A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas

Just Finished:
Synopsis: The Wallflowers are four young ladies in London who banded together in their wild and wickedly wonderful searches for true love. Now happily married, they join together once again to help one of the world’s most notorious rogues realize that happiness might be right under the mistletoe.…

It’s Christmastime in London and Rafe Bowman has arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie Blandford, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady in waiting and, if it weren’t for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen. And winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts.

A Wallflower Christmas takes a trip to Victorian London, under the mistletoe, and on a journey of the heart. With her trademark charm, sensuality, and unforgettable characters, there’s no one like Lisa Kleypas to make you believe in the magic of Christmas.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed spending some time with the Wallflowers again. It was great to catch up on their lives and what they’ve been up to since Daisy’s story concluded the series.

Rafe and Hannah. Loved them! I really enjoyed their chemistry, from their first meeting until the end of the story. I thought it was really well done and I was rooting for them the whole time. Lots of awww moments between the two of them which made this book one I could not put down.

Hannah’s cousin Natalie? Didn’t care for her so much. She came off as a spoiled pampered princess and I didn’t find anything likeable about her whatsoever. Maybe this wasn’t intention, but she was condescending and mean to Hannah, which made me seriously dislike her character. Thankfully, her story is summed up by the end of this book also, so I don’t need to worry about a follow-up book about her.

Verdict: This was Very Good. I highly recommend it!

Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas

Just Finished:
Synopsis: He has tried hard to forget her.
Kev Merripen has longed for the beautiful, well-bred Winnifred Hathaway ever since her family rescued him from the brink of death when he was just a boy. But this handsome Gypsy is a man of mysterious origins—and he fears that the darkness of his past could crush delicate, luminous Win. So Kev refuses to submit to temptation…and before long Win is torn from him by a devastating twist of fate.

Can she remember the man he once was?
Then, Win returns to England…only to find that Kev has hardened into a man who will deny love at all costs. Meantime, an attractive, seductive suitor has set his sights on Win. It’s now or never for Kev to make his move. But first, he must confront a dangerous secret about his destiny—or risk losing the only woman he has lived for…

My Thoughts: I have been looking forward to Kev and Win’s story ever since I finished Mine Till Midnight (I know, I know, that was just last week….). This one did not disappoint.

Seduce Me at Sunrise takes up where MTM left off. What I liked about how SMAS started is that LK devoted two chapters to Kev’s history with the Hathways, going back in time to explain why Kev is the way he his. The instant connection between him and Win also added so much to the story for me. Additionally, there was also the history of the Hathaway parents and getting to know them as well.

No surprise, I absolutely loved this story. I really felt for Win, putting her heart out there to only be trampled on by Kev, thinking he is doing the right thing for her by not letting her be with him. I honestly wanted to delve into the pages myself and slap him upside the head a time or two.

Then came page 244. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet, but that was the turning point for me. That was where Kev became my #2 favorite LK hero of all-time. If you’ve read it, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t read it, you need to and when you come to this page, you’ll figure it out.

Additionally, there was the relationship between Cam and Kev. I enjoyed seeing them come closer and bond. I look forward to seeing even more of this in future Hathaway books.

Now, Dr. Julian Harrow. He was predictable. I had him figured out right away. Again, not going to go into details, but you already know Kev and Win are going to end up together by the end of the book. So, you know one of two things are going to happen with Dr. Harrow. He’s either going to be exceptionally good and back away gracefully, or he’s going to be exceptionally bad and try to rid himself of the competition so that he can have Win all to himself.

Then there are the Hathaways. I still don’t feel like I know Poppy very well ~ hopefully she will be explained in more detail in upcoming books; Beatrix has matured somewhat and I cannot wait to see how she’s grown by the next book; Leo ~ I’m so looking forward to his and Miss Marks story (someone put a shout out to LK to finish it soon!); and Amelia and Cam were an integral part of SMAS so I felt justly caught up with them.

In MTM, we either saw or got mentions of all of the four wallflowers. In SMOS, we got to see Simon and Annabelle! I hadn’t realized I’d missed them so much until they were featured here. It was great to catch up on these characters and their lives as well.

Win and Kev’s story was everything I expected and more. I’m so glad to see how strong Win became. She’s a wonderful heroine. As for Kev, I’m so glad he came to terms with demons and allowed Win to love him; and allowed himself to love her. It made for a great story.

Verdict: The story was Excellent. Of course, I actually read this one “on time” so now I expect it’ll be another year before I get my fix of the Hathaways (although I hope not!!!). I know I said it before, I cannot wait for Leo and Miss Marks’ story!

Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

Just Finished:
When an unexpected inheritance elevates her family to the ranks of the aristocracy, Amelia Hathaway discovers that tending to her younger sisters and wayward brother was easy compared to navigating the intricacies of the ton. Even more challenging: the attraction she feels for the tall, dark, and dangerously handsome Cam Rohan.

Wealthy beyond most men’s dreams, Cam has tired of society’s petty restrictions and longs to return to his “uncivilized” Gypsy roots. When the delectable Amelia appeals to him for help, he intends to offer only friendship—but intentions are no match for the desire that blindsides them both. But can a man who spurns tradition be tempted into that most time-honored arrangement: marriage? Life in London society is about to get a whole lot hotter….

My Thoughts: I cannot believe that Cam and Amelia’s story has been languishing in my TBR pile for almost a year. I should be banned from the romance reading community for this one.

That being said, I’ve been anxious for Cam’s story since Devil in Winter when he stole a kiss from Daisy. In fact, I bought this book the day it came out. Just shameful, I know.

I enjoyed Cam and Amelia’s first meeting. How he went out of his way to try to help her look for her brother, and then when Leo was found he kissed her goodbye with every intention of never seeing her again. And how sweet was it that he stole one of her ribbons from her bonnet? I was already hooked, but that right there sealed it for me.

But they did meet again on several occasions and each time they met the attraction grew, and I as the reader became more and more submerged in the story. And then came the turning point, as I rooted “He’s got to go back to her!”

I absolutely loved this story. I enjoyed Amelia and how protective she is of her family. In fact, I enjoyed the whole Hathaway clan and cannot wait for each of their stories. I cannot wait to see what LK has conjured up for each of them: Win, who’s health was affected by a bout of fever ~ who isn’t rooting for her and Kev after they almost stole the show in MtM???; Poppy, I cannot wait to get to know her better; Beatrix, still so immature and I know LK has a great story planned for her (she said so over at Book Smugglers this week); and Leo, I cannot wait to see how LK redeems his character after this one.

As if it weren’t enough to have such a great story between Amelia and Cam, I got to see the Wallflowers again. Lillian, Evie, Saint and Lord Westcliff all got some time in this novel so I felt I was able to catch up on their stories; and Annabelle, Simon, Daisy, and Matthew were all mentioned! That in itself is enough of a reason to read this for those of use die-hard Wallflower fans.

The one thing I probably loved the most is Amelia didn’t automatically give up her independence. Cam actually had to work pretty hard to convince her that they were meant to be together. Her resistance and his determination kept me turning each page until the very end.

Verdict: The story was Excellent. Of course, I really expect nothing less of LK by now and cannot wait to read Seduce Me at Sunrise.

The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

Just Finished:

Synopsis: Jack Audley has been a highwayman. A soldier. And he has always been a rogue. What he is not, and never wanted to be, is a peer of the realm, responsible for an ancient heritage and the livelihood of hundreds. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over. And if his birth proves to be legitimate, then he will find himself with the one title he never wanted: Duke of Wyndham.

Grace Eversleigh has spent the last five years toiling as the companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham. It is a thankless job, with very little break from the routine… until Jack Audley lands in her life, all rakish smiles and debonair charm. He is not a man who takes no for an answer, and when she is in his arms, she’s not a woman who wants to say no. But if he is the true duke, then he is the one man she can never have…

My Thoughts: This is another winner for Julia Quinn. What a great story this was! I was taken with Jake the moment he was introduced in the story and I liked him more and more the further I read. Same with Grace. The two of them are easily one of the best couples JQ has ever written. I loved Jack’s humor, his wit, his love of family, and most of all, his love of Grace. Just an awesome character. In Grace, I loved her loyalty, her caring, the way she found humor in almost every situation, and finally , I loved her love of Jack.

There were also some great side characters ~ Thomas, the man formerly thought to be the Duke of Wyndham who had befriended Grace when she thought herself no more than a servant in his household; Amelia, the young woman who found herself betrothed to Thomas since infancy who I got to witness form a tight friendship with Grace throughout the pages of this story; then there was the Dowager, a woman I loved to hate at every turn of the page, but yet also found myself liking in spite of myself.

Verdict: This was Excellent. I love Julia Quinn anyway, but this story was exceptional. It had a lot of emotion, and a lot of laughter which is what I expect from JQ. I am now anxiously waiting until October when I can purchase the follow-up book, Mr. Cavendesh, I Presume? which is the story of Thomas and Amelia. I cannot wait!

Reforming a Rake by Suzanne Enoch

Just Finished:

Synopsis: A Governess must never be alone with a man. Her reputation mustn’t have even a hint of scandal. She must never reveal personal emotions. No matter how strong the provocation by her employer. A governess never questions her employer’s commands. Even when he’s tempting her to forsake respectability for desire? She must never, ever, fall in love with someone above her station. Especially a rake–no matter how devastating his kisses may be…

Alexandra Gallant is a governess extraordinaire–and if it weren’t for that unfortunate incident at her last position, she wouldn’t now be forced into the employ of Lucien Balfour, the most notorious rake in London. Though the sinfully attractive earl hired her to teach his young cousin, his seductive whispers and toe-curling kisses suggest he has something far less respectable in mind…And that will never happen. For although Lucien seems determined to teach her about pleasure, she has a few lessons to teach him about love.

My Thoughts: For me, the chemistry between Lucien and Alexandra leapt from the pages of this book the moment I started reading it ~ from the moment they first meet when she is interviewing for the position at his household, to the very last page. Between the witty banter and their sexual tension, I was immediately hooked on this story.

I enjoyed watching the transformation of Lucien. At the beginning of this story, he is an unapologetic rake; single, and enjoying everything that comes with it. Unfortunately, as the last male heir of his family he gets stuck as guardian for his young cousin, Rose, and her manipulative mother, Fiona. Which is why has to hire a governess so that he can quickly get his young cousin married off and consequently she and her mother will leave his home.

Alexandra is a ruined governess. Not by her own doing, but by the unwanted attentions of her former employer. Lucien hires Alexandra without references, with one specific purpose. He wants to make her his mistress. In spite of this, Alexandra accepts the position because it’s the first post she’s been offered in the last six months.

Enoch does a fine job in telling the story of Alexandra and Lucien. In addition to the banter and the tension I’ve previously mentioned, Enoch also provides some wonderful secondary characters: Emma and Vixen, friends of Alexandra’s (and consequently the two heroines in the other books of this series); and Robert, friend to Lucien and unassuming suitor to Rose.

Verdict: This was Very Good. Of course, I expected nothing less because I am a fan of Enoch’s Lessons in Love series as well. I now am on a mission to read the rest of this series before I read anything else.

The Charm School by Susan Wiggs

Just Finished:

Synopsis: An awkward misfit in an accomplished Boston family, Isadora Peabody yearns to escape her social isolation and sneaks aboard the Silver Swan, bound for Rio, leaving it all behind.

Ryan Calhoun, too, had a good family name. But he’d purposely walked away from everything it afforded him. Driven by his quest to right an old wrong, the fiery, temperamental sea captain barely registers the meek young woman who comes aboard his ship.

To the Swan’s motley crew, the tides of attraction clearly flow between the two. Teaching her the charms of a lady, they hope to build the confidence she needs to attract not only their lonely captain’s attention, but his heart, as well. For everyone knows the greatest charms are not those of the formal lady, but rather the possibilities of a new world built on love.

My Thoughts: ***apologize in advance. I read this about a month ago, and my recollection of the story is sketchy at best. I also am unable to find my book to reference certain points, so it is what it is.*** Also, Charm School was one of the books that’s been in my TBR pile for years. I’m challenging myself to try and get my pile down this year.

Isadora “Dora” Peabody is the misfit of her entire family. While her siblings are all tall, blond, and beautiful; Dora is dark, homely, and overweight. Which, I guess, makes her the perfect heroine for an ugly duckling kind of story. Ryan, on the other hand, is the handsome son of a Virginia plantation owner.

Dora’s first meeting with Ryan was actually through his mother who had been searching from him. And let’s just say he was **ahem** otherwise occupied **ahem** when they first come upon him on the boat. But, this was exactly the catalyst that Dora needed in order to hire herself as a linguist on Ryan’s next venture. See, a friend of Dora’s family owns the ship, and thus she seals the position as linguist, but also agrees to spy on Ryan for her friend. And as poor Ryan’s luck hadn’t just gotten bad enough, his mother and servant also book passage on his ship to Rio.

I enjoyed how Dora forced herself a position on Ryan’s boat and how they begrudgingly became friends. I enjoyed how Dora lost herself on the boat, lost her inhibitions, and soon became comfortable in her own skin. She eventually becomes less clumsy and also loses weight, morphing into quite a beautiful woman (which is a side rant for me. Why, why, why, why, why do authors have to do this? Why can’t the heroine stay a little plump, or homely, or whatever? Personally, that’s a story I’d love to see). I love the friendship she developed with Ryan’s mother, Lily (?? I think that’s her name??).

Frankly, at the beginning, Ryan really isn’t that endearing of a character. But what does endear him to me is his friendship with Journey, his former slave who he gave his freedom. And now, he was sailing in order to save enough money in order to free Journey’s wife and children from their lives of slavery as well.

Verdict: This was Okay. I’ll need to read its sequel, The Horsemaster’s Daughter before I decide on whether or not it’s a keeper. I’m just undecided. The read itself was okay, and there were some humorous parts. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a story that stuck with me.

Once a Rake by Rona Sharon

Just Finished:

War had scarred the Earl of Ashby’s face…and perhaps his soul. Before being wounded in the Napoleonic war and shunning society, the dashing lord had been a notorious rake. Now, Isabel Aubrey, a proper lady, dares to approach the masked, reclusive nobleman for a large donation to a worthy charity-and decides she must save him from his self-loathing. She begins to flirt. He responds. She invites him to a masquerade ball. He accepts and dazzles her with a kiss.

But Isabel already has a fiancé‚ and despite her attraction to the earl she knows she must reject him. Yet no force on earth is greater than the passion that leads her into his bed; nothing she has ever experienced is more exciting and erotic. Now he asks her to stay with him although it will mean her ruin. Isabel must not say yes-and the smitten earl cannot let her say no. To win her body and her heart, he initiates an outrageous scheme that only a rake would devise-and no woman can resist.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed Isabel and Ashby’s relationship. I’m a big fan of friends falling in love, unrequited love (girlhood crushes), or anything else that remotely resembles it.

By the middle of the book, it was clear Ashby wanted Isabel as much as Isabel wanted Ashby. So, then I thought, where’s the conflict?? I still had 200 plus pages to go before I finished it! And then as I read the next 200 pages I thought “be careful what you wish for”. There were conflicts everywhere. John (Isabel’s suitor) and Isabel, Ashby and John, Ashby and the ton, Ashby and his war demons, Ashby and his self-esteem, Ashby and Isabel ~ you name it, there was probably a conflict.

Then there was the whole “I’ve been scarred for life and look like a gargoyle and you can’t see me without my mask on” factor. Seriously. The first half of the book. Then something happens and Ashby loses his mask and *gasp* his face is seen. But wait. There’s really not much difference. And with a shrug, Ashby gets over it. Just like that. Okay ~ so what was the big deal? One minute it’s a huge factor that’s keeping Ashby and Izzy apart and the next it’s as if it was never a factor at all.

That being said, I did enjoy the characters. I liked Ashby ~ a lot. I liked his history with Izzy’s family; his friendship with her brother, Will. I enjoyed that. I liked Izzy ~ I loved reading about her as a 15 year-old girl smitten with the then 27 Ashby. I enjoyed seeing the changes in the characters in the 7 years since they’d seen each other.

I also enjoyed the side characters very much. Izzy’s friends, Iris and Sophie were a great addition this novel, as well as their friend Ryan who was also betrothed to Iris at one point in the distant past. They added a great depth to Izzy and her cause. Then there was Izzy’s family as well as Ashby’s hired help. They all added something to the story as well.

Verdict: I’m really torn on this one. I do think Rona Sharon is a wonderful storyteller and I’m looking forward to reading more of her in the future. However, as much as I liked Ashby and Isabel, I do think this story was about 200 pages too long. I think there were just too many conflicts. Once one conflict became rectified, another one immediately took it’s place. It became frustrating and at times rather hard to even enjoy reading this story. All in all, I’d say this was Good. It would have been excellent if Ms. Sharon would have cut the number of conflicts to at least half.