Review: Much Ado About Rogues

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since Jack was first introduced in The Taming of the Rake. He’s the dark one among the three Blackstone bastards. He’s mysterious and broody and I couldn’t wait to learn his secrets and watch him surrender to love. Sadly, the book did not live up to my expectations. Let me give you a little info on the story.

Jack works for the crown, doing super-secret government missions. His latest assignment is to track down his missing mentor. That means he must confront the man’s daughter, Tess, who was once his great love. Four years ago, he was involved in a plot with her dad that ended with the death of her twin brother. She was never able to forgive him. It turns out, though, that her father is the real villain. While he pretended to work for the crown, he was more interested in his secret job as an antiquities thief. And he never cared about his children as much as his stolen treasures.

Once Jack fills Tess in on her father’s true nature, they must work together to track the man down. But time after time, they realize that they are dancing to her father’s tune. You see, Daddy is uber-brilliant, and is always several steps ahead. He is hoping to draw out Jack to help him foil his other protege, the Gypsy. And he’s willing to fight dirty to get what he wants.

We get the details on Tess and Jack’s initial love story as the couple looks back on what went wrong. That was kind of disappointing, because we miss out on all the delicious new love/ attraction build-up. The couple starts the book with all this history behind them and they’re already mired in angst. Of course, the mission puts them on the road to reconciliation. It’s not a bad romance, but it wasn’t great either.

There were two major things I didn’t like about the book. One was puppetmaster quality of Tess’ father. It’s hard to swallow that the man is so dastardly brilliant that he has master plans that span years and pulls everyone’s strings. It was too much. (Plus, I found the resolution to his part of the storyline to be very anticlimactic.)

My other issue was the pacing. The book wasn’t terribly long, but it felt like it was. Perhaps it’s because there was so much more story even after the plot surrounding Tess’ dad was put to bed. Maybe because I found the backstory on Jack’s parents to be so terribly convoluted and unbelievable. Or maybe it was that it all ended in a way that was much too convenient. I’m not sure. I just know that it felt like it went on and on and left me disappointed. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Much Ado About Rogues
by Kasey Michaels
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Sin

Reviewed by Jen

Kasey Michaels continues her trilogy surrounding the bastard Blackthorns, with this second installment focusing on the mercurial, youngest brother Puck. As the story begins, Puck is trying to manipulate his way into London society. And it’s at a masked ball, he first meets Regina. The young girl and her cousin had snuck into the ball for a bit of adventure. But it turns into something more than they bargained for when cousin Miranda is kidnapped.

Puck comes to the rescue, helping Regina get home and promising to help the young woman he is so enchanted with. Puck and Regina work together to try to figure out who snatched Miranda –and fall in love in the process.

Despite the kidnapping and the storyline involving the human slave trade, this was a light romance, for the most part. Puck is a charming and easygoing hero… kind of a golden boy, who is impossible to dislike. Regina is a loyal and level-headed heroine, who comes into her womanhood under Puck’s gentle hand. Nothing groundbreaking, but nothing terribly annoying either. The love scenes felt a little rushed at times and occasionally Puck felt too-glorious-to-live (not to mention, the villain was kind of obvious)… but it was an enjoyable read.

Though this is the second book in the series, it easily works as a standalone. And the title of this book helps solve the mystery of the inaptly titled Taming of the Rake. We’re going with a play on Shakespearean works. It makes more sense now. The third book is Much Ado About Rogues. And I’m really still holding out to learn more about the dark, mysterious brother, Jack!

A little less than 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository

A Midsummer Night’s Sin
by Kasey Michaels
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Publisher: HQN Books

Review: The Taming of the Rake

Reviewed by Jen

There’s a reason we tell people not to judge a book by its cover. Nothing from the outside gives you a real feel for what you’ll find on the page here. First, I take issue with the title. Beau is not a rake and the book is in no way about changing his habits with women. Second, the cover is terrible: the models, his outfit… blech. And finally, the blurb. It makes this sound like it’s about Beau’s quest, with Chelsea as a distraction… when in fact, our heroine is truly the driving force in the story. Indulge me for a moment, and let me tell you about what you’ll really find if you open up this book.

Chelsea’s boor of an older brother Thomas wants to force her into marriage with a disgusting clergyman. So she makes a run for it, heading straight to the door of Beau Blackthorn. It’s been seven years since she last saw him…. on the day he tried to propose to her older sister Madelyn. Not only did Madelyn spurn his affections, but Thomas horsewhipped him in the street for reaching above his station. Beau may be a man of means and education, but he and his brothers are bastards and will never truly be accepted by the Ton.

Over the years, Beau has been working secretly to ruin Thomas financially. And Chelsea knows all about it. So she presents him with an offer of marriage. It will allow her escape from her brother and give Beau a chance for true revenge against the man who humiliated him all those years ago. He accepts and the two of them go on the run to Gretna Green with Thomas, Madelyn and the Reverend in hot pursuit.

On their travels, we see a real relationship begin to develop for our couple of convenience. Chelsea is determined to press forward, to create a real marriage that Thomas cannot impeach. But she can’t know how real the passion will be or that her emotions would become so invested. By the same token, Beau thinks he only accepted Chelsea’s offer for its face value. He thinks after the debacle with Madelyn, he’ll never love again –nor does he want to. But Chelsea is like no woman he’s ever known. She is bold, honest and seems not to care at all about their social differences.

I really liked Beau. He’s been kicked in the teeth, but still manages to be a good man. He’s even more appealing because he doesn’t see his own worth. Watching his tentative steps towards love is really quite nice. (And I’ll admit, I enjoyed the love scenes too.)

There are also some really engaging secondary characters. Thomas is a fairly good foil. But the big draw is Beau’s dysfunctional family. His mercurial brother Puck… his dark, mysterious brother Jack… his horrible, selfish mother. All were fascinating –and will make for some great future books.

There were only two things that really didn’t work well for me. The writing style was, at times, a bit difficult to follow. By that, I don’t mean the story was hard to follow, but rather, the sentences often felt like they had way too many words or phrases stuffed in them to read smoothly. Sometimes, there were so many dependent clauses crammed into one sentence, I’d have to go back and re-read it a couple of times to understand what it meant. The whole book wasn’t written this way, but it happened enough times that it bothered me.  Let me give you an example from the very first page:

“And so it was that, with the clouded vision of a man besotted, that the same Oliver Le Beau Blackthorn, raised to think quite highly of himself, the equal to all men, did, with hat figuratively in hand, hope in his heart and a bunch of posies clutched to his breast, bound up the marble steps to the mansion in Portland Place one fine spring morning and smartly rap the massive door with the lion’s head brass knocker.”

That is all one sentence.
My second problem was more of a plot issue. In the last quarter of the book Thomas ends up changing his outlook on life several times in just a few short chapters. I didn’t really understand what drove the developments for his character once they neared Gretna Green and it kind of left me scratching my head.
But overall, I did enjoy the book. And I look forward to seeing what happens with the other Blackthorn brothers… especially Jack. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

The Taming of the Rake
by Kasey Michaels
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: HQN Books