I'm really going to have to find a new title for my post - because recent reads is becoming quite redundant ^^;
Also, I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who has been visiting my blog and left messages :D it's really appreciated and it encourages me to keep blogging :D
I was on Romancelover's blog not too long ago and she had a review on Ways to be Wicked by Julie Anne Long and Ways to be Wicked was part of a series... so I decided to hunt down a few of her books and I ended up with The Runaway Duke and The Beauty and the Spy which is the prequel to Ways to be Wicked.
The Runaway Duke by Julie Anne Long: 2.5/5
The Runaway Duke, not the the runaway bride :P So Connor Riodan was the heir of a duke, but during the war, ppl thought he died and he never denied it, seeing this as his chances to escape a title he never wanted. So Connor became the head groom for Lord Henry. Lord Henry's youngest daughter, Rebecca, is everything but lady-like: witty, knowledgeable, ambitious, curious, etc. and her ambition is to become a doctor. I guess that during the 4 years, they both fell in love without realizing it.
Anyway, story starts when Rebecca wanted to spy on her sister's midnight rendez-vous with Lord Eldeston and got caught by their father in a compromising situation. Very rapidly, Rebecca is engaged to Lord Eldeston and the wedding is in 2 weeks. Rebecca tries her best, but finally, ended up confessing to Connor that she cannot marry Lord Eldeston even for her family. Connor becomes the hero and assure her that she doesn't have to and that they'll escape.
It should have been simple enough. It could have been quite interesting, but everything goes downhill when Rebecca decides to contribute to their escape by stealing money from her father. Only it wasn't her father's coat... and she took a locket with a very compromising portrait of the Duchess Dunbrook (Connor's widowed sister-in-law and ex-lover) and she wants it back.
Verdict: The story wasn't bad, but it could have been better as it took some unnecessary turns and detours. What failed the book though was the weak characters, main and secondary. For the main characters: I can't say much about them as they didn't catch my attention and personally, I didn't really care what happened to them in the end. Same for the secondary characters and even the villains. So that's why it gets a 2.5... a forgettable book that I'll probably give away... maybe.
Beauty and the Spy by Julie Anne Long: 3/5
This book was better and is the setting for a trilogy I guess, since there's 3 sisters.
Everything started with Anne Holt, the mother. She was in some chorus till she met the love her life, Richard Lodgewood (not sure of the name...), and became his mistress (he's a politician and not married by the way, but i don't know why he never married her). Anne then settled in a little country town and they have 3 daughters: Sylvie, Samantha and Susannah. Then, Richard is murdered and witnesses tell that it's Anne who did it, but she never left her house while Richard was in London. Luckily, a close friend of Richard, James, came and told her to run away and that he'd take care of the three daughters. So Anne had to run away...
17 years later, Susannah is engaged to a gentleman till the day her father, James, dies. Left penniless, her gentleman breaks the engagement - according to his mother, he's an heir and can't marry anyone who'll bring nothing to him. Luckily for Susannah, an aunt welcomes her to a village, Barnstable, where she meets Kit.
Viscount Kit Whitelaw is a spy for his majesty, but lately, his behavior has been bad - too much drinking, too much swearing and too much womanizing so he gets the choice: he either goes to Barnstable, his childhood estate to gather a folio or be exiled to Egypt. He chooses Barnstable. Then discovers Susannah... and they start to investigate why her father was murdered which led to her real identity...
Verdict: Okay, let's start with what annoyed me first a) it took me awhile to realize that the three girls were separated (which was clever, but it could have been mentioned in some ways). b) it annoys me that Susannah doesn't find at least one sister before the end of the book. c) Kit's age... he should be around 35-37 years old, but acts like he was 25. When you're 35-37 y.o. and a spy, you don't act like a spoiled child and your father doesn't have to tell you what to do.
Aside from that, it was okay I guess but everything happens so fast that you don't have time to digest it. And everything was quite easy: the courting, finding clues about James' murder, her sister, etc. At least, her characters were better than in The Runaway Duke.
So what attracted me to this book? The cover. I thought it was nice. Then the blurb didn't sound so bad. In the end, the book was light and quite enjoyable.
Kyra is the a demi-goddess, daughter of Zeus, the Muse of Good Fortune. Never heard of her? It's fine, because along with her sisters Zoe and Chloe, there are the three Muses that nobody remembers.
Mount Olympus has been upgraded and is now like a huge corporation where Zeus = C.E.O and where gods and goddesses have to undergo a performance assessment. At least the ones who have been slacking off like Kyra and her sisters... but try to inspire luck and good fortune and you'll see how difficult it is. In a few words, Kyra and her sisters' performances have been less than acceptable and Zeus has issued a challenge: go down on Earth for 12 months, inspire ppl, reach your quota and you'll be allowed to remain a goddess... fail and you'll become Olympus' slave... or worst, Hera's handmaiden. Oh and one more thing, you are not allowed to fall in love with a mortal.
So Kyra has chosen Vegas for her challenge, working in a casino, and everything has been going well for 11 months. Last month of the challenge, she's now coordinator of special event and is in charge of the Voice of Vegas contest - basically, American Idol for hotels and casinos staff. Then comes Jake Lennox who threatens everything Kyra has been working hard for. Jake, professional gambler, has been asked by Mr. T to investigate his casinos, because Mr. T has been losing money lately and suspects some sort of scam. After a week, Jake suspects Kyra to be part of the scam and decides to ask her out to investigate and find more about her. Kyra is attracted to Jake so she tries to avoid him, but in the end, they have to work together for the Voice of Vegas contest... and the inevitable happens, Kyra gives her heart away.
Verdict: as I say, the book was light and enjoyable. The analogy between Olympus and a corporation was quite funneh and believable. The real scam made sense, only you'd be surprised nobody caught on earlier. Characters were fine and the only thing annoying with Kyra was "I can't fall in love with him because I must return to Olympus." The perfect book to be reading on the beach.