Review: Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase

dukes prefer blondesReviewed by Jen

Loretta Chase books are very hit and miss for me. Silk is For Seduction was one of my favorite books of 2011. But while that book touched me emotionally –this book had the opposite effect. I felt very little while I was reading and walked away feeling lukewarm. I think it has a lot to with the hero.

This is book 4 in the Dressmakers series and you’ll remember Clara as the woman who was supposed to marry the hero in Silk is For Seduction. She is a sweet girl who the Noirot sisters took under their wing –and has blossomed with more flattering clothes and a mission to help less fortunate children. Though she has been bred to become a duchess, Clara has grown weary of the countless suitors who seem interested in nothing but her beauty. [Read more…]

Review: Royally Ever After by Loretta Chase

royally ever afterReviewed by Jen

This anthology contains two previously published short stories by Loretta Chase –and I do mean short.

The first is “Lord Lovedon’s Duel,” which I read in the Royal Bridesmaids collection. It’s based loosely in the Dressmakers world. Just after Chloe’s sister is married to a duke, the women overhear some men saying the groom married for money and not love. Angered over the hurt it causes her sister –and just a little bit drunk– Chloe confronts Lord Lovedon, the man speaking most disparagingly of the match. She demands a duel, sparking his attention and a witty banter which evolves into a relationship. It was funny and sassy. 21 pages. [Read more…]

Carrie’s Most Anticipated Books of 2015

PhotobucketI know I’m going to miss a bunch after I send this list to post, but these are just a few of the books that have me biting my nails until they release.   I ordered them by release date to let you manage your excitement.

Tell me in the comments what you can’t wait for!
[Read more…]

Review: Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase

vixen in velvetReviewed by Jen

I have consistently enjoyed all three installments in Loretta Chase’s dressmaker series so far, although the second two have not been quite as good as the first. This book features youngest Noirot sister, Leonie.  She is the red-headed sibling who handles the business end of Maison Noirot and she is trying to do it all while one sister struggles with a difficult pregnancy and the other is taking a necessary trip out of town. [Read more…]

Review: The Mad Earl’s Bride

Reviewed by Jen

This book had great potential. The premise hit my tortured hero hot buttons. But sadly, this one did not do it for me.  It wasn’t bad. It was just (*whispers*) kind of boring at times –and completely unbelievable at others.

So the setup is this: Dorian thinks he is dying of a brain disease. His mother had the same ghostly visions and blinding headaches, mere months before she started pulling out her hair, got institutionalized and died.  If her story is anything to go by, he hasn’t got long and there is some crazy in his future.  The thing is, though, Dorian is the Earl of Rawnsley and when he dies, his line dies with him.  That idea is actually ok with him, but a well meaning acquaintance takes matters into his own hands and sets Dorian up with a bride.

Gwen is fascinated by the mysteries of the body and the mind. She would have been a doctor had she only been born man.  So she figures she can accomplish two things by marrying Dorian: studying his illness up close and, once he dies, use his money to help open a hospital for the poor.  Finding himself drawn to the unusual redhead, Dorian agrees to the marriage.  From there, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump for the marriage of convenience to become the real-deal.

With my deep-seeded love of tortured heroes, I was all ready for to hear about his misery, and how he was going to protect Gwen from loving him and whatnot.  But it was… meh. I was bored a few times and had to fight the urge to skim.  And then came my Issues.  First, I had some trouble believing Gwen’s family would marry her off to a guy they think is truly crazy.  Then, I thought the nature of Dorian’s illness was painfully obvious from the very beginning (you probably could figure it out from the review) –making the big reveal anticlimactic.  On top of that, he’s a guy that goes from guzzling laudanum to stopping cold turkey with absolutely no effects.  I was just like… wha?

I will say that despite his maudlin tendencies, I liked Dorian.  He treated Gwen well and I believed he did everything in his power to make her happy. Plus, Gwen was independent and (marrying a crazy stranger aside) smart.  The sex was pretty good and ending was satisfying, albeit more than a little predictable.

This novella was previously published as part of the anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Mad Earl’s Bride
by Loretta Chase
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Avon

Favorites From… Loretta & Larissa

Loretta Chase & Larissa Ione

Loretta: I do read contemporary romance a bit more than my own genre and my go-to authors are Susan Elizabeth Philips and Jennifer Crusie. While neither has ever written a book I didn’t like, here are my favorites:
SEP: Heaven, Texas
JC: Bet Me

And outside romance but inside Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Alternate Reality: I think Terry Pratchett is just brilliant. I would start with Guards, Guards, rather than at the very beginning of the Discworld Series. Then, once the reader is completely hooked, she’ll want to read the first book and continue—which has the bonus of allowing her to read Guards, Guards again.

Larissa: My two all time favorites are Robert Jordan and Sharon Kay Penman…but since you’re probably wanting romance-y, I’d go with Sharon Kay Penman. She writes historical fiction, but her books always have a romantic subplot, and they’re just amazing!!!! My favorite is Here Be Dragons, which features a very strong romance. Love it!

Neither Loretta & Larissa could contribute a full guest post, but I wanted to share their recommendations with you. I asked Loretta to participate in the feature because I love her historicals, especially Lord of Scoundrels. It features an “ugly” hero who never really feels worthy of his heroine. And it makes me swoon just thinking about it.

Larissa writes fabulous PNR. I love her Demonica series and its spinoff Lords of Deliverance books. They have such amazing world-building and a huge cast of character that give the stories such a rich canvas.  And –holy wow– the lady can write some sex.  Thanks to both Larissa & Loretta for taking the time to share their recs with us.  

And, of course, we’ve got a giveaway to share.  Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win Loretta’s recommendation, Heaven, Texas.  US/CAN only.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*”Favorites from…” photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos  

Review: Royal Bridesmaids

Reviewed by Jen

This anthology features a collection of historical short stories, featuring royal weddings where the bridesmaids find love.  I was excited for this one, as I enjoy all three authors.  I knew the stories would be short, but I was unprepared for how short, especially when the entire ebook was 181 pages.

“A Return Engagement” (S Laurens) – I didn’t really love this one because so little of it actually focused on the romance between the hero and heroine. That would be a problem in any story, but it’s even more pronounced in a short story like this one.  Nell and Robert were an item nine years ago, but he never proposed when she thought he would and their romance ended abruptly. Now the two of them are thrown together as Nell’s sister prepares to marry the prince Robert works for. Most of the story centers on the wedding and Nell & Robert’s efforts to make it happen. There just isn’t enough about the two of them and their feelings for each other to make me care about their future one way or the other. 31 pages.

“The Imposter Bride” (G Foley) – This one, I did enjoy.  The prince and princess of two warring nations have agreed to marry to make peace. But the night before the wedding, the bride runs away, leaving her lady in waiting, Minerva, to assume her identity and take her place at the altar. Minerva quickly falls for her new husband, Tor.  But how long can she keep up the charade?  The story was a little predictable, but I really liked Minerva and the chemistry between her and Tor.  Sweet and a little sexy. 38 pages.

“Lord Lovedon’s Duel” (L Chase) – Probably the best in the bunch.  It’s based loosely in the Dressmakers world. Just after Chloe’s sister is married to a duke, the women overhear some men saying the groom married for money and not love.  Angered over the hurt it causes her sister –and just a little bit drunk– Chloe confronts Lord Lovedon, the man speaking most disparagingly of the match. She demands a duel, sparking his attention and a witty banter which evolves into a relationship. It was funny and sassy.  21 pages.

If you do the math, you’ll find that the short stories make up 90 of the 181 pages of the ebook.  The rest of the space is filled with previews and excerpts of future Avon historicals, from the featured authors as well as Carla Swafford, Alice Gaines, Candis Terry, and Anna Randol.  If that’s something you’re interested in, that’s great, but it frustrated me.  It was more tease than substance.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Royal Bridesmaids
by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, Loretta Chase
Release Date: July 17, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Scandal Wears Satin

Reviewed by Jen

Nothing matters to Sophy Noirot as much as her sisters and the dress shop they have built from the ground-up.  Their creations are on the cutting edge of fashion and they were just starting to get a foothold in society, when sister Marcelleine made a formidable enemy in the ton.  But they’re holding on, thanks in no small part to the patronage of Lady Clara.

Unfortunately, a scandal lands Clara bethrothed to a fortune-seeking scoundrel and Sophy takes it upon herself to extract her from the situation.  Then Clara runs away, forcing her brother (the Earl of Longmore) to team up with Sophy to find her and bring her home.  It’s that mission which throws them together and sows the seeds of their romance.

I loved Sophy. She manages to be both innocent and jaded at the same time, and in a way that’s totally believable.  She’s lived a hard life but it has made her stronger.  She can read people and adapt to meet the needs of her environment.  She’s a great chameleon, which serves her well in her schemes to rescue Clara from her misfortunes.  Yet, everything she knows about love and sex are intellectual.  Until Longmore awakens something inside her that she can’t ignore.

As for our hero: he was ok.  There was almost too fine a point put on the fact that he’s not too bright and is a bit of a slacker.  He’s also arrogant at times and there were moments I didn’t feel like he showed Sophy enough respect.  The way Loretta Chase describes him physically was quite delicious, but beyond that (and his affection for his sister) I’m not sure what Sophy sees in him.

I really enjoyed their first love scene together, though Sophy’s decision felt a little sudden.  In fact, the sex and sexual tension were quite well done as a whole.  But honestly, I thought all the dress descriptions grew tedious.  And I felt like the sisters burned through an awful lot of money to save a business that’s in financial dire straights.

This is book two in the Dressmaker series and while this could work as a standalone, it would make more sense to people who have read Silk is for Seduction. I liked this installment, but not as much as the other Loretta Chase books I have read.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Scandal Wears Satin
by Loretta Chase
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: Lord of Scoundrels

Reviewed by Jen

It’s very hard to grow up the product of mixed heritage in the ton, even if you are the legitimate heir to several titles. No one knows this better than the Marquess of Dain. His mother left him as a child; his father scorned the half-breed reminder of his failed marriage. He was ridiculed and harassed for his dark skin and big nose. He never knew love. And it hardened him into a man that does what he wants, lives by his own rules and never lets anyone in.

By many standards Jessica is a spinster. After all, she is 27 and unwed. But it’s by choice. She is as intelligent as she is beautiful and can easily support herself with her gift for buying and selling antiques. Unfortunately, her younger brother isn’t quite as bright and the young man idolizes Dain. He can’t keep up with the betting and whoring though, so Jessica seeks out Dain to ask him to leave her brother alone.

When Dain and Jessica meet, the attraction is instant. It’s a quick fall for both of them –and though the path is rocky– they end up together. The best part about the book, however, is watching Dain slowly begin to see his self-worth through Jessica’s eyes. He has considered himself a monster his entire life, but she sees him as so much more. He fights it, of course. Her care and regard are like nothing he has ever known. But that is why it’s so good! Jessica sees what we, the readers, see: a wounded man who needs her love.

Both main characters are fantastic. Loretta Chase crafts them as so understandable and sympathetic. Jessica has a will of steel and she is giving without ever being spineless. Dain is damaged, but his love for Jessica is so sweet and desperate.  Outwardly, he’s a dark, giant brute, but that’s only because it’s what he allows people to see. The bedroom scenes were hot and satisfying; and there was just enough action thrown in to spice things up with a sidestory about a greedy friend and ex-lover.

I enjoyed it alot. 4 1/2 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Lord of Scoundrels
by Loretta Chase
Release Date: January 1995
Publisher: Avon

Review: Silk is for Seduction

Reviewed by Jen

Marcelline Noirot comes from a family of swindlers. But now that her con-artist parents are dead, she and her sisters are working to make a respectable living as dressmakers. Of course, they may have to resort to an underhanded trick here or there, but Marcelline is a skilled modiste. She just needs to establish the right clientele.

She sets her sights on the future Duchess of Clevedon. It’s true that the dowdy Clara isn’t actually engaged to the Duke yet, but society deems that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes official. So Marcelline begins ingratiating herself into the Duke’s life. She meets him in Paris, stunning him with her charms and her wiles. And she makes no bones about the fact that she is using him to get to his prestigious intended. But Marcelline doesn’t count on the sizzling attraction between Clevedon and herself. And once she allows herself to know his kiss, she rushes back to London, hoping to beat the gossip over her meeting with the Duke.

Marcelline’s plan actually begins to work when she gets home. Clevedon makes good on his promise to facilitate a relationship between her and Clara. But despite his lingering affection for Clara, he can’t stop his driving need to get closer to Marcelline. As he spends more and more time in her world, he gets to know her sisters and her precocious daughter, Lucie. Once he starts to care for the child, he’s fighting a losing battle for his affections.

I really enjoyed this book. Marcelline is a fantastic heroine. She is tough, resourceful, and determined. She is unwavering in her determination to be successful in her shop and to create the kind of stability her family has never known. Her only failing is her inability to suppress her growing feelings for Clevedon. Neither is really the aggressor in the relationship… things simply evolve into a passion neither one can deny. The sexual tension is great –but just as taut is the emotional tension. For their own reasons, each is convinced that they must ignore their feelings for the greater good. But that makes it all the more exciting when the walls come down. This book is romantic and sweet and still very sexy. Almost 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Silk is for Seduction
by Loretta Chase
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Publisher: Avon