Saturday, March 25, 2017

What I Read in December 2016 Part V . .

What I Read in December 2016 Part V . . .

The Cryptographer (Second Sons, #1)The Cryptographer by Alice Wallis-Eton--Regency Romance (Kindle Freebie)

Aster Tanner works as secretary to Sir John at the Royal Arsenal. At first glance people think she's a maid. A second glance reveals she is a clerk filing away paperwork and orders for new supplies for the army. What no one outside the office knows is Sir John is a renowned cryptographer. With Napoleon on the loose, Sir John has his work cut out for him cracking secret codes so Wellington and his men can intercept and stop Napoleon. What no one besides Sir John knows is Aster often helps him with his work. She loves to exercise her mind and make order of the codes. When Sir John hints at the existence of a list of names of traitors, Aster is intrigued but knows such a code can never be cracked without a key. Major Lord Iain MacIntyre of the Scots Greys is given a mission. Find the French spy and find the list. Bored kicking his heels in Scotland, Iain ignores his father's orders to return home and take up estate management, Iain and his closest mates head to a sleepy village outside London to ferret out a traitor. He is shocked to discover Aster working in a cryptographer's office. Why is a lady working at all? What business has she there? Could she be the French spy? His physical senses say no but his brain says nothing about her makes sense. There's only one way to make her tell all-charm her into submission!

3 stars dropped from 4 because this turned out to be a Regency Historical and not Traditional Regency. There is too much feeling and lusting going on here and way way too much graphic content. The story was going great for a long time except for the hero's constant longing for Aster but quickly when downhill. There's one scene where the heroine explores her sexuality, a lot of violence and a love scene. I wouldn't have minded a fade to black love scene. In this instance it felt right EXCEPT FOR the usual misunderstanding that follows. That drives me crazy! I really don't need to be in the characters' heads. In fact I skipped over it and didn't miss it.

I really liked the concept of the novel. A female cryptographer? That's something new. It sounds plausible since Aster signs her name A. Tanner. I got caught up in the mystery of the list. I had to stay up late and finish this novel to find out, though the villain was obvious. Iain figured it out but needed confirmation. I was vastly disappointed that the story didn't conclude satisfactorily. I don't really want to read the next two books in the series to find out what happens to the villain. (More points taken away).

Aster is a really neat heroine. She's brilliant, she's tough, resilient, strong and best of all, a terrier lover. Her brilliant mind was so intriguing and I would have liked to try to solve some of the codes she breaks. She's intelligent enough to crack codes faster than most men. Aster enjoys her job but she also longs for love and family. She's a bit vulnerable in that respect and Iain's constant attentions discomfit her. I disliked her frequent blushing. I much preferred her relationship with Quinn. Aster's dog Macdougal, is my favorite character in the whole novel. Scottish terriers were my first love and the author nailed their personality. He's a fierce rodent hunter but will work for bribes; he's fiercely protective of his owner yet can be bought with food and attention. He has all the humans wrapped around his paw just like a certain fierce vermin hunting, people food loving terrier I knew and loved (and miss very very much).

I hate to say it but I really didn't like Iain. He has issues. He claims he never expected to inherit, he may not inherit for a long time- his father is hale and healthy- yet in a time period when anything could kill you, spare heirs shouldn't count their freedom before his older brother has a son or two or three. He refuses to see where his father is coming from and won't even acknowledge his duties and responsibilities. All he cares about is the army. He's kind of a brat at first. He kept wondering why a lady would work when the answer was obvious in the way she dresses. Why does he assume she is a lady anyway? Why WOULD a lady work? For the same reasons a man would, of course! This thought apparently never crosses his mind. Obviously everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth with no need to work. Yet, he needs to work because he has been a second son until a few months ago! I also really didn't like the way he set out to charm Aster. He deliberately dallied with her and oh well if she turns out to be an actress or a spy, at least he had some fun and can bed her without conscience. Quinn has more luck drawing her out simply by being a friend. Iain doesn't undergo significant character growth soon enough to please me.

My favorite male human character is Quinn. He's very sweet and acts just like a brother. I grew to love him as Aster did. I was hoping he would get his own chance at love in another novel and see he is the hero of the second book. I also loved Sir John. His OCD would drive me crazy but he's very kind to Aster, very amiable and above all - loyal. I loved him for all his good qualities. His plot takes an unexpected turn.

While I liked the concept of the novel, a lot of the execution left a lot to be desired. I'm glad this was a Kindle freebie. It would make a far better Traditional Regency where the hero and heroine work together to solve a mystery and the romance blossoms as a secondary plot.

The Unwilling Miss WatkinThe Unwilling Miss Watkin by Regina Scott--Regency Romance

Jareth Darby has returned from exile in Italy in order to reform his reputation and earn some money. Before his disapproving older brother Justinian will hand over the reins to Cheddar Cliffs, Jareth must make amends to the ladies he wronged in the past. Easy peasy! The ladies seem willing to forgive him, all except Eloise Watkin, the one he let get away in his callow youth. Eloise is furious. How dare Jareth return now? Five years ago when she was a 15-year-old schoolgirl, she fell madly in love with Jareth Darby. Eloise would have done anything for him, even give up her virtue in a hayloft. She nearly did until they were interrupted by a vengeful classmate, Cleo Renfield (The Irredeemable Miss Renfield). Jareth disappeared without a trace, leaving Eloise alone to face the consequences. She has spent a lot of time over the last year trying to make amends herself and now she is on the verge of a successful match. Should she settle for marriage without love or forgive Jareth for ruining her life? Is he really reformed?

This is a revised version of Regina Scott's early book Utterly Devoted. I put off reading it because I HATED Jareth in The Mistletoe Kitten and I really didn't care for Eloise in The Irredeemable Miss Renfield. However, when Regina Scott said this book was one of her most highly acclaimed books and her personal favorite hero, I had to try it. I can't say I loved it, there are a few problems with it, but I didn't hate it.

This book still needs editing. There are some minor typos in the Smashwords edition. The phrase "utterly devoted" is uttered way way way too many times (see what I did there). Given the revised title of the book, it did not need to appear more than once or twice. The plot was boring. It was fairly straightforward. The "villain" is a minor one without evil intent. The concluding events were over-the-top cheesy and heartwarming. I found the whole drama rather unrealistic.

I did like the parts where Eloise tests Jareth. The best test is when Eloise makes Jareth come to a home for reforming prostitutes to teach them how to resist being seduced. It's funny, sweet and very sad at the same time. If you think the Regency era was fun and lovely, read that section of the book.

I still don't like Jareth. I can't forgive him easily. He made a crude comment about Norrie, he seduced a teenage girl (thinking she was a teacher, but what gave him the right to seduce a teacher?) without a second thought. He's paid his price and he has grown up a lot. He has his good points but he just isn't the reformed rake for me. Eloise is also not my favorite. She wasn't very nice and now she's a saint. She's complicated. She had her heart broken and now she's built up walls Jareth intends to break down. She can't make up her mind whether to forgive Jareth or not yet she believes him when he tries to explain his behavior. That sounds like forgiveness to me. The one thing that bothers me about their relationship is that he is still hiding something from her at the end and he doesn't tell her where he intends to live or how he'll make money. She assumes he's wealthy and living with his brother.

I loved the cameos from Norrie, Cleo and Margaret, now all happily married. If you haven't read the previous books in the series, this one tells you who they marry (which is pretty obvious anyway but just in case you didn't want to know- beware!) I felt really bad for Portia. She's the main secondary character. She doesn't have a backstory but it's obvious what her backstory is from her actions. She shows Eloise what her life would have been like without Cleo.

I'm glad I completed the series finally, if only to see how the previous characters are faring.

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