I tried to read more of the Ravenels by Lisa Kleypas and was reminded why I stopped reading her last time. Marrying Winterborne was ok, a reasonable library read. Hello Stranger … starts with an attempted rape and then is an eternity of the trope where the seemingly capable of defending herself heroine is told by the hero that she’s not actually capable but is instead deluded which she denies and then he teaches her to fight dirty and then it’s more he doubts her capability and she disagrees, rinse, lather, repeat. I hate this trope. So… basically I just stopped reading before any plot could happen. I read the last chapter and found I didn’t care. So…
I found a list of Beta heroes and got Backstage Pass, which turned out to be erotic fiction, which… not my cuppa, but whatever. The irritating thing (besides the author not really understanding academia) is that the hero was NOT a Beta hero– he refused to be understanding about the importance of her work and whined when it took her away from him and forced her to make sacrifices, never him (though he framed it as he was the one always sacrificing, which… he wasn’t, also that’s irritating controlling Alpha behavior, not can we find a solution together Beta behavior). That is obnoxious and not what I am looking for in an understanding supportive Beta guy. Nope. (Also three-somes with two guys sound *really unpleasant.* And there was some cringey not really understanding consent stuff with the BDSM portions– one of the characters, Jace, sounds like the reason I can’t listen to Moxy Fruvous anymore. So I won’t be reading any more of that series.)
A duke, the lady, and a baby was ok, but I think would have been better if the hero wasn’t such a jerk. Like, the idea was good, the heroine is pretty cool, the side characters are intriguing (with lots of set-ups for future books in the same series), but the hero himself… not great and especially not great in interactions with the heroine. He’s much better with people who are not the heroine. Awful pushy alpha hitting on his nanny, following her with the baby once he finds out she’s not the nanny (this is not a spoiler– it’s in the first chapter) because she doesn’t follow his orders anymore. Just… could have been a lot better. I don’t agree with the author about what makes a guy attractive, I guess.
Ten things I hate about the duke by Loretta Chase was much better than the previous book in the series that I DNF. It wasn’t worth purchasing, but I do not begrudge having read it.
The Devilish Lord Will by Jennifer Ashley was quite good. I accidentally borrowed it when I meant to just look at it, so it I read it out of order in terms of the series, like WAY out of order, but it was an excellent stand-alone so I think that’s ok. I’m not usually into to Scottish heroes, but this one was not at all brooding. Quite jolly, really. A++ do recommend. Not sure if I’m going to buy it or not… maybe? (Oh hey, it’s only $4.99, I think I will just get it.) I then read a bunch more of these MacKenzies books and have so far liked all of them (but not all of them are library available– I suspect I wouldn’t enjoy the one about Lady Isabella because I tend to dislike the estranged-for-a-stupid-reason spouses trope. It is so rarely done well (really only done will when it’s for Scarlet Pimpernel reasons!)). I especially like the 18th century ones about Will (see above) and Alec (haven’t read the one about Mal yet, but I bet it is also good, cw: the villain was also a rapist, but no rape is shown and he does not survive very long after that is found out). There’s some problematic stuff very early about Roma in the 19th century series, but Ashley seems to learn throughout the novels what not to do with respect to that so it gets better.
Gave up on Strange Neighbors (I think this was another from that list of beta heroes) because it started with an attempted rape right after the heroine mentioned to her new landlord who was hitting on her that she hadn’t been allowed to move out of her dad’s house until she was 25 because her mom was murdered after leaving the house and… could we just not? I didn’t even finish the first chapter. UGH.
A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe had such a great setup, but didn’t really deliver. It was almost Grace Burrows-esque in terms of the villains not getting their comeuppance because the heroine was too milquetoast and forgiving. Like, if she could have become braver and the hero could have helped her grow into a more confident version of herself, this would have been an amazing book. It had that promise. But it didn’t go that route. Sometimes the trope way is the best way. I mean, sometimes you just want the joy of seeing Trump prosecuted and landing in jail, you know?
DC1 noted that there are a lot of dukes in the titles of the books I read and we talked about how when there isn’t a social safety net the safest person to marry is a duke (assuming he’s not abusive) because it sucks marrying a prince and might even be dangerous if someone decides to depose you, but dukes are the most powerful and safest you can get without actually being in direct line for the throne (some ducal exceptions apply).
The library and amazon both claim I tried reading Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain, but I think I must have lost interest right away because although I remember the cover I don’t actually remember reading it(!)
The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds by T E Kinsey was not at all cozy like the books in the previous series although it started out that way. It made the fatal mistake of unexpectedly killing off someone that the reader has come to care for, on screen even(!). Which, not what I am looking for.
Drops of Gold by Sarah M. Eden was too boring to finish. Also: Nanny trope, not my favorite. Pollyanna trope, also not my favorite.
The other two books in Tessa Dare’s Castles ever after series were fine (Say Yes to the Marquess and When a Scot Ties the Knot) but not as good as the first one (Romancing the Duke). Not perfect, but ok. I don’t regret having read them though I’m not going to buy them. Even at $3.99. I think Harper Collins might be having a sale– I just picked up Romancing the Duke for $2.99. It may not still be going on when this posts. :/
A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore was pretty good. I stayed up late finishing it because it got exciting near the end. I was astonished to realize I’d also read the first in the series because the heroine from that book is in this book but I had no idea it was the same person(!)
I really wanted to love The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (lesbian beekeepers, what’s not to like?)… but Olivia Waite has this problem where she creates stupid angst and drama from lack of communication. It was nonsensical in her last book where the heroines had a ridiculous fight with basically no provocation. Here it took the form of 9/10 of the book being them not talking about how they were into each other, which made sense when neither of them knew the other was into women, but about halfway through the book the lesbian started giving extremely strong signals to the bisexual including straight out saying she was into women and had done women etc. And the inner thoughts of the bisexual at that point just made no sense. Then everything interesting in the book happened in literally the last (or technically the second to last, since the last chapter was just setting up the next book) chapter. Waite needs an editor who is going to say cut the angst in the middle 5/6 of the book, stretch out this awesome part at the end so it’s not so rushed, and if you’re going to go with drama, them make things actually happen instead of repeating the whole, I like her but she couldn’t possibly like me ad infinitum. I am glad our local library has started purchasing her so I can continue to test her books as they come out.
A woman entangled by Cecilia Grant was quite good. Plus it actually did have a beta hero (though one who isn’t a doormat– he does yell at the heroine but she deserves it at the time). Both the hero and heroine are interesting but not completely likeable, and they both grow up during the story which is nice. The twin separate storylines about family estrangement, scandals, and choices also work well together. It is a well put together book. Not perfect (the ending is a bit rushed and to be honest, I completely skipped over the sex scenes), but definitely worth reading, maybe even buying at 7.99 depending on your price point for books. I realized near the end that I’d read the first in the series and though it ok, but apparently not good enough to even mention in one of these round-ups (I vaguely remember it being a silly storyline about a recent widow paying a man to get her pregnant so her late husband’s estate doesn’t go to a Bad Man– if the sale is still going on, only $2.99 on kindle right now if you want to give it a shot) and had skipped the second. I think I will not pick up the second given its lower reviews. You don’t need to have read the previous books to read this one AT ALL. In fact, the heroine of the first book was complete unrecognizable.
For some reason I don’t remember, I put “A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem” by Manda Collins on my library holds list. I’m still #5 on that list. But I noticed it doesn’t have great reviews, so I investigated it further and it turns out a lot of people *thought* they were getting a new book with a similar title, “A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder” by another author, Dianne Freeman. That book being the third in a series. Those books have much higher ratings and the pictures on the cover are DELIGHTFUL– full of the whimsy of Edward Gorey, though not quite in his exact style. So I picked up the first two books in the series, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder and A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder from the library. They are fun!!! They’re kind of expensive so I probably won’t get my own copies, but if they were more in the $5.99 range, I would– the mysteries themselves are fine but kind of rushed, but they’re also fun romance novels set in the late 1890s (no sex), so…
What are you reading, Grumpy Nation?