The Seduction of Lady X by Julia London
I had such high hopes for this book, the last in a series of three. I liked the first book, The Year of Living Scandalously, and I loved The Revenge of Lord Eberlin. I hated this book. It was unrelentingly sad, the heroine is abused and raped by her alcoholic husband, she loves a man she just can't have. Furthermore, the series has revolved around the fate of a set of missing rubies and the resolution of that plot is little more than a disappointing afterthought. The book, plot and tone, really did not work for me.
Willing Victim by Cara McKenna
Janine recommended this book to me after a long Twitter discussion about the role of forced seduction in romance novels. It was interesting. I liked how regular the hero and heroine were and I enjoyed the writing. Ms. Mckenna has a great way with dialogue--the way her characters speak makes both them and the novel stand apart from run of the mill erotica. I didn't mind the very open ending--I believed good things would happen for Laurel and Flynn, both together and apart in the future. The sex in the book was grittier and rougher than what I usually encounter, but, it fit the characters and ended up, for me, being interesting but not hot.
The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal
I read this book when it came out in 2008 and forgot about it. Then Jane asked for books with older protagonists and I thought of this book. The heroine is in her late 30's; the hero, in his mid 40's. I liked this book a lot when I read it this go round. The relationship between the two main characters has a very different feel than in most in historical romance. This is also almost the only historical romance I've ever read that has low-key "backdoor" sex scene. Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is how independent, in every way, the heroine is. In a genre awash with women whose lives are defined by men, it was refreshing to read about a happy, financially secure, self-directed grownup woman.
Not Quite a Husband, Private Arrangements, His at Night, Delicious, Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas
After reading Ms. Thomas latest, Beguiling the Beauty, I was so entranced by her fabulous writing, I went back and read all her earlier novels. The experience left me more in awe of Ms. Thomas than I already was which is saying something. (She is one of my top five favorite romance novelists.) Before I reread all her books, I would have said my favorite of hers is Private Arrangements. I like the plot, the hero and heroine, and, the wonderful subplot involving the heroine's mother and her flirtation with the Duke next door. Now, however, while I still love Private Arrangements, I've decided my favorite is His at Night. Ms. Thomas writes heartbreak in a completely non-sentimental way. Both Vere and Elissande are living lives of quiet desperation when they meet. Both are achingly lonely. Their love story is so well-done and the plot moves along with nary an unnecessary device. His at Night is Sherry Thomas at her best.
Crazy on You by Rachel Gibson
I like Ms. Gibson--she's one of those authors I almost always enjoy. Her books are comfort reads for me--easy to take, usually funny, and filled with good sex scenes. This novella, however, did little for me. The heroine and the hero were cardboard characters and their connection never came across as much more than lust. The book is set in a small town in the Texas panhandle and every stereotype I've ever heard about Texas is included in this tale. I felt like Ms. Gibson was trying for cute and, instead, ended up at tacky. The heroine's voice was annoying as well. She says things like,
“No self-respecting Southern lady leaves the house without her hair in place, her makeup done, and her panties on.”
Ugh. It's safe to say I wasn't the least bit crazy about Crazy on You.
The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne by Madeline Hunter
I also usually like Ms. Hunter but this book bored me to tears. The characters and the plot is so hazily presented, I kept forgetting what I'd just read. The pace of the book is glacial and the motivations of the hero and the heroine odd. The heroine of the book runs an auction house in London and there's lots of information about how the auction houses of the 1790's functioned. I wasn't drawn into the story or the context--I just kept getting sleepy every time I picked up the book.