Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Wallflowers, Continued

The Devil in Winter
Evangeline Jenner has a problem: she is about to inherit an extraordinary amount of money. How is that a problem? Her dying father runs a notorious gambling hall, and her bourgeois and avaricious relatives (on her dead mother’s side) are more than a little anxious to get their hands on it. Since the shy, stuttering Evie has not managed to marry a titled man to improve the family’s social connections, they have decided that even a tainted fortune is better than none, and have determined that she shall marry her cousin. Evie may be shy, but she’s not stupid, and she figures her likelihood of surviving long after the wedding is pretty slim. So she does what any intelligent young woman in her predicament would do: she seeks out the incredibly handsome and equally notorious Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent, a rake of ancient lineage and empty bank account, and proposes marriage. Presenting herself at his door late one wintry night, she suggests that as they are both equally desperate, they immediately elope to Gretna Green, wed, consummate the marriage, and then go about living their separate lives, each of their problems solved. Sebastian is intrigued. While he has met Evie before, he saw only a shy, stuttering girl. Now confronted with the risk-taking redhead, he notes that while she may stammer, she’s no dummy and no shrinking violet. She’s got a good plan, is rather attractive, and of course, there’s all that lovely money to consider. So Sebastian agrees, and off they go. The elopement turns out to be the easy part; returning to London and dealing with the death of Evie’s father, her inheritance of his wealth and gambling establishment, and the greedy, angry relatives she left behind is more of a challenge. And then there are the newlyweds growing feelings for each other. Evie does not wish to be the devoted wife of a philandering husband, and Sebastian has no wish to be in love –ever, with anyone. The two try to come to some sort of workable compromise while someone makes every attempt to kill one or both. Can true love conquer kidnappings and gunfire?

Scandal in Spring
Daisy Bowman has had three seasons to find a titled husband. According to her father, she’s had more than enough time, and he’s spent more than enough money. If she cannot bring someone “up to scratch” by summer, Daisy will marry the man her father chooses for her. Much to Daisy’s dismay, he has chosen Matthew Swift, the second-in-command in the Bowman business dealings. Mr. Bowman loves Matthew Swift like a son, and wants nothing more than to bring him into the family fold and put him in charge of the business one day. Daisy remembers Matthew as ungainly, aloof, and boring. Boring. If only it were still so. When Daisy encounters Matthew again, he has grown into a handsome and confident man. But still, Daisy is convinced that he has hatched this plan with her father to get his hounds on the Bowman millions and she refuses to play along. Matthew, who has been in love with Daisy since the moment he met her years ago, was not part of her father’s plan, refuses to marry her with or without her consent. Both are miffed, and begin a battle of wills that turns to flirtation and eventually real affection. That’s when Daisy finds out just how not boring Matthew is, and has to decide if the secrets from his past will rule out a future.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Wallflower for All Seasons

Or more accurately, a Wallflower for each season, and there is a bonus Christmas book, to boot. This series of linked historical romances from author Lisa Kleypas follows the adventures (and misadventures) of four young ladies in search of husbands. Annabelle Peyton, Evangeline Jenner, and Lillian and Daisy Bowman all have a few things to recommend them, and a few things that keep them sitting on the sidelines, with empty dance cards and dwindling matrimonial prospects. Annabelle has no dowry, and since the death of her father a few years previously, her family is in increasingly desperate financial straits. Evangeline is the result of an elopement between a genteel young lady and Cockney prize fighter who went on to run a gaming club. Lillian and Daisy are the daughters of an incredibly wealthy American businessman; they were unable to find husbands in the upper echelons of New York society and are having no better luck in the even more gentrified world of the British peerage. After more than a season of sitting next to one another at social events, watching the rest of the world dance by, the girls decide to join forces. They reason that by taking turns helping each other find a suitable spouse, they are far more likely to be successful. They decide to start with Annabelle, who is not only the oldest, but who also has the most to lose if she does not find a well to do husband by the end of the season. Will she find a suitable husband, or will her deeply hidden desire for true love lead to –

Secrets of a Summer Night
Annabelle Peyton’s time is running out. Her father’s death has left the family finances in disarray, and her mother has been forced to form a rather unpleasant association with the loathsome Lord Hodgeham to get some of the bills paid. In her fourth season and with no dowry, Annabelle knows that without an offer of marriage before summer, she will have no option but to become a rich man’s mistress. Businessman Simon Hunt decides that he will be that man. The butcher’s son made a fortune in industry, and is now in business with some of the bluest blood in the realm. Annabelle has fascinated him for years, and he is disgusted with the way his so-called social betters are waiting for her to get desperate enough to take one of them as a lover. Simon is determined to make Annabelle his, and Annabelle is determined to marry a peer and not just sell herself. Sparks fly between them, but can they get past social snobbery and financial considerations to form a real relationship?

It Happened One Autumn
Lillian Bowman is brash, adventurous, irreverant and outspoken. In short, she is everything that Marcus, the Earl of Westcliffe, despises in a woman. The fact that she is an upstart American heiress leaves him cold. Unlike many of his peers in the peerage, Marcus has some very progressive ideas about managing the family finances, and so has no need of the Bowman millions. Doing business with the father is one thing, marrying the daughter is something else entirely. Besides, Lillian makes no secret of the fact that she finds him snobbish, autocratic, and generally obnoxious. She stands up to him like no one else dares to, which is alternately infuriating and refreshing. And there was that memorable afternoon when he found her playing a brisk game of rounders with the other Wallflowers – in her knickers. Perhaps she does have a few things to recommend her. As Marcus unbends sufficiently to reveal his kindness and humor, Lillian begins to mellow. But there those among the aristocracy who are desperate to get their hands on the Bowman fortune, and those who are horrified at the thought of Lord Westcliffe marrying a soap company heiress. Can a little conniving keep Lillian and Marcus apart?

Tomorrow: Winter (Evie) and Spring (Daisy)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On the Book Cart

There are nearly two dozen romances on the cart this week! Too many to go into detail, so I thought I would highlight a few authors that don’t get as much attention as the big names do. Christie Ridgway’s Unravel Me is the story of Juliet Weston, a young widow trying to get used to life on her own. She joins a knitting group – but an L.A. kind of young, hip knitting group, and as she starts to have fun and find herself as a single grown-up, she has to deal with the thought of new love as well. Is Juliet’s resistance to a relationship with Noah Smith really because he is a younger man, or is it because she just isn’t ready to let go of her past? This looks like a warm, funny “loved, lost, and learned to love again” kind of book. Fans of historicals get a two-for-one in Mary Blayney’s Traitor’s Kiss/Lover’s Kiss. Set at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the stories feature Lord Gabriel Pennistan and his sister Lady Olivia. Lord Gabriel is rescued from a French prison by a mysterious that later vanishes; Lady Olivia is kidnapped and rescued by a soldier lately returned from France. Both stories promise to provide a great deal of action and suspense. Dark Temptation: A Novel of Blackheath Moor by Allison Chase has all the elements of a classic gothic romance. Set in Cornwall, it features mysterious lights, ghosts, smugglers, phantom ships, and chance meetings in churchyards. Can Sophie St. Clair and the handsome Earl of Wycliffe unravel the mysteries, escape the scandals from their pasts, and find true love in the process?
These books and many more are on the spinracks near the magazines. Stop by and check them out; you can also call, email, or go to our online catalog to reserve your favorites.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Always a bridesmaid...

27 Dresses

As I’ve mentioned, I have always been a sucker for romantic comedy. Possibly this means that I am somehow completely incapable of taking love and marriage seriously, and am therefore psychologically damaged, but whatever. There it is. I prefer slapstick lovers to star crossed lovers any day of the week. So when Judie-the-Webmistress-Librarian recommended 27 Dresses, I snapped it up for weekend viewing.
The premise is this: our heroine Jane (played by Katherine Heigl) discovered at a very young age that she had a great talent for helping out brides. Brides-to-be, brides on their special day, Bridezilla – you name her, Jane could manage her, and make the whole event go off like clockwork. Thus Jane is in great demand as a bridesmaid, and in the course of following her calling has accumulated a collection of bridesmaid dresses. (Or as my friend Mary calls her own, much smaller collection, “a closetful of ugly frocks.”) Jane is a true romantic, who has only remained unwed because she is secretly in love with her boss George (Edward Burns – such a cutie!) who is unaware of her crush and thinks of her as his gal Friday and nothing more. Anyway, one night Jane is in two weddings, and must keep performing a quick change in the back seat of a taxi. She is spotted by the handsome Kevin, who writes the New York Journal Commitments column, but really wants to move into feature article territory. By the end of the evening, he not only manages to meet Jane and chat her up, he also manages to get a look at her Filofax, and discovers that she is practically a professional bridesmaid. Kevin thinks Jane’s story may be the one that will get him out of Commitments, so he pursues her without revealing his ulterior motive. Meanwhile, Jane’s younger sister Tess shows up for a visit. Tess, a veritable man-magnet, is introduced to George, who of course falls for her. And so it goes, in a comedy of errors that ranges from hilarious to poignant and back again.
This is a fun movie with a good cast. I had never seen Katherine Heigl in anything before but found her to be a very likeable lead. If you are looking for a pleasant escape from holiday madness, check out 27 Dresses. If nothing else, it will make you grateful -- grateful that you never had to don one of Jane’s ugly frocks....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

On the Book Cart

It’s been a quiet week in terms of new books, but there are a few items of interest on the cart. We have three new romantic suspense novels – perennial favorite Carla Neggers leads off with Cold Pursuit, featuring a Secret Service agent and her former flame searching the Vermont mountains for a missing teenager. In Mary Burton’s Dead Ringer, a local anchorwoman joins forces with a detective to solve a string of killings – all women who look disturbingly like her. The creepy Deadly Harvest from Heather Graham brings us another installment in the Flynn Brothers trilogy; this one features Jeremy Flynn teaming up with a local occult expert to stalk a psychopathic killer. If you would like something on a lighter note, try Good Luck by Whitney Gaskell. It’s the story of a woman who wins the lottery on what turned out to be the worst day of her life. Now that’s the kind of bad day I’d like to have!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quick Looks: A Wallflower Christmas

A Wallflower Christmas
By Lisa Kleypas

The Premise: Rafe Bowman, American millionaire, cad, and brother to Wallflower Lillian, is in England looking for a bride. Though he has no real desire to marry, his father has commanded that he make an advantageous match, and has chosen Lady Natalie Blandford for his son. For her part, Lady Natalie understands that this is as much a business arrangement as anything else, and is willing to give Rafe the benefit of the doubt, especially since he is so attractive and charming. Her companion, poor relation Hannah, is not so sure. When Lillian invites her to tea so that the Wallflowers can quiz her about Lady Natalie, she readily accepts, planning to do a little investigating herself. When Hannah and Rafe meet, she decides that he is all wrong for Natalie – he is arrogant, boorish, and ill mannered. As far as she is concerned, he has no idea how to behave in polite society. Rafe decides that Hannah is far too prim and proper, and is determined to get a reaction out of her. When he takes advantage of a private moment to kiss her, Hannah is both horrified and intrigued. But more than anything, she is convinced that this man is in no way appropriate for her elegant cousin, and devoutly hopes that Natalie will agree once they are all thrown together at Lord Westcliff’s Christmas house party.

What I Liked: I confess I am a fan of the Wallflowers, so I liked seeing them again in supporting roles. Rafe is a delightful hero, and though Hannah started off a little prissy she really grew on me quickly. As always in a Kleypas novel, the secondary characters had a lot of depth and really added something to the story.

What I Didn’t: It would have been nice to see a little more of Natalie’s other suitor; that storyline felt a bit rushed.

Overall: This was a nice, short Christmas love story, great for taking a break from the holiday madness.