28 May 2015

Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden (Scandalous #3)

Summary from Goodreads:
USA Today bestselling author Caroline Linden's third novel in her Scandalous series brings together a feisty heiress, a notorious rake, and a shocking book that could bring one woman the utmost despair—or the greatest pleasure...

Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can't forget how he abandoned a friend in need—nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He's the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn't feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel...

Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. Though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father's control, spirited Penelope just doesn't suit his plans for a model marriage—until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope's. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful . . . beguiling . . . and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too?

Fair warning: if you haven't read the second book in Caroline Linden's Scandalous series - It Takes a Scandal - you may want to read that before reading Love in the Time of Scandal because the conflict between the hero and heroine is introduced in the earlier book.

Love in the Time of Scandal contains what is possibly my favorite romance trope: the socially-demanded marriage of convenience between two people who think they are completely wrong for each other but turn out to be exactly each what the other needs.  Penelope thinks that Benedict Lennox is an ass for not helping his friend and only courted her sister for her money while Benedict thinks Penelope Weston, for all her pounds sterling, is far too loud and unconventional to ever join the aristocratic classes of Society.  When Penelope inadvertently causes Benedict's chosen fiancee to reject him, he is righteously angry.  However, when he goes to confront her, he finds her at the mercy of a cruel member of the ton, Lord Clary, because she is protecting her friend Olivia Townsend.  Benedict rescues Penelope, but the two are seen - at that point they are alone and Penelope is in a, shall we say, less than composed appearance...they must marry.

This is when everything starts to get fun.  Penelope's dowry - which her father has not withheld - allows the new couple to form their own household.  Penelope also has possession of the scandalous pamphlets 50 Ways to Sin (despite her mother's attempts to ban them) and Benedict gets some marvelous use out of scarlet ribbon.  The two of them begin to, very warily, build a life together, one that might even include happiness, warmth, safety, and even love.  Then Benedict's sociopathic, abusive father pops up during a dinner party simply to discompose everyone and invite the new Lady Lennox to visit....Linden serves up such a delicious plot turn here.

I loved this installment in the Scandalous series and had there not been an announcement of a fourth book I might have rioted.  The plotting is excellent, the details fleshing out both Penelope's and Benedict's characters are so on point, and I love how Caroline Linden uses examples from literature to give her virgin heroines sexual agency (if you don't listen to the DBSA podcast, Caro gives some amazing examples of period erotic literature in a recent episode).  I almost cried - almost - at one point.  And if I cry out of happiness at a romance novel, you are doing it right!

Love in the Time of Scandal is out now, wherever books are sold.

Dear FTC: I received a digital advance copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss...and then I bought a copy.

26 May 2015

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #8)

Summary from Goodreads:

Lady Phoebe Batten is pretty, vivacious, and yearning for a social life befitting the sister of a powerful duke. But because she is almost completely blind, her overprotective brother insists that she have an armed bodyguard by her side at all times-the very irritating Captain Trevillion.


Captain James Trevillion is proud, brooding, and cursed with a leg injury from his service in the King's dragoons. Yet he can still shoot and ride like the devil, so watching over the distracting Lady Phoebe should be no problem at all-until she's targeted by kidnappers.


Caught in a deadly web of deceit, James must risk life and limb to save his charge from the lowest of cads-one who would force Lady Phoebe into a loveless marriage. But while they're confined to close quarters for her safekeeping, Phoebe begins to see the tender man beneath the soldier's hard exterior . . . and the possibility of a life-and love-she never imagined possible.

I'm not going to lie. I've wanted a novel for Phoebe and Trevillion ever since it was pointed out that they fight like wet cats - which is about halfway through the previous novel in the series, Darling Beast (review).  So, lucky for me, I didn't have to wait long for Dearest Rogue.

In Dearest Rogue, Captain James Trevillion - wounded in Duke of Midnight (review) and unable to remain with the dragoons - has been hired by Maximus Batten, Duke of Wakefield (yep, that Duke), as bodyguard to the Duke's visually impaired sister, Phoebe (who has grown and grown on me since her introduction in the second book, Notorious Pleasures).  Even if James had the full use of both legs, this would not be an easy job.  He has to shoot a would-be kidnapper in the face.  On Bond Street.  With Phoebe mounted in front of him on their escape horse.  When a kidnapping attempt becomes temporarily successful, James whisks Phoebe away to a secret location for her safety.  And to drive himself insane with unrequited love, because a duke's daughter could never, ever love a common soldier with a cloudy past.

Or so he thinks.  For her part, Phoebe has been chafing against the restrictions imposed by her brother so much she has yet to see Trevillion as a man, not her jailer.  As James and Phoebe negotiate how to create new experiences without undue risks, Phoebe realizes how much she doesn't know about James.  She had assumed he was old and ugly because she didn't want a bodyguard (he's neither).  She had assumed he was uneducated (while not a scholar, he is a middle-class gentleman).  She had assumed he was abrupt with her because he didn't like her (she couldn't possibly be more wrong).  Just as people make assumptions about her because of her blindness, Phoebe has made assumptions about James.

Dearest Rogue is so stinking adorable I want to weep with joy.  The trip out of London taken by James and Phoebe is an absolute delight and the development of their love story is spellbinding.  Do you know the best part? There's no dancing around the marriage plot, no back-and-forth, no will-we-won't-we-external-forces-are-a-problem-someone-can't-say-those-three-little-words problems.  Once James and Phoebe acknowledge they love each other they just decide everyone else can go to hell.  I love it.

When I was reading Dearest Rogue I was also catching up on episodes of the podcast Invisibilia, specifically the show "How to Become Batman" which dealt with blindness.  The intersection of book character and podcast interviewee was so timely my head almost exploded.  The Invisibilia producers interviewed a blind man who had developed very precise echolocation - he teaches this technique to other visually impaired people so he touches on the topic of raising a blind child and how attempting to protect such a child from any and all risk, with blindness as excuse, actually prevents that child from being able to properly assess and situation and develop independence.  This, precisely, is the point Elizabeth Hoyt allows Phoebe to make in Dearest Rogue: that by artificially limiting her experience, even with the best of intentions, Phoebe's world becomes stagnant and she becomes too dependent on others.  It is through the development of this part of Phoebe's and James's relationship that makes Dearest Rogue so wonderful and gives it such depth.  In that way, it is similar to my favorite Maiden Lane novel, Lord of Darkness (review), where Godric and Megs have to navigate a lot of assumptions and personal history before their happy ending. (What am I saying, I have two favorite Maiden Lane novels now.)

Dearest Rogue is available today, May 26, 2015, wherever books are sold.

Dear FTC: I received a digital advance of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss...and then I bought a copy, too.

11 May 2015

The World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan

Summary from Goodreads:
A beguiling exploration of the joys of reading across boundaries, inspired by the author's year-long journey through a book from every country.

Following an impulse to read more internationally, journalist Ann Morgan undertook first to define "the world" and then to find a story from each of 196 nations. Tireless in her quest and assisted by generous, far-flung strangers, Morgan discovered not only a treasury of world literature but also the keys to unlock it. Whether considering the difficulties faced by writers in developing nations, movingly illustrated by Burundian Marie-Thérese Toyi's Weep Not, Refugee; tracing the use of local myths in the fantastically successful Samoan YA series Telesa; delving into questions of censorship and propaganda while sourcing a title from North Korea; or simply getting hold of The Corsair, the first Qatari novel to be translated into English, Morgan illuminates with wit, warmth, and insight how stories are written the world over and how place-geographical, historical, virtual-shapes the books we read and write.

Some time in late-2012 I stumbled across a blog titled A Year of Reading the World.  This very nice lady, Ann Morgan, was apparently wrapping up a year-long blog project wherein she read a book from every country in the world.  Plus a territory chosen by poll from her readers.  197 books in all.

197 books, one from each country.  Translated into English.  (2012, for me, was the year I read 192 books, mostly romance novels because my mother was undergoing treatment for cancer and I couldn't handle much else.  So Ann's project caught me attention simply for her level of ambition - I have blog projects, but I am absolutely the worst at reading to list or schedule or timetable.)  As 2013 rolled in, I backed up to the beginning of Ann's blog and read it all from the beginning.  Not only did she find some really interesting books to read she also had a fair amount of trouble getting books to read from more countries than I would have guessed.  Ann's experience led me to check and see how much in-translation work I read....which, like my percentage of POC authors, was pretty terrible.  And then Ann announced she'd been offered a book deal based on her blog....


(Full disclosure: once I found out that Norton's Liveright imprint was going to publish the US edition I begged a galley off them.  I have no regrets.)

The US title of Ann's book is The World Between Two Covers and if you thought it was going to be a potted, bound version of the blog you're going to be disappointed.  What the book turned out to be is a very well-written examination of why the Anglophone (specifically UK via Ann's experience and US by extension) reading population and publishing arm reads little world literature, particularly in translation.  At best estimate approximately only 3% of non-Anglophone world literature is translated and published in English.  Only 3%.  That's terrible.

Ann touched briefly on many translation or publication issues on her blog but the book allows her to expand her topics in a very accessibly way.  There are a number of roadblocks one encounters when trying to find and read literature by authors (and, by extension, purchase legally) from, say, Burkina Faso or Nepal or Kuwait or Monaco or Lichtenstein.  New countries may not have a strong press or literature tradition (or even a written tradition as we define it in Western literature, as Ann found with some island nations).  Some authors turn increasingly to the ebook self-publishing industry for publication and access to readers, some are fleetingly available through small specialty presses. A huge list of books to read can be derived from Ann's work both in the actual 197 books she read in 2012 and the books she references in mulling over her experience.  The World Between Two Covers will make you think and grow your TBR list by leaps and bounds - which is exactly what happened to me.  You can also watch me natter on about this in two videos - I talk about the book and then about some recommendations for literature in translation.

And I made a display at the store because, ugh, so much good stuff to read.

Recommendation: buy this sucker and read the heck out of it, pen in hand.

Dear FTC: I requested an ARC from the publisher, nearly read the cover off, and had to buy a nice, clean copy for my shelf.