How to Capture a Countess

by Karen Hawkins

“Financial standing, a social position beyond what she has now, and a husband to dote upon her every wish. What more could she ask for?”

“Maybe youth. Vigor. Teeth.”

“Lord Cameron has his own teeth.” Margaret narrowed her eyes at the other candidate. “I’m not so certain about Munro. They seemed somewhat clacky at dinner, so I’m suspicious.”

Tolerable. Karen Hawkins is a better writer than most of the historical romance writers I have found these days. She writes like she enjoys writing. This is the first book I have read by her, and I will give her another chance with next in the series. Humorous situations, though not laugh out loud funny. Doesn’t have the wit or the voice of some of my favorites, but she is one of the better writers in a genre I have grown weary of. Unfortunately, she follows the same hackneyed romance formula as most of her sister writers do. By page 30, X has to happen; by page 75 xx has to happen etc., etc. I had to skip through the last third of the book. This book was flawed by a silly and immature hero who was also kind of a jerk. When he threw our heroine in a lake because she dared best him in a contest and then accused her of cheating, I almost quit the thing. Still, she is engaging.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

July 31, 2015

Doctor, Soldier, Daddy

By Caro Carson

I took a chance on this author because it came highly recommended by one of my favorite authors who reads Ms. Carson herself when she wants some super light reading. This is still another time I was disappointed by a favorite author’s recommendation. Yes, it was light. Boy, was it light. As far as sentence structure, vocabulary, and complexity, and depth of feeling, it was on the level of maybe 5th grade. But I can’t really even say that, because the first 3 Harry Potters are 5th grade. There were some other promising signs that this might be worth reading: the publisher was a real one, Harlequin, which has published some really good books and given many a talented author their start. My library had a number of titles of Caro Carson available, she has decent ratings on Goodreads, and of course, words of praise by a beloved author. She must have some talent and a loyal following, right? Obviously, it’s me. Wow, what a disconnect.

But I finished it, so the writing was at least good enough not to make me mad. I just kept telling myself to give it a few more minutes, but by that time, I was so close to the end, that it would have been a shame to quit. And it was a very fast read because I could speed read or skip without missing a thing. The characters were cardboard; I didn’t care about them in the least; there was no humor, the prose was not entertaining, Let me count the ways.

Simply, (“spoilers” ahead! )a nice hot doctor needs a mother for his son he brought home from Afghanistan. He settles on a nursery helper who seems to have a special connection to his son, who has health problems (they both have health problems-she has allergies, his are more serious). She is poverty-stricken and plain and is treated unkindly, sometimes, by the nurses who work with her. She (finally) accepts his proposal, and the rest is just them getting together and making a real marriage of it. There is a little bit of suspense as he learns that the Afghan woman might have already been pregnant before our hero met her. So he takes a genetic test. I won’t include the result of the test, but does it really matter?

The plot summary of the book appealed to me. I like a fake-marriage story. I like a good Cinderella/make-over story. But that angle was wasted. There was no comeuppance for the mean nurses, no shock and awe over the plain little mouse becoming a cool chick. (Her make-over consisted of a new haircut and her nose stops running constantly because she can now afford allergy medicine.) But because of the simplistic writing and lack of character development, the book generated as much emotion and caring about these people in me as my paragraph summarizing the book did just now.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

December 13, 2018

The Enchanted April

By Elizabeth Von Arnim

“And the more he treated her as though she were really very nice, the more Lotty expanded and became really very nice, and the more he, affected in his turn, became really very nice himself; so that they went round and round, not in a vicious but in a highly virtuous circle.”

This was a lovely book narrated beautifully by Nadia May. The story is already well known, I think, if not from the book then by the multiple award-winning and Oscar-nominated movie, directed by Mike Newell. I saw the movie again a couple of months ago, was inspired to (finally) read the book, and now I want to see the movie again!

Four very different women disappointed by life and love, strangers to each other, decide to rent a beautiful villa in Italy together. Two are married and two are not. The two married ones, Lottie Wilkins and Rose Arbuthnot were once in love with their husbands and vice versa but time and temperament have estranged them. Lotty is shy and spiritless and her husband squashes her. She has very little filter and is sometimes awkward and imprudent. She has not been an asset to his career. Rose has driven her husband away by her devotion to her church and doing good works for the poor. She coldly disapproves of him. He leaves her to herself and to her religion. She is confused by her unhappiness. Rose and Lotty are getting away from their husbands as much as they are attracted by the prospect of escaping London for beautiful Italy. Mrs. Fisher is a dried-up selfish old snob who lives in the past. Beautiful wealthy Lady Caroline is trying to escape men altogether. They all inevitably fall in love with her at first sight, much to her dismay, and won’t leave her alone. She calls them “Grabbers”. She was the most interesting of the four women, to me. Improbably nicknamed “Scrap,” She is self-absorbed, but I loved her. All she wants is solitude, but people won’t stop bothering her. Her lovely countenance hides inner bitterness, boredom, and disillusionment.

“…but it was her fate that however coldly she sent forth her words they came out sounding quite warm and agreeable. That was because she had a sympathetic and delightful voice…. Nobody in consequence ever believed they were being snubbed. It was most tiresome. And if she stared icily it did not look icy at all, because her eyes, lovely to begin with, had the added loveliness of very long, soft, dark eyelashes. No icy stare could come out of eyes like that… it got caught and lost in the soft eyelashes, and the persons stared at merely thought they were being regarded with a flattering and exquisite attentiveness. And if ever she was out of humour or definitely cross— and who would not be sometimes in such a world?—-she only looked so pathetic that people all rushed to comfort her, if possible by means of kissing. It was more than tiresome, it was maddening. Nature was determined that she should look and sound angelic. She could never be disagreeable or rude without being completely misunderstood.”

Poor lady!

One by one, by the end, all four of the unhappy women, have their lives transformed by the enchanted beauty of San Salvatore. Two marriages are restored when their husbands visit and see their wives transformed. Lady Caroline learns gratitude and sees herself with clear eyes, and finally realizes that love is a blessing, not a curse, and, perhaps, lets it into her life. Mrs. Fisher, who was thoroughly unlikeable and badly behaved for almost the whole book, learns life still holds love and value for her despite her age, starts to look ahead and not back. As they walk away from San Salvatore and the (enchanted?) villa, we hope and pray they take the enchantment with them permanently. We think they do.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

October 11, 2021


By Anne Fortier

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” he said, “at nine o’clock. Don’t open your door to anyone else.”
“Not even my balcony door?”
“Especially not your balcony door.”

This was well written with an intriguing premise. I love books that educate one painlessly. I learned lots about Siena, Italy, and Romeo and Juliet. Of course, I spent some time on Google Earth exploring Siena. It’s bound to come in handy sometime, I hope. I was much more interested in the contemporary story rather than the concurrently running medieval story of R & J (The true story). I confess I kind of skipped through that part of the novel. Because we know that did not end well.

Dashes of humor and an engaging voice kept me going to the end, which featured several twists and revelations I didn’t see coming. Good stuff for those who like good old-fashioned romantic suspense, with family drama included. I’m always a sucker for good twin/evil twin tropes and with a little redemption thrown in… well, what’s not to like?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

February 26, 2014

An Officer and a Gentleman

by Rachel Lee

In a fit of nostalgia, I looked up a few of my old favorites. I read this a long long time ago, and it is one of my top favorite category romances. I must have read it at least 3 times. Probably more. I am amazed at the low ratings! I thought the chemistry between the two was sizzling. This one started me on a long binge of military-related romances which included Debbie Macomber’s Navy series (her best work, in my opinion) Lindsey McKenna’s Love and Glory series and Suzanne Brockman. All of these series were fantastic and when a new one came out, I was so excited! I’ve since lost interest, but it was great reading at the time. I wonder if they would hold up now?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

August 31, 2019

The Fifth Kiss

by Elizabeth Mansfield

I have gotten a few of Elizabeth Mansfield’s books on Audible, and, in rereading them, they have not lived up to my memory of how great they are. Still, they are superior to almost every other regency I have picked up lately. Elizabeth Mansfield excels at portraying heroes that are good, even sweet men. This is not one of those. The hero in this one is a nasty piece of work. He was a bad father and a bad husband to the late sister of our heroine. Even though he was neglectful and unfaithful to her she worshiped the ground he walked on. We learn later that she was terminally ill and instead of telling her husband the truth so as not to impede his brilliant political career, she told him she was not interested in intimacy anymore, and encouraged him to find it elsewhere. What. Miles and Olivia, the dead wife’s sister, and our leading lady, have always been antagonistic to each other and this devolves into almost hatred, before the corner is turned and Miles starts to redeem himself with Olivia’s help. However, throughout most of the book he is unreasonable, hateful, and angry. The narrator, I suspect, made him even more unpleasant than how he probably was on the page because she voiced him with a particularly villainous, snarly tone. She went too far, and it lessened my enjoyment of the book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

July 25, 2018

A Regency Match

By Elizabeth Mansfield

I’m afraid on this “re-read” audio version, I agree with the majority of the reviewers about the contemptible stupid behavior of the heroine. Sophia has set about proving that the hero is justified in his bad opinion of her by creating scenes and embarrassing him at his country betrothal party. At first, her purposely behaving like a zany clumsy hysteric was a little amusing. I did get some laughs out of her setting the piano on fire and then her phony inconsolable self-flagellation. But the incident with the horse was way too much. She really crossed the line. Totally unreasonable and foolish.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

January 17, 2017

Passing Fancies

By Elizabeth Mansfield

Elizabeth Mansfield was one of my favorite traditional Regency romance authors and if I had to pick a favorite of hers, this one would be it. She really misdirects you into thinking one man will be the hero and love interest and the true love interest sneaks up on you. The romance is tender and touching.

In general, This author’s forte is non-stereotypical characters, or at least her heroes and heroines usually have a little quirk or two that makes you very fond of and invested in them. She is amazing at creating a sweet sexual tension between the love interests without anything more than a kiss. To add to the appeal of her books, many are lightly interconnected by family similar to my other favorite, the great Patricia Veryan. A while back, her books had become available on Audiobooks, and I have re-read a few of them. Sadly, they didn’t quite hold up with the passage of time. But this one, and a few others, are still among my favorites. Strangely, it is those which remain out-of-print and hard to find at a reasonable price.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

February 21, 2013

Lord of Scoundrels

By Loretta Chase

“I love these pet names,” she said, gazing soulfully up into his eyes, “Nitwit. Sap skull. Termagant. How they make my heart flutter!”

“We’ve been wed more than a month. Since it appears you mean to stay, I might as well give you leave to call me by my christian name. It is preferable, at any rate, to ‘clodpole.”

Lord of Scoundrels has been on my TBR list for more than 20 years. It is probably on more “best” lists than any other traditional historical romance. It is considered by many as one of the best ever written. I was very happy that from the first chapter, it lived up to its press. What a refreshing turn of events!

And this is despite the Marquess of Dain being one of my least favorite types of heroes. But we are given enough of a glimpse into his childhood to make his current personality sort of understandable. He is still over the top with his alpha powerful maleness and bad behavior, but it is caused by a lack of self-esteem and body dysmorphia. His self-loathing gets a little tedious, but it is more than balanced by our heroine, Jessica Trent. She is a force of nature, full stop. She is never intimidated by him, not the least little bit. She has his number from the very beginning and he doesn’t stand a chance. When they cross swords, she always comes out the winner. He is playing Go Fish, and she is playing Chess. Yet somehow, he is worthy of her. He is intelligent, witty, usually fair-minded, not to mention all of the other physical attributes alpha romantic heroes possess. In one noteworthy scene Jessica walks into an orgy Dain is participating in and shoots him. The bullet hits his arm, and he is paralyzed there for almost the rest of the whole book. He doesn’t have a temper tantrum or sulk about it, plot revenge, or, indeed, blame her in the slightest. He just gets on with it, and it is hardly referred to. Their interactions were exciting, dramatic, fun, and funny throughout.

I listened to it on Audio, and the narration of Kate Reading really brought out both of their personalities. I wish there were more books that would bring back this couple, especially a sequel about Dominic or future offspring. There appear to be more in the series, but they seem to be unrelated. In any event, on the next occasion, I have a hankering for a historical romance, 5 will get you 10 it will be another book by Loretta Chase.**4 1/2 stars**

September 19, 2021

Big Summer

By Jennifer Weiner

Drue opened the door, then surprised me by hugging me hard. “This was the best day of my life,” she said….

“I’m glad Drue got to come.” My father’s head was buried in the refrigerator. I couldn’t see his expression as he said, “I think she was hungry.” As if, I thought. “They have a chef who makes them anything they want.” “So you’ve mentioned.”

.… I went to my bedroom to work on the watercolor I’d been painting for my mother’s birthday and to think about my friend and how there were things you could be hungry for besides food.

Besides being a juicy chick-lit containing the usual themes exploring career, family, romance, personal growth, overcoming challenges, and a nemesis or two, this book is also a murder mystery. It also has a lot of lessons to teach. The one that stood out to me was how important good loving parents and family are. You may not be rich, blue-blooded, or thin and beautiful, but if you have a good family, you are truly blessed.

There are many lessons the two young women, Daphne and Drue, the used and the user, learn in their journeys. One ends happily but the other learns too late. And that part was very sad.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 30, 2020