Book Review: CM Spencer’s Good Intentions

good intentions Title: Good Intentions
Author: CM Spencer
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: No
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Complimentary copy won via LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway

Victoria Larke vows never to marry a naval officer. She has nothing against them, it’s just that her father was one and was always way from home. Her mother wants her married and settled and her father takes the family to Bath in hopes of her finding a husband. There she meets two gentlemen, David and James. Both are smitten with her, but it’s James that pays the most attention to her; however, business calls him away and he bids Victoria goodbye. Upon his return to Bath he’s shocked to learn Victoria has married his good friend and he proceeds to hide his true feelings from her. Victoria wants James to be happy and makes it her mission to find someone worthy of his love. What ensues is a series of misunderstandings and lets James realize early on what type of woman he’d be happy with.

The writing is good and doesn’t sound too modern. In terms of characterization, it’s well done, but Spencer focused primarily on Victoria and James. At no point could I figure out why David won her heart. David was a patient man especially when a lot of the set ups ended up disastrous. One thing that doesn’t sit well and it is an incident involving Victoria and James. I won’t say what it is because it can be viewed as a spoiler. I did enjoy Victoria’s set ups and remind me a bit of Jane Austen’s Emma where she’s involved in all sorts of matchmaking and yet fails terribly. In each failed incident, I felt bad for James because I thought for sure he’d find his love and when it didn’t quite happen, I felt his disappointment. In this day and age we have the luxury of waiting around and dating until we find our significant other, but in the Regency period you were limited to what you could and couldn’t do. If you were lucky to find someone immediately then good for you and Spencer does a good job detailing the perils of trying to find someone in a period where it was pretty much hit or miss. Often times you could marry someone you thought was a good fit and turns out it isn’t. She did a great job showcasing that and I appreciate it.

In the end, Good Intentions falls flat. I understand the reason to focus primarily on Victoria’s attempt to set up James, but I wanted that “aha” moment. The moment the two protagonists fall in love and live happily ever after and we don’t that get that moment. For a good 60% of the novel, it’s about Victoria and James with Jemma in the background. When we finally get Jemma into the picture, she doesn’t play a major role in her own romance. I still can’t figure out when exactly James fell for her.

If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s books, you might be interested in reading Good Intentions.

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Book Review: Ashlyn Macnamara’s A Most Scandalous Proposal

prop Title: A Most Scandalous Proposal
Author: Ashlyn Macnamara
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Advance Reader Copy via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program

Julia St. Claire doesn’t believe in falling in love because nothing good can come of it. She’s witnessed firsthand the heartache and destruction that accompanies unrequited love. Her sister, Sophia, on the other hand, has spent the past five years pining for Earl of Clivesden, but he only has eyes for one of the St. Claire sisters. When Benedict Revelstoke, a long time friend of the St. Claire family, learns of Clivesden’s true intentions towards Julia, Benedict makes every effort to keep her away from Clivesden and in the process discovers that he loves her. Julia rejects Benedict until she’s betrayed by her father and suddenly she makes him an offer he can’t refuse.

The story is interesting, but lacks in depth characterization. Julia is a bit one sided and I was trying to understand her, but couldn’t. Sophia is a bit more interesting and the one I cared about the most. As for the men, Highgate’s personal history was interesting and you could feel the pain of his past. George Upperton, Benedict’s best friend, was personally one of my favorite characters and every time he made an appearance on the page, I smiled. In terms of Benedict, it would have been nice to read his gradual interest in Julia turn into love. Instead it happens overnight and there’s no hint of him having had these feelings prior nor are we given the exact moment he realizes he loves her. That “aha” moment is crucial to any romance plot because readers are on the same journey as our protagonists and if we don’t have it, then I feel we miss out on something that’s expected.

The writing is good and there are some funny moments. I particularly liked the scene between Highgate and Sophia discussing Pride and Prejudice. I loved how both of them were able to describe people they knew as characters. At one point, Sophia tells Highgate his sister, Lady Wexford, resembles Lady Catherine de Bourgh because she looks down on Sophia and her family. My favorite quote describing Highgate’s personal thoughts regarding his sister is: “He’d always thought their father would have made a sound investment in buying her a commission-preferably in India.”

Ultimately what makes this a three and not a solid four, are the different narratives that made my head spin and in the end, we didn’t get the one that really counted, that of Clivesden. What drives him to seek Julia instead of Sophia? While Julia assumes it’s because she’s perceived as a cold fish, I wanted to know more about him. We aren’t given much in terms of his personal history other than how he came into the title and he’s known to sleep around. In hindsight, I can see why he picks Julia because she is not attracted to him. Although Sophia’s heart is engaged, in the end, he would have made her life miserable, I doubt she would have grown to realize this had he showed any interest in her. Knowing Clivesden’s history, I doubt he would have cared for Sophia’s feelings and he’s not the chivalrous sort. Ultimately, Macnamara does a good job handling the shift in narratives, but wish she would have them drawn them out more. In the end, we have two romances taking place and despite the fact Sophia’s is secondary, her romance was the strongest. I wish Macnamara had focused on Sophia and Highgate’s romance primarily because it outshined that of Julia and Benedict.

Ashlyn Macnamara’s A Most Scandalous Proposal is a good debut and despite a few hiccups, I’m looking forward to reading more of her work. If you’re looking to try a new author, I recommend Macnamara.

Book Review: Cathy Maxwell’s The Earl Claims His Wife

the earl claims his wifeTitle: The Earl Claims His Wife
Author: Cathy Maxwell
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 2 of 5
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Borrowed from the library

I like Cathy Maxwell and it’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a book of hers. The Earl Claims His Wife is book 2 in her Scandals and Seductions series. I haven’t read the first book and don’t see a problem reading the series out of order; however, if you’re the type that doesn’t like to be spoiled then start with book 1 (A Seduction at Christmas).

I should start out by saying that I enjoy the abandoned wife plot in historical romance. Maxwell does a good job with a simple plot. After spending four years under Wellington’s command and fighting Napoleon, Brian, the Earl of Wright, returns to London; reluctantly he honors his father’s demands of returning and only because his two older brothers are now dead. Upon returning to London he quickly finds out his wife, Gillian, is not under his father’s roof, but instead has left to manage her cousin’s household. He writes demanding her return, but headstrong Gillian does not comply and he’s left to fetch her only to discover she’s in love with another man.

Gillian, in many ways, had the right to leave her father-in-law’s household. She spent four years being oppressed without a house of her own, whereas Brian’s mistress, Jess, had her own house. Gillian’s resentment towards Brian is justified and it doesn’t help Brian confesses he only married her because he was told to (yes dear reader he tells her about Jess). While spending time at her cousin’s estate, she meets a Spanish nobleman, Andres, and realizes he’s the man she wants to be with. Her aunt tries to knock some sense into her, but Gillian won’t listen and is prepared to take Andres as her lover and things were going according to plan until Brian shows up. Brian threatens a duel with Andres if she doesn’t return with him, Gillian agrees to return only to save the life of the man she loves. Little by little during their journey to London, Gillian sees glimpses of the man she fell in love with. Brian informs her that he needs her and he’s willing to give their marriage another chance. She agrees, but upon arriving in London she’s greeted by the sight of a child and she’s heartbroken for believing in her husband’s lies. Brian for his part tries everything to convince her to stay.

The heart of the novel is Brian’s father, the Marquess of Atherstone. Atherstone likes to control people and when they defy him, he goes out of his way to make them regret their decision. Brian very much defies him at every turn and only returned to London when he was forced. Atherstone has a position in mind for Brian, but Brian has a different idea. The question here is how powerful is Athersone? The answer, dear reader, is simple: very. Maxwell presents us with a worthy character who has a network of spies. I won’t say anymore because it does ruin the experience of reading.

A few people I’ve spoken with believe Gillian was fickle especially since she was so quick to discard Andres. I don’t believe that, but rather she never stopped loving her husband. She tells her aunt, she knew Brian was the one the moment she set eyes on him and when she realizes she still has feelings for him, she does the right thing and that is to inform Andres. As for Brian and his feelings for his mistress…I truly believe he knew deep in down Gillian’s character, but was so blinded by youthful infatuation he couldn’t see anything other than Jess. How many times have we held onto that perfect memory only to experience it again and have it shatter our soul because it was all a lie? Brian experienced what we all do and he comes to his senses. He knows he has a rare treasure of a woman and that’s his wife. The one thing truly missing from this book is a good grovel scene.

If you’re looking for a quick historical romance to read and have a few hours to spare then I recommend it. Just don’t look for in-depth characterization. It’s a fast paced read that will leave you satisfied with the ending.

Book Review: Wendy Vella’s The Reluctant Countess

The-Reluctant-Countess-by-Wendy-Vella Title: The Reluctant Countess
Author: Wendy Vella
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 2 out of 5
My Copy: Borrowed from friend

I’m not sure what to say about Wendy Vella’s The Reluctant Countess. From the synopsis it’s publicized as a Cinderella type plot and it has aspects of it, but Vella just falls short.

Synopsis:
Regal, poised, and elegant, Sophie, Countess of Monmouth, is everything that a highborn lady should be. But Sophie is hiding a past that is far from royal. When Patrick, Earl of Coulter, realizes that her story doesn’t add up, he resolves to find out the truth of what Sophie and her sister-in-law are concealing. Although Sophie has every reason to avoid him, the handsome and charismatic Patrick awakens something wicked deep within her soul . . . a powerful need that Sophie must stifle in order to protect her place in society.

Despite Sophie’s humble background, the raven-haired beauty has won Patrick’s heart. But what Sophie needs now is an ally. Viscount Myles Dumbly, the disgruntled former heir of Monmouth, is determined to expose Sophie as a fraud to recapture his lost inheritance. Soon Patrick is drawn into a fight for both their lives. Somehow he must find a way not only to rescue Sophie from poverty once and for all, but to keep her in his arms forever.

As for character development, there are some issues. The main problem for me is the villain. He’s introduced as hating Sophie and wanting to find out the truth behind her marriage to the late earl. Villains, especially those in a Regency romance do tend to be dastardly, but this one just was meek. A lot of things just don’t make sense. If the earl was dying and as the earl’s heir, wouldn’t he be there to protect his claim especially if there was talk of the earl’s apparent marriage? Speaking of marriage…Sophie married the earl on his deathbed and her son becomes the heir, hence displacing the villain. Here’s the thing… her son turns out to be her brother and of course her brother was already born when Sophie married the earl and therefore cannot be the heir! I understand being out in the country and away from London gossips, but here’s the thing- communities were small enough that people would be aware if the new mistress of the house was pregnant. Servants gossip and how in the world did the earl’s sister, Letty, manage to hush everyone up in the household is beyond me, unless they fired the lot and only retained a few in confidence. I can suspend disbelief, but in this situation it just doesn’t work for me. At one point the villain confronts Sophie and she says something to the effect of, “you got a title passed to you.” What title was that and why isn’t it attached with the others? You can’t just pick and chose with titles will pass just like you can’t pick out of a hat who your heir is going to be.

I didn’t find Sophie and Patrick’s romance all that convincing. It seemed to me she married him because she didn’t have a choice. Obviously marrying Patrick offers some protection (ahem from the possibility of the Ton finding out you weren’t married to your first husband), but I never got the impression Sophie loved Patrick. There wasn’t any indication of feelings of dislike and distrust turning into admiration and then love. It’s also never fully explained why Patrick was interested in knowing more about Sophie. It’s not like he had a claim on the title or was in any way a friend of the family. Yes, Vella writes he visited the earl a few days prior to his death, which again brings up the question of Sophie. Wouldn’t the earl have mentioned he’d married? Vella presents Sophie as a beautiful woman who pretty much keeps men at a distance. If Patrick was interested in her favors, I’d expect an author to describe his lust at seeing her for the first time or something to that effect, but we don’t. His sole purpose is to expose her as a charlatan, but then he changes his feelings regarding Sophie 25% in.

I do have to make note of the language because it sounded too modern. I know it is difficult to write a certain way, but for me when an author sets a novel in the past, I expect it to sound like a product of the time period or as close as possible.

I debated heavily with the rating. In the end, I gave it a two because Vella fails to execute the plot and problems regarding inheritance. I’ve read some well- written Cinderella plots in the past. Julie Ann Long’s To Love a Thief comes to mind as well as Pamela Britton’s Scandal.