Tag Archives: Rules for the Reckless

Rules for the Reckless Series: Lady Be Good and Luck Be a Lady by Meredith Duran

This is a previous review updated with the next book in the series…

Lady Be Good

Meredith Duran writes very strong, character driven historical romance, but Lady Be Good never quite grabbed me. It was as accomplished as readers have come to expect from Duran and involving at the time, but I didn’t really think about it once I was done. That said, I would really like to read the next novel in the Rules for the Reckless series, Luck Be a Lady, as it involves an up-from-the-the-gutter hero and a very proper heroine and those are almost always fun.

From Amazon: Born to a family of infamous criminals, Lilah Marshall has left behind her past and made herself into the perfect lady. Working as a hostess at Everleigh’s, London’s premier auction house, she leads a life full of art, culture, and virtue. All her dreams are within reach—until a gorgeous and enigmatic viscount catches her in the act of one last, very reluctant theft… Christian “Kit” Stratton, Viscount Palmer, is society’s most dashing war hero. But Kit’s easy smiles hide a dark secret: he is haunted by a madman’s vow to destroy anyone he loves. When his hunt for the enemy leads to Everleigh’s Auction Rooms, he compels Lilah to help him.

From Me: Hijinks ensue.

In addition to that whole “a crazy person wants to destroy Kit and all he holds dear” thing, Lady Be Good has some great fish-out-of-water elements and commentary on the place of women in the Victorian world. Hamstrung by convention, Lilah must steer herself very carefully in making her place, and her employer, Catherine, is fighting the same battles, but from within a different class. The romance worked well, too, but I found female characters more interesting and look forward to meeting them again. Not that Kit wasn’t charming and engaging, as was his interaction with Lilah, but he didn’t jump off the page the same way his heroine did.

Luck Be a Lady

From Amazon: THE WALLFLOWER – They call her the “Ice Queen.” Catherine Everleigh is London’s loveliest heiress, but a bitter lesson in heartbreak has taught her to keep to herself. All she wants is her birthright—the auction house that was stolen from her. To win this war, she’ll need a powerful ally. Who better than infamous and merciless crime lord Nicholas O’Shea? A marriage of convenience will no doubt serve them both. THE CRIME LORD – Having conquered the city’s underworld, Nick seeks a new challenge. Marrying Catherine will give him the appearance of legitimacy—and access to her world of the law-abiding elite. No one needs to know he’s coveted Catherine for a year now—their arrangement is strictly business, free from the troubling weaknesses of love.

To go all Accuracy Police on Amazon’s ass, Catherine is a Victim of Circumstance rather than a Wallflower and this character type combined with a crime lord is quite common in romance. Why, if I had a nickel for every one of those I’ve read, I’m guessing I would have maybe, conservatively, upwards of 60 cents. As a rule, the term “crime lord” simply means the hero climbed up out of the gutter and now owns a casino, or “gaming hell” in the genre parlance. It’s shorthand for rich and ruthless climbers. Nick is no exception having started out as a thief and worked his way up to a position of power and, most importantly, wealth through his gambling establishment. When we meet him, he’s become a kind of pater familias to the local rogues gallery. Catherine is resolute and pretty ambitious herself, so they make a potent combination against her brother and his willingness to be simultaneously gormless and uncompromising at every turn.

I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted to or felt like I should like it. I enjoyed both main characters – Nick is romance catnip – but I felt the romance never quite held together or smoldered as much as I would have liked. I appreciate how independent and canny Duran’s heroines are, and the way they fight for themselves, or learn to do so, but more couple time would have been appreciated. I would suggest reading Fool Me Twice or the delightful novella Your Wicked Heart instead.

Also by Meredith Duran:

Rules for Reckless Series (not entirely interconnected, more of a theme)
That Scandalous Summer – very good
Your Wicked Heart – delightful novella
Fool Me Twice – excellent
Lady Be Good – nothing special
Luck Be a Lady – better than Lady Be Good, but still nothing special

Not Rules for the Reckless Series
Bound by Your Touch – excellent
Written on Your Skin – not my style, but very good

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

Rules for the Reckless Series: Your Wicked Heart by Meredith Duran

Amanda Thomas was stood up at her wedding. Now, having gone to her fiance’s hotel to find out what the hell happened, she encounters a man who says her beloved is an imposter.  Everyone agrees with him, bowing and scraping in a way that strongly suggests he may very well be the real Viscount Ripton. Here we are just one chapter into the Victorian romance Your Wicked Heart and our heroine is alone, penniless, unemployed, confused, jilted, stranded, and still wearing her very uncomfortable wedding dress. To add insult to injury, the man claiming to be the real Viscount Ripton accuses Amanda of being a swindler and insists that she travel with him on his quest to find the truth. Sure, he’s gorgeous, but that doesn’t make up for the scorn and accusations. Ripton, for his part, will not be distracted by Amanda’s Bo Peep prettiness and latches on to her as the best hope of finding the cousin masquerading under his name.  Hijinks ensue. Fun, frolicsome ones because this is a road trip novella and hijinks love taking it on the lam.

As I have opinions about historical romance that I feel compelled to share, I must say that I always feel the road trip is the romance plot which requires the most violent willing suspension of disbelief.  The couple is thrown together intimately and in defiance of even more societal conventions than usual. Your Wicked Heart  also follows that pattern, but I didn’t mind. A romp was not what I expected from Meredith Duran, or for just 99 cents on Amazon, but a lighthearted adventure is what the story provides. Amanda is plucky and determined. Ripton is dutiful and single-minded. Worn down by Ripton’s intensity and sense of duty, Amanda’s natural charm has the same effect on Ripton. Because Duran’s greatest strength is character development, the more serious personal elements are what help balance the novella’s playful aspects. Your Wicked Heart is a fun quick read with a small twist at the end that makes everything feel a little more gravitas-y.

Also by Meredith Duran:

Rules for Reckless Series (not entirely interconnected, more of a theme)
That Scandalous Summer – very good
Your Wicked Heart – delightful novella
Fool Me Twice – excellent
Lady Be Good – nothing special
Luck Be a Lady

Not Rules for the Reckless Series
Bound by Your Touch – excellent
Written on Your Skin – not my style, but very good

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

Rules for the Reckless Series: Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran

Meredith Duran writes character driven historical romance.  She’s sometimes a little more serious* than I prefer, but her latest release, Fool Me Twice, strikes a fantastic balance. I suspect it’s her best yet, but I am too busy working through her back catalogue at the moment to make any kind of judgement. It is very, very good. I highly recommend this book and will be adding Duran to my autobuy list forthwith.

Alastair de Grey, Duke of Marwick is nothing to write home about as the story begins. The villain of Duran’s last novel, That Scandalous Summer, Marwick was a fiercely intelligent polymath and active political figure when at his best and before his monumental pride was reduced to ashes. Having learned that his almost beloved wife manipulated and betrayed him, Marwick has completely withdrawn into himself. Enter Olivia Holladay who has problems of her own. On the run, she uses a trumped-up reference letter under an assumed name to get hired on as Marwick’s housekeeper. Olivia knows he has the material she needs to blackmail her pursuers into submission. The only problem is that, having made a survey of the house,  she realises the incriminating information is in Marwick’s own bedroom. The bedroom he refuses to leave, or have cleaned, or let anyone near, much like the man himself.

Marwick was quite the autocratic bastard in the last book and his road to redemption is long. If he hasn’t been in a clinical depression, it’s damn close. Olivia falls for both the wounded man he is and the formidable man she knows is lurking under all of his unkempt surliness. She appears to have arrived at the right time to draw Marwick out and support him as he gets back on his feet. It’s an interesting pairing with a hero recovering from betrayal through the help and ministrations of someone else seeking to betray him.  Olivia’s efforts don’t cure him, Duran is too sophisticated and talented a writer for such facile plotting, as much as she goads him into action. Marwick’s withdrawal has had a negative effect on virtually every aspect of his life. It’s a painful and necessarily humbling journey back to himself.

The complexities of Olivia and Marwick’s personalities make for compelling reading. Fool Me Twice stumbles in tone, in a very minor way, around some of the downstairs household politics and with a blessedly brief twee incident, but overall it is superlative.  That it’s not a neat and tidy romance is the novel’s greatest strength. Moreso than in many romances, and in keeping with the great ones, Olivia and Marwick feel like people doing their best to make their way in the world and discovering a counterbalance in each other along the way.

Also by Meredith Duran:

Bound by Your Touch
Written on Your Skin
Your Wicked Heart
That Scandalous Summer

Also by Meredith Duran:

Rules for Reckless Series (not entirely interconnected, more of a theme)
That Scandalous Summer – very good
Your Wicked Heart – delightful novella
Fool Me Twice – excellent
Lady Be Good – nothing special
Luck Be a Lady – also nothing special

Not Rules for the Reckless Series
Bound by Your Touch – excellent
Written on Your Skin – not my style, but very good

*If you like serious romances, try Sherry Thomas.

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

Rules for the Reckless Series: That Scandalous Summer by Meredith Duran

Malin, my romance spirit guide, recommends Meredith Duran very highly. Malin is right. Duran is an excellent writer, but more on that in a tic.

Image

The cover is ridiculous, but not in the usual heaving alabaster bosom way, which is, admittedly, a relief, but rather in a “What does that dress have to do with a historical romance?” way, but since such shenanigans are typical, I went straight to the reading:

duran3

Oooh, it’s set in 1885 and that means bustles. I LOVE bustles! (There were no bustles.)

All atremble in anticipation of the bustles, I started reading, but I quickly wondered which of the men in the first chapter was the hero, so I flipped the book over to read the blurb on the back:

Duran2

I’m not a historian, but aren’t The Regency and 1885 are separated by about 70 years? I point these things out not to show up the writer, but to point out the attitude of the publishers. It’s a mass market paperback, so apparently such details are irrelevant: “Just say it’s Regency. Women love that sh*t! No one will notice.” Also? It’s not set in London.

In a refreshing change of pace, the hero of That Scandalous Summer is not a Duke. Michael de Grey is the brother of a Duke. He is also a doctor who runs a charity hospital whose funds are controlled by said ducal relation. Michael has found a way to make himself useful, in between some renowned rakish naughtiness, but his brother’s heartbreak over a recently dead wife who was insufficiently discreet in her dalliances has led him to act in a self-destructive way and Michael is in his path. Unless he marries an appropriately demure, read “chaste”, upright woman to produce an heir and continue the family line, the Duke will cut him off without a penny and de-fund the hospital. To add insult to injury, this kind of blindly destructive behaviour is typical of their family, but instead of shielding Michael as he once did, the Duke is now acting like those he used to provide protection against.

Hoping to shock his brother back to his senses, Michael disappears from London and takes up residence in a small village in Cornwall where he practices medicine under an assumed, humbler name and waits to be found. Michael meets Mrs. Elizabeth Chudderly, a widow with a fast reputation, and a “professional beauty” in the new era of photography, who turns out to be a lovely person despite that fact that she was passed out in his rose bushes during their first encounter. Their connection is instant and each of them discovers that being their natural self, as opposed to version they act out in Society, is a huge relief, but imposes strict limits on their relationship. Then Society comes to them in the guise of a house party and things get really complicated.

That Scandalous Summer was a very enjoyable read. Meredith Duran’s storytelling is more serious than I ordinarily like, but not in a melodramatic way, rather she focuses on her mature, complex characters and less on banter. Michael and Elizabeth are consistently interesting on their own and together. From the initial startling spark between them and throughout their challenges, they are both sympathetic, even when they are behaving badly, making poor decisions, and saying exactly the wrong thing. Both hero and heroine are constrained by their responsibilities and the specter of financial and personal ruin. It’s all about the money, its expectations and burdens, which feels realistic for a society built around reputation and perception.

Also by Meredith Duran:

Rules for Reckless Series (not entirely interconnected, more of a theme)
That Scandalous Summer – very good
Your Wicked Heart – delightful novella
Fool Me Twice – excellent
Lady Be Good – nothing special
Luck Be a Lady

Not Rules for the Reckless Series
Bound by Your Touch – excellent
Written on Your Skin – not my style, but very good

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