The Liar’s Club series by Celeste Bradley
All right. I’ll admit it. I occasionally read a romance novel or two. Every girl goes through their romance novel phase – I had mine while I was in high school, but I outgrew it eventually and now only read Julia Quinn’s books because they really are quite good. But one day I was bored and went to her website and she recommended Celeste Bradley’s books. I thought to myself ‘If it’s good enough for Julia, it’s good enough for me!’ and picked one up from the local used bookshop.
And was pleasantly surprised! The Liar’s Club is an elite group of spies based in London during the Napoleonic Wars (i.e. Regency, in romance novel terms). Throughout the series, various members of said elite group find romance, love, and adventure. Of course. But the characters are all very likable, although the men do display that romance cliche of believing themselves not worthy of love or whatever, the women are intelligent, and the spy storyline is really quite exciting! Ordinarily, the ‘plot’ seems tacked on just to link the love scenes, but here I found myself getting to the love scenes and thinking ‘Yeah, yeah, they have sex, blah, blah, blah, get back to the spying!’
It’s not necessary to read these in order (I think I read them as out of order as it is possible to be), but it would help as there is a story arc that connects all five books and characters in the series. I think my favorite was The Spy as it features one of my favorite plot devices: woman disguised as young man. Tres bon!
My rating: B+
The Royal Four series by Celeste Bradley
Once I started reading Bradley’s books, I couldn’t stop. The Royal Four is an ancient group of men (it’s an ancient group, not a group of ancient men…) who basically run the country, advising the prime minister and the crown and, surprisingly enough, Bradley’s Royal Four series follows their adventures in love and, once again, plotting! These books are still enjoyable and feature many of the positive aspects of Bradley’s Liar’s Club series, i.e. heroic heroes, strong heroines, and engaging suspense plots. However, I felt that the heroes all suffered from extreme cases of ‘I don’t deserve a wife, I;m too dangerous to love,’ etc. While understandable, given their political situations, it did start to get on my nerves after a while.
Again, I don’t think it’s necessary to read them in order as there is again a story arc that not only spans the Royal Four series but continues on where the last Liar’s Club book leaves off, but it probably helps. My favorites are the first one, To Wed A Scandalous Spy, whose heroine is entirely charming and whose hero has the most justification for his reluctance to take a wife, and the third one, One Night With A Spy which features probably one of the strongest heroines in a romance and the most relaxed of the heroes. Entirely worth the few hours it takes to zip through these stories!
My rating: B
My Scandalous Bride by Christina Dodd, Stephanie Laurens, Celeste Bradley, and Leslie LaFoy
Bought to round out my Celeste Bradley collection, My Scandalous Bride is an anthology of St. Martin’s Press authors and all of them, but especially the Celeste Bradley novella, are exceedingly enjoyable. Christina Dodd, I’ve found, is best dealt with in short doses – while I like reading her novellas, I can’t seem to settle into her full-length books. Stephanie Laurens turns in a story rather similar to her contribution to Scottish Brides another anthology, this time for Avon, but I’m not complaining – she writes notoriously scorching love scenes and this one doesn’t disappoint! Leslie LaFoy, an author I had never heard of prior to this book, turns in a charming story with a likable heroine and a stellar rogue.
Bradley’s story, I thought, was the best. It features Kitty Trapp, who with her twin sister Bitty have made appearances in Bradley’s other series. Kitty is clever and feisty without feeling like a contrived character. In response to her staid new husband, who through a complicated series of events intended to marry her twin but instead wed Kitty in Bitty’s place, Kitty pulls some pranks which made me chuckle out loud. Utterly charming and I must say I was glad to read happy endings for both of the Trapp sisters.
Worth it for the three other stories as well as for the satisfaction of completing my Celeste Bradley collection. Yes, I know, except for Fallen which is on its way as we speak.
My rating: B+