Authors I love, Book of the Week, historical, reviews, romance

Book of the Week: The Rogue Not Taken

I retreated into the world of happy endings this week – and treated myself by letting myself read the new (well relatively new) Sarah MacLean which I have been saving for a Time Of Real Need.

This is the first in her new series – Scandal and Scoundrel – and after the massive high of the surprise reveal and general excitement of the final book of the Rules of Scoundrels, I wasn’t sure this could live up to my massive expectations.  And then I found out that the new series was inspired by celebrity scandals of today and got a bit worried.  But I really didn’t need to.  Sarah MacLean knows exactly what she’s doing.

Paperback copy of The Rogue Not Taken
The cover model is just a bit to… meh. All downcast eyes and no personality – completely un-Sophie like!

Sophie Talbot is the youngest of a line of scandalous daughters of a noveau riche peer.  Her sisters revel in their notorious reputations, but she’s not keen.  She’s the most retiring member of the family right up until she pushes her elder sister’s cheating husband into a pond at a party.  He’s a duke – old family, old money – she’s not.  Suddenly she’s the biggest scandal in society and facing being an outcast.  So she makes a run for it.  But she makes her escape it using the carriage belonging to the Marquess of Eversley, who’s fairly scandalous himself.  He thinks she’s trying to trap him into marriage.  She knows she definitely isn’t. But then Things Happen.

I enjoyed this so much. The characters are engaging, the dialogue is witty and fun.  There’s lots of proper plot – no wishy-washy misunderstandings that could be solved by one person asking the other a question.  And just when you think it’s nearly fixed, MacLean throws in another twist to the tail.  I was a little hesitant about one of these which happened towards the end of the book, but it was dealt with so neatly and resolved so satisfactorily that by the time the book was over I’d almost forgotten it had annoyed me.  I was also desperate to read the next in the series which isn’t out until August, but I’ll try and contain my impatience.

I still prefer the US cover to the UK one – cheesy thought the American romance covers are, they have no shame about what they are – there’s heaving bosoms, unlaced corsets that improbably reveal no under garments, ridiculous muscles and flowing locks, but they’re unapologetic about it, where as the ones here are misty and coy and undersell the contents.  But hey, at least with a British edition we don’t have to pay silly money to get them shipped in anymore.  Although – full disclosure – I got my copy from the publisher who gave them to everyone who went to Sarah MacLean’s London teaparty (she’s lovely) so I may yet buy a US version to match the rest of my books of hers…

Get your copy from Amazon, Foyles or Waterstones, or for Kindle or on Audible.  If you’re in the States, it should be everywhere fine, fine romances are sold (to quote Sarah Wendell.). Happy Romancing!

American imports, Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Never Judge a Lady by her Cover

This week’s BotW is Sarah MacLean’s latest historical romance – which has been sitting on the pike since soon after its release waiting for an opportune moment. And after four night shifts I needed a treat.

Never Judge a Lady by her Cover is the final book in MacLean’s Rule of Scoundrel’s series – and tells the story of Georgiana, who MacLean fans first encountered back in her previous series. Since then she’s been leading a double life – disgraced daughter of a duke (complete with illegitimate daughter) by day and something else entirely by night. She is Chase, the powerful figure behind a legendary gaming hell.  But will she get her happy ending?*

Never Judge a Lady
Another appalling photo. I blame the Huddl2. And the fact that I had 5 minutes before I had to leave for the train. Poor planning from Verity

 

As you can see I have the American edition (and mine is signed!) despite my embarrassment at bodice-rippery covers (though this is a better cover than many) because I’ve been reading MacLean’s books since before you could get them over here – and we all know I’ve got a thing about matching sets! Also the UK covers are wet and nowhere near as good as the ones other US romance writers get here.

Anyway, when the Big Reveal about Chase took place at the end of the previous book, those who didn’t manage to get accidentally spoilt (unlike me – I found out from the flabbergasted good reads reviewsª) were astounded. It really set the expectations for this book sky high and I’ll admit to being a little concerned that it wouldn’t live up to that – which is perhaps why it has been on to to read pile for a month or two.° But Never Judge a Lady is a brilliant end to what’s been a fabulous series.

The heroine is feisty, smart and independent, the hero is powerful, with a dubious past and missing some key information. Their romance is good (oh lord, the swimming pool scene), the peril is seemingly insurmountable and the dialogue is witty and sparky. Plus we also get plenty of our previous Heroes and Heroines taking pleasure in meddling as they themselves were meddled with. In short, everything you want in a good romance. Perfect post-night shift reading.

You can get your copy of Never Judge a Lady by her Cover from Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones or on Kindle.  If you click on any of those, you’ll find out why I don’t like the UK covers – my US edition came from Word in Brooklyn who are Sarah MacLean’s local store and were offering signed copies at the time.  Also if you haven’t read the rest of the series, I suggest you start at the beginning with A Rogue by Any Other Name and enjoy the Scoundrels in the order you were meant to.  Oh and may be Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart.

* Hint: this is historical romance. Of course she will.

ª I’ve only revealed it here because it’s on the blurb on the back of the book, and if you haven’t read the rest of the series, you won’t mind, and if you’ve only read one or two of them you’ll be wondering why it’s Georgiana’s book not Chases, because the series was clearly going to be a book for each of the Fallen Angel’s owners…

° Also I can’t take a book with a cover like this on the train or into work without risking raised eyebrows and scornful looks.

American imports, historical, romance

Bodice rippers…

There’s a shelf of books I keep hidden in my spare room.  I’m embarrassed to own them. But some of their genre-mates live in my sitting room bookshelf.  What am I talking about?  Historical romances.

a collage of books
My historical romance collection – can you spot the UK editions and the US ones

You’ll have seen from earlier posts that I’ve got a bit of a thing for Georgette Heyer.  Now a few years back, I started looking for other similar books that I could read – and stumbled into the world of historical romances.  Mostly written by American authors, they’ve beguiled many a happy hour in the years since.  So why the segregation?  Well it’s simple.  In this country (that is the UK) books by writers like Julia Quinn come with nice, innocuous pastel coloured covers.  But where I’ve had to buy in from the US to fill in collections – for example the Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James – they tend to come with busty women breaking free of their dresses on the cover.  I am literally too embarrassed to be seen to own them – let alone be seen out in public with them on the train.

In cases like this – the Kindle is a god-send – no one can see the cover of the book that I’m reading on my e-reader – and unless they’re invading my personal space, they’re not going to know that I’m reading a “bodice-ripper”.  But take one of these babies out in public and I’m embarrassed about people judging me.

books
Some of these spines are not allowed on my downstairs bookshelves…

Now this is, of course, ridiculous.  There is nothing wrong with reading historical fiction or even reading it in public.  Many are very well researched and historically accurate – Eloisa James is actually Mary Bly, a respected Shakespeare professor at Fordham University – and they’re hardly (or at least not often) up their with Fifty Shades of Grey for their explicit content* and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of escapist fiction anyway.

I’ve read a lot of article recently about people not taking romantic fiction seriously – and I’d suggest that covers like these are part of the reason why.  And some of them aren’t even that accurate when it comes to reflecting the content of the book – whether it is the look of the heroine or the action it portrays.

I also think the American style covers look incredibly retro and naff.  If I had come across them in a bookshop before I’d read some of the authors,  I would never have even thought of picking one of them up – I would have ruled them out as being clichéd, inaccurate and one note – the same way I did with old school Mills and Boons once I’d read a couple of dozen of my gran’s collection.  And they’re not.  For me, the best of them are the logical successors to Georgette Heyer – but with kissing.  And some sex.  Sometimes quite a lot of sex.  But the world has changed since Heyer picked up her pen – and it’s mostly very well written sex.

Eloisa James books
Same author, different countries – completely different cover look!

I’d love to know what it is about the US book-buying public (or how publishers perceive them) that means that the books are packaged and styled like this – and what the authors think of such radical differences.  But until the books start looking a little bit less like a cliché, my American imports will continue to be hidden away at the back of the top shelf of the spare room bookcase!

* I read the Fifty Shades trilogy on my Kindle, in secret, in Poland to make sure no-one would know what I was doing.  And I read it so that I could tell my sister and my mum if they needed to read it.  I concluded they didn’t.