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review: How the Marquess Was Won

How the Marquess was Won (Pennyroyal Green #6) -by- Julie Anne Long (Published by NN)  My grade: 3 1/2 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  The Scandal Sheets call him Lord Ice.  Ruthless, cold, precise, Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, tolerates only the finest—in clothes, in horseflesh, in mistresses. And now he’s found the perfect bride, the one whose dowry will restore his family’s shattered legacy and bring him peace at last: the exquisite heiress Lisbeth Redmond.  She’s not afraid to play with fire. But one unforgettable encounter with Lisbeth’s paid companion, Phoebe Vale, and the Marquess is undone: this quiet girl with the wicked smile and a wit to match is the first person to see through the icy façade to the fiery man beneath. But their irresistible attraction is a torment as sweet as it is dangerous: for surrendering to their desire could mean losing everything else they ever wanted…

LET ME START BY SAYING THAT I AM one of Julie Anne Long’s fangirls. I absolutely adore the Pennyroyal Green series, and I have re-read all of my favourites, most recently “What I Did For a Duke”. So I have been waiting for the sixth instalment in this series with bated breath. Sadly, I have seen a lot of complaints in threads and in reviews that Ms. Long gets quite a few of the historical details wrong. As long as I don’t notice these things they do not bother me (though I don’t care to have them pointed out to me, to be honest, then they tend to annoy me). I can understand, however, that it would irk readers with a good knowledge of the time period (of which I am somewhat vague, but, again – that suits me fine). But  I digress. Probably, because I am writing this review so reluctantly as I have to confess that I was fairly disappointed in this book.

I cannot fault the writing – the sentences or dialogue never feel contrived or stilted and Ms. Long has such a wonderful way with words, that the prose is absolutely magical at times. Very few authors can evoke emotions the way she can. So I feel the anticipation/excitement/joy/passion/anguish and grief as her main characters do. In one scene, Phoebe’s beloved cat Charybdis is lost, and I suffer with her as she comes to face with the fact that he might be gone forever, and in the next scene I feel as frantic as Julian, the Marquess, as he hunts desperately to try and find the feline.

This is from a point in the book where Phoebe hears opera for the first time:

The music twined around Phoebe, and in moments held her fast, in thrall. She yearned to know the next note, the next phrase. It was a fresh and delightful shock when each was lovelier than the next. Anticipation ramped and ramped. The voice slipped in almost unnoticed, like an interloper into a party. It insinuated itself between notes, and then surreptitiously, then ever more boldly, climbed, and climbed, and climbed . . . until it soared above the music. Brazen and glorious. Dear God . . . the sound of it . . . it hurt, hurt to hear, such was its beauty. She felt swollen with it. She reached out and clutched the marquess’s sleeve without realizing it. As if to prevent herself from launching skyward. “What is it? The song. Please tell me what it is,” she demanded on a whisper. He looked down at her hand. And then down into her face. If she had known his breath had caught when she’d reached out for him . . . if she had seen his expression . . . then she might have backed away, confused by the unguarded confusion and hunger there. Or she might have flung herself into his arms. She was owned by the music. She’d closed her eyes.

However, I was not so happy about having to read about a cousin to the Redmonds. A not very likeable young lady at that, and she was not even the main female character. So in essence, even if the setting was Pennyroyal Green in Sussex and London, as per usual, and I met some of the beloved characters from earlier books in passing, the story was in not about a Redmond or an Eversea but about Phoebe Vale, a teacher at the academy for recalcitrant young girls and some totally unconnected Marquess. It turns out he is connected because he wants to marry the Redmond cousin Lisbeth, so that he can get land that once belonged to his family back in form of dowry.

Another disappointment I have with this book, apart from not thinking that it is a true Pennyroyal Green-book, was  that I felt there were some inconsistencies and a very forced obstacle to the HEA. Phoebe is planning to leave her employment at the academy to join a group of missionaires bound for Africa. At first this seems like a distant plan, apparently she has not saved up enough money. Then, suddenly because she wins some money in a card game, she is set to leave directly with the group of missionaries who are departing very conveniently in a very near future. Further, she does not seem to have anchored this idea of leaving with Ms. Endicott of the academy.

The first encounter between Phoebe and Julian takes place in the village store, where he is looking for a gift for Lisbeth Redmond:

He gestured to a case in a shadowy corner of the shop near the girls, far away from sunlight that could yellow or fade painted silk. “I hope you find something that pleases you.” Fat chance, Phoebe thought.
That Fat chance thought felt so out of place that I had to look the expression up, and the first time it is recorded to have been used was in the early 1900’s. It felt more modern than that, though.

The supporting cast is consisting of people who; apart from Jonathan Redmond, I don’t find very likeable. Lisbeth turns out to be a self obsessed mean girl and some young bloods and ladies of the ton play a cruel trick on Phoebe just for sport. Jonathan, by the way, has had the spelling of his name changed; throughout “Like No Other Lover” his name spells Jonathon. Very annoying. My final complaint is a repeated phrase towards the end of the book, after a very emotional scene Phoebe is leaving Julian and thinking that he is asleep, she tries to get away quietly. This is how this reads in my electronic version of the book:

And she slipped out of bed, and tiptoed across the carpet. She gave Charybdis a good morning kiss, then tiptoed across the carpet, collecting her gloves, her slippers.She tiptoes across the carpet. Twice. Sloppy.

Rounding off  this whiny review, I would like to say that the first part of the book was more enjoyable than the second part, which felt rushed and as mentioned, somewhat forced. Despite this, it was an enjoyable and addictive read and had my expectations not been so high, I probably would not have felt as let down as I admittedly do. I am now waiting to read about Lyon and Olivia. I think it is time.

(read in January 2012)

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review: The Bro-Magnet


The Bro-Magnet -by- Lauren Baratz-Logsted
(Published by TKA Distribution) 

My grade: 3 1/2 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  Women have been known to lament, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” For Johnny Smith, the problem is, “Always a Best Man, never a groom.” At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man’s man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn’t have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately…

 I GREW UP AS THE OLDEST of four daughters. My mum has three sisters and only one of them has a son – the rest of my cousins are female.  So with that background I particularly enjoy books from a male main character’s point of view. Johnny (or John, as he decides to go by, in order to project a more mature image) has an endearing voice. Just like all the guys -bros- that he comes across, I find him charming and endearing and I really want to be his friend. And, I think that is one of the problems I have with this book. Johnny is like the brother I never had and he is not convincing -to me- as a romantic lead.

Some might argue that this is supposed to be a romantic comedy first and foremost, and I agree that many scenes in this book are funny. There is a thin line you have to walk in order for the hilarious situations that ensue (a date at the opera in a barn with a pair of siblings performing multiple roles, for instance) not becoming over the top and too unrealistic, and the author does this very well. I think, however, that Johnny’s long-time crush could have been painted with a somewhat finer brush to be more effective.

Just like many a romantic comedy herione needs a gay best friend, so does a hero. Johnny’s neighbour, sometime employee and BFF Sam is a lesbian. She is also very self assured – almost like a guy, actually, and very attractive. She has just come out of a failed relationship and is also wondering what she is doing wrong. As Johnny goes about trying to turn himself into the man that he thinks that Helen – the love interest – wants, Sam assists him and also applies some of the helpful hints he picks up along the way.  The banter between Johnny and Sam is something that I enjoyed a lot, almost to the point where I was rooting for the outcome that Sam would be a closet bi-sexual person and she and Johnny would be an item at the end. But, of course she is not.

Another problem I had with the book is that I don’t feel what Johnny feels about Helen – he tells me/the reader how he reacts and what he thinks about and his hopes for this relationship, but when we reach the butterfly in the tummy moments; the first kiss and when they finally progress to a more physical relationship, he tells me that as well. The door is closed.

When I say that I had some problems with the book, I don’t mean that I am disappointed – it was a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read. It brought out a lot of smiles an d giggles and left me with a happy feeling. But, at the end of the day I do wish that there had been a little more romance to this comedy.

(read in January 2012)

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