Tag Archives: Juliana Gray

A Princess in Hiding Series: The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match

Despite the wonderful writing and Juliana Gray’s consistent ability to create interesting characters and throw in some excitement, I couldn’t fully enjoy the Victorian romance novella The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, but I didn’t mind. I paid a reasonable sum for the book, and since I borrowed all of her other novels from the library, I am happy to have contributed to Gray’s coffers. May she enjoy my shekels in good health and continue to devise the complex, dovetailed series plots and wonderful characterizations at which she excels.

From Amazon: Aboard the luxuriously appointed SS Majestic, the duke is on a mission to retrieve a most important portfolio of papers and thwart a known anarchist. As the ship steams across the Atlantic, the duke’s search for the notorious master of disguise forces him into close quarters with an American heiress and her widowed governess, Mrs. Penelope Schuyler. While Olympia has known his fair share of intriguing women, Mrs. Schuyler seems to have a way of challenging his expectations at every turn. But as their clandestine meetings lead them down an unexpected path, the duke must determine if Penelope is a woman to be trusted.

The Duke of Olympia appears in both of Gray’s published trilogies and I have described him previously as “a conniving old son of a bitch thoroughly experienced in shenanigans”. A compelling character, there is just one problem with giving him his own book and a love interest. He may be 6′ 5″ tall, hale and hearty, broad of chest and deep of voice, but he is seventy-four years old. It’s a perfectly reasonable age to fall in love in the real world, but for a romance novel he falls beyond the line for me. I could have lived with sixty. The heroine, Penelope, a delightful character, is just about fifty. Age differences, of course, grow less important in relationships the older we get, but Olympia is SEVENTY-FOUR years old and Penelope is young enough to be his daughter. I am a Woman of a Certain Age and The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match has the character equivalent of me becoming romantically involved with my father-in-law. I couldn’t get past it. If Penelope had been a decade older, or the Duke younger, I would have been delighted to read their story, but the combination of the vast age difference and his septuagenarian status became an insurmountable combination.

For a historical romance with large age difference that works, I recommend Julie Anne Long’s genre classic What I Did for a Duke. He’s pushing forty, she’s twenty and Long absolutely pulls it off.

Also by Juliana Gray:

The Affairs by Moonlight Trilogy
A Lady Never Lies
A Gentleman Never Tells
A Duke Never Yields – most recommended of the three

A Princess in Hiding Trilogy
How to Tame Your Duke
How to Master Your Marquis – most recommended of the three
How to School Your Scoundrel
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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The Complete Reading List by Author

Short Version: Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, these are ruthlessly streamlined recommendations lists –

So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Plus just for funsies: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I have more content based lists over there on the right  –>

Annual Reading Tallies & Author Commentary 2012 – 2017
On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now actually)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

-A-
Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark)
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Ashley, Jennifer Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Mac/Isabella)
Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Cameron/Ainsley) – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Hart/Eleanor)
Ashley, Jennifer Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart)
Ashley, Jennifer The Seduction of Elliott McBride (Elliott/Juliana)
Ashley, Jennifer The Untamed Mackenzie novella (Lloyd/Louisa)
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Daniel/Violet)
Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess novella (Steven/Rose)
Ashley, Jennifer Rules for a Proper Governess (Sinclair/Roberta “Bertie”)
Ashley, Jennifer A Mackenzie Clan Gathering (Ian/Beth)
Ashley, Jennifer Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound) novella (Ronan/Elizabeth)

The list has gotten SO VERY LONG, please click on the jump.

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A Princess in Hiding Series: How to School Your Scoundrel by Juliana Gray

The last novel in Juliana Gray’s “A Princess in Hiding” Victorian romance series, How to School Your Scoundrel features a challenging hero and a remarkably self-possessed and capable heroine. Luisa is the eldest and last hidden princess. Like her sisters Emilie and Stefanie, she fled her country after her father, the Crown Prince, was murdered in a coup. Luisa’s husband was killed as well. Secreted away by a first-rate manipulator and conniving bastard, their uncle, the sisters were trained to masquerade as men and then sent to work in disguise for conveniently marriageable protectors. Particularly deft with plotting, Juliana Gray has cleverly intersected and overlapped Emile, Stefanie, and Luisa’s stories. With her sisters safe, it is time to learn how Luisa will be returned to power in her homeland and just happen to find a suitable Consort along the way. Her position as the secretary for the Earl of Somerton is a good start. The villain of book two in Gray’s  “Affairs by Moonlight” series, A Gentleman Never Tells, Somerton is an almost entirely irredeemable character. To become a decent human being, Somerton’s heart will need to grow three sizes and the leaden lump of his soul be alchemized into gold. Gray manages two sizes and some silver.

The challenge of Somerton’s redemption is that so much of his behaviour is that of a classic bully. Profoundly resentful of his wife Elizabeth’s lack of affection for him and the serene mien she is able to nonetheless affect, he is torn between seeking to control her and not knowing how to let go. Elizabeth’s side of the marriage was shown in A Gentleman Never Tells. It was compelling and heartbreaking. The reader may be seeing the other side of the coin in How to School Your Scoundrel, but Somerton is still a jealous, manipulative, overbearing son of a bitch. The suggestion that he would change in a new relationship was not enough for me. There is a moment late in the book when Luisa and Elizabeth are alone and Luisa tells her that she never gave Somerton a fair shake: “Yes, he can be brutal. But he also has the capacity for great devotion. And you never knew. You never gave him a chance, did you? You never opened your heart to him.” I see, so the stalking and paranoia are his wife’s fault, are they? If it was just that Somerton was heartbroken at his wife’s lack of feeling for him, it would be sympathetic; however, he is jealous and obsessed with her imagined infidelity. He has her followed, investigated, and isolated. He rejects their child. Elizabeth did her best to live honourably in an untenable situation while her husband hounded her by day and whored by night. Part of the point of marrying into ruling a country is that he will be strong and betimes ruthless which he certainly is, but the novel did not have time to transform him into a reasonable human being as well.

Another issue I had with the story was whether or not I wanted to read a book about a dictator, whatever the suggestion of benevolence in counterpoint to the dastardly revolutionaries, being returned to power, especially when the novels are set in 1889 and said autocrats are leaders of a German principality. I err on the side of democracy and just because the country was being turned into a different kind of dictatorship did not suggest to me that what the citizens needed was a return to the status quo.

How to School Your Scoundrel was well-written and Gray almost pulled off a huge character transformation. I’m sure Somerton’s brute with a heart of gold will appeal to some readers, but I am not one of them. Still, you should give Gray a try. She has six books out and this is the only one I wouldn’t recommend. I particularly liked Stefanie’s book, How to Master Your Marquis from this series and  A Duke Never Yields from the “Affairs by Moonlight” trilogy which has a lighter tone over all.

Also by Juliana Gray:

The Affairs by Moonlight Trilogy
A Lady Never Lies
A Gentleman Never Tells
A Duke Never Yields – most recommended of the three

A Princess in Hiding Series
How to Tame Your Duke
How to Master Your Marquis – most recommended of the three
How to School Your Scoundrel – see above
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match (novella)

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

The Affairs by Moonlight Trilogy: A Lady Never Lies, A Gentleman Never Tells, & A Duke Never Yields by Juliana Gray

Who else loves to see an autocratic hero brought down a peg? My newfound delight in Juliana Gray continues with the historical romance trilogy Affairs by Moonlight, including A Lady Never Lies, A Gentleman Never Tells, and A Duke Never Yields. If you read them in order, you have two books to wait before the aforementioned peg lowering and they are a really enjoyable ride.

The Set Up: It’s 1890. Three aristocratic/aristocrat adjacent English men rent a villa in Tuscany to escape Society, explore their individual interests, and study. Three aristocratic/aristocrat adjacent English women rent the same villa in Tuscany to escape Society, explore their individual interests, and study. Neither group had anticipated the other, nor are they pleased. They divide the house down the middle and everyone fails to stay in their prescribed area thus allowing hijinks to be fruitful and multiply.

A Lady Never Lies – Finn and Alexandra

The Duke of Olympia’s acknowledged bastard son and all around smart guy, Phineas Burke is retreating to Italy to work on his automobile in anticipation of a race in Rome later in the year. Society darling, and respectable widow, Lady Alexandra Morley is pretending to be taking a year to better herself, but in reality has fled London in hopes of sorting out her finances. Their story was engaging and blissfully free of complex machinations. There’s a villain, of course, and it takes Alexandra a while to come around, but Finn is lovely and that rarest of romance novel heroes, a redhead.

Extra appreciation to Gray for a story incorporating early automobiles. I’ve read a couple of books set in this era and they are always fun.

A Gentleman Never Tells – Roland and Lilibet

This was the first book I read from Affairs by Moonlight before going back to get A Lady Never Lies from my library and following it immediately with A Duke Never Yields. In A Gentleman Never Tells, the hero is a charming, espionage-y good guy masquerading as a wastrel caught in the trap of his own seeming indolence. If I had a romance novel nickel…

Roland and Lilibet fell in love six years ago, but he was forced to abandon the relationship. Lilibet was convinced to marry another man and did her best to love him. She has fled to Italy with her son to hide from her husband. Mr. Lilibet is an absolute bastard. So much so, in fact, that the rate at which matters escalate and their intensity when he enters the story is a bit of a shock when juxtaposed with the rather fun little maguffin. (Said horrendous individual will be the hero of the next book in Gray’s current series. Talk about given yourself a writing challenge.)  Roland’s heart practically Pepe-Le-Pews itself out of his chest around Lilibet. She has spent years finding what honour she can in her life, but has reached an impasse. Roland’s devotion crosses into “Really?” with some details, but their delight in each other is very sweet.

Gray’s heroes, particularly this one, say things like “Blast!”, “Dash it all,” and, “Right ho!”. My father, whom I always described as somewhat Edwardian, used these expressions his whole life. He used less savoury language as well, but even then he sounded formal.

A Duke Never Yields – Wallingford and Abigail

This was my favourite of three books, in spite of magic realism elements that were both a bit much and unnecessary. Interestingly, this subplot was minor enough in the first books that I didn’t really clue into what was being implied until I got to book three. There are ghosts and a curse. Sure.

The Duke of Wallingford is tall, autocratic, and “magnificently disagreeable”.  Free-spirited Abigail has selected him as her first lover. He fits very nicely into her year-long scheme of adventure and exploration. Abigail has vowed never to marry and voluntarily removed herself from Society so that she can do fun things like bet on horse races and travel. Wallingford is a perfect fit, except that he engineered the non-fraternization policy for the castle. What Abigail does not know is that he is a self-shaming slut and attempting to be a self-reforming rake as well. The goal of his year off is to make something of himself as a person and to stop putting the make on every woman he sees. Abigail simply sees an experienced man who will meet her needs, but once her emotions become involved, she sees that his previous behaviour shows a pattern that will be dangerous to her emotional well-being. There are a lot of *cough* busy heroes in romance. This is the second novel, the first being Any Duchess Will Do, wherein the hero realises that his conduct has been repellent. But it’s fun. No really, it’s fun. Abigail ties him in knots.

The reading order for the Affairs by Moonlight series isn’t crucial as the plots are contemporaneous rather than sequential, although A Duke Never Yields will be best read last. Juliana Gray is a really good writer whom I will continue to look for. I cannot imagine how complicated it was to interweave three stories so successfully, completely, and without unnecessary repetition. Reading the books so close together one can really see how the scenes are balanced. Well done.

Also by Juliana Gray:

 

A Princess in Hiding Trilogy
How to Tame Your Duke
How to Master Your Marquis
How to School Your Scoundrel 
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match (novella)

 

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

A Princess in Hiding Series: How to Tame Your Duke & How to Master Your Marquis by Juliana Gray

New author! Juliana Gray is a very strong historical romance writer with a wonderful turn of phrase, a gift for simile, and great smolder. It is such an unexpected pleasure when a book randomly selected from the romance spinner at one’s library results in a new novelist to enjoy. I went back the next day, and the next, to get more of her books. Gray will be going on my woefully short good authors list and may well end up as an autobuy.

The “A Princess in Hiding” trilogy features three German aristocrats, Emilie, Stefanie, and Luisa, who have fled political unrest in their home country to arrive in London and the bosom of an uncle who has the least British-sounding aristocratic title in all of romance: the Duke of Olympia. A conniving old son of a bitch thoroughly experienced in shenanigans, he trains each woman and then sends her into hiding as a young man and, coincidentally, the story of what happens to each of them takes about 350 pages to tell.

How to Tame Your Duke – Ashland and Emilie

The Duke of Olympia arranges for Princess Emilie to be hired by the Duke of Ashland as a tutor for his teenaged son, the Marquess. Aristocracy is very thick on the ground in this series. In the wilds of Yorkshire, Emilie succeeds in her efforts to appear to be a bearded male despite my extremely serious misgivings about how convincing a fake beard would be up close on a day-to-day basis in 1889. Ashland  is big, battle-scarred, and several other Gothic things, but basically a very nice, very intense man. His Duchess decamped 12 years ago, so it is just he and his son in his palace on the moors which, sadly, is not also in the style of a Moorish palace. Emilie and Ashland fall in love, not while she is pretending to be a man, but while she is pretending to be a prostitute which is not quite as squicky as it sounds. All the truths come out, except the one about who is trying to harm the princesses, and this particular one weds her prince Duke.

I liked the characters in How to Train Your Duke, I even liked the young Marquess. Gray did not dwell overmuch in the machinations and subterfuge for which I was grateful. Emilie was a strong woman and determined not to be treated as the kind of pawn women often were in her situation. She takes what she wants.

How to Master Your Marquis – Hatherfield and Stefanie

Princess Stefanie ends up hiding in the home of a renowned criminal defense barrister (that’s going to come in handy later) who just happens to be the close friend of a man so good-looking that she refers to him as “The Archangel” in her head. James Lambton, Marquis of Hatherfield, is a glorious, beautiful, and charming man. Estranged from his parents, he spends a great deal of time at his friend’s home. His presence increases when he meets Stefanie and realises IMMEDIATELY that she is a woman dressed as a man and that she requires protection. I thought it a bit much that Ashland didn’t figure Emilie out sooner, so kudos to Gray on the logic of this twist. Unfortunately for Hatherfield, his friend’s house also contains one Lady Charlotte who is determined, and in league with Hatherfield’s parents, to land the Marquis. In a historically unrealistic, but modern applause worthy move, Hatherfield exploits the horror at his clearly inappropriate infatuation with the law clerk and lets everyone think he is gay and therefore relieve the marital pressure.

I was charmed by both of the main characters in How to Master Your Marquis; however, there was a plotting element involving sexual abuse that I did not like as it took me out of the fantasy realm these novels dwell in. It was not an exploitative or a particularly large element, but its very presence diminished the book for me. I have zero tolerance for subplots like these in romance. Caveat reader.

The last book in the trilogy, How to School Your Scoundrel, comes out in June and I will be looking for it at my library. In the meantime, I am reading another Gray trilogy, Affairs by Moonlight, and the titular rogue of How to School Your Scoundrel appears as the utter bastard of a villain in one of the books. It will be interesting to see how well Gray can reform such a reprehensible individual.

Great Details:

  1. The men are referred to almost exclusively by their titles, i.e. Ashland and Hatherfield, or their last names.
  2. Aristocrats have servants, lots of servants. It’s an uncomfortable period detail to those of us not enamored of inherited privilege, but an accurate one.
  3. Hatherfield is a rower. This explains his beautiful physique and provides a rare thing in romance: justifiable muscles.
  4. Stefanie and Emilie slept in the same bed growing up. What an excellent period detail.
  5. How to Master Your Marquis has a simultaneous flash forward plot that Gray dovetails extremely well with the present story line.

Also by Juliana Gray:

The Affairs by Moonlight Trilogy
A Lady Never Lies
A Gentleman Never Tells
A Duke Never Yields – most recommended of the three

A Princess in Hiding Series
How to Tame Your Duke
How to Master Your Marquis 
How to School Your Scoundrel 
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match (novella)

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.