Monday, May 20, 2019

Unusual Historical Top Picks for May 2019

Spring has sprung and May is an embarrassing bouquet of riches for fans of unusual historicals! Rule of thumb, I try to keep my Top Picks shopping list to around 4 or 5 titles. This month, well it’s seven. Some of these are fairly big releases that you may already know about, but I think you’ll find a few surprises on this list as well. Let’s dive in!

Rebel by Beverly Jenkins
The first novel in USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins’s compelling new series follows a Northern woman south in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War . . .  
Valinda Lacy’s mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans is to help the newly emancipated community survive and flourish. But soon she discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life—and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq.  
As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring—or wanting—her. But when Valinda’s father demands she return home to marry a man she doesn’t love, her daring rebellion draws Drake into an irresistible intrigue. 
It’s Beverly Jenkins, it’s the start of a new series, it’s set in New Orleans (squee!) and fans see the return of the LeVeqs. Frankly, this sells itself. Just go buy it.

Baby on His Hollywood Doorstep by Lauri Robinson
A roaring twenties runaway…  
A baby who needs a daddy!  
With the Chicago mob hot on her heels and her late best friend’s baby in her arms, Helen Hathaway hightails it to Hollywood. There she finds little Grace’s uncle, charismatic film producer Jack McCarney. She knows she should keep him—and Grace—at arm’s length; after all, they could be wrenched apart by Grace’s father’s return. But instead she’s falling for Jack, bonded by the baby who needs them both… 
A heroine on the run with her best friend’s baby because, wouldn’t you know it?, the best friend got in way over her head. Early Hollywood! A film producer hero! The Chicago mob! I broke a nail one-clicking this.

Proper English by KJ Charles
A shooting party at the Earl of Witton’s remote country house is a high treat for champion shot Patricia Merton—until unexpected guests turn the social atmosphere dangerously sour.  
That’s not Pat’s biggest problem. She’s visiting her old friend, the Earl’s heir Jimmy Yoxall—but she wants to spend a lot more time with Jimmy’s fiancĂ©e. The irrepressible Miss Fenella Carruth, with her laughing eyes and lush curves, is the most glorious woman Pat’s ever met, and it quickly becomes impossible to remember why she needs to stay at arm’s length. 
But while the women’s attraction grows, the tensions at Rodington Court get worse. Affairs, secrets, betrayals, and blackmail come to light. And when a body is discovered with a knife between the shoulderblades, it’s going to take Pat and Fen’s combined talents to prevent the murderer destroying all their lives. 
Mystery solving lesbians at a country house party. If that somehow isn’t enough to convince you, check out Ana’s swoony Love in Panels review.

The Rogue of Fifth Avenue by Joanna Shupe
Silver-tongued lawyer.
Keeper of secrets.
Breaker of hearts.  
He can solve any problem . . .  
In serving the wealthy power brokers of New York society, Frank Tripp has finally gained the respectability and security his own upbringing lacked. There’s no issue he cannot fix . . . except for one: the beautiful and reckless daughter of an important client who doesn’t seem to understand the word danger. 
She’s not looking for a hero . . .  
Excitement lies just below Forty-Second Street and Mamie Greene is determined to explore all of it—while playing a modern-day Robin Hood along the way. What she doesn’t need is her father’s lawyer dogging her every step and threatening her efforts to help struggling families in the tenements.  
However, she doesn’t count on Frank’s persistence . . . or the sparks that fly between them. When fate upends all her plans, Mamie must decide if she’s willing to risk it all on a rogue . . . 
The heroine’s name is Mamie. My grandmother, rest her soul, was born in 1909 and her name was Mamie. Oh sure, Gilded Age, lawyer hero blah, blah, blah - DID I MENTION THE HEROINE’S NAME IS MAMIE?!?!?

Heart and Hand by Rebel Carter
Can a Mail Order bride find love with two husbands?  
It doesn’t take long for Julie Baptiste to realize she yearns for more than the non-stop engagements and niceties dictated by New York high society. So, she decides to do something bold and answers an advertisement for a mail-order bride in Gold Sky, Montana.  
Ex-Union soldiers Forrest Wickes and William Barnes have been inseparable since the War. They share everything, including the desire to find a wife. A woman who is willing to marry them both and provide the isolated town with a much needed teacher.  
When Julie arrives in Montana the three of them must figure out how to navigate the boundaries of their new lives. Can Forrest and Will come together to provide what Julie needs and protect the heart of the woman who’s made her way intimately into theirs?  
And how will a debutante-turned-teacher manage frontier life with two husbands? 
Erotic romance has always existed, but I’m old enough to remember when it began to be treated as a sub genre and it was historicals that paved the way. So it’s kind of sad we don’t see nearly as much erotic historical romance these days. This interracial MMF romance is the first book in Carter’s Golden Sky series and it’s free for Kindle Unlimited folks.

Miss Fortescue's Protector in Paris by Amanda McCabe
Second chance…  
With the scoundrel spy!  
A Debutantes in Paris story. Running her father’s mercantile empire and campaigning for women’s rights means unconventional Emily Fortescue has no time for romance. But when her politics land her in trouble, old friend Christopher Blakely comes to her rescue. They grew up arguing, sparring…even kissing, until he withdrew into his mysterious work. Now she’s torn between safeguarding her bruised heart, and the lure of their spark reigniting… 
McCabe tends to be a wonderfully consistent writer for me and this is the third book in her Debutantes in Paris series. It’s a late Victorian (LOVE!) with a working suffragette heroine and adversarial tension romance. I’m here for this all day long.

Wayward One by Lorelie Brown
He’ll protect her with every vicious bone in his body. 
During her ten years at the prestigious Waywroth Academy, Sera Miller clung to a strict code of propriety to shield herself from rumors that she isn’t an orphan at all. She’s a bastard. Now she wishes she had never allowed her friends to talk her into snooping into the mysterious source of her tuition. 
Her benefactor isn’t the unknown father she dreamed of one day meeting, but Fletcher Thomas—underworld tycoon, gambling den owner, and a man so dangerously mesmerizing that he could spark the scandal Sera has worked so hard to avoid. 
Fletcher is only two steps away from leaving the life of crime he inherited from his father. First he plans to join an above-board railroad consortium, then claim the one thing his ill-gotten gains have kept safe all these years—Sera. 
With every wicked caress, Sera fights harder to remember society’s rules and reject the painful memories his touch resurrects. Accepting Fletcher’s love means accepting her past—a risk too great for a woman who has always lived in the shadows. No matter how safe she feels in his arms. 
Originally published by Samhain, Brown’s Wayworth Academy series is getting the reprint treatment. I’ve enjoyed Brown’s more recent F/F contemporary romances with Carina, and the back cover blurb of this first book in the series ticks a lot of boxes for me. The Book Pushers review from 2013 is thorough without being spoilery if you’re on the fence.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to this month?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

#RomBkLove: Communities

Welcome to Day #19 of #RomBkLove.  The brain-child of blogger, book reviewer and librarian, Ana Coqui, is celebrating it's third year.  You can read all about the #RomBkLove movement and see this year's prompts over at her blog.  Also, when participating via social media, be sure to use the hashtag!

When Ana approached me about signing on again for this year I paused for more than a hot minute, took stock, and knew that even though my life and reading is kind of topsy-turvy at the moment, I couldn't say no. Of course the next question was: what theme did I want to discuss?  I thought about some of my favorite reads from 2018 and realized it had to be Communities.

I'd hazard a guess that the first thing that comes to mind when many of you think of communities in romance is Small Town Contemporaries.  Some readers love them. Some readers wonder why the heck they remain so popular.  And I'm here to tell you the answer: it's the world building.  It's the same reason why every flippin' romance novel is part of a series.  Readers LOVE to lose themselves in "a world."  They want to fall into a story and have the author create a world that they can lose themselves in.  And certainly while many Small Town Contemporaries do just that - with this theme I want to challenge Romancelandia.  Because there are many romances out there, not set in small town worlds, where the author creates a rich, full community for readers to lose themselves in.

Here are a just a few examples:
  • Beverly Jenkins is the Queen Mother of community-based romance.  I'm still working my way through her historical backlist, but every single one I've read features a support network, a community, around her main couple.  My favorite (so far) has been Indigo, where the heroine is part of the Underground Railroad network, along with many of her neighbors outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Another good Jenkins example?  Always and Forever.  A less successful book for me, personally, but one I always like to recommend to Small Town Contemporary fans.  Why?  Because a good chunk of the story involves a group of women on a wagon train traveling west to become mail-order brides.  That wagon train is essentially a small town on wheels, right down to the various personalities.  
  • Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist is set in New York City and finds the heroine taking a job in Louis Comfort Tiffany's glassworks (one community) and living in a boardinghouse (another community).  I LOVED the boardinghouse community in this one, filled with eccentric and interesting tenants, one of whom is the hero.
  • Off Limits by Vanessa North centers around a ladies social club that caters to LGBTQIA+ members. One heroine is a concierge at the club by day, and by night she's moonlighting as the singer of a punk band.  The other heroine is the only child of Hollywood royalty.  Set in New York City, I loved the world of the social club that the author builds. There's also the community between the punk singer heroine and her band mates.  Part fluffy, part angsty, I highly recommend this F/F romance.
  • Everything I Left Unsaid by Molly O'Keefe is the first book in a four-book series where a heroine running away from an abusive marriage holes up in a rundown trailer park.  It's the people she meets in that trailer park that form a community and change the course of her life forever.
  • Seduced by the Badge by Deborah Fletcher Mello is the first book in a romantic suspense series set in Chicago.  The community building here is part family, the cop hero's siblings all work in some form of civil service, and part nefarious, the center of the suspense action takes place at a local diner.  The diner, not unusual for many cities and towns, features regular clientele and staff who add richness to the story.
  • Passion's Song by Farrah Rochon is set in New Orleans' Ninth Ward post-Hurricane Katrina.  The successful hero has bought up some property where he envisions a gentrification project of housing and upscale shops.  The classically trained cellist heroine is volunteering at a local community-based organization working to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.  The city and the Ninth Ward add color, flavor and texture to the Friends To Lovers romance, and immerse the reader in the sights, sounds and smells of New Orleans.
These are just a few examples, and ones that I hope illustrate what I'm driving at with the Communities theme.  "Community" doesn't just mean cutesy small towns and picket fences.  City neighborhoods, diners, coffee shops, "band of brothers"-type series - community is expansive.  So let's hit the #RomBkLove social media tag and expound on books that really hit us with that sense of community.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

#TBRChallenge 2019: Passion's Song

The Book: Passion's Song by Farrah Rochon

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Kimani Romance #461, 2016, out of print, available in digital.

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I had a print copy, which means I must have picked it up at a conference since I went digital with Harelquin ages ago. But my copy wasn't autographed and my personal notes on where I got this were lacking. Best guess? It was sitting in the Goody Room at some past RWA conference.

The Review: On Friday it dawned on me that the TBR Challenge deadline was Wednesday and do you think I had started a book, let alone picked one out?  Ha ha ha ha! It is to laugh.  Given the short timeline I knew I had to go with a category romance, pulled this book out of the depths, liked the sound of the back cover blurb, and I've got at least 2 other print books by Rochon in a pile, plus a few ebooks - so I'd stay on theme! Boy, did I hit the jackpot!  This wasn't a keeper for me, but it hit a lot of my sweet spots and I sailed through it in less than a day.

April Knight grew up in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, became a celebrated cellist and traveled the world.  But, she's ready for less travel, to place firmer roots, so moving back home, post-Katrina, is what she does. She's determined to help rebuild the city by reaching out to kids just like her.  She still works in music, but she spends a lot of time volunteering at A Fresh Start - a summer program designed to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.  Her and the other volunteers are always scrambling for funding and want to find the resources to offer the program year-round.  They're losing too many kids.  And that's when opportunity knocks on April's door.

Damien Alexander grew up in the Ninth Ward just like April, and while he still lives in New Orleans, the old neighborhood doesn't hold many happy memories.  He got out thanks to a football scholarship and his friendship with April.  In high school they were best friends and she tutored him so he'd pass English.  He's now a big shot construction guy and was just named one of the city's most eligible bachelors.  He has plans for a piece of property he just bought in the Ninth Ward, but for what he envisions he needs funding.  To get the funding he needs to attend some high roller events among the city's elite.  And for that? He needs arm candy.  Someone who can run interference thanks to the whole "eligible bachelor" thing and someone sophisticated, charming, cultured...someone just like April.  Plus, they're old friends! No distractions for his libido! It's the perfect solution! (Poor, dumb dumb hero man - will these guys never learn?).

April had a crush on Damien for years and while slightly insulted with his proposal, she's nobody's fool. She sees an opportunity when one presents itself.  She'll be Damien's arm candy and in exchange he'll teach a class in money management at A Fresh Start to help round out their offerings and make them look even better on their grant application.  Damien isn't wild about spending so much time in the old neighborhood but he knows he's been bested.  A bargain is struck.

Two of my favorite tropes are in this story: Friends To Lovers and Pretend Relationship.  I couldn't believe my luck when I happened to pull this book blindly out of my TBR!  It's also a book with an excellent community feel to it.  Look, I know a fair share of readers who like to bag on small town contemporary romances.  I'm not a huge fan of them in single title, but I understand the appeal.  What Rochon has done is given readers a "community-based" romance in a big city.  New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles - these are all cities with "neighborhoods" and Rochon is highlighting a slice of New Orleans by setting her story in the Ninth Ward.  The wonderful sense of place gives the romance a very strong backdrop on which to build.

The romance itself is fairly low-key.  It's largely character driven, with Damien having baggage regarding the old neighborhood and his plans for the land he's purchased are straight-up gentrification.  When April finds out the details, she has definite strong opinions and Damien finds himself re-evaluating.  Is this truly what he thinks is best for the Ninth Ward, or is he letting his past cloud his judgment?

Given the friendship between April and Damien there's a tenderness to the romance I enjoyed, the sex scene hit all the right emotional beats, and I felt immersed in the world, the neighborhood, that Rochon created.  It's a well-crafted, well-executed short contemporary and I'm obviously an idiot for letting this book languish for as long as it did.  I need to go back to the pile and unearth my other collected Rochon books...

Final Grade = B

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is May 15

Hey, hey, hey!  For those participating in the 2019 #TBRChallenge, a reminder that your commentary is "due"on Wednesday, May 15.  This month's theme is Backlist Glom (author with more than one book in your TBR)!

Honestly, I feel like this is a slam dunk theme.  I don't know a romance reader alive who hasn't glommed several authors, and Lord help you if you glom on to someone prolific.  Or someone who has been writing for 20 years and you've just now found their books.

But what if you have a book by a debut author calling your name?  Hey, no problem! A reminder that, as always, the themes are completely optional.    The goal is to read something, anything, that has been languishing in your TBR.

If you're participating on social media, please remember to use the #TBRChallenge hashtag so people can follow along.

And it's not too late to sign up!  Simply leave a comment on this reminder post.

You can learn about the challenge and check out the full list of blogging participants on the information page.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Review: A Baby to Bind His Bride

I'm at the stage in my life where I'm past the point of apologizing for what I like to read. I'm a grown-up. I understand that I like some problematic stuff. I recognize it's problematic and move on.  Such is the case with Presents.  Presents tend to trigger the "pure fantasy" part of my brain. I don't read them as being "real world." They operate in a fantasy, fairy tale world (at least for me - I can't speak for other readers of the line).  But, to be honest, Presents is a minefield kind of line. There are some that are really awesome and some that are regressive to the point where I feel dirty afterward...and not in a good way.  A Baby to Bind His Bride by Caitlin Crews is a rarer bird though. This is a book that wants you to think it's progressive...but, it's really not.

Susannah married billionaire Leonidas Betancur when she was a sheltered and naive 19-year-old.  Theirs was a marriage arranged by their families. Leonidas, being a jackass Presents hero, hops on his private jet, ON HIS WEDDING NIGHT, to broker a business deal, leaving his wife behind.  OF COURSE before the consummation of the marriage because, sheltered and naive 19-year-old = virgin bride.  Anyway, his plane goes down in the Rocky Mountains in a fiery crash, and while his body is never recovered, it's presumed he's dead.

Fast forward five years and Susannah has morphed herself into "the Widow Betancur."  Leonidas' family is a nest of vipers, and in name of protection, she reinvented herself into the consummate widow.  She lives in black. She evokes the memory of her dear departed husband, never mind she was married to him for less than 24 hours.  She's no man's pawn and since Leonidas' "died" she's been running the family dynasty.  But she's tired and desperate for freedom.  And to be free she needs to finally get answers - because she's not convinced Leonidas is dead.  That's how our story opens.  She finds her husband living in a religious compound in the mountains of Idaho with a host of acolytes who think he's a god.  If that isn't the perfect metaphor for every Presents hero EVER, I'm not sure what is.  Anyway, Leonidas has amnesia (because OF COURSE) but once he sees Susannah, and hastily divests her of her virginity (because OF COURSE), the light dawns and most of his memory comes back.  But what will happen when he finds out his wife only found him in order to divorce him?

This is a Presents, so yeah, the plot is preposterous.  But that's kind of their thing.  Why Susannah felt like only a divorce would "free her" is never explained to my satisfaction but I loved this idea of a girl who everyone gives zero credit morphing herself into this ball-busting widow.  Unfortunately, we never really see that in action.  Oh sure, the author tells us about how she thwarted Leonidas' very randy cousins and kept his Evil Mother at bay - but Leonidas is in the picture from Chapter 1 which means he's the one protecting her throughout this story.  No seeing Susannah busting heads in the boardroom.  No seeing Susannah stand up to her parents at a society function.  No seeing Susannah have a darn backbone.  No, instead what readers get is Leonidas' kidnapping Susannah once he finds out she's pregnant because there's no way in Hell he's going to give her a divorce now.
"The marriage, the Betancur name, all of that is noise. The only prison you need worry about is me, Susannah. And I will hold you forever."
Yeah, no.  Then, to add insult to injury, eventually Leonidas lets Susannah leave the isolated Greek island, she jets off to Australia but comes back to give some big ol' speech about how she's always loved him (why, exactly?!) and he does next to nil in the groveling department.  But hey, it's OK because at the end of the story the author tells the reader that they're now running the empire together (oh, I'm supposed to think that's progressive!) but Susannah, naturally, squirts out a baby boy.

BECAUSE OF COURSE SHE DOES!!!!

Look - have I liked problematic as f*ck Presents in my day?  Yes. Yes, I have.  But don't spin me a story that has the window dressing of "progressive" and "feminist" and then fall back on regressive Presents stereotypes.

You know, I finished this book a few days ago.  And back then I slapped it with a middling C grade.  The author knows her way around the format and line, plus it's a well executed story from a craft standpoint.  But the longer I spent away from this book the more annoyed I got.  Look, does romance have a problem with reinforcing traditional gender roles?  Yes, of course it does.  But don't wrap a story in the trappings of progressive and "different" and then...revert back to this nonsense.  Just stick with the nonsense right out of the gate.  I actually prefer that.

Final Grade = D+

Monday, May 6, 2019

Doing Something: Announcing #RomBkBlog

There's a phrase from the Batman movie, The Dark Knight, where doomed Harvey Dent tells Bruce Wayne that you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.  In the case of romance book blogging it's more like you live long enough to become the cranky old lady who mutters about "kids these days" and "why can't it be like it used to?"

I've been blogging since 2003. Prior to that I was kicking around a few Yahoo Groups and reviewing for The Romance Reader (which existed from 1996 to 2007-ish).  Do the math.  I'm one of The Olds.  And I'm cranky.  I'll admit it.  I'm about three steps away from a housecoat, foam hair curlers and 3.5 cats.  But we all have hills we're willing to die on and apparently mine is blogging.

In 2003 there were a hardy few bloggers in Romancelandia.  2005/2006 really is when the big explosion happened and blogs were The. Thing.  It's been a slow descent since then, with a lot of bloggers completely closing up shop, either going to platforms like Twitter full time, or simply vanishing entirely.  Even the few of us who have hung on by our fingernails have curtailed our output for various and sundry reasons. (Mine is work - my career now is light years away from where I was professionally in 2003...)

But I still love the small blogging neighborhood occupying a quiet tree-lined street in Romancelandia.  However, it's hard not to get disheartened.  I feel like blogging has regressed back to the early days where you didn't know if anybody was reading.  Which was fine...back then.  But after the boom years when people actually, you know, visited your blog and left comments - to look at the dwindling site visits these days is just depressing.  As in, Why The Heck Am I Even Bothering depressing.  To make it more disheartening?  When word gets out that yet another blog is closing up shop, there's much sadness and boo-hoo'ing and hand-wringing on Twitter.  Which, hello?  The horse done left the barn - did you do anything to try and keep it in the stall?

Look, I get it.  Not everybody gives a hoot about blogging in Romancelandia.  You do you.  But the fact remains that romance bloggers are still writing interesting posts, putting real thought into what they write (well, not me but you know - other people are...), and providing thoughtful content to be consumed, digested, and savored. 

I love you Romancelandia Bloggers.  I feel like we're survivors of a shipwreck living on a tiny island and occasionally The Love Boat stops by.  Well, I want more people to visit us.  I'm thinking me writing this snotty blog post alone isn't going to do it - so I'm creating a hashtag.  I'm hoping it will increase visibility.  I'm hoping readers of our blogs will use it to highlight posts they like.  I'm hoping we'll use it when promoting our own, and others', posts.  Am I deluding myself?  Probably.  It is, after all, one of my favorite pastimes.  But I want to do something and this is what I can do.  Create a hashtag.

And so #RomBkBlog was born.  Use it. Follow it. Nurture it. Love it.  Promote blogs you like, promote interesting blog content you see. Help readers desperate for book related talk find it.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Review: The Bachelor's Baby Surprise

Evangeline Holly has just found out that her long-time boyfriend, Jeremy, has been knockin' boots with his sous chef behind her back.  Since she's the wine director at the same restaurant, she hastily hands in her resignation and proceeds to hit a wine bar where she gets rip-roaring drunk on pinot grigio (as you do).  What she didn't quite plan on is waking up in her Village apartment next to the most hunkilicous guy she's ever laid eyes on.  How hunky?  Well, some rag just named him the City's most eligible bachelor.

Ryan Wilde saw Evangeline "Eve" Holly across the room at that wine bar, holding court, opening bottles and was sunk.  He thought their one night stand was pretty memorable.  She, however, has called it a disaster and can't hustle him out the door fast enough.  It's been a few weeks and he's trying to figure out a way to see her again without looking like a creeper when lo and behold, who should come to the Bennington Hotel (which he's part owner of) to apply for their sommelier job?  None other than Eve.

Evangeline isn't a sommelier...yet.  She still needs to take the test.  But she needs the job and as horrified as she is to realize that her one night stand is going to be her new boss, when he and his cousin offer her the job - well, she can't really say no.  High end restaurants want official sommeliers - not a girl from upstate New York who grew up at the family winery before Mom took off and Dad lost the vineyard. 

Word on the street is that Michelin is in town, visiting restaurants and handing out (hopefully) coveted Michelin stars.  Ryan and cousin Jeremy know that getting awarded a star (or stars) is going to put the Bennington 8 restaurant on the map.  And for that they need a sommelier, but who they get is Evangeline Holly with her looming one night stand and the eventual discovered consequences.

The Bachelor Baby's Baby Surprise is the second Special Edition I've read in as many weeks and I don't know who is making back cover copy decisions over there but...yeah.  The baby on the cover, the reveal of Evangeline's pregnancy on the back cover copy - none of that plays out in the book until we're at 50%.  Fifty. Percent.  Look, I get that the definition of spoiler is fluid but FIFTY. PERCENT.  Newsflash: that's a spoiler.  Sigh.  Anyway.

The writing and story itself is rather delightful.  Even as someone who is typically not a fan of One Night Of Passion And Oopsie-Doodle Heroine Is Preggo.  Wilson has a very romantic comedy style to her writing.  Her voice practically screams Something Meg Ryan Would Star In the Movie Version Of.  Teri Wilson has been writing (and writing and writing and writing...if her backlist is any indication) and I've never read her before and what the heck have I been doing?  Obviously making poor life choices.

But is this perfect?  Well, no.  It's one of those books where the heroine jumps to conclusions about the hero even though if she stopped to logically think through things she'd realize she was wrong.  She assumes he's a playboy because of the Most Eligible Bachelor "thing" and a bunch of would-be groupies hanging out in the hotel lobby.  Whereas everything about Ryan's actions and personality suggest anything but.  But she's been burned recently so it's somewhat understandable.  Ryan, of course, was "done wrong" by a former girlfriend who tried to pass off somebody else's baby as his.  There's also the small matter that while he was raised by a loving aunt and uncle, he's still got some baggage leftover from his parents, who essentially abandoned him to their care.  Sometimes their respective baggage had them making snap judgments that drove me a little nutty.

As part of a series, this stands alone very well even though Wilde as a surname needs to be outlawed in Romancelandia.  This book is light, charming, fun and there's even two adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (both elderly: one blind, one deaf) to add to the whole Rom/Com feel to this.  It's not the kind of book that had me clutching it to my breast, sighing and swooning romantically - but it's delightful from start to finish and I wanted these two crazy kids to get their happy ending. 

Final Grade = B+