Romance Review Roundup: Vol. 1

Act Like It by Lucy Parker

Publisher: Carina Press on November 30, 2015

Source: Library

This just in: romance takes center stage as West End theatre’s Richard Troy steps out with none other than castmate Elaine Graham. 

Up and coming actress Elaine Graham has a supporting role in a theatre production in London’s West End opposite Richard Troy, one of the most talented actors in London. The only problem? He’s a total ass half the time, and his media image threatens to tank their show. Enter Elaine, stage left: at the behest of the theatre manager, Elaine will pose as Richard’s lady love to improve public opinion of him and boost her own media attention. That’s right, ya’ll: this is a hate-to-love, fake-relationship story. I loved it!

Of course, it turns out that Elaine and Richard don’t actually know each other that well…and the two have a natural ease with one another that quickly turns their relationship into something a lot more real than expected. Not to worry though: that doesn’t happen before some truly epic snarky banter is exchanged! Lucy Parker is a total master at writing dialogue, and she skilfully writes from both Elaine and Richard’s perspectives.

One of my favourite things about Act Like It is that both characters have rich lives outside of their romance, which includes grappling with their respective career aspirations, their friends and families, and of course some personal drama as well. But the inevitable issues that arise between the two were totally believable and resolved in a way that made perfect sense, which was insanely refreshing. If you like romance novels, you need to read Act Like It! It’s a clever, witty, realistic romance that proves tropes can be fresh in the hands of a skilled writer.

 

Ready Set Rogue by Manda Collins (A Studies in Scandal #1)

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks on January 3, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

WHO WILL WRITE THE BOOK OF LOVE?

I actually quite liked Ready Set Rogue at first, despite its somewhat ridiculous (even for a historical romance) premise: the wealthy Lady Celeste Beauchamp leaves her home and its priceless library to 4 Bluestockings and has them compete for their inheritance whilst her nephew attempts to dissuade them. The heroine, Ivy, is one of the Bluestockings: a linguist who translates Greek poets like Sappho into English — which is super badass and cool. I also liked that the typical progression of events in a historical romance were somewhat disrupted, and the MC’s attempts to solve the murder of Lady Celeste started as a fun subplot.

Unfortunately, as the novel progressed things went downhill pretty quickly. The murder subplot was pushed onto the back burner whilst Quill acted like a total misogynistic ass about women scholars (shocker), indulged in some gross bro talk with his cousin the Duke of Maitland, and then the entire cast of characters displayed blatant racism towards the Romany people. Yep, that’s right: an “old gypsy woman” who sold herbal remedies becomes the convenient scapegoat for the murder based on…well, racism. When the real killer was finally revealed, their motives were bizarre and felt unsatisfactory.

The initial draw of this story was the mention of a “magnificent private library,” but sadly only one or two scenes took place there…and none of them actually involved using the library. Thank god for Becky and Kaja, whose snarky twitter DMs kept me sane whilst buddy reading.

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #1)

Publisher: Central Publishing on August 1, 2010

Source: Purchased

Infamous for his wild, sensual needs, Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is searching for a savage killer in St. Giles, London’s most notorious slum.

I picked up Wicked Intentions after hearing Alyssa rave about the fifth book in the series, which sounds absolutely amazing. Wicked Intentions introduces readers to Temperance Dews, a widow who runs a home for orphans with her brother in St. Giles, the most notorious slum in London. But could this saintly woman have a dark, shameful secret? The answer is yes. The first rule of romance novels is that the answer is always yes.

To save the children’s home, Temperance makes a deal with the devil: she’ll help the infamous Lord Caire discover who murdered his former mistress in exchange for introductions to potential wealthy patrons for the home. Lust and love develop slowly but steadily between the two, and they bring out the best in each other. Temperance helps Caire realize that emotions aren’t the worst thing ever (shocker), while Caire helps Temperance get over the shame she feels about enjoying sex. The latter storyline was actually quite progressive, so kudos to Elizabeth Hoyt.

As I read more romance novels I’m realizing that the angst-filled stories just aren’t my cup of tea. I prefer light, bantery, swoony reads where the characters don’t take themselves quite so seriously. That said, the drama in Wicked Intentions was top notch, and proves that some romance novels can incorporate a mystery subplot much more successfully than others (sorry, Ready Set Rogue). Temperance and Caire skulk around St. Giles, pursued by thieves, would-be killers, and all manner of criminals, which contributed to the atmospheric elements of the story and made the mystery more believable.

I’m intrigued by the slew of secondary characters introduced in Wicked Intentions, and despite feeling somewhat bemused by the over the top angst, I’ll definitely be continuing on with the series.

Do you read romance novels? Or do you prefer your romance to be a subplot in a different genre altogether? Let me know in the comments!

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