[FYI: this is not in any kind of order. And, as always, I have a list (that I try to keep updated) of my favorite romance novels.]


How the Marquess Was Won by Julie Anne Long (regency romance)

This is the sixth book in Long’s Pennyroyal Green Series. Technically published on December 27, 2011, odds are high I didn’t actually read it until like January 2, 2012. And since I’ve read it probably 8 times in 2012, it gets to go on this list. From my review:

I think I love this book because they just love being around each other so much. That is never in doubt. Instead, this is a story about how a marquess, who is desperate to secure land through marriage to another member of the elite, lets go of that dream in order to follow his heart. It about watching them learn what the other one loves. It is about courtship, even when they know they shouldn’t be courting (and the courting they do is in secret with gifts passed when others are looking, sweet notes that aim for the heart, and stolen embraces).

If you are into technicalities, Long’s seventh book in the series, The Notorious Countess Confesses, definitely came out this year and is nearly as good. I spent time recently reviewing the entire wonderful series (of which Marquess is my favorite).

My review for How the Marquess Was Won.

My review for The Notorious Countess Confesses.


Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas (historical romance)

This is the first book in a trilogy, all three of which were published this year and I would HIGHLY recommend all of them. My review for Beguiling the Beauty:

When I read this passage, I remember thinking to myself, “Well, I’m in love with these two characters now. I must know what happens to them.” Thomas’ descriptions leave no room for wondering who these characters are, what motivates them. It is such a reassuring feeling as a reader and it tethers you so completely to the narrative. You cannot, by this point, escape investing in them.


A Lady Awakened and A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant (regency romances)

A Lady Awakened was Grant’s debut novel and it, like How the Marquess Was Won, was released just before the end of the year in 2011. And I know I did not get a chance to read it until early in January this year. And I didn’t read it, I devoured it. And I was VERY lucky to become friends with Ms. Grant (via Twitter) and secured myself an advanced copy of A Gentleman Undone, which I also consumed nearly in one sitting. From my praise-filled post on Grant’s writing:

Grant is a master at pushing the story forward until the end (in both novels, despite knowing – believing – that somehow these characters would end up together, I was unsure until almost the very end how it would happen). She writes the most amazing sex scenes: many in A Lady Awakened were full of uncomfortable moments that make you feel how weird Theo and Martha’s arrangement would have been and how tightly closed Martha’s emotions and heart were from her physical body; in A Gentleman Undone, when we finally get the first sex scene between Lydia and Will, it is not ideal and the joy we expect is not present (and rightly so).

Grant does not force a story to go where it shouldn’t, doesn’t allow characters easy outs for sake of a specific narrative, and doesn’t tie up all the strings into a pretty bow. These people make sacrifices, they navigate the space they are allotted, and they do their imperfect best.


About Last Night by Ruthie Knox (contemporary romance)

I don’t read a whole lot of contemporary but since reading Knox’s debut novel, Ride With Me, which is also excellent, I have been more willing to give it a try. And while Knox has sort of converted me to contemporary romances, she has certainly made me a believer in all things written by Ruthie Knox. I feel very lucky that I can say that what Knox has coming out in the first months of 2013 will only continue her amazing streak of top-notch, funny, hot romance novels (and short stories).

My review of About Last Night (which also includes a review of Ride With Me).


A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare (regency romance)

This is one of my most favorite romance novels ever, which means it’s one of my most favorite novels ever. It is the second in a series. While I did not love the first one the way I did A Week to Be Wicked, the third one in the series, A Lady by Midnight, is phenomenal (my review). And to top it all off, Dare wrote a great short story titled “The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright” (my review).

From my review of A Week to be Wicked:

Minerva and Colin’s chemistry is never forced. You don’t doubt it at all when they fall in love. It doesn’t happen to early in the story, nor too late. The reasons that Colin fights it make sense. All of their motivations make sense.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Re-reading parts of the book to write this review have me considering reading it yet again (that, I think, would be the fourth time thus far).

Bravo, Tessa Dare.


Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase (regency romance)

Chase is always a good bet. I love her stuff. Scandal Wears Satin is no exception. From my review:

But, look. I read lots of romance novels and I don’t choose to spend time writing reviews of them. I knew I would be reviewing this one when I got the second sex scene between Sophy and Longmore. These two characters clearly like each other from the beginning, though neither will really admit it. Even after they have made love once, their prickliness does not diminish. And Chase – oh, bless her – captures it all so perfectly in the banter between them during this scene. I love this scene so much I’ve probably already read it four (or ten) times. It makes me chuckle each time. Hell, I’m chuckling now just thinking about it.


At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran (historical romance)

Not only did I get to read this amazing book but I got to review it for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, one of my most favorite sites on the interwebs. From my review:

More than anything, it is Nora’s reality as a high-born woman maneuvering in this dangerous political landscape that I found most interesting. English common law held that a woman was covered legally by her father and then husband (for this reason, it is referred to as “coverture”). She could not own property, sign contracts, or earn wages under her own name but also, in many cases, was not able to be held legally responsible for her actions. Widows, like Nora, had more power under the law but for high-born women, even if they legally had some power, they were restrained culturally and socially by their position. Duran captures this magnificently.


The Wedding Fling by Meg Maguire (contemporary romance)

A delightful, quick read with a very satisfying and believable happily ever after. From my review:

The best part is the ending. They fall in love quickly (something I normally roll my eyes at even in the best novels). But then, after Will’s secret-keeping comes to light and Leigh flees, time passes. And when they do come back together in the end, Maguire does not write it as some sappy, cliched moment. Leigh is measured and she is careful and she acknowledges her fears at the same time that she decides that her happiness is wherever Will is. Will is not exonerated for what he did but Leigh does forgive him. It just felt real and honest.


Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry (contemporary romance)

Just go read it. You’ll thank me later. From my review:

This book is so incredibly hot, the chemistry between the characters written to perfection. You cannot stop reading it once you start. At least, that was my experience as I read deep into the night even knowing that I was going to pay for it with a serious lack of sleep. It was well worth it.


The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne by Jayne Fresina (regency romance)

Okay so it is not technically out until January 1, 2013 but I read it a couple of weeks ago so, for me, it counts in 2012. And I absolutely loved this book so not including it would be wrong. Delightfully fun. Ellie is such a great leading lady, with wit and drive to spare. From my review:

As I was reading this book, I realized that there was a lot going on. And yet, I was never confused. I knew who everyone was and why they were there. It is quite the narrative juggling act but Fresina does it well.

I so thoroughly enjoyed reading every single word of this book. Watching these two characters, who start from a place of deep animosity, become lovers and friends is just a damn good time.


What were your favorites this year?

Well, I did it. I reviewed all 7. Here are they are:

Published in February 2008 by HarperCollins/Avon.

Long has created a story that has bound these people to each other so intricately and then gives you a scene where you can imagine perfectly why they would choose to let each other go, how that closeness would actually lead them apart (even as you know exactly why it will not).

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooksensePowell’s


Published in November 2008 by HarperCollins/Avon.

And it is through his relationship with Cynthia that Miles comes to understand how he has chosen to hide behind the role of the even-keeled, emotionless scholar: “I want you to know…that you’re wrong on one count, Cynthia. I have a heart. I have only…recently discovered this. Ironic, isn’t it? Given that I’ve made rather a life out of discovery. And I wish to God I had a choice. I wish to God I could…because if I could…” Cynthia stops him and flees the conversation. As she knows, having a heart is not at all useful to either one of their futures.

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes and Noble


Published in August 2009 by HarperCollins/Avon.

Okay. I’m going to keep this review pretty short because here it is: I did not like this book. Oh, how it pains me to write those words about anything Long has written.

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes and Noble


Published in July 2010 by HarperCollins/Avon.

There is so much to love in I Kissed An Earl. Even if Violet and Flint don’t admit it to each other for a long while, they are almost instantly attracted to one another and it takes only a very short time for them to fall in love. But they are at odds in their mission and that keeps both of them from acknowledging these things. Yet there are such sublime moments when Long describes their longing and their battle to remain unattached.

Purchase it: Amazon


Published on February 22, 2011 by HarperCollins/Avon.

Not only was this conversation pure delight but it was an important moment in their relationship because, for the first time, Moncreiffe sees Genevieve. And this side of her, this witty, pointed, intelligent side, he learns quickly is seen by almost no one else.

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes & NobleBrookline BooksmithIndependent BooksellersIndieBoundJoseph-Beth BooksellersPolitics and ProsePowellsRainy Day BooksTattered Cover Book StoreWatermark Books


Published in January 2012 by HarperCollins/Avon.

I think I love this book because they just love being around each other so much. That is never in doubt. Instead, this is a story about how a marquess, who is desperate to secure land through marriage to another member of the elite, lets go of that dream in order to follow his heart. It about watching them learn what the other one loves. It is about courtship, even when they know they shouldn’t be courting (and the courting they do is in secret with gifts passed when others are looking, sweet notes that aim for the heart, and stolen embraces).

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes & Noble


Published in November 2012 by HarperCollins/Avon.

They have very different life histories, Adam and Evie, yet, as the first quoted passage made clear, they are both very lonely. The Notorious Countess is about how these two very lonely, very different people forge an unlikely friendship. Their connection overflows with sexual tension and yet nothing physical happens. Evie’s past, of course, is more complicated that Colin knows. Adam’s attraction to her is in constant conflict with his profession, especially as he serves a population of people who judge Evie endlessly.

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes & Noble


Here is a link to the entire series in one place.

Do you love Pennyroyal Green as much as I do? Which book is your favorite?

Cover of Julie Anne Long's A Notorious Countess Confesses. A man, shirtless, sits behind a woman who is wearing a long white dress and red robe. One sleeve has slid down her arm and he is kissing her neck.

My reviews of all 7 Pennyroyal Series books.


One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out last Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually:

  1. The Perils of Pleasure
  2. Like No Other Lover
  3. Since the Surrender
  4. I Kissed An Earl
  5. What I Did for a Duke
  6. How the Marquess Was Won

Published in November 2012. I received an advanced reader copy from HarperCollins/Avon.

As this the final review of the seven, if you have read the other six, it will come as no surprise to you that I loved this book. While How the Marquess Was Won is still my most favorite (with I Kissed an Earl not far behind), this one falls just behind (even as I write this, I recognize the futility of attempting to order the Pennyroyal Series books).

The premise is rather simple. Reverend Adam Sylvaine, who has appeared in the series since book 3 and is related to Everseas through the matriarch of the family, spends his life in Pennyroyal Green serving his parishioners. He is a very good vicar and the role consumes his life. A telling scene with the lead lady protagonist illustrates the latter part:

“Sometimes the only choices we have, even the ones made out of love, isolate us.” He said this quietly.

She looked slowly up at him.

His eyes met hers.

He understood. And she understood: Who asked him about himself? Who truly saw him? Who took care of him? The people here saw in him their own desires and needs; they saw him as a set of qualities, as beautiful and kind and trustworthy. He was what they needed him to be.

Not unlike her.

“You’re lonely.” It emerged inflected with revelation. She didn’t add “too.” She knew that was understood.

“She” is the notorious Evie Duggan, former actress and widowed countess with a reputation so large in London that she ran to Pennyroyal hoping to escape its shadow. Of course, no woman can escape a reputation as gossiped about as hers. Colin Eversea, the hero of the first Pennyroyal book, explains her past to Adam:

“Well, in the beginning, Reverend Sylvaine,” he intoned, “There was the Green Apple Theater. The Countess of Wareham was known as Evie Duggan then. She was an opera dancer. Sang a bit, danced a bit, acted a bit, showed her ankles, wore gossamer clothing. There was a song-and-dance bit about pirates I liked a good deal. She became quite the attraction. We all vied for her attention. Spend my allowance on flowers for her more than once. She would have naught to do with me, of course, because she knew what she wanted, and I wasn’t it. Not enough money. No title. Mind you, she was frank about it and never unkind. Such were the charms of Miss Evie Duggan that she rapidly moved up in the world — started appearing in plays at Convent Garden… And then a man wealthy enough came along,” Colin continued, “or something along those lines, because she gave up the theater and became what we’ll call a professional courtesan. And then another man came along who had more money and power, and she gave up the first man. And then she married…the Earl of Wareham when he won the right to do it in a card game…. then the Earl of Wareham died just a short while after they married. Rumor has it she killed him.”

They have very different life histories, Adam and Evie, yet, as the first quoted passage made clear, they are both very lonely. The Notorious Countess is about how these two very lonely, very different people forge an unlikely friendship. Their connection overflows with sexual tension and yet nothing physical happens. Evie’s past, of course, is more complicated that Colin knows. Adam’s attraction to her is in constant conflict with his profession, especially as he serves a population of people who judge Evie endlessly.

Halfway through the book, they waltz. And – oh my heavens – their attraction has been building and building such that him simply touching her hand and her waist is almost too much to bear. A little while later, after putting a necklace around her neck, he FINALLY kisses her – ON THE NECK! And you’re so emotionally taut and worn down by this point, you can’t imagine, as the reader, how the characters themselves have not yet ripped each other’s clothes off and done it up against the nearest tree. But if they had, if Long had written it that way, it would not have been honest to the characters, their pasts, their presents, or how they see their futures. Long, like these two characters she has written, does not give in simply because that is easier. I love/hate her for it as a reader.

There is nothing manufactured in Adam and Evie’s long, slow burn of a relationship. And Long’s narration is glorious in all its pain.

And I love that in this tale, it is Adam, our vicar, who knows very little about making love and Evie, our former courtesan, who is the expert (it is rare to find a regency romance with this dynamic).

How this ends, well, we all KNOW the ultimate result (it is a romance novel, of course). But it is not an easy road from the point when they have sex to the denouement. They make poor choices, Adam in particular, and it is hard to watch the relationship for which we have waited so long suddenly unravel (harsh HARSH words are spoken – I actually gasped out loud reading them). But it makes the final scene that much more spectacular.

I give The Notorious Countess Confesses 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes & Noble

Cover for How the Marquess was Won. The man in lounging on a couch, his shirt open, chest exposed. She is sitting on the ground in front of him in a brilliant orange dress and is leaning back against his chest.

My reviews of all 7 Pennyroyal Series books.


One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out last Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually:

  1. The Perils of Pleasure
  2. Like No Other Lover
  3. Since the Surrender
  4. I Kissed An Earl
  5. What I Did for a Duke

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

How the Marquess Was Won (Pennyroyal #6)

Published in January 2012.

Summary from Long’s site:

Ruthless, cold, precise, Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, tolerates only the finest—in clothes, in horseflesh, in mistresses. And now he’s found the perfect bride, the one whose dowry will restore his family’s shattered legacy and bring him peace at last: the exquisite heiress Lisbeth Redmond.

But one unforgettable encounter with Lisbeth’s paid companion, Phoebe Vale, and the Marquess is undone: this quiet girl with the wicked smile and a wit to match is the first person to see through the icy façade to the fiery man beneath. But their irresistible attraction is a torment as sweet as it is dangerous: for surrendering to their desire could mean losing everything else they ever wanted.

This is my favorite in the series so far. And if you’ve read the reviews of the other books, you will know that is saying a lot.

This is the first book in the series where neither protagonist is a Redmond or Eversea child. And I didn’t miss them at all, I must say.

Phoebe is a teacher at the girls’ school in Pennyroyal Green. Seeing no future for herself there, she plans on doing missionary work in Africa. She is saving up for her trip, indulging only in what Long calls “her secret vice”: broadsheets that spread gossip about the elite in London. The star of those broadsheets? Julian Spenser.

They meet in a shop in Pennyroyal. She is there staring at the hat she loves but can’t afford, he is there to buy a gift for the woman he is wooing, Lisbeth Redmond. Phoebe overhears a viscount bet Julian ten pounds that he can’t get a kiss from the schoolteacher. So, when Julian shows up soon after at her school to tour it and see if it is good enough for the daughter of a friend, Phoebe is both infatuated and annoyed.

The back-and-forth that Long has written for these characters, right from the get-go, is so…well…perfect. I’m swooning a bit just thinking about it.  This excerpt begins with Phoebe telling Julian about her plans:

“I should like to go to Africa.”

“Africa!” She may as well have said the moon. What on earth did one say to this? Missionaries did go on missions to Africa. He imagined they needed teachers. “To . . . work?”

He delivered the word gingerly, after a pause.

She burst into laughter. It was the best thing he’d heard in a very long time, that laugh, better than any opera or musicale, better than birdsong or the sound of hooves clattering around a racetrack or the sighs of a mistress or any of his other favorite sounds. Her eyes vanished completely and her head tipped back and he could even see molars. He basked, astonished and pleased.

“Oh, my goodness, Lord Dryden. You should have seen your face when you said the word work. It’s not counted among the deadly sins, you know. But I thought, yes, that’s what I would do there.”

“With . . . missionaries?” He frantically riffled his brain for anything at all he knew about Africa and why people would go there. “Perhaps to teach?”

“Yes.”

“Because . . . you are so saintly?”

Imagine that. Now he was flirting a little. The smile she gave him here was the very opposite of saintly. Slow, and crooked and pure imp.

I am not including a whole lot of dialogue only because I am displaying an incredible act of will power here. This whole exchange, which stretches across chapters, is so pleasing and fun and makes it clear from the start how easily and hard these two will fall for each other.

Their next discussion takes place in the Redmond home. Both are there for a house party, Phoebe acting as Lisbeth’s paid companion. He did not know she would be there and was happily surprised to see her. They discuss why she is there:

“So. Am I correct in assuming that you’re a . . . shall we say, paid companion of sorts . . . for the next few days?”

She smiled faintly. “You’ve managed to make that sound so . . . unsavory.”

“Because I knew it would make you smile, saintly creature that you are.”

She tried not to laugh. She really ought not. She ought to fetch a damned reticule. “You’ve the right of it. Lisbeth’s mother was unable to attend the festivities, and she thought it best Lisbeth have a companion near her age present. Lisbeth invited me. I once tutored her when she was younger, and we became friends after a fashion. And now I suspect my job is to protect her from the likes of you.”

He liked that. His eyes brightened. “Ah. Are you a decoy? Like a wooden duck set free on a pond during hunting season?”

“Are you suggesting that you’re drawn to me, Lord Dryden?”

He smiled slowly.

She smiled slowly.

The two of them together . . . well, really.

He smiles. She smiles. I smile. WE ALL SMILE.

I think I love this book because they just love being around each other so much. That is never in doubt. Instead, this is a story about how a marquess, who is desperate to secure land through marriage to another member of the elite, lets go of that dream in order to follow his heart. It about watching them learn what the other one loves. It is about courtship, even when they know they shouldn’t be courting (and the courting they do is in secret with gifts passed when others are looking, sweet notes that aim for the heart, and stolen embraces).

Just over halfway through the book, Julian messes things up badly by asking Phoebe to not go to Africa but to stay and be his mistress. And he cannot, for his life, understand why she finds that insulting since he has made his intentions about marriage clear to her from the beginning (MEN!).

In a twist of plot, Phoebe goes to Town for part of the season and she spends a fair amount of her time exchanging long glances and mean words with Julian. She claims he does not understand her need to belong, he calls her a coward for not risking censure to be with him. They come together and break apart repeatedly. He courts Lisbeth in the meantime all the while pining for Phoebe. She loves him but knows only how to survive by running as far from him as possible.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is one my most favorite romance novels ever. I have read it numerous times and writing this review makes me think I may re-read it again.

Final thought: One of my favorite Julie Anne Long books that is not part of this series is To Love a Thief (highly recommend this one, too) and there are multiple shout outs in this book to the characters in that one. It warmed my heart to think of all these characters occupying the same fictional spaces, being friends.

I give How the Marquess Was Won 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes & Noble

Up Next: The Notorious Countess Confesses.

A man and woman are about to kiss. They are in front of a star-filled sky. Her hair is being blown back by the wind, his shirt is falling off his shoulders.

My reviews of all 7 Pennyroyal Series books.


One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out last Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually:

  1. The Perils of Pleasure
  2. Like No Other Lover
  3. Since the Surrender
  4. I Kissed An Earl

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

What I Did for a Duke (Pennyroyal #5)

Published on February 22, 2011 by HarperCollins/Avon.

Summary from Long’s site:

For years, he’s been an object of fear, fascination…and fantasy. But of all the wicked rumors that forever dog the formidable Alexander Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge, the ton knows one thing for certain: only fools dare cross him. And when Ian Eversea does just that, Moncrieffe knows the perfect revenge: he’ll seduce Ian’s innocent sister, Genevieve—the only member of the powerful and wealthy Eversea family as yet untouched by scandal. First he’ll capture her heart…and then he’ll break it.

But everything about Genevieve is unexpected: the passion simmering beneath her cool control, the sharp wit tempered by a gentleness that coaxes out his deepest secrets… And though Genevieve has heard the whispers about the duke’s dark past, and knows she trifles with him at her peril, one incendiary kiss tempts her deeper into a world of extraordinary sensuality. Until Genevieve is faced with a fateful choice…is there anything she won’t do for a duke?

This review could consist solely of dialogue between Genevieve and Moncrieffe (this will also be true for the next book in the series, How the Marquess was Won). It is worth reading this book for that aspect alone.

Early on, as the two of them are walking along, Genevieve asks him, “What are your pleasures and pursuits, Lord Moncrieffe?” He feels that she is simply trying to humor him before she can catch up with her friends (one of whom, Harry, Genevieve believes she loves). In order to shock her and grab her attention he responds, “Well, I’m partial to whores.” She stumbles over the word in her questioning response and so he says:

“I . . . I beg your pardon—Horses. Honestly, Miss Eversea,” he stammered. “I do wonder what you think of me if that’s what you heard.” He shook his head ruefully. “Horses. Those hooved beasts a man can race, wager upon, plow a field with, harness to a phaeton, and drive at deliciously reckless speeds.”

She stared at him now as he walked. Those wide eyes went narrow, bringing him into focus, isolating him in a very potent, too intelligent beam of blue.

“And one cannot do any of that with whores?” she asked softly.

His turn to drop his jaw. He clapped it shut again.

At this point, you know this is going to be goooooooooooood.

Not only was this conversation pure delight but it was an important moment in their relationship because, for the first time, Moncreiffe sees Genevieve. And this side of her, this witty, pointed, intelligent side, he learns quickly is seen by almost no one else.

And the fun of it all is that Genevieve is very observant herself and she sees through Moncrieffe and his nefarious plan to seduce her as punishment for her brother very quickly. She tells him that she is onto his game and Moncrieffe says:

“Game? I don’t understand. What makes you feel there’s a—”

She heaved a sigh that all but bent a furrow in the grass at their feet.

“Oh, enough,” she said irritably. “Very clever people often assume no one else is as clever as they are. Which isn’t very clever of them, when you think about it.”

He admits his plans to her then. And then there we are with two characters who often hide major aspects of themselves from everyone else revealing themselves to each other.

[A side note: I appreciate Long so much because she did not use Moncrieffe’s duplicity as the impetus for a major showdown at the end of the story. Very often in romances, one character is lying to another about something major, they hold onto that lie for the entire book, and then the lie serves to break the happy (or almost happy) couple up. It is something to be overcome, to see if their love is strong enough. It was surprising in the best way possible that Long did not do this because it upended what I imagined would be the plot and made me realize that this would be a different story than I had expected.]

Genevieve, for all her cleverness, cannot seem to get that she isn’t really in love with Harry (and that Harry isn’t worth loving). It is so frustrating for the reader. And that is mirrored nicely in Moncrieffe’s frustration:

“Genevieve, I saw something in you Lord Harry didn’t see, can’t see, because it isn’t in him to see it. Ask yourself why this is so. Ask yourself whether this might be rather an essential oversight on his part. Ask yourself if you’ve just discovered something about yourself that you may otherwise never have known. Ask yourself why you came looking for me last night, and whether you want to know more.”

He turned to look at her now.

“Because . . . I’m the one who can show you. And you may never have another chance to learn it in just this way. With someone you can trust. And who wants it as badly as you do.” […]

“I want you badly. You want me badly. I want to make love to you. No more . . . juvenile fumblings. I want you naked beneath me. The decision is entirely in your hands.”

And almost symbolically, he released her hands then. Gave them back to her. And to think she’d once enjoyed his honesty.

He wants to teach her the art of making lurve. Of course, by this point, he is totally in love with her and we are all simply waiting for her to realize it. And boy, does it take her a while to get it. It takes her nearly making the very wrong choice to suddenly see her heart, to know within whom her future lay. As she says to Moncrieffe once she finally does get it: “I couldn’t see it because you are my heart, damn you! And how can I see my own heart if it’s beating in my own chest?” And he responds, “And so you see now.”

GO READ THIS BOOK!

One of my favorite things about Long (there’s a long list, whatever) is the auxiliary characters. In this one, it’s Millicent, Genevieve’s friend who fancies herself an artist. This is the scene when Moncrieffe first looks at Millicent’s sketches:

He slowly turned the pages, one by one. One by one. Kittens playing with a string. Kittens lapping milk. Kittens sniffing flowers.

“Lady Blenkenship?”

“Yes?”

“Do you like kittens?”

“Oh, I do!” she confided breathlessly.

He sighed, handed the sketchbook back to her, and to her astonishment promptly abandoned her and wended his way through the crowd. He didn’t dislike kittens. But life was too short to continue this conversation.

[all the chuckles]

Final thing. There is a hot moment between Genevieve and Moncrieffe before she learns of his plan to seduce her. He asks her if Harry has ever kissed her and she reveals that he did once…on her hand. In the ensuing conversation, Moncrieffe reveals to Genevieve what the perfect kiss on the mouth is like:

“A proper kiss, Miss Eversea, should turn you inside out. It should . . . touch places in you that you didn’t know existed, set them ablaze, until your entire being is hungry and wild. It should . . . hold a moment, I want to explain this as clearly as possible . . .” He tipped his head back and paused to consider, as though he were envisioning this and wanted to relate every detail correctly. “It should slice right down through you like a cutlass with a pleasure so devastating it’s very nearly pain.”

Stop, she should say. “And . . . ?” she whispered.

“It should make you do battle for control of your senses and your will. It should make you want to do things you’d never dreamed you’d want to do, and in that moment all of those things will make perfect sense. And it should herald, or at least promise, the most intense physical pleasure you’ve ever known, regardless of whether that promise is ever, ever fulfilled. It should, in fact . . .” he paused for effect “. . . haunt you for the rest of your life.”

I’d like that kiss, please.

I give What I Did for a Duke 4 out of 5 stars (only because I am comparing it to the rest of the Pennyroyal Green series and it is not my most favorite so I need somehow to distinguish…but this is an amazing book).

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes & NobleBrookline BooksmithIndependent BooksellersIndieBoundJoseph-Beth BooksellersPolitics and ProsePowellsRainy Day BooksTattered Cover Book StoreWatermark Books

Up next: How The Marquess Was Won.

Cover for Long's I Kissed an Earl. The woman, in a pink off-the-shoulder dress, is straddling the man, who is lying almost shirtless on a bed.

My reviews of all 7 Pennyroyal Series books.


One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out on Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually. I will go in order of the series, one review per day for the next seven days.

  1. The Perils of Pleasure
  2. Like No Other Lover
  3. Since the Surrender

[SPOILERS ahead]

I Kissed An Earl (Pennyroyal #4)

Published in July 2010 by HarperCollins/Avon.

Summary from Long’s website:

Violet Redmond’s family and fortune might be formidable and her beauty and wit matchless—but her infamous flare for mischief keeps all but the most lionhearted suitors at bay. Only Violet knows what will assuage her restlessness: a man who doesn’t bore her to tears, and a clue to the fate of her missing brother. She never dreamed she’d find both with a man whose own pedigree is far from impeccable.

“Savage,” is what the women of the ton whisper about the newly styled Earl of Ardmay—albeit with shivers of pleasure. Born an English bastard, raised on the high seas, he’s on a mission to capture a notorious pirate. But while Violet’s belief in her brother’s innocence maddens him, her courage awes him…and her sensuality finally undoes him. Now the man who once lost everything and the girl who has everything to lose are bound by a passion that could either end in betrayal…or become everything they ever dreamed.

The first time I read I Kissed An Earl, I re-read it immediately. That’s how much I enjoyed this book.

I love Violet. Yes, she is sometimes incredibly stupid in her decision-making. She is stubborn and impetuous and she acts before she thinks. But oh my, how she feels. She embraces the moment, she pushes people to react, and she does what is in her heart even if others refuse to believe in her. She also stands up for the people she loves. She is willing to risk so much of herself for them. It is incredibly admirable. Her flaws are necessary to throw into relief all the very good about her. Long has written a character that you want (need?) to see succeed.

And in the Earl of Ardmay (Asher Flint) Violet has met her match. By making Flint the captain of a ship, Long has presented Violet with a partner who is used to getting his way and who demands that Violet pay attention to the larger consequences of her sometimes thoughtless or reckless decisions. But by making Flint vulnerable in his position as a new Earl (and a bastard), he longs for acceptance and Violet provides that for him. As much as she needs him to help her locate her brother, he needs her to help him locate himself. Underlying it all is the fact that within the Remond family, Violet feels that no one truly sees her (which is what causes her loud, brash persona). Flint sees her almost immediately.

Early-ish in the story, Long describes how Violet feels as she gazes at Flint across a room: “She took the opportunity to study his profile. It was a strange, painful pleasure to run her eyes over the strong, singular lines of his face. What is happening to me? She felt as though she’d been given wings but denied flying lessons.” This quote — the title of this post — captures perfectly the way that Violet and Flint are in love but know not what to do about it.

There is so much to love in I Kissed An Earl. Even if Violet and Flint don’t admit it to each other for a long while, they are almost instantly attracted to one another and it takes only a very short time for them to fall in love. But they are at odds in their mission and that keeps both of them from acknowledging these things. Yet there are such sublime moments when Long describes their longing and their battle to remain unattached. Violet, in one scene, asks Flint about his lover whom he hopes to make his wife: “”Oh. Are you in love with her?” Out that question had come. She didn’t want to know. Oh, that was a bloody lie. She wanted to know desperately. No she didn’t.”

Eventually, of course, they do decide to be together, even if it is temporary (and they know not how it will all play out once they find Lyon). And in that, Long shows us the sadness of this decision as much as the joy:

She was in utter disarray. She didn’t care. She didn’t care about wrinkles or her hair. She was a woman who could kill, who could eat bread rocks, who could survive being pounded by a monster wave and living in a vole hole. She’d been undone completely by this man, turned inside out. She wanted only him, and suddenly life was simply and unbearably beautiful and sad. She’d given everything. She was glad. But Violet felt as anchorless and alone, suddenly, as Asher Flint must have felt his entire life.

Like all Long novels, the dialogue is fun and the pacing perfection. In one of my most favorite scenes in the novel, Violet and Flint are having dinner in France with a former lover of Flint’s who has recently married. The former lover is jealous of Violet and angry at Flint and so says thinly veiled terrible things about Flint in front of all the guests. Violet, as she is wont to do, immediately and without forethought, comes to Flint’s defense with her own pointed and clever insult. I laughed out loud and wanted to pump my fist. To see a regency romance heroine be so rude and rightly so to another member of the elite was satisfying. And for her to do it in such a way as to progress the romance, even better.

Some of my favorite quotes from this novel:

  • One day she might grow accustomed to his smiles, but for now each new one was like stumbling across an undiscovered constellation. She felt unequal to them.
  • The earl seemed like a landmark. Like something she’d always known.
  • She was smiling a little too often in his presence, and he in hers, and suddenly she felt as aloft, as softly glowing, as that moon. Dangerously, deliciously unmoored.
  • Her eyes were in shadow. But he could see her mouth curve a little. And even over the rush of the sea, he could hear her breathing. Which mean her heart was beating faster now. He liked being the reason for this.
  • But he could feel the pleasure and triumph radiating from her. I made her happy. Oddly, the realization that this made him untenably happy also made him irritable.
  • It was all a blur now, a languid grappling tangle of bodies. She may have kissed his eyelid. She did kiss his temple. She licked his collarbone, tasted salt and skin before his lips reclaimed hers. She wanted to bite him. She didn’t.
  • He dropped each syllable heavily, wearily, ironically. “…and yet I cannot sleep at night for wanting you.”
  • How foolish I am, she thought, with sudden frightening clarity. He was so much more real than everything else around him. I only feel real when I’m near him.
  • Good God, what a poor thing she’d been before, a half person. She didn’t know what this made her now.
  • His whole life would now be a paste imitation of life without her. Violet was the only person with whom he’d ever truly belonged.

I give I Kissed An Earl 4.5 out of 5 stars. (trigger warning: the .5 off is because I did not like the running theme of “I can take you whenever I want you,” a threat that Flint laid at Violet’s feet when he first found her on his ship and brought back up when it helped him manage her behavior. I just hate the implicit threat of rape even if I understand why a ship captain would use it.)

Purchase it: Amazon

Up next: What I Did for a Duke.

cover of Long's Since the Surrender. A man and woman are embracing, she in her yellow dress and him shirtless.

My reviews of all 7 Pennyroyal Series books.


One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out on Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually. I will go in order of the series, one review per day for the next seven days.

  1. The Perils of Pleasure
  2. Like No Other Lover

Since the Surrender (Pennyroyal #3)

Published in August 2009 by HarperCollins/Avon.

Summary from Long’s website:

Fearless. Loyal. Brilliant. Ruthless. Bold words are always used to describe English war hero Captain Chase Eversea. But another word unfortunately plays a role in every Eversea’s destiny: trouble. And trouble for Chase arrives in the form of a mysterious message summoning him to a London rendezvous…where he encounters the memory of his wickedest indiscretion in the flesh: Rosalind March—the only woman he could never forget.

Five years ago, the reckless, charming beauty once craved the formidable Captain’s attention. But now Rosalind is a coolly self-possessed woman, and desire is the last thing on her mind: her sister has mysteriously disappeared and she needs Chase’s help to find her. But as their search through London’s darkest corners re-ignites long-smoldering passion and memories of old battles, Chase and Rosalind are once again challenged to surrender: to the depths of a wicked desire, and to the possibility of love.

Okay. I’m going to keep this review pretty short because here it is: I did not like this book. Oh, how it pains me to write those words about anything Long has written. And ever since I read the book (it was the last of the seven that I read), I’ve been trying to figure out why I did not enjoy it. The answer, in theory, is easy: I did not connect to the characters right from the start nor did I ever really come around. And so when it came time for me to invest in them as a couple, I just couldn’t do it. And this is despite the fact that they were ridiculously HOT together (I can’t really overemphasize this point). I mean, here is the scene when they first have sex:

She turned her head. Whispered adamantly, “Now.” She said it for his sake as well as her own: she didn’t need to be kissed. She wanted to be fucked. Too long too long it had been too long. And Captain Eversea, so accustomed to giving commands, obeyed hers. And when he moved, the slide of him inside blindsided her. Her release struck like lightning; she immolated, became light and flame.

[fans self]

Perhaps my dislike and disconnect was due to the reason these two characters come together in this book. As I said when I reviewed The Perils of Pleasure, I’m not a huge mystery/romance reader. And in Since the Surrender, the mystery has a commanding presence. And I just didn’t care about it. I found myself skimming sections that were primarily about finding Rosalind’s sister and, once we got to the reveal, I shrugged. It all felt too forced.

In all honesty, I might not have finished this book had it not been written by Long. I may even go back and try to re-read it to make sure that it wasn’t that I happened to read it at a time when I was particularly impatient or unfocused — that is how much I respect her writing and narrative ability.

Still, I give Since the Surrender 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Next up: I Kissed An Earl.

Image of cover of Like No Other Lover. A woman in a red dress stands in front of a man, her hair swept up. She has her head turned and she leans her forehead against his. His hands wrap around her and are just below her breasts.

My reviews of all 7 Pennyroyal Series books.


One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out on Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually. I will go in order of the series, one review per day for the next seven days.

1) The Perils of Pleasure

[Spoilers ahead…]

Like No Other Lover (Pennyroyal #2)

Published in November 2008 by HarperCollins/Avon.

Summary from Long’s website:

It’s the last chance for Cynthia Brightly, the ton’s most bewitching belle. Driven out of London by a secret scandal, she mustfind a grand husband at the Redmonds’ house party before word of her downfall spreads all over England. Unfortunately, someone at Pennyroyal Green is already privy to the whispers of broken engagements and dueling lovers: Miles Redmond, renowned explorer and—thanks to his brother’s disappearance—heir to the family’s enormous fortune.

Miles set his sights on Cynthia once, at a time when the ambitious beauty thought herself too good for a second son. But now he’s the heir apparent, relishing in his control. He strikes a bargain with her: he’ll keep Cynthia’s steamy secrets and help her find a husband among the guests—in exchange for a single kiss.

What could be the harm in a simple kiss? Cynthia is about to discover that it’s enough to unleash fierce passion-and that Miles Redmond is most certainly like no other lover in the world.

Unlike The Perils of Pleasure, it took me much longer to get into this book and into the relationship between the two protagonists, Miles and Cynthia. The characters are stand-offish, which is the point. Miles has goals in life. He wants to continue his adventures abroad to foreign locales and to be a famous author of natural histories (there are even hints that he may be the next president of the Royal Society). Cynthia is a poor woman who must marry before a scandal and the reality of her financial status become well known. They are each scrambling to set up the future they desire. And since Miles can only secure the funding he needs for his upcoming trip by marrying the woman his father demands, he cannot marry Cynthia. And since Cynthia must marry, she cannot waste time pining for Miles. Inevitably, they only desire each other.

To the outside world, they each present themselves as people without hearts. Miles is cold, calculated, and stiff, trapped in a role created by his position in the Remond family. At one point, Long writes, “but beneath his amusement sizzled irritation. I’ve a heart, too, he wanted to say. I’m not just gravity. I can be furious. I could do something rash. I could suffer torments.” But Cynthia, who most perceive to be flighty, fickle, and silly, reads their differing, heartless personas very keenly. She says to Miles at one point, ““I know what you think of me, Miles. I know what you-have thought of me. But I have a heart. I do have a heart. I just cannot afford to use it. Don’t you see? Why can’t you see this? Whereas you—may play at all of this as much as you like. There will always be someone for you. And that is the difference: I cannot afford to use my heart. And you—you choose not to use yours.”

And it is through his relationship with Cynthia that Miles comes to understand how he has chosen to hide behind the role of the even-keeled, emotionless scholar: “I want you to know…that you’re wrong on one count, Cynthia. I have a heart. I have only…recently discovered this. Ironic, isn’t it? Given that I’ve made rather a life out of discovery. And I wish to God I had a choice. I wish to God I could…because if I could…” Cynthia stops him and flees the conversation. As she knows, having a heart is not at all useful to either one of their futures.

One of Long’s great strengths is that she uses the sensual and sexual scenes in her novels to advance the plot and to reveal the characters. Not only are the scenes incredibly well written but they do something for the story. If you skim them, you lose important details.

When Miles and Cynthia finally have sex in the novel, each character finds in it a wholeness to themselves. Miles believes that “it might very well be the first and last time he used his body for its truest purpose.” And Cynthia, immediately afterward, while making the decision to finally leave the Redmonds’ home and Miles, assesses the impact that Miles has had on her heart and her life:

He’d broken her heart open like an egg, but inside was…the whole world. And as she looked back at him, she felt the serrated edges of her heart in her chest. But also a sort of dizzying vastness: she could face anything now. Loving and being loved had given her that kind of strength, and a sort of permanent safety she could carry with her forever. So she would not be spending her life with him. Life was not fair: that’s what made it interesting. And she had probably been much luckier, in her day, than anyone had a right to expect.

Of course, I will not tell you specifically how this ends. You will be satisfied, that I promise you.

I would be remiss to finish this review without mentioning how incredibly FUNNY this book is. One scene in particular (and if you’ve read the book you know *exactly* what I’m talking about) will have you laughing out loud wherever you are when you read it. I think the first time I read the scene, I actually cried because I laughed so hard.

Despite the slow beginning, I enjoyed Like No Other Lover immensely. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase it: AmazonBarnes and Noble

Next up: Since the Surrender (hint: this is the only book in the series I did not like).