Review: Death Comes to Pemberly

Death Comes to Pemberly
Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As a fan of Pride and Prejudice adaptations and spin off, I have read many of these types of novels. I was unimpressed with this novel, so much that I am not even going to do an in-depth review.  The book simply isn’t worth it.  . I felt the author did a disservice to Austin’s characters. They lacked personality and the entire book was one person after another worrying over something. The characters were bland, uninspired, and unremarkable.

The book also felt very fragmented to me and never allowed me to get into a smooth reading groove. I found the plot to be more like reading a newspaper report of an event rather than a novel. The author made an attempt to play off both pride (Wickham’s, Denny’s and the Colonel’s) and prejudice (everyone’s bias in regards to Wickham) but it just fails.

There are far better adaptations and spin offs than this one. Unless you feel the need to read all of them, take a pass on this one.

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Review: Love and Splendor

Love and Splendor by Patricia Hagan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

When Dani Coltrane flees to Paris, she leaves behind heartache and pain, and vows no man will ever control her. But then the proud heiress to the Coltrane dynasty meets the dashing nobleman, Drake, and her determination is rocked. Banished from Imperial Russia to roam the glittering capitals of Europe, he has an eye for beautiful art and beautiful women. Dani Coltrane possesses both a painting he covets and a loveliness he can’t resist. Drake is determined to make these treasures his.

From the sumptuous salons of Europe to the fabulous court of the Russian Empire, from the dark cellars of a chateau in Monaco to a deserted, danger-ridden palace, Drake pursues the headstrong and illusive woman. And as his cold obsession turns to soul-searching love, Dani’s resistance melts…until they are swept toward a stunning confrontation with destiny and the triumph of a love dazzling with splendor.

This book caught my interest due to the Faberge plot line. There is not much historical romance based in Russia or around the Romanovs, but it is a time period that I really enjoy reading about. I didn’t realize when picking up the book that it is one of a series, but that did become readily apparent upon reading.

Dani Coltrane is a spoiled nineteen year old reconnecting with her father and stepmother after her tumultuous past. She is suspicious of anyone trying to manipulate her and wants to exert total independence. The problem being she does not understand what independence actually means and she is constantly making selfish decisions in the name of independence. In fact she’s not far off what I imagine many 18-22 year old girls today can act like.

Drake is a Russian playboy, for lack of a better description. He has spent the last ten years or so in exile from Mother Russia and searching for the key to restoring his family honor (by finding the Faberge Egg). He is a womanizer and his moral code is pretty loose believing that behavior is justified so long as the intentions are good. He’s a snake that you want to like because you think he can change and grow up, but deep down you know it’s not true.

The best way to describe this book is Dynasty meets Jerry Springer. The author spends inordinate amounts of time describing how elegant, cultured, and sophisticated this family and their associates are only to have them open their mouths and act completely opposite. Dani can be shrew, demanding, and bratty. You expect Drake to be extremely refined, and at times he is. While other times he’s a complete ass. Both of them are oblivious to how their actions are seen or the havoc they cause, or they are just to rich to care. While atypically,you do not meet the hero until about 15-20% through the book, which was okay given how she presented the start of the story. But from there until about 75% through the book was horrible, three ring circus mess that seemed to go on forever.

There was no need for the Cole/Lily subplot line at all. It added nothing to the story except making me hate all the characters. Dani for being so wishy washy and such a teen. Lily was just horrendous and I absolutely expected a hair pulling cat fight between the two at some point. But even worse, the author perpetrated the myth that men just can’t control themselves, sexually, around any slightly attractive and willing woman. The only fairly explicit sex scene in the book is Drake’s running dialogue of how much he can’t stand Lily, how much he dislikes her and doesn’t want to do this, how he thinks Dani may be the one, all while he’s pounding away at Lily. Of course, this was a repeat of Colt’s inability to control himself around Lily either, but at least he thought he liked her. If your going to have the hero of the novel be unfaithful, at least let it be for a better reason then he had some slight desire, she was there, and well I just can’t stop myself.

The author gets around to pushing the actual plot of the story in the last 25% of the novel. This entire plot is extremely rushed and ends up being an afterthought in the novel. Also, Dani and Drake finally coming together is so shallow. He tells her his family story and she forgives his lying cheating ways. She does so, in spite of him currently lying to both her and Colt. All in all, the entire romance lacked maturity. It held the flavor that rich and beautiful (or handsome) was all that was needed to make a couple happy. This couple lack any depth and are barely tolerable let alone sympathetic or romantic.

Several times I almost gave up on this book. I started skimming at about 55-60% through just because I did want to know what happened to the egg. I half expected that plot to roll over to another book when it still had not been barely mentioned three quarters through the book. The resulting ending was unsatisfying and I wish I hadn’t bothered reading on. It would have saved me from being disgusted with both couples.

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Guest Review – The Hunger Games by my 12 year old son

Today we have a review of the Hunger Games from the perspective of the low-end of the target audience, my 12-year-old son!

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins,  is a thrilling book that takes place in the country of Panem.  The country is ruled by the capital which is intersected by 12 districts.  After a civil war and the 12 districts were defeated, the capital invented the Hunger Games.  The Hunger Games consist of 1 girl and 1 boy from ages 12-18 from each district.  These children have to fight to the death, on live tv, until one person remains for the reward of fame and fortune.

Katnis is the main character.  She is a 16 year old girl, from district 12, who takes her 12 year old sister’s place in the Hunger Games.  During the games she is resourceful and manages to get a bow and arrow during the games, her preferred weapon.  She is good-hearted and loves her family so much that she risks her life and faces death to spare her sister.  She is temperamental but it takes a lot to make her show it.  Katnis has two love interests, Peeta and Gale.

Peeta is the local baker in district 12 and has a crush on Katnis.  He is the boy representative from district 12 for the Hunger Games.  He is physical strong and works to help Katnis stay alive, including faking her death.  He ultimately betrays the other districts, which leads to serious injuries.

Gale is a minor character in this book and not a part of the hunger games, but it is implied that he also has a crush on Katnis.

I think the story is a good book because it provided a lot of suspense and thrills.  I really enjoyed the survival part of the plot and the author  makes you feel like your part of the story.  Katnis and Peeta indirectly revolt against the capitol’s control because they refuse to allow one of them to die and the other to live.  Instead the both agree to commit suicide with poisonous berries to end the Hunger Game with no winner, which would leave no point to the game.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series and hope those books are as exciting as this one.

Review: How the Marquess Was Won

How the Marquess Was Won
How the Marquess Was Won by Julie Anne Long
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Scandal Sheets call him Lord Ice.

Ruthless, cold, precise, Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, tolerates only the finest—in clothes, in horseflesh, in mistresses. And now he’s found the perfect bride, the one whose dowry will restore his family’s shattered legacy and bring him peace at last: the exquisite heiress Lisbeth Redmond.

She’s not afraid to play with fire…

But one unforgettable encounter with Lisbeth’s paid companion, Phoebe Vale, and the Marquess is undone: this quiet girl with the wicked smile and a wit to match is the first person to see through the icy façade to the fiery man beneath. But their irresistible attraction is a torment as sweet as it is dangerous: for surrendering to their desire could mean losing everything else they ever wanted.

I have so far enjoyed reading the Pennyroyal series, but I found this book disappointing.
Phoebe knows who and what she is but still wishes to be something more.   Despite being grounded she is a romantic carefree spirit with a lot of pride. Her character is delightful and refreshing to the series.
There are many words to describe Julian. He is restrained and precise, an anal retentive perfectionist who ultimately fears not only failure but loss of control over his very ordered world.   He is the trendsetter of the ton,  and because he fears any failure, even social ones,  he is ruled by the trends of his own making and the ton’s perception of him.
But the two don’t work together and Julian and the supporting cast are the reason why.   It was almost painful to watch the couple play out the same dance steps over and over.   Julian and Phoebe have great interaction,  then Lizbeth Redmond walks in,  demands her due and he goes all nutty over the “perfect” gal. It’s done over and over in the book, and drags the book down. The story would have flowed much better if the whole Lizbeth interest was dumped and had Julian fight himself over wanting a mere school teacher. Instead it came across more like a bad high school drama.
And the supporting cast makes it worse.   The characters are catty,  mean spirited brats that I thought I left behind in high school.   While the use of some of these characters can be successful in a novel they need to be balanced out by other nice characters.   That balance is severely lacking here and it makes it hard to like anyone in the book except Phoebe.   Most of the time Julian came across as the gloating worshiped high school jock teasing the quiet unpopular girl instead of her knight in shinning armor.
Even the ending was unsatisfying and childish.   Overall the book felt rather immature for my tastes and not what I expected from this author.   On the other hand Phoebe was an amazing character who deserved a better supporting cast.   What the overall story lacked was made up in the fresh and witty dialogues between Julian and Phoebe and that is what made the story.
I am looking forward to Olivia and Lyons story,  but I think I would rather see Lizbeth in a convent than get her happily ever after.   The author had better make her grovel and but her through some serious life altering events because she is one of those girls who needs her comeuppance and an easy HEA just isn’t right.   Karma should be in play and she,  and the rest of the supporting cast,  deserve it.

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Review: Highland Nights

Highland Nights
Highland Nights by Donna Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my favorite of the three sister’s books. I found both Fiona and Gregor to be compelling characters and a perfect fit for each other.

Fiona has difficulty opening up because she has felt abandoned all her life (by Moira). She want’s nothing to do with the prophecy or the man that has come to take her away. She firmly believes that she can seal away her heart, to protect herself from being abandoned again, and be the one to walk away from her family, her mate, and anything else that may harm her.

Gregor has a deep dark secret from which he feels he can never recover from. I happen to be a big sucker for hero’s with guilt trips, mostly because it shows just how deep emotions these types of men have. Because of this guilt, Gregor fights having anything he truly wants, family, friends, love, and it clouds his view of his actions. He always sees himself as being the mercenary, despite him acting like a good man.

Ms. Grant continues her theme of abandonment of Fiona over and over in the book, which helps the reader understand Fiona’s reactions towards Gregor and why she desperately both pushes him away and pulls him closer to him. This dichotomy also feeds Gregor’s misinterpretation of Fiona’s actions.

Unlike Glenna in the first book, the reader has better understanding of the depth of Fiona’s character and her actions make sense within the story that was created. I also thought the growth of Gregor’s character and his ability to not just trust and open up to Fiona, but also the growth of his friendship with Conall was both subtle and natural. As a reader, I was rooting for him to over come his past and was glad to see this flow well within the story.

Of course the overarching story plot was moved forward, secrets of the Fae and the couple were uncovered as we move on to the third book.

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Review: How to Seduce a Scoundrel

How to Seduce a Scoundrel
How to Seduce a Scoundrel by Vicky Dreiling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a nice follow up to Vicky’s How To Marry a Duke. While I found duke to be witty with a lot of comedy elements, Scoundrel is more like an emotional rollercoaster. It is set about 9-10 months after the previous book at the beginning of the next season. The story starts with Tristan (hero from Duke) asking Hawk (as introduced in the previous book) to watch over his sister Julianne (also in previous book) for the season (due to Tessa – Duke’s heroine, is having a baby).

Julianna hasn’t changed much from the previous book, she is still impish and a bit immature. You find out more in the book regarding her insecurities stemming from her father’s rejection and how it colors all her actions. There were times I just wanted to shake her because of how she handled a situation, which made things worse. While she wears her emotions, she also hardens herself from even taking chances from fear of getting hurt. It is only over the course of the book that she can learn to actually love like a woman instead of girlish fantasy.

As for Hawk, he is a man who has deep remorse for his actions. He understands that he continues to hurt people (his mother and sisters) but is so caught up in his grief and remorse of his youthful actions that he cannot stop the endless of cycle. He clearly feels he can never overcome this single incident and does not deserve to. Hence why he also feels he can never act on his feelings for Julianne. Not only would it hurt his relationship with his family, but he feels completely unworthy of not only being happy but of being loved. By the end of the book (and through my entire 2nd reading) Hawk is the type of man that woman should want

While a deep dark secret that the hero has to overcome in his past stereotypical line for a romance novel, it is pulled of here with such emotion that tissues should be kept at hand. For about the last 20% of the book you watch Hawk not only confront his past but move on from it, while also getting a 2nd chance at what he never thought he would have. It is absolutely heart wrenching and the way he handles the entire situation underscores the type of person Hawk is.

It is not until these scenes that the reader understands why Julianne and Hawk had to tear apart their relationship in order to get their happily ever after. The Julianna at the beginning of the book would never had understood or accepted Hawk’s secret. She had to have her childhood ideals of him destroyed so she could see him as he is, a flawed man who’s made mistakes and needing helping moving forward from them. Her dellusions must come down in order for her to mature and be the person who helps him move forward. And you can watch Julianne change, look at her actions, and the consequences of them and both accept those consequences and try to prevent them.

I also adored the Character of Aunt Hester. For those that read Duke, she is the meddling busybody character that Tristan’s mother was. She was a perfect balance between Hawk and Julianne and I hope to see more of her in the next book.

I have read this novel twice, once before Duke and once after. While it can be read all by itself, the characters of the book have much more depth and come to life if you already know what goes on in the previous novel (as almost all the characters show up in Duke)

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