Tag Archives: Julie Anne Long

The Three Sisters Trilogy: Beauty and the Spy, Ways to Be Wicked, & The Secret to Seduction by Julie Anne Long

Before I begin: Thank you, Malin, for the loan of these books. My Julie Anne Long collection was not going to complete itself.

These three historical romances are an early trilogy from one of the genre’s best writers. Good, but not great, one can feel Julie Anne Long picking up speed and confidence as one moves through the novels. The heroines of each of the three books are the daughters of a Member of Parliament and his beloved mistress. Although never married, their parents had an exclusive, long-term relationship until their father was murdered, their mother was accused of the crime and fled into exile, and a loving family friend took it upon himself to see to the welfare of the three little girls. It was the worst Tuesday ever. The sisters’ efforts to reunite and to bring their father’s murderer to justice is the through line of the trilogy.

Beauty and the Spy (Kit/Susannah)

Susannah is feeling a skooch squelched in her perfect life. Everything is fine, but she’s not really able to completely be herself. Don’t worry, complications are about to enter her life like whatever the Regency version of a Mack truck is. Her father dies, she is left penniless, subsequently fiance-less, and she has to move to a remote village to begin a life of genteel poverty. Fortunately, Kit is there conducting a wildlife survey on his estate.  It’s a McGuffin within a McGuffin as Kit’s convenient presence is at the behest of his tired and protective father. Sparks fly, romance ensues, family secrets are discovered and create a through line for the next two books…

Ways to Be Wicked (Tom/Sylvie)

Ways to Be Wicked offered a pleasantly different take on the Regency era. Everyone actually works for a living – QUELLE HORREUR! – and no one looks askance at taking what opportunities for increased financial security may come.

Sylvie has just learned that she has a sister in England (Hint: It’s Susannah.) and runs away from her life as a Parisian ballet dancer/aristocrat’s mistress to find her family. She ends up working in an, um, gentleman’s theatre as one of a collection of young women whose job it is to wear diaphanous clothing, twirl, and exclaim “Whee!”. She’s not to happy about it, but the man who hired her, Tom, is meshuggah good-looking and fascinated by her. Sparks fly, romance ensues, family secrets are discovered and create a through line for the next book…

The Secret to Seduction (Rhys/Sabrina)

I don’t find the remnants of feudalism all that appealing, but they are very important to Rhys who is an aristocrat of some sort. An earl, I think. I can’t remember this book well. Sabrina is a vicar’s daughter and joins her friend as a house guest (It’s coming back to me.) at Rhys’s recently restored estate. She falls ill and has to stay behind, Rhys is a jerk who decides to  compromise her as some sort of egotistical entertainment – Rhys does not start well, readers – they get caught in a MAJOR clinch, and end up in a marriage of convenience.  (I remembered!) Rhys and Sabrina live separate lives for a bit, he shows up of an evening for procreative purposes, they find their way into a good marriage, then Rhys’s deep dark secret comes out and everything goes KABLOOEY! before being put back to rights. Note: The KABLOOEY! inducing plot twist is pretty darn good.

The Secret to Seduction wraps up the Three Sisters trilogy with a neat bow thus freeing Julie Anne Long to move on to her current Pennyroyal Green series. I have read all of her output and will now spend my time eagerly awaiting her next book. Unfortunately for the readers, but pleasantly for the author, Long’s publishing schedule is about one novel a year. She is a clever and fun writer with a deep and joyful love of sarcasm who pens entertaining and charming novels. Long’s most compelling work so far is What I Did for a Duke. In it, she pulls off a huge age difference and creates a fantastic hero. The heroine is pretty terrific, too, but he is magnificent. All of Long’s books have themes of vulnerability and the necessity of laying oneself bare in order to take a chance on creating genuine happiness for oneself. It’s a lovely thought and she does it so well.  I like to keep her handy on my autobuy list.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

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 Pennyroyal Green Series: Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long

Tansy Danforth is isolated, orphaned, and looking to a family friend to help her both settle in a new country and, this is a historical romance after all, marry to gain access to her inheritance. Fortunately for Julie Anne Long fans, the friend is Alex Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge who, along with Genevieve his Duchess, is from Long’s classic romance pairing in What I Did for a Duke. Tansy is staying at the Eversea estate in Pennyroyal Green while she gets her footing. Her hero is Ian, the lone unmarried Eversea son and someone who has always been an entertaining addition to the novels.

In What I Did for a Duke, Ian was the story catalyst when he was found in whatever state is the razor’s edge of in flagrante delicto with Alex’s soon-to-be erstwhile fiance. Alex planned a retaliatory ruination of Ian’s sister Genevieve and, of course, fell in love with her instead. As an added bonus to the falling in love, Alex took the opportunity to torment a well-deserving Ian for his sins. Rakish to the degree that he shows very poor judgement and behaves selfishly, Ian needs someone to lead him a merry chase to help get him back on track as the person he manages to be in other aspects of his life. Enter Tansy and Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.

Tansy is the woman who stories like to tell us women hate. She is beautiful. She steals all the male attention. She feigns confusion and claims incompetence to flatter and soothe. (Okay, I admit I do loathe that in men and in women.) She flirts endlessly, shamelessly, but not really as subtly as she thinks she does. Instead of being cold or calculating, Tansy is desperately lonely and doing her best to garner attention, even superficial attention, to take the edge off her isolation. This is not to say that she can’t be a bit annoying. It’s a habit she needs to break. Tansy is young, she has had too many bad things happen in her life, and she is doing her best. Ian sees through the flirtation inasmuch as he recognizes it as an act, but it takes longer for him to truly see Tansy. Long shows the reader Tansy’s real self through her interactions with her guardian and the people most would consider inconsequential in their world. When Ian and Tansy genuinely see each other, they, of course, find their match.

Julie Anne Long seldom disappoints and she does not do so here, nor does she truly succeed. She is one of the best writers in the historical romance business and I always eagerly anticipate her new releases. As one would expect, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea is wry and frequently laugh out loud funny. She balances character development and sincere romance with a consistently droll tone which is a fine accomplishment indeed. From a thematic perspective, I’ve realised that a lot of Long’s protagonists are people trying to figure out how to be in control in world where they have little to none. Even those who seemingly have power or choice are not immune to loss, life, and the struggle to manage it. Only when they surrender the masks or efforts for control do they have the opportunity to build something more. It’s a lovely through-line for her books.

I don’t know if I’ve been too subtle about it, but What I Did for a Duke is delightful and a classic of the genre. If you are a romance fan and have not yet read it, do yourself a favour and snap it up at the same time as you buy Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

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 Runaway Duke by Julie Anne Long

Julie Anne Long has written a classic historical romance, What I Did for a Duke; two excellent ones, A Notorious Countess Confesses and It Happened One Midnight; a rather delightful novella, To Love a Thief; and an assortment of very enjoyable books in her Pennyroyal Green series. The Runaway Duke is one of her earliest novels and I read it for back catalogue completion purposes only.

Through a convenient and maguffiny series of Napoleonic War events, Conor Riordan, fifth Duke of Dunbrooke, has shucked off his title and is living incognito as an Irish groom at the home of the novel’s rather young heroine Rebecca Tremaine. In The Runaway Duke, the two take it on the lam when the  villain mistakenly compromises the wrong Tremaine sister, Rebecca, and she is going to be forced into a reputation saving marriage. Hijinks ensue.

I mentioned in a review of another author that I often find a writer and think that she shows promise only to discover that she has already published a lot of books. That is not the case here. I knew going in that this would not be of the current quality I expect of Julie Anne Long. The Runaway Duke has issues including heavy plotting, an unbelievable false identity (no one would volunteer to be Irish at that time in British history), and the story does goes on a bit; however, all of the elements that would develop into Long’s signature style are present: wonderful humour, clever writing, charming central characters, and, yes, the fact that maybe, sometimes, I don’t know, I’m just saying, she can be a skooch twee.

One of the things that people suggest when trying to save me from the ignominy of reading so much romance is that I should write one. It’s as though all of the shame they think I should feel for my reading choices, and that they feel on my behalf, would be washed away under the cleansing justification of “research”. There is nothing like reading an early effort by a talented author to intimidate any writing   impulse right out of me. I am far too lazy to write a book in the first place and far too impatient to be willing to write several before I have the chance to be even remotely as good a novelist as Julie Anne Long now is.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

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

The Pennyroyal Green Series: It Happened One Midnight by Julie Anne Long

This is the part I wrote before I read the book which is, as one might expect should one be paying attention to both me and such things, a historical romance novel and which, as one might expect of someone who often takes longer to write the reviews than read the book, has been copiously revised since.

It Happened One Midnight is a new release from someone on my autobuy list and as such makes me very, very happy.  There are authors for whom I will pay full price and whose books I order in advance for Kindle. In order of quality with one being “magnificent” and 5 being “You show promise, Caroline,”, and no one being anything less than very good indeed, they are:

  1. The Monarch, Courtney Milan, who happens to have a book coming out on July 15th.
  2. Julie Anne Long – DING! DING! DING!
  3. Tessa Dare released a delightful book two weeks ago called Any Duchess Will Do
  4. Sarah MacLean whose next book comes out in November.
  5. Caroline Linden who has a new book out on July 30th.

This is the part I wrote while reading the book…

Julie Anne Long is the second best author in historical romance and while that may seem like damning with faint praise, the simple fact is that Courtney Milan is genre-defyingly good; HOWEVER, to give credit where it is due, Julie Anne Long is an extremely clever writer and is actually funnier than Milan. She creates entertaining conversation, well-rounded characters, and magnificent smolder. Her current series, which will be at least 10 books if I am adding correctly, is built around the fictional Sussex town of Pennyroyal Green and features the Eversea and Redmond families. This time it is Jonathon Redmond’s turn and, to be honest, I wasn’t that excited about his story. He hadn’t made much of an impression in previous appearances. I. Was. Wrong. I’m 25% of the way through It Happened One Midnight and it is laugh out loud funny.

Thomasina (which is apparently not pronounced Tamsin as I had been gulled into believing and I still think I’m right) “Tommy” de Ballesteros is the illegitimate daughter of a displaced Spanish princess or some such. I’m not really clear on that yet. She moves within Society, but is not precisely of it. She supports herself and does good works of the more than slightly dangerous variety. Confident, rich and rakish Jonathon Redmond is the youngest of four children and his controlling and obscenely wealthy father is about to cut him off without a penny. It’s something Isaiah Redmond does quite often: cuts children off, drives them away, and forbids their delightful, but inappropriate, wives entry to the family homes. Things of that nature. In this case, Jonathon has shown some prowess with investments, although he is between profits at present, and hoped his father would help him invest in a colour printing press, the first of its kind in England. Isaiah says, “No. I want you to get married in the next six months to an appropriate rich woman with a title or lose your inheritance. Your mother will put it about that you are available. I’m cutting off your allowance.” Now Jonathon needs an investor and/or a suitable wife. Tommy needs to create some security for herself and would very much appreciate it if people would stop assuming that she is a courtesan.

Back to reading, but first something for you to do while you are waiting. I have reviewed two of Long’s books and I recommend both of them very highly: A Notorious Countess Confesses and What I Did for a Duke which is a classic.

After devouring It Happened One Midnight

Julie Anne Long’s best work features truly swoonworthy heroes and vibrant heroines. Jonathon and Tommy are great both together and individually.  Long gives them time to grow and opportunities for the reader to see how they fit together.This was an engaging, winsome and satisfying read. The subplots involve poignant exploration of nineteenth century social issues and the nature of family. Long continues to be in great form and avoided the twee pitfalls of her last book, but not all of the editing issues which is a very minor quibble.  I emphatically recommend It Happened One Midnight.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

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

The Pennyroyal Green Series: A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

I’ve started on reviews of many random novels and revisited the basic, and, I discovered, quite outdated romance tropes introduction from my first entry. But let’s be honest, I only wrote it because I was embarrassed about reading historical romance novels genre fiction, and wanted to be wry and self-basting. It’s one hundred and twenty books later and I know the current constructs, character types, and that the consummation devoutly to be wished occurs around page 200. I can explain which authors write the best love scenes and that the books range from fade-to-black to thisclosetoerotica. (Wikipedia tells me the when it is thisclosetoerotica, they call it “romantica” which sounds like an android sex worker who, for 5 dollars more, will tell you that she loves you.) None of this matters. What I like and don’t like in regard to the love scenes is of interest only to me, Mr. Julien, and the version of Daniel Craig that lives in my id. It would tell you more about my tastes and proclivities than about the genre; however, if YOU want to read this kind of book, I recommend not only reading the first couple of pages as you would any book, but also flipping forward to about page 200 when they get busy. Running into an off-putting love scene can derail the entire reading experience, so you should get a preview first. I once looked at a book by a major romance author and found the phrase “and sucking, and sucking, and sucking, and sucking”. That’s right, four “and suckings”. An apt description of the writing, as well.

Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses continues her Pennyroyal Green series focused on the Redmond and Eversea families. In my review of What I Did for a Duke, I congratulated Long on pulling off a huge age difference. Her challenge this time is the character Malin and I enjoy referring to as “the hot vicar”. He is indeed very hot: tall, literally and metaphorically broad-shouldered, hard-working, sincere. The novel setting is Regency (God, I hate the clothing), so it was church or military, and Adam Sylvaine ended up with a family living from his Eversea uncle. It means he need not have been chaste nor uptight, but simply a good man who ended up in an available profession, and one he turned out to be very well suited for*. The heroine is the Countess of the title, Evie. I did not realise until quite far into the book that the main characters were Adam and Eve. It is mostly forgivable and also indicative of Long’s tendency towards the quietly twee.

Evie supported her brothers and sisters by working as an actress, then a courtesan, although “there were only two”, and lastly she married an Earl who won the right to wed her in a poker game. When the story begins, she has just come out of mourning for the Earl and moved to the house he bequeathed to her in Pennyroyal Green. She has a scandalous reputation, just enough money, and a desire to start again. She falls for the hot vicar because, while he is drawn to her, he is so self-possessed and at ease with himself that he is immune to her attempts to charm him, and to the facades she wears as self-protection. He is a good man, albeit a preternaturally attractive and charming one, but this is romance fiction after all. Adam takes Evie under his wing to help her join local society and find friends. The local women are alternately horrified and deliciously shocked by her. Evie is able to build a new life and Adam is given a safe haven from the constant demands and burdens of being the (hot) vicar.

Despite the fact that I prefer more sardonic rake in my heroes, I LOVED 90% of this book and Julie Anne Long is on my auto-buy list. She always manages to balance fantastic sexual tension, sincere characters, and be funny. She is so good at the tension that the most intense scene in the book involves Adam kissing Evie on her shoulder. There were flames shooting off my Kindle. Long also pulls off a very clever running joke about embroidered pillows that crescendos with dueling Bible verses about licentiousness. So what went wrong with that last 10%? I overlooked the patronizing attitude towards the harried mother, and the whole boots and breeches impossibility, but the ending was TWEE AS FU*K. It started out swooningly-romantic and then kind of fell apart for me. Her last novel, How the Marquess Was Won, (she needs to fire whomever approves these titles) suffered the same fate: Fantastic romance undermined by trite plotting choices. Right up to that point though, it was wonderful, and head and shoulders above the “and suckings” of the genre.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

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

*Given that Julie Anne Long usually has a couple of enjoyably detailed love scenes, part of me secretly hopes that some naive fool looking for “Christian romance” bought this because it was about a (hot) vicar, had her hair blown straight back, and will follow up with a horrified one star review on Amazon.

The Pennyroyal Green Series: What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long

I’m still reading historical romance novels and I keep a list of them as though tracking such things makes it any less ignoble. I call it The Shameful Tally. I also track the heroes’ names (Alex and Sebastian being the most popular), and the books so awful that I gave up on them.

What I Did for a Duke is from Julie Anne Long’s “Pennyroyal Green” series about the Redmond and Eversea families. She has set herself up quite nicely for a large group of interconnected novels as is a standard practice in this genre. It gives the reader a chance to revisit their favourite characters and is something I particularly like; so much so that I must confess, I have even bought a book only because I knew I’d get to see “Sebastian and Evie” (Lisa Kleypas The Devil in Winter) again. I adore them. I will buy any book they are in. Publishers are smart and I am easily led. From this Julie Anne Long series, I’ve also read How the Marquess Was Won. That book was so good, so good, oh Sweet Fancy Moses that is romantic, wait, is this high school?, oh, now, it’s all fallen apart, RATS! By the way, if you think these titles are bad, Long has a book called I Kissed an Earl that is waiting for me on my Kindle. As if the cover art weren’t embarrassing enough, these titles add insult to ignominy.

I’ve sampled about 2 dozen writers and you’ve got to give a writer credit where it is due: If you can pull off an almost 20 year age difference and make it not only palatable but irrelevant, you are on the right track. What I Did for a Duke pairs 20 year old Genevieve Eversea with “almost forty” (a phrase often and lovingly repeated) Alex Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge. He is a widower out for revenge against Genevieve’s brother, Ian, for attempting to bed the Duke’s fiancée. Over the course of a house party, Alex sets out to seduce and leave Genevieve, but, pleasantly enough, the revenge plot is called off when this young woman figures it out, and is far lovelier and more attractive than Alex had anticipated. She’s bright and banters well. He’s charming and kind of autocratic. Tra la la. They get married. YAY!

There is nothing new here which is good because I am not looking for anything new, just fresh. It’s nice to see a standard revenge plot dismantled, but the real reason that this book works is simple: Julie Anne Long is very funny and she writes great smolder. That’s all it takes really; in fact, if you can pull off the funny, you don’t necessarily need the smolder, and, yes, she is that funny. [There was more here, but I’ve redacted the original pointlessly scathing review details.]

Edited April 17, 2013: I now consider Julie Anne Long one of the best romance writers currently publishing. Lisa Kleypas really skewed the curve for a while there when I was starting out with this phase. I bought this book as well as almost everything else Long has published, and she is on my autobuy list.

Edited October 1, 2013: What a bitchy review. So bitchy, this is the second time I have edited something that only I will see. What I Did for a Duke is a CLASSIC and I couldn’t see it at the time. The hero, Alex, is in the pantheon of great heroes. There are some issues with the structure, but the fact  is that in addition to the overall charm, humour, and delicious smolder, there is a two or three chapter section in the middle of the book that is simply magnificent. It features the hero and heroine having the kind of conversation that people falling in love have. The dialogue is honest and beautifully written, but what truly elevates it is the silences. There are long pauses during which the characters think and the reader follows their emotions to their conclusion. It’s just superlative and because it, and the rest of the book, are true to the emotional lives of the characters, Long accomplishes what every romance writer sets out to do.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.