London’s Gambling King

Name: Julian Delbraith and/or Roscoe Neville?  A hero by either name, he’s titled and urbane enough to dazzle the ton AND he’s lethal enough — and enlightened enough — to run the only worker-friendly gambling empire in Regency London.  Of course he is.  How could it be otherwise?

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Story Recounted By: Stephanie Laurens, in The Lady Risks All (2012)

Hangs Out In: 1820’s London, dividing his time between Roscoe’s exquisitely appointed townhouse in Pimlico and Ridgeware, Lord Julian’s nephew’s ducal seat and residence of his gaggle of adoring female relatives (along with the teenage duke, Henry).

Likes: Innately noble spinsters of 29 years whose deep passions are ready to burst the bonds of Rigid Respectability; games of chance; giving in to his protective urges; having crime bosses as well as Bastion Club aristocrats for friends; sisters; Cynsters.

Dislikes: Waterloo deserters, kidnappers, having his female friends ignore his directives and follow him to dockside taverns.

Badass Hero Moment: Unreservedly shares his long-kept secret home and family with Miranda and Roderick in their time of need, thereby revealing his aristocratic alter-ego (and simultaneously putting them — especially her — under his direct and explicit protection).

Badass Annoying Moment: TOTAL Dog in the Manger behavior when HE decides Miranda is too respectable and good to associate with notorious and disreputable Roscoe.

(too) Frequently Described As: prowling; panther-like; LGK (London’s gambling king)

Might Look Like:  Toby Stephens (above)  as Rochester in the brilliant 2006 BBC  Jane Eyre …?

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To Read Or Not To Read?  I picked it up largely out of nostalgia.  So many wonderful reads from SL — I read her whole backlist about 6 years ago and still find the prospect of the familiar, cozy, dense, character-driven Cynster-esque tales appealing.  What can I say – I’m loyal! But this one falls far short of the greatness of the early Cynster novels, and even pales in comparison to the Bastion Club books in which Roscoe first appeared (which prior appearances are made much of). It could be me, but where I used to linger and enjoy the pages-long love scenes, I had to skim and skip the purply, generic and repetitive episodes where Roscoe and Miranda fly to heaven’s gate together.  The best thing about this outing is the book’s title, which, for once in a romance novel, cleverly captures both a thematically appropriate gambling reference and foreshadows a central plot element.  Miranda does indeed Risk All, and this book stands apart from most of SL’s oeuvre in that it is she who Decides and then Pursues the alpha hero, and not vice versa.

Tangentially Related … and Possibly Diverting:

Crockford’s Club: How a Fishmonger Built a Gambling Club and Bankrupted the British Aristocracy.”  A hilarious historical tale from the Smithsonian’s Past Imperfect blog.

Pamela Poll: What is your favorite romance where the heroine is the pursuer? Can an alpha hero and alpha heroine co-exist in the same romance?  Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

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Hungry Like the Wolf

Name: Aidan of Awe, brawny 15th-century Highlander who’s half deamhan (demon?), half immortal Master (savior of Innocence); haunted by his small dead son, he’s a dark, tormented, and merciless warrior feared as the Wolf of Awe.

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Falls For:  Self-described plain and geeky data-whiz Brianna Rose, who has her own paranormal thing going on; as an empath “Brie” is somehow both enthralled with Aidan and brought low by his intense negative emotions.

Story Recounted By: Brenda Joyce, in Dark Embrace, a Masters of Time novel, book one of the Rose Trilogy

Hangs Out In: Cold Scottish castles, packs of wolves, Brianna’s dreams.

Likes:  Lasses with nicknames of French cheese.

Dislikes: Ghosts.

(too) Frequently Described As:   Hot.  We get it, he’s hot.  He would have benefited from a big dose of Showing Not Telling, perhaps via some better dialogue and some perceptible rapport with Brie.

Might Look Like:  I could not get a good mental image of this guy — at least not his face.  As a reader, I find it frustrating, and very telling, when the hero feels so generic to me that I can’t picture a face.  Like the book cover itself, in my mind Aidan was Faceless Bonny Braw Big Shoulder Hero in Kilt.

To Read Or Not To Read?  Too many big questions loomed annoyingly throughout the read.  Why/how is Aidan a shapeshifter, and why a wolf?  Why is this love story so one-sided? (It’s impossible to tell why or how he has feelings for her, but we’re told every couple of pages that she is in love with him).  Why is time travel, and living in centuries not one’s own, so widely practiced and no one is thought odd for wearing designer jeans in medieval Scotland?  I realize this is part of a series, and I mistook the fact that it’s book one of a trilogy, but there are few answers to be had, and apparently any world-building that might have answered at least some of these questions, has happened in an earlier Masters of Time book.  The action and emotion throughout this tale are fever-pitched, yet the real problem is the lack of connection between Aidan and Brianna.  Constant dread, constant lust-think, constant anguish.

Tangentially Related … and Possibly Diverting:  This song just kept popping into my head as I was reading!

Pamela Poll: Do you ever find yourself associating a song with a book as you’re reading it, almost like a mental soundtrack (with or without the accompanying mental image)?  Leave a comment and tell me about it!