Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 2009 Reads

I had an excellent reading month. A few new releases made it to my list, but this month I was able to hit the old TBR pile and made a small dent. I read some excellent books, plenty of good ones, and had only one real disappointment. I also had the chance to re-read four of my old M/M favorites -- that was fun. As you can see by this month's list, I'm way behind on my reviews, but I'll try to bring you up to date with a couple of Mini-Impression posts next week.

My favorite reads this month were: McKenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard, one of her old category romances -- this book is a keeper for me. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, a historical romance I've had on my TBR for a long time and could never find the right time to read, and Tabula Rasa by Tori Temple a wonderful contemporary M/M cowboy romance.

1) My Unfair Lady by Kathryne Kennedy
Upcoming Review at Musings of a Bibliophile

2) Flashpoint by Jill Shalvis

3) At The Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker

4) Flashback by Jill Shalvis

5) Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

6) Gobsmacked by L.B. Gregg (M/M)

7) McKenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard

8) The Lone Texan by Jodi Thomas

9) Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

10) Happy Ending by L.B. Gregg (M/M)

11) The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley (M/M)

12) Reckless Behavior by Amanda Young (M/M)

13) How the West Was Done - Anthology (finished it) (M/M)

14) Tabula Rasa by Tori Temple (M/M)

15) Damn Gorgeous Jaye Valentine (M/M)

16) The Tin Star by J.L. Langley (Re-read) (M/M)

17) The Broken H by J.L. Langley (Re-read) (M/M)

18) The Assignment by Evangeline Anderson (Re-read) (M/M)

19) Out of My Mind by M.L. Rhodes (Re-read) (M/M)

20) Untouchable by Kresley Cole - Deep Kiss of Winter Anthology

21) It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

22) This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

23) A Little Light Magic by Joy Nash

24) Unwrapped by Jaci Burton

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mini-Impressions: On my latest reads #1

I've read more this month that I have in a long time! Well, being home sick for two weeks and having nothing else to do but sleep and read helped, lol! I hit my TBR pile with a vengeance. The only drawback to that is that I really haven't had the energy or the chance to write too many reviews, or My Weekly Reads posts. Instead, I'll be posting some short impressions on this month's reads and I'll try to catch up. This is the first post for non M/M reads. :)

Flashpoint by Jill Shalvis

This is a Blaze category romance, reviewed and recommended by Leslie of Leslie's Psyche. After reading Leslie's great review, I decided to pick it up, it turned out to be the right decision for me.

A well rounded romance with a bit of mystery in it, this was a hot, hot read. I loved both the firefighter hero and the EMT heroine. This couple had lots of chemistry and Shalvis did a great job of putting them in sexually charged situations, developing the characters and taking us for a ride to a hot HEA.

At The Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker

This book came to me via Tracy from Tracy's Place. Thank you, Tracy! Recommended by another friend, I wanted to read this for a while, it turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag for me. I thought it was a sweet romance, but I did have some problems with the premise.

The hero, a duke, decides to throw a ball to find a bride for his brother -- the "perfect" bride. He himself is too much of a perfectionist and doesn't wish to marry. They proceed to choose and invite seven candidates to their country home and have what amounts to a competition. The heroine doesn't really want to go and is blackmailed into going by her step-mother -- a really lame ploy by the way, one that doesn't make sense. She, of course, is completely "inappropriate" and "imperfect." Our hero, the duke, is attracted to her himself and well... they fall for each other.

The feminist in me had a bit of a problem with having these women entering singing, archery and other competitions for a man. Never mind that some of them were eliminated for having "flaws" like a crooked tooth or for wearing glasses. I know the hero falls for the "imperfect" one in the end, however the whole process annoyed me and took away some of the enjoyment of the book. It does have a sweet happily ever after.

Flashback by Jill Shalvis

After reading Flashpoint, I had to go ahead and read Flashback, the next Blaze in this category romance series by Shalvis. Boy was this a good one! In this installment, the firefighter hero and the unemployed soap opera diva heroine have a romantic history. The heroine returned to town because her brother died and she needs to take care of his personal things. So this has the old lovers reunite trope I enjoy so much. The hero let the heroine go and broke her heart when they were younger.

This is another hot read by Shalvis. I loved that Aidan, the hero, had no problem admitting his mistakes, and our heroine is no pushover. There is a hot begging scene (Aidan is doing the begging) that I'll be re-reading. *g* I will definitely be looking for more categories by Shalvis.

McKenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard

What can I say about this book? I love Linda Howard's old romances and wish she were still writing them. This is an older book and a classic I gobbled up like candy. I loved the virginal, plain, passionate heroine who came to town and had enough backbone to change the prejudiced views of a whole town, stood up for her beliefs and got her man. And her man? Hot, hot, hot! A Native American who had been abused by the townspeople, but who was willing to do what was necessary to protect his woman.

I LOVED this story by Howard and this book is now on my keeper/re-read shelf. I'm just sorry it took me so long to read it. I have the rest of the series (finally!) and will be reading it slowly, just so I can savor it. :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review: On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews got my attention at hello. I started to read the first few pages just to get a feel for the book and that was it for me, I couldn't put the book down. The first section of this book is definitely an attention getter.

The characters became all around favorites. I fell in love with our heroine Rose without question. I love her personality. Rose is a strong heroine, with a great sense of humor and a direct way of dealing with those around her that I just love. Although Rose has been toughened by her past experiences, she is still giving and caring to her brothers and her community. She has been used badly by her neighbors and isn't a pushover but when push comes to shove, her strong leadership, caring qualities and sense of responsibility comes to the forefront. Rose is powerful enough to take care of herself but appreciates help when needed, something I always admire in a heroine.

Declan, the aristocrat who came from the Weird in a secret mission, is definitely the hero type. He knows his strengths and comes off as being charming, arrogant and full of himself at times. This makes for some great dialogue and situations between Rose and Declan that keeps this book more than interesting. I love that Declan is secure enough to recognize Rose's strengths and admires them, but doesn't feel insecure or threatened by her powers or her strength. I think the relationship he develops with Rose's brothers is lovely. I also like that even after he becomes enamored of Rose he is not a pushover -- the two of them become partners.

The children in this book, Rose's brothers Georgie and Jack, are an integral part of the story. Both of them contribute not only to Rose's characterization but to the plot itself. Georgie with his big heart and his powers is a character that I want to see developed in future books. Jack is adorable and fierce and I'd like to see how he turns out in future. I love the way Rose's maternal instincts and every day life concerns are weaved into this tale of magic and of good vs. evil. The other secondary character I hope to see in future books is William. His is an interesting story I'd like to see developed.

The world in this series is deceptively simple to explain. The Broken is a world without magic -- our world. The Weird is a parallel world to the Broken where all is done by magic -- one world doesn't know about the other. The people in these two worlds cannot see the boundaries between the worlds or cross over, with a few exceptions. The Edge is a strip that runs between these worlds and its inhabitants are aware of both worlds. Edgers possess some magic, although some are more powerful than others and they can cross the boundaries between the worlds. Most Edgers work and shop on the Broken. I kept thinking throughout the book... why are we the broken? It was explained that those who can pass through the unseen world boundaries lose their magic when they pass into our world and feel as if they are broken -- that's where the name comes from.

The Edge where Rose lives with her brothers is like a fictional southern lawless mountain town where the folk carry on feuds and take care of justice their own way. The fact that Rose's magic is the strongest found on the Edge acts as a double-edged sword. She can take care of herself and her family by using it, but at the same time it makes her a target not only within the Edge, but for some of the aristocratic members of the Weird who can cross over.

The plot was interesting and engaging from the beginning, I liked the way everything was revealed and not as easy to figure out as it first looked. There are twists and turns, evil magic-hungry creatures flooding the Edge and then uber-evil to fight, and Andrews excelled at putting this group of characters and this story together. If there's a complaint it might be that the end felt a bit like a fairy tale ending, but then I'm not quite sure how the next story will go... so, I'll wait and see about that.

I thought this was an excellent, fast paced read, set in a creative world with great characterization. I could not put it down until I finished it. Rose is definitely a favorite heroine and On the Edge becomes the first of an exciting new series by Ilona Andrews I'll be looking forward to reading.

You can find out more about the author here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mini-Reviews: Latest M/M Reads

During the past few weeks, I've been quite sick with flu and a viral infection. Since I cannot NOT read, in between spinning rooms and sleeping bouts, I chose to read short pieces that I could finish faster. I have a huge M/M TBR pile and decided this was the perfect time to tackle it. I'm still quite sick and not really up to par, so I'll be posting some M/M mini-impressions for you when I can.

While blog hopping and visiting friends, I encountered the blitz for Cover Me by L.B. Gregg, her new release and realized that I had not read anything by her yet! *gasp*. So, I decided to begin at the beginning and read Gobsmacked by L.B. Gregg, the first book in the Men of Smithfield series.

The story begins when Mark goes totally out of control after finding out that his partner Jamie is cheating on him. The opening scene caught me unaware as I was reading it while commuting on my way home (on the bus), and it was all I could do not to laugh out loud -- whatever you do, don't read the first scene in public, I was actually mewling. However, after that scene, the situation spirals into some violence between these two and we witness how Mark loses not only focus, but his judgment suffers after he finds out that all he believed about Jamie turns out to be false.

While all this is happening, Mark gets in touch with his friend Tony for help. Tony happens to be the small town's hot Trooper and a childhood friend. He is also a man whom he loved throughout his teenage years, but whom he gave up on, believing he was not wanted. Tony helps him out as much as he can... but not before the situation reaches a serious climax.

A combination of some very funny and some seriously scary moments, this story is a roller coaster -- Mark's emotional roller coaster -- I seriously loved his character. In this book I found some great characterization, incredibly hot, hot scenes... I mean scorching in my opinion, and the realization that sometimes we're blind because we want to be. I truly enjoyed the ride.

The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley. Now this one was a mixed bag for me... I loved the whole steampunk feel to it. It was very well done... the Regency details weaved in with the sci/fi, planetary details were great. Langley does an excellent job of giving us those great details of how the society works, as well as the political intrigue and the mystery. The characterization was excellent too for the most part... I fell in love with Simon and his friends as characters before I knew it. The sex in the story is hot and steamy too, there's a lot of chemistry between Simon and Payton during those scenes.

My problem with the book came with Payton's character. He is from the Regelence Planet where men marry men, exclusively -- a whole different society from that of Englor. Now, this is a great set up and some wonderful issues arise from these differences. However, Payton's character was a contradiction. We are told that these men from Regelence tend to be strong and violent at times, etc... in other words their DNA is such that they would make great warriors, so you would expect these men to be a certain way, but to me that's not what we were shown. There was something about Payton character I felt was written more like a missish historical heroine. The way he acted, his reactions, his feelings, his thoughts, almost everything about Payton screamed heroine to me... with the exception of a few obvious fight scenes and during those hot scenes with Simon, ergo the contradiction in characterization.

I was also surprised at how easily Simon made his decision to marry Payton -- that was a big Huh? moment for me -- and the use of the "big misunderstanding" often used in historicals, that I thought was thrown in to tie the end bugged me. So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the book and had major reservations about the rest.

ETA: I meant to add this and forgot (I'm still out of it). I understand The Englor Affair is a really popular book and I might be in the minority here. To be fair, I have not read My Fair Captain and might have missed something in the world building when it comes to these characters, so I'll be going backwards in this series and reading it. I'll let you know what I think when I read it. :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On Secondary Characters: The Lone Texan by Jodi Thomas

Tribute to Secondary Characters: Bonnie and her Cowboy

It's indisputable. There are times when secondary characters can make the difference between a good book and a great one. They can take over a story and obliterate the main characters and in some cases they can even spoil the story. Then there are those wonderful times when secondary characters are so well developed and the writer weaves them into the story so well that they make the story richer and truly complete. Yes, without those secondary characters that particular story would never be the same. But do we really give them credit?

As with supporting characters in movies, we don't necessarily focus on their stories when reviewing a book. Yes, they usually get an honorable mention. Are they well developed? Do they have something to contribute? Are they a detriment or a weakness to the story? Did we love them? But, do they have their own story to tell?

In The Lone Texan by Jody Thomas there's a secondary romance worth mentioning, the story of Bonnie and her "Cowboy." Although the central love story in this book is certainly worth reviewing and deserves to have the main focus as it did in the book, this secondary romance touched me and I thought to give it more than just an honorable mention. I thought I'd share it with you.

Bonnie is a nurse from Boston who having nothing left there has decided to travel to Texas with our heroine Dr. Sage McMurray Lander. When Bonnie's parents died, they left everything to her brother with the condition that he would care for her. He ignored their wishes and she basically found herself destitute. Having cared for her sick parents, Bonnie decided to do the only thing she knew and dedicated her life to nursing. While working in the Boston hospital, she met Sage and became not only her personal nurse, but a friend as well.

Bonnie is a six-foot, plain looking spinster, with a wonderful gift for nursing, but in the surface not much else. She's never had a relationship with a man and is too shy to really speak to males. She is basically invisible to them and she knows it. When we first meet her, Sage and Bonnie have just arrived in Galveston, Texas and are making their way to their hotel. Sage almost gets killed by a carriage while trying to save a dog and a cowboy accidentally whacks Bonnie from behind with a sack of feed. He very politely apologizes, but she just stands there and doesn't say a word. He is as tall as she is... and that's notable for her, as she is a very tall woman.

In the following days, we see a Bonnie who lives up to our expectations of her character. She is the very epitome of all that is sensible. The perfect nurse, a loyal, protective friend and a woman of insight... even if she is scared of what she sees as a wild place, so different from Boston.

As Sage and Bonnie decide to leave Galveston and go on to Sage's family ranch, escorted by our hero Drummond Roak, Sage decides to say her good byes in person to her dead husband's brother -- a man of questionable character. Bonnie advises sending him a note, but Sage insists on going in person. The man's place of business is a disreputable gambling place in Galveston's docks and as they approach, they note men with guns disembarking from a boat -- they go in anyway -- not the smartest of moves, but again that was Sage's decision.

The first thing Bonnie notes when they enter is that the tall cowboy who whacked her on the streets was sitting at the bar. As Sage goes in to say her good byes to her brother-in-law, all hell breaks loose as the place gets held up. Bonnie's cowboy comes to the rescue, pulls her out of the bar throws her on his horse and rides away with her, saving her life. But things are not as simple as they seem, and as he continues to ride she realizes that he's kidnapping her too. Her adventure is about to begin.

The story of Bonnie and her Cowboy is not a long-drawn one, and in the surface doesn't seem to be a very deep one. They spend a night full of danger together that will change their lives forever. Their relationship begins on shaky ground and Bonnie is not sure weather to be grateful or terrified.

"You'll be safe here," he said as he lowers her to her feet.

"Safe!" she said, trying not to wobble. "I was safe in Boston. I was safe in Galveston.... How am I safe in here with a man who'll probably ravish me or kill me at any moment?"

The giant stood and stared down at her. "I vote for the ravishing. I've never done it with a woman I thought could take my weight before." A grin grew slowly across a face that hadn't seen a razor in a week.

Bonnie Faye did a second thing she'd never done before: she fainted.
During that one night so many things happen to these two characters. They find out things about each other and about themselves that are more than unexpected.
...."You know, once I heard a woman say that she had a lover that moved over her like warm summer storm. She said it only lasted a night, but the memory was burned into her thoughts forever. I never understood what she meant until you moved over me." ....
And later...
...."Did you feel the storm? he asked.

"Yes," she answered and felt his arms tighten. "And it was a thousand times more than I thought it would be."
This is a story of two people who didn't think they had anything to offer others and expected nothing for themselves, and yet found something in each other that was sweet and true. I don't know quite why their simple story touched me so much, but at the end of the book I believed these two people could and would make it out there in the west. If anyone could survive that harsh life with love and determination, I thought this couple could do it -- and that's what reading romance is all about, isn't it? That belief.

I have nothing but good wishes of a happy life for Bonnie and her Cowboy.

You can visit Jodi Thomas here.

This book is part of the Western Historical Romance "Whispering Mountains" series:
Texas Rain
Texas Princess
Tall, Dark and Texan
The Lone Texan

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sick and Out for a While...

Hey... I haven't really disappeared, I'm just barely hanging on with that awful flu that's making the rounds. It's been well over a week and I'm still trying to get over it. I just wanted to touch base and let you all know that I'll be back soon and hope to have some write ups on my latest reads. :)

In the meantime, I'm going to leave you all with a bit of eye candy. This one's name is Jack, and a personal favorite... yes, I named him too. The Js have it!

Enjoy and read on!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review: Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

As a "Jumper" who navigates ships through grimspace, Sirantha Jax is used to kicking ass. So why is she suddenly chosen as an ambassador of peace?

Ah, Jax. I've been anticipating Doubleblind's release impatiently for a year. Wanted, needed that Jax fix. I'm afraid I didn't really get it, at least not the fix I was anticipating.

I'm not going to go into too many details about this book since it's the third book in the series already. A quick recap... Jax has been assigned to Ithiss-Tor as ambassador representing the Conglomerate. They need the Ithtorians to fight the Morguts, an alien race humans cannot fight alone. Meanwhile, "mommy dearest" --Jax's mother -- who is the head of the Syndicate is doing everything she can to disrupt Jax's negotiations and making a power play against the Conglomerate through a publicity campaign.

Doubleblind, the third installment in the terrific Jax Sci-fi/Fantasy series by Ann Aguirre, was a totally different kettle of fish from both Grimspace and Wanderlust. Both those books were fast paced and so full of great action and characters my head was left spinning at times. Not so this book.

This book slows down the pace and Ms. Aguirre gives us three quarters of a book full of political intrigue and creative world building. The whole story takes place in Ithiss-Tor, Velith's home planet, where Jax has been sent as ambassador to gain the Ithtorians as allies. The world building was not only tight but excellent. Ms Aguirre weaves in some amazing cultural, environmental and physical details into the Ithtorian world that I found fascinating and it is what made this book stand out for me.

Velith's character development was also worth waiting for. Finding out more about him personally, where he comes from and what happened in his past was fascinating. And yes, I'm still in love with him. I think his is the one character I most enjoyed, along with some of the secondary Bug characters. On the other hand, Jax's crew was really missing in action in this book. Their wonderful dialogue, witty give and take and overall contribution were not only missing but sorely missed in Doubleblind.

I also missed Jax -- the real Jax -- we only get a glimpse of her in the last third of the book. The rest of the time, she comes off as this woman who is trying very hard to be perfect and who is so radically changed from our dear, chaotic Jax, I almost didn't recognize her. She was wonderful! Amazing! An incredible politician! She was... not Jax. Character growth? Maybe. But that radically different? That much of a change? Hmm... Chip induced behavior? Maybe those many perfect poetic wa...s were. But the rest? No. Not unless that chip stopped working toward the end of the book. Her behavior was just so different, I didn't quite buy it. Jax's relationship with March and his psychological situation in this story were tough to resolve and I thought Ms. Aguirre was quite creative in reaching the solution there.

Doubleblind was not my favorite book in the series so far, although I really enjoyed some parts of it. Even the end of the book seemed predictable and easily resolved and not what I've come to expect after the previous installments. But with the plot thickening... I'm expecting this crew to get some real action in the future, and who knows what Jax will do next? I'm still looking forward to that next book and my Jax fix!

You can visit Ann Aguirre here.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Review: Hex in High Heels by Linda Wisdom

Feisty witch Blair Fitzpatrick has had a crush on hunky carpenter Jake Harrison forever - he's one hot shape-shifter. Just when Blair thinks the relationship is really starting to sizzle, Jake pulls back -- the last thing he wants to do is involve Blair in his dysfunctional family dynamics.

Jake's nasty mother and brother are after him to return to his pack, and a bunch of unruly elves start causing all kinds of chaos. Blair is trying hard not to unleash the ultimate revenge spell, but when Jake's enemies try to force him away from her, Blair is pushed over the edge. No one messes with her boyfriend-to-be, even if he does shed on the furniture!
This is my first book by Linda Wisdom. The first few pages were slightly confusing as the characters were not familiar. However, I quickly picked up on the story and was able to follow without a problem.

Hex in High Heels is the fourth installment in Linda Wisdom's light paranormal romance series. This is Blair and Jake's story. Blair is one of 13 witches who in 1313 were expelled and banished to the mortal world from the Witches Academy for breaking rules, as set by the Witches Council.

I really liked Blair in this story. She is irrepressibly fun, sexy and energetic with a temper and poor self-control. She runs the local vintage shop Blast from the Past where she sells crafts and revenge spells to Moonstone Lake residents. Revenge spells are her gift and having a temper and poor self-control can become a problem as you can only imagine -- especially when she's supposed to be staying within those rules set by the Witches Council. Blair has a major crush on her hunky friend and local carpenter Jake, and is determined to have him. It seems when Blair wants something she gets it.

Jake has the hots for Blair, no question about it, but his life is complicated and he has secrets. In the last installment it was revealed that he is more than just a carpenter and all-around great handyman, he is also a Were Border collie or a canis lupus familiaris. It's a good thing Jake had a great sense of humor because dog jokes and references abound in this story. His great sense of humor, understanding and appreciation of Blair's 'hexy' ways makes him perfect for her -- but just when he might make a move, his hateful mother, arrogant brother and the Pack he willingly left behind years ago, want him back.

Jake's past sets up the main conflict in the book. Blair and Jake with help from Stasi, Trev and the townsfolk of Moonstone Lake must deal with a bunch of dirty, unruly elves and the leftover consequences of Jake's secret past. Throw into the mix horny Horace the Gargoyle, Felix the Kit-Kat talking clock, a pair of ghosts, and Fluff and Puff, Jazz' bunny slippers, and we have more than enough great characters running around this story to keep the entertaining factor high.

This is not your typical gloom and doom paranormal romance where great evil looms at all times. Blair and her witch friends deal with, and help people around them who have very real problems. I like the humor and light witchy way in which they resolve the conflicts that crop up. Blair and Jake's humorous dialogue and sizzling chemistry made them a fun, sexy couple I enjoyed.

Hex in High Heels was an enjoyable, light paranormal romance. I found it to be both sexy and entertaining, a fast paced, quick read, packed with fun characters and situations. 

Released October 1, 2009
Review based on ARC copy from Sourcebooks. You can visit Linda Wisdom here.

Other books in this series:

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile October 1, 2009

Author Spotlight: Mary Balogh

One of my favorite historical romance writers, Ms. Balogh has a new upcoming release and a couple of re-releases, all within the next three months. I'm a Mary Balogh fan and always look at her new releases to see if they interest me.

In October, 2009, you'll find her work in "The Heart of Christmas."

In this anthology she collaborated with Nicola Cornick whose contribution will be "The Season for Suitors" and Courtney Milan, "This Wicked Gift." Ms. Balogh's "The Gifts of Christmas," a story first published in 1998 is the story of Julian Dare, Viscount Folingsby and Verity Ewing. The story of a lord, a dancer and Christmas wishes.

In November 2009, Bantam/Dell will re-release "A Precious Jewel."

The story of Sir Gerald Stapleton whom we first met in "The Ideal Wife." A man who is quiet and unassuming, but who has needs that must be met. He meets Lady Priscilla Wentworth at a brothel. Yes, she is one of those ladies who due to circumstances beyond her control finds herself working for a living and well.... you know the rest. So here you have the prostitute as the heroine from Mary Balogh's point of view.

December 2009, brings a new release. "A Matter of Class" is a novella. I'll be reading this one. Here's the summary:

Reginald Mason is wealthy, refined and, by all accounts, a gentleman. However, he is not a gentleman by title, a factor that pains him and his father within the Regency society that upholds station over all else. That is, until an opportunity for social advancements arises, namely, Lady Annabelle Ashton. Daughter of the Earl of Havercroft, a neighbor and enemy of the Mason family, Annabelle finds herself disgraced by a scandal, one that has left her branded as damaged goods. Besmirched by shame, the earl is only too happy to marry Annabelle off to anyone willing to have her.

Though Reginald Mason, Senior, wishes to use Annabelle to propel his family up the social ladder, his son does not wish to marry her, preferring instead to live the wild, single life he is accustomed to. With this, Reginald Senior serves his son an ultimatum: marry Annabelle, or make do without family funds. Having no choice, Reginald consents, and enters into a hostile engagement in which the prospective bride and groom are openly antagonistic, each one resenting the other for their current state of affairs while their respective fathers revel in their suffering.
You can visit Mary Balogh here.