DNF Review: Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin



In 1842, the gunpowder might of China’s Qing Dynasty fell to Britain’s steam engines. Furious, the Emperor ordered the death of his engineers—and killed China’s best chance of fighting back…

Since her father’s execution eight years ago, Jin Soling kept her family from falling into poverty. But her meager savings are running out, leaving her with no choice but to sell the last of her father’s possessions—her last memento of him.Only, while attempting to find a buyer, Soling is caught and brought before the Crown Prince. Unlike his father, the Emperor, the Prince knows that the only chance of expelling the English invaders is to once again unite China’s cleverest minds to create fantastic weapons. He also realizes that Soling is the one person who could convince her father’s former allies—many who have turned rebel—to once again work for the Empire. He promises to restore her family name if she’ll help him in his cause.

But after the betrayal of her family all those years ago, Soling is unsure if she can trust anyone in the Forbidden City—even if her heart is longing to believe in the engineer with a hidden past who was once meant to be her husband…


DNF@45 percent:

I really do hate to DNF books. It irks me. It’s like trying to touch my eye ball. I can’t do it. It’s gross. It makes me uncomfortable. I do not like contacts, can you tell? ICK.

Sometimes after putting down the book for so long and when I don’t even have the slightest desire to pick it up, I have to come to the realization that this is just not working out for me. I know that as a reviewer I should have the curtisy to finish the book. I rarely drop a book, especially if it’s an ARC. I have to have the guts and stop feeling guilty. There are just certain books that aren’t going to work for me personally.

This book is actually incredibly beautiful. The writing is exquisite, smooth, and daring. The history is my absolute favorite thing about this novel. There are industrial machines, mechanics, engineers, and men flying ships. Court politics of the Qing Dynasty and weird gadgets. But the interesting thing is that it’s a mixture between being historically accurate for the time period and steampunk. You’re probably thinking “what the hell?” Let me explain: Lin weaves the history of the Opium War, technology and science, and steampunk. She tells a story that shows the reader the struggles that China was going through during the period…but with flying ships!

Jin Soling’s mother is tragically addicted to opium after her husband’s execution when he and his team failed to halt the British invasion of 1842. They are now a disgraced Manchurian aristocratic family stripped of their titles. Jin has been struggling with her mother’s addiction. She fears that one day that will have no way to feed her addiction and one day she will die in agonizing pain. Jin travels to the city to sell of one of her father’s prized heirlooms. But she’s brought before the crown prince who strikes a deal with her. They are searching for her father’s allies. He sends her off to convince them to help the empire create weapons that could beat the like of their enemies.

I never had a problem with the main character. She’s actually pretty cool. She carries this strange needle gun for protection. She knows that a woman walking alone needs to be aware that she’s vulnerable in a world of men. She’s smart and calculating when speaking her mind. Some things can get you in trouble, but it’s the way you manipulate the men around you that helps you survive in a world where men try to control you.

“Fear was a sign of weakness and weakness was a sign of guilt. It was best to do nothing, say nothing.”

I like her intelligence. I like her strength. But, at times I felt she was a boring character. There were things I found interesting about her, but it was as if her personality was missing. She had intriguing elements that made her seem cool, like the needle gun and taking care of her family by herself. But those aren’t part of her personality. She was flat. I didn’t feel moved to learn more about her. I didn’t want to read on because I felt bored by the characters. The plot was awesome, the story was fucking fantastic, but the characters were flat on the ground dead.

The sad thing is that it wasn’t just her character that lost me, but the pacing of the novel. It dragged and dragged and dragged. It seemed as if one percentage was taking me hours to read. The writing is beautiful. This is true. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a pacing problem in the novel. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to read this book. That could have been the issue. The only thing I have left to say is: I am disappointed that I didn’t find the characters or the book more interesting.

Advance Reader’s Copy was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Review: Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning

He would sell his warrior soul to possess her. . . .

An alluring laird…

He was known throughout the kingdom as Hawk, legendary predator of the battlefield and the boudoir. No woman could refuse his touch, but no woman ever stirred his heart—until a vengeful fairy tumbled Adrienne de Simone out of modern-day Seattle and into medieval Scotland. Captive in a century not her own, entirely too bold, too outspoken, she was an irresistible challenge to the sixteenth-century rogue. Coerced into a marriage with Hawk, Adrienne vowed to keep him at arm’s length—but his sweet seduction played havoc with her resolve.

A prisoner in time…

She had a perfect “no” on her perfect lips for the notorious laird, but Hawk swore she would whisper his name with desire, begging for the passion he longed to ignite within her. Not even the barriers of time and space would keep him from winning her love. Despite her uncertainty about following the promptings of her own passionate heart, Adrienne’s reservations were no match for Hawk’s determination to keep her by his side. . . .


Looks at her notes. Looks at all her friends reading good books. Feels embarrassed for reading this.

Takes a deep breath.

I hate highlander romances!

Historical inaccuracy regarding kilts and language, forced seduction, territorial disputes that don’t involve geography, unexplainable time travel, TSTL heroines, lairds who have balls the size of an elephant, and smoochy talk that would make Barry White ashamed.

I couldn’t even get on board with Outlander. It’s like it was created to repel me personally. Yes, that’s the reason.


Time Traveling Delivery Service: get your own beauteous lass!!! Order today!

Adrienne:

– judges people based on their looks.

– vengeful

– likes to do the opposite of what she’s told even if it’s just to piss people off

– doesn’t know shit about the 16th century

– makes excuses for men who treat her like shit

– has the hots for hunky higlanders

– she likes coffee

Hawke: 

– called the “king’s whore”

– he tames falcons and uses it to excuse forced seduction

– angry accent involving burrs and donnas.

– barbarian

– caveman

– douche

– phallicist

– rape-beast

– crusader for the holy virgin conquest

– Likes to say MINE

It’s a match:

One silver haired, silver eyed virgin for one Hawk.

What a beautiful barbarian highlander romance.


I should have known what I was getting myself into. Look at the original cover:

There’s almost a certain formula for highlander time travel romances:

Usually it involves fairies or some weird rocks in the middle of nowhere. The heroine dramatically falls out of the sky into the brawny hero’s arms. He tries to stake his claim. She pouts and pouts and pouts sticking out her chin whenever possible. She runs off to prove she’s a smart and independent woman because what intelligent woman wouldn’t run into an unknown land she knows nothing about? The brawny laird runs after her and they have sex on his plaid in a field. The book becomes ridden with historical inaccuracies like coffee and kilts and King James court politics. Recipe for a highland romance. Your welcome.

Only reason I read this again is because I recently discovered that I like Moning. I wanted to see what I thought of her historicals now. And then there’s the sex. You take that out and I won’t read it at all. I would be like giving birth to a pineapple. It would hurt a lot. That’s a really bad visual.

Moning’s writing should not be judged solely on this novel. She’s actually quite a talent, but this novel doesn’t show her real talent. It’s the Fever series that does that. This novel is just…bad. It’s like putting your hand in the fire expecting to get burned. You will get burned.

Review: In Bed with the Devil by Lorraine Heath


“I’ve always been of the opinion that a woman would be far more satisfied lying in bed with the devil than with a saint.” —Lady Catherine Mabry

They call him the Devil Earl—a scoundrel and accused murderer who grew up on the violent London streets. A proper young lady risks more than her reputation when consorting with the roguishly handsome Lucian Langdon, but Lady Catherine Mabry believes she has no choice. To protect those she loves, she would do anything—even strike a bargain with the devil himself.

Lucian desires respectability and a wife above all else, but the woman of his choosing lacks the social graces to be accepted by the aristocracy. Catherine can help Lucian gain everything he wants. But what she asks for in exchange will put their very lives in jeopardy. When danger closes in, Catherine discovers a man of immense passion and he discovers a woman of immeasurable courage. As secrets from his dark past are revealed, Lucian begins to question everything he knows to be true, including the yearnings of his own heart.


“When you love a  man, you will do anything to gain his favor.”

“Even allow him to beat you?”

This did not work out. At all.

I read this while spending Xmas with the family. I didn’t have much time to read, but I fit it in. I read my brothers some of the passages annnnnddd….Snortmas of 2014. There may have been beer and eggnog involved so, it may not have been as funny as we were making it out to be. Oliver Twist? More like Oliver shoves his dong in a haughty dame. Tra-la-la-la-la-la-LA.

The cheese. Oh my….the CHEESE. So much cheese in this novel.

“Oh, papa, I’ve done something terribly silly. I’ve fallen in love with someone, and he loves another. The strange thing is, as much as it hurts, I only want him to be happy. 

Choking noises.

Why is romance always about sacrifice? I get very annoyed when the heroine is the “I always do the right thing even when it’s dangerous” type. I don’t get that. For one: often they do rash things that end up with them doing something stupid, like flinging your hand out to protect the hero from a bunch of bandits.

Even though I have misgivings about this book, I still really loved Heath’s writing. I think she’s a good writer. I just think this particular novel rubbed me the wrong way. I’ll continue to search for a book of hers that I’ll love.

FOR SHAME:

I had many many problems with this novel, but the big one that made this a one star instead of a two star is the heroine shaming her friend. She shames her friend again and again for not standing up to her husband. Ordinarily I would like people to stand up to their abuser. But if you have never been an abusive victim you don’t fucking get to voice your opinion. You’ve never been in that person’s shoes. You don’t know shit about what it’s like to be a rape victim, an abuse victim, or a domestic abuse victim. You can’t say what you would have done because you’ve never been there. The heroine saying that she’s stronger than Winnie and is sure she would stand up to her abuser is total crap. She’s never been a victim. Never. Ever. Do this. No one has the right to do this. This is despicable, heinous, and disgusting. From the moment she asserted that she’s better than her friend because she wasn’t as weak made me hate her from then on. I can never ever get past this.

Sure, her friend could have handled it better. Or I’d like to think in this modern day any woman would. But women were treated differently back then. This notion that Regency was a progressive time for women is not necessarily true. In some regards that may be true, but when it comes to marriage during that time women were seen as property. Men could abuse their wives and that is the case here. But women during this time were raised and taught to obey and serve their husbands in all ways. Her friend was historically accurate for the time. While there were a lot of really cool proto-feminist women during this time, that does not include all women. But to say that you would do differently when you’ve never been in an abusive relationship like that is idiotic.

Oliver Twist the Aristocrat:

I really hate it when romances have to make the hero into this perfect ideal of a man. There are certain things I like. For example, making sure there’s no way they are in any way cheating. But, why can’t he be evil? What’s wrong with that? It would have been so much more interesting had he not been a stand up citizen instead of a cheesy sap.

The novel drew on the cliché that the hero was without morals in the beginning. Then by the end those very things that made him immoral weren’t acutally true. You have this guy. He’s a murderer (not a spoiler). He stole a title that didn’t belong to him (again not a spoiler) . He’s without any morals. Right. Then the author uses her godlike powers and BAM! Heroine arrives at doorstep. The fall in love. You know the deal. Turns out he didn’t kill that guy willy nilly. He deserved it for being a sadistic fuck. Oh and then SHAZAM! He has memories that prove he’s the rightful heir. NO. I hate this trope. I hate it when the author has to make the hero into a guy who is no short of perfect when it regards his past. They have to remake him into something honorable. Why can’t he have bad shit in his past. Why does it have to be reworked or explained so you make him into this honorable hero? Can’t he have a shitty past and have the heroine forgive him of that past?

Just Forget it.

SMEX:

So…..this being a romance I guess I’m not spoiling it by saying they have sex? SHMEX. I skimmed it.

She peaked. He thrusts. She rocked. He climaxed. She escalated. Snerk.

My problem with this is that when they have sex, there’s a little bit of a chance that they cheated. Frannie is the woman he wants to marry, but she doesn’t want to marry him. Frannie worries about the aristocratic society and being accepted into since she’s not one of them. He convinces her to learn about how to be one of them. Okay. That’s the setup to what I’m about to tell you. Frannie clearly doesn’t want to marry him and hasn’t said yes. But she hasn’t said no either. She’s still deciding whether she wants to marry him. Catherine and Luke have sex even despite the fact that Luke intends to marry Frannie. Many. Many. Times. And the cherry: Frannie decides she doesn’t want to marry him by telling him that he loves another. She decides for him. And then three paragraphs later, he decides to marry Catherine because hey he’s no longer gonna marry Frannie. SECOND BEST IT IS.

And that was so not a spoiler. It’s a romance novel people! We already know they are going to end up with each other and that there’s going to be sex. Get off my back.

The hero is the protag: WHEEEE!

My last problem is that this seemed like it was Luke’s romance instead of Luke and Catherine’s story. It was like he was the protagonist and Catherine was just the love interest. She was like a side character.

This just didn’t work out.

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her. Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie. Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.


 

He was arrogant and impatient and stubborn. But he was also self-deprecating and more gentle and generous than anyone she knew. And when all his contradictions mingled in his face, in his big muscular body, he was like a huge living magnet…

A huge living magnet that had totally sucked her in.

All the people in this book are completely….irrational. Is that the word I want to use? close enough, really. But I had very much fallen in love with the words, the relationship, the Bollywood film references, the descriptions that I came to forget all the faults. But while I may have problems with this novel, I still think it’s important to review this novel on the grade that I think is the most honest. My issues had nothing to do with the writing. The writing is what entranced and engaged me. My favorite part about this book is the prose and the character’s relationships with each other. It wasn’t just the romantic relationship that I loved. Relationships, in whatever form, are among the elements that fascinate me most when reading a novel. This was no different with Sonali’s debut. I also appreciated the confidence that the heroine portrayed. She explains to her reader that she used to feel shame in herself, and wonder’s if there were some reason her husband had not come for her, but once she comes to realize that shame will fix nothing. But, understand, this is not a story of growth. She’s already confident when the novel starts. Plus, she’s got the hots for food which I love. In addition to being a hard core coffee addict, I’m also foodie.


The story is a tale that not everybody may get on board with. It centers around a heroine who was married at only four years old, and she’s yearning to start a life with her “husband”. She hasn’t seen him in twenty years. And yet she believes they’re married and one day he’ll come. You’d think he’d at least contact her in some way in these twenty years, but does she still believe they’re still married? Of course. Why not? Virat, the husband of our dear heroine, he’s got a life of his own now. As he should. Don’t blame the guy. The letter he receives causes worry and and even fear amongst Virat and his brother. The love interest or hero, whatever word you prefer, Samir goes off to good ol’ America to sort things out. He finds Mili and…the clumsy girl runs her bike into a tree thus ending her self in a hospital. Samir and Mili grow a relationship based on friendship. They grow to know each other. They have many similarities. They argue about movies. He’s turned on by her love for food. She’s turned on by his confidence and kindness. One thing leads to another and….they fall in love. I loved the relationship they built together. The descriptions of the slow build until the satisfying part where the hero apologizes. Always a sexy thing, I might add.


I would have given this book a B, had I not been so uncomfortable with the portrayals of other women. It’s not that I felt like the author didn’t write strong women. She wrote some beautifully strong women like Samir’s mother, Rima, and Mili. What I had issues with was the way the author made Mili’s best friend into someone the reader would normally hate had she been the main character. I’ll be straight with you, I believe this was done as a way to encourage or manipulate the reader into sympathizing with the heroine even more. Ridhi was bratty, whiny, entitled, and acted like an immature young girl. Surprising, considering she was about to get married. I have examples: 1. “What’s wrong with this? You told me to wear something casual for the henna ceremony. So, I wore casual.” “I said casual, not Chandni-Chowk-whore slutty! Brainless daughter of an oaf.” Mili smiled, but quickly covered her mouth when Ridhi glared at her. 2. The way the girl had gyrated on the floor last night it would be a miracle if she even woke up on her wedding day. No blushing bride at this wedding. 3. “How would I know? Who measures their waist?” “Um, everyone with two X chromosomes.” 4. He was too distracted by the screaming banshee, who wouldn’t stop jumping up and down like a two-year-old.     The point is: it didn’t need to be there. I saw no real reason why this was the way the author decided to portray the MC’s best friend. Why in this fashion? Why was she portrayed like this? That’s where my issue lies.


The other thing I had a hard time dealing with was the way that even though it had been twenty years and she hadn’t been in contact with her husband once, she believed she was still married and even desired her marriage with Virat. Maybe it’s because the way Mili grew up was very old fashioned and certain things were expected of women, but I just couldn’t grasp being in love with someone when you’ve never met them. It’s crazy and like I said…irrational:

“…The truth is I can’t imagine being married to anyone else. I know you don’t understand it. But my marriage is very real to me.”

Allow my favorite Bollywood Actress, Rani Mukherjee, to roll her eyes for me:  

I could appreciate how honest Mili was about herself. But I think her desire for this “marriage” largely came from her Naani. I think sometimes when you grow up with someone wanting so much for you, that eventually you perceive that person’s dreams as your own. This is what happened to Mili. Still her inability to realize this earlier, even after falling in love with Samir, fucking pissed me off.


But the writing is sorcery! sorcery I say!!! I enjoyed it a lot. Don’t be put off by the bad, if you like all the things I’ve mentioned: this book is for you. It’s got lots of swoony scenes with smooches and the hero makes a “i’m sorry speech”.

Guys are sexy when they apologize. It’s like Darcy all over again. Oh and the fact that I actually used the word swoon means I’ve had too much coffee…again. Fucking god I hate that word.   ARC provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

1.5 Star Review: The Songbird’s Seduction by Connie Brockway

Going into this book, I had been expecting something similar to Downton Abbey only much more light-hearted. I’ve heard of Connie’s books before, mainly a book entitled As You Desire, and wanted to see whether her style of writing peaked my interest. While she’s a good writer, her characters angered me to such heights that I can fairly say her work isn’t for me.

The main reasons this book was hell for me:

1. The damsel in distress who makes ridiculously bad decisions.
2. The hero’s name is Ptolemy.
3. The hero’s disillusionment
4. The part where the characters fall in love was missing.
5. The hero’s name is Ptolemy.
6. The heroine was inconsistent to her character
7. The hero rescues slews of damsels.

Okay, so maybe listing the hero’s name isn’t a real reason for not liking this book. But seriously, his name is Ptolemy. However I was really thankful that I didn’t have to go through the entire book reading “Ptolmy, Ptolemy, Ptolemy I love you.” That would have been terrible. No, the heroine calls him Archie, for Ptolemy Archibald Grant.

That’s a handful isn’t it? Archibald. Archie.

Okay so, basically the story is about Archie and Lucy: a love story. Lucy Eastlake is an orphan. When she was a young girl her great aunt’s took her in. She doesn’t consider herself a lady, for she’s not. She’s an actress of the theatre. She loves the audience. The applause. But within the home of her aunt’s comes exciting news, news of rubies. Of past love. Of money they will inherit. So Lucy takes her great aunt’s overseas to France. They think she’s completely and utterly fluent in French. She’s not, but she assumes she can get around France. How hard could it be?

But Lucy gets separated from her aunts and has to take a different ferry. Then sweet and handsome Archibald comes along. They take the trip together. They trail behind Lucy’s aunts. But there’s always something in their way: love, storms, Gypsy’s, and even the police.

The biggest issue I had with this romance novel was Lucy’s decisions and her inconsistency

I wanted to like Lucy. I thought that a character who works in theatre and who isn’t part of the aristocracy would be cool to read about.

Despite the fact that she grew up with a hard life and how people treated her, she failed to realize the reality of life. Not everything is rainbows and fucking sunshine out the wah-zoo. She failed to realize that a stranger wouldn’t just hand them money because they’d fairly earned it, without them making a deal. She failed to realize that love comes from trust and you have to earn that trust. You can’t just prolong your time together just so they’ll stay with you. It doesn’t work that way in real life.

Lucy also seemed inconsistent to her character. Here’s why:

1. She’s scared of getting sick yet she believes: I am quite within my rights to assume I could enjoy your island despite a few bugs and the straw pallet.”

2. She’ll be proud of herself as a woman one moment and then act like a damsel in distress the next: She liked that he’d leapt to her aid. It made her feel like a damsel in distress. And he played knight-errant so naturally…a tad crabbily, true, but naturally nonetheless, as though he’d rescued slews of damsels…

As for Archie, Ptolemy, Archibald whatever you want to call him, really:

I love the sweet guys, the guys that don’t get a lot of attention, the guy that doesn’t act like an ass. He’s geeky, he’s somewhat clumsy, and sometimes he stutters when he’s embarrassed. I found it cute. However, I felt like some things about his character were odd:

Interviewing indigenous people was an art.

And this:

Due to generations of systematic oppression, the Romani’s distrust of outsiders was legionary and impenetrable. He would have loved the chance to interview them.

What?…..

I get that he’s an anthropologist and sometimes forgets what he’s saying, but this I had a hard time deciphering. At first glance, I wanted to punch him in the nuts. But, I don’t want to make presumptions and say that his character is ignorant of those people. The way it’s phrased makes it seem as if he only looks at those people as studies, kind of like they aren’t even real people. But then again, the attitude of the Edwardian era toward people of different cultures such as the Romani was…. not kind. I don’t think this was the author’s intent, but I do think the author could have left this out.

But then there’s the part of the novel where you’re reading along, you’re reading…and Holy fuck! They’re in love? When did that happen? Did I miss something? Where was the development? There wasn’t even a kiss at this point or gazes. You know the kind of gazing I’m talking about. The ones where the author will describe their eyes for an entire page. Yeah. No chemistry buildup. Nothing. It’s not like I expected extra-horny pants or anything. I just expected relationship development. I could see friendship, but nothing romantic. So I didn’t see where it came from. It just slapped me in the face.

The Writing:

Connie Brockway is actually a pretty decent writer; it’s just that her characters didn’t appeal to me. There are certain quotes that I loved:

“And as for love? Love doesn’t pounce on you like some overly friendly puppy or catch you unsuspecting when your resistance is down like a bad head cold. It’s a process. It comes from a slow discovery, from the security of knowing how someone is going to react or what they are going to say, to shared ambitions and a common base of experiences. And from trust. Trust, Lucy. As in not lying to another person or manipulation them or playing havoc with their lives…”

I loved that Archie said this. It’s a great quote and I completely agree with him.

Often I see writers will write entire chapters wherein the characters do absolutely fucking nothing. In reality, I realize authors may think that it’s part of the plot when they write character’s thinking about love, life, death, and whatever insane decision they’re going to make next. But, it’s not plot. It’s information. It’s the character thinking. It doesn’t matter if it’s character development, the fact is that thinking about love on a train is still going to be the character taking a train ride to insert destination here. I don’t mean to be a pest about this, but it happens so much! As a reader, it’s really frustrating to read one book after the next where the author write chapters and chapter where nothing actually happens but the character thinking about their decisions they are to make in the chapters forthcoming.

While I can see why many others absolutely adore Brockway’s books, she just didn’t work within my taste for romance. However I will say that if you like Downton Abbey, if you like travel romances, if you like unconventional heroines, and if you like geeky heroes you might love this book.

ARC provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

4 Star Review: The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas

Often I don’t find myself that pulled towards short stories or novellas, but Sherry Thomas completely captured my attention while reading The Hidden Blade.

“You don’t know men. The pain of death never stopped any man from sniffing roadside blossoms.”
Ying-ying turned on her side and rammed an elbow toward Amah’s solar plexus. “Then I will kill him in truth.”

It reminded me a lot of Wu Xia films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There’s actually two pretty smart kids, both of which you get to see grow up. Both of their tales are sad and heart wrenching. Their lives become tragedies by the choices of the adults who love them.

Leighton’s Story:

A little English boy by the name of Leighton Atwood enjoys spending time with father and his father’s good friend Herb. He discovers that his father and Herb aren’t just friends. They’re in love. His father resists his relationship with Herb because of the possibility of being thrown into an Asylum again. More than anything he fears that place.

Being gay in the Victorian era wasn’t unusual or unknown of in the least, but it was illegal to be publically gay. Many were sent to asylums to be “cured” or put into jail for their homosexuality.

The way Herb and Leighton’s father’s relationship was portrayed felt very realistic and accurate for the time. I almost felt like Herb was slightly naïve in his understanding what society would do to publically gay people. It was as if he didn’t think any relatives would have a problem with them being gay and wouldn’t do anything about it.

Something happens to this couple, which leads to Leighton’s situation in the house of his uncle Curtis. He has no freedom. His uncle gets off on knowing other people’s sins. He likes to see other people unhappy.

I wanted to squish Leighton’s uncle. Kill him…like a bug.

I felt terribly sorry for Leighton. He took away his fucking books; the only thing that was keeping him even slightly sane.

At this point I was glaring at my kindle.

The only issue I had with this was that the build up of the awful things that Leighton’s uncle did was unresolved satisfactorily. It felt empty or unfinished. Or built up in a way that leads the reader to believe there would be a bigger climax to the story.

Ying Ying’s Story:

Forget the silly name. I mean… Ying Ying? Sounds ridiculously, right? Just throw that fucking raised eyebrow off your face. Okay. I know how it sounds.

Ying Ying’s the illegitimate daughter of a Chinese concubine and a foreign Devil. Not a real devil, that’s just what the Chinese referred to White men. They didn’t like foreigners, apparently. Ying Ying is eight years old and her mother isn’t in the best of health. She knows that realistically, no respectable man will marry the daughter of a foreign devil. All she’s has to look forward to is becoming the third concubine of an important man.

One night she witnesses a thief all in black on the roof. It’s her nurse Amah. Amah tells Ying Ying she’s her master now. She teaches Ying Ying martial arts. The great thing about this is that Ying Ying doesn’t just tell us these things, she shows us. We don’t get told about the lessons. We see them:

In Ying-ying’s rooms, silence.
Then, sound: a barely perceptible disturbance of the air.
Ying-ying lifted the painted silk fan in her hand and blocked the incoming object a handspan from her face. She spun around and knocked another one that was coming for her shoulder. Then another, aimed at her knees.
The tiny missiles kept coming; she kept deflecting them, her mind blank, her concentration absolute.

Ying Ying is a smart ass eight year old. She’s witty and thinks about her actions. But she’s also inexperienced in life and has much to learn.

As Ying Ying grows into a young woman she becomes adept at the martial arts. But the eye of the son of Da-ren, her mother’s provider, wanders to the beautiful face of Ying Ying. He’s a big fat baby. He has tantrums when he doesn’t something he wants. See:

He lifted a braid of her hair. “Surely she will understand if you say I detained you.”
“She has her orders directly from Da-ren himself to strictly watch my every step. I’m afraid she’ll yield only when he commands differently.”
The lordling tore off an embroidered amulet sachet he wore at his waist and hurled it against the nearest wall. “Da-ren! Da-ren! My whole life I’ve had to listen to him. Everything I want, he stands in my way.”

I have to mention this: I really loved how Sherry Thomas showed us the difference between being gay in China and being gay in England, through the eyes of the characters. When Master Gordon, Ying Ying’s English teacher, asks her how gay people are treated in China she tells him about the Majordomo having an affair with an opera singer.

“Does Da-ren know it?”
“Everyone knows it.” His isolation saddened her. She had learned within weeks of coming into the compound. Not that people didn’t snicker behind the majordomo’s back, but before him they dared not show the least disrespect.

I really loved the character of Ying Ying. She’s smart, witty, and literally kick ass.

This novella focused on Ying Ying and Leighton’s tragic childhoods. It felt as if this is the beginning of their story. Then, in novel we’ll get to understand the crux of the plot. However, this novel was more about the characters than it was about plot. I couldn’t find a straight through plot. Thomas is usually really great at plot; therefore I don’t think that’s what she wanted to do here. This novella is all character, emotion, and action.

Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas Review

4 Star Review:

Summary:

The third sister in the strange and unusual Hathaway family, Poppy wishes for something none of her sisters want. She wants normal. She wants an ordinary life separate from hedgehogs, lizards, and the scandal that envelops her family. While Poppy adores her family, she wants to have a relationship where she feels loved and secure. She hopes to marry Bayning, but the reputation of her family makes it impossible. Along comes the villainous hotelier Harry Rutledge, whom she finds both fascinating and down right sexy. One sexy kiss on the balcony causes a scandal for Poppy, but it takes much on Harry’s part to convince her to accept him. One problem: marriage isn’t as easy as they think. They’re constantly circling each other, fighting and arguing. Neither trusts the other. Kleypas tells a story of strangers who learn to love each other through their conversations as well as their actions.

Characters:

I can’t start talking about the characters without starting off with Poppy’s chaotic family first. Amelia and Cam, Poppy’s eldest sister and her brother-in-law, show their love and devotion to Poppy by their forceful words towards Harry. They want her to be happy more than they want Harry to marry Poppy. The great thing about the Hathaway family is that they don’t fucking care about protecting their family’s reputation. They care about whether Poppy’s happy with Harry:

Rutledge…the Hathaways lived outside London society for so many years that we couldn’t give a monkey’s arse as to whether we’re received or not. Poppy doesn’t have to marry anyone, for any reason, other than her own desire to do so. And Poppy is of the opinion that you and she would never suit.

See how awesome they are? I can’t wait for Leo’s book. Any brother that says something like that for the good of his sister can be nothing but pure awesome. A rake and all around scoundrel, Leo Hathaway cares everything for his family. He teases Poppy like any self-respecting brother would. He makes sure Harry understands the danger of making Poppy unhappy. He never felt like the stereotypical two-dimensional rake brother of the heroine. There’s even a hilarious scene towards the end of the book where Poppy has concerns about her husband:

“Damn it. What exactly are we calling a ‘masculine problem’? Did he have trouble running the flag up? Or did it just fall to half-staff?”
“Do we have to speak about this metaphorically, or__”
“Yes”, Leo said firmly.
“All right. He…”Poppy frowned in concentration as she searched for the right words, “…left me while the flag was still flying.”
“Was he drunk?”
“No.”

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Beatrice, the youngest sister in the Hathaway family, tries to save a monkey and contemplates why ladies don’t use the word drawers in public. Kleypas allows for humor through the characters (particularly Beatrice), while never becoming obvious or stale to the reader. Every character plays their part. Even though some seem to be in the backstage part of the story, they still have their purpose. The only characters that I felt didn’t necessarily need to be there were the men from the War Office. They just seemed to be there as an excuse for relationship development. They never really seemed to be fully developed. It’s kind of like the author just inserted them into the story.

Plot:

The plot stays on the romance, which I understand. I appreciate that the author focused on the relationship development and characters as the plot, since it’s a romance. It would be a completely different story if it were another genre. Does that make sense? At least, I still give the genre a hard time. I still complain about fated love in romance. The only thing I disliked was the whole War Office sub-plot. I say sub-plot because it became such a small part of the novel that there’s no way it could be considered part of the plot. The character Kimloch becomes quite obvious from the very begging. He’s forceful and demanding towards Harry:

Poppy felt ill as she heard the naked greed in his voice. Kinloch wanted profits. Sir Gerald wanted power.

I’ll try not to spoil it, but lets just say that the author makes the sub-plot a bit unsatisfying to the reader by the end of the novel.

Relationship/Romance:

Poppy and Harry start out their relationship with conversing in his office about their interests. Harry becomes intrigued by Poppy:

Poppy. How artless she had been, chatting casually about astrolabes and Franciscan monks as she had browsed among his treasures. She had thrown out words in big clusters, as if she were scattering confetti. She had radiated a kind of cheery astuteness that should have been annoying, but instead it had given him pleasure…he wanted her.

Harry does whatever it takes to get the hand of Poppy, even if it means being selfish; for he’s a selfish man. However, he comes to be selfless when it comes to Poppy. He cares only for her well being once he falls in love with her. I loved that they fell in love a good while after they had been married. They fought, they argued, and they ignored each other’s personal feelings. But in doing this they started to get to know each other. By understanding each other, they showed their kindness. Harry gifts Poppy with chocolates that aren’t even purchasable by most peers at this point. Poppy loves chocolates. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Crazy people, that’s who. There are some seriously sweet lines in this book:

He drew in the taste of her, delighting in her response. The casual response deepened, altered into something patient and deeply hungering…heat opening into more heat, a kiss with the layered merosity of exotic flowers.

Kleypas has so many gorgeous descriptions in this book. I love the way she paces the relationship as well as the actions of the characters. I also found it funny, the ways in which Harry uses ridiculous ways of describing his love for his wife:

“I can’t think of a single day of my life that wouldn’t have improved with you in it.”
“Darling,” she whispered, her fingertips coming up to stroke his jaw, “that’s lovely. Even more romantic than comparing me to watch parts.”
“Are you mocking me?”
“Not at all,” Poppy said, smiling. “I know how you feel about gears and mechanisms.”

Although the line where Harry compares Poppy to:

“Working with Arabian horses…
They’re responsive, quick, but they need their freedom. You never master an Arabian…you become its companion.”

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It took me a while to put this type of sentiment together without wanting to slap Harry. While I love that he means well and wants her to be his companion, I don’t understand why he felt the need to compare a woman to a horse. I guess it would sort of make sense since in reality, people didn’t bathe all that much back then. I guess this must be like when guys compare girls to cars? I do not see this as romantic or respectful to Poppy in any way.

I disliked the way Harry would be really kind to Poppy and then awfully coldhearted. I understand why he did this because he’s trying to protect himself. But, that’s no fucking excuse in my opinion.</p>

I loved this book. That’s all. Go read it.