Book Review: What Happens At Christmas

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 4.25.14 PM.pngWhat Happens at Christmas was my very first Victoria Alexander book. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately bought the other four books in the series!

Just by the premise of the book alone I knew I would love it. Lady Camille Lydingham is a wealthy young widow with her eye on Prince Nikolai Prunzinsky of Greater Avalonia. Mostly because he is hot and is a Prince. Deciding to capitalize on the information that the Prince has always wanted to experience a traditional English Christmas, Lady Camille decides to invite him to her family manor for Christmas. However, Lady Camille has a problem: her family is seriously embarrassing. So what is a resourceful rich woman to do? Hire a troop of actors to their place!

Grayson Elliot has just returned to England after building a fortune in America. Years ago, he and Camille were best friends. But when he decided to tell her that he loved her the day because her wedding the friendship (obviously) fell apart. When he discovers Lady Camille’s charade, however, he sees his perfect opportunity to worm his way back into her life — by pretending to be her cousin!

I think I smiled or laughed my way through this entire book. That is not to say that the book was perfect: both Lady Camille and Grayson weren’t the easiest characters to fall in love with. Lady Camille was selfish and shallow, and Grayson definitely acted like an idiot at times. Yet the chemistry between the two characters was sizzling and their personalities matched seamlessly.

However, what made this book so special were the supporting characters: especially the acting trope! I don’t want to spoil the jokes, but just trust me that whenever the acting trope is involved in a scene you will laugh.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review of Wicked & the Wallflower, The Bareknuckle Bastards

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 4.23.10 PM.pngIt pains me to write this review (Sarah Maclean used to be one of my favorite authors) and yet I feel obligated to inform the romance community not to buy this book.

Scratch that: If you like super angsty, hyperbolic books that focus on bad boys with daddy issues and girls that “give them light” you might enjoy this book.

But as a reader who finds joy in light-hearted humorous romances, this book did absolutely nothing for me.

This book tells the tale of Felicity Faircloth — a 27-year-old wallflower who five years ago used to be the belle of the ball — and “Devil” a duke’s bastard son and ice smuggler who essentially runs the Covent Garden neighborhood of London along with his half-brother Whist and half-sister Grace.

Serious question: Why is it a “thing” for romance novel authors to name their main character Devil? We get it, the dude is bad. You don’t need to hit your readers on the head with a stick to make that point.

Anyhow, Devil’s evil half brother Ewan (also a bastard son of the Duke) has arrived in London to inherit the Duke of Marwick title to find a wife to procreate a heir and a spare. Devil is pissed about this: when Whist, Devil, Ewan, and Grace were children they all solemnly swore to let the Marwick line die out. Furthermore, Devil suspects Ewan’s motive for inheriting the dukedom is more complicated than just wanting the hundreds of thousands of pounds, fancy houses, and the title. Thus, Devil hatches a plot to stop Ewan. And Felicity Faircloth is apparently the perfect pawn…

Ugh. I knew just from the Amazon summary that this book was going to be angsty but I truly wanted to believe otherwise. After all, all three of Maclean’s Love by the Numbers books (which I believe are her three first books) are some of my favorite romances ever. However, as Maclean has written more, her books have become increasingly angsty. And the Wicked & the Wallflowerwins the title for the angsty yet!

I liked Felicity Faircloth: she had spunk, resilience, and a fun personality. However, as the book dragged on, I liked her less and less. She just made some honestly terrible decisions about her personal safety that I cannot condone. Furthermore, she constantly talks about her “obsession with the darkness” which is frankly the most annoying thing ever. Stop romanticizing violence!

Devil…oh wow where do I start? I never really did see what redeeming qualities he had. I guess he was devoted to Grace and Whist but I never really read a scene that exemplified this loyalty. He manipulated Felicity, continuously lied to her, and for much of the book planned on taking her virtue without her consent. Furthermore, his interactions with Felicity were incredibly patronizing and I never really felt like Devil respected or trusted her.

So if two angsty characters and an angsty plot line wasn’t enough, Sarah Maclean’s sentence structures were also very angsty. Before this book, I never really realized that one could write in an angsty manner. Yet through her obsession with sentence fragments and excessive periods Sarah Maclean’s writing style manages to embody angst.

Just read this random (I literally just opened my book to a random page) snippet of text:

“An illegitimate son, once willing to kill for legitimacy, now come for it on another path. One he had vowed he would never travel. And Devil would teach him a lesson. Which meant Felicity would have to learn it, too.”

Gah!

Sarah Maclean, what happened to making your readers smile when they read your book? What happened to creating likable and affable characters with flaws a reader could forgive?

Rating: 1/5

Book Review: Too Wilde to Wed

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 4.19.04 PMOver the course of the past year I have read over 150 regency romances. Amazon sells thousands of regency romances — many too poorly written to be worth reading. Thus, I find myself most often choosing what books to read based on authors.

Eloisa James is my absolute favorite. I truly believe that (other than the first desperate duchesses book that felt vaguely mildly incest-y) that she can do no wrong. Her book ‘When Beauty Tamed the Beast” is my go-to recommendation for regency romance novel virgins.

That said, while I liked “Too Wilde to Wed” I found it slightly underwhelming. The book tells the story of North and Diana — two characters introduced in James’ previous book “Wilde in Love.”

In “Wilde in Love” North, the heir to a dukedom, is engaged to Miss Diana — a seemingly docile beautiful woman. Despite awkward conversations and the obvious reality that Diana simply wasn’t into him, North fancies himself in love with Diana. To a reader, it is pretty clear that North is thinking with his dick on this one. At the end of the book, Diana jilts North and flees. In response, North runs off to the Americas to go find in the Revolutionary War.

The book starts off two years later after North returns home and discovers that Diana is working as a governess at his house! She is caring for her young nephew (although he suspects for a while that the boy is her son). Immediately sparks fly as North discovers that Diana is not docile at all while Diana discovers that North is not nearly as stuffy as she thought (i.e. he doesn’t always wear heels). I’m not going to spoil the rest of the book, but I will let y’all know that it has a happy ending (but then again, what regency romance novel doesn’t?).

The writing style is Eloisa James at her best: full of humor, witty banter, and sizzling chemistry. For that reason alone, the book is a must read for summer. However, like I mentioned earlier, the book was remarkably underwhelming: neither North nor Diana were particularly likable, and I found their story ridiculously inconceivable (and not in the everyone is getting kidnapped and this isn’t remotely historical accurate way…I love those kind of books).

As a reader, you are excepted to believe that North feel in love with Diana at first sight. He loved her as a quiet, blushing woman under her mother’s thumb who went out of her way to avoid him. And, despite going to war, never fell out of love with her. When he meets her again, he realizes she is a dramatically different person than he originally thought — full of fire, snarky comebacks, and a burning desire for independence. And yet he never seriously doubts his love towards her despite this monumental shift in her personality. This seriously bothered me. I mean, I’m all for Diana’s newfound confidence, but North’s unwavering devotion makes me think that the only reason North wants Diana at all is her looks — that he didn’t give a damn about her personality.

My other issue with this book resided in the character of Diana. I tend to really enjoy books that feature spunky heroines who defy societal expectations, but Diana made decisions that were simply irresponsible and, frankly, stupid. James paints Diana as a woman devoted to her nephew, and yet the choices Diana makes are selfish and not in the child’s best interest.

All that said, I would recommend one reads “Too Wilde to Wed” if they have the chance. The ending of the book is truly unique and I smiled at the lighthearted humor the entire duration of the book. However, it is definitely not James best.

Rating: 3.7/5