29 June, 2011

Review: Boozehound by Jason Wilson

Y'all may be aware that I'm southern. Not Southern, capital S which involves the misguided use of battle flags and excessively short denim cutoffs. (Oh hush. It was the 80's. What happened in the 80's stays in the 80's.) Being southern and having Southern family members, I grew up around a fair bit of drinking. For a time, I drank myself. Now the other half of my people (See? Only the southern talk like that.) are Yanks. Prohibitionist Yanks. Writers of famous screeds on the evils of devil rum and it's sister the demon of drink. (That stuff is hilarious, actually).

Therefore, the first thing to hit me on reading Boozehound was how lacking in shame it all was. This guy, this Jason Wilson, he just travels around trying drinks? Hasn't he been arrested for disorderly a lot? No? How does that work? And these people in these other countries - they have drinks together at dinner as a family? And this is a happy memory? It was a strange land indeed. I want to throw my arm around Boozehound's shoulder and scream in it's ear how much I love it. Half my beer is probably going to end up on Boozehound's jacket, but that's ok. We're likely at a Hold Steady concert and everyone is wearing some beer at the end of those nights. Boozehound is part memoir, part travel diary, part instruction manual and all love. Jason Wilson loves his booze, from the obscure to the common (but not so much the vodka) and all points in between. He wants you to love it too, to have the chance to sample the sort of things our forefathers sampled before our forefathers became Methodist ministers. He is to spirits what Alice Waters is to fresh food, an advocate and a lover. Maybe we'll call it the Slow Drink movement.

Wilson would like you to stop judging a drink by it's radioactive qualities (looking at you TGIF) and start thinking about how it tastes, what it reminds you of, how it enhances your life. He is not so interested in waking up smashed (although a few Lady Gaga tunes on the Karaoke are fine by him). Reading the history of some fine alcohols made me realize how little I knew about them and how what I drunk in high school hardly compares to what my grandfather sat down with after work. (My grandmother was partial to a creme de menthe.) From talking about booze's actual medicinal qualities (slight as they may be now) to the evolution of overpriced fruity vodkas, Wilson held my interest. I couldn't read Boozehound in one sitting, anymore than I could knock back a bottle of Boone's Farm these days. There is just too much content in Boozehound. It needs to be taken a chapter at a time as the mood strikes. I can't say I'm going to resume imbibing (I want to keep that S a lower case one) but I found myself wishing I knew a friend with a well stocked bar at the end of every chapter.

  • Warning: contains recipes. May induce drinking in all readers. The surgeon general probably frowns on this. Not for use by those under age or trying to hold onto lower case status.

25 June, 2011

Review: Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase

I was as surprised to find a Loretta Chase book in my TBR as you are. I think the original plan was to save the book for a Bad Day Read, but then the early buzz was mixed so I tossed it into the all purpose TBR bag. Then the Bad Day Read bag was empty. You see where I'm going with this. Rather like the moment when the mysterious orphan whips off her cloak to reveal a hereditary birthmark, a secret piece of jewelry, and a tattoo on her lower back reading "Your Lost Heiress" there was much rejoicing and disbelief.

Last Night's Scandal has a tiny continuity error. There's a moment late in the book where a scene has obviously been altered but it's effect on subsequent events has not. As it appears in the book it is much stronger than it would have been in it's other form, but the distraction remains. Acknowledging that, I still loved Last Night's Scandal. To some extent Loretta Chase is a victim of her own success. When you've written some of the landmark books of the genre, everything else pales.

"Well sure" the reader thinks, "These are original characters that I feel I understand. Absolutely they have consistent internal logic, a true conflict and seem as though I know them. But it's not as good as..." Other authors don't have to meet that standard. If Last Night's Scandal was by B.J. McHappenstance, I think I'd be hailing the new Genre Queen and Expecting Great Things and Raving Like a Loon. (Olivia, the heroine of Last Night's Scandal writes like I do. It made me love her even more.) Instead the reaction is "Well, that was good." And it was. It was very, very good indeed.

Olivia is bored in the confines of her life. An active mind in a beautiful body, she's delighted when her best friend, the Earl of Lisle, returns from Egypt for a family event. They are the oldest of friends. Comfortable with each other, Olivia and Lisle perfectly portray that ease you have with someone you trust completely. For poor Lisle, Olivia has gone and become a girl. How can you act the same way with a girl? It's a problem. His solution is to return to Egypt, but his parents have other plans. Before you can say Slacker Angst, Lisle has had the financial plug pulled on his dreams. Lisle is a pitch perfect despondent young man. He wallows, he whines (just a bit), he says "Parents!" in the sort of tone one uses. It's up to Olivia to fix things, and her solution involves a trip to Scotland, a decaying castle, a hidden treasure and a... actually no. Not a wedding. Olivia isn't interested in being Lisle's rich bride or his benefactor. She's his friend. She's willing to consider friends with benefits, but she's not looking to marry Lisle to make his life easier.

Here is what I really liked about Last Night's Scandal. Olivia is the rare heroine who worries about the rest of her life. Sure she loves Lisle, he's her best friend. That doesn't mean they can make each other happy. Olivia actually takes the time to consider both their needs and the ability of either of them to meet them. I loved her. Lisle is just as wonderful. Together I could have read about them all night. From any other author this would be a book to exclaim over. From Loretta Chase, it's just a good book.

21 June, 2011

Review: One Touch of Scandal by Liz Carlyle

Never taunt your TBR pile, kids.

After the awesome read that was Wicked All Day, I was unprepared for One Touch of Scandal. This is one of those reviews where anything you say (no matter how true to your feelings) seems mean. I hated it so much I'm sorry there's a sequel. And perhaps the author feels the same way because the book advertised in the back of One Touch of Scandal, the serially named One Wicked Glance has been renamed The Bride Wore Scarlet (to be followed by The Bride Wore Pearls). Although Amazon sells One Touch of Scandal, you won't find it on their Complete List of Liz Carlyle Books nor is it listed on Amazon's Liz Carlyle Page. Unless you search by title, Amazon goes directly from Wicked All Day to The Bride Wore Scarlet without a book between. (They tried to warn me I suppose) I have an ARC of The Bride Wore Scarlet, so I'll report back next month on that.

On the positive side, our hero Ruthveyn's mother was from India. His heritage is handled fairly well (although of course he's into tantric sex). Our heroine had a French father so she gets her share of exotic in as well. Neither of them slip into offensive territory or use heritage as a substitute for character. There is also a nice scene at a tomb where Grace gives in to grief after being snubbed by the family of her former fiance. It's a bit odd that she just accepts the snubbing (time and again) for as long as she does but we will give her that - she is in mourning after all.

Ok, that's it. We've covered the parts I liked. There's a murder and it's only a mystery to the characters in the book. If you haven't figured out who did the deed by the end of the first chapter this might be your first time. In fact, the murderer seemed so obvious I thought it was a red herring and became annoyed as the clues toward that presumed red herring built up. But whatever, dead guy, suspicion, Grace on the run. She runs right into a (get ready) Super Secret Society of Psychics. No, this isn't a Jayne Ann Krentz book. Yes I know Liz Carlyle is better than that, but apparently a deep seated need to write about pseudo Masons and the Chosen Ones overtook her.  It's not paranormal, it's not steampunk, it's not even butter. I described it elsewhere as stumbling into a bad cosplay event where people were trying to bend spoons with their minds. I meant it. This is the lamest Boys Only, Girls Are Too Loud secret society ever. At one point Grace tries to tell Ruthveyn's sister that she's not psychic when the sister is all "Don't you find you are a good judge of people? AHA! You are just untrained!" I half expected her to add "And can't you always smell when the cookies are burning? AHA!" 

Right. So Ruthveyn finds Grace extra hot because he can't tell when she's going to die or what she's thinking (his super powers) meaning she might be his soul mate! I agree that seeing how someone dies whenever you touch them has to be unsettling at best, but this is one of my least favorite coupling tricks. "I understand you less than anyone else I know - I must have you!" For her part, Grace wants a family. Any family. A dog, a few kids, she just wants to get away from her Aunt and stay away. Ruthveyn will do just fine even before they find out... look, if telling you they are related is going to spoil the book for you then I have done you a favor. Grace has blood heritage to the Super Secrets too! Decoder rings for everyone!

I was done long before Ruthveyn cured his long standing drug use (he charms Grace with a Snoop Doggy Dawg imitation) via one night of sex. I was done before he caught a friend in a compromising position with a tabloid reporter and dealt with it by thinking sure, maybe they'd done some crazy stuff they'd both like to forget during those opium orgies back in the day but no way did that make anyone gay! Then Grace agrees. She knows that guy as well and no way is he gay. Not him. Nuh-uh. Look how upset he is at almost kissing a girl! Um, I mean, boy! There's more to that, for sure! What could it be? What? What could it be!

I'm hoping The Bride Wore Scarlet is significantly more enjoyable than One Touch of Scandal was. We're going to start with two problems. One is it being a sequel to this mess. The other is that Carlyle apparently ties her paranormal world into her previously established non paranormal families. I like Liz Carlyle, I'm pulling for her on this one, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared.

17 June, 2011

Review: Composed by Rosanne Cash

It's interesting - in trying to write a love letter to her father  with Good Stuff Jennifer Grant ended up making the reader think less of them both. Rosanne Cash takes a different path. In Composed Cash is at pains to be honest, about herself, about her father, about her conflicted feelings.  Her fearless style reminds me of a lyric by Simple Kid.

"Buddy, it's as simple as that / When you see past all of the crap." 

Rosanne Cash absolutely sees past the crap. While completely unfamiliar with her musical work, I left the book interested in exploring it. She's a likeable narrator, a woman you'd want to spend a day hanging out with. Her memoir is not a linear or exhaustive work. She focuses on brief periods of her life and her feelings about them before turning the light to a completely different time. She does not exploit a life made for exploitation, reserving what she should and illuminating what she wants. I respect her all the more for protecting her children from a blow by blow account of her relationships. I respect her for confessing her frustrations as a parent and as a child. What emerges from Composed is a portrait of a woman finding herself while multiple lives pull at her. The life she's set her feet on suits her, the city she's chosen to live in is a good one for maintaing perspective. Her parents emerge as people sometimes overwhelmed by their circumstances yet leaving their children a legacy of love. Not an easy achievement, and one that requires the child to meet them more than halfway.

For me the most resonant passage is during a trip to Ireland. Rosanne happens to meet a living link to her father in the form of a shopkeeper. I have had those moments, I have had a letter from a woman who played in the street a hundred years ago with my lost family member. She had pictures too. It's an amazing and inexplicable experience to find yourself somewhere you didn't really plan to be only to find your family waiting for you. Truly a memoir rather than an autobiography, Composed is out in paperback next month and it's worth spending some time with.

13 June, 2011

Review: Wicked All Day by Liz Carlyle


I knew if I excavated the TBR Pile Of 2009 that eventually my patience would be rewarded. Whew. I was starting to fear I'd entered some odd black hole of genre quality, but Liz Carlyle saved me. Remember when I was expressing my distaste of the hermetically sealed heroine? Zoe Armstrong is anything but a shining example of rectitude. I'm kind of going to gush, so let's get the negative out of the way early. Why does a heroine with sexual agency so often have the uncaring whore for a mother? You don't need Mommy Issues to get your freak on. (Not that Zoe is that freaky, except for the whole brothers thing.)

Alright, let's just get into it. Zoe's mom was a paid sex worker, I mean mistress, of her father. She wasn't even English! (Eye roll for hot blooded as veiled racism / race diversity allusions.) She happily traded infant Zoe for a roll of banknotes and went on with her life. (I feel another essay coming on here - it would detail the glorification and victimization of women in the sex trade by genre convention. Hey, why don't you go read Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd instead? Save us both.) So Zoe is parked with some less than interested child care workers and the result is that even after the application of a caring step mother Zoe is a woman who has decided to live down to the expectations of others. You want sexy? You want scandal? You want self destruction? Zoe's got it.

On the other side of the coin is Stuart, known as Mercer since he attained his title as a boy. A distant cousin, Mercer has stood outside the circle of Zoe's childhood bond with his brother Robin. First too old to be interested, then old enough to know better,  Mercer has long viewed Zoe as the addiction he just can't afford. Often stepping in to keep her from destroying herself, Mercer keeps her on the edge of ruin until the night he finds her half dressed and straddling his brother at a party. Zoe and Robin have already realized they don't actually want to have angry sex, but it's too late. Marriage surely follows such an indiscretion. A seasoned genre reader cynically expects this to be the point at which Mercer steps up to offer himself as the sacrificial spouse, but Carlyle isn't letting anyone off that easily.

Robin and Zoe retire to their own private hell as the cost of their self destructive impulse plays out in both their lives. Mercer can only stand by and watch them both fall apart. Despite their deep love they do not make a healthy pair. It's that exploration of a bad romance that makes Wicked All Day so refreshing. Zoe does not castigate herself for stepping outside of her engagement with Robin for a few moments with Mercer because she abhors her sexuality, she castigates herself for her disloyalty. Mercer does not express anger at Zoe for her physical impulses, he is angry at her lack of foresight and her unerring ability to diminish herself through her romantic partners. Robin is not evil, or cunning, he's just wrong for Zoe and she for him. It was refreshing to read about reality based conflict in a romance about personal growth where there are neither saints nor sinners, just people finding their way. (Ok, I take it back. There is a saint and a sinner both in Wicked All Day, but neither of them are members of the primary triangle.)

I've got another Carlyle in my TBR and one in my ARC stash. We might be on a roll here. Unfortunately, Wicked All Day is Agency. You can order the e-book for $8 USD or a paper copy for $3 shipped. (I can't help publishers that don't want my help. Would that be Publishers Anonymous or Agency Anonymous? It is to ponder.)

09 June, 2011

Review: Lord Langley Is Back In Town by Elizabeth Boyle

I normally don't write a spoiler filled review on such a recent release but Lord Langley Is Back In Town was such a crushing disappointment that I feel the need to make an exception. Ok, let's break it down for those who wish to remain spoiler free. I did not like Lord Langley, I did not like the deployment of the Nannies, I did not like the reinvention of Minerva, I did not like the breathtakingly cruel way Lord Langley treats his daughters, I did not like the central mystery and I most certainly did not like the return of the hermetically sealed heroine.

Other than that, the book was great. I mean, if you don't care about any of that stuff you'll be fine. You've got spies and shooting and nefarious plots and situational amnesia and duels and betrayals and all that sort of stuff. You could probably turn your mind off and enjoy Lord Langley Is Back In Town. As for myself? Well, Spoilers Ahoy Me Mateys, Here Those Spoilers Be.

Let's start things rolling with Minerva. We've known Minerva (from the prior books) as being wound far too tight, disapproving utterly of Lucy for her low beginnings, an absolute stickler for propriety and a general stick pushed firmly in the mud. Why is Minerva this way? (Really, it's spoiler time, I am not kidding around here!) Because she is actually her half sister. Yes, our Minerva is secretly not Minerva but instead the daughter of the cook who may or may not have also been a murderess. All her starchy ways have just been overcompensation during her masquerade. (I know!) She kept the diamonds from Lucy (and later Felicity) not because Lucy was common, but because she liked them so much. Right. Moving on, the reason Minerva is impersonating her sister is that her sister ran off to marry Minerva's boyfriend forcing their father to substitute his similarly aged bastard for the blue blood said sister's fiance never really met. Which Minerva agreed to do because - I don't know. But she did. And he was old and smelly and couldn't get it up. So! Despite being of lower bastard birth and having the sort of boyfriend that runs off with your sister and being a widow, Minerva is a virgin for our hero Lord Langley! He won't catch anything from her! She's been saved for his protection.

On the other hand, Lord Langley has banged half of Europe, with the utterly charming (read sociopathic) hobby of introducing lovers to his twin daughters as Nannies. The Nannies have appeared, having realized that he isn't dead, and barge into Minerva's home to await his arrival. Why is Langley going to Minerva's house? So they can meet of course. There is a tedious story of Langley having to hide in plain sight and figure out who betrayed him and blah blah blah but I will leave you something to discover on your own. I'd rather talk about Langley and the Nannies. Mostly, they are jokes instead of women. There is one exception (Jamilla) but Langley primarily does what every man lucky enough to get a hermetically sealed heroine does - he looks at his former lovers with distaste and disbelief. Not long standing friends, he and these women. No, because that would make them Real People. A Real Conversation between Langley and the Nannies would rip open the plot (such as it is) and cut about a hundred pages. So, the Nannies are just comic relief or something.

What about Langley's daughters? Has he told his twins he is alive? I really feel for those girls, actually. Given their father's paramours as Nannies, dragged hither and yon by his spy career, dumped alone at boarding school by a certain age and then told he has died in disgrace - it hasn't been sunshine and roses for Felicity and Thalia. Sure, they've got mad skills in all sorts of unlikely places, but their mother is dead and their father isn't available to them. You can't excuse that by writing a scene where he carries their letters by his heart even through French prisons and murder attempts. Those girls have had it rough. This makes the ending of Lord Langley even more breathtakingly cruel. Having cleared his name at last, does Lord Langley settle down to be a doting grandfather or apologetic father? Does he step back from the adventures that cost him and his daughters so much in life?

Of course not. He takes his wife, Minerva, and travels to China for years. Felicity, his more troubled daughter, undertakes a renovation of his townhouse in an attempt to please him. Is her reward his happy face? No, it's finding out that she has three half brothers born during his travels. Half brothers he and Minerva wrote to her sister about, half brothers everyone in the family thought it best to keep from her, to just surprise her with. Is it any wonder Felicity is a bitch of a control freak? How does she look at his face without bursting into tears on a regular basis? How does she not slap Thalia across a room? Making this HEA even less of one, the new family plans to settle down at the family estate - the same family estate they promised not to evict another family from, a loyal family that was of great service to Lord Langley until he had sons and wanted to raise them.

I think Elizabeth Boyle and I are going to have to break up.

08 June, 2011

The New Baby: Sony PRS-350

It wasn't planned.

Please don't think that makes the PRS-350 unwanted, but sometimes things happen when you don't expect them. (I was sober. I swear.) Like all unplanned events, this one has a long story attached. Short version is I decided not to take Ozymandius (iPad) on the road, but I was afraid that Baby (Sony 505) would be under constant siege. My plan was to borrow a 505 from someone who was selling theirs, but I was too slow. This left me two options - buy a second e-reader (selling whichever one I like least on my return) or suffer the perils of one e-reader for four travelers. There wasn't really a choice.

Well, ok, there was. Did I get the Kindle?  Did I get it with offers? Did I go for a Nook, despite my desire to never use B&N as a supplier? Should I just take Ozy on the road? If I did buy a Kindle, should I get it from Amazon? From Target? There was much debate. Like all things, it came down to love. (It would have to. Sony markets these things like Hipsters advertise bars. If you want to buy one you'd better know the secret handshake and the unmarked door.) I love my Sony 505. It has given me very little trouble despite the long hours I make it work. While I was going to side load anything I bought (I'm a stripper, I don't have time to screw with permissions and passwords and clouds and what not. I paid for it, I'll store it, thank you very much) the history I had with my 505 made me consider another Sony and the PRS-350 was in my price category. ($120 if you must know.) Until I picked it up, I thought I was going to buy a Kindle. You may remember that I was not that impressed with these touch screen units when they came out. The screen on the 350 seemed too small and the 650 was too buggy as a touch screen. I hadn't been impressed enough to walk away from Baby. Thinking about traveling made me look at the Sony Pocket differently.

This baby is light. It's not as small as I had recalled, more the size of a 1944 paperback in it's face. (What you don't read vintage? '44 was a great year.) Being left handed, the location of the page turning buttons was ideal for one handed reading. (Not like that! OMG are you at the wrong blog. Move along.) The touch screen solved an embarrassing problem I'd developed since using Ozy as my primary reader. When I was with Baby I kept smacking it in the face as though it would do something. Suddenly, scrolling seemed so last century and tedious. PRS-350 may not be as responsive as Ozy, but it does the job. We haven't been together long enough for cute little pet names, but I can already tell that Baby is halfway out the door. (I may not bother opening that leather cover I got it.) PRS-350 fits nicely in a Tokidoki for Sephora zip top pouch, making it compliment any bag I carry (since I have a well documented Tokidoki Problem). The screen is so much clearer than Baby. It's not perfect, it still requires a decent light for reading (unlike Ozy, who is ready to go anytime, anywhere) but it's so much better. Baby requires a full font size higher to be clear. I'd tell Baby I don't have a favorite, but I'd be lying. If PRS-350 travels well, it's getting a pet name and a permanent home. Shh. Baby doesn't know yet.

05 June, 2011

Review: Good Stuff by Jennifer Grant

I don't do a lot of editing on reviews. My style (obviously) is to go with my gut reaction, give it a pass over for spelling and grammar, then walk away. I am not the carefully crafted multiple draft reviewer. Therefore, reviewing Good Stuff is difficult. I feel so much compassion for Jennifer Grant the person. She has not put out a book. She has put out the version of her father she wishes the world would cosign. How do you review someone else's reality?

Good Stuff is the way Jennifer would like to recall her childhood and her father. Bad Stuff is anything not in that very, very narrow track. Grant's style reads as if she is talking to herself and you are permitted to listen in. She repeats herself, she jumps around in time, she reflects with oblique comments of a word or two. It's a very stylized approach and not a fully successful one. Her dislike for breaching her privacy is obvious and yet she has written a book to be sold to the public. Her dislike for the public's less respectful questions is also obvious, and again, she has written a book to be sold to the public. It is an absolute case of having her cake and eating it. While deliberately choosing not to explore her father's past or put the events of her life in context Grant raises more questions than she answers. Her father appears obsessed with her, it seems to go a bit beyond the average. He creates an archive of personal effects, complete with a bank vault style safe to store them in. He tells his young daughter that she is "his type" and as she grows older marries a young woman with a bit more than a passing resemblance to her. He's controlling, although Jennifer sees him otherwise. She cannot wear makeup in her teens, he prefers the silent treatment to conversation, imperfection is for others. There is a lot to sort through but it is left unexamined.

Grant doesn't explore the complexity of her father's personality, his past or the ten year custody battle for her person. She delivers a love letter to the concept of her father she has built in her mind, a concept she has every right to hold, but which a reader will find implausible and confusing. Any 'why' the reader may have is shied away from by the daughter. I question if Grant was ready to write a true memoir of her experiences. There is a lot of hero worship and no true introspection. Readers wanting a peek inside the gates, a reinforcement of the Grant image will be satisfied with Good Stuff. Readers wanting a true memoir balancing adult understanding with childhood impressions will come away thinking less of both Grants than they did at the start of the book.

The Grants adored each other and adored their privacy. I am not sure what purpose Good Stuff serves. It may have helped Grant to write it, it may be useful to children of much older parents who wish to compare experiences, perhaps it will be treasured by Grant's son Cary, but Good Stuff doesn't offer much to most who would read it.

04 June, 2011

Summer Is All About Reruns

Mergers by meoskop
Mergers, a photo by meoskop on Flickr.
I'm still doing the whole get over cancer thing, so the TBR reviews will continue. Hm, I should phrase that differently because I am already over cancer. So over it. Over, over, over. Stick a fork in cancer, because it's done.   (I just need my stitches to get the memo.) It's also summer, which means there is a gazebo or two out there with my name on it. Maybe even this one. If there's a gap here or there, a lack of comments, a bizarre run of random reading - blame it on the folly. I certainly will.

01 June, 2011

Review: The Earl Claims His Wife by Cathy Maxwell

This recovery is teaching me that books in my TBR pile are generally there because they suck.

I'd hate for someone to judge all of Cathy Maxwell's books on The Earl Claims His Wife. As Agency Pricing continues being the gift that just won't stop giving (much like VD) there is a possibility that you're considering dropping 8 hard earned USD's on this clunker. (If I can save just one of you, etc.) I didn't even like the cover. Somehow she has ripped her dress around mid thigh, lost all her underthings and shoved her naked body out of the hole. He's not faring much better. That's someone else's boot on the side there, or our hero has extra articulation in his thigh. (Add the super painful Barbie arch of her foot and this seems like a bad idea all around.)

But back to the contents. Brian, the Earl in question, is a complete Tool. Capital T, walking poster child for narcissistic personality disorder. Let's take him first. Brian is in love with Jess, some chick from his childhood days, so he makes her his mistress. He's a third son, and his dad tells him he has to get married anyway so he's all like, whatever, you pick, I don't care. He takes his blushing young virginal bride home, bangs her quick to get it over with (while thinking of Jess) then tells her his heart belongs to another and he is off to be with his true love. No really, like that. Surprised he didn't wipe himself on her leg. Off he goes to be with the woman that holds his heart, leaving his new wife to deal with his disapproving and dominating parents. Then he's off to war, where he doesn't write his wife and upon his return just heads straight to be with Jess again. All this happens before we meet him. When we actually do meet Brian, he's bellowing at his wife for having fled this torture chamber of a life and demanding she come home. She balks, he decides to kill someone to narrow her options. He's a prize, isn't he?

I wish I liked Gillian better.  Not only does she have dreadful taste in men, she's lacking in backbone. She's left Brian (or left his parents actually) and found love (or desire) with a broke as hell Spanish baron working on the estate. Although she is like so totally sure she loves Andres, she hasn't made any moves on him. She mostly watches him stroke horses and sighs while declaring that any minute now, any minute at all, maybe even right this second she's going to get a divorce and be with him. Andres is totally down with that plan. Which makes her think maybe it's a bad plan because when he says he wants her it seems like he's being foolish. (COSIGNED) Anyway, there Brian is doing the bellowing thing in the driveway and dueling in the courtyard with Andres when it occurs to Gillian that someone might die and her options won't be any better. She strikes a deal with Brian that she will go with him in exchange for her freedom in 30 days after she establishes him politically. (Which the divorce would then.... oh she's not the brightest girl.)

Less than a day later, Gillian is riding Brian like he's a naughty pony and forgiving him all. Jess is dead, you say? Well then! Andres is broke so let's get it on. Of course, Jess isn't dead and Brian hasn't come seeking Gillian for love but because he has a household in shambles and a dying baby. Well, it's Jess's dying baby, but since his brothers have died (making him the heir y'all!) and the baby is his father's, then this baby is the Only Brother He Has Left. Gillian is upset and suddenly Andres is looking good again. Despite her post nookie renewal of vows, she wants her 30 day countdown back. Then she doesn't. Then she does. Then she doesn't. Gillian wants to love whichever man she isn't with.

Brian stomps his feet, holds his breath, and proves his independence from his controlling father. He does this by taking the post his father has arranged for him. (I know, Brian can't be helped). His feelings of betrayal from Jess are all tied up in his feelings of anger at his father for banging his mistress. Brian takes comfort in the thought that the Evil Innocent Scheming Victim Jess has ensnared his father who thinks he is So Clever but Really Is Not. (I think Brian is 12. Maybe.) Brian's mom doesn't matter because women don't matter in this book. This book is all about Needy Men Who Need Things. Don't believe me? Let's examine Jess.

Jess is stunningly beautiful and poor. Brian, the 3rd son, swears he loves her and is eternally devoted to her so she becomes his mistress. He moves in with her and sees to all her material needs. When he goes to war, she takes up with his creepy father. Does she do it because she feels betrayed by his marrying? No, she does it because she needs to monetize her youth. Really. She says so. Then she bears his father's son, despite never having a kid with Brian. (I see a problem with the succession looming. Also, where are Brian's older brother's wives? Did they not have kids?) Brian's dad is all, no kids, thanks, so Jess sends the baby to a warehouse where they put it in a closet and forget about it. (Not kidding.) Brian arrives in the Nick Of Time to take the baby and restore it to health where Jess comes to see it. Not because she wants her baby or has regrets, but because Brian's dad tells her to go rattle Gillian's cage. It doesn't make any sense to the guy's motivations, but it allows Gillian to cry a lot and jerk Andres around more. Why is Jess an Evil Whoring Bitch? Apparently she was born that way. Wouldn't any woman whore herself out to father and son then abandon her child? It's just, like, what they do. Bitches. Brian's dad is like, you're a victim of her awesome sexxing and Brian is like, no dad, YOU are and Jess is like, I can't help it if I need to get paid.

Eventually, for no apparent reason, Gillian and Brian loudly declare their love for each other without ruining his political career and set off with their bastard sibling son for the diplomatic post his father wanted him to take in the first place. Brian has successfully broken free of his father by moving where his father wanted, working where his father wanted, and banging who his father wanted. Happy Ending Indeed. (Or not.)