One-Quote Review: Gambling on Love by Nancy Fraser and Patti Shenberger

Gambling on Love by Nancy Fraser and Patti Shenberger

  • Title: Gambling on Love
  • Author: Nancy Fraser and Patti Shenberger
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Entangled (Scandalous), April 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 87 pages
  • Trope(s): Runaway Debutante, In Disguise, Slavery, Gambling,
  • Quick blurb: Southern belle hires riverboat captain to transport her father’s former slaves to safety.
  • Quick review: Not painful, not much there.
  • Grade: C-

Instead of a quote, I will make reference to the six (6) times the word “teat” is used in this story. Hence the minus added to the letter grade.

I don’t have much to say about this one — nothing too objectionable, but nothing memorable. The middle sagged with no real conflict, and the heroine was Little Miss Perfect throughout the story.

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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One-Quote Review(s): The Wild Quartet by Miranda Neville

The Second Seduction of Lady by Miranda Neville

  • Title: The Second Seduction of a Lady
  • Author:  Miranda Neville
  • Series: The Wild Quartet, Book 0.5
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, October 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($1.99 ebook)
  • Length: 100 pages
  • Trope(s): Ruined by a Rake, Big Misunderstanding, Wicked Wager
  • Quick blurb: Five years after a torrid encounter, a repentant gentleman gets a second chance with the stubborn woman he still loves.
  • Quick review: Nothing heart-stopping, but everything a prequel novella should be.
  • Grade: B

It wasn’t a deep kiss but a slow investigation of taste and texture, a scouting trip with the promise of a full exploration.

This novella wasn’t  an all-out swoon, but I loved how the quiet moments between Max and Eleanor showed a more mature and hard-earned romance in contrast to the ill-fated insta-love of their impulsive wards.

The Importance of Being Wicked by Miranda Neville

  • Title: The Importance of Being Wicked
  • Author:  Miranda Neville
  • Series: The Wild Quartet, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, November 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($7.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Gambling Fever, Widow, Beta Hero, Big Misunderstandings
  • Quick blurb: Staid duke in need of an heiress is enthralled by his intended’s impetuous but impoverished chaperone.
  • Quick review: A bit iffy in the middle, but a full-swoon ending makes it worth the read.
  • Grade: B

The Duke of Castleton had been delightfully stuffy and teasable, and she’d managed not to make a fool of herself by leaping on him and ripping off his clothes.

Loved the relationship-building in the first half (especially the slug-fest at the masked ball), then got really annoyed with both of them, but they finally got their heads out of their asses and I got all swoony at the end.

One-Quote Review: Gambling Men by Amy Lane

  • Gambling Men by Amy LaneTitle: Gambling Men
  • Author: Amy Lane
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, M/M
  • Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press, May 2012
  • Source: Free from the publisher via NetGalley ($5.38 Kindle, $14.99 paperback)
  • Length: 220 pages
  • Trope(s): Friends-to-Lovers, Alpha Male, Beta Hero, Gambling
  • Quick blurb:
  • Quick review: A few too many heavy-handed metaphors take the focus away from the characters.
  • Grade: B-

And it was poker – the water they swam in; the air they breathed; the language they spoke; the solid, bass, masculine sound of love that had no soft edges.

I always love Amy Lane’s characters and gorgeous writing, but the combination of poker AND hunting metaphors got to be too much by the end.

Also: I think hairless dude on the cover must spend a LOT of money on manscaping.

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.

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A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

  • A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacleanTitle: A Rogue By Any Other Name
  • Author: Sarah MacLean
  • Series: Book 1 in the Rules of Scoundrels series
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, February 2012
  • Purchase: Amazon, $4.99
  • Tropes: Reformed Rake, Spinster, Gambling, Revenge
  • Quick blurb: Former childhood friends reunite as rake and spinster. With some gambling and revenge stuff thrown in.
  • Quick snark: Yawn.
  • Grade: D+

I’ve read and enjoyed all four of Sarah MacLean’s previous books – especially Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, which earned a spot on my favorites list for having a kick-ass heroine, a scholarly yet swoon-worthy hero and a surprisingly unique plot.

This one? The blurb had me slightly concerned even before I bought it:

What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets . . .

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them . . . even her heart.

Reformed rake, spinster, gaming hell. And this will be different because…?

I was never able to answer that initial question, because it wasn’t different. There is nothing here to set it apart from a zillion other formulaic Regencies. Asshole hero, waffling heroine, predictable plot, repetitive angst and pretty much devoid of any charm whatsoever.

I have no clue what happened between the author’s first trilogy and this big ol’ mess. I felt like Sarah MacLean just put her writer’s brain on autopilot to churn out something to give to her editor, expending little or no effort on creating good characters or a good story. And that left me as a reader feeling more than little insulted.

The only thing saving it from a straight D grade – or even an F – is the sequel-bait epilogue featuring the heroine’s bluestocking sister who decides she “requires ruination.” I’m a sucker for books about smart women; let’s hope the MacLean can do her justice.