Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas (Oct 2015)
When Lisa Kleypas was strictly a historical romance writer, I read everything she wrote. I didn’t follow her when she switched to contemporary romance because I’m selective about the books I read from that subgenre. Then about 18 months ago she jumped back into historical romance with Cold-Hearted Rake. I’m not really sure why now, but at the time I wasn’t interested in reading the book. I know I sampled the first chapter and didn’t fall in love with it, so I put it aside. However, when it was announced that Kleypas would be publishing a sequel to her much-loved book Devil in Winter this year, I knew I wanted to read that. Turns out that book, Devil in Spring, is actually the third in Kleypas’s newer trilogy so a colleague talked me into starting at the beginning with Cold-Hearted Rake.
I was not disappointed. I had forgotten what an awesome writer Kleypas is. The one word I would use to describe her writing is: Rich. She includes so much detail, whether it’s setting, characters, emotions, actions. She does not skimp on anything and reading one of her books is like enjoying a layered confection–with icing on top.
This is the story of Devon, the new earl of Trenear. His cousin died, leaving Devon an ancient house in need of repair, tenants farms that are struggling, a mountain of debt, and oh yes, a young widow, Kathleen. Devon and Kathleen get off on the wrong foot when Devon initially decides to sell the estate and kick Kathleen and his 3 female cousins out the door. He eventually softens and puts his heart and soul into trying to revive the estate. Along the way, he and Kathleen fall for each other of course. I came around to liking Devon a lot sooner than I did Kathleen, though honestly I wish the two of them had spent more time together. While I enjoyed reading about Devon’s brother West (please tell me he gets his own book), I thought there might have been a little too much time spent on secondary characters and their issues when the book should have focused on the main couple.
I wouldn’t say that this book is as good as Kleypas’s older historical romances, but it’s still really good. I finished this one and immediately downloaded the next one, Marrying Winterborne. I’m not going to blog about that one but let’s just say that I was never captivated by it and ended up skimming through the end. I’m hoping for better things from Devil in Spring.
Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (Jan 2016)
I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read Beverly Jenkins so she was my “new to me author” this month.
Though published in 2016, this is an old-school romance. And I mean that in a good way. Jenkins builds a community here with a wonderful cast of secondary characters who enrich not only the story, but the lives of the main characters as well.
I loved the premise of this story. The heroine Eddy is an independent woman who decides to move from Denver to San Francisco. While she encounters some kind and generous strangers along the way, she also meets a not-so-nice stranger and ends up stranded in Virginia City, Nevada. The hero, Rhine, is a former slave who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War. His mother was a slave; his father the slave owner. After the war, Rhine decided to pass as a white man and has built up his fortune and reputation in Virginia City.
As Rhine and Eddy fall for each other the main conflict is that he is supposedly white, she is black, and any relationship between them is fraught and marriage is illegal. I was hoping for an emotion-filled story that would include a gut-wrenching climax for this couple. Unfortunately that’s not what I got. I was underwhelmed by how their story played out and was hoping for much more for these characters I cared about. The ending was rushed and the “villain,” Rhine’s scorned ex-fiancée, felt tacked on.
I liked Jenkins sense of humor and her descriptions. I think if I read another I would choose something from her backlist.
Sweetest Regret by Meredith Duran (Nov 2016)
Well, I’m starting the year off right by getting my TBR challenge done on time. Woohoo! To add to that sweetness, I really liked this novella. In fact I liked the novella so much I wished it had been a novel. That can be a knock against a shorter story and I will admit I wish this one had been fleshed out to a longer length because I enjoyed spending time with the hero and heroine.
Georgiana, the daughter of a diplomat/spymaster, and Lucas, said diplomat’s underling, hit it off two years ago. Both thought the other was unique and they enjoyed each other’s conversation. Georgiana thought things were heading toward a possible proposal when Lucas abruptly left town without even a goodbye.
Fast forward two years to a Christmas party at Georgiana’s father’s house. Her father has been entertaining some foreign diplomats and showing them the delights of an English Christmas when he’s suddenly called away. He leaves Georgiana to see to the guests but also to search their rooms to see if one of them stole some incriminating papers. As you can imagine, Georgie is less than thrilled about this task and even more so when Lucas shows up, sent by her father, to help her.
The romance between Georgiana and Lucas is sweet and they are both such earnest, honest characters that I was really rooting for them. Their efforts at putting on a holiday display for the guests and also searching for those damnable letters are an enjoyable read.
I easily guessed what it was that drove Lucas away from Georgiana in the past but that’s okay because I really admired the way Duran handled that at the end of the story. No spoilers, but it was gratifying to see this person’s deception handled in a realistic and meaningful way that didn’t excuse it.
It’s still January, so if you aren’t all holidayed out and are looking for a short, fun read, you won’t “regret” this one (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Two thumbs up from me!