Wilde in Love by Eloisa James

I have a confession: “Wilde in Love” is my very first Eloisa James novel.

How can this possibly be? You ask.

Well let’s just say that Eloisa James’ designated narrator for the majority, if not all, her books is none other than… Susan Duerden. Ms. Duerden narrated a large number of Julie Garwood’s novels back when she wrote historical romances. At that time, I found myself preferring to read Julie Garwood’s novels instead of listening because Ms. Duerden’s male voices sounded so painful they caused my own throat to ache. Full of excessive stage-whispering and belting, rasping roars, the name Susan Duerden became anathema and I had to strike any novel she narrated directly off my reading list. Harsh criticism? Perhaps. But I have given Susan Duerden a second chance in listening to “Wilde in Love” and her performance pleasantly surprised me! No more creepy-weird whispering or throat clogging rasps and roars. I could easily recognize Ms. Duerden voice from her former performances, but her male voices sounded so improved as to seem almost unrecognizable from those she previously performed for Julie Garwood’s works. While the female voices occasionally still sounded a bit young or juvenile, her smooth delivery, the energy she brought to emotional and action scenes, and her new phenomenal male voices more than made up for any lack.

The story that inspired this round of second chances, “Wilde in Love” opens with Lord Alaric (aka Lord Wilde) arriving home in London after years exploring distant lands of which he wrote and distributed a number of best-selling adventure novels. The popularity of these novels inspired, not a herd of loving family greeting Lord Alaric upon his arrival, but rather flocks of females enamored of Lord Alaric’s alter ego, Lord Wilde. These fan-ladies nearly attack the poor man as he descends his vessel. A mysterious play that nobody knows who wrote, and details of which become significant to the later part of the novel, only exacerbate Alaric’s mystique and popularity. All this leads Lord Alaric to become the matrimonial target of eligible ladies and the sexual target of ineligible ones. Among this melee of feminine covetousness appears Miss Wilhelmina Everett Ffynche, our heroine and possibly the only female in Georgian England who hasn’t read “Lord Wilde’s” various adventures.

Miss Ffynche knows what she wants and what she doesn’t: Miss Ffynche reads NON-fiction. Miss Ffynche wants a low-key hubby who doesn’t live in the limelight and can give her a couple nice respectable babies well after marraige. Indeed, Miss Ffynche doesn’t give a damn but would never actually say “damn” (or shrug, or sigh – I have no idea why but it’s a thing!).

Honestly, I didn’t care much for Miss Ffynche in the early parts of “Wilde in Love” other than her clear honey-badger like tendencies. And though I appreciated her self-awareness and clear goals about what she wanted out of life, I found it hard to connect with the “bluestocking” who was too pretty and popular to be a true “bluestocking” and spent a lot of time judging the fan-girls and the hero without knowing them or him (which she acknowledges).

So everything goes down at the Duke’s house party, apparently a 6 week gathering to either celebrate: the Duchesses’ impending birth of the 152nd Wilde Child (yes Ms. James, you may freely use that as a title to one of your Wilde novels); Lord Roland’s (Alaric’s brother, heir to the Dukedom, and sometimes referred to as “North”) betrothal to a low-born but highly fashionable ingenue and friend to Willa Ffynche; or possibly the prodigal’s (Lord Alaric’s) return. Alaric returns home to a brother, Lord Roland, who parades like a peacock trying to attract his own fiance and the reality and results of his eldest brother’s death. Alaric is, of course, refreshed, irritated, and bemused by Willa’s disinterest in him and his books but kinda likes her looks and keen brain. Willa puts up a decent resistance to Alaric’s initially tepid but quickly simmering suit. However…. THIGHS!

It’s cool, I get it, and now the part of Alaric will forever be played in my head as Matthew MacFadyen in “Pride and Prejudice.”

So after THIGHS! and a lot of:

Willa: *hand-over-forehead* I can’t be with a reckless adventurer who’s going to kill himself or otherwise up and leave me.

Alaric: Actually I’m thinking of taking a break from adventuring and looking after my holdings here in jolly old England cuz my bro is super stressed managing it all.

Willa: *hand-over-forehead* I can’t be with a man who I must share with known female world.

Alaric: Cool cuz I hate all the attention and would LOVE to live a quite life with you, baby.

Willa: *hand-over-forehead* I simply can’t be with a man who doesn’t LOVE me!

Alaric: Perfect, I do!

Perhaps not a perfect re-enactment of Willa and Alaric’s courtship, but pretty close right up until Alaric discovers *gasp!* that Willa has an alter ego as well. Only fair since Lord Alaric has Lord Wilde, so too must our heroine. Thus the cold, proud, and proper Miss Willa becomes the fiery temptress Miss Evie (a play on her middle name, Everett). At some point the happy couple become engaged and everything starts to get way more interesting: Alaric’s long lost other-fiance arrives on the scene and causes all kinds of trouble.

To avoid spoilers I will simply state that the arrival of the missionary’s daughter-cum-fiance-cum-author heralds pure entertainment and a quick-paced second half that is worth working through some of the monotony of the first half. Much of the details of the first half are likely a set up for future books in this series, possibly to be titled “Taming The Wilde North” and “Wilde Card.” The next book in the series is titled “Too Wilde to Wed” and I hope that it is Lord Roland’s story because I may have fallen more in love with him and his earnest, if wrong headed, wooing of his fianc√©, Diana, than I ever was with Alaric.

“Wilde in Love” sets up the series nicely and makes me excited about a number of characters introduced in this novels and how they eventually find their own HEAs. That being said, I award four solid stars for an excellent series introduction with a bit of a slow beginning.

I recommend this book for anyone looking for a low-drama, low-angst, pleasant historical romance with plenty of historical backdrop to keep the history buffs and anglophiles satisfied as well as a sweet romance and sufficient smexy-times for the romance lovers amongst us.

Happy Listening!

Duke of Desire: A Maiden Lane Saga Ends

“Duke of Desire” concludes the much loved Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt. Yes, but while Maiden Lane is officially closed for business, it’s gin-imbibing residents and bandit-infested alleys have seemed a distant memory for several books now. Alright, Alf and company from “Duke of Pleasure” were a refreshing and almost nostalgic return to St. Giles, but the previous four or five books seemed to creep farther and farther from the grime and stench of Maiden Lane.

Maiden Lane’s previous book, “Duke of Pleasure” introduced us to the heroine of this tale, Iris, Lady Jordan, the former intended of Hugh, Duke of Kyle, and the bosom-beaux of his late promiscuous wife. (*Ok seriously? Who in the world would actually consider marrying their extremely unfaithful ex-wife’s best friend? Ever!?*) Lucky for the hero of this tale, Iris displays fewer cuckolding tendencies than her childhood friend.

Speaking of the hero, Gabriel, Duke of Dyemore, also appeared initially in “Duke of Pleasure” as the mysterious, appallingly handsome, and roguishly scarred gentleman who danced with Iris at a suspiciously Lords-of-Chaosy party while Hugh and Alf were off sleuthing (see “Duke of Pleasure” for more details and back story). Iris and Gabriel formed an instant attraction but Gabriel’s enigmatic broodiness and possible connection to the Lords as well as Iris’ betrothal to Hugh seemed to doom the attraction before anything might come of it.

This final chapter opens to a scene of action and horror. The Lords of Chaos have captured Iris and held her against her will for days. The Lords, now lead by a new Dionysus, mistakenly believe that Iris is the new Duchess of Kyle. Within a hand-full of chapters, Iris nearly becomes the Lords’ not-quite-a-virgin sacrifice, is threatened with rape and murder, and shoots her new captor-cum-rescuer, Gabriel, Duke of Dymore, at point-blank range. In spite of this seeming plethora of action and excitement, the story descends into monotony and melodrama right until its climax.

Gabriel and Iris escape the Lords of Chaos revelry to Gabriel’s family estate where mysteries, creepiness, and Gothic drama abounds in quantities that would make Mrs. Radcliffe proud. While Gabriel recovers from his wounds, he decides that he and Iris should marry immediately for her protection. Iris, having already experienced a loveless marriage, does not relish entering another such arrangement. However, she soon rallies, willing to make the best of her situation. Until she realizes that Gabriel has no intention of having sexual relations with her and certainly not siring any children (the better to end his father’s monstrous bloodline). But no worries, Iris rallies again! And again. And again. Seriously, I spent a lot of time feeling pretty sorry for the perpetually rallying Iris. She starts off with great intentions of FINALLY getting her own:

“[S]he would stand by her desires and feelings and needs. Was she not as deserving as anyone else of happiness? Why should she dutifully push aside her dreams simply because it was not ladylike?”

Iris soon appears beaten down by Gabriel’s rejection, at one point believing that he finds her undesirable and finally realizing the depth of Gabriel’s self-loathing and single-minded determination to destroy the Lords of Chaos even if, or possibly especially if, it means his own destruction. These issues and attitudes create a gulf between Iris and Gabriel I found hard to overlook and harder still for the characters to overcome through the course of the book. Iris and Gabriel’s many issues and traumas prevented me from feeling the closeness and love between the characters even though Gabriel’s draw towards Iris is made evident even at the book’s inception. He fights his feelings for Iris almost too well, admitting:

“You tear down my walls, take away my reason and purpose.”

Of course Gabriel’s eventual epiphany regarding intercourse and making babies allows Iris to finally realize her dreams, but this realization seemed rather anti-climatic.

I noted a number of missed opportunities in “Duke of Desire.” While I can understand the author’s decision to make this book as “stand alone” as possible, I truly felt it missed a great opportunity to bring back some beloved series characters such as Alf and the Duke of Montgomery, both of whom played integral parts in previous efforts to dismantle the Lords of Chaos. Instead, the book remained fairly self-contained, only bringing back Hugh from “Duke of Pleasure,” as an understandably concerned friend of Iris’ and as an accomplice in bringing down the Lords of Chaos once and for all.¬† The other missed opportunity was a potentially fascinating but unused ability displayed by Iris in “Duke of Pleasure.” Iris’ surprising skill in decoding messages obtained from top members of the Lords of Chaos helped cause the apparent downfall of the Lords in “Duke of Pleasure.” Iris’ code-breaking abilities never come up in “Duke of Desire” and I found that to be a tragic oversight or omission on the part of Ms. Hoyt. A useful skill such as code breaking could have gone miles towards making Iris a more multidimensional character closer to that of the highly popular and admired character, Alf.

“Duke of Desire” spent a substantial amount of time on the non-mystery of Gabriel’s childhood abuse, the abuse of other children, and the abuse of various members of the Lords of Chaos. From previous books we already know the Lords were rapists, pedophiles, and sadists. It is no stretch then that those same monsters victimized Gabriel, the son of the former head monster. The specific details of both Gabriel’s scars and his horrific abuse will likely trigger strong emotions for a number of readers. Gabriel’s refusal to procreate or even copulate with Iris stems from his abuse in an unsurprising and tediously long-winded manner, feeling more like a plot device to keep the story from concluding too quickly rather than a legitimate conflict.

I found the conclusion of the book and ultimate discovery of the Dionysus’s identity quite satisfying and apropos. And the epilogue sweetly and gratifyingly concluded Iris and Gabriel’s struggles. Nevertheless, I must opine that “Duke of Desire” fails to rise to the level of humor, action, and sensuality that I love and expect of a quintessential Elizabeth Hoyt novel.

The great Ashford McNab narrated the majority of the Maiden Lane series and has done an exemplary job with “Duke of Desire.” Her male protagonist voices sound fairly similar from one book to the next, but the voices are satisfyingly masculine and easy to listen to. Ms. McNab does an excellent job with both action scenes and sensual scenes, imbuing each with an appropriate level of emotion and vocal variation. Her narrator voice has always made me feel like Kiera Knightly reading me a story as Elizabeth from “Pirates of the Caribbean” or even Ms. Knightly’s Elizabeth Bennett from “Pride and Prejudice.”

I recommend this book for fans of the Maiden Lane series and those who prefer darker themed historical romance.

Audible Audience: A Package for All?

I have been a book listener for about as long as I’ve been a book reader. My family hit the open road for vacation two or three times a year and while my brother an I sat watching VHS tapes on a 12x12x12 mini-TV, my Dad would listen to audio books. Until one trip where I stopped watching, and started listening. My first ever audio book was “Clan of the Cave Bear” by Jean M. Auel cruising around 80mph on I-80 through Nebraska on our annual road trip to Scootamatta Lake, Ontario. Watching the dark forests and glowing eyes of night creatures as we sped by added an eerie dimension to my imagination as I listened to the struggles of a young homo-sapien girl attempt to fit in and make a life among her adoptive cave-dwelling family. From the passenger seat of our Chevy Astro Van, universes were created and destroyed as I watched our world pass by. I found myself checking out audio-cassette books from the local library. Audio-cassettes became CDs and CDs became I-Tunes downloads. For the last 8 years or so I’ve been firmly loyal to Audible.com.

Audible started to get expensive, however. I started with the typical $14.95/month membership but my audiobook needs began to far exceeded the monthly membership allotment. I dabbled with a number of other audiobook websites but always found their content lacking. I would say that if and when I have my druthers, I consume about 4-6 new audiobooks per week with the large majority, around 90%, being of the Romance Novel/New Adult genre. Thus, when Audible.com came up with their “Package” options, I was cautiously optimistic.

I signed up for the “Romance Package” (hehe “Package”) for $9.99 and I was BLOWN. A. WAY. For $10/month there are a TON of GREAT audiobooks by amazing authors offered for FREE (well, ok included in your $10/month membership)!

Like Historicals/Regency? Select Julia Quinn books are available to download and OWN FOR-EVAHHH!


Live for Contemporary/New Adult? RL Mathewson’s entire Neighbor’s From Hell collection is available at no added charge.


Long to listen to Paranormal? J.R. Ward has a bunch of her Black Dagger Brotherhood series you can add right now to your library!


I am so thrilled and excited about this new “Package” option through Audible. It also has some fun ways to explore new authors and sub-genres. You can search for a particular character type: cowboy, vampire, duke. You can search based on level of “steaminess” or by story themes like friends-to-lovers, love triangle, fake relationships, or soulmates. And of course there is the typical subgenres you can search by like paranormal, new adult, regency, etc.

Either way, if you are a fan of audiobooks, check out Audible’s packages for a totally pocket-book friendly way to explore new books in your favorite genre.

Here’s my favorite:


Happy Listening <3