Welcome to Cozy Jo's Romance Review blog. This is where you'll find reviews and discussions on historical or contemporary romance books and maybe a few other bits and bobs thrown in for good measure.
So come on in, sit down and find yourself a good romance book to read.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Seducing the Duchess by Ashley March

Unlikeable characters – unlikeable romance
1 star

In order to escape the pain of a disastrous marriage, Charlotte, Duchess of Rutherford, scandalises the ton with her wild ways. All she wants is for her husband to take note and give her the divorce she craves.

Philip, Duke of Rutherford, isn’t unaware of Charlotte’s debauched behaviour so he promises her a divorce in return for a favour of his own – she must teach him to be a better husband for another woman. Will they both begin to realise that they might not want to give each other up after all?

I love a good 'second chance at romance' story and the premise of this story really seemed to tick all the boxes for me. Unfortunately I was probably about 5 pages in before I began to have serious reservations about the story. Or, more accurately, the characters.

Philip has decided that he loves his wife despite marrying her for reasons other than love and not having spent much time in her company over the last few years. He wants her back and wants to atone for his sins so he is, in some ways, sympathetic. Charlotte on the other hand was just terrible. She was a shrew and instead of being strong she came across as a hard, unlikeable harridan who acted childishly and pathetically to get back at her husband. Her behaviour was atrocious and didn’t endear me to her one bit.

Because of my dislike of the characters it was very hard to care about them or the things that they did. There were very few tender moments and the love scenes didn’t interest me – possibly due to my lack of emotional involvement with the story overall.

To be honest, I found it really difficult to find the enthusiasm to finish this book. I even thought that the conclusion left it open to the couple falling out once again – but perhaps that’s just me being cynical. I don’t like giving books low ratings but I’m sorry to say I just can’t recommend this book to you. 1 star and I’ll be giving this author a miss from now on.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Kiss At Midnight by Eloisa James

A magical Cinderella retelling
5 stars

After the death of her father, Kate Daltry is forced into near servitude for her stepmother and stepsister. But when her stepsister suffers a mishap that mars her perfect looks, her stepmother forces Kate to attend a ball in Victoria’s place. There, Kate meets a prince although this one’s definitely not as charming as she would have expected.

Prince Gabriel is one step away from being betrothed to a pretty and lovely Russian princess. So why is he so desperate to spend time with impoverished Kate – a woman he could never marry? And what will happen when he has to choose between his honour and a woman that he realises he can’t live without?

This is the first in James’ Fairy Tales series before When Beauty Tamed the Beast and This Duke is Mine. There is an e-book (Storming the Castle) that follows on from this story however all the rest of the series stand alone and have no connection to each other except the fairy tale theme.

From the first I liked Kate and felt for her situation. It was especially well done that although the stepmother wasn’t particularly nice, she wasn’t a caricature and was believable in her meanness! Gabriel was a very enjoyable hero and I always like a pair that bicker but are strong enough to stand up for themselves with each other. Together Kate and Gabriel worked really well and I really enjoyed their scenes together and thought the pair had good chemistry.

The story itself ticked over nicely and I loved the supporting characters who were vibrant but never overshadowed or upstaged the main romance. I never had a problem with wanting to pick up this book and keep reading. If I had to make one criticism it would be that there were a few too many Americanisms for my liking. Having said that, at the end of the book the author’s note explains that this is set in Fairy Tale land rather than being an actual historical so I’m not sure whether that was a deliberate move.

Regardless, this was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I felt the magic and adored watching Kate and Gabriel on the path to their happily ever after. 5 stars.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

Enchanting historical romance
5 stars

Linnet is known as the Season’s most beautiful woman. But that doesn’t help her when an ill-conceived gown and an overseen kiss brand her as a fallen woman. To protect her reputation she needs to find a husband and lay low in the country for a while.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant lives in a castle in Wales and has both a horrid temper as well as an injury that many say has left him immune to the charms of women. He doesn’t want to like Linnet but there’s something about her that appeals to him. But will he let her see the man beneath and let her love him?

From page one I was engrossed with this book. The characters jumped off the page and you couldn’t help but love them, root for them and want them desperately to find a way to be together. Linnet was a very beautiful woman and while she was aware of that fact and used it to her best advantage you never got the impression she was spoiled and I liked her from the get go. Piers too could quite easily have been a character that was hard to like with his temper and grumpy demeanor. Quite the opposite was true and I loved him. Together the pair had chemistry and spark as well as fabulous banter and enjoyable sparring dialogue.

The plot was fast pace and kept you turning the pages. This is the kind of novel that you can’t stop thinking about when you put it down and want to talk about with anyone that will listen. I was on the edge of my seat during the dramatic ending and I just adored the epilogue. If you’re looking for an enchanting historical romance that you can lose yourself in for an afternoon then I would highly recommend this novel to you. 5 stars.

*This is part of James’ Fairy Tale series. Each book is inspired by a classic fairy tale but do not have linked characters, situations or locations.*

Lady Drusilla's Road to Ruin by Christine Merrill

US link coming soon

Basic and forgettable historical romance
3 stars

Lady Drusilla Rudney has given up any thoughts of her own Season or successful marriage in order to look after her pretty and vivacious but silly younger sister. So when her sister decides to elope, the only thing that Dru can do is follow her and try to prevent the marriage.

Ex-army captain John Hendricks is intrigued by the prim yet beautiful damsel in distress he finds sitting across from him on the mail coach to Scotland. Agreeing to help her in her mad dash is no real hardship. However giving her up when they have to return to their real lives might just be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.

This appears to be the second book in a series after Lady Folbrooke’s Delicious Deception. Although the couple from that book appear in this one, you don’t have to have read the first one to understand this one.

While this book passed the time, I’m afraid that I found it quite basic and ultimately forgettable. Dru was a nice enough character – feisty without ever conforming to a stereotype. I also liked that John was a strong, un-titled man but his glasses gave him a sweet, studious edge. I wanted the pair to have chemistry but I just didn’t believe that they felt anything for each other, other than perhaps lust.

Halfway through the book I started to wonder what on earth was going to fill the rest of the book and that is never the sign of a riveting and enthralling story. There was also a fair number of jarring Americanisms throughout the book which pulls you from the story.
Overall this was an easy enough read with a basic plot that just didn’t seem to rise to any sort of high level. 3 stars.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Maid for the Billionaire by Ruth Cardello

A fresh and enjoyable modern romance
4 stars

When Dominic Corisi comes across Abigail Dartley cleaning his mansion, he instantly wants her to distract himself from the problems he’s been having in his personal life and with his business. When she doesn’t fall instantly into his arms he plans to do whatever he can to make her his.

Schoolteacher Abby isn’t used to taking risks with men, especially rich, arrogant and sexy ones like Dominic. So when she agrees to a trip to China, she can’t help but think she’s losing her mind. Or is she just losing her heart?

The book would fit into the Mills and Boon Modern line so if romance is not your thing then this book probably isn’t for you.

This is the first time I’ve ever read a self-published novel so I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive at first. However, once you start to read you get swept up into the story and you can’t help but want to read just a little bit more each time you pick up the book.

Personally, I found it refreshing to find a heroine with compassion and vulnerability but also with a real strength. Despite Dominic’s strong, forceful and, at times, arrogant personality, Abby never lets him bully her. It was also nice to see Dominic’s emotions and motivations shown throughout the book. He was deliciously alpha but not in an overbearing way. The pair had nice chemistry and played well off each other.

I enjoyed the overall story and the interactions between the characters. I’m really looking forward to reading Nicole and Stephan’s story (For Love or Legacy) as well as Lil and Jake’s story (Bedding the Billionaire) who all appeared as minor characters in this book.

The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is that I would have preferred to see a little bit more of a grand romantic gesture at the end. Having the family descend on Dom and Abby when they’d only just declared their love made it a little anti-climactic and took the focus off the main pair. But that’s a minor point in what was a very enjoyable story overall. 4 stars and definitely worth a read.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Playing Dirty by Susan Andersen

Enjoyable but not as good as the first two
4 stars

Back in high school, Cade Gallari slept with “fat girl” Ava Spencer to win a bet and proceeded to break her heart, dent her confidence and make her vow to hate him forever. Now, 13 years later, Cade, hotter than ever, is back and about to make an offer Ava can’t refuse.

Now a documentary film producer, Cade needs Ava to work closely with him on his newest project and if she manages to forgive him at the same time then he’ll be happy. But he won’t be completely satisfied until Ava gives him another chance and he’s not above playing dirty to get what he really wants.

This is the third book in the Sisterhood Diaries trilogy after Cutting Loose and Bending the Rules and I probably would suggest that you read the books in order for everything to make sense.

This book was a long time coming and I was so excited to receive it and read it. Perhaps my high expectations were part of the reason that I failed to be completely blown away by this novel.

It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination and Susan Andersen’s wit, style of writing and humour are there in spades. Both Cade and Ava were lovely characters and had the kind of ‘hate turning to love’ storyline that I really enjoy. They had good chemistry and I was really happy for them and rooting for them on their path to the happily ever after.

I would have liked to see a little bit more interaction between Ava, Jane and Poppy (especially as the scenes when they were together were so sweet!) and perhaps a few more scenes with Jase and Dev but that’s probably just personal preference and didn’t necessarily distract from the actual love story. The baddie wasn’t scary (and I’m a total wimp) and was dispatched so easily that there really hadn’t been much danger.

Overall, if you like Susan Andersen and are reading the Sisterhood trilogy then this isn’t a book you’d want to miss. I wasn’t sure how to rate this one as although it’s not nearly as good as the first two in the series, it’s still much better than other books I’ve read so I’ve stuck with 4 stars and Susan Andersen continues to be one of my favourite authors.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Taken By The Viking by Michelle Styles

Rich and absorbing Viking romance
4 stars

When Vikings landed at Lindisfarne, one wrong move turned a peaceful trading mission into a deadly raid that saw the place ransacked and pillaged. Annis of Birdoswald knew she had to flee but she was no match for the fearsome Haakon Haroldson.

Taking Annis back to his lands, she must choose between life as a lowly slave or give in to the dark and dangerous passion she feels with Haakon. But there are plots and intrigues that may stand in the way of this couple finding happiness with each other.

This is the first of three novels all connected by the raid at Lindisfarne coming before Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wifeand The Viking's Captive Princess. While they share similar characters and back story, each are entirely stand alone.

Annis is a strong woman who knows her own mind but her insecurities and worry make her much more than a stereotype. Haakon is the strong Viking Jaarl who tries desperately to keep control of his headstrong captive and his own heart. The pair had chemistry and although the sex scenes weren’t scorching, they were still nicely sexy. If I could have changed one thing, I would have liked to have Haakon show just a little more emotion when it came to his feelings for Annis – even if that was in private. Despite that, the ending was lovely and had me sighing!

The story was very rich in detail and it was obvious that the author not only did a lot of research into the time period but also put her heart into ensuring historical accuracy. At the end of the book she explains some of the points of note and lists the books she found useful which is an interesting touch and good if you are interested in learning more about the history of the Vikings.

Overall, this was an enjoyable story to pass the time and one that I would recommend if you enjoy a Viking romantic adventure. 4 stars.

The Captive by Joanne Rock

Slow and subtle Viking romance
4 stars

When Vikings attack the hall where she is staying, rich Saxon widow Gwendolyn refuses to give up without a fight. But when her daring leads to her falling at the feet of Viking warrior Wulf, she realises she may be in deeper than she anticipated.

Wulf didn’t plan his raid to find captives but one look at the wilful Gwendolyn and he knows he has to take her. But as he soon finds out, taking Gwendolyn and keeping her are two very different things.

When I first started to read this book I assumed it would be all strong, brawny Vikings raiding English villages, stealing away innocent maidens and sailing on the high seas. So I was more than a little surprised when the story was actually a lot slower than the mad paced adventure I thought it would be.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as it gave you time to get to know the characters. Gwendolyn was a delight. She was a strong woman who knew her own mind but still had insecurities, faults and while being impulsive, was sensible with it. Wulf was the strong, silent type and while I knew he was a tough leader, he did tend to be a lot softer and calmer than you might expect a Viking warrior to be. Together the couple worked well and they had some good chemistry although not as hot as some I have read.

The story held me from beginning to end and I did enjoy the battle of wills between Wulf and Gwendolyn. The ending was wrapped up nicely and overall this was an enjoyable story that I very much enjoyed. If you enjoy a Viking romance without too much war or wickedness then I would recommend this book to you. 4 stars.