Thursday, July 26, 2007

When I Fall in Love / Lynn Kurland. 2007

Back when I first rediscovered romance novels, I stumbled across Lynn Kurland's books and it wasn't long before I read most, if not all of them. I wasn't aware of terms like "wallpaper history" and her "lite" approach to medieval life didn't bother me. And it still doesn't. Because I sure do like the way she tells a story. I'd probably embrace these common criticisms of her work if I didn't find myself enjoying her characters. And I especially enjoy putting myself in her characters' shoes as they make such improbable, logic-defying journeys through time. What the hey, call me shallow. Over the last few years as I've hung out on review sites and blogs I've learned that the book many of her readers consider their least favorite, is one of my top favorites--The More I See You. So there. This fact alone probably invalidates anything I have to say .

When I Fall in Love is the story of the 4th and final McKinnon sibling, Jennifer, as she meets up with one of the de Piaget brothers, Nicholas, when she accidentally falls through one of those infamous gates and lands in 1229. This book is pretty much a straight character-driven romance. There is a little conflict when the bad guy from Jake & Amanda's story (Dreams of Stardust) tries to burn Jennifer at the stake for witchcraft. Nicholas and his younger brothers rescue her. They immediately recognize her as someone from the future, but choose to pretend that she's just "lost" rather than reveal that they know all about the time traveling. This is putting it a little too simply, but essentially this is the main conflict that drives the novel. Nicholas is instantly smitten, but hesitates to get to know someone who will want to go back to her own time. Of course, he eventually lets himself get close and the rest of the de Piagets show up to help everything move along. All in all, I think this is a simple, uncomplicated book that is still simply delightful. Why do I think so? Well, the characters strike me as normal--they act the way I think real people would act. When we read about Jennifer and Nicholas, we know that there's strong physical attraction, but we're not derailed by pages and pages of lustful thinking. It's rather refreshing. There is lots of gentle humor, especially from Nicholas' brothers. I now have to go back and dig up Miles and Abigail's story. Since that one was written over 10 years ago, it will probably come off as rather disconnected from this one. Nonetheless, I always liked Miles in that story. He's lots of fun in this book.

Anyhow, this rates a B+ from me for being a relaxing, enjoyable book. Lynn Kurland doesn't appeal to everyone, but she rarely disappoints me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Survivor in Death / J.D. Robb. 2005

There are no words. None at all. Absolutely, hands down, this one is my favorite of the series so far. 'Nuf said.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Desperate Duchesses / Eloisa James. 2007

Eloisa James is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve looked forward to each of her new releases for several years now. Much Ado about You was one I reread a couple of times. But I have to say that her last two books prior to this one were rather disappointing. Now I’m going to venture into unfounded speculation. But I’ve wondered over the last year how someone who is the mother of two young children, holds a demanding full-time job (although maybe she gets her summers off), maintains a visible online presence, and is sometimes found on TV or in print interviews can possibly find time to write. Sometimes I want to tell Ms. James to crawl into a hole and write me some more books, dammit! Her second to last book in particular, The Taming of the Duke, had so many holes I just had to wonder if all that other stuff in her life had her writing to deadline rather than writing her best. Just wondering, and really, her life is her business.

So, this made me rather wary about Desperate Duchesses. It didn’t help that the AAR reviewer gave it such a low grade. Therefore I read the library copy of DD. I wonder if I could trade my copy of TTOTD for DD. ‘Cuz I have to say that DD was much more like the Eloisa James I know and love. It’s not a great book, but I did enjoy it. I thought she did an excellent job of giving it more of a genuine Georgian feel rather than plopping a Regency 20-30 years earlier. I thought her characters were interesting, the dialogue witty, and despite all of the references to chess, it wasn’t condescending or over my head. It helps to know a little about the game—the names of the pieces and their rolls on the board, but I think you could enjoy this book not even knowing that. Some of the poetry was pretty funny; I gather it’s from a real 18th century English poet. Those readers better educated than I (and they are legion) would probably get many nuances that went right by me.

It did “suffer” from too many plotlines. And really, I didn’t mind all of the plotlines because I liked her characters. But then let’s not even bother to try and call this a stand-alone book. Her web site says there will be 4 books in this "series." I think the book itself should be labeled as #1 in a series of 4. Anyhow, this book was as much about Jemma and Elijah as it was Roberta and Damon. I think Jemma and Elijah were far more interesting characters, if only because you know they are each hurting. And Damon was fun; I’d love to have seen way more of him. He knew what he wanted and went after it. Roberta just sort of grew up instantly; there wasn't really a chance for us to see this happen because of the attention that had to be paid to the other events going on. This stuff about too many characters/plotlines is the primary criticism I’ve read in a few other reviews and I agree absolutely. The characters of Villiers, Charlotte, and Harriet were intriguing. Will they show up in future books? Ostensibly this was Roberta and Damon’s book, so theirs is the only relationship that is resolved. Anyhow, a solid B for this one for humor and characterization and just for being a vast improvement over the last 2 books.