How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn


How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (375 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

She’s trying to follow the rules…

When Elizabeth Hotchkiss stumbles upon a copy of How to Marry a Marquis in her employer’s library, she’s convinced someone is playing a cruel joke. With three younger siblings to support, she knows she has to marry for money, but who might have guessed how desperate she’s become? A guidebook to seduction might be just the thing she needs—and what harm could there be in taking a little peek?

…But he’s making his own

James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale, has been summoned to rescue his aunt from a blackmailer, a task that requires him to pose as the new estate manager, and his primary suspect is his aunt’s companion, Elizabeth. Intrigued by the alluring young woman with the curious little rulebook, he gallantly offers to help her find a husband… by practicing her wiles on him. But when practice becomes all too perfect, James decides that there is only one rule worth following—that Elizabeth marry her marquis.

The pen is mightier than the sword. However, in this novel a book is mightier because there’s a whole host of words and those words wreak havoc on the life of one Elizabeth Hotchkiss, heroine.

Elizabeth is a wonderful person but she doesn’t have a lot of joy in her life. What she does have is responsibilities, and they are impressively written. A reader comes to understand the scope of her dedication and sacrifice due to the author’s excellent attention to detail, dialogue and the ability to touch my heart.

I can see why Lady Danbury eventually chooses to do what she did. I suspected, but I never quite felt sure of it until it was confirmed. I’m actually glad Ms. Quinn took that route – it made the dragon of a woman into someone I could admire and respect. As with historicals, half of the conflict comes from never baldly stating things like we do now. You had to have finesse back then to plan, manipulate and scheme while continuing to talk like a lady with none the wiser. Unlike Mr. Twain who said, “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”, dialogue back then was full of almost right words. It’s not a wonder then how things got resolved despite the verbal dance.

I liked James. I had a bit of sympathy for him. True, his lament is the same heard used by many handsome, rich and titled men in romance books – “they want me for my money and title, not for the man I am.” That trope is used here to good effect. Alas, the heroine’s reaction when finding out is typical, but the setting was not. The reveal was not. It really was quite comical, although the heroine and hero surely didn’t find it so. But Blake did and it turns out that his character, though secondary, made an impact on me. I’ll have to check Ms. Quinn’s back list to find out if there’s a story of him being bitten by the love bug too.

When Elizabeth and James finally succumbed to incendiary passion, after simmering so long, it was a long time coming. I was very gratified to see that they are perfect for each other which is a credit to Ms. Quinn’s writing.

The happy ever after is as charming and cute as the story began but very satisfying indeed. How to Marry a Marquis is an easy book to recommend because it’s good, solid entertainment. It left me feeling happy and glad to have read the novel. What a fun read!

Dark Gold by Christine Feehan

GOLD
Dark Gold by Christine Feehan
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (312 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

They were masters of the darkness, searching through eternity for a mistress of the light . . .
Alexandria Houton will sacrifice anything–even her life –to protect her orphaned little brother. But when both encounter an unspeakable evil in the swirling San Francisco mists, Alex can only cry to heaven for their deliverance . . . And out of the darkness swoops Aidan Savage, a golden being more powerful, more mysterious, than any other creature of the night. The ageless Carpathian male snatches them from a hideous fate. But is Aidan Alex’s salvation . . . or her sin? If she surrenders to Aidan’s savage, unearthly seduction, and gives him the color, the light, the family he craves, will Alex truly save her brother? Or sacrifice more than her life?

There’s nothing like a good romance about a man who has no emotions suddenly finding himself awash in color, feeling and emotions so strong they confuse yet strengthen him. All because of one special woman.

Ms. Feehan’s Carpathian series have pretty much the same scenario. They’re based on a race that over time, without finding their one true mate, the other half to their soul, they slowly lose the ability to feel emotion or to see color or to have any interest in life at all except for duty, honor and the ingrained need to protect their race, humans and the distant hope of finding the woman who will save them. What makes each and every one unique is the heroine, the circumstances under which they meet and the dangers they must overcome in order to reach their HEA.

Ms. Feehan’s heroes are all alpha. They’re dominant, commanding and expect obedience. The fun part about that is they have to adjust when their woman ends up being a modern, independent thinker who’s been self-reliant for a long time. So, they butt heads. Aiden is a typical Carpathian male. Alexandria is a not so typical human female but independent with a strong will. Those two personality traits are going to save her life, and eventually, Aiden’s.

The story this time around has a few vampire/Carpathian conflicts to spice things up but the bulk of the plot is character driven. Alexandria just can’t accept that the life she knew is over and resents and distrusts the new way of life she now has to learn. For the most part, her concerns are valid. However, the book would have been much shorter if she didn’t have quite so many anxiety attacks after which she backslides and Aiden has to work on getting her to trust him all over again. It got a bit tedious. Also, Ms. Feehan repeats things a lot. I don’t think it’s a filler as much as it is a mantra since I’ve noticed it in her other books in the series. It’s just the way she writes about her Carpathians. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive me nuts, it does but I’ve read enough of them to just ignore it. It’s her style. Then again, I mention it so new readers won’t think the author is being lazy by doing that. I don’t think that’s the case at all.

I liked Alexandria’s brother, and Aiden’s housekeepers. They’re good folk who prove pivotal at certain points throughout the novel. I also liked seeing Gregori. There’s a set up here for his romance and HEA coming and that’s one romance story to look forward to. He’s so scary in this book!

Dark Gold was a good read. It’s entertaining, and highly likable. Aiden is sexy once he gets going and Alexandria is a great sister to Joshua. Aiden is very sneaky. I liked that about him. My favorite part was with the crème puffs and the bee. The heroine’s stubbornness eventually becomes an asset to the hero and the happy ever after is complete and satisfying. It’s a fascinating romance and worth recommending to other paranormal romance readers.

One Lucky Vampire by Lynsay Sands

VAMPIRE
One Lucky Vampire by Lynsay Sands
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (226 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Luck be a vampire tonight . . .

When Nicole Phillips agreed to hire a housekeeper, she pictured someone a little frumpy and almost certainly female. Instead, she gets gorgeous, unmistakably male Jake Colson. The man is proving indispensable in the kitchen—and everywhere else. Except Jake might not be a mortal man at all.

. . . and every night

Who wouldn’t want to be a tall, dark, powerful vampire? Jake, for one. He’s barely had time to adjust to his new state before he’s roped into a family favor. Still, secretly playing bodyguard to sweet, sexy Nicole is turning out to be the wildest ride of his life. First he’ll put a stop to whoever’s targeting her. Then he’ll prove that this kind of love, and luck, happens only once in an eternity.

Mixing a bit of mystery with an Immortal matchmaker and a disgruntled man who isn’t comfortable with what he is makes for a good plot conflict. Throw in a damsel in distress but in denial and it’s a better conflict. Add in that the damsel is actually the guy’s lifemate and the story is a winner. Ms. Sands delivers another entertaining and fun read for fans to enjoy.

Jake is going through the motions of living his life but not really enjoying it. His job is hard and he gets to play hero but he’s too much a loner and doesn’t let anyone get close. It takes the wonderfully manipulative Marguerite Argeneau to find a way to bring him back to living in the best possible way. Not that he’s thrilled about it. The man can’t cook and I was greatly entertained by his efforts. I have to give the guy credit though; he’s not a quitter.

Enter Nicole Phillips, artist, almost divorced and as determined as a woman could be to avoid any future dealings with men. Of course, she never counted on being in Marguerite’s crosshairs. The heroine is like a daughter to Marguerite so when she thinks there are sneaky things happening to Nicole she knows just who to ask for help. I liked watching Nicole’s reaction to Jake. She’s noticing but trying not to notice, admiring but trying not to. As all romance readers will suspect, it’s a lost cause. Love is in the air.

The initial part of the book covers the suspicions, motives, and everyone getting to know the other. There’s a throwaway character named Dan who I am waffling about. He’s sort of important in the beginning when a reader first meets Jake because of the insights he provides. Then he arrives to take part in another critical scene and the he poofs off-stage again. That left me puzzled. I think his character, though thoroughly likeable, was too convenient. He was used and then thrown away. It felt like a Band-Aid to me. The thing is, I liked him and I think he’d be a good addition to the series based upon what the author shared through Nicole’s POV.

As for other characters, I really do enjoy it when the Argeneau and Notte family members come to visit. I like that feeling of community, family and never having to worry about not having a safety net. In this story they are practically falling over themselves as they try to help Nicole and Jake. One thing is for sure, they provided plenty of comedic moments and I enjoyed how they had fun teasing Jake and making Nicole blush.

The ultimate conflict resolution came out of left field. So many ideas and theories abounded and yet the one thing no one ever thought of ended up being the answer. I don’t believe there were any clues at all. It was like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. But the best thing was the scene of the take-down. It was funny, clever and a bit whacky. In essence, it was perfect. Jake sure appreciated it. A lot.

One Lucky Vampire is a wonderfully rousing story that was a pleasure to read. I liked the upbeat tone of the book and the dialogue between Jake and Nicole. I loved the reactions of his family when they read Nicole’s thoughts and the gentle laughter they all shared. The scene when Jake got sick was very worrisome but even in that, Ms. Sands interjected some humorous touches. This is an amusing, sweet and well told story with a very spicy heat level sure to please readers who enjoy a newbie’s reaction to the discoveries of the joys of ‘shared sex’ between lifemates. The author knows how to make a reader giggle even while the main characters are in the throes of passion. Genius.