Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mine, All Mine by Ella Quince

My Experience: C+++++++++++
Synopsis:  Scandal and treason force the privileged daughter of a duke to disappear. Lady Lillian St. James runs from the only life she knew and finds work masquerading as a cooks assistant. She adopts a new identity and immerses herself in the role of servant until she can escape London without her stepfather finding her--and the priceless stolen jewels she took from him! But, her refuge is not as safe as it seems. When she finally meets the master of the house she discovers the new Earl of Redwick could be a danger to her masquerade and her heart. 
Dominic Coel, Earl of Redwick, must find the missing daughter of a duke and stolen royal jewels. Dominic is desperate to finish this last mission and begin a life without murder and intrigue, but while he must focus on his duties, he can’t help but be distracted by his lovely new cooks assistant. 
As her masquerade unravels, Dominic begins to separate fact from romantic fiction. His conduct has been less than gentlemanly and now he must face his true feelings as he changes from Lilly’s greatest obstacle to her greatest ally. Can he save her from her stepfather? Can he deny his own desire to keep her for his own? With the help of their friends, Dominic and Lilly must court further scandal to trap a traitor and risk it all to claim their own happy ever after. 

Part One of the Fated for Love Series
          The Hero You'll Enjoy Hating & the Heroine That Deserves Him

The hero's best friend says:  "Being a rake requires a lot of work and is entirely too fashionable right now. Mothers have taken it into their heads that a reformed rake makes the best husband."  If you substitute Writers for Mothers - you have the theme of this book.  It isn't handed to you on a lace doily surrounded by china figurines either.

[This is a long one folks, but I do have a point, get some popcorn and a glass of tea]

Dominic Coel is a former Intelligence Officer (?) and was "out of the service for three months" [strange phrase since being in service meant being a servant, not in the military].  He's being commissioned to locate a "girl" and a necklace, "This necklace is a priceless gift from the King of Spain." In this highly charged situation Lord Redwick receives: “orders from the Prince himself. You may go now; here is a packet of information with the details of your mission. Keep me updated with any information.”  Oh Really? From the Prince ... in Writing?  Updated?  Hmmmm...........

Cut to our heroine, Lady Lillian St. James disguised as Millie James kitchen maid, fretting: "Nevertheless, it was better than ending up in New Gate for treason."  [Newgate Prison?].  A Duke's daughter learned enough hanging out as a child in the kitchen to be fully accepted in two days. Oh, she was happy too: "Life in the working class was vastly different from her old station, but Lilly was beginning to enjoy the newfound freedom of not being under society’s rules."  She's doing so well within four days the head cook is telling her: “In a few years you’ll be replacing me.”  And  no one noticed her hands, her frail shoulders, neither of which could look as if she'd worked since she was approximately nine years old.  No one, really?  Not even Lilly noticed the difference between dancing till dawn and working your arse off on your feet twelve, fourteen hours a day, really, seer-iss-lee?

Back to Dominic, contemplating his past "Until his brother’s death, living in foreign countries under so many different names he had almost lost track of who he was", future "He didn’t want to admit to anyone that he didn’t know how to be an aristocrat anymore, let alone be civilized and enter the marriage mart," and duty to marry  "He would find a woman who loved him or never marry at all, social duty be damned. Being so close to death for so many years made a man think about these things, about what was important in life".

Of course their worlds are destined to collide.  But not in the way I expected.  For our intelligence agent didn't question Millie James: kitchen maid about the girl: Lillian St. James he was supposed to be looking for,  which rather made his intelligence a bit suspect for me.  No, he chats with her and is enraptured by her form and sweat.  He does give himself a pep talk about doing what is right and proper but before his head hits the pillow, forgets all that.

Within five days he's literally stalking her.  It begins in his kitchen where he traps her between the stove and wall.  And though she reminds him: “I could lose my position here. I would be put out on the streets. Would you want that on your conscience?”  All he can say is: "I have to kiss you?" There was no charm or debonairness attached to them, just a gruff statement of fact. He had to kiss her."  After a kiss that melted her [of course because you can know a man is a villain if his kiss is repulsive-otherwise, he must be a hero!] he says: “You have to stay away from me.” His tone was gruff and angry. “It’s for your own good.”

In other words, dear reader, if anything happens again, it's your fault, silly heroine, that I can't control myself.  Where have we heard that $heet before?

Of course Lilly thinks about that kiss, about him, about how he makes her feel: "As she began to undress, her thoughts remained on the elusive master of the house. She could not love him; she did not even know him, let alone want to love a man who would try to seduce his own staff. He was a scoundrel, a rake, more dangerous than any fop Lilly had previously dealt with. This man was different, and he made Lilly feel different every time he moved closer to her."  It's about here that I got nauseous because I knew she was going to forget her pep talk as soon as her head hit the pillow too.

The next day it's Chapter 5 and Lilly is milking a cow.  Such a temptress that he has to lower her bodice and caress her breasts, back her up to the stall, plant his leg between her knees and tell her he wants her. After more kisses, he demands she says she wants him too.  “You could ruin my life; do you even care about that? I would be the only one to pay for the consequences of our actions. Even seen standing here with you now, I could be dismissed on the spot.” Her eyes sparked with anger and hurt. “Do you care about anyone but yourself?" [Oh honey, I can answer that one for ya!]

Again, it's her fault, "You didn't exactly push me away."  Except she just has and he's stopped her by grabbing her again.  Fortunately she's saved by another maid but not before his parting shot:  "you would do well not to make threats and invite my attention, or I will have to punish you, and that deliciously insubordinate mouth of yours, in a way we would both very much enjoy.” He smiled wolfishly. “I always get what I want.”  He pursues her for two weeks "seemed to find her whenever she was alone. In some deserted stairwell or hall, in the kitchen garden, or worse, the stables."

The heroine calls this decadent torture.  I laughed until I had to change my undergarments.

The cherry on the top of all this comes when she is assaulted by another man pursuing the missing necklace [the one our intelligence officer has completely forgotten while chasing his kitchen maid] Dominic is so enraged by the signs she'd been almost strangled he offers her protection - that is, to be his mistress - because that's as close to salvation as a kitchen maid is going to get. Of course, he's backed her in the same corner [literally] that the villain had, telling her:  "I know you want me just as much as I want you, do not deny it. I can taste it when you kiss me. I will have you either way. You cannot resist me. I’ll make you mine.” Lilly’s very core shook with the meaning of those words, but her trepidation was masked behind a curtain of fury. “I wouldn’t be your mistress if you were the last man on earth, Lord Redwick, and I will never give in to you, not willingly at least. So please, for the hundredth time since we’ve met, just leave me be.” He stepped back, his demeanor cooling. “No,” was all he said, and then he turned and walked away.

By this point I despised Dominic.

This man's actions would cause a hero to hunt him down and beat the blue blood out of him, if not challenge him to a duel and blow his offending parts away.  And before I can remember the name of the book where that is exactly what happened to the bastard harassing the governess, Dominic is punishing Millie with a kiss and calling her a wench and omigod, offended when she calls him ungraceful and sloppy!  How dare she walk so regally after he's just kissed her senseless.  I kid you not, the internal dialog sounds like Snidely Whiplash.

The worst part, for me, was he knew - he KNEW - what he was doing was wrong, vile, cruel and monstrous, but it didn't stop him.  He didn't try and avoid her or take a cold bath or get drunk or contemplate Latin verbs.  He just kept right on pushing and threatening until Millie/ Lilly feels pushed to do something idiotic rather than continue to deal with his relentless pursuit ... rather than wait on a friend, she allowed his behavior to sow doubts about her judgment and her friend.  That's called isolating your prey [victim], if you're interested.  Not the behavior of a hero, IMHO.  He follows her when she runs, after piecing it together [finally!] and though he rescues her from bad guys in the house, he's the reason she's there in the first bloody place! Well, in fairness, she's there to grab the bling her stepfather stole but if he'd confronted her instead of pursuing her things might have turned out different for all of us.

I was asking myself how am I supposed to accept this char -act - or as the hero now; how is the author going to pull the rabbit out of the hat and redeem this man so I don't want to tie him to the railroad tracks and run him over repeatedly.

"Dominic had to remind himself that she was no longer his siren in the kitchen, (his WHAT?) but indeed a lady of noble birth that deserved nothing but his most gentlemanly attentions, difficult as that may be." (slap! POW! kick in strategic location goes here!) "He could do it—he could hold himself in check and never do anything she didn’t ask him to do. Tempting though she was, he respected her [really? wow, since when?] and cared more for her than he ought to, which cooled his blood just enough to turn his back on her sleeping form and find some much-needed rest of his own. Though it grated against his rakish ways, Dominic chose the safer path and reclined in the soft, worn upholstered chair by the fireplace." [where's that coal scuttle, I'll help his rakish ways find eternal rest]

There you have it, the bunny from the bonnet.  His about face wasn't because she was a woman that deserved respect, that had earned his admiration, or even was just nice.  No, [yawn] it was because her Noble Birth, her Blood, The Rules of Society [the ones he'd ignored for the last few weeks] his Honor, his Duty.  Kind of a let down, wasn't it?

By the way, traitors and "orders from the Prince" come in second to Estate Business. [some superspyguy] After going to the trouble of taking Lilly to his country residence, he does what his steward should do and shares the evening meal with her being Mr. Amusing&Charming.   The implication is he's throwing off the ravages of war and transforming before her eyes.  But we don't get any of that dialog, only vague impressions:  "He was beginning to look more human in spirit; the cold intimidation that used to cloak him was now an alluring ruggedness." [barf bucket please, I am not soiling my carpets!]

Does anyone know what a wingtip chair is?

Oh who cares, after a couple weeks of sharing a meal, a few heated glances and turning over the missing necklace, Lilly is double-teamed by her friend and Dominic.  Not very gently smacked upside the head with the truth that she can't go back to her old life and told she'd best marry one of them, darn quick, once they put the jewels away of course.  Surprisingly, she takes this news rather well I thought.

"I have done nothing but follow the dictates of my parents and society, and look what it’s done for me. I am being punished for someone else’s crime. I’ve been scorned, publicly humiliated, and now the two of you want to decide who I will marry. Or, more insultingly, sacrifice each other on my behalf. I appreciate your chivalry, but please spare me the indignity. I have nothing left but my pride, and I would like to keep it.”  Dear Lilly leaves nearly in tears and when Dominic comes to console her, within minutes she is ready to give it *all* to Dominic:  "I have no other rights in life, but at least I can chose who will make love to me. My virtue is all I have left."

I almost stopped there.  Almost said, no, no more - I can't!  But I could and did.  There's a reason why, so bear with me just a little longer.

Aside from colloquialisms littering every other page, an aunt that wasn't really an aunt trying to marry her daughter that wasn't really a cousin to the "new" earl [once he's the earl, he's The earl - it's not like there's an old earl, he's dead] and improbable events given the historical period and the unbelievable word "okay" turning up not once, but twice in a Regency Sex Scene, there was the Butler presenting "his royal highness, the Prince Regent” to the guests [omigod, someone please send me to New Gate] and Lilly day dreaming about Dominic oogling her low cut gown.  Of course he did, but so did every other villain and she didn't like that!  There were friends crawling from the woodwork to help her now - brave and daring women of great beauty - and a spicy ship's captain, balls, teas, annoying gossips, stalwart support, kidnapping, rescue and marriage on board a ship by special license!

The second half of this book was "Give it all you got, Scotty, Warp Ten, shake the ship apart, damn you!"

Now, having ranted, I will admit, I do not read Romance Books for the political correctness.  Colloquialisms can be ignored up to a point.  Bending the proprieties for the sake of plot is tolerable.  Historical accuracy - ok, there are some things I can't handle without exceptionally well drawn characters to compensate. I'm all for a good abduction and whisking away to the dark and stormy castle with disturbing relatives.  Secrets in the cupboards  [not in a teddy bear though - a doll would've worked just as well] and villains that are convenient and easily disposed of roll off my radar.  The Big Misunderstanding is only a small peeve of mine that I often hand wave. Hero and heroine come in many fashions, they appeal to some, trigger others and somewhere in between is generally what they might really have been in the author's mind before crazed readers got hold of them. I read romance for FUN, for laughter, to distract myself from Real Life as it IS  [you know, bills, laundry, work, blah blah blah]. Even, or especially the lovely angsty ones - my precious chocolate without calories!

I read this book while storms and tornadoes were raging through our state.  I read parts out loud to my daughters.  We had a BLAST acting out scenes, making commentary, re-writing things in our front room instead of fretting about living in a mobile home during a tornado warning with no place to go.  It was like Mystery Science Theater 3000 e-book version [if you don't know what that is, here's a link ].

I am sure the author never intended her book to be used in this manner but like Dominic, I won't apologize.  It would be a lie.  I thoroughly enjoyed despising Dominic.  He never transformed for me, all he did was lose villainous dimensions and become a cut-out of the "new earl" that I didn't believe.  Lilly became the most pathetic heroine I've encountered in years despite a pretty decent start because she didn't have the common damn sense to ask her friends for a loan to get to her obscure aunt.  And she *had* friends, obviously, that didn't give beans about The Rules.  Her martyrdom was as false as her willingness to resist a good kisser.

Strangely enough, I enjoyed every minute of this.  Letting go of my general devotion to Look Only for the Good in any book, I could embrace my inner Realist and just wallow in the fact that as soon as Lilly gets pregnant, she's going to worry herself in to a nagging harpy imagining Dominic chasing kitchen maids and parlor maids and nursery maids.  He's going to spend about fifteen minutes putting up with that before proving her right and then - then the real fun begins because there's no divorce for another what ... fifty, sixty years?

:::mwaaaa haaaa haaaa:::  Get the book, it's worth the read, seriously! I intend to read ALL of the Fated for Love Series just to see if my predictions come true.  [what? who ate all the popcorn?]


  1. Ella J. Quince here, just popping in to say hello and that I really enjoyed your review, criticisms and all. My favorite part is that you read it to your daughters and acted out scenes. I would have loved to see that. I will say this though, Dominic will not be chasing any kitchen maids, and if he ever did, I'd have to write a Murder Mystery instead of a fluffy Regency. I hope you like the next books. Mine, All Mine was my first book and a lot of trial and error comes with that. I think I improved in the next books, growing as writers generally do, and I also had a wonderful new editor for the rest of the series that I didn't have with the first.
    Happy Reading,

    1. Hi Ella, and welcome! I did most certainly enjoy the book and frankly, that's what reading as all about. As to anyone observing us prancing around the front room playing parts and exaggerating dialog with artful swoon-y-ness, I can only thank God no one but the cats and goldfish saw us!