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Posted by Guest Reviewer

C

Taming the Highlander

by May McGoldrick
September 6, 2016 · Swerve
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Omphale. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.

The summary:

This new historical romance from May McGoldrick pits one spirited lass against her biggest challenge yet: a Highland lord who has no desire to lose his heart.

Innes Munro has the ability to “read” a person’s past simply by touching them, but her gift comes with a heavy price: her freedom. Forced to stay at desolate Castle Girnigoe, Innes never expects to be drawn to the wounded warrior who haunts its dark passages and challenges her at every turn.

Conall Sinclair, the earl of Caithness, carries the scars of battles with the English and the lash marks of their dungeons, but the wounds that fester within give him even greater pain. Isolating himself from his clan and the rest of the world in a tower perched on the wild Scottish coast, Conall is reluctant to let the spirited Innes close to him, however neither can deny the growing passion that ignites with every look, every touch.

But can Conall ever love a woman who can read his darkest secrets and feel the pain he hides… and can love really tame all fears? As dangerous forces close in, Conall and Innes must take the ultimate leap of faith and forge a bond of trust that will save them both…or lose each other forever.

Here is Omphale's review:

Taking place in a Highland setting a few years after the Rough Wooing, this is the middle story in a trilogy about young women possessed of mystical stone fragments and attendant powers. Innes Munro inherited one of these stones from her mother, and can, by the power of touch, though only with her hands, read the current thoughts and past of others.

Innes accompanies her sister Ailein to the northern Highlands to attend Ailein’s wedding to Bryce Sinclair, the Laird of the Sinclair clan. While there she hears of Connal Sinclair, the Earl of Caithness, who has ceded title of Laird to his brother following his capture by the English and presumed death. Connal is reclusive, avoiding interacting with the clan while he recovers from his battlefield wounds (he loses his dominant hand) and subsequent imprisonment and torture.

I’m not an enormous fan of paranormal elements in my historical romance (I prefer my fantasy to be that everyone had good teeth and no dysentery), but I liked the way that Innes’ power is shown to be both useful (she can tell when people are lying) and restrictive (she not only sees their thoughts and memories but feels their feelings). Connal’s suffering post-trauma displacement with his role in the clan – essentially he’s given up the day-to-day responsibilities of running the clan, but he’s still using his title in external negotiations. He’s dealing with a fair amount of survivor’s guilt, as well as getting over the loss of his hand – all of which Innes learns in their first few encounters when she meets him without her gloves. She’s used to keeping her talent a secret, but also is keenly aware of how violating it is to use it, so she’s basically consigned herself to pragmatic spinsterhood.

So neither of them really thinks they can get involved with life in general, and are trying to keep themselves separate from everyone else. Obviously then, they keep meeting and keep being thrown together by matchmaking siblings and clanspeople. But their emotional conflict makes sense, they respect each other, and they start out with mutual friendship (even though they both have pantsy thoughts). They are two cautious souls who respect each other’s right to be prickly, and I liked that they were given room to get to know each other. Their courtship is ultimately satisfying.

(BTW, there’s external conflict with an evil man chasing the stones, and we meet H+H from the first book, but that kind of just wanders in and out of the storyline until the last quarter of the book.)

So H + H make sense as a couple, mystical elements are in service to emotional conflict, love didn’t fix them, but inspired them to fix themselves, and very little series-itis. All good stuff. So why the C grade?

The structure and pacing of the book is…weird. It reads as though there were originally going to be two stories about each couple (siblings Bryce and Ailein being the other) with interweaving story lines, but then at some point that idea was dropped and only Conall and Innes’ was told. This means that there’s this throughline about the mysterious death of Bryce’s first wife, Shona, who had been betrothed to Conall before his supposed death. It’s no spoiler to say that Shona was the Evil First Wife trope, which I’m sure most of us Bitchery types hate with a fiery passion. But usually Evil First Wife exists to provide an excuse for our hero’s reluctance to commit, ye-old-standby “I trusted an evil harpy, and now I hate all women” (or, if you’re reading Mary Balogh, “I trusted an evil harpy, and now my poor heart is so crushed that love terrifies me.”)

But Shona’s horribleness appears to have no effect on Connal, and very little for Bryce- although his and Ailein’s courtship is entirely conducted in the background. And Ailein is the main investigator into her death, and Innes is just kind of along for the ride.

Show Spoiler
And the end result of the mystery-solving is that nothing happens to the murderer, I guess because Shona was such a bitch? 

You see why I’m assuming there was more to the sibling-plot, right? Otherwise there’s just this kind of floppy storyline featuring an unhappy woman who died, whom nobody mourns, and whose life and death had little effect upon our main characters.

So, yeah, throw in a distractingly large subplot featuring a StrawBitch Trope, and I’m going to have dock you. In sum, there’s good stuff here, but the bad stuff outweighs my ability to recommend.

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I'm including a few Bella Books releases from October because a couple of my fellow Bella authors asked me to. And guess what? Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17. In A Woman of Strong Purpose, S. M. Harding has written a heart-pounding sequel to her romantic thriller I Will Meet You There.

Welcome to McCrumb County, Indiana, where retired Marine Corps Colonel Win Kirkland and Sheriff Sarah Pitt had hoped that their deepening relationship might bring some peace and order to their complicated lives. 

Freed from the closeted life after 25 years in the military, Win is fiercely out and proud—and ready for Sarah to move in. But the newly out Sarah has serious doubts about living as an open lesbian among her county’s conservative population. She longs to overcome her fear of exposure, especially since several gorgeous and exotic women seem intent on seducing Win—and she knows she could lose Win to them or to a bullet. 

Win and Sarah’s personal struggles are soon overshadowed by a series of local and international crimes that will blur the lines between hostility and horror, friend and foe, sacrifice and survival. 


How often have you read a book and thought, "But I want to know what these characters do next!" Authors can have that same impulse, leading to a series that moves beyond the first book's premise. When I finished writing Daughter of Mystery, my immediate thought was, "But what about Antuniet? What happens to her?" and hence The Mystic Marriage was inspired. Mother of Souls takes us further, not simply asking "what happens to these characters next?" but following the consequences of seemingly minor events in the previous books and tracing them down surprising new roads. Look for both A Woman of Strong Purpose and Mother of Souls (as well as many other books) on sale this weekend at Bella Books!

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

Dukes, Knitting, & More!

May. 28th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

Off Base

Off Base by Annabeth Albert is 99c! This is a contemporary m/m romance with forced proximity, as the two heroes seem to be roommates. One of them is also a virgin if that’s your catnip. Many readers found this to be a pretty satisfying read. However, some felt they wanted more depth and connection with the characters.

After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike’s flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike’s arrival would spark from Zack’s teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can’t refuse.

Pike Reynolds knows there won’t be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He’s an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he’s had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can’t risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.

Living with Pike crumbles Zack’s restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn’t know how to be the man Pike deserves.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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Sugar Daddy

Sugar Daddy by Sawyer Bennett is 99c! If the cover looks familiar, that’s because it was a former podcast sponsor. The book ends on a cliffhanger and I want to issue a trigger warning for rape. Readers loved the heroine and her need for revenge. However, the hero works for a man who runs a “sugar baby” organization. It’s honestly the thing that’s kept me from reading it yet. It has a 4.1-star rating on Goodreads.

Seduction has never been so sweet! The New York Timesbestselling author of the Cold Fury series—Alex, Garrett, Zack,and Ryker—returns with the first novel in a hot new trilogy.

Sela Halstead lost her innocence in a way that no sixteen-year-old should ever have to endure. She’s spent years trying to forget that night even while wondering about the identities of the monsters who brutalized her—until a telltale tattoo flashes across Sela’s TV screen. The incriminating ink belongs to Jonathon Townsend, the millionaire founder of The Sugar Bowl, a website that matches rich older men with impressionable young women. Obsessed with revenge, Sela infiltrates Townsend’s world, only to come face-to-face with a tantalizing complication: Beckett North, his charismatic business partner.

The tech mastermind behind The Sugar Bowl, Beck always gets what he wants, in business and in bed. And yet, for a man who’s done every dirty thing imaginable, there’s something about the naïve, fresh-faced Sela that sparks his hottest fantasies. Because with her, it’s not just about sex. Beck opens up to her in ways he never has with other girls. So why does he get the feeling that she’s hiding something? In a world of pleasure and power, the shocking truth could turn them against each other—or bind them forever.

Note: Sugar Daddy ends on a cliffhanger. Sela and Beck’s story continues in Sugar Rush and Sugar Free!

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This book is on sale at:

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An Improper Arrangement

An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels is $1.99! This is the first book in The Little Season series and features a romance between an American heiress and her chaperone in London. Readers warn that the book starts slowly, but many loved the banter between the hero and heroine.

Experience the drama of the Little Season in the first of a new series by USA TODAY bestselling author Kasey Michaels, in which three dashing war heroes have finally met their matches… 

Gabriel Sinclair has returned from battle as reluctant heir to a dukedom. As if his new responsibilities weren’t enough, Gabriel’s aunt enlists him to sponsor a young heiress through London’s Little Season. Yet Miss Thea Neville is hardly the tedious obligation he expected. She’s exotic and enchanting—and utterly unaware of the secret poised to destroy her family’s reputation.

After ten years in America, Thea is ready to do her duty and marry well. Deportment lessons, modistes, balls—the ton is a minefield she could scarcely navigate without Gabriel’s help. By rights, she should accept the first bachelor who offers for her. Instead, she’s succumbing to a dangerous attraction to her wickedly handsome chaperone—one that could unhinge her plans in the most delicious way.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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Knit One, Girl Two

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman is $1.99! This isn’t necessarily a sale, but it’s definitely something the Bitchery might be interested in. It’s a lesbian romance between two Jewish women and one’s a yarn dyer! Readers say it’s a cute and sweet romance, but mention it’s novella-length.

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

Fluffy Jewish f/f contemporary set in the author’s childhood home of South Florida.

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This book is on sale at:

Amazon

 

 

 

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

C-

Taming the Highlander

by May McGoldrick
September 6, 2016 · Swerve
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Christine. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.

The summary:

This new historical romance from May McGoldrick pits one spirited lass against her biggest challenge yet: a Highland lord who has no desire to lose his heart.

Innes Munro has the ability to “read” a person’s past simply by touching them, but her gift comes with a heavy price: her freedom. Forced to stay at desolate Castle Girnigoe, Innes never expects to be drawn to the wounded warrior who haunts its dark passages and challenges her at every turn.

Conall Sinclair, the earl of Caithness, carries the scars of battles with the English and the lash marks of their dungeons, but the wounds that fester within give him even greater pain. Isolating himself from his clan and the rest of the world in a tower perched on the wild Scottish coast, Conall is reluctant to let the spirited Innes close to him, however neither can deny the growing passion that ignites with every look, every touch.

But can Conall ever love a woman who can read his darkest secrets and feel the pain he hides… and can love really tame all fears? As dangerous forces close in, Conall and Innes must take the ultimate leap of faith and forge a bond of trust that will save them both…or lose each other forever.

Here is Christine's review:

When I first read the synopsis for Taming The Highlander by May McGoldrick I was very excited because it had so much of the catnip I enjoy in a romance novel, including a learned heroine, mystical stones and a tortured hero. Seeing it was an award nominee only whetted my appetite all the more. Once I started reading however, it became harder and harder to push through it. So many more intriguing books came my way that I gave it up for quite a while then had to talk myself into going back, rereading what I had forgotten, and finally finishing it solely because I had committed to reviewing it. The treat had turned into a chore.

Set in the Scottish Highlands of 1544, the heroine, Innes Munro has inherited from her mother a fragment of stone that enables her to not only “read” the emotions and experience of any person she touches but feel the physical sensations, including pain, that a person went through. Innes has used her talents for most of her twenty seven years serving as the chief advisor to her father, Baron Folais, clan chief of the Munros, helping to further the clan’s interests. For the past three years she has also been “reading” the suitors for her younger sister Ailein’s hand and reporting back to her all their flaws, mistakes and lies, causing Ailein to reject them, one after another. Having recently decided this was depriving Ailein of a chance to not only judge for herself, but marry, Innes refused to “read” laird Bryce Sinclair when he came to court her sister. Instead she relied on her sister’s “weak-kneed reaction” to the young, handsome and recently widowed Scot. Now Innes has traveled with her family to the castle of clan Sinclair for Ailien’s wedding. Knowing her “gift” will deprive her of having a husband and family of her own, and tired of her stepmother’s jealous criticisms, Innes is determined to carve out new life for herself as soon as she sees her sister married and settled. Seeing Bryce’s older brother’s portrait, then meeting the reclusive earl himself, stirs something in Innes, who immediately strikes sparks off of Conall.

The hero, Conall Sinclair the earl of Caithness, is a veteran of the Scottish wars with the English, to whom he lost his right hand and freedom until his younger brother Bryce emptied the coffers of their clan to free him from their dungeon. Long thought dead, Conall returned to find his younger brother made laird in his stead and his former betrothed had wedded his brother, become pregnant and died in suspicious circumstances all while he languished as a prisoner. Feeling Bryce deserves the title of laird, and stewing in guilt for the clan bearing the cost of his ransom, Conall chose to become a virtual recluse in their castle. Now that the wedding day has arrived and Bryce is to marry his beautiful and wealthy Ailien, Conall cannot help but but be drawn from afar to the bride’s older sister. With her serious demeanor, habitual black dress, ubiquitous gloves and streak of white in her dark hair, Innes is no beauty by conventional standards. Conall tries to resist the lure of her attractions but after Innes tumbles into his arms on the stairs he can think of little else. Standing between them is Innes fear that no man can accept her “gifts (as her father rejected her mother) and Conall’s belief he is repellant and unloveable due to his physical and mental scars.

Writing all of this out makes it sound much more interesting than it was to read. Both Innes and Conall are good initial concepts for characters, but McGoldrick never fleshes them out or does anything original with them. We are told that Conall lost his hand, is scarred and suffered terribly in his imprisonment, but he never struggles to adjust to being a one-handed warrior. He rides, catches Innes in his arms when she tumbles on the steep stairs and fends off other fighting men without any problems. Unlike other books, such as The Admiral’s Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly, where the military man has lost a hand, we never see Conall struggle with his loss or his dexterity. For a warrior whose entire identity centered around his fighting skills, It’s as if Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones just shrugged and carried on without missing a beat. Conall is solitary and has some nightmares but he never progresses from a cliche of a the boiler plate “dark and tormented” hero. Oh, and he has a tame wolf named Thunder, because of course he does.

Innes bored me a bit on my first reading and then started to grate on me by my second time around. She wears only black because she is “mourning the loss of innocence in the world” which sounds like the kind of pretentious statement one expects from an emo teen not an almost 30 year old woman. When her sister comes to her crying on her wedding night because Bryce, who had wooed and charmed her up to this point, suddenly did a 180 degree turn and declared they would have separate chambers and their marriage was just for procreating. Innes mostly takes Bryce’s side implying Aliein is being childish, that it is clan business and she better suck it up and thank Bryce for “covering” for her not wanting to have sex with him. In the meantime Innes plans her future where she will travel about where she wants, then eventually pick some convent to settle in. She has no intent to use her powers again or help her country or her fellow Scots in any way. Clearly she is unfamiliar with the concept of “With great power comes great responsibility.”

While Ailien is learning her new duties as wife of the laird, settling into her marriage, working hard and trying to find out the circumstances of Bryce’s first wife’s death, Innes goes for walks, refuses to attend meals in the hall with the others, sketches and tells Conall (who correctly points out wandering off unarmed and on her own is dangerous) that she does and will do exactly what she pleases. Must be nice. She also steadfastly refuses to use her powers to help Ailien find out why and how wife #1 “fell out a window.” Bryce is not under suspicion because he was “away” at the time, but if my sister was the most desirable and well dowered young lady in the Highlands (and even if she weren’t) I’d take a secret peek at her impoverished husband myself, just to make sure Ailien wasn’t married off to a budding Bluebeard. Or maybe I just like my sister a lot more than Innes likes hers.

When we finally see Innes use her well hyped powers, it’s a bit of a let down. Sure she feels Conall’s suffering when she brushes against him, but the guy just came back from a couple years in a dungeon after his hand was cut off in battle. You don’t have to be Sookie Stackhouse to pick up on his pain. I can’t predict what I will have for lunch tomorrow, but even I could suss out that much. Innes also astounds some young ruffians (and the Sinclair brother’s aunt Wynda) by telling the ruffians what village they came from and their mother’s name, but it seems like the kind of cold reading Sherlock or Patrick Jane from The Mentalist could just pull out of their memory palace, no magic stone required.

Innes and Conall eventually do become involved after a series of chess matches and meetings and every member of their respective families has either been scheming to bring them together or is completely thrilled with the idea. Everyone is also either oblivious to or completely fine with them having a lot of premarital sex. Ailien’s virtue was CLAN BUSINESS that had to be advertised at all cost on her wedding night, but Innes and Conall are above all these petty rules and customs that their siblings were subject to. When Conall finds out Innes’s secret there is a bit of angst (he doesn’t want to cause her pain) but it gets worked out pretty quickly.

Eventually the Big Bad shows up in the form of an Englishman who is marauding his way through Scotland, searching for all the pieces and holders of the original stone tablet from whence Innes’s fragment came.

Show Spoiler
By the time he shows up in the area, he has already picked up the terrifying skill of bringing people back from the dead by killing the previous possessor of this talent and taking their stone. As the power of the stone is not passed on unless the holder is dead AND their stone is taken by another, you would think Innes would do something sensible like: 1.) secretly bury the stone in the cellar of the heavily guarded castle she is staying in or 2.) entrust it to Ailien (who is next in line for the power) so that if Innes is killed Ailien will automatically succeed her 3.) put it any place other than on her person, so if she is caught there is no point in killing her and/or the power will not pass to whatever maniac is killing people for it 4.) have some secret pocket or specially designed place in her clothes to conceal the stone if she insists on foolishly walking around with it everywhere she goes.

Of course Innes takes none of these, or any other, sensible precautions, (despite being described throughout the book as uncommonly clever) so when she is betrayed by the secret castle villain, the toady of the Evil Englishman can just tear the pouch from her waist and triumphantly carry it to his master, leaving her to be murdered.

Of course Innes isn’t killed, the stone is taken by the E.E. to set up the next book in the series, Conall and Thunder save her and the couple from the previous book (whom I know nothing about and in whom I have no emotional investment in) show up in the nick of time to lend a hand and spread the prequel bait for their story. Innes and Conall get their happy wedding, anyone left with the stamina for it can follow the quest for the stones in the next book, and I have finally reached the end of my endurance test and assuaged my Catholic guilt over not finishing the novel previously.

I do however, still feel a bit guilty about my review because this is not a horrible book. It’s not an F or even a D grade. It’s just very, very mediocre. It’s actually the hardest kind of review to write because there is nothing to either gush or rave about. There is nothing new to be found here – which isn’t a crime in itself as I really enjoy tropes or even very simple romances if they are particularly well written, touching, charming or just fun. This book isn’t. This is the kind of book where nothing stands out. It’s not poorly written or outrageous. It’s….OK. It’s the kind of book that is damned with faint praise and in the golden days of yore would make its way to the used paperback store to get traded in for something better. It does make me wonder, as I often do this time of year, about how this C- book made it onto the list of finalists. Do people really think this is amongst the handful of best books in its genre published in 2016? Because sadly, I don’t.

History question

May. 28th, 2017 09:55 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
History question: does anyone remember the dates of the 1979 King Tut exhibit in Toronto? Aside from the year?

In the news

May. 28th, 2017 11:22 am
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[personal profile] vaughan_stanger
My recent talk on short story writing to the Thurrock Writers Circle, which I hugely enjoyed giving, made it into the local news!

~

To coincide with this event, which was the first of its kind for me, I've reduced the price of my two short story collections (Kindle edition only) on Amazon to just £0.99 / $0.99 for a limited time only.

Moondust Memories:   UK    COM

Sons of the Earth:   UK    COM

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Posted by Amanda

Sarah: Am I the only one who gets a little zing! of excitement with the production company logo and music at the start of a movie? I think it’s a leftover reaction from going to a movie as a kid – which was a Big Deal of excitement.

Carrie S: Clothes!

Elyse: My fashion goals are to have a cape like Dorothy’s.

Carrie S: Three minutes in and I’m already in love with Jane Russell.

Sarah: What lipstick is Jane wearing in the opening sequence? I love it.

Ah, vintage movie credits. I can have a shower in the time it takes to get through them.

Elyse: Is “those girls couldn’t drown” a boob joke?

Carrie S: I feel like we need to discuss the flesh colored swim trunks but word fail me.

Elyse: Holy skin colored swim trunks. I love how the ship conveniently has a gymnastics studio next to the pool. Also what the fuck is the Australian crawl?

Sarah: Carrie, I agree. There is absolutely no subtext to men in flesh colored swim trunks dancing, wrestling, and swinging on a pole. Nope.

Dorothy with a black and white checkered cape. The underside is made up of bright yellow fabric.

RHG: Fuckboy Gus looks like Charles Boyle from Brooklyn 99 and that’s a substitution that’s going to keep me ENDLESSLY entertained for a while. All weekend, probably.

Sarah: Ok, when Junior Esmond walks through the backstage area on the way to Lorelei’s dressing room, he looks at all the women, and looks utterly confused what he’s doing there.

Elyse: I love Dorothy. LOVE her.

RHG: Jane Russell is the best, hands down. I want to get drunk with Dorothy and talk shit. Or with Jane. Both of ‘em.

Sarah: I love Dorothy’s confident sexuality.

RHG: RUNNING, why? “Sure it keeps you healthy, but at what cost?”

I deeply appreciate this workout scene. My face and Dorothy’s face are the same face and we would absolutely be best friends for ever. “I like a beautiful hunk of man.”

Dorthy is agog at a man flexing his biceps.

Sarah: “Nobody chaperones the chaperone.” And a thousand historical romances were born.

“Dibs on the shot putter.” Again, a thousand romances were born. Probably contemporary but I can be flexible.

Carrie S: When Lorelei and Dorothy walk into the dining room together there’s no lesbian subtext all. Nope. Not a bit.

Sarah: The choreography is something else – I don’t think their rib cages moved at all.

RHG: It’s nice to see actual dancing after that abhorrent remake of Dirty Dancing the other night with low energy, lackluster, barely dirty dancing.

Carrie S: I can’t figure out why I so very much want Lorelei to have love and riches even though she has the morals of a boa constrictor.

Sarah: Lorelei threatening to have her meals in her room so the head waiter has to give back his bribes – ma’am. I am so impressed.

Carrie S: Lorelei’s grand dismissal of annoying men is my everything.

Elyse: “The human ferret” is my new favorite insult.

Sarah: “Did you ever hear of a rich pole vaulter?” A thousand romances born? Well, maybe not a thousand. Maybe a six.

RHG: Oh, he’s good. Malone is VERY good at his job.

Ah! Elliot Reid reminds me of Christian Borle, especially in “My line? My most effective one is to tell a girl she has hair like a torch at midnight, lips like a red couch in an ivory palace that I’m lonely and starved for affection. Then, I generally burst into tears. It seldom works.”

Sarah: “You might be interested in my tiara.” I’m going to say that randomly, when I have a tiara in my bag. Which means I need to get a tiara to keep in my bag.

RHG: I’m going to start carrying around a tiara. Just in case. You never know when you might have a tiara emergency. “I just love finding new places to wear diamonds!” LOL.

Carrie S: OMG Lorelei is a terrible person. Blackmailing a dude to get a tiara is low, honey.

Sarah: Who packs a tiara in a leather briefcase without padding?

Elyse: Life goals: Needing 4 bellboys to unload my taxi…Except it would be all yarn and books, probably.

Carrie S: THAT SHADE OF BLUE THO. WE ARE NOT WORTHY.

Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) in a gorgeous deep blue dress.

Sarah: And Carrie, that cobalt dress…we are indeed not worthy.

Elyse: This movie is pure clothes pr0n. Except the cone bras. Those are a little scary.

RHG: The costumes in this are STUNNING. OMG.

Sarah: The fact that I’m really enjoying this movie and that it’s a musical is surprising.

Elyse: Where do these women buy their lipstick?! It survives kissing…getting knocked in the pool…like a million cocktails…

Sarah: Dorothy is making me rethink pantsuits.

Dorothy has a pink lipstick now – and I don’t wear pink but I like it. I need makeup lessons from whomever chose her cosmetics.

RHG: THAT IS A VERY LARGE LISTENING DEVICE. “If you’ve nothing more to say, pray, scat.” BRUTAL.

Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) telling a dude that if he has nothing more to say, pray, scat.

Sarah: Malone would make a terrible paparazzi. And I defined about sixteen abdominal muscles cringing at Piggy’s tales of Africa. Good grief.

Carrie S: I’m disappointed by the wedding dresses. I thought they’d be more outrageous.

Sarah: I was not expecting tea length wedding dresses and lace.

Lorelei and Dorothy's matching tea-length, lace wedding dresses.

Elyse: I don’t understand why the chandelier is made of women. Or the candelabra. HAVE THEY BEEN CURSED?!

Carre S: I love the female friendship and I love the tenacity with which the women go after what they want from life. It was a lot of fun! Also we have to provide a gif of Monroe smacking guys with her fan and saying “No, no no no no no” cause that’s the best.

Elyse: I adore the fact that Dorothy and Lorelei support each other unwaveringly. They may not always agree with each other, but they love and protect each other. I will watch/read that story always.

Sarah: I love that Lorelei and Dorothy’s friendship is immutable. They both know each other’s flaws and habits, but they defend one another and protect each other. And they’re honest about the circumstances they’re in, and don’t condemn each other for doing what they want, and going after what they want. I love that about this movie.

I also love their exchange:

“It’s just not fair.”

“Of course it’s not.”

They’re going to help each other and look after each other because nothing is fair.

RHG: That was charming and adorable, and I feel like Marilyn Monroe was a much better actress than a lot of people give her credit for. Sure, lot of people can do the breathy, “Oh my, isn’t that interesting?” thing, but to do it with enough layers, and being able to let the camera see the machinations behind it all? Noice. Pity that most people now seem to see just the hair and the boobs and the legs.

Elyse: “Really, then why are you wearing that hat?” I LOVE DOROTHY.

“You hold your breath till I call.” I LOVE HER EVEN MORE

RHG: Dorothy and I would TOTALLY be BFFs. We’d be salt-mates. It would be amazing.

Sarah: It’s hard to grade this because through my present-day lenses (all four of them) there are some cringe-tastic moments. I’m generally not a fan of musicals. (WHY. WHY DO YOU BURST INTO SONG AND DON’T KNOW YOU ARE SINGING WHY.)

It’s not perfection but it’s very close. B+

RHG: I’d agree on the B+ grade…although, thinking back to the dude workout song, that pushes it up to an A- for me. I do love me a beautiful hunk of man.

Elyse: This was super fun. I liked the romance but I loved the female friendship and the clothes were AMAZING. I agree with B+/A-.

Did you watch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes along with us? Do you have a favorite costume? Are you more of a Dorothy or a Lorelei?

A good but tiring day

May. 27th, 2017 08:24 pm
oursin: Sleeping hedgehog (sleepy hedgehog)
[personal profile] oursin

Even though I had a reasonably decent night's sleep last night.

Good meetings with people and good conversations, some tasty food, a panel that (I think) went fairly well even though it was in the room I hate, with the speakers on a platform and a spread-out audience, and cold. (One might also mention the single microphone that had to be handed back and forth among the panel.)

Also managed to get to a couple of other panels.

Was contemplating the Tiptree Auction but felt some recharge time alone was necessitated, May go to the parties for a little while, but am already feeling a bit that what a hedjog wants is a nice cup of Horlicks and a Nice Book to go with it.

X-Men recs?

May. 27th, 2017 06:53 pm
yhlee: chessmaster (chess pieces) (chessmaster)
[personal profile] yhlee
If I wanted to read X-Men with an emphasis on Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost (not necessarily all at once--for example, I'd love to read about Emma all by herself), where are good places to look? Comics continuity confuses me. I read New X-Men a long time ago but that's pretty much where my knowledge begins and ends (unless you count the MMO, which I haven't played for some time because I don't have time to play computer games these days :p).

I prefer things I can get as trade collections because there's pretty much zero chance I can afford to chase down individual comics. XD

(This has been brought to you by wasting time by reading Cyclops' TV Tropes page.)

A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen

May. 27th, 2017 06:00 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

B+

A Duke to Remember

by Kelly Bowen
July 26, 2016 · Forever
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by MiddleClassManhattan. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.

The summary:

Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

Here is MiddleClassManhattan's review:

A plucky heroine that can shoot a rat from a bazillion yards away and a duke who disappeared from society at age ten. What is not to love about this book?

I’m embarrassed to admit that this is my first book by Kelly Bowen. I pride myself on knowing what historical romance authors are out there, and somehow, until now, Ms. Bowen slipped by me. A Duke to Remember is a great reminder that Amazon reviews mean squat and should not be used to curate a reading list. I’ll step off my soapbox now.

Years ago, our hero, Noah Ellery (the Duke of Ashland), was ridiculed as a child for a speech impediment and, out of embarrassment, his parents kept him hidden away. Noah mysteriously vanished from society completely at age ten and was assumed dead. Fast forward to present day, August 1819.

Our heroine, Elise Devries, works for the mysterious Chegarre & Associates, a company dedicated to solving the elite ton’s problems with discretion. Elise survived the War of 1812 in Canada, and it’s clear that the war taught our heroine how to deal with London’s criminal underworld—how to shoot a gun, how to track a person who wishes to remain hidden, and how to thoroughly disguise herself.

Chegarre & Associates is hired by Abigail Ellery (our hero’s sister) whose father, the Duke of Ashland, has passed away, and whose mother has been committed to Bedlam. Now an evil first cousin is threatening to take control of the Duchy. Abigail has a secret. Her younger brother is actually alive, and she hires Chegarre & Associates to find him and bring him back, thus restoring order to her family. This is where Elise comes in. As an experienced tracker for the British army, she’s the perfect person to assign to the case and find the missing duke. And, spoiler alert, she’s finds him, and he’s not only not mentally incapacitated, but he’s everything Elise would ever hope to find in a partner.

That’s the general novel in a nutshell, and here’s my breakdown:

This story doesn’t follow the standard format that many Regency romance novels adhere to as Elise is not a virgin. Ms. Bowen makes it clear early on that Elise has had previous lovers. Maybe one or two, maybe many, it’s left for the reader to imagine. As someone who likes the trope “virgin reforms the rake,” and “unhappy widow saves recluse hero,” this was a red flag for me, a little “eh, that’s weird.” I was pleasantly surprised to find that Elise’s multiple-lover status didn’t detract from the “HEA land of make believe” I adore. The steamy scenes were just as readable as all the other Regency novels I like and recommend. Elise’s bedroom expertise wasn’t really addressed by either hero or heroine, and that omission was obvious to me, but again, I was fine with it. Elise’s bedroom prowess was a refreshing addition to the scenes and it added to her character. Elise’s ultra-confidence helps Noah decide to reclaim his title, and helps create a relationship built on mutual respect.

Overall Elise’s self-assurance is charming, but at times I did wonder if Elise wasn’t a little too perfect. She’s beautiful, a genius at both of her occupations, a rescuer of the old and young, and our hero essentially falls for her at first sight. I wish that Elise had a more significant flaw than being wistful for a simpler life with less acting and less interaction with spoiled aristocrats. Elise is not necessarily a heroine who sticks with you.

Although the story has snappy dialogue and beautiful descriptions (creating a vivid countryside so it is sharp and lush in a reader’s mind is something Ms. Bowen truly excels at), for me there needed to be more sexual tension between the two main characters. When the situation became even a little morose or will-he-won’t-she, the reader was not left angsty long enough.

I enjoyed the added mystery subplot in the story. I love romance novels, but I am also a sucker for detective novels, and this story had just enough suspense to keep me looking forward to putting the kids into bed so I could get back to it.

Ms. Bowen also does a fantastic job of introducing side characters like Miss Ivory More, The Duke of Alderidge, and even Elise’s brother. All of these characters already have their own novels (which are now waiting in my queue), and I can’t wait to devour them. On the flip side, Ms. Bowen does such a great job with the subplots and supporting characters that I would have liked more resolution on a few of the secondary storylines, especially the one involving Noah’s mother.

Overall, this book gets a solid B+ from me. I will happily await new books from Kelly Bowen each year just as I count down the days for new releases from all-time favorites Eloisa James, Lisa Kleypas, Johanna Lindsey, Sarah MacLean, and Julia Quinn. What a great new author find!

hrj: (Default)
[personal profile] hrj

I'm including a few Bella Books releases from October because a couple of my fellow Bella authors asked me to. And guess what? Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17Vortex of Crimson is the final book in Lise MacTague's Deception's Edge SF romance trilogy.

All Torrin Ivanov wanted was to get Jak Stowell back, that was supposed to be the hard part. In a cruel twist, Jak is hers again, but her girlfriend is literally losing her mind. The only help can be found on the last planet in the universe to which Torrin would like to return…To cure Jak, they must return to her war-ravaged home planet, Haefen. 

For Jak, returning to her home planet gives her the chance to make good on a promise too long deferred. But will she be able to finally take out her brother’s killer? Or will she be pulled into the dark undertow of local politics… 

The two women soon find that politics pale next to the threat of the one who still hunts Jak. This time he has bait—Torrin’s sister, Nat Ivanov. As their search intensifies, Torrin and Jak realize that despite all of the obstacles in their way, one thing is clear—they can at least depend on each other. But will that be enough?


Like Vortex of CrimsonMother of Souls is a third book, though the Alpennia series is both longer-reaching and less of a single story than the traditional trilogy format. The two books have one more thing in common, though: they're both on sale this weekend at Bella Books!

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

Culture clash in Canada

May. 27th, 2017 10:44 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen

May. 27th, 2017 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

B-

A Duke to Remember

by Kelly Bowen
July 26, 2016 · Forever
RomanceHistorical: European

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Truusje. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Short Historical category.

The summary:

Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

Here is Truusje's review:

I love historical romance but I’m growing a little tired of the traditional Regency stories where an innocent-but-plucky heroine can be found waltzing indecently close to a ready-to-be-reformed rake. So I was happy to see that A Duke To Remember doesn’t start in a ballroom but in Bedlam where we meet our heroine, Elise DeVries. Elise is a part-time actress, part-time private investigator/problem solver/tracker, and has been hired to rescue the Duchess of Ashland who has ended up in Bedlam after the death of her husband. The Duchess’s nephew, Francis, thinks he should be the next Duke as no one has seen or heard from Noah, the Duke and Duchess’s only son, from the age of 10. When the Duchess started telling people Noah is still alive, Francis silenced her by sending her to Bedlam. Now it’s up to Elise to find Noah, convince him to go to London as the rightful Duke, and rescue his mother.

I always find it refreshing when an author pushes the boundaries of a genre, so I was hooked immediately. The book has lots of fabulousness that I’d love to talk about now. However, it has some clear weaknesses as well, and I think they need to be addressed first as they are essential to story.

Let’s start with the plot. In order to find Noah, Elise follows her sole lead and travels to Nottingham. Of course, the first person she meets happens to be the man she’s looking for. And of course he’s hot and handsome, so of course they’re lusting after each other immediately. While I don’t mind waiting a few chapters for Elise and Noah to lay eyes on each other, I feel the way they meet is too coincidental and their attraction too instantaneous. The transition from lust to love is just as quick. I don’t think it takes much longer than 24 hours before Noah realises he’s experiencing more than physical attraction and that he’s actually in love with her. This is just too fast in my opinion.

The suspense subplot involving evil Francis doesn’t really work for me either. Some chapters are written from his point of view so there isn’t a single surprise. Yet the threat he poses is pretty much ignored for large parts of the book. For me this entire subplot is weak and predictable.

I have some problems with Elise as well. Though I love how much she and Noah talk, especially about difficult topics, I also feel she is a little too wise and too understanding. Noah’s past is tragic and related to speaking problems as a child. Even now he occasionally mixes up his words. His past is still a major issue for him, and when they talk for example about his speaking problems, Elise comes up with a long list of her own flaws to put things in perspective. She says the right things without thinking, and never gets it wrong. She is just so perceptive and supportive, and perfection is never an interesting character trait in my opinion.

This doesn’t mean Elise is entirely without flaws; she slips different personas on and off to such an extent she doesn’t really know who she is anymore. I like how they both struggle with their identities, but where Noah clearly grows I don’t quite see the same change in Elise. I think it’s partly because we don’t see all the aspects of her life. For example, we’re told she’s a part-time actress but we never encounter her onstage. To me, Noah is a more real and more complex character than Elise.

While Elise provides one of the key weaknesses of the book, she is also responsible
for setting it apart from traditional Regency romances in the best possible way. She is not just wise and understanding, but also strong and very capable. You could even call her the hero of the story, as she shares some characteristics of a typical Regency hero: she has a magnificent horse, she’s a great shot, and she teaches Noah how to swim. Of course she has a past, but we only find out about some of it. We also know she isn’t a virgin, but this doesn’t define her. Better yet, it isn’t even part of the story.

Similarly, we don’t find out all the details of Noah’s past. We never discover for example how he ended up in Nottingham; it’s enough to know it happened and that it means he’s willing to help others. So often in books everything is spelled out and every little thread comes together, and I love that here only the parts relevant to the story are told.

There are so many brilliant details in this book. For example, when Elise figures out that she’s found Noah, she tells him almost immediately. While he is angry with her at first, it’s never a point of conflict between them. And I just love that there isn’t a scene between Noah and his mother in which she comes up with excuses for her role in his tragic past and begs for forgiveness. Noah refuses to see his mother because he isn’t ready and that is just fine. Real life is messy and difficult, and I love it when books reflect that.

Whenever an author ventures off the beaten track to bring something new and fresh to a genre, I just want to pop the champagne and have a little party. In this case, I’m a little disappointed because A Duke To Remember has fundamental flaws that almost overshadow all that’s wonderful. Nevertheless, it is a good historical romance that’s different from most others, and though I’m leaving the champagne in the fridge for now, I’m definitely going to read more Kelly Bowen.

Fess up

May. 27th, 2017 12:04 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Which of you mentioned "cultural appropriation" to Orson Scott Card?

Also, are Irish accents really as hard as all that for Americans to understand?

Spectacular sunset over the lake

May. 26th, 2017 08:18 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

One of the benefits of being on a higher floor of the hotel, even if this also means a lot of rather tedious waiting for lifts. I was going to take and post a photo, but I really don't think that my present state of tiredness is a good state in which to get to grips with DW photo posting. Also, on essaying to take a photo for later presentation, realised that the grimy marks on the window would be rather obtrusive.

Quite a full day, which started with waking up rather earlier than I had hoped, but not horribly so.

Socialising has taken place. There was going to be a walk, but then it started to rain (I wouldn;t say there was no chance of a walk that day, but not at that particular time).

Also have been on one panel, which I think suffered a little from ambiguity in framing its terms but nonetheless evoked some interesting discussion.

Observations of note: in the stuffed toy and knickknackery shop just around the corner in State Street, there is a stufft swan, right at the front of the window display: also an inflatable pool version. However, I should eschew props for my reading.

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