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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  • I’m a fan of hate-to-love romances so I can definitely see the appeal of Act Like It by Lucy Parker! Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt just might be for me though as I love a good angst-filled romance, lol in HR reads 🙂

    • If you like hate-to-love then you NEEd to read Act Like It! It’s soooooo good, haha. LOL! Glad to hear that Wicked Intentions sounds like a good fit — I’ll certainly be continuing with the series.

  • I haven’t read a lot of romance, but I’m a huge fan of romance subplots in fantasy/adventure novels — especially when it involves hate-to-love where the love is discovered by the characters in the process of an adventure!

    • I think everyone secretly loves the hate-to-love or enemies to lovers trope the best. There’s just something so satisfying about it, and it usually means there’s going to be some quality banter throughout!

  • The best Hoyt is so Duke of Sin 😉

    • Hahaha, well I’ll definitely be sure to read that one! I’ve heard very good things about the later books in the series.

  • Awww, I’d hoped that you would like Wicked Intentions more, but I have to agree with a previous commenter – Duke of Sin is possibly Hoyt’s best, of the series! Or Duke of Midnight (my favorite). Both of those books received five stars from me. 😀 I do hope you’ll continue with the series! If not, make book six a priority. And/or book ten. 😉

    Great reviews, Danya! Have a lovely weekend. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Don’t worry, I did like it! I think Temperance was not my ideal romance heroine, but I’m very intrigued by Lady Hero so I’m thinking I’ll enjoy her story more. Eeeeee, can’t wait to make it to those two books! What is it about dukes? 😉

      Thanks Alyssa!

  • Yay for Act Like It. This book completely demonstrates romances can be done well. I will not go on about how much I loved Act Like It again because you know I did and that would get boring, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. The banter between the characters was fantastic and was a definite highlight for me. I love me some good banter. Add to that there was great chemistry between the two characters and I was happy.

    I won’t even mention Ready Set Rogue, but I am a little intrigued by Wicked Intentions. A romance that gets the mystery subplot right? I may have to investigate. I mean, OTT angst is not always my thing, but if done right I can quite into a story. I read How Not To Fall and that did get quite angsty but I didn’t even care. We shall see, it all depends if my library is willing to feed my reading addiction and even has it available.

    • I’m seriously soooo happy you raved about it, because I wouldn’t have read Act Like It without your input! Elaine and Richard were so damn adorable, and I’m really excited to see what direction Parker takes with Pretty Face…here’s hoping it’s just as good!

      Bleh to RSR. You know, I definitely recommend Wicked Intentions if you’re in the mood for some intense drama. I do think that the angst is well done, it just wasn’t my thing. Given how popular Hoyt is, I’m sure you’ll be able to track down a copy at your library!

      • I’m glad my raving managed to convinced anyone to read. I think I only read it because I kept seeing it on Smart Bitches and it kept being mentioned in the podcast so I felt like I had to. I’m not hard to convince really. I have Pretty Face on my TBR pile for the next week or two. I just want to read all the romance, I was waiting to finish The Hating Game first, two romances cannot be read at the same time.

        I know Hoyt’s popular so I’m hoping my library will not do that weird thing where they don’t have books available. I’ll scope it out next time I go. I can appreciate an angsty romance every so often so hopefully I’ll enjoy it.

  • “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.” This is exactly where I am at with romance!

    I don’t tend to like Contemporary romances but I have to say Act Like It not only sounds like the best of the bunch but like something I’d really like to read! I’d like to branch out a little bit more and not automatically ignore contemporary romance so I will check it out!

    • Three cheers for light, cute reads! I think it all depends on what you’re looking for from a romance novel — if you want a big emotional payoff, then angsty stories would definitely be good. But I just want happy, fluffy feelings as a result of romance reading!

      Act Like It was SO GOOD, Stephanie. Seriously, just so well executed and chock-full of great characters and awesome dialogue. Hopefully you get a chance to pick it up soon! 😊

  • Funnily enough, I don’t think I’ve read any Hoyt yet! I’ll have to change that. I just haven’t really been in the mood for historical romance lately.

    And I’m so glad you liked Act Like It. It’s such a great story. I loved how Elaine refused to be cowed by Richard’s bad attitude. And Richard was, for once, a bad boy I could actually like. Can’t wait for Pretty Face!

    Ugh, don’t even get me started on RSR. I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing it on my blog at all, it’s such a downer.

    • That’s funny, I’ve kind of been the opposite: I’ve been really into historical romances lately. I really want to read something by Courtney Milan soon, because I’ve heard she’s a talented writer and she has good politics (ha!).

      YES! Elaine was kind of a badass in her own way. An everyday sort of badassery that made me really like her. My favourite thing about Richard’s “bad boy” behaviour was that once he got to know Elaine, he stopped using directing his bad behaviour towards her. I’m super excited for Pretty Face too, definitely high up on my anticipated reads list!

      RSR was such a letdown. I’m pretty disappointed in it. Oh well, on to the next!

  • Act Like It was such a refreshing romance novel! I love that it was so low-key on the drama or misunderstandings that you typically find in romance books. I can’t wait for you to read Pretty Face. I think it’s actually a stronger story than this one and the romance oh my goodness! I have so many butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it.

    I read Becky’s thoughts about the Manda Collins book and ugh. What a bummer. It sounded like it had a lot of potential, but a misogynist hero? Eww! What a shame though because that cover is so lovely!

    Ah yes! Alyssa LOVES Elizabeth Hoyt and has been pushing me to read her books. I actually have a bunch, but I haven’t felt the motivation to pick them up. It definitely sounds like it was better than Ready Set Rogue. I’m interested in seeing how the murder mystery is handled. I hope the rest of the series is stronger for you!

    • YES, 100%! The low-key aspect of it was honestly my favourite part. I mean sure, there’s a little drama, but it makes total sense and gets resolved quickly. Eeeeeeeeee now you’ve got me so pumped to read Pretty Face! I heard it’s up on NetGalley so I’ll have to request it soon. A romance novel that gives you butterflies…swoon. 😍

      OMG yes, even though I didn’t love Wicked Intentions it was far and away better than RSR. I actually cannot with that book, hahaha. Haven’t historical romance authors received the memo that it’s not acceptable to be racist towards Romany people in their books yet???? Hello, people like Lisa Kleypas understood that more than a decade ago! /end rant

  • Bookworm Brandee

    I’ll have to check out Act Like It as your review has me curious about it. I’ll skip the Collins book. :/ As for Wicked Intentions…I actually liked it better than you so I suppose that means I don’t mind the angst. You might check out The Raven Prince by Hoyt (part of the Princes Trilogy). It’s lighter in tone. I laughed while reading it. 🙂
    I like to read romance in all its forms and I also like books where romance is the subplot. I think it just needs to be well-written. 🙂 Great post!

    • I hope you enjoy Act Like It, Brandee! Definitely one of my favourite romance novels I’ve read in recent memory. LOL, yeah…you’re probably better off skipping RSR. Thanks for the rec, I’ll definitely check it out! I quite liked Hoyt’s writing, and I did think there were a couple pretty funny moments in Wicked Intentions (despite the angst) so I can totally see her pulling off a funny, clever book.

      I completely agree, I love romance in all its forms so long as it’s believable. I don’t like feeling as though a romantic subplot is just shoved into a story to tick off some boxes, you know? Thanks Brandee!

  • Wonderful romance roundup, Danya! I loved Act Like It by Lucy Parker! It’s one of my favourites last year. Clever and witty it is. And her writing is gorgeous. Do you know that companion novel Pretty Face was released last week? I’m dying to read it. I haven’t heard about two other books before. In truth I don’t often read Historical Romance. I only add those books that were highly recommended to me by my trusted bookish friends. Sorry these books weren’t winners for you, at least you had Becky and Kaja. Lol.

    As you’ve probably noticed I read a lot of Romance, mostly contemporary. And I like when there is some kind of romance when I pick up a book in another genre. I used to like angsty romances, but lately I find that I enjoy low on drama stories more. Have you read The Hating Game by Sally Thorne? I haven’t yet, but several friends recommended it as a light and funny romance, I think it would be right up your alley.

    • Thanks, Ksenia! I had a lot of fun writing this one. Yaaaay, three cheers for another Lucy Parker fan! I was so shocked when I realized that she was a debut novelist — she’s so polished. Oh wow, no I had no idea that Pretty Face was already out! Definitely got to get my hands on that one soon.

      I like historical romance a lot, but usually the light funny ones (kind of like Jane Austen stories with more *actual* romance and humour, haha). Yeah, thank goodness for Becky and Kaja! Hahaha.

      Low drama is such a good way to phrase it! I definitely prefer my romance reads low drama. The Hating Game was so good! I just read it about a week ago, and I really liked it. It’s got a hate to love thing going on that honestly started a little rocky for me (because the hero is SUCH a jerk at the beginning) but I ended up loving it. I hope you enjoy it too, Ksenia!

      • Actually Act Like Me is not her
        first novel. She self-published another book by pseudonym (Artistic License by Elle Pierson).
        I plan to read some time in the future, it’s there on my huge tbr-list. lol. A
        couple of my friends read it, in their opinion it’s not as good as Act Like Me,
        but still worth reading.

        Light funny historical romances…Have you read Fool Me Twice
        by Meredith Duran? It became a habit to recommend you books that I haven’t read
        yet, but this one came highly recommended by a couple of my trusted bookish
        friends.

        I’m really looking forward toward The Hating Game. If only
        I had time to read all books on my tbr-list…

  • Ah I really want to try those Lucy Parker books, sound so good!

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

    • I absolutely loved the first one, and I heard from Nick that book 2 is even better!