Cold-Hearted Rake, Lisa Kleypas

cold hearted

Grade: B

Doing it at: 73%

Catnip: Historical, Forbidden Romance; Bareback Riding; Strong Female Lead; Dual Narrative; Reformed Rake; Lords and Ladies; CoHo Exception

Shame Scale: I dare anyone to try to make me feel bad about reading a book whose title is a play on a Paula Abdul Song, come at me bro.

Fantasy Cast:  Yael Grobglas; Joseph Fiennes (Circa Shakespeare in Love)

Book Description:

A twist of fate . . .

Devon Ravenel, London’s most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl’s three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon’s own.

A clash of wills . . .

Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:

Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she’s ever known?

I’ve spoken more than once on the blog about how historicals were my first romance book-love; I had a summer job watching kids whose mom inhaled paperback romances. She always had a giant bag of them in the living room that I would dip into, for an “education.” She was very into Sandra Brown historical’s, mostly set in the old west, and I still vividly remember a scene where the virginal heroine was titillated by watching the hero wash himself in just his britches from her bedroom window. And also Iris Johansen whose books I rediscovered last year, and loved all over again. The Johansen reread was a big part of my nosedive into full time romance. Anyway, this rambling introduction is just to lament how few historical romances I’ve been reading lately and to tell you I was really excited for Cold Hearted Rake, because Kleypas is pretty much the best historical fiction author working today.

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Worth Any Price, Lisa Kleypas

worth any price

Grade: B+

Doing it at:  48%

Catnip: Historicals, Your First and Your Last, Shower Sex, Rescue Me, Fake it Till You Make It

Shame Scale: Kleypas is the creme de la creme of modern historical romance, low shame.

Fantasy Cast:  Aidan Turner, Mia Wasikowska

Book Description:

Nick Gentry, the most seductive and dangerous man in England, has been sent to find Charlotte Howard, a runaway bride who has disappeared without a trace. But when he finds her, Nick is stunned by the intensity of his attraction to the elusive young woman whose adventurous spirit matches his own.

Determined to escape a forced marriage to a man who will destroy her, Charlotte agrees to an audacious bargain . . . she will become Nick Gentry’s bride. But soon she discovers that Nick has secrets of his own, and it will take all her wits and stubborn will to tame his tormented soul.

In the desperate quest to protect Charlotte from the diabolical aristocrat who threatens her, one thing becomes clear:

To save the woman he loves, Nick will take any risk . . . and pay any price.

I’ve been buried neck deep in contemporary romance and realized that its been months since I dove into a historical. Having received an avalanche of Amazon gift cards for my birthday I got myself Worth Any Price, which has been on my wishlist for months. Lisa Kleypas is my favorite historical romance author. I consider her Wallflower series required reading for any romance fan, and credit the girls over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books with turning me on to her.

Worth Any Price is book three in the Bow Street Runner series, I haven’t read the other two (I Know I Know), but was able to follow the story just fine without it. Kleypas’ series books can usually be read as stand-alones that are enhanced by having read the previous books but it isn’t a do or die.

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Summer ReRead: The Bronze Horseman, by Paullina Simons

Welcome to Summer ReReads! We love discovering new authors, characters, and couples. But there is also a deep joy and comfort in visiting a book for the second (or third or fourth) time and remembering why you went all crazy over it in the first place. Summer is a perfect time to dive back into some old favorites, or for us to make our top picks some of your new favorites.

bronze horseman

Grade: A

Doing it at: 73%

Catnip: Forbidden Romance; Russia; WWII; Historical; Hardship Porn; My Sister’s Boyfriend; Deep Dark Secret

Shame Scale: Maybe a tiny bit shameful just for the sheer scope of melodrama in this one.

Fantasy Cast:  Tyler HoechlinCara Delevigne

Book Description:

Called “a Russian Thorn Birds,” The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons is a sweeping saga of love and war that has been a monumental bestseller all over the world. The acclaimed author of Tully, Simons has written a stirring tale of devotion, passion, secrets, betray, and sacrifice. “A love story both tender and fierce” (Publishers Weekly ) that “Recalls Dr. Zhivago” (People Magazine), The Bronze Horseman is rich and vivid historical fiction at its finest.

I first read the Bronze Horseman a year and a half ago, I lost an entire weekend so fully absorbed that I refused to cook and fed my kids pizza and then leftover pizza and then whatever snacks I could throw at them. “What do you mean you’re hungry?! Leningrad is under siege and Tatiana has no bread!” A discussion on hot young Joseph Stalin, and the subsequent erotica that could be written about him reminded me that I was overdue for a reread and a write up. If you’re a fan of big, dramatic, hardship porn filled tragic love you really owe it to yourself to read this. I love all those things and I have a fascination with Russia, so its no wonder I fell so hard for this book.

We open in the summer of 1941, in Leningrad, where summer nights are short and dawn comes at three am and Stalin has just declared war on Germany. For Tatiana, living in two rooms in a communal apartment with her entire family, her whole world is about to change. Not just because of the war but because she’s going to meet Alexander.

Tatiana is sitting at a bus stop, eating an ice cream cone in her best summer dress and her older sister’s high heeled red sandals. She’s supposed to be buying all the food she can find, because war has been declared and her parents have trusted their one-day-shy-of-seventeen, dreamy daughter with this very important task. But Tatiana can’t take it seriously, it doesn’t feel like war, it feels like summer and endless promise and sunshine. She is eating her ice cream and waiting for the bus when she spots a tall, handsome soldier watching her from across the street. He follows her onto the bus. He doesn’t get off and she doesn’t get off and they end up all the way at the end of the line together before both admit they weren’t even on the right bus. The handsome soldier is Alexander and he and Tatiana are having insta-love.

Alexander helps Tatiana buy food at the officer’s store and, with the help of his snake-y friend Dimitri, they carry the supplies back to Tatiana’s apartment. Tatiana is in swoon over Alexander in his uniform with his big hands and dark stubble and white teeth. Alexander is in swoon over Tatiana in her rose embroidered dress with her long blonde hair and freckles and green eyes. All is looking rosy. Until they get to the apartment and Tatiana’s older sister, Dasha- who’s kind of a skank lets be honest- exclaims over Alexander, how did he find her! This is the boy, the boy she’s been staying out til dawn with, the boy she’s in love with.

Here is where we step back and talk about Tatiana’s family situation, do we know our Russian history? In Communist Russia families lived in communal apartments, one room per family for sleeping, resting, living etc… with communal kitchens and bathrooms. As Alexander explains to Tatiana later in the book there is no privacy. In Russian there is not even a word that means privacy, it is a completely foreign concept. Tatiana’s family actually has TWO rooms (this is presented as a luxury) but in those two rooms reside Tatiana, her skanky sister, her twin brother, her parents, and her grandparents. Tatiana has nowhere to be alone. Her sister is seven years older than her and half jokes that she can’t get married because her sister sleeps in the bed with her where her husband would lie instead. Living right on top of each other there is no room for secrets.

Since Dasha saw Alexander first, and since Tatiana has some misplaced ideas of loyalty and guilt, she tells Alexander that he must continue dating Dasha, that they can never be, and that her sister can never know. Alexander puts up the very barest of fight against this. The very very barest. Even though the pair are sneaking as much alone time together as possible and being mega adorable during that alone time:

“Sometimes,” She said, “they call me Tatia.”

“You are very beautiful, Tatia,” said Alexander.

“Stop,” she said – inaudibly – as sensation left her legs.

He called after, “If you wanted to, you could call me Shura.”

Shura! That’s a marvelous endearment. I would love to call you Shura, she wanted to tell him. “Who calls you Shura?”

“Nobody,” Alexander replied with a salute.

The Bronze Horseman has been out for over a year, but I’d still like to preserve spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read it, so if you’re a story virgin scroll from Hot Stalin to Hot Russian.

hot for stalin

Alexander keeps dating Dasha. He keeps dating her so thoroughly that he’s still having sex with her. In the bed where Tatiana and Dasha sleep while Tatiana has been asked to go sit on the roof and wait. You guys it was really hard to not fire burn hate Alexander. The historical details and hardship porn really kept me going on this one for the first half of the book. Alexander was being a jerk, but I’ve never been the type of girl who could resist reading about ration cards, bomb shelters, cities under blockade, and tending the wounded.

Alexander has to go to the front as the German forces encroach further upon Leningrad’s city limits, he comes back and PROPOSES to Dasha. At this point a whole lot of making out and secret groping and drama has happened between Tania and her Shura. Tatiana ran away to try to find her twin brother who was sent away to a boys camp (More googling is needed to understand why all the Russian boys went to camp every summer presumably paid for by the state), Alexander followed her and literally pulled her out from under a pile of rubble saving her life. Then he carried her on his back to safety for kilometers and kilometers.

I never doubted that he loved Tatiana and not Dasha, but where was that love when he was slipping it to her sister for months and months. This was the worst.


When Bronze Horseman opens, Tatiana is working at a factory that makes silverware, then she is putting bullets into boxes, then helping to assemble tanks, and finally nursing in a field hospital. She is described as being a sprite of a girl but she is tough as nails. She is literally the only member of her family who survives the long first winter of the war. I knew almost nothing about Russia’s role in WW2 prior to this book and the historical facts and tiny details in this are really educational. This is a romance but its a romance where you LEARN things. The siege of Leningrad really happened, the German forces destroyed and blocked all roads in or out of the city. There was no food to be had, people were literally piled in the streets, dead from starvation and bombings.

It is months of slow starvation before Alexander manages to sneak Tatiana and Dasha out of Leningrad and puts them on a transport vehicle headed to the country where there are fewer bombings and more food. But Alexander is a Captain now and can’t accompany them so he has to head back to the front lines and just hope that they are OK. He spends six long months not knowing if his darling Tania is alive before he gets furlough and heads for the tiny country village that he knows Tatiana’s grandparents were from. Alexander, exhausted and hungry, walks out of the woods and sees Tatiana. Alive and fed and beautiful.

Tatiana looked up, saw him, and covered her face with her hands. Alexander watched everyone get up and rush to her, the old ladies showing unexpected agility and speed. She pushed them all away, pushed the table away, pushed the bench away, and ran to him. Alexander was paralyzed by his emotion. He wanted to smile, but he thought any second he was going to fall to his knees and cry. He dropped all his gear, including his rifle. God, he thought, in a second i’m going to feel her. And that’s when he smiled.

Ok. More spoilers between the hot dudes for you peeps who don’t want spoiled:

tyler h

The entire village knows about Alexander, as Dasha’s fiance, see Alexander sent a VERY convincing love letter to the village addressed to Dasha because Tatiana asked him to keep up the pretense that he loved Dasha for as long as her sister was alive. Alexander doesn’t know that Dasha passed away from consumption well before they made it to the village. There was no need to keep up the pretense, but the letter came, everyone in the nosy little village read it and now they think Alexander has shown up looking for Dasha.

Tatiana gets VERY salty with Alexander about this letter and accuses him of lying to her, taking advantage of her (even though she’s the one who was always trying to get Alexander to dispose of her virtue), and playing her and Dasha both. I wasn’t feeling very sympathetic towards Tatiana on these points. She was the one who insisted they keep up the lie, and while it was super NOT OK for him to keep spelunking with her sister, it was kind of her fault.

Finally, FINALLY, these two make up and make love. It is really hard to get any privacy in this tiniest most insular village in all of Russia, so Alexander frees Tatiana of her virginity in his military issue tent in the woods. Its really romantic you guys, I’m not gonna lie it made me pretty squee-y for them.

After Alexander has had his way with her several times and Tatiana has proven herself an eager participant in all things, he rushes her to the nearest church and they get married. She wears her rose patterned dress that she was wearing when he saw her for the first time, its lovely. For the next month, while his furlough lasts, they stay in the tiny cabin that belonged to Tatiana’s grandparents. They make love, swim in the river, eat blueberries, make love some more, nap, play games, make love some more. Everything is washed in sunlight and they’re happy and in love. This is my very favorite part of the book.

tyler h 2

Alexander has to leave to go back to his post, breaking Tatiana’s heart all over again, but leaving a special little souvenir with her. The book ends on a cliffhanger and there are two more in the trilogy. This ReRead didn’t even touch on all the plot twist, and melodrama, and swoon packed into this book. There are secrets, blackmail, bloody battle scenes, and more. Its the total epic romance package. Please give yourself a few days and lose yourself in WW2 Russia with Alexander and Tatiana, you won’t regret it.

Check it out on Amazon:

The Duke of Dark Desires, by Miranda Neville

duke of dark desires

Grade: B

Doing it at: 48%

Catnip: Lords and Ladies; Secret identities; Historical; Revenge plots; Strong female lead; Dual narrative

Shame scale: It’s a classic bodice ripper cover, so that’s pretty shame-y. It taught me a lot about the French Revolution though! Which puts it at low to medium shame, your grandma might be OK with you reading this

Fantasy casting: Matthew Mcfayden and Anna Kendrick

Book Description:

Wanted: Governess able to keep all hours . . .

Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified—to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation . . . without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.

Desired: Duke skilled in the seductive art of conversation . . .

Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn’t seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke’s relatives is responsible for the death of her family—and take her revenge. She certainly can’t afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her .

But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she’s faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she’s sworn to kill?

I’m going to be your sole historical reviewer for mybookshame; which is fine with me, I’m happy to keep all the juicy costume drama and royalty plays for myself. Historicals are what I cut my teeth on and sometimes nothing else will satisfy my romance sweet tooth.

The Duke of Dark Desires is set in 1803 England, but the story starts in France during The Terror. As with most historicals this took me a longer time to read than my average because I kept stopping to Google things like “The Terror,” “The Dauphin,” “Fragonard Pastel,” and “evening gown + 1800 + France.” Come for the book sexy time– stay for the dress porn. Our heroine, Jane Gray, isn’t really Jane Grey at all. Her family of French aristocrats were all sent to the guillotine and Jane only escaped the same fate because her father had insisted she pretend to be the family governess. She also survived because a French soldier decided that the then-fifteen-year-old would make a perfect mistress. Jane makes very few bones about, and is delightfully unashamed of, the fact that she set up as mistress of two separate men in order to stay alive until our story brings her to England. She did what she had to do and the hero also understands this and doesn’t ever hold it against her–he could care less that she’s not a virgin. In fact he seems to view it as a plus since he wants to seduce her at first sight. Of course, he doesn’t know she has come to seek revenge on (and kill) someone in his family who she holds responsible for the death of her parents and little sisters.

Julian Fortescue is pretty fresh to his dukedom and is still overcoming a black sheep past as an art dealer; which is how he initially came in contact with Jane’s family. He purchased and helped smuggle out the family’s extensive art collection, and escaped France by the skin of his teeth while her family lost their heads. Now his mother, who seems like a real fun time, has remarried (again) and left his three sisters in his care while she sails for America. Which is where Jane comes in, he needs a governess and she needs to snoop around the family house and figure out which Mr. Fortescue ruined her life nine years before. Julian wants Jane as soon as he sees her, she feels the same and looks much forward to what she knows will be her eventual seduction. This book has a dual narrative and Julian spends a lot of time thinking about lying Jane down on a particularly sumptuous divan in the library and investigating whats happening under her skirts. At one point he inquires as to whether she has any hoop skirts -better for the exploring- and always a fantasy of his (mine too). These two are playful and have a good flirt going, when they get with the doin’ it neither feels guilty and there is no wishy washy-ing about doing it again. They like sex and they like having it with each other. This is my favorite kind of historical sex. No shame and virgin guilt for me, please. I’m a modern lady.

The actual plot is twisty and fun and requires attention paying. The HEA comes a smidge quickly, I felt a little of that “OH, they just put a bow on that” disappointment that fast endings give me. Overall though, this book had a real plot, and real dialog, and sex that did not induce eye rolling or cringing. The undressing is more fun in historicals, all that unwrapping. It also introduced me to the word quim. I was under the impression I knew every euphemism for the P and the V, it’s always nice when a book surprises you. The Duke of Dark Desires gets a strong B, I would recommend it to any fellow lovers of castles, dukes, carriages, proper dining etiquette, and royal intrigue.