Indianapolis, IN, United States | Member Since 2008
Duke Hart Mackenzie is politically motivated, strong willed, the leader of his family and his political party. Widowed for many years and having suffered the loss of his infant son, he has been concentrating all his energy into gaining power. Now nearing victory, he needs a wife who can stand at his side, to be hostess to all the balls and fetes that will be expected of a Prime Minister. Lady Eleanor Ramsay is the one who got away, the woman who jilted him many years ago, though he never really understood why, despite her explanation. Now he has her back in his sphere of influence, he is determined that she will fulfill the role he has planned for her. This is the 4th of the Mackenzie series. I enjoyed the characters, especially the growth experienced by the Duke, motivated by the events in the plot.
An anthology of 5 contemporary holiday romance stories. I can easily say that this was a high average listen. I enjoyed checking back in with Drew Evans in It's a Wonderful Tangled Christmas Carol by Emma Chase. The narrative style Chase uses is very engaging, and Sebastian York gives a great performance. Searching for You by Jennifer Probst is entertaining. The chemistry between the protagonists is hot, and so is the sex. Saving Grace is about a sweet klutz who falls for a smooth operator. It is well-written, and the narration was good. Safe in His Arms by Melody Anne was sweet, but very compact. Rekindle the Flame by Kate Meader was my least favorite. The premise and characters were great, but the narrative was too passive for my tastes. The narration was great.
Overall, this was a good listen while decorating the tree and wrapping gifts.
Genre: paranormal/urban fantasy, romance
This book was my intro to John Charming, though there are at least 2 novellas that precede this story. I just got all the novellas available for my Kindle, and they are there, waiting for me. I have this book in both electronic and audio formats, but mostly, except for some character clarifications, I stuck with the audio. The narration by Roger Wayne is good, and Tantor provided it's typically excellent production. Anyway...
A Valkyrie and a vampire walk into a bar (oops, I mean pub)... So, this guy is working at a pub (decorated in authentic hey y'all SW Virginia style) in a small university town. He's living under an assumed name and a curse. His name is John Charming, former member of the monster hunter Knights Templar who happens to be a monster himself. Anyway, he ends up teamed with the Valkyrie and a motley band of folks who aim to kill some vampires. What follows is humor, action, and a touch of romance. And it is so well-written that it's easy to get involved in the characters and plot.
The story is told in first person, as though John is talking to his audience, though that aspect isn't really in your face. You know what he looks like (black hair, blue eyes, 175 pounds and 6" tall) because he tells you through comparing his actual looks to the license of the dead guy whose identity he has assumed. His personality is revealed through actions and how others interact with him. The author does not wander into the POV of other characters, and they are revealed as John sees them, colored by his impressions and preconceptions. I admire (practically worship, actually) any author who can tell a story without jumping into a bunch of character's heads in order to make things easy. James has a wonderful vocabulary, and knows how to use it to get the best emotional reaction.
Not having read other installments of John's story, I still get the impression of a supernatural Jack Reacher, Lee Child's suspense thriller hero. Just from what he reveals through the narrative, I think he must go place to place to stay ahead of the monster hunters after him while he deals with the monsters he comes across. I guess I'll learn more about the character as I read, and I'll see if James can keep Charming fresher than Child has done with Reacher.
Setting: California, England, and New York. Contemporary
Well, I'm trying to review this on the merits of the story. The premise is one that's more common in regency romance: Filthy rich Duke must, because of stipulations in his father's will, marry by his birthday on Wednesday. It's Monday. He goes to a matchmaker, but decides to marry her instead of the candidates she provided. Sound familiar? Anyway... This author didn't come close to knowing how noble titles are passed. Yes, a personal fortune can be passed to someone other than the heir to the title, but entailed properties cannot. That entailed estate may be debt-ridden, but it still cannot pass into the hands of the next guy in line. Well, it can happen, but generally, dad has to declare his son a bastard, and dad isn't around to do that, being dead and all. Oh, I also have a problem with the afore-mentioned filthy richness. This Duke was so greedy he had to have it all? If he didn't get it, half was to go to charity, a quarter to be shared between his mom and sister, and the cousin to get a quarter. Needless to say, I found the whole execution of the premise simplistic and unreasonable, especially in a modern setting.
I have listened to, and enjoyed, many narrations by Tanya Eby, but this is not one of them. While this is a contemporary American romance, many of the characters are British, and Ms Eby does not do that accent well at all.
So, bottom line: Don't spend a credit for this. If a marriage of convenience trope in a contemporary setting intrigues you (and you can't find something that does it better), get this one on sale.
Setting: England, Victorian era
This is the second in the Lady Emily series of mysteries. I haven't read the first yet, though I read (listened to) Star of the East, a novella set later in the series, as my first exposure to Tasha Alexander. Forgive me if my lack of taking this series in order negatively affects this review.
Lady Emily is in London for the season, which is, as usual, abuzz with gossip and the happenings of the nobility and upper class. Lady Emily is facing a few challenges. Her childhood friend, Ivy, is having marital difficulties; her American friend, Margaret, is having a disagreement with her parents about Oxford; her family friend, Isabelle, is having issues with suitors; and Colin Hargreaves is still asking Emily to marry him. Added to all this, a series of thefts of items with a French connection in common begin among Emily's acquaintances. And then there are two murders that may or may not have been committed by the thief. Lady Emily knows these things are related, she's just not sure how, and the life of the maid accused of the murders is on the line. It is up to her, with the clues provided, to solve the mysteries.
I liked Emily and the supporting cast of characters. I almost put this on my romance shelf, as well as mystery, because of the low-key relationship development between Emily and Colin, but that is definitely in the background. The star of this show is most certainly Lady Emily and the mysteries presented. The story had me changing my mind about whodunit more than once, and it wasn't until the end that all was revealed.
This reminded me of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries, as they are also first person narratives set in the Victorian era. There were, however, enough differences in characters and style to keep me from going there after my initial observation. I did enjoy the writing. It was so refreshing not to have to edit grammar in my head as I went along, so I was able to stay in the story. I assume the bulk of Lady Emily's character was developed in the first book in the series, but not having experienced it didn't detract from this story. In fact, unless you just have to have things in order because that's how you roll, this book could stand alone. Yes, there were some things, like some of Emily's relationships, it would have been nice to see before this book, but only because the interaction would seem more organic. But I could guess at these comfortably.
I have this in both ebook and audio mediums, which provided some amusement for me. There was a character whose name the narrator pronounced "lettuce". I thought, really? someone would give her daughter that odd a name? Then, when I went to the ebook for a bit, I saw a character named Lettice. Ohhh. THAT'S Lettuce! I would have put the accent on the second syllable... Normally, I love Justine Eyre's narration, but Lettuce? :-)
Setting: Small town America, contemporary
Just when this book was getting good, it was over. Libby is a humiliatingly unemployed event planner newly returned from Chicago to her small town and back in with the parents. Tom is a widowed contractor with a surly teenager. The two meet when Libby's retired father decides to renovate an old building.This book was slow and felt incomplete, as though the author had the bare bones of the premise and was working on filling it in when she hit deadline. Seriously. This could so much have benefitted from a little more to the plot and characters. Where were this woman's beta readers?
Okay, so the premise is a woman moves back home and meets a man who needs to, emotionally, move on. While not terribly original, it has potential. The characters were pretty much one-dimensional, and the story sort of went in fits and starts, going in interesting directions, then petering out. I was left with so many what-ifs, I have decided that I just need a whole 'nother book altogether.
So, what did we get? To me, it felt like an outline that needed to be fleshed out and edited. There were so many ways this book could have gone to take it above more than an average read. But hey, the grammar and spelling were great!
I generally like Angela Dawe as a narrator, but not so much with this performance. It just comes off as amateurish, without much differentiation between characters. I thought maybe this was an early performance, but that isn't the case. Well, I guess everyone's entitled to an off day every once in a while.
Setting: England, contemporary
Genre: Holiday feel-good story
Milly's boyfriend dumps her right before advent. Christmas time is her favorite time of the year, so this is especially horrible for her. She had such plans. Anyway, the family tradition is for the kids to write to Santa with a list of what they want, then it is sent up the flue on the heat of a match, but without burning. Her nephews insist the adults make lists too. Milly does so, without much enthusiasm. But she soon finds the things on her list being granted, though not necessarily as she would expect.
This is another story I wish had been in an anthology. It was sweetly average, with average narration.
Setting: Vermont, contemporary
Widowed Christine takes her son, Tyler, to Vermont for 10 days to recharge her life. She meets John, an ambitious professor from the local college, and his dog Mason. Hot chocolate, sledding, Christmas and cold feet follow. This is a very sweet little novella. And I do mean sweet. There is one kiss.
Narration is average. I'd probably have to hear more of Susan Soriano's work to judge her adequately.
Setting: Italy, Morocco, England, and at sea. Dec 1818 - Jan 1820.
Lia is sold into slavery by the men her aunt had hired to kill her. Ren buys her in a slave auction in Morocco. She stays in his friend's harem while she recovers from her ordeal. They have sex. Ren agrees to help her rescue her brother from the evil aunt in exchange for her marrying him and providing an heir. They sail back to Italy. They have sex on the ship. When they get to Italy, they liberate her brother. Ren wants Lia to keep her side of the bargain and marry him, elevating her to the rank of Duchess. She says no because she is TSTL, and they have sex. She tries to escape and Ren catches her. Why? Probably because she cost a lot of money. Slavery was abolished in England in 1807, so if he wants to keep her he has to marry her. Marriage was legal slavery. They sail back to England and have sex on the ship. What follows is the whole trust/mistrust plot device. And sex. Lots of sex. Then there is danger! A death, resurrection, kidnapping, and rescue! Alas, no more sex. Not even in the epilogue. Frankly, I went to the Kindle format for a lot of this so I could skip ahead. Who knew so much sex could get boring?
The narration was +/- average, but still the best part of this experience.
Setting: England, December 1813
This novella is part of the Tenacious Trents series.
Lady Madeline is visiting one of her brothers and his wife, along with another brother and their mom. She hears, by accident, that the marriage between her parents wasn't legal. She goes for a walk to think about the ramifications of her being a bastard. Meanwhile, the snow has delayed Lachlan Grant, the Marquess of Brachton, from going to Scotland. His intention is to go to Edinburgh to find a Scottish lass to marry, then go on to spend the rest of the holiday with his family. Madeline wanders onto Lachlan's land and falls through the ice on his lake. He saves her, carries her inside, undresses her (and dresses her in a nightshirt), and warms her - by getting into bed with her. When she introduces herself as Maddie (because she assumes she is no longer a Lady) and says she was traveling with Jordan Trent, Lachlan assumes she is Jordan's mistress. He knew Jordan at school, and they always competed over women. So, how far will Lachlan go with "Jordan's mistress"? What will happen when her family finds her at his home, where the only other people are his valet and cook?
This was a sweet, entertaining story. The characters and plot were well-rounded and it felt complete. Jane Charles has a true talent for the novella. I've read/listened to other novellas she wrote and was very satisfied.
Narration is great, because Marian Hussey.
Setting: Maryland, contemporary
Genre: Sweet holiday romance
Typical early sweet-romance Nora, with laughs and tears. The protagonists are relatively well-rounded for a short story. There are nice people as the backdrop, and there's no villain. The twins, serving as the impetus of the action, are sweet little caricatures. I do wish this had been part of an anthology, but that's my thought on any of the stories I'm reading this season.
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