The new Sarah MacLean, the Rogue Not Taken was a huge disappointment. Heavily stealing from a specific Heyer (along with some other extremely tired tropes), except in the Heyer the heroine was a lot younger so it was easier to believe her naivete about the world, and the Heyer has, you know, character development. It’s got funny bits, but mostly it’s the hero and heroine bickering with each other and being jerks to each other and not telling each other the truth or really talking at all and then suddenly it’s the end and a forced resolution. Also lots of telling, not showing. She has done a lot better.
The new Loretta Chase, Dukes Prefer Blondes, on the other hand, was delightful! Very much like a Courtney Milan book, actually (without actually stealing). I wonder if she read the Brothers Sinister series and thought, maybe I should try something like this. It definitely works. It’s the fourth in the dressmakers series, but doesn’t require having read the first three. It does have a lot of hero and heroine bickering, but in a very different way than in the MacLean and they know what each other means (as does the reader) as they bicker, and there’s character development and stuff. It’s like I wouldn’t want that relationship, but I can totally see how theirs works, whereas with the MacLean it’s like, uh huh, sure this would happen and/or last. Unfortunately I also read a couple more kind of racist early Loretta Chases (there’s even a post in the drafts about 19th century Indian characters in Chase vs. Milan that I should really finish and post). #2 thinks I should give up on her, but her non-racist stuff is good, so I don’t know. I keep hoping, that, like Balogh who no longer uses rape as a plot device, she’s learned over time and won’t have racist stereotypes anymore. (And if I gave up all authors who have racist stuff, I’d have to never reread a Jeeves and Wooster because the Wodehouse that didn’t get reprinted is horrific.)
Destiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins: Meh, the prologue was violence. The first chapter was boring. Didn’t finish.
Did we mention Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James? This one was really really good. Lots of fun and sexy too. We both loved it and think it’s worth purchasing. Very much recommend. Not sure about the other Eloisa James books though– some of them have fallen flat and one of us has a bit of trepidation about the adultery in some of her more popular books (update: the adultery didn’t turn out to be a problem so much as the fact that that entire stupid series was inspired by EJ seeing her irl infertile friends do anything to have a baby, and they don’t have IVF during the long regency and most of the characters are too stupid to live). I also really liked A Duke of Her Own which is a prequel to Three Weeks. If you have any Eloisa James recommendations, let us know! I did just read American Duchess, and it started out well, but then got stupid in the middle and then the last half was all, “when will he say he loves her”– at least she didn’t have to get into a carriage ride accident this time, though I was *sure* that was going to happen given his parents died in a carriage ride accident and that’s how like 2 other books I’ve read in the past week or so resolved. I think I’m at a point where I need to read me some novels that have actual you know, plots, in addition to the romance, like Heyer’s Toll-Gate or Milan’s Brothers Sinister series. Maybe it’s time to turn from regencies to cozy mysteries…
Julia Quinn has just been terrible. I tried three books and they all started out strong and then just kind of fell apart in the last half. She doesn’t know how to end, or maybe runs out of time or desire to edit. For example, How to marry a marquis was ok but mediocre until the attempted rape scene at which point it went downhill considerably. On top of that, amazon and goodreads tell me she doesn’t seem to realize that when the heroine physically prevents the hero (who she has gotten drunk for the sole purpose of seducing) from removing himself from her body in the hope that she will conceive the child that he has told her he does not want, that is still rape.
Mary Balogh continues strong with her books written in say the last 15-20 years. I’ve been cranking through the “Slightly” series about the Bedwyn siblings. They’re pretty good. Not necessarily worth buying (and maybe a little repetitive here and there), but definitely worth the read. Her earlier stuff is still pretty hit or miss with creepy “masterful” heroes and servants being raped for no reason (also rape as backstory yuck). I am so glad that rape is no longer “in”.
Stephanie Laurens has been pretty inoffensive so far. Read two of her Cynster books, which were fine though read like early novels. Her somewhat later book, All About Passion, about friend of the Cynsters, has much better pacing. Most of these seem to be mysteries, but the mystery is pretty weak. Still, having a plot right now is saving books from having the stupid, “why won’t he say he loves her until her carriage is overturned” lack of plot in far too many of the books I’ve read lately. If you like lots of sex scenes and long sex scenes, then Stephanie Laurens is for you. All About Passion has the benefit that the lengthy sex scenes are also varied and interesting. (I, um, may have learned something new, which is a first for me with romance novels.) I also like her novellas in both It happened one night and It happened one season collections, each of which also feature reasonably a good Balogh novella/story and a lovely Hern short story.
What have you been reading?