The Pianist in the Dark by Michele Halberstadt

The Pianist in the Dark by Michele Halberstadt

  • Title: The Pianist in the Dark
  • Author: Michele Halberstadt
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books, July 2011
  • Source: Purchased*
  • Length: 150 pages
  • Trope(s): Musician, Physician, Disability, Overbearing Aristocratic Parents, Good and Faithful Servant
  • Quick blurb: Celebrity physician attempts to cure virtuoso pianist of blindness.
  • Quick review: So much potential, so much disappointment.
  • Grade: D+

It was imperative that, upon being introduced to her, he be seized by sudden inspiration.

The Pianist in the Dark is based on the true story of 17-year-old virtuoso Maria Theresia von Paradis, the only child of a high-ranking Austrian diplomat. Maria Theresia has been blind since the age of three, and while she’s made a name for herself as a musician in music-mad 1770s Vienna, her father has subjected her to endless painful and humiliating treatments to restore her sight.

When famed physician Franz Mesmer — he of the “magnetism cure” for anxieties, neuroses, epilepsy and other “nervous disorders” — offers his services, Maria Theresia’s father agrees and send her off to live at Mesmer’s house/hospital.

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More Naughty Norsemen: The Bodice-Ripping Era

For round two of our romp through Viking romance, we’ll focus on three vintage titles from the beloved old-skool era of Forced Seduction, Logic Fail and General WTFery.

I didn’t finish any of these — I dragged myself through the first half of each, but couldn’t find any reason to finish.

We’ll start with the least painful and save the vomit-worthy one for last.

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One-Quote Review: The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry

  • The Other Side of Us by Sarah MayberryTitle: The Other Side of Us
  • Author: Sarah Mayberry
  • Series/Category: SuperRomance
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, January 2013
  • Source: Harlequin.com (currently free on Amazon)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Trope(s): Rebound/Starting Over, Obnoxious Exes, Beta Hero
  • Quick blurb:  TV producer recovering from horrific accident clashes and clinches with her soon-to-be-divorced new neighbor.
  • Quick review: Loved the mature characters, but over all it’s too tepid for a re-read — and I had to take points off for misuse of canine characters.
  • Grade: C

“So be afraid. Be angry. Be jealous. Be possessive. Be whatever you need to be. But please, let me come along for the ride.”

I suppose I was expecting something more vibrant like Her Best Worst Mistake, so this was kind of a letdown — and I have yet to find a Harlequin SuperRomance with any sort of “wow” factor.

While I loved that both main characters were in their late 30s, the arc of the relationship-building never really grabbed me. Oliver’s crucial episode of irrational jealousy, and Mackenzie’s reaction, were realistic and just angsty enough without being overwrought — but then the utterly useless epilogue threw me out of my short-lived happy place.

Also…what in the hell was the deal with the “haha, oops, puppies!” plot device? Is spaying and neutering not recommended in Australia as it is in the U.S.? The hero doesn’t remember that his beloved schnauzer spent quality time with a Doberman? And the workaholic heroine is going to breed her dog because “wire-haired dachshunds are really hard to come by…”? I need a few more question marks here — ?????

Maybe I’m overly sensitive because I’m still grieving for my shelter dog, but the irresponsible breeding is probably the one thing I will remember most about this book — and I doubt that’s what the author or the publisher intended.

One-Quote Review: The Rake to Ruin Her by Julia Justiss

The Rake To Ruin Her by Julia Justiss

  • Title: The Rake to Ruin Her
  • Author: Julia Justiss
  • Series/Category: Ransleigh Rogues, Book 1 (Harlequin Historical)
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Harlequin, February 2013
  • Source: NetGalley($4.61 ebook)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Horse-Mad Hoyden, Disgraced Nobleman, Marriage of Convenience
  • Quick blurb: Spinster recruits disgraced diplomat to ruin her reputation to avoid unwanted marriage.
  • Quick review: An unobjectionable but predictable read.
  • Grade: C

“Let me see if I understand you correctly. You wish to be found in a compromising situation with me, then have me refuse to marry you, so you would be ruined, which would prevent any honourable gentleman but your friend Harry from ever seeking your hand in wedlock?”

She nodded approvingly, as if he’d just worked out a particularly difficult proof in geometry. “Exactly.”

Julia Justiss was another one of my “gateway” romance authors, but this latest book won’t be on my favorites list. I was concerned by the title and the “Rogues” in the series name, and unfortunately it lived down to my lowered expectations by being a rather run-of-the-mill Regency.

I did, however, indulge in an extensive bit of comfort re-reading prior to diving into this one, so up next will be an overview of my Julia Justiss Backlist Binge.

Somewhere to Call Home by Janet Lee Barton

Somewhere to Call Home by Janet Lee Barton

  • Title: Somewhere to Call Home
  • Author: Janet Lee Barton
  • Series/Category: Love Inspired Historical
  • Genre(s): Historical (1890s US), Inspirational
  • Publisher: Harlequin, October 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($3.82 ebook)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Small-Town Girl, Private Detective, Mean Girl, Evil Banker
  • Quick blurb: Miss Mary Sue McGoodytwoshoes in the big city.
  • Quick review: I am restraining myself from unleashing the snark — but only because I couldn’t even finish it.
  • Grade: DNF

I made it to about 40%, and nothing had happened. Zero tension, zero drama, and zero indication of what the actual conflict might be. There was, however, plenty to make fun of.

I’m only going Half-Snark on this because (a) I didn’t finish it; and (b) it’s an inspirational. But all the ingredients of a “This Is Why People Make Fun of Harlequins” are there. Trust me.

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One-Quote Review: The Seduction of Elliot McBride by Jennifer Ashley

  • The Seduction of Elliot McBride by Jennifer AshleyTitle: The Seduction of Elliot McBride
  • Author: Jennifer Ashley
  • Series: Highland Pleasures, Book 5
  • Genre(s): Historical (Victorian)
  • Publisher: Berkley, December 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($7.99 ebook)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Trope(s): Angsty Hero, Perfectly Perfect Heroine, Reunited, Baby Epilogue
  • Quick blurb: Jilted bride is the perfect remedy for a tormented ex-soldier’s PTSD.
  • Quick review: A whole lot of angst, but none of the emotional intensity I expect from this author.
  • Grade: C

“You were light and life. You are heat, and I’m so damn cold.”

I’m not bitter about paying full price for this, and I’m definitely not giving up on the series, but Juliana was boring, Elliot wasn’t much different from every other scarred hero, and the HEA came *thatclose* to being a Magical Orgasm Cure.

One-Quote Review: Bewitching the Duke by Christie Kelley

  • Bewitching the Duke by Christie KelleyTitle: Bewitching the Duke
  • Author: Christie Kelley
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Kensington, December 2012
  • Source: NetGalley ($1.99 ebook promo, regular $5.99)
  • Length: 290 pages
  • Trope(s): Fiesty/Sassy/Saucy/Etc. Heroine, Angsty Grumpy Duke, Tragic Past, Big Misunderstanding(s), I Hate You Except When We Kiss
  • Quick blurb: Duke tries to evict local healer/midwife because of painful memories and unwanted erections.
  • Quick review: The title and blurbed worried me, and it just didn’t measure up to the fun of her previous books.
  • Grade: DNF

Dammit! This little hoyden had disturbed his thought process.

I struggled to reach my 33% decision point, and there just wasn’t anything different about this Regency to keep me reading. The dialogue was repetitive, the plot had yet to move forward in any meaningful way, and I never connected with either of the main characters.

Also: Important secondary characters are twins named Mia and Tia. That’s not a good way to encourage me to keep reading or, god forbid, buy their sequels.

However, I can recommend nearly all of Kelley’s backlist — her Spinster Club series has the smart heroines and swoony heroes and chemistry and romance and just-unpredictable-enough plots that Bewitching is lacking.