Romance Reviews, June 15, 2012

Friends, Benefits, Surprises There are any number of great plot patterns in popular romance fiction. Reunion, second chance at love, Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, beauty and the beast, Cinderella/rags to riches, girl/boy next door, marriage of convenience/forced marriage (close cousins to the arranged marriage), class or cultural differences, and forced togetherness, to name just a few. One classic pattern‚ friends into lovers‚ has taken an interesting turn of late. Although the traditional plot involving old/good friends who end up falling in love is still a favorite, with today’s more relaxed attitudes toward sex, characters are taking things a step further and establishing mutually beneficial but usually temporary sexual partnerships that eventually lead to love‚ this is romance, after all. Some are driven by the heroine’s desire to break out and live a little, others by pure desire. Regardless, these initially casual relationships (with and without benefits) are becoming more commonplace, and while they are most usual in contemporary romances, examples can also be found in historicals as well. In a plot centering on forced togetherness, characters find themselves in a wide variety of situations for nonromantic reasons.

starred review starThomas, Sherry. Ravishing the Heiress. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). (Fitzhugh Trilogy, Bk. 2). Jul. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780425250877. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

Literally sold into marriage as a teenager to a destitute nobleman, Millicent Graves, the daughter of a wealthy cannery owner, has understood her marry well role completely. But when she realizes Lord Fitzhugh is in love with another, she makes a bold proposal‚ they will wait eight years to consummate their marriage, and once they have produced an heir, they will live separate lives. Gradually, Millie and Fitz become true friends. Now, eight years later, Fitz’s old love arrives on the scene newly widowed, forcing Millie and Fitz to come to terms with their own feelings for each other. VERDICT Soul-searing, heartrending, and intensely romantic, this late Victorian historical takes the classic marriage-of-convenience theme to a refreshing new level, making effective use of alternating time periods, as the characters struggle to reconcile duty and loyalty with personal desire and to understand what love really is‚ and is not. Another exquisitely rendered, insightful romance from one of the genres stars. Thomas (Beguiling the Beauty) lives in Austin, TX.

starred review starChase, Loretta. Scandal Wears Satin. Avon. (Dressmakers, Bk. 2). Jul. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780062100313. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

Sophy Noirot and her sisters will do just about anything to sustain their fledgling dressmaking establishment, Maison Noirot. But Sophy’s elder sister’s slightly scandalous marriage to a duke makes a vicious enemy of the influential mother of the duke’s original intended, Clara Fairfax, and their clientele begins to dwindle. Now Sophy‚ unparalleled saleswoman and most observant society sleuth and clandestine gossip columnist‚ crafts a brilliant deception aimed at rescuing not only her shop’s business and her family’s reputation but Clara’s future as well. Passion, revenge, and sheer determination fuel the clever, beautifully unfolding plot as Clara’s brother the virile Lord Longmore, who’s had Sophy in his sights all along, ramps up the romantic stakes and a superb cast of supporting characters (a cheeky street urchin is unforgettable) add to the fun. VERDICT Flawless pacing, effervescent wit, and nonstop humor that ranges from subtle to outright hilarious come together in a satisfying, delectably descriptive romp that sees another of the scandal-ridden Dreadful DeLuceys happily matched. Chase (Silk Is for Seduction) lives in Worcester, MA. [See the Q&A with Chase on p. 60.]

starred review starGrant, Cecilia. A Gentleman Undone. Bantam. (Blackshear Family, Bk. 2). Jun. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780553593846. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

Home from Waterloo and wracked with guilt over being unable to save one of his men, former lieutenant Will Blackshear is determined to do what he can for the man’s young family. But for that, as well as a business venture, he needs funds fast, and gambling is one of his only means. When Lydia Slaughter, an acquaintance’s mistress, beats Will at vingt-et-un with cardsharp skill, he becomes suspicious. The inevitable confrontation results in a bold bargain‚ Lydia, who is trying to win enough money to establish her independence, will teach Will about counting cards and Will shall be her accomplice as they work the gaming halls. It is a brilliant plan‚ until they start to care about each other and the landscape changes along with their options. VERDICT With exquisite prose, breathtaking sensuality, and stunning emotional insight, Grant spins a poignant, compelling story of two deeply troubled protagonists who need to come to terms with who they are, forgive themselves, and learn to love. A brilliant addition to the growing number of romances featuring uncommon characters, this story takes fans for a walk on the wilder side of Regency London and will have fans anxious for the next series installment, due out in 2013. Grant (A Lady Awakened) lives in Seattle.

The following titles are reviewed in the June 15 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.

Gibson, Rachel. Rescue Me. Avon. Jun. 2012. 373p. ISBN 9780062069122. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY

Miller, Linda Lael. Big Sky Country. HQN: Harlequin. (SwoonWorthy Cowboys, Bk. 1). Jun. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780373776436. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY

Shalvis, Jill. Lucky in Love. Forever: Grand Central. (Lucky Harbor, Bk. 4). Jun. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9781455503728. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY


Freethy, Barbara. The Way Back Home. Pocket: S. & S. Jul. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781451636543. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY

Lin, Jeannie. My Fair Concubine. Harlequin Historical. Jun. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780373296941. pap. $6.25. HISTORICAL

Lofty, Carrie. Starlight. Pocket: S. & S. (Christies, Bk. 2). Jul. 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9781451636543. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

Lowell, Elizabeth. Beautiful Sacrifice. Morrow. Jun. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780061629860. $25.99. Romantic Suspense

Mallery, Susan. Summer Days. HQN: Harlequin. (Fool’s Gold, Bk. 7). Jun. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780373776832. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY

starred review starPhillips, Susan Elizabeth. The Great Escape. Morrow. Jul. 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9780062106063. $25.99. CONTEMPORARY

Quinn, Julia. A Night Like This. Avon. (Smythe-Smith Quartet, Bk. 2). Jul. 2012. 373p. ISBN 9780062072900. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL

Warner, Kaki. Bride of the High Country. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). (Runaway Brides, Bk. 3). Jun. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780425247501. pap. $15. HISTORICAL

Second Time Around

Graham, Heather. Strangers in Paradise. Severn House. Jun. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780727881250. $28.95. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Harper, Karen. Shaker Run. Severn House. Jul. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780727881595. $28.95. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

About Kristin Ramsdell

Kristin Ramsdell is Librarian Emerita, California State University, East Bay. She is the author of the romance section of What Do I Read Next? A Reader's Guide to Current Genre Fiction (Gale, annual) and Romance Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (Libraries Unlimited)