A bit fluffy but entertaining at times.

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THE BRIDE OF DEVIL'S ACRE

In this period romance, a young woman with a soiled reputation enters into a marriage of convenience.

In 19th-century London, Lady Jacqueline lives with the stigma of her mother’s death during childbirth. Her possessive father, Lord John Edwards, bitterly resents her, often insulting Jacqueline while drunk and then lavishing her with gifts. She fears she’ll never be free despite the attentions of childhood friend Henry Gates. Douglas “Devil” Radcliffe, proprietor of the infamous house of vice known as Purgatory, needs Lord John’s vote to ensure that the local inhabitants stay where they are, rather than being displaced to Devil’s Acre, an area he more or less rules. The plan is to kidnap Jacqueline, ensuring her safe return once the lord complies. Devil imprudently relies on a vicious man named Carver, who seizes an opportunity for brutality during the snatch. After Lord John’s vote is favorably cast, Jacqueline returns home, a virtual prisoner, marked as a ruined woman and shunned by society. Even loyal Henry abandons her. But then Devil proposes a solution to Jacqueline that might benefit them both. The novel hinges on that tired chestnut of female rescue, carrying it off with more aplomb than many. Ladies’ garments are torn more than once, but this is hardly a bodice-ripper. Happily, each of the characters has his or her own flair, including Henry, the unfortunate soul besotted with childhood friend Jacqueline. Characters exhibit clear growth, especially Lord Edwards, whose harsh persona may mask intolerable grief. Brutality is not to be taken lightly, of course, yet the recipient here of such ignominies seems eager to get on with life. At critical junctures, the plot doesn’t tally; for instance, would a man said to be as astute as Devil undertake such a risky mission? This handsome, long-haired man seems a tad dim, conveniently forgetting his business acumen if the story requires it.

A bit fluffy but entertaining at times.

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490303963

Page Count: 304

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2013

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An indifferent addition to the long-running series about British aristocrats and their romantic and financial concerns.

SOMEONE TO ROMANCE

In a new, baggy Westcott family novel, Lady Jessica Archer demands romance and recognition of her inner self from an American newcomer to Regency London.

A brief encounter at an inn gives Jessica, the sister of the Duke of Netherby, and Gabriel Thorne, a merchant from Boston, an initial dislike of each other. But Gabriel has a secret about his identity, and he believes its eventual revelation requires that he have an aristocratic wife at his side—one he decides will be the patrician Jessica. At 25, Jessica is finally ready to marry. Yet she is unenthusiastic about her choices until two men, including Gabriel, show an interest. Gabriel is a hard character to like, however, because of his deception about who he is, his odd choice to remain in London despite the need to rescue a needy family member in the country—and the troubling implications of the fact that he has made money in shipping in pre–Civil War America. Even when his motivation for staying mum about his true identity is revealed, one struggles to feel sympathetic since he seems to prioritize his own griefs over the wrongs done to a woman. His past suffering and Jessica’s desire for him serve to justify her falling in love, but despite some tender moments, the relationship feels contrived. It’s an anomaly in Balogh’s usually deft unpacking of human weakness and worth, better displayed in Someone To Remember (2019). Similarly, Gabriel’s relatives are two-dimensional, with one being a virtuous disabled person mainly meant to show Gabriel in a positive light. As in many novels in this series, the plot gets bogged down by the backstory and crowded by all the Westcotts who show up insistently. The conclusion turns into something of a comedy of humors and has a deus ex machina twist that resolves matters.

An indifferent addition to the long-running series about British aristocrats and their romantic and financial concerns.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-19861-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A deliciously fresh romance with strong characters and feminist themes.

THE ROOMMATE

A woman from a staid Connecticut society family moves to LA and falls in love with her roommate.

Clara Wheaton grew up in a household beset by scandal, and it turned her into a creature of habit and duty. As a young girl, Clara vowed to live quietly and never cause anxiety for her long-suffering mother. Now she’s 27 with a Ph.D. in art history and no idea what to do with it, so she moves to LA in a last-ditch attempt to win over the friend she’s had a crush on since they were teenagers. But when she arrives in California, her friend reveals he will be touring with his band for the summer, leaving Clara with an unexpected roommate, Josh Darling. Feeling too humiliated to return home, she decides to spend the summer in LA after being offered a temporary job at her aunt’s PR firm. Josh is a porn star, and he firmly corrects Clara’s misconceptions—and those of readers—about the adult entertainment industry. Clara is worried that her association with Josh will cause a scandal, but she loves the freedom of her new life too much to worry. They develop a close friendship but agree to ignore the sizzling attraction between them. Clara is outraged when she discovers that the powerful porn company Josh works for, Black Hat, is trying to blackmail him into a new contract. They decide to strike back at the company by creating a website with unabashedly sex-positive video tutorials that center women’s pleasure. Clara and Josh are likable characters trying to make the world a better place. Danan’s debut is a staunch rejection of societal shame about sex and pleasure—one that will speak to romance readers young and old.

A deliciously fresh romance with strong characters and feminist themes.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10160-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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