Category: Bodice-ripper

How to Dazzle a Duke, by Claudia Dain


This was a bodice-ripper, but it was handled differently than most. An arch, very humorous tone was maintained throughout, and the entire first section takes place in one continuous scene, which was very well done. It is not as steamy as most, but our prim and forthright heroine, Penelope Prestwick, is perfectly lovely in her determination to marry a duke. Her intention to marry a specific duke even though she has caught the attention of another one, makes for many comic interludes. For 18 and up.

Come the Spring, by Julie Garwood


I loved the first book in this series, but the short stories that followed were hit or miss, so I had my fingers crossed for this final book, focusing on Cole, the fastest draw among the brothers, who is often mistaken for a gunslinger. In this novel he joins with a U.S. Marshal to run down a murderous gang of bank robbers. The search for the criminals and the protection of a witness to their crimes leads him to meet Jessica, a young mom who is one of three women targeted as a possible witness. There is more than one romance in the book (including a steamy scene), but much of the story is about crime-fighting in the vividly drawn Wild West. I enjoyed this very much, though I would have loved more time with Cole’s family, whom we met in the first novel. For 18 and up.

Dirty Trick, by Christine Bell


I’m not usually a contemporary romance fan, but this one was okay. Trick (see what she did with the title?) has crushed on Grace since he first met her, but she has rightly seen him as a player, so has kept him in the friend zone. When a costume party comes up, Trick decides to see if he can get her attention in disguise and break through her walls. There are some super-steamy scenes in this one, but I’m not invested enough in these characters to continue on. For 18 and up.

The Clayborne Brides, by Julie Garwood


I was very hopeful after my love for For the Roses, that these follow-up short stories would have the warmth and love I’d found in that book. But of the three stories here, only the first one brought me the same measure of contentment. The other two seem less fully formed, and by the final one, the heroine is so “damsel in distress” that it was infuriating. There is also the issue that the final story is about people of color, yet their skin tone is utterly incidental to the story rather than deepening the historical story the author can tell. Only for die-hard fans of the first book, 18 and up.


For the Roses, by Julie Garland


This Garwood novel is unlike many of her others in that the historical romance is here, set in Montana before it became a state, but it is not the entire central story. The larger story is that of a family of choice, four men and a woman whose relationship with each other forms the backbone of a strong and loving family of siblings.

When Mary Rose finds a Scotsman in town, his citified ways prompt her to take him home so here family can look out for him. But Harrison has come to Montana with another agenda altogether, one that threatens the very structure of Mary Rose’s family. Simply wonderful and (bonus!) twice as long as most comparable novels. For 18 and up.


To Catch an Heiress, by Julia Quinn


Another of Quinn’s wonderful historical fiction romances. In this one, Caroline is fleeing a lewd and disgusting guardian six weeks before she can come into her fortune. But since she has nowhere to go, it is good that she is carried off by an attractive agent of the Crown who mistakes her for a spy. I liked both of our leads in this story: Caroline, who is witty and ready to hold her own in any scrap, and Blake, who is still mourning the loss of his first love, and has sworn he will never marry. For 18 and up.


When a Scot Ties the Knot, by Tessa Dare


A very nearly perfect historical romance, one that features a heroine who doesn’t see her own worth, and a hero with his heart so deeply buried he’s forgotten he has one. This one almost made me weep from satisfaction and creates a genuine feeling of all is right with the world (which is why we read romances, amiright?).

Our heroine, at 16, made up a relationship to cover her painful shyness, and, a decade later, her chickens come home to roost, as all good lies do. An absolute joy, for 18 and up.

Ask For It, by Sylvia Day


It is very difficult, as a writer, to convey “I must have you,” and make it sound romantic, rather than creepy. This novel falls squarely on the creepy side. Marcus is obsessed to the point of rapist/stalker, and, sadly, Elizabeth is all “he turns me on so it’s okay that he treats me this way.” I also hesitate to call this historical fiction, for all that it’s set in 1770, because it has some substantial anachronisms. Period language seems to go out the window in the interest of writing steamier scenes. I won’t read the next in this series. For 18 and up.

Never Love a Highlander, by Maya Banks


This final book in the trilogy picks up exactly where the second left off. To save his clan, Caelen has agreed to marry a woman he doesn’t know and to become Laird of a new clan. His new bride, Rionna, is a warrior in her own right, but Caelen wants to put her firmly in the “Be a Lady” box, whether that’s who she is or not. Author Banks takes this conflict in interesting directions, and I enjoyed the ride enormously. Another steamy read, for 18 and up.