Holy crap, I love this WordPress theme so much I’m going to keep it ALL YEAR LONG. No, I haven’t started drinking yet, it’s only 11:15 a.m. on a Tuesday.
- Title: The Prize
- Author: Julie Garwood
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): Historical (Medieval)
- Publisher: Pocket Books, August 1991
- Format: Audio CD narrated by Anne Flosnik (Brilliance Audio, 2009)
- Source: Public library
- Length: 408 pages (10 CDs, 12.5 hours)
- Trope(s): Conquering Hero, Dimwit Heroine, Battle of the Sexes, Newlywed Woes
- Quick blurb: Saxon maiden vs. Norman warrior
- Quick review: Not a good choice for my first commute-time audiobook, or my first Garwood.
- Grade: C- for story, D- for narration
He never knew what hit him.
I’m glad that’s over with. Also, I now know who Kathryn Le Veque has been reading for inspiration.
The Prize is set in 1066 England, with William the Conqueror on the throne in London and his minions crawling the countryside to claim Saxon holdings. One of those minions, our hero Baron Royce, gets clobbered on the head with a stone flung by our slingshot-wielding heroine Nicolaa, a feisty (god help us) Saxon maiden determined to defend her family’s home.
When he regains consciousness, Royce and his men overtake the manor, mostly thanks to Nicolaa’s idiot older brother abandoning her to “go north.” Our spunky (god help us) heroine disguises herself as a nun and claims sanctuary at the nearby abbey where her other brother is recovering from a serious injury. Royce feels all tingly in his manly parts upon meeting the beautiful young nun, but he manages to get them to the convent without disturbing her maidenly essence.
Somehow, Royce manages to figure out that Nicolaa isn’t really a nun, which allows the tingling to burst forth into full-on mental lusting. Nicolaa is too busy swanning about denouncing the Normans and pronouncing things about her family’s honor to notice much about Royce. Except for the fact that he smells good.
After some unimportant secondary character nonsense, Royce forces Nicolaa out of the abbey and on the road to London, where she’ll be auctioned off as the titular “prize” to a deserving Norman lord. Nicolaa insists on bringing along her infant nephew, who she claims is hers by her deceased husband. There is no mention of a wet nurse, so I have no clue how this poor child is being fed, and we get a first glimpse of our heroine utter cluelessness as she flounders to explain the chronology of her fake husband’s death and her pretend child’s birth.
At some point early in the road trip, Nicolaa decides to escape. She does this in the dead of night, with no plan of whatsoever. No food, no weapon, leaving her infant “son” in the hands of god knows who – but she’s sure nothing will happen because she knows the territory. She then promptly falls into a ravine and twists her ankle. She starts to call for help, but – never fear – hero Royce is near. He followed her, because he’s not a clueless idiot.
- Title: Never Too Late
- Author: Amara Royce
- Genre(s): Historical
- Publisher: Kensington, May 2013
- Source: NetGalley
- Length: 226 pages
- Trope(s): Bookselling Widow, Angsty Nobleman, Age Gap, Blackmail, Deep Dark Secrets
- Quick blurb: Young viscount falls in love with the older widow he’s been blackmailed into ruining.
- Quick review: A bit uneven, but I’m really looking forward to this debut author’s next title.
- Grade: B-
“I will never be done with you,” he said, low and fierce.
While I had issues with the rather melodramatic plot and the heroine’s Deep Dark Secret, I loved Royce’s voice and storytelling. The hero and heroine were equally compelling, the relationship-building was spot-on, and the sexy times were hot.
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.
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.
We’ll subtitle this post….
The maiden voyage
As part of my Haul of Half-Off Harlequins, I wound up with two Viking romances, chosen primarily for the snark value. Unfortunately, both were actually pretty good.
But, of course, these books kicked off a Viking-theme book binge, which dredged up one ridiculously fun PNR mashup, several “meh” examples, and one so-called “classic” that left me cringing.
Before we set sail, I must admit I know fuck-all about actual Vikings or Norse mythology. I did learn that the proper homage to Thor for a successful pillage was a goat sacrifice, and you know how I feel about goats.
ANYWAY, it’s time to put on our pointy-horned hats and go raiding.
- Title: The Lady Most Willing…: A Novel in Three Parts
- Authors: Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway
- Series: Lady Most, Book 2
- Genre(s): Historical
- Publisher: Avon, December 2012
- Source: Edelweiss ($5.69 ebook)
- Length: 385 pages
- Trope(s): Insta-Love, Amusing Abuction, Impoverished Rake, Stuffy Duke/Earl (one of each), Red-Headed Smart-Mouthed Scottish Lasses, Surprise Virgin, Loud Laird
- Quick blurb: Drunken laird and his kilted kin kidnap fair maidens as potential brides for his nephews, and accidentally abduct a duke at the same time.
- Quick review: Banal and predictable.
- Grade: D+
Hell was obviously freezing, decrepit and located in the Scottish Highlands.
I loved 2010’s The Lady Most Likely — the balance of stories was great, with one insta-love, one childhood-friends-to-lovers, and one sibling’s-best-friend-from-afar. And more importantly, each couple and their courtship was unique and memorable.
The Lady Most Willing, however…. Blech. Blah. Boring. Four — count ’em FOUR (4) — insta-love quickies with only the barest hint of characterization. The only exception was foul temptress Marilla the Maneater and her Cleavage of Doom, who was so ridiculously vamped up it was almost embarrassing to read.
I considered going with a C- grade, but these are authors who have given us much, much better in the past.