Thursday, July 2, 2009

Review – Four Dukes and a Devil (Anthology)

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Fall in love with the unpredictable and irresistible dukes (and one dog named Duke) of Four Dukes and a Devil. Join New York Times bestselling authors Cathy Maxwell, Jeaniene Frost, and Tracy Anne Warren, along with USA Today bestselling author Elaine Fox and RITA® Award winner Sophia Nash, for tales of noble danger and devilish desire. Delicate young ladies must be protected from him. First he steals her clothes, then he steals her heart. Most would be terrified of this powerful vampire—but not him. He's "the catch of the century". . . but she's the only one he can't have. A young miss demands a kiss. But he won't rest once she's touched her lips to his. With four dukes and one devil, there's no limit on love.
What prompted me to review Four Dukes and a Devil was primarily the inclusion of a Jeaniene Frost story. I was unfamiliar with the other authors so this was entering unknown territory for me. This turned out to be an excellent collection with only one of the stories being disappointing. Of the five stories three are regency romances, one a contemporary romance and the fifth a paranormal romance (the Frost story of course). I’ve read hundreds of romances in a paranormal or urban fantasy context, but admit these stories were my first exposure to more mainstream romance and I was delighted. Each novella provided the obligatory HEA and concluded with an Epilogue which I find in this shorter story format to be an excellent way of tying up loose ends and leaving me satisfied with the tales.


The Irish Duke by Cathy Maxwell
In this regency romance Susan Rogers is a young woman chaperoning young debutantes of high society parents ensuring that they meet only the right matches during the social season. To her clients she tells the tale of the “Irish Duke” and how in a room of Dukes he would have the least social standing. This helps Susan convince the Lords and Ladies that she is aware of the nuances of social standing and should engage her services to protect their daughters. Unfortunately her strategy backfires when a real Irish Duke arrives in London only to find himself an unwelcome addition to the social season as a result of Susan’s innocent persuasiveness. The Irish Duke sees Susan as a challenge which ultimately leads to romance and Susan’s elevation to the gentry. The Irish Duke was my first exposure to a regency romance and I found it to be pleasant but unremarkable. While carefully plotted and well written, the personalities and accompanying dialogue of the two main love interests failed to engage me. This seemed formulaic compared to all of the other stories.

Website: www.CathyMaxwell.com

The Duke Who Came to Dinner by Elaine Fox
This contemporary romance takes place in a small east coast town. I love small town stories and a story that opens with a great hook and this one has a doozy. Sam finds himself up at dawn, drinking a coffee and looking out his window only to see a woman on a bicycle -
Other than the panties, she was quite obviously naked. Firm, perky breasts pointed forward as she pedaled, her eyes looking neither left nor right but trained on the street in front of her as if willing herself invisible.
That she was beautiful was abundantly clear. As was the fact that she was nuts.
It only occurred to him after she'd rolled out of sight that she might have needed assistance. Like a robe, he thought, looking down at his tattered flannel. Or a car, he thought, glancing at the faded Nissan pickup in the drive.
It was too late, however. She was gone. Like a bizarre dream. The ghost of Lady Godiva, he thought with a smile. On a Schwinn.
We later learn that the woman - Gray – is vacationing and house-sitting for the summer to re-evaluate her life and maybe reinvent herself. How she ended up naked on a bicycle, meets Sam, solve a ghost mystery together and become a couple makes for a thoroughly engaging read. I was completely taken by the very vivid characterization and fresh and original dialogue. Of note is the role Sam’s dog Duke plays in the whole affair.

Website: www.ElaineFox.com

Devil to Pay by Jeaniene Frost
This paranormal romance takes place in Jeaniene Frost’s popular Night Huntress universe and while Cat and Bones do put in an appearance the story forms around two new characters, Blake and Elise. Blake is a demon–ridden human who wishes only to end his own existence to protect the world from the evil deeds the demon has made him commit. Elise is a vampire suffering from ennui, detached and apart from the world when she encounters Blake. Something about his selflessness strikes a spark within her and she becomes determined to save the human part of Blake. She captures him drawing this unexpected response from Blake -
Blake found himself smiling. A vampire had kidnapped him. Today might be a good day after all.
Blake recognizes the possibility of redemption through Elise and re-kindles her humanity. But the twist is that the only way to ‘save’ Blake and defeat the demon is for him to die. Theirs is a story of doomed love, making it all the more poignant. But Elise has a plan. Sexy, romantic, and yes, action-filled - Devil To Pay doesn’t disappoint.

Website: www.JeanieneFrost.com

Catch of the Century by Sophia Nash
This sharply written regency romance pulled me in from the first page. The handsome, wealthy and charismatic Duke is considered the ‘Catch of the Century’ by London society. He comes to the aid of Victoria on a country road as she escorts her young charges, three boys to a charity project in the countryside. Victoria is smart, with a razor sharp tongue, strong, independent and innocent. Because of her working-class station she does not even conceive of romantic possibilities with someone such as the Duke. The Duke for his part has no intention of being ‘caught’. Needless to say fate has other plans. The repartee between Victoria and the Duke is delicious. Victoria’s inner thoughts and observations often tinged with wry humour -
Not that she knew the smallest particle about seduction. The closest thing to temptation unleashed had been her introduction to chocolate several months ago courtesy of her benefactor, the Countess of Sheffield.
and
Why, she had for all practical purposes begged the Duke of Beaufort to make love to her. And so she did what any rational woman would have done. She refused to see him for three days.
Catch of the Century is fun, the characters lively and likable and the romance sensual.

Website: www.SophiaNash.com

Charmed By Her Smile by Tracy Anne Warren
This is another regency romance with a terrific hook at the beginning. India Byron recruits a perfect stranger to kiss her at a ball to avoid and dissuade the attentions of an infatuated suitor she calls ‘Peter the Pest’, a suitor that she despises. Her plan works for awhile until India is invited to an Aunt’s week’s long social event at her vacation estate where she finds herself again accosted by Peter’s attentions. Desperate to avoid him she finds her stranger also in attendance and learns that Quentin is a Duke. She persuades him to pretend to be her suitor. Of course one thing leads to another, neither of them planning to fall in love but they do succumb. Again I found the two principal characters Quentin and India to be fully realized, engaging and fun. Peter while a little over-the-top is a terrific secondary character and a humorous foil that drives the plot relentlessly. Charmed by Her Smile is indeed a charming story.

Website: www.TracyAnneWarren.com


If you are looking for a beach read with plenty of feel-good, excellent writing and romance, you will definitely appreciate Four Dukes and a Devil.
HarperCollins/Avon
Published: June 2009
ISBN #: 9780061787362
Format: Paperback
Pages: 388

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