Tag Archives: Julie Anne Long

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.