historical romance

Review & Giveaway: ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS EVE (A Maiden Lane Novella) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Once Upon a Christmas Eve (A Maiden Lane Novella)

by Elizabeth Hoyt

Published by Forever (Grand Central)
92 pages
Genre: romance; historical romance
4 / 5

My Review:

Elizabeth Hoyt is readily recognized as a must-read historical romance author. If you are new to her or perhaps aren’t sure if you’d like historical romance, this breezy, surprisingly sweet (and HOT) novella is a pretty fabulous introduction to Hoyt’s writing.

The premise is simple: Adam, the Viscount d’Arque, hates Christmas. All of that forced cheer and phony emotional pretension disgusts him. There is another, deeper reason behind his dislike, and it gives some depth to him. His opposite, in nearly every way, is Lady Sarah, a young woman who enjoys the spirit of Christmas and despises rogues like Adam. When the two are forced to spend the holidays together, Things Happen.

Hoyt puts you in the spirit with her teasing the romance between these two. Their banter is purposeful and witty, and you can see how each starts to rethink their preconceived notions of the other. Even with its slight length, Hoyt includes a couple of pretty spicy sexy times.

Veteran fans or new-to-her readers of Elizabeth Hoyt will enjoy this toasty Christmas novella.

Blurb:

A heartwarming stand-alone novella from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt!
Adam Rutledge, Viscount d’Arque, really rather loathes Christmas. The banal cheerfulness. The asinine party games. And, worst of all, the obligatory trip to the countryside. His grandmother, however, loves the holidayand Adam loves his grandmother, so he’ll brave the fiercest snowstorm to please her. But when their carriage wheel snaps, they’re forced to seek shelter at the home of the most maddening, infuriating, and utterly beguiling woman he’s ever met . . .
Sarah St. John really rather loathes rakes. The self-satisfied smirks. The sly predatory gazes. Oh, and the constant witty banter rife with double meaning. But in the spirit of the season, she’ll welcome this admittedly handsome viscount into her home. But as the snowstorm rages, the Yule log crackles, and the tension rises, Sarah and Adam find themselves locked in a fiery, passionate kiss. If love is the true meaning of Christmas, it’s the one gift this mismatched pair can’t wait to unwrap.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York TimesUSA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical romance, including reader favorite, The Raven Prince.

Elizabeth was born in New Orleans but grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was fortunate to be able to travel extensively as a child, visiting St. Andrews, Scotland; Germany; France; and Belgium. She spent a year in Oxford, England and was a summer exchange student to Kawasaki, Japan.

Elizabeth has a BA in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and, as a result of having no clue what to do with her life thereafter, a career history as a barista, a (terrible) sales clerk, a Wisconsin Revenue Service data entry slave, and an archeological field work grunt. Fortunately, Elizabeth married relatively young and produced two children who kept her busy until her mid-thirties. At about this time, when her youngest was entering Kindergarten, Elizabeth’s mother hinted that perhaps Elizabeth should get a Real Job.

Sadly, Elizabeth was so delusional she thought writing a romance novel might qualify as a Real Job.

But! Five years later, to everyone’s surprise, she actually sold that romance novel (The Raven Prince) and began a rather successful career as a Romance Novelist. This was most fortunate since Elizabeth is singularly unqualified to do anything else but Make Up Stories. Since then Elizabeth has written over twenty books to critical acclaim including three contemporaries under the pen name Julia Harper.

Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with three dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the ever faithful Mr. Hoyt.

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Giveaway:

Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

City of Jasmine

city of jasmineCity of Jasmine
by Deanna Raybourn
Published by Harlequin MIRA
368 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; historical 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

As a fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series, I look forward to her novels. I thought my passion for Nicholas Brisbane was high until I discovered Andrei Dragulescu in The Dead Travel Fast. Raybourn always does a fantastic job of creating evocative moods in her novels.

Do you sense a “but” coming? Because there is one.

But … this book. I just couldn’t.

The plot is as convoluted as they come. Our heroine, Evangeline Starke, is a “famed aviatrix,” which means she goes barnstorming and barrel rolling around Europe. Currently on an aerial tour of the seven seas of antiquity, she finds herself enjoying a brief pit stop with her elderly Aunt Dove when the two come across representatives from a group of archaeologists who are digging for … something … in Damascus.

Evangeline becomes interested in them, largely because she has received a photo of her husband Gabriel on a Damascus dig. The photo strikes her as curious because Gabriel died on the Lusitania five years before the photo was taken.

Didn’t he?

And so Evangeline heads for Damascus, where she immerses herself in local history, local Bedouins, and the search for what really happened to Gabriel.

Maybe that doesn’t sound so convoluted, but trust me, IT IS. There are different factions searching for the same artifact, different agendas driving those people, and Evangeline wondering what is the truth about Gabriel.

I was, dare I say it, bored.

Yes, bored. BORED by a Deanna Raybourn book.

I didn’t particularly care for Evangeline, who seemed alternately supercilious and super silly. Whatever happened to Gabriel, I’m sure his reasons for faking his death were valid. Perhaps boredom was one of them …

If you are interested in a historical treatise on the peoples in Arabia, this is the book for you. There is occasional mystery, occasional – or should I say, frustratingly infrequent – romance, and a whole lot of history.

I’m giving it three stars because when it’s good – such as the sub plot with the German doctor and the mystery surrounding Gabriel – it’s interesting and fun. There just isn’t enough of that.

The King’s Pleasure

The King’s Pleasure
Heather Graham, writing as Shannon Drake (website)
Published by Open Road
Available on Amazon Kindle
382 pages
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
3 / 5 cupcakes

Well. I did not love this one. In fact, I struggled with it a LOT. I must have put it down three or four times, and had to force myself to pick it back up. It isn’t that this is a bad book, it’s just that I didn’t like the way it was written.

Let’s start with the pros:

  • You get a lot of English and French medieval history, which actually is rather interesting. Heather Graham, writing here as Shannon Drake, writes the Social Studies portion of the festivities in an entertaining fashion, not dry or dull at all.
  • Adrien MacLachlan is a hunka hunka burnin’ love, girls. Big, brawny, ultra masculine. Hair on the chest and a brogue to match. He loves his woman and will protect her – even from herself – at all costs.
  • Danielle D’Aville, our plucky heroine, is plucky indeed. And she’s very pretty. 
  • It’s fast-paced.
And that’s about it for the good stuff. 
Now we get to the negatives, and they are legion:
  • In the majority of sex scenes, Adrien all but rapes Danielle. For reals, people. He forces himself on her time and again. Now, we do see that she responds, but you’d have to be a box of rocks not to respond to him. She pushes against him, she pulls him to her. But for all of her robust responsiveness, she nonetheless refuses him, and he does not respect that. Look, I’m all for a feisty minx givin’ ‘er to her big man, but Danielle’s repeated resistance became kind of awkward and uncomfortable. 
  • The battle scenes got soooooo redundant. I felt like I read the same scene over and over again. After those times when I put the book down, I’d have to double and triple check to make sure I hadn’t misplaced my bookmark, because I would have SWORN I’d read some of that stuff beforehand.
  • The supporting characters are straight out of Central Casting. There is not an original one in the bunch, from the men who covet Danielle to the woman who wants Adrien. Can you believe they plot against our happy couple? I know! I’m shocked too.
  • The non-rape sex scenes are tepid. Yes, there is some hotness there, but not enough to keep you hooked. While we know that these two can rock that headboard right into next week, their couplings are pretty standard fare. Oh! There is a brief episode of spanky panky, so yet again, I can drag Christian Grey’s name into this review. Hey, Christian!
  • It’s just kind of … boring. 
Here is a little snippet:

He clenched and unclenched a fist, trying to ease some of the tension from his body. She had matured from a beautiful girl into a voluptuous and stunning woman. She was more fiercely independent than ever, as prickly as a wild rose, but in her he could still see the passion of the girl he had known with the healing hands, proud spirit, and undying courage.

Healing hands? Proud spirit? Undying courage? Um, okay.

If you dig history, then you might want to give this a try. In fact, history buffs might be all over it, maybe to fact check Ms. Graham / Drake’s assertions. But if you’re looking for a hot historical romance novel, this isn’t your best bet.

Rope Dancer




Rope Dancer 
Roberta Gellis
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN-10: 1402255047
Available on Amazon.com
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview

I was surprised that I liked Rope Dancer as much as I did. It isn’t typically something I would be drawn to read, yet it’s a rollicking, adventurous, sweet and even kind of hot book.

Carys is the eponymous dancer, performing on ropes as part of a traveling troupe in medieval England. The men she works with, however, treat her with something less than dignity. Okay, a LOT less than dignity. Carys does not realize that she can – and should – be treated better, largely because this life is the only one she has known.

The land is rife with battles, skirmishes and outright wars between various fiefdoms, and to escape one, Carys takes a precarious fall. She is discovered by Telor and Deri, a traveling minstrel and dwarf, respectively. The two men entertain for pay, with Telor occasionally providing extra “services” to the ladies.

wink wink

Telor initially is put off by Carys’s stench, which I found quite humorous. After she cleans up, he realizes that she’s actually kind of attractive – he likens her to a fox. GET IT? She’s FOXY! Carys joins the two men in their escapades, performing and escaping from various pickles in which they find themselves. Telor puts one lord in his cross hairs, determined to exact retribution.

Along the way, he finds himself beguiled by Carys, and she, in turn, is intrigued by him.

Carys found this difference between looks and character very interesting. Both men she had dealt with intimately in the past looked what they were: Ulric was strong and stupid, and Morgan, although he could hide what he was under a “player’s face” for a time, betrayed the sly cleverness by his sharp features and narrow eyes when he was not acting. But Carys was sure Telor was not playing any role for her, which meant his face did not portray the inner man. Interesting … and dangerous

Roberta Gellis takes her time in getting these two into a romantic relationship. Carys assumes she and Telor will sleep together, because Ulric and Morgan took her at their pleasure. For his part, Telor believes Carys is not attracted to him, and he is not the sort of man to force himself on a woman, especially when so many beautiful, supple women pursue him. But he’s attracted to Carys, there is no doubt about that.

There are several adventurous scenes in this book, in which our merry trio attempts to extract itself from one scrape after another. There also is a lot of emotional depth. Each character has a struggle of some sort, and they need to heal.

Gellis writes with such detail that we see everything: the performances, the characters and the battles. This is a long book – it’s 400 pages – but it flies by. Think of it as a three hour movie that feels more like two.