“Beauty and the Blacksmith”, Tessa Dare

Dudes, whoa! Beauty and the Blacksmith by Tessa Dare was really good. I genuinely enjoyed it, and totally will read more of her books.

You know all of those things I complain about in all of these reviews? NONE OF THOSE COMPLAINTS ARE IN THIS NOVELLA.

Diana Highwood is the beauty of the title, an upper-class young lady who grew up with asthma and — this being a historical romance — unable to do much of anything in case it sets off an attack.

Aaron Dawes is the sexy blacksmith of the village. I may or may not be picturing Gendry with a better haircut in this role.

The novella opens with Diana having him fix her necklace for her, just so she can ogle him. She’s broken tons of things, just so she can go see him. Aaron’s like, yeah okay — this is starting to seem a LITTLE BIT INTENTIONAL, lady — so U wanna kiss nao?

Diana snaps like a little twig and freaks out, which she regrets and so she decides later to go to the tavern where she knows he is. She has decided that it is high time to stop being Sheltered Sick Pretty Girl, since it seems that she’s grown out of the asthma. She drinks a bunch of whiskey, and proceeds to try and stick her face on his face.

Aaron surely does want to stick it to her, but not when she’s drunk off her ass. 1 INTERNET COOKIE TO AARON FOR BASIC HUMAN DECENCY!

The next day she runs into him on a carriage, and her mom forces her to go with him so he can take her home, thereby preventing freckles. Can’t have freckles if one hopes to entice Gendry. I MEAN, GENTRY. Gentry.

She apologizes for the other night, and he teaches her how to drive. She admits to him that she’s had a crush on him since she helped him with a medical emergency a couple of years ago…and also — like, I know this is really pathetic and ridiculous buuuuuuuuuut also I bought a bunch of the jewelry you’ve made….and I keep one of them in my pocket all the time.

Which comes off as endearing and not creepy stalky. TURNS OUT that the one she keeps in her pocket is the one that he made WITH HER IN MIND!  Sploosh. So they makes outs a bit, and he sez to Diana he sez: “You’re a grown woman, and a clever one. I believe you understand the situation. And I trust that you know your own mind.” 1 POINT TO AARON.

You catch that? They’re both like “Yeah, the difference in station is awkward, but I like you and you like me, so let’s see what happens.” There’s no WOE OH WOE WHATEVER SHALL WE DO I WANT YOU BUT I MUSTN’T

This is especially appealing to me, since this is my method of dating. I like you, you like me; let’s get it on and see what happens!

The next day she sneaks out of her house and goes to see him. He’s busy working on something, and references the fact that any possibly wife of his would need to be able to help him, as a lower-class wife can’t just be decorative. She decides to make him lunch, spunky thing that she is. Of course, she has no clue what she was doing, and despite trying really damn hard, her eel escapes and she fails. Yes, eel. It’s kind of adorable.

“I have nothing against you,” she told the eel. “I’m sure you’re a perfectly fine creature.”

See? Adorable. She breaks down in tears because of the disaster she created, and also she got burnt by a cinder, which is understandably kind of upsetting when you’ve been taught your only value is in your face.

[S]he offered her face for his view. “Is it very hideous?” What a question. As if she could – ever – be anything less than beautiful in his eyes.

Dawwww you guys. So adorbz.

The next day, she makes up an excuse to go with him to the nearby bigger town (along with her sister). On the way back, they end up accosted by some highway robbers. Diana shoots the knife right out of Bad Guy’s hand, bam. Aww yiss.

He decides to propose to her, and makes a fancy ring and suits up all nice to go talk to her brother-in-law just to be classy about things. But, medical emergency time! So he can’t go out to fancy night out, and can’t even get a message to her. But she heard about the accident and knows that, stand-up dude that he is, he’ll be off doing that so she waits for him at home.

He comes in shirtless and now it is time for the sex. The sex. It is time.

1 more point to Aaron! And a million points to Tessa Dare. This is about Diana here, and it’s great. First of all: he asks if she knows how to come, and she says yes. SHE SAYS YES YOU GUYS! A romance novel where a woman has masturabated!!! Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo yeah!

She even shows him what she likes, and he has her come first. He makes sure that she’s okay with everything, and while it hurts for her and she doesn’t orgasm again (unlike just about every frigging romance!), she’s like okay — this hurts, but it’s starting to feel better, cool. The next day he introduces her to oral, woot. While sitting on his anvil! Also adorably, he’s fantasized about that in the past, and realizes that O WAIT she has too and they get a bit dirty both in the metaphorical and physical sense. Awww. Adorable.

Anyhoo, things have been disappearing in the boarding house where she lives, and now she’s been accused of stealing since it appeared to everyone else that she had been there alone when something else had gone missing. So she’s like, yo, I  gotta tell everyone where I was! But Aaron’s like BUT THEN THEY’LL THINK YOU’RE A SLUTTY HO-BAG AND/OR THAT I GO AROUND SEDUCING WOMEN THEN HAVE TO MARRY THEM! And Diana’s like ummmmmm what? douchebag, I’m outta here. *drops mike*

This is another spot where any other romance would spend 100 pages on MISUNDERSTANDINGS! and HIJINKS! and OH NOES BUT DOES HE REALLY LOVE ME? OH NOES DOES SHE REALLY LOVE ME? etc etc etc etc etc forever and ever.

But not here my friends, oh no! Aaron realizes that was really stupid, so he just goes to find her and apologize. He arrives just when she’s about to have to reveal that she was fuckin around last night. He says she was with him, and amusingly her mom’s like oh yeah, there was that accident. She was helping Aaron with that.

And I love this, cause Diana doesn’t take that and run with it, nope. NO MOM THE BLACKSMITH WAS STICKING IT TO ME! And Aaron sez, would you marry me, Diana? Mom freaks out, and tells him that he’s obviously just lying to Diana will have to marry him. Whereupon Diana throws open her cloak, revealing a large dirty handprint on her boob. HAHAHA SERIOUSLY THIS BOOK I LOVE IT.

Also it was just a rat that had a habit of yoinking stuff.

Her mom tells her she just wants her to be safe and happy, and Diana and Aaron get married. Who gives away the bride? DIANA DOES, MOTHERLOVERS. SHE GIVES HERSELF AWAY.

And there ends the totally great “Beauty and the Blacksmith.”

Grade: A for fuck yeah!

 

 

 

“Seducing an Angel”, by Mary Balogh

Part of my problem with doing these is that I rarely manage to remember names very well. Honestly, in my head I’m thinking “that dude” and “hot chick”, more or less.

So! Seducing an angel: Is it fun? Does god smite thee? What do you do with the wings?

Okay so there’s no literal angel in the book, more’s the pity. I guess I could just find some Castiel slash-fic to fill that void.

….

Sorry kind of drifted away there for a minute (How is he so hot? I don’t know. It even overcomes his perma-chapped lips.).

Ummmmmmm so more historical romancin’. Cassandra sets out for London towing a servant with an illegitimate child, a dog with one eye and three legs (or two eyes and three legs and 1.5 ears, something like that), and a former governess. They’re all just hanging around because they ❤ Cassandra, even though she has no money.

Why does she have no money? She is an AXE MURDERER! The gossip is that she murdered her husband. Ooooo scandalous. She’s decided that she’s going to get a rich dude on the hook as his mistress for a while, til she has enough money to pack them all up again and have a nice quiet life in the country.

That’s where ~the angel~ comes in — the Earl of Merkin Merton. Perfect curly blond blue-eyed perfection, natch. Oh, and Cassandra is red-headed curvy perfection. You’d think that for escapist fantasy, it’d be more fun having not-spectacular women get it on with conventionally hot dudes. As a not-spectacular woman, *I* usually fantasize more about being desired first for my SPARKLING PERSONALITY DAMMIT along with my short lumpy body.

But oh well. Beautiful people: it’s too fictional without them.

So Cassandra gloms on to Stephen The Angelic Earl as her pick and seduces him at a party she crashes. Interesting choice here: he does her in about 5 minutes and falls asleep. That’s a novel way to go for a romance, jeez.

When he wakes up, she’s like OKAY NAO PAY ME and he’s like WAT U PRO?

She’s not super happy to be his mistress because self-respect, but dammit she’ll take one for the rag-tag team. And he’s like AWWW PITIFUL and gives her money. He’s also like, dag, yo — I’m not doing you unless you actually want to be there. But she’s weird and stubborn and DAMMIT YOU WILL FUCK ME AND LIKE IT.

He does have sex with her one more time, thinking to himself that he will try to suck less at it: which leads to THE WORST thing ever, which is about 5 repetitions of Cassandra feeling the “pain that is not pain”. No seriously. SERIOUSLY. Ughhhhhhhhhhhq38odhs8Yeroh&#85Y

Again, stubborn, so she refuses to orgasm just through sheer willpower. Haha what kind of romance is this? They’re supposed to be WILDLY ON FIRE for each other, leading them to reconsider their mercenary relationship!

Instead, they just falls in loves with each other because love. Well, he is a perfect angel, the perfectest perfection that ever perfected. So that is reasonable.

I kind of enjoy the historical fiction that uses thoroughly modern characters in an ostensibly historical setting. I love me Ms. Austen, and I think her dudes are pretty decent folk — but they are genuinely 19th century people and as such their concerns are not so much my concerns (BUT LYDIA). All that to say, Stephen is a pretty feminist guy. He is unrelentingly nice, and is super concerned that Cassandra be independent and self-sufficient so she doesn’t have to marry him if she doesn’t want to. He’ll even be happy for her if she does leave for the country. Awwwwwwww.

But, love. So mostly the plot ends up being I LOVE HIM BUT I CAN’T MARRY HIM and I LOVE HER SO I WANT TO MARRY HER. There’s legit no reason she can’t marry him! She explicitly says that to herself in the book.

I kind of want to write one where there is never at any point any reason why the protagonists can’t get together, and where they are in lurve and want to be together, but they just won’t get together. But then I clearly have an odd sense of humour.

I forgot, in regards to Stephen: He spends a lot of the book hoping for a woman who will love him for him….not just his astonishing good looks and moneybags. This is annoying. I totally have sympathy for pretty people; I know it brings its own problems, being hot (or so I can imagine). I do get it!

…But the rest of us living under bridges still don’t really want to hear it. Awww you’re just too hot and rich! WOE. Sure, life is great for us fugly lumpy poor people. Whatever dude. Just get someone to smash you in the face with a shovel or set your head on fire. That’ll weed out the superficial chicks.

Where was I? Oh, I guess the only semi-legit reason for Cassandra to not want to marry Stephen The Hottest Earl is that she feels bad about how it all started. Fair enough! It makes for an unusual how-we-met story. But once the two of you are totes in love and not even having MIND FOGGING SEXXORS, you know…just get over it already.

Despite thinking she’s barren after her abusive dead husband, she ends up knocked up from the first couple of times of ~seduction~, so you know, she I guess gives up and marries him. Her former governess and the servant are both married off happily too, because sure. Oh yes, and we find out that Evil Drunken Husband actually shot himself, not his son (Who knocked up the servant and then married the servant, making Evil Drunken Husband NOT HAPPY. Cassandra didn’t believe former governess that that’s what happened and thought she was protecting Not Evil Son.).

So, married. Then after a brief mention of his HOT HOT ANGEL MARBLE BODY we fade to black on their wedding night, although we hear that now that they’re in lurve it is TEH AWESOMEST. What a fun, sexy time for you.

That was a pretty big rip-off. The only sex in the book is paid sex that isn’t very good? So weird.

Grade: P for boy it’s hard being pretty

(Now one of the books I’m waiting on from the library includes the phrase “immortal Carpathian hunter”. I have high hopes for that one.)

“Two Wrongs Make a Marriage”, by Christine Merrill

Again, this was not the worst thing I’ve ever read. Which is saying something about my reading habits, but anyway.

I’m starting to notice commonalities in a lot of these books already. First of all, I can understand how a finely-crafted plot is less likely to happen when you’re churning out a million ostensibly different romances — but still “contrived and weirdly ridiculous” is clearly how most of this is going to roll.

I’m still rather confused about the plot, honestly! Actually, only in one spot, and only at the very beginning. Let me elaborate!

First of all, I suspect this was set at the turn of the 19th century, though it never is very clear about that at all, other than a reference to powdering hair 20 years back, which — nerd alert — made my guess a plausible one. And I gotta say, if you can actually get across a time period without any “what the what??” from me: kudos. Kudos to you, Christine Merrill. No, it’s not perfectly Austen, but I didn’t really have any moments of side-eye.

Anyhoo! Jack is an actor who is faking being a big society guy named Renton Spayne, the Earl of Sandwich* or whatever. He’s aiming to trick a rich society lady into marrying him for money, as you do.

So he picks Cynthia, who is a society lady, and he’s going to kidnap her or whatever so she has to marry him. Because respectability.

TWIST! Cynthia pulls a gun on him and tells HIM that he has to marry HER! Because HE’S a big society guy with money, she figures! He’s like, what? Okay sure. So they get married and whoops she doesn’t have money and whoops he doesn’t have money and he’s an ~actor~!

That was the bit where I was (and am) super confused. I still fail to see how pulling a gun on a dude is going to successfully coerce him into marrying anybody. What was the thinking behind this intrigue, Cynthia? Like, you can’t really make good on a threat to shoot him, I’m pretty sure.  It’s not going to get you anywhere.

These plots are always oddly complex in a really stupid way. So it’s like this: Henry de Warde is a big society ass-weasel, and has been siphoning off the money of his elder brother Spayne the elder (What the fuck is his first name?? No idea). Spayne had an heir to the family whatever, but the kid (and his wife) died off in Italy or somesuch. He never told anyone, and just pretended Renton was still alive, just gallivanting around India and stuff for 30 years. But he really needs there to be a Renton, so ass-weasel doesn’t manage to win. That’s where Jack comes in: to act as grown-up Renton, get married to rich lady, pop out another heir, then “die at sea”. Are you bored yet? I kind of am. Sorry.

Meanwhile, ass-weasel snookered Cynthia’s father out of all their money, by selling him an “idol” that would get her mom knocked up with a male heir.

Hmm, today most difficulties can be removed by JESUS JUST MARRY BOTH DUDES, whereas in the past most difficulties can be removed by JESUS WOMEN ARE PEOPLE TOO.

Jack figures out a new plan to swindle money back from the ass-weasel, which is pretty involved and includes the idol and the family jewels. I do like a good outwitting. This is one reason why I’m not totally in love with Sherlock — I don’t really feel like he’s two steps ahead of people the way he is in the stories. It’s no fun if it’s all reacting and not acting! We may also have watched the episode of Arrested Development where Michael and GOB teach George not to orchestrate boyfights, and Buster teaches everyone not to use disabled people as teaching aids. Anyway.

The main problem I’ve been finding with romances so far is the “but I must be randomly an asshole — BUT REALLY I’M SUPER” thing that apparently guys need to be. It seems like it’s used more as a shitty way of creating tension and dragging things out. How do you win with this characterization? Either you say he’s actually a good guy, in which case *I* say JESUSFUCK STOP IT LET’S MOVE ON WITH OUR LIVES or he’s just an asshole but somehow sexy (like the Texan Wedding guy) in which case I say DON’T FUCK THAT LADY! DUDE!

Lord Spayne is like “Hey you two I totally am cool with Jack being Renton forever, why not, I am gay” (though Jack may be his son, blah blah blah) but Jack leaves anyway, because????

Then he’s all, aw dag yo, I guess I should come back from the dead. And he does, and they lurve each other forever, after getting for real married (though if he’s going to be Renton, why that matters I don’t know).

I just noticed there’s basically nothing about Cynthia in this, because who cares. She’s okay I guess. She does come incredibly easily, and possibly about a million times each time they do it, which is vaguely annoying. It seems less fun if you don’t have to put any work into sex, maybe? Is that a weird thought? Probably.

Well, hopefully the next book will be more interestingly stupid. It’s entitled “Seducing an Angel”, so fingers crossed.

 

 

*Not actually the Earl of Sandwich.

“The Accidental Princess”, by Michelle Willingham

Bad news, everybody.

I pretty much liked this one.

The year is 1855. Lady Hannah is a poor little rich girl whose life is dictated by her controlling mother (she isn’t allowed to have desserts even). Her parents want her to marry Outwardly Perfect Rich Guy, who is actually Evil Rich Guy. He kidnaps her from a ball in order to force her to marry him, but she’s saved by a penniless soldier who had been there as the guest of her brother.

Scandal! And she’s still going to be forced to marry the jerkass. He locks her into a room, but she brains him with a candlestick and jumps out the window with the penniless guy (he was keeping an eye on her because noble).

Of course they are enflamed with passion, etc etc, but she can’t marry him. Instead of being sent back to fight, he’s sent to accompany Important Dude of Fictional Germanic Country because excuses. She happens to be sent along with them for part of the way, to get her out of the way of scandal.

So turns out Michael is maybe the prince of Fictional Germanic Country instead of the guy who has been called prince of Fictional Germanic Country! Say what! Everybody wants to kill him! Hannah says FUCK IT! and celebrates her little bit of boatly freedom by FUCKIN IT! He also gives her a whole bunch of desserts and thinks it’s awesome that she loves them. I kinda <3ed that a lot. Fuck yeah desserts!

She decides to help him figure things out and pretends to be his wife while they travel to Fictional Germanic Country.

He is the prince of course, so that’s all nice and good. But Hannah is kidnapped! Evil Rich Lady Who Was Former Mistress To King Sweyn (Sweeeeeeeyyyyyyn) is like OH NO YOU DON’T SUCKAH! because dammit her son should be on the throne. This doesn’t make the most sense ever, since I don’t see how that has much benefit to her as she has lived in England for 20 years and her son doesn’t know she’s his mom or anything, BUT we are informed that She Be Crazy. So okay.

Anyhoo, Hannah says FUCK IT! and removes her boatload o’ petticoats in order to jump out of a moving carriage then run through woods. And the Faux Prince is not a bad guy so he goes and helps save Hannah. Michael kinda shows up eventually and he doesn’t get his new soldiers shot so that’s nice.

Ummmmm so they finally decide that they must get married because lurve and they do. Faux Prince stops one last plot against Legit Prince, just because.

That’s about the gist of it. The plot is not the least silly thing, but it does have an actual plot which is more than I can say about the other ones I’ve read so far…

I actually really enjoyed the characters! Michael and Hannah are pretty great! Hannah even alllllllllllmost touches her lady parts while thinking about his hotness, which I have decided is my fondest desire for a romance book. I suppose masturbation isn’t romance, but I would think it nice to include!

The sex is basic, of course, but it’s all about her and her pleasure so that’s nice too. It’s not perfect, it’s still a little heavy on PIV, but how can one avoid the Wang All-Mighty? Queer romance, maybe.

But they are both nice people who are of modern sensibilities without it being really anachronistic. So I rooted for those crazy kids, I did. AND HE WASN’T A GROSS CREEPFEST! It was pretty much all consent and respect, all the time! W00t!

Grade: H for huh, clearly I need to get some books that involve Vikings

Twice Promised, by Maggie Brendan

Twice Promised is set in Colorado, 1888. Cora and Greta travel to Central City to be mail-order brides. Turns out it was actually the brother who wrote to them and got them both to come on false pretenses! Classy!

Eventually the brothers decide to each pick a chick based on the pattern on a cup of tea. OH NO turns out everyone loves the wrong person! Hijinks ensue! Also there is a robber-turned-good-boy (thanks, Christianity!), a sassy grandma, and a dog.

Anyhoo, I’d just finished reading Mansfield Park before reading this, so the comparison was really interesting! In comparison, Christians today seem super insecure and do a lot of insipid talking about how god is totally great and something something bible whatever Corinthians wazza wazza wazza.

Fanny Price is not going around talking about the bible and God’s Plan For Her, even though she IS a total drip and religious. Austen’s ladies have better things to do than spout Christian buzzwords and saccharine crud about how the Lord Is Good. They show instead of tell, you. Whereas, for example — Cora also left her family because of her religion. They’re like “Hey, daughter! Stop doing nice things! Christianity is DUMB, DUMBO!” Sounds likely! Not cartoonish at all!

Also I forgot — Greta was engaged to the 3rd brother, but nobody realized it for some time. Fiance’s dying words were to tell her to marry his brother. Sure! Cool!

Basically the whole driving force of the story is that everyone loves the person they weren’t Officially Courting, and no one wanted to say anything. Okay! Makes sense!

It does fade out on their wedding night, which seems cheap, but I’m sure it was Beautiful And Meaningful. Still, wasn’t that bad, which is more than I can say for some things I’ve read.

In conclusion, this book was not very exciting, but they do all kiss and feel funny in their pants, so I guess that’s something. It’s not like they’re fuckin’ in Austen (aside from Maria or Kitty, of course, but we can’t speak of them in polite society). This book is far less into propriety, actually. Pretty much the Christian bits seemed utterly unnecessary to anything in the book other than letting you feel good about yourself and believe you’re reading something that’s somehow godly instead of just some generic romance (with NO RAPE! I’ll give it that!).

Rating: 1 solid meh, but thanks for the lack of assault, Maggie Brendan!