Friday, May 4, 2012

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

After finishing The Raven Prince the other day I decided to continue my reread with the second book on the series, The Leopard Prince.  I remember really enjoying the story of Harry and George's romance. Again, Ms. Hoyt crafted a book that not only stands up to a second reading, but enchanted me all over again.

Title: The Leopard Prince
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: mass market paperback
Series: The Prince Series

Wealthy Lady Georgina Maitland doesn't want a husband, though she could use a good steward to run her estates. One look at Harry Pye, and Georgina knows she's not just dealing with a servant, but a man.
Harry has known many aristocrats—including one particular nobleman who is his sworn enemy. But Harry has never met a beautiful lady so independent, uninhibited, and eager to be in his arms.
Still, it's impossible to conduct a discreet liaison when poisoned sheep, murdered villagers, and an enraged magistrate have the county in an uproar. The locals blame Harry for everything. Soon it's all Georgina can do to keep her head above water and Harry's out of the noose...without missing another night of love. 

From page one the attraction and tension between Harry and Georgina is intense.  Intense is a great word to describe this book.  The romance is intense.  The sexual tension is intense.  The intrigues and evil doings by the less than sane characters is very intense.

George grew up sheltered. There is much of the world of which she is not aware.  Simple things like how to lay a fire or how to slice bread.  Larger issues of country living such as the impact the death of livestock would have on the farmers and their families. She is not unintelligent, simply uninformed. She talks to Harry, learns from him.  She also teases and deliberately pokes at his outward calm. 

What sets George apart from the average HR heroine is the circumstances of her life.  She is a 28 year old woman who has never been married. She quite nearly fears marriage due to the nature of the relationship between her parents. Not abusive, but in no way loving. Their cold marriage gave Georgina no reason to seek out such an arrangement for herself. Financially, she has no need to.  A beloved aunt passed away leaving George a rather fantastic manor and grounds. She is a female land owner with no need for a husband to provide for her future.

Harry Pye is a rough man. Strong, solitary, salt of the earth.  He has no aspirations for a higher status in society. He wants to be left alone to care for the lands of which he is the steward. He is powerfully attracted to Georgina, but knows that their differing backgrounds and standing in society would impede any sort of relationship. He feels that all he could be is a stud to service his noble lady. Harry's belief, however, is no match for the strength of the attraction between them.

Together the two begin to investigate the suspicious deaths of the local sheep.  Neighbors begin to accuse Harry and danger begins to haunts the two lovers. Not only is their growing relationship battling class divisions, but the threat of danger hovering over Harry.

I loved this book. Despite Georgina's clueless moments, a few that teetered perilously close to being TSTL, I enjoyed her as a character.  I think it was her willingness to admit when she was uninformed. The sexual tension between the characters was explosive. Relationships between the primary and secondary characters were well written.  The suspense plot was dramatic, but not overly done.  It helped to move the story forward and provided plausible reasons for the lady of the manor to spend extensive time with her land steward.

I am so glad that I own a paper copy of this book.  It means I can pick it up again and again in the future. This just may become my go-to reread when I am jonesing for a great historical romance.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

WWR Wednesday: Little Alys!

I am so happy to welcome my friend Little Alys to WWR today to share about her preferences as a reader. I so love hearing what you all think and look for in a book. Big hugs and a happy hello to Alys! (please pardon the wacky formatting. I tried to fix it and ended up breaking the coding.)

What does this woman read? 
This woman is a die-hard romance fan. I love it in everything and it is usually a must have, but as long as it's printed and interesting, I will read. :D Granted, it has somehow became a fact that I MUST read or my brain will wither away faster than a frail flower in the desert heat. Really. My brain starts shutting down and the life seeps out of me like some jelly donut, so very often (to stay alive) I read whatever I can. Which means, I often go to several news outlet sights, scroll through as many blogs as I can, as well as visit a few science specific sites daily. Then again, even in those places I tend to pick topics I'm interested in, unless I’ve run out of stuff to read…then I venture forth ^_^.

At my highest point when my life ran like a clock with new batteries, I read at least a book a day (new or re-reading). On a pinch, I've been known to read textbooks and at my weakest point, the dictionary. Sadly, my spelling is still horrific as ever. Go figure. Lol.

Sadly life has a way of growing it's own way.

Lately, I use the internet as my reading source most of the time, but still manage to read a few books a month...mostly romance. Heh. Throw any books/stories at me and if I find it interesting, I will pick it up. Fairytales, folklores and mythology/legends, history, bios, sci-fi, fantasy, children’s books (of all ages), YA, mystery...anything. I do have exceptions, but that depends on the content. I'm so picky for such a story-addict.

What turns you on as a reader? 
Ah, a lot of stuff, but needs to be in combination. Lol. I'm so picky. >_< Basically, for a story to really work for me, several different aspects need to factor in. 1) Characters (I have a strong love of underdogs, wallflowers, betas), 2) the story itself, 3) humor! (it's a few rare and awesome books where I find myself laughing out loud while flipping through the pages and scaring people around me) and 4) being able to gleam something from the take something away when I have that last happy yet wistful longing sigh when I close the book. Lol.

1) A character does not need superpowers (although cool) for me to want to read the book. It has to be the personalities, the hidden depths, or their course of actions. Sounds simple enough, yet so very hard to write well. I like reading the unsung hero, or those average simple people that truly rise to the occasion with nothing more than their wits, intellect or even pure luck. Lol.

2) The story itself needs to be believible in its own world. Does not matter to me the genre or the age audience, a good book is a good book.

3) I think humor is the hardest part for any writer, since we all find different things to be funny. So in this case, I just hope for no angst (please see below). Still, to be able to laugh while reading a good book = awesome. I'd like the characters to be able to laugh throughout the book and I would like to be able to laugh with them. If that makes any sort of sense. And to bring it all together...

4) I prefer to have stories where I can learn something new, or see things in a different perspective. Whether it is political, historical, fantasy/sci-fi, or modern day… I want to learn something from these stories. It might be some historical fact, or personal growth, or as obscure as the name of a place that no longer exists, I love to learn from these stories. Every often, when I read a book and I come across something I do not know, I like to go look it up and expand upon it. To see characters, (the wallflowers, the nerd, the average character) be able to explore, laugh at the face of adversity and still pull through...well, there must be definitely something I can take away. Even if it ends up just me laughing in happiness at a wonderful story. 

Ok, onto the angst part I mentioned earlier... I do not like too much angst, repetition, and violence. Yes, I know these three factors are more a part of everyday life, but I do not like reading about them. I especially hate violence against women, children, or animals. This was the reason I stopped reading most mystery and crime novels (which I used to devour). Plus, the romance was always very lacking in there. Lol.

Whatever the story, I want a HEA, or even happily right now. I like knowing that the protagonist can grow and laugh at hardship and find her (and/or his) HEA. Heck, even though some of my most favorite books have bittersweet ending, the stories still contained various forms of love/romance that has managed to stay true and poignant I hold it close to my heart. So I’ve come to realize that whether there is any romance in the story was a good indicator of the story. :D

So, conclusion…romance story is the common thread. They tend to be the only books where I find strong characters willing to learn and adapt as well as rise to any challenge thrown at them. So off to read more romance! :D

*Little Alys, thank you so much for joining me here on WWR!  It was such a pleasure to have you on board for the day  :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Re-Read: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

I have been busy and distracted lately.  Too many things are pulling at my attention.  At times like this I find it difficult to get pulled into a new book.  My mind wanders and I just don't do the story justice. When this mood strikes I know that the best thing for me to do as a read is to go back to a well loved novel and do a re-read. Having been in the mood for an historical, and finding an inexpensive copy at the store, I recently picked up The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt.  I remember loving it the first time around and was curious to see if it stood up to a second reading.  The verdict? Most definitely!  What a great read this was, and just what I needed right now.  I pulled up the review I wrote about it back in 2008 (whoa! Exactly four years ago today!) Everything I said back then still applies now.  So in a fit of laziness, here is my review revisited. I jotted a few current notes in red so you can see my thoughts today compared to 2008.

Title: The Raven Prince
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Genre: Historical Romance

Back cover

THERE COMES A TIME IN A LADY'S LIFE...Widowed Anna Wren is having a wretched day. After an arrogant male on horseback nearly squashes her, she arrives home to learn that she is in dire financial straits. What is a gently bred lady to do?
WHEN SHE MUST DO THE UNTHINKABLE...The Earl of Swartingham is in a quandary. Having frightened off two secretaries, Edward de Raaf needs someone who can withstand his bad temper and boorish behavior. Dammit! How hard can it be to find a decent secretary?
AND FIND EMPLOYMENT.When Anna becomes the earl’s secretary, both their problems are solved. Then she discovers he plans to visit the most notorious brothel in London for his “manly” needs. Well! Anna sees red—and decides to assuage her womanly” desires . . . with the earl as her unknowing lover.

When it comes to historical romance, I like my heroines to be spunky. Spunky and not 18 years old. Maybe I am getting old, but I just can't connect to a heroine who is only four years older than the students I teach. I really am leaning more and more towards characters who are...mature. Hey, I'm turning 35 in a few weeks. It was bound to happen eventually.  So it was with great pleasure that I read The Raven Prince. I had heard about this book on another book blog (please don't ask which one, I have no idea. See? Old.) I figured, what the heck, I might as well check it out. When I saw it on the shelf of my local library I quickly plucked it up.  My memory or the book was so positive that I snatched up a copy when I saw it at the store recently for $4.

Anna Wren is a sweet little widow living in a small English town with her mother-in-law. Could be a bad set up, right? Not so, for these ladies. Mother Wren is that rare wonderful creature, a MiL who honestly loves the woman her son married (she even admits her son was a jackass.) It has been four years since her husband passed away, and funds are getting tight. Ana decides that it falls upon her shoulders to step up and earn some cash. She looks into the typical occupations for females (governess, companion to an old lady, etc.) but no one in their neighborhood is hiring. Walking home after a disappointing day of job hunting, Anna runs into the steward of the local nobleman. Huzzah! He is looking to hire a secretary for the Earl. You see, the Earl has a bit of an anger management issue. Temper temper! Hmmm... let's see. Here stands one woman looking for employment and one steward seeking to hire a secretary. What do we get? Women's Lib!!! Ok, maybe not. We get the story of the plucky widow working in a man's world. Temper? pfft! Anna has no problem with the Earl of Swartingham's temper. Perhaps that is because she first dealt with it on page one of the book when he nearly ran her down with his horse. He admired her pluck then, and it keeps her in good standing as him employee.  (Um, I used the word "plucky" a lot.  For that, I apologize.)

From day one, something about Anna speaks to Edward. She seems like a plain little country mouse, but her sexy mouth and sassy attitude just do it for him. So much so that he deems it necessary to hie off to London to visit Aphrodite's Grotto to ease the lust he is feeling towards his secretary (heehee, I accidentally typed sexretary.) Oh but she has him all figured out! Little Anna has a major case of the hots for the Earl. Seems like a mutual thing, right? Oh yeah. Well, if he wants to find his release it better be with her! With the help of two ladies of the night she recently provided aid to (against outcry from all and sundry), Anna travels to London where she dons a mask and participates in some sexing so hot it nearly set the pages of the book to flame. Damn! I'm gonna have to try out some of that. ::fans self:: After two nights of the steamiest love making a mask and an arm chair have ever seen, Anna flees London, realizing that hawt s3x is not enough. She loves him.  The realization that their interludes were a hollow mockery of Anna's feelings was quite heartbreaking.  

Of course, he finds out. Remember that temper I mentioned? Boy howdy!!! The anger runneth over. So does the angst. You see, Edward is engaged! He wants a family. Anna was married four years and no baby was ever conceived. Do you see the problem. Well, I won't say much more. I fear I have already given too much away. But let me just lay out a few more of my favorite points:

- any scene with Anna and Edward verbally sparring Anna gives as good as she gets. Edward actually likes that someone is willing to stand up to him.
- Edward's dog and Anna's quest to find him a name
- Edward and the rose bushes  Such a perfect gift.  At that point even Edward doesn't realize how telling the gesture was.
- Edward getting into brawls
- Edward's insane lust for Anna
- Anna being all feisty and spunky  Strong, determined... there are so many better words to use, Shannon!
- the fact that Anna is 31 years old
- Edward not being a perfect example of male beauty  This was a major issue for the character, but it in fact gives Edward character. All of the men in Ms. Hoyt's books are complex and not quite what they seem.
- Anna standing up to everyone to do what is right
- the hawt hawt hawt love scenes
- Edward's yearning for home and family
- the book

What I found weird:

- the fact that the author used both anatomical names (penis and vagina) and euphemisms (cavern) This actually did not bother me the second time around. I didn't even notice until I re-read this comment.
- the fact that Edward surrounds himself with such strange characters (his household staff) but we never get their stories I definitely want to know more about certain household staff. Edward hints that there is a story there, but never delivers.

The Raven Prince was a delightfully fun historical romance. I would go so far as to say this would be the book to give someone new to the genre. When you take into consideration that this is (I believe) Ms. Hoyt's debut novel, it is truly a wonderfully written book. I strongly recommend that you search this out and read it. I can't wait to read The Leopard Prince. The mysterious Harry gets his own story. I just know this man has hidden depths!

Grade: A

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WWR Wednesday- Nath

So, my mind is even more fried than I thought. Not only have I neglected this blog, but I apologized to the wrong person on Monday. Nath, you are a patient woman. Here is your day. We love you. We thank you. We welcome you!!! Thank you for joining me here (belated as it is, ALL because of my swiss cheese brain.)

What does this woman read?

I wish I could say I’m an eclectic reader. Alas, I am not as I read exclusively fiction. Oh, I do read scientific articles here and there for work and newspapers to know in what world I live, but if it’s for fun, it has to be fiction and preferably romance. Whether it’s contemporary, historical or paranormal, there’s just something special about two persons falling in love with each other and working their way through a Happy Ever After ending :)

I’ll read other genres such as urban fantasy, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, wuxia (kung fu stories) and general fiction as well, given there are strong romantic elements. I don’t really know where this romantic side of me comes from, but It’s been ingrained in me since I was very young LOL.

There is of course the occasional exceptions and that would be in the young adult genre - is an HEA ending believable when the characters are 16-17 years old? That’s why I’m extremely picky when it comes to contemporary YA. The other exception is manga and comic books. By the way, I grew up reading in French and therefore, when I say comic books, I’m talking about European comic books: Asterix, Tintin, “les Schtroumpfs” aka the Smurfs and so on. What do they have in common? Adventures and a strong sense of humor :) As for manga, if I read shoujo then I’m pretty much guaranteed to have romance in it. As for shounen, well it’s the same as comic books: adventures, humor, the character growths and the topic of series. If there’s romance, it’s a bonus, but not necessary for me. I guess it’s about expectations as well.

What turns you on as a reader?

Actually, for me, it’s not really about what turns me on as a reader... but what doesn’t turn me on ^_^; High school drama in contemporary YA, fairies in urban fantasy, vampires in paranormal romance and so on. As we read great amount of books, we all have our quirks :) Ultimately though, I’m willing to give a try to any books as long as I’m enjoying the read; whether it’s the characters, the world building, the suspense, the story, the humor or even the writing style that provides the entertainment. Or any combination of the above.

I do admit though, I enjoy reading about characters that are out of their comfort zones :) My favorite tropes are the “happy-go-lucky heroine thawing up the stuffy hero” and the hero or heroine unexpectedly become the guardian of young children. I also like klutzy heroines, beta heroes and razor-sharp minded characters :)

Then again, the most important at the end of the book though is that something has caught my attention and make me enjoy it :)

Monday, April 23, 2012


Whoa. Real life just buried me under an avalanche. Some of it is quite good, but stressful, nonetheless. I apologize to orianna. I have your WWR Wednesday contribution and am going to schedule it to post on Wednesday. I have been reading. I finished up two books in the last week. I will have reviews coming soon-ish. I swear! Ok, real life and real job beckon. Hope you all have a fabulous day. Let me know what you are reading. I need to figure out what to pick up next!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Please ignore this. I am being a (non-bookish) geek.

So on our trip down the coast I was able to relax and refresh myself. The ocean has amazing healing properties.  I was able to read a little bit, enjoy a cup or two or tea, soak in the Victorian ambiance of the B&B in which we stayed, and poked through gift shops and antique stores. 

I was able to feed my inner geek at one antique store in particular.  You see, I have been either knitting or crocheting for at least the past 10 years.  I started recycling and dying yarn about two years ago.  I have been itching to learn how to spin my own yarn.  Yes, big yarn dork.  Anyhow, I was going to start with a simple, and inexpensive, drop spindle.  It looks like an old spinning top.  One of those kids' toys.  I figured it would be a cheaper and simpler way to get my toes wet and see if I even like spinning my own yarn. 

And then we walked through the antique shop.

There was a spinning wheel.  Beautiful, reasonably priced, antique.  I fell in love. It is the dream to own one. Now I do.  I caved like a souffle and bought it.  It is missing a few parts that are pretty important, but I think I can jury-rig replacement parts for the time being.  Some day I will want to get the whole thing overhauled and real replacement parts made, but it will be pricey and I want to learn to spin first.  If I love it then the investment will be worth it. 

So here she is. My antique spinning wheel.  The final sign to herald in my utter dorkdom.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Audio Book)

One of the reasons that I was excited about getting my new library card was that I could start checking out audio books again.  When I am at home I want to sit and read.  When I am in the car, however, I need to listen to something.  I'm sorry NY/NJ folks, but the radio stations out here just don't live up to the ones I left behind in Chicago.  Heck, even back home in the Windy City I would tire of hearing the same top hits over and over.  (I love you, Adele, but these stations here have played you to the point of annoyance!) So what do you do when you have at least 30-40 minutes in the car each way?  Listen to a book!

In the past I listened to The Westing Game, books by Tamora Peirce, and other books for class.  I tried Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but found it to be way too intense for my daily commute.  I need something witty and fun and (shockingly) not romance.  I have yet to be able to bring myself to listen to sex scenes read aloud by a stranger while traversing the NJ Turnpike.

So upon getting my new library card I headed straight to the audio-visual room of the library. Wow.  Um, that's a lot of books on cassette.  Do many people still check those out?  Thankfully, as I was about to give up, I saw the section of CD audio books in a separate alcove. (Side note:  this library make me sad. It is so poorly organized and neglected.)  The selection was pretty good and they even have mp3 books so you only have to worry about one disc. Much better than having to switch out the CD while in the middle of driving over a bridge.  The A-V department was closing up for the lunch hour due to low staff numbers so I hurriedly made my choice.  OH, what a fantastic choice I made!

Title:  Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Author(s):  Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Format: audiobook
Series: I wish!

Synopsis:  The world will end on Saturday. Next Saturday. Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies written in 1655. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.

I really don't want too say too much about this book and ruin it for those who have yet to read or listen to it.  What I can say is WOW!  Why did I wait so long to read/listen to this book??!!?  The characters are hilarious and charming.   You want a chance to browse through Aziraphale's used book store or have coffee with Crowley.  You are happy to have never met the Sisters of the Chattering Order.  You swear you know a girl just like Anathema Device.  You want to visit Lower Tadfield.  I swear I have taught a group of The Them.  The character list is long and brilliant. Even those who only appear briefly are vividly drawn.  For example, Mr. Young appears only a few times in the book and is described as a "serious minded man with a moustache smoking a pipe."  He does things "in accordance with tradition" and is not entirely comfortable comforting a baby because he has always respected Winston Churchill and has a difficult time patting tiny versions of him on the head.

The story itself kept my guessing quite a bit, which it rather impressive.  There are still a few things that my mind is mulling over weeks later, still trying to get straight in my head.  There is some room for interpretation about how things will play out in the future. Every detail is not laid out for the reader.  It is humorous and intelligent.  It respects the intelligence of the reader.

As an audiobook this was FANTASTIC.  Martin Jarvis was the reader and he did such an amazing job voicing all the innumerable characters.  He was recently in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, appeared on a handful of episode of East Enders, and did the voice of Nergal on the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (among many other credits.)  This man is talented and I want him to narrate every British novel I read. Yes, he was that good.

Seriously, this was a great book, a phenomenal audiobook.  If you have never read it GO GET IT.  If you have read it...GO GET IT!  Seriously, the reading is too fun to pass up on and you never know what crazy little detail you will have missed the first time around.  The four horsemen?  The telemarketers?  The hellhound?  The awesomeness that is Pepper?  Like I said, GO GET IT!

Oh, and by the by, there appears to be a TV mini-series in production for this book. The casting possibilities are spinning through my head!