As widowed Alexandra Alastair compiles a listing of possible second husbands, she wonders whether she should add the new Viscount Stoke to her list. When she hears, through a connecting wall, a villain attempting to hang him, Alexandra races to the rescue and begins an adventure that will turn her staid life upside down.
Alex and her Pirate Viscount, Grayson Finley, battle old enemies and old fears as they find a love that will stand the test of time.
Linda: Blythe, this month's book managed to combine non-stop action within the constraints of a Regency romance. I was hooked from page one.
Blythe: I was a little more lukewarm. I enjoyed parts of it - the action particularly. But some of the plotting was a little too "kitchen sink" for me, and I had trouble warming up to the hero.
Linda: I really liked the heroine, Alexandra, and the hero, Grayson, was all one could desire in a pirate hero. There was lots of action and yet I felt both characters were fully developed. I also loved the romance between the younger man Jacobs and the governess, Vanessa.
Blythe: Jacobs and the governess, I liked. Really liked. But somehow the main couple didn't quite resonate with me. I liked Alexandra well enough, but Grayson reminded me - unpleasantly - of the hero from Christina Dodd's Rules of Surrender. That "Lady Miss Charlotte" guy. Somehow it just didn't quite work. However, there were still parts of the book I really enjoyed. I loved the scene at Alexandra's soiree, for example.
Linda: As I remember it I liked the hero from Dodd's book as well. I guess I just love these men who don't quite fit into society and live by their own rules - all the while enchanting the heroine. I also like spunky intelligent heroines and Alexandra filled the bill nicely. Best of all, there was no drag or let down in this story - the action continued at a fast pace. And I totally agree with you about the soiree; I loved the melee when Jacobs appeared nude wielding a cutlass. I also loved the lecherous Mrs. Waters.
Blythe: Was it just me, or were people popping up naked right and left in this book? (Alexandra is naked later). Without a doubt, the naked Jacobs was hysterical - and the best part of the book for me.
I also rather liked Ardmore, who is one of those villains with hero potential. What did you think about him?
Linda: The epilogue made me think that Ardmore will have his own adventure and hopefully will find a woman as strong as Alex to love him. Ardmore was a very complicated villain, I would also enjoy seeing his reluctant henchman Henderson again. Ardmore and Grayson were flip sides of the same coin - while Ardmore seems dark and dangerous - Grayson is funny, cheerful and yet still very dangerous. I loved his relationship with his daughter Maggie and only wish there had been more space amidst all of the action to see a bit more of his daughter.
Blythe: Ardmore gave off the hero-villain vibe that I love. He reminded me of my favorite villain of all time, Tyler Fairfax from Rosalyn West's Men of Pride County series. I still consider it one of the greatest injustices in publishing that his story never got written. If there's a book about Ardmore, I'm there; especially since my problems with this book were more along the lines of a personality clash with the hero.
About Maggie...did you gather how old she was supposed to be?
Linda: Yes, Gray said she was 12.
Blythe: Okay, somehow I missed that. I got confused when she showed up at Alexandra's ball, because I had thought she was too young to be there. If she was 12, she probably was too young to be there.
Linda: since it was what Alex's friend called "an at-home-evening," I assumed that Alexandra and Vanessa, the new governess, saw this as a way of introducing Maggie and her new manners to society.
Blythe: Oh, maybe that was it. Still, she seemed a little young for attendance at such an evening, which was definitely a little more formal than say, when the Bennett girls go for supper and cards at their aunt's house in Pride and Prejudice. I liked Maggie, as she seemed fresh without being irritating, and like you I would like to have seen a little more of her. Her relationship with Grayson is one of the more interesting aspects of the book.
And a little aside...does the heroine on the cover remind you of Kate Winslet in Titanic?
Linda: Yes, she does look a bit like Winslet.
I also think Ashley was wise not to go for the trite hellion-tomboy plotline that we have read many times. Maggie was a sweet child who responded immediately to Alexandra's suggestions and help. I liked the humor throughout the book and loved the sex scenes between Grayson and Alexandra - they were integrated well into the story. I especially liked when he told her to sleep naked for him and the fact that Alexandra kept doing it beyond the first night he asked her. Alexandra was like a flower opening to the warmth that was so much a part of Grayson. I really liked Grayson a lot and frankly it was a nice change to read about a hero with a warm and caring nature, even though he had been through a lot of tragedy in his life.
Blythe: I thought the sex scenes were kind of fun, if a little on the purple side. The only time it really got a little too much was when he lovingly kissed and caressed her stretch marks. That's just not something I'd really care to have my husband notice at such a moment, and I really doubt most men would really be into that. It worked a little better in The Star King since the hero was from an alien race.
Linda: LOL, this is a woman's romantic fantasy - wouldn't it be great if a guy didn't have to be an alien to think stretch marks were sexy? I loved the fantasy element of the love scenes where Gray obligingly conformed to Alexandra's (well actually the rather large Mrs. Waters) fantasy of being taken by a pirate. The banter between this couple was enjoyable, I really think Ashley did a great job of developing their romance amidst all of the non-stop action. This book would make a fun and romantic movie.
Blythe: Well, pirates are on the upswing lately. I loved Pirates of the Caribbean, and so did nearly everyone I talked to who saw it. This book had some of that same campy spirit, but for me the book was a little too packed to really pull it off, though some of the plot threads that seem really extraneous are tied together at the end.
Linda: My daughter loved Pirates of the Caribbean, but I haven't seen it yet.
There was a lot going on, but as you said it was tied up nicely at the end. I loved the wedding, with the pirates mixing with the cream of society, maybe not realistic but fun all the same. I believe this is only Ashley's second book and I think she shows lots of promise. Both of us would buy a book about Ardmore, wanting to read more of an author's work is about the highest praise a reader can give.
What are we reading next month?
Blythe: Next month we are reading Wicked Wager by Julia Justiss, an author I usually enjoy. This will make two Regency historicals in a row for us, but somehow I think they'll be pretty different.
Linda: I haven't read Justiss, but have heard good things about her books. Since the Regency is my favorite period, I won't complain about having to read two in a row.
Since I am now officially homeless, having finally sold our Dallas house, I am really enjoying actually seeing my husband, and there is a chance that we may actually have a roof over our head by the time we do our next Pandora.
Blythe: I'll cross my fingers for you. I'm picturing you hooking up your laptop in a cardboard lean-to...hope it doesn't come to that.
Linda: LOL, we are staying in a luxury hotel in Lake Tahoe at the moment, so I don't think I can complain too loudly about being homeless and living in my car.
Blythe: Well, happy reading...wherever you are.
Linda: See you next month.
--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, with assistance from Sandi Morris, for
-- Pandora's Box
Order this book from Amazon Books
To comment about any of these reviews on our reviews forum