The last two ‘new releases’ in my TBR stack were My Lord And Spymaster from Joanna Bourne and To Taste Temptation from Elizabeth Hoyt.
Title: My Lord And Spymaster
Author: Joanna Bourne
Blurb: After her father is wrongly accused of selling secrets to Napoleon, lovely Jess Whitby infiltrates the London underworld for the real traitor-only to end up naked in the bed of a rude merchant captain. Not only is she falling in love with him, but he may be the scoundrel she's looking for.
Why: I absolutely loved The Spymaster’s Lady.
Thoughts: Loved this one as much as the first. Bourne is uniquely effective at creating a heroine so burdened the reader feels the weight she carries. And, like the heroine, feels just as battered by the struggle between needing to see it all through on her own and the impossible longing for the hero as safe haven.
It’s the same feeling I fall for every time in Garwood’s Scottish historicals. It may be archaic, but I love a hero who, above all else, represents safety—his chest a place the heroine might curl up and rest for awhile. Silly, but yeah, it gets me. And Bourne captures it like few else.
Bourne’s prose is also unique, or rare IMO. Smart and engaging. So tightly written that not a single word is wasted. And far more “POW!” moments than most—those instances where the words alone impact the reader. For their selection, their arrangement.
Whether a result of that talent or in addition to it, Bourne’s characterization is equally powerful. Adrian in particular. Bourne conveys so much about this man and does so with very few words, very little dialogue. Yet he literally steps off the page. Doyle as well.
Her primary characters—Jess and Sebastian—captured my attention as well. Although I will say I felt shorted a bit by Sebastian’s portrayal. Didn’t seem to get enough of his POV as the story progressed and his anger and frustration at Jess’ independent movement (routinely right into danger) was never matched with action. IOW, his inability or lack of effort to keep better tabs on her felt out of character—important for the movement of the story and for an especially pivotal moment, but overall, just a bit off. That last time, when she leaves his bed and walks right into her own kidnapping, was so avoidable even I was pissed. For a man who seemed to ‘get’ her like no other, he was uncharacteristically obtuse in more than one instance.
Still, listen to me talk about them like they are real folks. Strong characterization overall, strong voice, deep well of emotion…all of it there. I want more from this author.
Word on the Web: Conveniently, author Joanna Bourne keeps a running list of online reviews on her blog (right sidebar).
Title: To Taste Temptation
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Blurb: Lady Emeline Gordon is the model of sophistication in London’s elite social circles, always fashionable and flawlessly appropriate. As such, she is the perfect chaperone for Rebecca, the young sister of a successful Boston businessman and former Colonial soldier.
Samuel Hartley may be wealthy, but his manners are as uncivilized as the American wilderness he was raised in. Who wears moccasins to a grand ball? His arrogant disregard for propriety infuriates Emeline, even as his boldness excites her.
But beneath Samuel’s rakish manner, he is haunted by tragedy. He has come to London to settle a score, not to fall in love. And as desperately as Emeline longs to feel this shameless man’s hands upon her, to taste those same lips he uses to tease her, she must restrain herself. She is not free. But some things are beyond a lady’s control…
Why: Well, I absolutely loved Hoyt’s Prince trilogy.
Thoughts: Agree with Lori, I enjoy Hoyt’s penchant for weaving fairy tale through her books. In this one, Hoyt cleverly tied the fairy tale to the heroine—near the end, then left the reader wondering at its significance at the book’s close. It will be interesting to see if she carries it into the next book—one that features Melisande, the woman charged with translating the tale in this book. If not, then I missed something along the way here.
Unlike Hoyt’s Prince trilogy, this story and its characters did not immediately appeal to me, didn’t grab me. A third of the way into it however, I was hooked. Both hero and heroine continued to behave in ways that annoyed me, but Hoyt gave them reason to and I was convinced. Even more so after she introduced a third character—a fiancée—and stretched the conflict further—for both Emeline and Samuel. It is interesting to note that while I was convinced of their characters and compelled to read their story, I still didn’t like them much. Testament to the storyteller.
I did like how To Taste Temptation fell just outside the typical confines and expectations of historical romance—in that way, very much like the Prince books. And no tidy way around societal conventions either. The H/H get to their happy ending by tossing those conventions pretty much altogether. Like I said, convincing.
More and more, I’m liking my books darker, more dense. Not sure if that is a paranormal influence or not. I just know that I’m quickly and easily bored with standard historical fare lately. I should have loved Kleypas’ Wallflower Christmas and I couldn’t get over 25 pages into it. Too fluffy. Nor can I tolerate straight romantic contemporaries, for which many are campaigning right now. Really, I’ve no idea why. Just need more grit right now, and both Bourne and Hoyt deliver.
As did Sherry Thomas in Private Arrangements. I’ll review that one shortly.
Word on the Web:
Cindy Reads Romance
Bodice Ripper Reviews
The Good, The Bad and The Unread
Musings of a Bibliophile
Ramblings on Romance