REVIEW Two-fer: Beguiling the Beauty & Ravishing the Heiress

Sherry thomas
Beguiling the Beauty
Berkley Sensation
Historical Romance
May 1, 2012

Book blurb via Goodreads:

When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She’s exactly what he’s been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage.

And then she disappears without a trace…

For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked…

So, these books. I’m going to be ranting a little. I’ve read and really, really enjoyed some Sherry Thomas work in the past. I take that seriously because I’m just not that drawn to historical romance these last few years. I hear of a new one coming out and I kind of perk up inside a little because despite some others of hers not working for me, I still feel like her work could potentially hold that spark.

I’m not sure where things went wrong with me as a reader, but so far this series hasn’t been working that well for me. I do have the third book and had hoped to review all three at once, but alas, I’m still on a major Doctor Who binge, and The Golden Compass takes the rest of my time these days.

I’m also obsessed, completely gaga-in-the-head obsessed lately with velvet pumpkins. I’m making my own at home. It’s quite a weird process for me as I’m not a decor kind of person, but I love these things. I mean, damn, they’re invading my book reviews now, too. Anyway.

About these books. There’s something about them despite how angry one of them made me. I believe this is what’s referred to as cracktastic style reading, when the book is trying to do something but we don’t buy into it yet we can’t stop reading it. Or we feel it is silly in some way but there’s just something about it that makes us keep reading. We just cannot give a good explanation why we are voluntarily hijacked on this crazy train, we just are. That’s how I felt about this series so far.

The way in which it’s written, with each heroine’s story interwoven throughout the entire series, was kind of distracting for me. Just as we began to concentrate on the couple that was the focus of each book, one of the other women’s’ stories would, well, intrude and this sooner rather than later began to make me mad. It’s one thing to have subplots, but these, again, are issues that interwoven throughout the series and not solved in the books they start in. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a more obvious, frustrating sequel baiting tactic. It’s funny enough (read: funny, yet at times annoying) when a certain character seems to be jumping up and down in a  scene screaming, “I’m the savior of the next book! I fall in luuuv! There’s gonna be shenanigans!” That’s bad enough, but storylines that resolve themselves in a different book entirely while taking up so much of the current book, I’ve decided, just piss me off. I do not want a figurative Hold Up, Wait a Minute, Let Me Put Some Other Main Issue In It sign flashing at me constantly while reading. And it’s not going to help endear me to the main characters when they’re already frustrating enough.

This book, Beguiling the Beauty, it’s pretty short, too. According to Goodreads, it’s 280 pages (I read the Kindle version). That’s not a lot of time to devote to one couple, let alone the issues of, potentially, two more. I did feel like I’d read a short story by the time I got done, and as a result it wasn’t as satisfying a feeling at the end as I’d have liked. One reason, I think, is I never felt that invested in the main characters, Lexington, a duke, and Venetia. While I enjoyed the idea of her role reversal with him, how she attempts to play him for a fool when it’s usually the men doing so, the cold distance she attempts to keep ends up being a detriment for me. It makes sense, but when she begins what’s supposed to be her melting to him, I didn’t ever get that warm and fuzzy a romantic feeling out of this couple. It remained, for the most part, rather cold, haughty and dry as a result. I don’t thinkt he fade-to-black style of the actual romantic scenes helped this either. But hey, when you’ve got lots of other couples’ issues to solve and only 280 pages, it’s gotta be difficult. Some things must be cut, I suppose. Unfortunately, for me, what was cut just made the story feel…incomplete.

The characters of Lexington and Ventia were somewhat interesting. Lexington has this Robert Downey, Jr./Sherlock Holmes kind of haughtiness about him. He has this habit of sounding like an ass when he assumes he knows so much about a person. Believe me when I say, this was entertaining. I know I wrote “ass”, but well, that’s what he sounds like when he does it. Venetia is interesting enough in how she goes through with her deceits, but her motives are kind of childish. The men get away with it, but in the end they feel redeemable when they grovel a bit for their behavior. I dunno how it happened, but I actually felt more sorry for Lexington, even though his behavior wasn’t any better. I think the book being so short, and therefore the ending a bit rushed, made me feel as if their reconciliation was a bit too easy, short and lacking in the conflict necessary to make it feel believable let alone making me feel engaged. Venetia’s behavior, usually relegated to the male protagonist, therefore, didn’t feel redeemed enough for me.

In the end, I had no clue why I’d want to keep reading this series, other than Thomas’ writing itself being so lovely. That part, at least, is engaging. I do wish the characters in this series, though, were a lot more fleshed out and all had their own book wiggle room to grow and make me believe in their stories.

But I did go ahead and pre-order the third in the series before even finishing the second book, so maybe this review says more about me. Maybe.

Rating: Two and a half scoops

Sherry thomas
Ravishing the Heiress
Berkley Sensation
Historical Romance
July 3, 2012

Blurb via Goodreads:

Millicent understands the terms of her arranged marriage all too well. She gets to be a Countess by marrying an impoverished Earl. And in return, the Earl Fitzhugh receives the benefit of her vast wealth, saving his family from bankruptcy. Because of her youth, they have agreed to wait eight years before consummating the marriage–and then, only to beget an heir. After which, they will lead separate lives.

It is a most sensible arrangement. Except for one little thing. Somehow Millie has fallen head over heels in love with her husband. Her husband, who has become her very best friend, but nothing more…Her husband, who plans to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, the beautiful and newly widowed Isabella, as soon as he has honored the pact with his wife…

As the hour they truly become husband-and-wife draws near, both Millie and Fitzhugh must face the truth in their hearts. Has their pact bred only a great friendship–or has it, without either of them quite noticing, given rise to a great love?

I suppose since I felt the need to state up front that the first book review would be ranty, I should say this one could be downright spoilerish/angry. Because I genuinely loathed Ravishing the Heiress. It was pretty much all the hero’s fault. Fitzhugh has to be one of the worst romance heroes I’ve ever read. What really made the book frustrating was barely an ounce of it made me feel anything but pure disdain for him, and all that time I knew I was reading something where the HEA – Happily Ever After – was the goal. And I didn’t think Fitzy deserved that HEA. AT ALL. Foot stomp. On your toes, Fitzy.

It’s probably a good thing I’ve cooled way down since reading this book. Had I written it right after reading it I’d have probably had to resort to all caps and animated Gifs of Fury. My memories aren’t fond at all and it started when we find out that Fitz is in love with another woman, a fact we know from the prior book, even, so I already went into this one feeling pretty upset with him. I wasn’t feeling that charitable towards his wife, Millie, either, though. She’s the perfect doormat. She is so determined to remain the perfect, un-interfering wife that when her husband’s true love waltzes back into their life physically, for she’s always been there between them emotionally, Millie just places herself at their feet and let’s them trod all over her sweet damn face. Why – why in the hell did she ever fall in love with this selfish asshole? Look, I’ll grant that they were young and forced into their marriage, that Fitz felt genuine affection for that bitchy little Isabelle ( hate her – in case that wasn’t obvious) and was shocked, hurt and angry at having to marry someone else.

But why the hell is it OK that for their entire lives practically, not one of them ever thinks about Millie’s feelings? Well, that’s what happens when one is a pristine little doormat. It was galling to read over and over how maudlin Fitz is over Isabelle, Millie is over Fitz and Isabelle’s constant, blatant HE IS MINE, WE’RE IN LOVE, IT’S ONLY FAIR. RIGHT, MILLIE? I wanted to slap Isabelle. Hard. Into the next idyllic county from that damn house she found for her and Fitz to live out the rest of their adulterous lives in.

And all this time I am yelling at Fitz and baring my teeth at Isabelle and practically writhing on the floor in anguish because despite how much I am hating this all I am utterly heartbroken by Millie’s scenario and I can’t believe this is the plot of a romance book and SOB SOB SOB.

So THAT right there is why this is cracktastic reading for me. I hated the characters for the most part with a ridiculous passion. But I was kind of enjoying yelling at the book. And hating Fitz. And wanting to drop kick Isabelle’s head of the cliffs of Dover or something. (Road trip!) Maybe I wanted to give Millie a hug…after dusting her off from all the footprints. But damn was I glad to be done with that book. It was exhausting!

Rating: One melting scoop

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10 comments

  1. KMont, neither book sounds “beguiling” enough to read, plus I just read a review for the latest book, Tempting the Bride, that sounds even less so… :( (at least you enjoyed yelling at that second book. LOL)

    • Oh Hils, I really wish I’d *been* beguiled by these books. :( I have the third book, too, so I plan to read it ASAP. May be another similar review coming soon lol. I’ve read some reviews like the one you mention, too. Hope you’re getting some good reading in lately, though!

  2. I’ve tried to read Beguiling the Beauty about 4 times now and I think I’ll just give up because it doesn’t seem like it would be worth the effort of trying again. I’m curious about the last book in this series, but I think I’ll just wait and read your review instead. :)

    • I coulda sworn I replied to your comment a while ago, April. Doh! I was all prepared to dive right back into more cracky angst and all, but have heard the third book doesn’t get any better. So my enthusiasm has deflated a little. I dunno, hopefully soon still, though!

  3. I got very distracted by the velvet pumpkins – that is cool!

    But back to your review. Yeah, I only read two Sherry Thomas books, but.. doesn’t there seem to be a trend where the Hero and Heroine have to wait several years before their HEA? Like 8 to 10? I feel like I see this in every summary. This makes me ask “why so many years?!?” a lot. Do they really need 8 years? Or.. Does 8 years just make the angst that much more angsty? I say it’s the second thing.

    • I am still distracted by velvet pumpkins myself lol. You might be on to something about the number of years! And yeah, I think it seems to be about the angst, too. Man, the angst in Ravishing the Heiress, you could cut it with a knife.

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