Wednesday, March 17, 2010

TBR Day: When He Was Wicked and Present Danger

Sigh, I thought I won my battle against my addiction of Bejeweled Blitz... turns out, not ^_^; Spent the whole day playing instead of writing this review :( Ah well, going to have to work harder to fight it :P It always helps though once I'm at the top of the leaderboard LOL.

Now, switching topics... How's the weather for everyone? I mentioned in an earlier post that we've been having great weather... I mean, WOW weather for March/spring... Very sunny and so far, only one day of rain! The temperature is also quite warm... However, it's totally wrong for guys to wear shorts this early in the year! Yes, shorts!!! I've seen a couple of guys in downtown and even the neighbor teenager... there's still some snow on your lawn!  So very wrong and as I said, scary!!

Changing subject again, now onto the reviews :D So I missed last month's TBR challenge and as a result, I aimed for a two-fer this month :) Well I succeeded LOL and one of them even fit this month's TBR challenge's theme! I wouldn't have known if Ames haven't told me :P Of course, the most difficult is to review the books in time...

When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn
published by Avon in July 2004

In every life there is a turning point.

A moment so tremendous, so sharp and breathtaking, that one knows one's life will never be the same. For Michael Stirling, London's most infamous rake, that moment came the first time he laid eyes on Francesca Bridgerton.

After a lifetime of chasing women, of smiling slyly as they chased him, of allowing himself to be caught but never permitting his heart to become engaged, he took one look at Francesca Bridgerton and fell so fast and hard into love it was a wonder he managed to remain standing. Unfortunately for Michael, however, Francesca's surname was to remain Bridgerton for only a mere thirty-six hours longer - the occasion of their meeting was, lamentably, a supper celebrating her imminent wedding to his cousin.

But that was then... Now Michael is the earl and Francesca is free, but still she thinks of him as nothing other than her dear friend and confidant. Michael dares not speak to her of his love…until one dangerous night, when she steps innocently into his arms, and passion proves stronger than even the most wicked of secrets...
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Bridgertons, Book #6

The Story: Michael Sterling fell in love with Francesca Bridgerton at first sight. Unfortunately for him, she was about to marry Michael's beloved cousin, John Sterling - Earl of Kilmartin. For the two following years, Michael was able to suppress his feelings for Francesca and they have become good friends, confidants even. Then, the unimaginable happens: John, the cousin Michael considered as his brother, Francesca's beloved husband, dies unexpectedly. Everything becomes worst when Francesca miscarries and Michael officially becomes the 9th Earl of Kilmartin. Grieving for John, unable to face his feelings for Francesca and his responsibilities as an earl, Michael escapes to India for a life of adventure.

Michael finally comes back after four years, believing that he can once again suppress his feelings for Francesca. At the same time, Francesca is now ready to remarry as she wants to have a family and children of her own... and Michael quickly realizes that he was mistaken - he is not over Francesca... and she is in for a shock.

My Opinion: So this is kind of funny... I was a late-comer to The Bridgertons series. In fact, the reason why I ever got into it was because When He was Wicked sounded interesting and it was many bloggers' favorite. So I got all the series, started from the beginning... and simply never made it to When He Was Wicked LOL. Then, not too long ago, Ames read it (see her review here) and it was enough for me to finally pick it up :)

I don't know if it's because I read The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins recently, which basically had the same premises in a contemporary setting, but I wasn't wowed by When He was Wicked as so many others have been. Oh, it was a good book for sure, just not a wowzer.

I really liked the hero, Michael Sterling. Such a tortured man! Granted, the torture was of a different type, but that doesn't make the feelings less real. I don't think there can be many things worst than being in love with your brother/best friend/cousin's wife. Not being able to confess, always having to hide the feelings and if everything goes wrong, you could lose everything. In addition, it was so ironic that a rake like Michael has finally found a woman with whom he'd like to settle down, but she's the only woman with whom he can't. Then, there was the death of John, the loss of John's child and taking John's place... I don't blame Michael for freaking out and running away. Despite all that was going on, Ms Quinn also managed to make Michael sound yummy :) LOL, such great writing... However, I wasn't too happy with his character when he decided to marry Francesca. There just wasn't transition between the tortured man and the one determined to marry his love... The turn-around took place too fast and it made his character seemed kind of inconsistent. He's taken such length to keep his distance, hide his feelings and understand that once he lets go, it's like the dam has broken... But why has the dam broken? I thought that there should have been more to the process than Colin saying "Why don't you marry her yourself?" Other than that, I really thought Michael was very yummy :)

As for Francesca, I didn't dislike her, but I didn't liked her either... She was just kind of bland. Holly mentioned in the comment section of Ames review that the readers don't really know Francesca at all. It's not exactly that readers don't know her, but it's more Ms Quinn telling readers that Francesca has been reserved and quiet and just left it at that. There's no real development to her character, no real growth. There's no real change to her character throughout the book. A lot of the book was focused on Michael agonizing about his feelings for Francesca, his inner thoughts... However, when it comes to Francesca, the inner monologues are glossed over...

When He was Wicked is really about Francesca and Michael and their relationship. There is no secondary plot and not many secondary characters either. I thought that the first part about John's death was very good and up to the part where Michael returns and is debating his feelings was very satisfying... However, it all goes down for me when Francesca runs back to Kilmartin - the country home. I don't blame her for running away... it's just the whole, "Should I marry Michael or not" and not being sure about her feelings that became a bit tedious.

My Grade: B. I'm glad I finally read When He was Wicked. As a whole, I was happy with the book, I liked it and it was different than the rest of the series. It just wasn't a wowzer for me.

Present Danger by Susan Andersen
published by Zebra Kensington in February 1993

On the run from her ex-husband, Aunie Franklin doesn't want another man telling her what to do. She's learning to take charge of her life.

James Ryder is finally getting his brothers' troubles straightened out-- the last thing he needs is another responsibility thrust upon him. But somebody's got to teach this little southern belle some street smarts.

Two people from different worlds, learning that in some areas they aren't so very different after all. But just when they start to believe there's a chance of their worlds meshing, the phone calls begin...

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: none

The Story: Aunie Franklin is a Southern belle who married an older man for the money and prestige he could bring to her. While the marriage was not as ideal as she hoped, the last draw came when he refused to give her a baby because it would ruin her figure. That's when she decided to divorce him despite the protests of her family and that's when he showed his true face.

Battered, Aunie escapes to Seattle where she hopes she can start a new life away from her ex-husband and family. This time around, Aunie plans to use her brain instead of her beauty to make her way. She finds the perfect little apartment near the college she intends to attend, except her new landlord has a stick up his behind.

James Ryder is a popular cartoonist who doesn't want any more complications in his life. Coming from a rough neighborhood, he's trying to straighten out his brothers with little success. Seeing Aunie's battered face, he knows she's going to be trouble and so, they both start off on the wrong foot. However, it's clear that James can't keep his distance from Aunie...

My Opinion: I'm a fan of Ms Andersen, so I've been collecting her backlist. Present Danger is one of her oldest books and so I was happy to finally find a copy :) I didn't have high expectations for it, as I haven't heard much of this book... and it's good thing since it turned out to be so-so.

To me, it all came down to the characters. For some reasons, they just weren't very likable to me. I admire Aunie for admitting she was a trophy wife and wanting to make herself better with this second chance, but admiring and liking is not the same. As for James, I thought sometimes, he was really rude. It's one thing not to want to be involved in other's problems, but you don't have to be rude :( And the worst is that, straightening out other people's problem seems to be Jame's favorite hobby. He just can't help himself... so he shouldn't blame others for it, but himself. I just didn't care much for Aunie and James and so I wasn't really invested in their relationship. James was a very contradictory character and so it was a bit annoying... He kept saying he didn't want to be involved or commit in a relationship or like Aunie, but at every occasion, it jumped in feet first.

The story wasn't bad though... but again, it's hard to get into it if you don't really care about the main characters and it focused a lot around James and Aunie. There was also a lot of secondary characters that played filler, but that was okay.

What annoyed me most though was the accents. Lori made a comment about it in a review of hers (here) and I totally agree with her. It's distracting to read accents... and there wasn't one accent in Present Danger, but three!! Reading "woo-mon" simply drove me insane, ugh. If characters have accents, just mentioned it in the story... and let the readers imagine it. We already imagine the rest, so one more thing won't kill us LOL.

My Grade: C. Not the best Susan Andersen book out there, but considering this was her second book only and it's been written more than 15 years ago, it was okay :) Lots of things change in the romance and real world. It does sustain the test of time, but I don't know, I don't think it's a story we would see nowadays. To be labeled as romantic suspense nowadays, I think it should be a lot more gritty and perhaps, gory. In any case, it would have worked better if I'd have liked the characters, I'm sure of that :)


  1. When He Was Wicked was my very first Julia Quinn and I loved it. I then went and glommed onto the Bridgerton series and all the other books she'd written - it's still my favourite and has a special place all its own in my heart!

  2. Since you asked about the weather, it's hot! It's too soon to be hot here. 80F was the high today. I want winter back and my 60F. LOL

    The Bridgertons - love that series. I can't think of one that I didn't enjoy. I do remember Michael and like you said he was a wonderful tortured hero. Sadly, I barely remember Francesca, probably for the reasons you mentioned.

    Never read Susan Andersen and it sounds like if I do I'll skip this one. :)

    Nice reviews nath - you've been busy!

  3. I so hear you about spending the day playing instead of doing other things. For me, it's always "just one more round!" Of course, again and again and again... *g*

    Besides THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME, WHEN HE WAS WICKED is my favorite Bridgerton novel. Very probably because - as you said - it feels different than the rest of the series. And of course, I love unrequited love stories. And you're right about Francesca. :)

    So are you going to read the rest of the series now? I actually still have to read two more books - the first one and (I think) the one for Hyacinth.

  4. I've read all of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton books and like you, though I like When He Was Wicked, it didn't really wow me, although I do love the friends falling in love trope. My absolute favorite Bridgerton stories would be The Duke and I (Daphne's story), Colin's story (Romancing Mr. Bridgerton) and Gregory's story (On the Way to the Wedding). Those are the books I would reread, if ever. In fact, I've already reread The Duke and I twice. LOL

  5. So, Taja, do read book #1 (The Duke and I). You'll love it. I love it mainly because of Daphne (very likeable heroine) and Simon (the tortured and angsty hero).

  6. Aaaah, Francesca annoyed me much. If it weren't for Michael I wouldn't have enjoyed the book so much!

    The weather in my town is awesome. It's been really warm the past few days. Funny how 60's is warm in the winter but when it's summer that temp is too cold. lol.

    I don't like accents in my books. It distracts me then take away any enjoyment I had. Like you, I prefer the author just mention that they have accents and let it be.

  7. All the snow has melted and it's gorgeous out. It won't last much longer but it was a nice peek at the coming spring!

    And I've been waiting to see what you thought of the last Kresley Cole - did you guys do a buddy review and I missed it? I know you were struggling with it.


  8. The weather here is gorgeous, Nath. It's Spring! Yoo hoo!

    Funny enough I've never read the Bridgerton series. For some reason I never wanted to... don't know why. One of these days.

    I've been making my way slowly through Susan Andersen's work. I haven't read this one, but I've read some of her older work and I agree that it's not great, although it's enjoyable... I need to try some of her recent releases now.

  9. Kaetrin - LOL, first book read by a particular always holds a special place, don't you think, Kaetrin? :) LOL, I start reading Julia Quinn because she was popular and I was bored :P But turned out to be quite a good choice.

    Leslie - I know! Way too early for such warm temperatures. I'm telling you, it's scary! :P

    Did you read the whole Bridgertons series, Leslie? I still haven't read Sir Phillip and the last Bridgerton book. However, I heard that the Gregory's book was disappointing, so I might not try it...

    Between the two, Michael definitively stands out. Kind of sad that in the relationship, he was the one who suffered so much.

    As for the Susan Andersen, well it's her 2nd book, so that's probably why you haven't heard of it. She had 4 books with Zebra Kensington in the 90s, all romantic suspenses and for some reasons, they're kind of unknown. Perhaps because it's been a while ago?

    LOL, my blogging/reviewing muse is visiting, so I'm taking advantage of it :P

    Taja - LOL, one more game!! And then, it turns into a couple more :D Today, I'm trying to break my addiction by playing Scrabble with my co-workers. don't know if it's going to be better or not LOL.

    I really enjoyed The Viscount Who Loved Me :) My favorite though would be Colin and Penelope's story. For some reasons, I have a soft spot for them :D

    Like you, I'm missing only two books - Elizabeth and Gregory. I have Sir Phillip (Elizabeth's book), so I'm going to read it one day... but the other one, Gregory's, not planning to... Heard it was quite disappointing.

    Silver - Yay, someone who feels the same way! :D I love the friends falling in love with each other theme, but not necessarily the falling in love with your brother/cousin/best friend's widow/ex. It's just too much emotional baggage most of the time ^_^;

    You liked Gregory's story? I thought most of bloggers found it disappointing. I did love Colin's though :D

    Tabitha - LOL, kind of wishy washy right?

    I know about accent! I mean, we can imagine the rest - how they look like, the settings, etc. So we can imagine the accent as well. LOL, okay, maybe I can't because I really have a bad ear when it comes to it, but I don't need to read it.

    LOL, double standard, right? :P

    Cindy - You're going to get rain? Apparently, meteo pros have announced a very nice summer for Montreal. Can't think it'll be different for you...

    I haven't reviewed the Kresley Cole yet, but I will - just for you :D I'll work on it this week-end :D

    Hilcia - LOL, it isn't spring till Easter for me. Beware of Easter - it seems we always manage to get snow!!

    Ms Andersen has a very hit/miss style I think. I've loved some of her books, but I wouldn't be able to say what made them so special... I guess it's her writing :)

  10. Guess what I just took a break from playing to come blog hop?

    I have looked at this one at the library but did not get it. I should go back when i want a historical, :)

  11. Nath, re Gregory's book, I love the concept (would trope be the word?) of Gregory falling in love with/courting a girl while being friends with the girl's friend and having feelings for her. It's such a complicated situation, isn't it? LOL I like the part about him finding out who he really loves. I especially love reading the heroine's angst about falling in love with the man who's courting her friend!

    I haven't read any bloggers' views on the book coz I read it a long time before I jumped into blogging or reading reviews, but I remember wanting to read it again, even if I've already read it. So, for me, if I have that kind of wish, then the book has something that draws me back to it. :) Would love to read your thoughts on that, when you finally come around to reading it. :)

  12. Ok, you mention his feelings towards Francesca, especially wanting to marry her as happening too quickly. I think it's quick because he's spent 6 years wanting Francesca and never once considered the fact that he could have her. That thought never entered his mind. So it took Colin saying why don't you marry her for him to realize he could have her. And since he's a man, of course he's going to go after the thing he wants most, especially when he realizes he can have her, that she's no longer hands off.

    I love how he followed her to Scotland. Awwww.

  13. Kris - LOL :) The trick for Bejeweled Blitz it's to make bombs and bomb them. Once you do that, you get the 2x, 3x gems and voila ;D

    Did you read the rest of the Brigertons series, Kris? This one is good if you want something a bit more serious and dark. If you're in the mood of a frivolous historical... not the best choice :P

    Silver - LOL, it is a complicated situation... but somehow, it reminds me a little bit of The Viscount Who Loved Me... although Anthony was never "friends" with Kate :P

    However, you do make it sound good LOL :) I'll look it up the next time I go to the UBS :P

    Ames - Hmmm, actually, I think you're right, Ames. It makes sense... It's just, the first half was so full of his angst, it seemed like it disappeared all at once... so I think that's why it bothered me a bit.

    And yes, good for him, following her to Scotland! :D And good for him too for telling her to leave :P

  14. For some reason, I never did like Kate's and Anthony's story. I don't know why. *confused*

    Great and I'll await your thoughts on it. :)

  15. Silver - LOL, just different reading tastes :D I liked the story, but felt a bit cold towards the characters.