookmark a “holy SHIT, that was good” passage.

It’s one of those books that uses language in an entirely unique way. I kept thinking the title should be “The Word Thief” instead, because Zusak somehow manages to turn seemingly simple words and phrases into characters in their own right. Just read the prologue in the sample, you’ll see what I mean.

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One-Quote Review: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

I’m back. Did you miss me? Don’t answer that.

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The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

  • Title: The Sum of All Kisses
  • Author: Julia Quinn
  • Series: The Smythe-Smith Quartet, Book 3
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Avon, October 2013
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 373 pages
  • Trope(s): Enemies to Lovers, Big Misunderstanding, Evil In-Laws, Scarred/Injured for Life
  • Quick blurb: Heroine who holds a grudge is forced into spending time with the man who (according to her) ruined her life.
  • Quick review: This may end my auto-buy relationship with Ms. Quinn.
  • Grade: C-

“I looked out my window,” he choked out. “I looked out my window at half bloody three in the morning, and there you were, gliding across the grass like some sort of erotic specter.”

Rolling along with a B-level grade — totally predictable with all the usual fluff and banter and light angst  — and that lovely first kiss, and then… What the HELL happened? A ridiculously drawn-out Big Reveal sent the whole thing veering off the rails into a bad gothic melodrama like one written by Quinn’s fake-novelist creation Mrs. Gorely. I half-expected death by pigeon. Yeesh.