Deception–Amanda Quick

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This is one of my favorite of her books. Amanda Quick does historical romances.

In this one, we have Olympia Wingfield, a bluestocking trying to raise her three orphaned nephews. Jared Chillhurst is a viscount who is after a family diary that Olympia’s father has sent to her.

His initial plan was to offer to buy the diary, once she decodes it. However, when he saw the chaos in the household, he decided to take a more personal approach to the project. He announces that her dad has hired him as a tutor for the boys and quickly proves to be an excellent tutor and brings her entire household into order.

When she decides to take the family to London, disaster inevitably strikes when people discover them living in the same home and they are forced to announce their marriage and then get married to make it true.

She is not pleased with his large amount of deception, but she does love him. He loves her too, and protects her from the various threats that face them. She does in the end translate the diary, make peace with a longstanding family feud, and sends the most annoying members of the family off on a travel trip to find an ancient buried treasure.

This is a charming book, as indeed are all of Amanda Quick’s romances.

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The Perfect Poison–Amanda Quick

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I love these books. Amanda Quick does, in my opinion, the best historical romances with a touch of mystery. I appreciate the mysteries because it gives the story some bite, beyond just plain romance.

In this one, we enter into a bit of a crossover situation. The author has a series under the name Jayne Castle, which are futuristic and paranormal. This book is a historical romance but part of a series with paranormal aspects.

In this case, Lucinda Bromley is a gifted (psychically gifted) botantist and has recognized a rare fern that was stolen from her conservatory in a deadly poison. She teams up with Caleb Jones, who runs the detective agency for the psychical society and they track the poisoner, who is well known to the psychical society for various other unpleasant crimes.

It appears as though he is trying to create the “founder’s formula” which is a potion that should enhance and increase the psychical abilities of the person who takes it. Unfortunately the problem is that the founders formula, in every iteration, works briefly and then works as a poison, driving people crazy before killing them.

So it’s a bit of a race against time. The poison creator is working for some richer men, who are using their psychic powers to kill people and as they get more crazy from the formula, they will become exponentially more dangerous.

Meanwhile, sparks are flying between Lucinda and Caleb.

This is an enjoyable book. I recommend it.

Frenchman’s Creek–Daphne de Maurier

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This is my mother-in-law’s favorite book and she recommended it to me after I said that I had read and (mostly) enjoyed Rebecca. This is a very different book than Rebecca, which I think is something that should be said because I suspect that, like me, most people only know de Maurier from Rebecca.

As for which of these books are most representative of her canon, I do not know. The tone is the same in both, a stately and intense sense of repressed emotion. It is the subject that is the biggest difference.

In Rebecca, as you know if you’ve read it (or my earlier review of it) there is less romance than there is the ominous foreboding and mysterious ambiance that evokes something like Jane Eyre. In Frenchman’s Creek, it is a romance, almost completely uncluttered with other emotional elements.

In this book, Dona is a pampered rich aristocrat who takes her two very young children and flees London for her husband’s country estate on the coast. She is leaving because she has become bored with herself and her antics and disappointed with the choices she’s been making in her life.

Once there, she hears from the local gentry that there is a pirate that has been plaguing the coast. One night, she follows her servant into the woods and discovers the pirate’s boat. He finds her and thus begins a romance.

By the end of the book, they have engaged in active piracy together, a real plan has been formed and executed to capture the pirate and people have died terribly. She maintains the elegance of style throughout. The Gothic feel is pervasive.

It is a lovely book, and a sweet romance with more redeeming character and literary value than you normally see in romance novels.

 

Scandal–Amanda Quick

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Amanda Quick is the pen name of Jayne Ann Krentz when she’s writing historical romances. Her books often contain mystery elements as well as romance, but not so much in this one.

I love Amanda Quick books. They’re usually very well done romances. They’re fast reads but you don’t feel cheated at the end. This one, Scandal, is one of my perennial favorites, and one that I come back to read often when I’m feeling stressed or just burned out on more serious reading material.

In this book, the romance is between Emily Faringdon and Simon Traherne, the Earl of Blade. It is not an auspicious pairing. He seeks her out and seduces her gradually over a series of high-minded letters discussing their (not actually) mutual interest in romantic poetry. She’s innocent, despite an unfortunate scandal in her past where she ran away to marry the local lord, and was not retrieved until they had spent a night unchaperoned at an inn. Nothing happened, of course, these books do hold quite firm to their era’s feelings about the chastity of the heroines, but she’s ruined for society all the same. Regardless, in her innocence she falls in love with the dashing Simon via letters.

She is, of course, disappointed when he arrives on her doorstep as an earl, which puts him quite out of the matrimonial reach of someone with a past. Of course, he doesn’t care and is perfectly willing to take her as she is and turn her into a proper countess. Not out of love for her, but as part of an elaborate revenge scheme he’s running.

As a child, his father lost everything to her father. His father handled it by killing himself in the study. By marrying her, he gets the house and lands back, but also gets to remove all the financial stability from her father and brothers, because as an inveterate gambler, her father ran through the money many years ago and only Emily’s careful and prudent investments are keeping them afloat. Hence, the plan is: marry Emily and regain the house and lands as a dowry, and then keep her from replenishing the funds and watch her father and brother slide into financial and social ruin.

After the wedding, they move to London where Emily becomes popular and fashionable, until tragedy strikes in the guise of the threat of her scandal coming back to haunt her.

Obviously, it’s a romance and everything works out in the end. It’s a fun, entertaining read. The sex scenes are fairly explicit, so if that is not your taste, perhaps steer clear.

 

The Lost Night–Jayne Castle

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From Salman Rushdie to cheesy romance novels. At least no one can claim that I don’t have wide-ranging literary tastes.

Jayne Castle is one of the pseudonyms of Jayne Ann Krentz. She writes contemporary romances under her own name, historical romances under the name Amanda Quick, and futuristic romances under the name Jayne Castle.

I usually stick to the historical ones, but I somehow got started on one of the futuristic series and now here we are, reading futuristic romance novels with paranormal elements.

In this book, Rachel is an aura reader of unusually high skill and is let go from her job at a psychic mental hospital when her bosses didn’t believe that one of the patients was seriously scary and faking his metal health illness. She goes back to the little island she was raised on and takes over her family’s tea shop and bookstore.

Rainshadow Island has a huge unexplored section of land that is off-limits to people because of the strong and unpredictable psychic energy there. Most people aren’t strong enough to cross the psychic barrier but she did a few years ago. She lost twelve hours of her life and during that time managed to get into and then back out of the Preserve.

Now, the Preserve is behaving oddly and is creating weather disturbances. Harry Sebastian, a security expert from the foundation that owns the preserve, is on the island to figure out what the heck is happening. He targets her as either a suspect or someone who knows something about the Preserver, but her amnesia of that night is hampering him.

In typical romance novel fashion, sparks fly, sex happens, and they solve the mystery of the Preserve and defeat the bad guys together.

These books are fun, and if you’re a romance reader looking for something different, these are a good choice.

The Lure of the Moonflower–Lauren Willig

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NEW BOOK REVIEW ALERT!!!

This book is new. It’s been out less than two weeks. Usually I review books that have been out for a long time but not this time, baby. I’m on the new book train today.

This is the last book in the Pink Carnation series. If you are unaware of the Pink Carnation series, then…I’m sorry. They’re so much fun it’s ridiculous.

The basic premise of the books is that during the Napoleonic Wars, there is a series of spies modeled after the Scarlet Pimpernel. These books are mostly romances, but with mystery and adventure mixed in.

There’s also an ongoing story line set in modern times, where the main character is looking for the documents proving the spies existed.

Fun bonus: most of the spies are the women.

The Pink Carnation is Jane Wooliston, and she runs a spy network that encompasses a wide variety of people who by now, at the end of the series, are mostly related via a series of marriages with friends and relatives.

This last book concerns her own romance.

She’s in Portugal, working on the theory that the Portuguese Queen, Maria–who is most definitely not entirely sane–did not, in fact, flee to Brazil when the French invaded Portugal. It would not be a great thing for the French to get their hands on the Portuguese monarch. Her mission is to find the Queen and get her out of Portugal and ideally, to Brazil where she’s supposed to be anyway and would be safe.

Due to the aforementioned series of marriages and the unfortunate discovery of her role in British espionage by her French counterpart (a charming yet completely unethical man named Nicholas) she’s mostly on her own with almost no knowledge of Portuguese and a minimum of money. Her only ally is a contact that has already changed sides at least twice during these wars and is considered untrustworthy at best.

This man has the code name Moonflower, and is the half-British, half-Indian product of a British officer stationed in India. His ancestry bans him from service in his own country on either side, and he has a major chip on his shoulder.

But they work well together. They travel briefly with the French army until they encounter Nicholas and after that, they go by foot and donkey through the wilds of wintry Portugal until they locate the Queen. Who is, unfortunately, in the hands of the dastardly Nicholas.

There are twists. This is a bare summary. I’m trying to avoid spoilers. Work with me, people.

These books are fun, charming, and remarkably well researched. As a history buff myself, I appreciate the solid research and the list of recommended reading on the period that follow each book.

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine–Lauren Willig

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This is part of a series of romance novels. They shift back and forth between a contemporary romance, between a historical researcher and the owner of the materials she’s using, and the people she’s researching.

All the people she’s researching are English spies during the Napoleonic period, all with floral code names, obviously inspired by the Scarlet Pimpernel.

In this outing, the researcher has finally bagged her man and so the drama isn’t as much whether they’ll get together so much as it is the very annoying “minor misunderstandings as plot devices” stage. I refuse to discuss these plot devices, as a protest against the entire concept.

Moving right along to the historical plot line.

Robert, the Duke of Dovedale, has returned to England after an extended period as a soldier in India. He doesn’t feel like the duke–he inherited in a more or less unexpected way–and doesn’t want to do duke things. The only reason he’s home is to track down a former acquaintance who has been selling British intelligence in India and who killed his mentor.

However, he’s blindsided by his little cousin Charlotte, all grown up and attractive. He gets a little bit involved but then distances himself because he’s on a quest, dammit.

In order to track down his quarry, he has to join the Hellfire club, which apparently involves hallucinogenic drugs and orgies. Not exactly edifying.

He (apparently?) resists the hallucinogens and hookers while investigating.

Obviously by the end Charlotte gets involved, despite his best attempts to protect her. She’s trying to save the King, and surprise surprise, the same bad guys are responsible for both nasty situations.

They all survive and she resists the urge to marry him, wanting him to choose her and not run away to India again, but of course, in the end she relents and they live happily ever after.

These are fun, fluffy books if you like a historical romance with a tinge of mystery.