Summary: “Welcome to a world of reckless sensuality and glittering sophistication…of dangerously handsome gentlemen and young ladies longing to gain a title . . . of games played for high stakes, including–on occasion–a lady’s virtue.”
A marquess’s sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage–until he lays eyes on Roberta.
Yet the Earl of Gryffyn knows too well that the price required to gain a coronet is often too high. Damon Reeve, the earl, is determined to protect the exquisite Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny.
Can Damon entice her into a high-stakes game of his own, even if his heart is likely to be lost in the venture?
Heroine: Roberta is really not that likeable. First of all, she claims instalove after a not so romantic first encounter. I guess I can throw her a bone and say she’s a very determined young woman, but she really needs to get her senses straight and go for the right target.
Hero: The Earl of Gryffyn is the “true” hero of DESPERATE DUCHESSES by Eloisa James but I guess it would be hard to figure this out if it weren’t for the book summary. I’m a sucker for Daddys with Cute Little Kids and the Earl of Gryffyn definitely falls under this category. It’s not his fault that he had such a sucky plotline. He would have been a more dashing hero if the circumstances had been different and the heroine had been more interesting and less naive.
Supporting Cast: I think the fact that I enjoyed the supporting characters and the subplot a lot more tells a great deal about how much I enjoyed Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James. I much rather would have liked to just focus on Jemma and the Duke of Beaumont but apparently, that’s another book! I don’t know why they played such a big part then, because it ended up just being a really big teaser of a book to come.
Plot: The plotting of DESPERATE DUCHESSES by Eloisa James is unfortunately somewhat a mess. Really, I had a hard time figuring out who the true star of this little soap opera was. There were subplots aplenty, and sadly, the least interesting one ended up being the main highlight of DESPERATE DUCHESSES.
Romance: The Duke of Villiers is such an anti-hero that there really is no romantic tension. There’s not even a pseudo love triangle. So obviously when you are introduced to the Earl of Gryffyn, there is a clear winner already. I guess they have banter and good chemistry, but nothing mind-blowing and quite memorable enough to make a lasting impression.
Love Potion Strength:
I guess every author has their not-so-great book. DESPERATE DUCHESSES by Eloisa James is not my favorite work by this author. Though disappointing, I am certainly not discouraged to pick up more books by her.
Summary: A marriage in name only…
To save her family home, impulsive bookstore owner, Alexa Maria McKenzie, casts a love spell. But she never planned on conjuring up her best friend’s older brother—the powerful man who once shattered her heart.
Billionaire Nicholas Ryan doesn’t believe in marriage, but in order to inherit his father’s corporation, he needs a wife and needs one fast. When he discovers his sister’s childhood friend is in dire financial straits, he’s offers Alexa a bold proposition.
A marriage in name only with certain rules: Avoid entanglement. Keep things all business. Do not fall in love. The arrangement is only for a year so the rules shouldn’t be that hard to follow, right?
Except fate has a way of upsetting the best-laid plans…
Heroine: Alexa, our protagonist in THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN by Jennifer Probst, is a little too perfect. She’s generous, attractive, and independent. And let’s not forget the fact that she owns a bookstore! (A struggling bookstore… but still.) Despite that she has a lot going for her, Alexa doesn’t know it. I love how she is unaware of her attributes. Alexa also doesn’t have everything going for her, but she doesn’t let it get to her. She is always positive and makes the best out of the situation. She is no simpering miss. She is willing to make sacrifices and compromises to get what she wants.
Hero: Nick Ryan is a little broody. Thankfully, he has good reason for it. Nick Ryan does not want to marry for love – especially after he grew up with his parents’ loveless and hurtful marriage. Nick is guarded because of his parents’ divorce and the lack of love in his family while growing up. Probst lets readers to really understand his character as he struggled with conflicting emotions as he got to learn more about Alexa.
Supporting Cast: Of the supporting characters, my favorite would have to be Maggie – Alexa’s best friend and Nick’s sister. I liked how she played matchmaker at the beginning of the novel. The romance would not have been possible without her help. Though she is pretty close to both the heroine and the hero, I like that she does not get too involved into the relationship. She advises Alexa every now and then, but Maggie does not meddle. Probst makes it pretty obvious that Maggie will take the spotlight in the second book, and for this, I cannot be more excited.
Plot: I’m a sucker for arranged marriages and I’m so delighted that Probst manages to pull it off in a modern day setting. I think that the arrangement works in THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN by Jennifer Probst because the motives of each character is believable.
Romance: I loved the romantic tension between Alexa and Nick. The fact that the two characters have shared history adds to the credibility of the romance. Probst takes the time to develop the romance in THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN which only made for a sweeter finish. This reader was very satisfied with how the romance played out. My only complaint? The resolution was just too saccharine for my liking. However, I thought that the epilogue was a nice touch and it only makes me look forward to the second book of the Marriage to a Billionaire series.
Love Potion Strength:
– Exceeds Expectations
Contemporary usually isn’t my go-to whenever I pick up a romance novel, but Jennifer Probst makes me want to do otherwise. THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN was such a fun read and I couldn’t put it down. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the Marriage to a Billionaire series.
Summary: Being the most sought-after bachelor in London can be trying. Jason Cummings, Duke of Rayne, should know. But when he winds up an unwilling escort to the headstrong Winnifred Crane on a trip across Europe, he realizes he’ll do anything to keep this independent beauty safe-even if it means marrying her.
Heroine: Winn Crane is a delightful character to read about. Finally, an educated heroine who strives for academic merit for her achievements. I love Winn’s determination to prove herself in the masculine academic world. I love her perserverance to follow her task throughout the Continent no matter how hopeless it seems. I’m not much of an art critic so my understanding is limited – but Winn sounds convincing in her arguments.
Hero: Jason, Duke of Rayne, is one of the most likeable heroes that I’ve recently read. I love that he isn’t a Brooding Hero; it was refreshing for once to read a romance novel where the hero isn’t constantly feeling sorry for himself.
Supporting Cast: Finally, a villain who is actually villainous: George Bambridge is the only person who doesn’t want Winn to succeed. In fact, he’s doing everything in his power to see that she fails to prove that she is C.W. Marks. Some of his actions come across as over the top, but I love how he has a really evil motive to back up his actions.
Plot: Believe it or not, there were some times in which I was more immersed into the plot than I was in the romance. What I really love about FOLLOW MY LEAD by Kate Noble was the fact that the novel revolved around an actual plot. The conflict in the story wasn’t centered around romance with subplots that concerned the main characters. FOLLOW MY LEAD by Kate Noble deviates from the usual cookie-cutter romance formulas which makes for a more exciting read.
Romance: Admittedly, the romance in FOLLOW MY LEAD by Kate Noble is a very slow build-up. But just when I was about to lose my impatience with the lack of sexy times, Kate Noble delivers. Sexy times weren’t extremely blush-worthy, but I felt completely satisfied in the romance department. Winn and Jason won’t win the cutest couple award from me any time soon, but I really appreciate the time that Noble took to develop their relationship. It made for a much more plausible relationship that made the ending even sweeter.
Love Potion Strength:
– Exceeds Expectations
Follow My Lead by Kate Noble is a great introduction to this author’s books. I look forward to reading more of her work.