Thursday, July 26, 2012

MINI-REVIEWS: Historical Romance

Wallflower by Catherine Gayle
(The Old Maids' Club #1)

RATING: 4 Stars

SUMMARY: The choice between adhering to a long-held pact and finally accepting love could prove Lady Tabitha Shelton’s unhinging. She is plump, plain, pleasant...and thoroughly unappealing to any of the men of the ton—apart from fortune hunters. A self-appointed wallflower, she has every intention of remaining one. Tabitha made a vow of spinsterhood with her cousins when they were girls, and she refuses to go back on her word. So far, she’s proven herself quite adept at warding off the blasted fortune hunters’ pursuits.

Noah deLancie, Marquess of Devonport, would prefer to marry for love and companionship—he’s a gentleman through and through—but circumstances have forced his hand: he needs money as badly as he needs a bride. When Noah’s brother-in-law suggests pursuit of his sister, Tabitha, a woman with a dowry large enough to cause even Croesus to blush and who is tantalizingly good company to boot, Noah stumbles into the future he hopes to secure. He’ll stop at nothing to convince Tabitha to marry him.  Nothing, that is, except perhaps the barrel of a dueling pistol, held to his face by his ladylove.

Catherine Gayle is a new author to me, but I had to check her out especially because Wallflower was free!  What I found was a lovely story that pulled at my heartstrings and had me grinning from ear to ear by the end. 

I really loved the heroine, Tabitha, and how she was able to gain confidence in herself despite her unconventional looks.  She did not have an easy road to travel with her self-confidence, but I admired her determination and cheered on her triumph.  The hero, Noah, was so sweet and tender with Tabitha without seeming like a pushover.  He appreciated her for who she was and just wanted her to feel loved.

I felt badly for Noah when Tabitha kept mistrusting his motives even though he strived to prove himself to her over and over again.  This is the only part of the book that I didn't like since it got a little repetitive and annoying.  But, I understood that this was all a part of Tabitha's growth as a confident woman so it din't bother me too much.  Tabitha's family sounds like they are so much fun and I look forward to reading more about her fellow Old Maids' Club members.  I am especially intrigued by Bethanne and the scandalous Aunt Rosaline. 

Purchased for free on June 10, 2012 from Amazon.


A Night Like This by Julia Quinn
(Smythe-Smith Quartet #2)

RATING: 4 Stars

SUMMARY: Anne Wynter might not be who she says she is . . .But she's managing quite well as a governess to three highborn young ladies. Her job can be a challenge--in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play that might be a tragedy (or might be a comedy--no one is sure), and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he's the first man who has truly tempted her, and it's getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger . . .But that's not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family's annual musicale, he vows to pursue her, even if that means spending his days with a ten-year-old who thinks she's a unicorn. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending.

I am a certified Julia Quinn fangirl and I am enjoying her foray into the world of the tone-deaf Smythe-Smith family.  A Night Like This was a very cute story with two likable characters. 

Daniel Smythe-Smith was swoon-worthy without being over-the-top and I admired his tenacity at admitting his feelings.  I had wondered about his characterization after hearing about in the first book, but I had nothing to worry about.  I really liked Anne Wynter's character and her protective nature especially when it came to her students and Daniel.  She did have a few moments that bordered on TSTL territory, but they didn't effect my overall enjoyment that much.  I love the whole Smythe-Smith gang and find their interactions so much fun. 

The two "villains" got a little confusing at times, but I thought the conflict was well balanced with the romance.  I also enjoyed seeing the direct aftermath of Daniel's sister's engagement from the first book.  I really liked Honoria and Marcus and had fun seeing more of their interactions.  I am looking forward to the next Smythe-Smith novel which I am hoping will involve the actually musically gifted Sarah!



Winter Garden by Adele Ashworth

RATING: 4 Stars

SUMMARY: Though a celebrated French beauty in 1849, Madeleine DuMais's cleverness is her greatest asset --- and one she puts to good use as a spy for the British. When her expertise is needed in the south of England to break up a smuggling ring, Madeleine willingly puts her life on hold to help the crown ...

Arriving in the quaint resort town of Winter Garden, Madeleine meets her partner in subterfuge. Thomas Blackwood is unlike any man she has ever met. His quiet confidence and mysterious intensity send shivers of pleasure coursing through her ... shivers that slowly melt into a desperate passion. As duty gives way to desire, surrender holds its reward. And Madeleine will never recover from the touch of Thomas's hands on her body --- and the touch of his heart on her soul.

I have heard so much about this book ever since I starting reading historical romance.  After years of searching, I finally found a used copy and dove straight into it.  Winter Garden is a very character-driven story that relies heavily on its leads and for good reason.  I fell completely in love with the hero, Thomas Blackwood, from the moment we met him.  I spent a good amount of time rooting for him to tell Madeleine the truth.  For her part, Madeleine DuMais was a joy to read with her intelligence and self-confidence despite a difficult past. 

The espionage plot was interesting, but never took away from the love story.  I also enjoyed the secrets that the characters kept and how they were revealed at the perfect time. The moment of discovery was one of my favorite scenes ever in a historical romance.  Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was the setting.  It takes place in the village of Winter Garden which is full of some interesting characters.  Ashworth gives readers hints of the drama that occurs in this small town, but never lets that overshadow the main storyline.

I am really glad that I finally read this "classic" of historical romance and recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet, romantic novel.

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