Thursday, April 30, 2015

REVIEW: "The Harlot Countess" by Joanna Shupe


The Harlot Countess (Wicked Deceptions, #2)
The Harlot Countess by Joanna Shupe
(Wicked Deceptions #2)

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Historical Romance -- Regency England

Zebra -- Published on April 28, 2015
eARC, 352 pages
Read in April 2015
Received from Netgalley

THEMES/TROPES
Reunited Couple, Widowed Heroine

SUMMARY
Maggie, Lady Hawkins, had a debut she’d rather forget—along with her first marriage. Today, the political cartoonist is a new woman. A thoroughly modern woman. So much so that her clamoring public believes she’s a man…

FACT: Drawing under a male pseudonym, Maggie is known as Lemarc. Her (his!) favorite object of ridicule: Simon Barrett, Earl of Winchester. He’s a rising star in Parliament—and a former confidant and love interest of Maggie’s who believed a rumor that vexes her to this day.

FICTION: Maggie is the Half-Irish Harlot who seduced her best friend’s husband on the eve of their wedding. She is to be feared and loathed, as she will lift her skirts for anything in breeches.

Still crushed by Simon’s betrayal, Maggie has no intention of letting theton crush her as well. In fact, Lemarc’s cartoons have made Simon a laughingstock…but now it appears that Maggie may have been wrong about what happened years ago, and that Simon has been secretly yearning for her since…forever. Could it be that the heart is mightier than the pen and the sword after all?
 

FIRST LINE
"Silence rippled throughout the ballroom the moment her slipper hit the top step."

MY THOUGHTS
I received a free copy of this book from Zebra via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Harlot Countess is the second book in Shupe's debut Wicked Deceptions series which focuses on three scandalous women and Society's reaction to them.  I liked the first book in the series (The Courtesan Duchess) so I was excited to see more of this author's writing.  And I thought this book was even better though I did have some issues with the hero.

Maggie becomes known as the Harlot after her best friend's fiance accuses her of seducing him which resulted in her being married off to an elderly lord and exiled in the country.  But, after her husband's death, Maggie returns to London and discovers a passion for political cartoons though she writes under a male pseudonym, Lemarc  She also becomes known for throwing elaborate and scandalous parties that innocent debutantes never attend.

I really liked Maggie's character.  She was put in an unfortunate position through no fault of her own, but figures out how to make the best of it.  While Society has labeled her and treated her horribly, she embraces the scandalous reputation and enjoys her independence.  I especially enjoyed the fact that she drew political cartoons and used that medium to get back at those who mistreated her...anonymously.  I do wish there had been some more time spent on her work process, but overall I had a blast getting to know Maggie.

The hero of The Harlot Countess is Simon, the best friend from the first book.  He is an earl who is climbing the ladder of politics in London despite the fact that the famous political cartoonist, Lemarc, focuses primarily on him.  Simon is also dealing with the return of the woman he fell for years ago (Maggie) and the fact that he never really got over her betrayal. 

I really liked him in The Courtesan Duchess though I was less impressed with him in this book.  I understand that he felt betrayed by Maggie's supposed seduction of another man, but he never even tried to talk to her about it.  Big Misunderstands are always something that I am wary of and the lack of communication especially on Simon's part was really irritating to me.  I was just not a fan of his treatment of Maggie and didn't feel like he earned her love by the end.

Despite my issues with his character, I did think the development of the romance between Maggie and Simon was well-written.  They obviously had feelings for each other long ago and the author helps readers understand that through various flashbacks and discussions.  The romance takes some time to rekindle due to a lack of trust on both sides.  There were some sweet moments that had me believing in their love story, but I did want more especially on Simon's side.

I do think that Joanna Shupe's writing has improved since the first book.  The plot development of The Harlot Countess was tighter and not as over-the-top.  The portrayal of Maggie's character was most impressive to me and I look forward to reading the last book in the trilogy soon.

3.5 STARS


BOOKS IN THE SERIES
1. The Courtesan Duchess
2. The Harlot Countess
3. The Lady Hellion (Coming May 2015)

OTHER REVIEWS
The Keeper Shelf
RT Book Reviews
Romance Reviews By Ruckie

LEARN MORE
Goodreads -- LibraryThing -- Shelfari
Author Website -- Publisher Website -- WorldCat

WHERE TO BUY
Amazon -- Barnes & Noble -- Book Depository -- Kobo -- Google Play

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books That Feature Characters Who Are Writers


Hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

I always love finding books where characters are writers of some kind.  There is just something very meta about writers writing about writers!

Dreaming of You (Gamblers, #2)
1. Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas -- Sara Fielding
A Victorian-era novelist who specializes in scandalous settings.

See Jane Score (Chinooks Hockey Team, #2)
2. See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson -- Jane Alcott
A female sports journalist who also writes erotic adventures for a magazine.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Bridgertons, #4)
3. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn -- Colin Bridgerton/Penelope Featherington
Colin writes about his various travels while Penelope's writings are bit more mysterious.

This Heart of Mine (Chicago Stars, #5)
4. This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips -- Molly Somerville
A children's book writer.

And Then He Kissed Her (Girl Bachelors, #1)
5. And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke -- Emmaline Dove
She acts as a publisher's secretary, but secretly writes etiquette books for ladies.

Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke, #3)
6. Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn -- Sebastian Gray
One of the most surprising writers...a lord who writes something very unusual.

A Groom of One's Own (The Writing Girls, #1)A Tale of Two Lovers (The Writing Girls, #2)The Tattooed Duke (The Writing Girls, #3)Seducing Mr. Knightly (The Writing Girls, #4)
7. The Writing Girls series by Maya Rodale -- Sophie Harlow, Julianna Somerset, Eliza Fielding, Annabelle Swift
The female writing staff of the London Weekly newspaper.

Exclusively Yours (Kowalski Family, #1)
8. Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey -- Joe Kowalski
A prominent horror writer who is notoriously private.

Escorted (Escorted, #1)
9. Escorted by Claire Kent -- Lori Addison
A romance author who has never been with a man.

Fangirl
10. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell -- Cath Avery
A college freshman who is an internet-famous fanfiction writer.

Monday, April 27, 2015

HR 101: Side Characters in Historical Romance

 

Historical Romance 101
is a celebration of the genre that will be occurring throughout the month of April.  My blog along with On a Book Bender, Addicted to Romance, and Quinn's Book Nook will be writing on a variety of topics every Monday and Friday in April.  

SIDE CHARACTERS IN HISTORICAL ROMANCE

I love it when authors provide a full cast of characters to back up the romance.  For me, a good side character is someone who makes an impact on the overall story without overpowering the main characters.  I especially enjoy it when side characters make appearances in various books by an author. 

How to Marry a Marquis (Agents of the Crown, #2)
Lady Danbury -- multiple books by Julia Quinn
The first person I thought of when I saw this topic.  She is the opinionated, cane-wielding aristocrat who always has something to say in a Julia Quinn book.  I especially enjoyed her appearances in How to Marry a Marquis and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton.
"The two of you together are a menace," Penelope remarked."My aim in life," Lady Danbury announced, "is to be a menace to as great a number of people as possible, so I shall take that as the highest of compliments, Mrs. Bridgerton.""Why is it," Penelope wondered, "that you only call me Mrs. Bridgerton when you are opining in a grand fashion?""Sounds better that way," Lady D said, punctuating her remark with a loud thump of her cane.  --It's in His Kiss
The Pretender (Liar's Club, #1)
Button -- Liars Club series by Celeste Bradley
A theater-obsessed valet who provides the men (and women) of the Liars Club with costumes for their various spy missions.  He is heavily involved in every love story in this series.

Morning Glory
Gladys Beasley -- Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer
The librarian of the Whitney Library who sees potential in Will Parker and becomes his (and eventually Ellie's) greatest advocate as they maneuver their new marriage.

The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After
Violet Bridgerton -- Bridgerton Family series by Julia Quinn
The matriarch of the Bridgerton family who is obsessed with finding matches for her eight children.  Her own love story was cut tragically short, but she is a strong woman who raised some amazing kids.

Again the Magic (Wallflowers, #0.5)
Marcus -- Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas
The Earl of Westcliff who plays the perfect, meddling brother in the romances of his sisters, Aline and Livia.  He eventually meets his match in Lillian Bowman in It Happened One Autumn.

Lord Perfect  (Carsington Brothers, #3)
Olivia and Peregrine -- Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase
Two precocious children who set out on a treasure hunt and force Olivia's mother and Peregrine's uncle to come after them.  Their own romance is told in Last Night's Scandal.

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart (Love By Numbers, #3)
Penelope -- Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean
The Duke of Leighton's betrothed who loses him to the scandalous Juliana Ralston.  I loved that she was treated with respect by the author and got her own happy ending in A Rogue By Any Other Name.

Forbidden (Medieval Series #2)
Erik -- Medieval trilogy by Elizabeth Lowell
Known as the Wolf, he is the heir to a Saxon lord who, after plenty of minor skirmishes and deceptions, becomes an ally of two Norman lords.  Readers sorta get to see his romance as a minor plot in a contemporary romantic suspense (Moving Target) involving reincarnation, but I always wanted to see him get it in the Medieval setting of the rest of the trilogy.

One Night for Love (Bedwyn Prequels, #1)
Gwen -- One Night For Love by Mary Balogh
The widowed sister of the hero who suffers from a limp after a carriage accident.  She acts as a constant companion throughout the Slightly and Simply series so I was happy to see her find love again in The Proposal.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

UPCOMING RELEASES: May 2015

A list of new releases that grabbed my attention for the coming month. As always, release dates are subject to change.

Dearest Rogue (Maiden Lane, #8)
Dearest Rogue (Maiden Lane #8) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance --May 26th

The Friend Zone (Game On, #2)
The Friend Zone (Game On #2) by Kristen Callihan
New Adult Contemporary -- May 5th

Saint Anything
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Young Adult Contemporary -- May 5th

Hades (Demonica, #11.5; Lords of Deliverance 6.5)
Hades (Demonica #11.5) by Larissa Ione
Paranormal Romance -- May 26th

End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days, #3)
End of Days (Penryn and the End of Days #3) by Susan Ee
Urban Fantasy -- May 12th

Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road, #1)
Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road #1) by Katie McGarry
Young Adult Contemporary -- May 26th

The Unlikely Lady (Playful Brides, #3)
The Unlikely Lady (Playful Brides #3) by Valerie Bowman
Historical Romance -- May 5th

Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club #5)
Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club #5) by Mary Balogh
Historical Romance -- May 5th

The Eternity Key (Into the Dark, #2)
The Eternity Key (Into the Dark #2) by Bree Despain
Young Adult Paranormal -- May 12th

The Novice (Summoner, #1)
The Novice (The Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu
Young Adult Fantasy -- May 5th

Crimson Bound
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
Young Adult Fantasy -- May 5th

Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family, #1)
Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family #1) by Tiffany Schmidt
Young Adult Contemporary -- May 19th

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)
The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Young Adult Fantasy -- May 12th

The Lady Hellion (Wicked Deceptions, #3)
The Lady Hellion (Wicked Deceptions #3) by Joanna Shupe
Historical Romance -- May 26th

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)
A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas
Young Adult Fantasy -- May 5th

The Reluctant Hero
The Reluctant Hero by Lorraine Heath (re-print)
Historical Romance -- May 12th

The Summer After You and Me
The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Young Adult Contemporary -- May 1st

What books are you excited about this month?  What did I miss?

Friday, April 24, 2015

HR 101: Favorite Moments in Historical Romance

 

Historical Romance 101
is a celebration of the genre that will be occurring throughout the month of April.  My blog along with On a Book Bender, Addicted to Romance, and Quinn's Book Nook will be writing on a variety of topics every Monday and Friday in April.  


MY FAVORITE MOMENTS IN HISTORICAL ROMANCE

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons, #2)
The Pall Mall match -- The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn 
A scene that showcases everything that is wonderful about this book: comedic situations, rapid-fire dialogue, and, of course, the ultra-competitive Bridgerton family.
"For the love of God, Anthony," Colin yelled. "Take your bloody turn."
Anthony looked down to where the wooden balls sat kissing on the grass, hers black, his appallingly pink. "Right," he murmured. "Wouldn't want to keep dear, sweet Colin waiting." And with that, he put his foot atop his ball, drew back his mallet--
"What are you doing?" Kate shrieked.
--And let fly. His ball remained firmly in place under his boot. Hers went sailing down the hill for what seemed like miles.
"You fiend," she growled.
"All's fair in love and war," he quipped.
"I am going to kill you."
"You can try," he taunted, "but you'll have to catch up with me first."
Kate pondered the mallet of death, the pondered his foot.
"Don't even think about it," he warned.
"It's so very, very tempting," she growled.
He leaned forward, menacingly. "We have witnesses."
"And that is the only thing saving your life right now."
Lord of Scoundrels (Scoundrels, #3)
Dain thinking about Jessica -- Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
There are many scenes I thought about putting for this book like the infamous glove scene, but I have always loved the following moment when Dain relaxes and makes an interesting conclusion about Jessica.
With the world securely in order, Dain was able to devote the leisurely bath time to editing his mental dictionary.  He removed his wife from the general category labeled "Females" and gave her a section of her own.  He made a note that she didn't find him revolting, and proposed several explanations: (a) bad eyesight and faulty hearing, (b)a defect in a portion of her otherwise sound intellect, (c) an inherited Trent eccentricity, or (d) an act of God.  Since the Almighty had not done him a single act of kindness in at least twenty-five years, Dain thought it was about bloody time, but he thanked his Heavenly Father all the same, and promised to be as good as he was capable of being.
Slightly Dangerous (Bedwyn Saga, #6)
Duke of Bewcastle shocks his family.  -- Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
Wulfric has been thought of as the stoic, always proper head of the Bedwyn family, but, when he meets schoolteacher Christine, his life takes a surprising turn.
"Wulfric diving?" Lord Hallmere said, grinning, "And against the rules? I don't think I believe it."
"Neither do I," Lord Rannulf said derisively, "I would never have agreed to be left behind."
The Duke of Bewcastle raised a quizzing glass to his eye. "Do I understand that I am being called a liar?" he asked.
He strode away from all of them in his bare feet and went up the oak tree as if he climbed one every day of his life. He walked out along the branch that extended over the water, holding onto another branch for balance as long as he could and then doing it on his own. He went to the edge of the branch, tested it for strength, bent his knees a few times, flexed his arms. He was, Christine realized, playing up to his audience, which was loving it.
And then he dived in headfirst, his arms stretched above his head, his legs straight and together, his feet pointed. There was hardly a splash as he went in. There was, however, a collective gasp from the bank, followed by a cheer. Christine clapped her free hand over her mouth until his head broke above the surface and he shook the water out of his eyes.
"Someone," he shouted, "should have warned me that the water is cold."
And then something extraordinary happened--something else extraordinary, that was. Lady Hallmere stepped up in front of her, frowning ferociously, and hugged her hard, the duke's clothes squashed between them.
"If this is what you have done for him," she said, "I will love you all my life."
As You Desire (Braxton, #1)
Harry's declaration -- As You Desire by Connie Brockway
Harry Braxton is a disgraced Englishman who has a successful business finding Egyptian antiquities. He also has been in love with Desdemona Carlisle for years. This scene shows what happens when Harry sees Desdemona flirting with another man and bets her that he can make her swoon even more.
"You are a country, a country of unexplored sensation and whim, veiled in dawn, shining, shedding light. See how the long fluid line of your throat flows to your breasts?" If he heard the intake of her breath, he ignored it.
"Or how their blue-shadowed curves ripen above the smooth plain of your belly?"
"Your mouth." He paused, and her lips felt suddenly sensitized, tingling as his gaze fixed on them.
"Your mouth is a sweet well sealed against me, keeping me thirsting for the clarity of your kiss. Your flesh is like the desert sand, warmth and shifting strength beneath its golden color. Your palms open, fingers flexed, are minarets, delicate and elegant. And your body . . . it is the Nile itself—the camber of your back slipping so easily by the narrows of your waist and jettied hips to the lush delta below."He stopped. She heard the intake of his breath.
"You are my country, Desdemona." Yearning, harsh and poignant and she felt herself swaying toward him.
"My Egypt. My hot, harrowing desert and my cool, verdant Nile, infinitely lovely and unfathomable and sustaining."
Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Bridgertons, #4)
Penelope's first kiss -- Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Just such a romantic moment between two likable people.  I especially enjoyed this scene because of Penelope's feelings for Colin and that this was what she has wanted for twelve years.
As he closed the bare distance between them, he realized that there were no words that could capture the intensity of this moment.  No words for the passion.  No words for the need.  No words for the sheer epiphany of the moment.  And so, on an otherwise unremarkable Friday afternoon in the heart of Mayfair, in a quiet drawing room on Mount Street, Colin Bridgerton kissed Penelope Featherington.  And it was glorious.
Devil in Winter (Wallflowers, #3)
St. Vincent and Evie's wedding -- Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
This is one of the most amusing weddings I've read in a romance, mostly due to the impatience of the rakish St. Vincent who just wants to get it over with and the Gretna Green blacksmith who just keeps lengthening the process.
Interrupting what promised to be a long spate of fatherly advice, St. Vincent said in a clipped voice, "It's not a love match. It's a marriage of convenience and there's not enough warmth between us to light a birthday candle. Get on with it, if you please. Neither of us has had a proper sleep in two days." Silence fell over the scene, with MacPhee and his two daughters appearing shocked by the brusque remarks. Then the blacksmith's heavy brows lower over his eyes in a scowl. "I don't like ye," he announced.  St. Vincent regarded him with exasperation. "Neither does my bride-to-be. But since that's not going to stop her from marrying me, it shouldn't stop you either. Go on."

Secret Desires of a Gentleman (Girl Bachelors, #3)
Maria discovers Phillip's secret  -- Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke
Phillip and Maria's relationship has been one full of arguments and disdain on both of their parts.  But, this scene provides readers with a different view on things.
"I believe you have something that belongs to me."
She knew.  He closed his eyes.  His chest tightened.  Damn Lawrence.
From long practice, Phillip forced his features into polite, expressionless lines.  Only then did he look at her.
In the dim, hazy moonlight, her skin seemed lit with a luminous glow.  "You have my hair ribbon."
Was it a statement or an accusation?  He could not be sure, but he forced himself to reach into the breast pocket of his jacket.  As he pulled out his card case, the action brought pain, as if he were ripping it out of his chest.  He opened the case and removed the ribbon.  He started at it for a moment, then he shoved it toward her.  "Here.  Take it."
She didn't move.  "I thought I'd lost it."  She looked up at him, her pretty hazel eyes wide.  "But you took it, didn't you?"
Tell her you found it after she'd left Kayne Hall, he thought.  Tell her that.
He didn't say it.  He couldn't, for it would be a lie.  "Yes."
"Why?"
The Raven Prince (Princes Trilogy, #1)
The brothel scene -- The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
Definitely the hottest scene on this list.  When the widowed Anna discovers that her aristocratic boss is heading to London to visit a brothel rather than embrace the physical attraction they have, she disguises herself as a prostitute to show him how good they could be together.
The door opened.Anna whirled and froze.  A masculine shape loomed in the doorway, silhouetted by the hall light.  For a fraction of a second, she felt fear and stepped back apprehensively.  She couldn't even tell if it was Lord Swartingham.  Then he entered, and she knew by the shape of his head, by his stride, by the movement of his arm as he took off his coat, that it was he.The earl laid the coat on a chair and advanced toward her in his shirt, breeches, and waistcoat.  Anna didn't know what to do or say.  She nervously pulled her hair back from her face and tucked it behind her ear with the crook of her little finger.  She couldn't see his expression in the dim candlelight any more than he could see hers.He reached for her and took her in his arms.  She relaxed at the movement and lifted her face, expecting his kiss.  But he didn't kiss her lips.  Instead, he bypassed her face altogether and laid his open mouth against the curve of her neck.
Scandal in Spring (Wallflowers, #4)
Daisy finding her button -- Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Another moment that makes the heroine, and the reader, rethink their relationship with the hero based on one all important discovery.
Daisy smiled.  She found another intriguing object and she held it up to inspect it.  A button.  Her brow creased as she stared at the front of the button, which was engraved with a pattern of a windmill.  The back of it contained a tiny lock of black hair behind a thin plate of glass, held in place with a copper rim.
Swift blanched and reached for it, but Daisy snatched it back, her fingers closing around the button...
"Your father wore the waistcoat to the company offices.  It was much admired.  But later that day he was in a temper and in the process of throwing an ink bottle he spilled some on himself.  The waistcoat was ruined.  Rather than face your mother with the news he gave the garment to me, buttons and all, and told me to dispose of it."
"But you kept one button."  Her lungs expanded until her chest felt tight on the inside and her heartbeat was frantic.  "The windmill.  Which was mine.  Have you...have you carried a lock of my hair all these years?"
Still clutching the button, Daisy struggled to her feet.  Swift rose in one smooth movement, first steadying her, and then clamping his hand on her wrist.  He held his free hand beneath hers and gave her an inscrutable look.
He wanted the button back, she realized and let out an incredulous laugh.