Another cracking read

A Warriner To Protect Her (Mills & Boon Historical) (The Wild Warriners, Book 1) by [Heath, Virginia]Virginia Heath is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. In fact, if her name’s on the cover, I’ll buy the book. This story did not disappoint.

All the ingredients are there for a cracking story. We have the penniless lord with a rotten reputation, a heroine in trouble, a villain who won’t give up and admit his plot didn’t work the first time around. There’s suspense a-plenty, but time for romance, too.

The book has an authentic feel, a lot of detail that brings the time and place to life. The details are used to further the story, and nothing seems superfluous or there just because. The writing is tight, the dialogue natural and the characters are all necessary. No walk on parts in this novel.

It’s a very visual story. I could see the characters as if they were on film, which certainly helped bring it to life.

In fact, I can’t think of a single thing about it that I disliked. Looking forward to the next one.

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Medical Romance: the first one I’ve read

Mummy, Nurse...Duchess? (Mills & Boon Medical) (Paddington Children's Hospital, Book 3) by [Hardy, Kate]I’ve never read a medical romance before. This one wasn’t enough to put me off them, but of itself, it wouldn’t make me reach for another, either. The writing flowed nicely, and the hero was likeable and moreish, while the heroine grew on me – I did not like her judgemental, quick-to-judge attitude at all at the start, but once she saw the errors of her ways, she seemed quite a nice person underneath.

My first problem with the book was the premise. If I have understood it correctly, the board of directors of a London hospital for children, an NHS hospital, wants to shut down said hospital and merge with another, distant one, because then they’ll become a private hospital and make money.

In England, boards of directors don’t have the final say on shutting down NHS hospitals. Oh, they can recommend it, and it goes out to consultation, after which the Secretary of State makes the decision. No Secretary of State, with voters to worry about, is going to consider, for a single second, closing a children’s hospital to make way for a private one. I simply could not get past this glaring hole.

On top of which, there’s little to no story. This is one of my bugbears. I like boy meets girl as much as anyone, but I prefer there to be something else happening, besides their love story. An attempt was made to give them a danger, and a semblance of a plot but it came late in the book and, to be honest, it felt contrived and tacked on.

Then there were the medical bits. We were treated to detailed explanations of children’s illnesses, mostly in “As you know, Bob,” dialogue, where one character tells another something they already know, just so the author can show off the information to the reader. Unfortunately, none of the information given was essential to the story, which made it all the more superfluous.

This may not be Ms Hardy’s fault. It may happen in all medical romances, and if it does, I apologise to her for criticising her for doing it.

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A good read and well researched

The Secret Marriage Pact (Mills & Boon Historical) (The Business of Marriage, Book 3) by [Lee, Georgie]I have enjoyed all Georgie Lee’s books and “The Secret Marriage Pact” was no exception. From the start, I enjoyed the interchange between Jane and Jasper. I particularly liked that they were unashamedly of the merchant class, not reaching out to become part of the ton, although they were rich enough for begrudging acceptance of those upper echelons.

I also liked the feeling of frustration that came across because Jane could not manage her own affairs. For a woman with a brain, that must have been a special kind of hell.

Jasper was secure enough in himself to give her that freedom and therefore be the perfect match for her, although his constant feelings of guilt were a tad overdone, and made him seem a little too wimpy for my tastes.

The reason for his guilt was cleverly done. Not ad enough to condemn him to modern readers, but bad enough to put him beyond the pale in his own time, especially when we learn what his family thinks of that particular vice.

As usual, Ms Lee’s writing flowed beautifully, her dialogue was natural, her descriptions apposite, and the attention to detail suggests a great deal of research.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good read with an authentic period feel.

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Cavanaugh on call

Cavanaugh on callI don’t read the blurb when I see Marie Ferrarella’s name on the cover of a Mills and Boon book. I know I’m going to get a good story, with a satisfying hero and heroine at its heart. They’ll fall in love in a way that seems natural and unbelievable, with nothing contrived. They’ll also be involved in an interesting plot with twists and turns, suspects and red herrings, and reading it will be a great way to spend an evening or two.

When it’s one of her Cavanaugh books, so much the better. We’ll get a continuity with characters we’ve met before, in a place we’ve become familiar with. There’ll be a good, old-fashioned feel-good family at the centre of everything, a family which somehow restores my faith in human nature, just as it heals the main characters.

A family like the Waltons, with crime. And, of course, Uncle Andrew’s get-togethers. From page one, I eagerly anticipate the party that will bring the outsider in from the cold and show them what they’re missing.

Cavanaugh on Call, the latest in the series, did not disappoint. We have a heroine who, for understandable, if mistaken, reasons, is wary of getting too close to anyone else, who has secrets and trust issues which need to be addressed before she can become whole. And we have a Cavanaugh who can help her on her journey, if she’ll just let him.

Bryce Cavanaugh is a good man, but not unbelievably so, and he is a perfect fit for our heroine.

What I like about Ms Ferrarella is that, even after 200 books, each story has an individuality. Yes, some elements appear in each (Uncle Andrew’s party, for instance), but even they are never quite the same each time. Each character is well rounded and fun to get to know. In fact, my only real complaint about the Cavanaugh books is, they don’t come frequently enough.

Marie ferrarella

Marie Ferrarella

In this one, there were a few editing mistakes – typos mainly, and the odd confusion about a name or detail which could have been weeded out with a little more care, but they didn’t distract me for long, and they didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the whole.

Which leaves me just one more thing to say to Ms Ferrarella: more Cavanaugh, please.

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A Discerning Gentleman meets his match

One of the best reasons for reading or seeing an Oscar Wilde play is that you get to know the characters. They are witty and intelligent, funny but in a way everybody else longs to be rather than playing the fool, and they are delicious.

discerning gentAmelia Mansfield and Bennett Montague, the main characters in “The Discerning Gentleman’s Guide” by Virginia Heath could fit in to the fast paced world of any Oscar Wilde play, where laugh out loud comedy sits so comfortably alongside deep feelings and universal truths. They stay in the mind long after the book has been put down.

The two characters bounce off each other beautifully, too. I don’t need to be told the tone of voice they use, how they stand or the expressions on their faces. I can see them with every thought, every action, every line of sparkling dialogue.

Watching them come together, discovering the error of their pre-suppositions and slowly unbending, becoming the people they can be instead of the ones they’ve got into the habit of being was sheer delight and made for a very satisfying read indeed.

Icing on the cake were the quotes from Bennett’s book, which started each chapter. Some of them made me chuckle. Others left me shaking my head in wonder at a young man who still had so much to learn.

But there were serious issues too. The story involving Amelia’s father showed just how much a woman was at the mercy of the men in her life, and how she could be treated as a pariah through no fault of her own. How I longed to see Viscount Venomous get his just desserts! How I cheered when Bennett served them to him. What greater, or more eloquent proclamation of his love could he have given?

The description of Parliament was brilliant, too. So accurate, and so much a picture of the place today, as well as 200 years ago.

With this book, Virginia Heath has become one of those authors whose books I will buy without waiting even to read the back cover blurb.

Yes, Virginia, it is that good.

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“Drury:” A Return to form for Delores Fossen

DruryI’ve read many books by Delores Fossen. I’ve enjoyed all of them, especially those about the Ryland family of Silver Creek. Drury is the latest of this large group of cousins, all of them lawmen, to become embroiled in an adventure involving the woman of their dreams.

As always with Ms Fossen’s tales, that adventure includes a baby in peril, and myriad suspects.

To be honest, in recent books, things have gone off the boil somewhat. The tales were becoming formulaic, the villains easy to identify and the action interchangeable. Somebody threatens the woman and child, the hero steps in to help. Every one of the suspects then turns up at the sheriff’s office pleading their innocence, accusing the others and getting nasty. Worse, the heroine is told by the hero that it would be best to keep quiet while the suspects are around, which is always commonsense advice designed to ensure she doesn’t give away her presence/vital information. She invariably can’t follow orders and you end up wanting to throttle her.

Then, at some stage in the book, the bad guys attack the sheriff’s office, damaging it badly and writing off several police cars. The budget requirements for this particular branch of law enforcement must make the state accountant’s eyes water. If I was him, I’d have the place rebuilt in bombproof steel and six feet thick concrete. I’d also send an investigator to see why the place is so vulnerable to attack, if not to relieve this family of duty until their penchant for being blown up can be addressed.

Thankfully, Drury sees a return to form. Yes, there are still myriad suspects, cardboard cut outs and stereotypes, all coming to accuse each other. But the heroine, Caitlyn, does have the sense to avoid confrontations with them, and to accept the advice of the lawmen she has turned to for help.

There are still attacks, but nobody tries to demolish the sheriff’s office in broad daylight and in front of the entire town, and the villain wasn’t so easy to pick out of the line up.

The book is not perfect. Drury himself is a little flat as a hero, but that may be because the story is mostly told from Caitlyn’s point of view, so we don’t get to know him as well as we might have done. It would have been good to hear more of his thoughts, see more of his reactions and learn more of his motivations. Now and then, he has a flashback to the death of his wife several years before, but these don’t elicit more than the barest emotions in him, as if he remembers because he is supposed to do so.

Also, I get cross when the powers-that-be show a lack of foresight bordering on stupidity. The area is teeming with mobile phone dead spots, where it is impossible to use phones to summon help or pass on information. One would think, in that case, the cars would be fitted with CB radios, but no. It makes it easier to strand the hero and heroine, but it seems contrived. However, I do have to admit that it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story, which rips along at an enjoyable pace. I shall continue to read Ms Fossen’s books, and am especially looking forward to learning more about Drury’s brother, Lucas, whose tale sounds intriguing. Just as long as Lucas’ lady has some sense, and nobody tries to blow up the sheriff’s office. Again.

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Stranded with the Secret Billionaire

Marion LennoxI’ve never read a book by Marion Lennox before, but I certainly will be looking out for her works in future. This book was a joy. I found myself laughing out loud at Penny’s antics from the beginning, and I felt Matt’s disbelief as he realised a pink princess had invaded his very rugged outback terrain. I also cheered when she showed him she wasn’t just a pampered socialite, but she could hold her own.

The dialogue between the two sparkled, and fitted them perfectly. I could hear the Australian accents in my head as they talked. Their relationship flowed, and brought healing to them both in a way that felt natural. Not one moment of it rankled.

I especially liked the way Matt ignored Penny’s father when the man tried to belittle him. It was all the more enjoyable for us because we knew just who the man was insulting. Matt, of course, was big enough and secure enough not to need to put him right. I would have liked to see his reaction when he discovered that, but hey.

A very enjoyable read. I wish I could give it more than five stars.

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