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Review: Taken by the Prince by Christina Dodd

I decided that, in choosing where to start my romance novel quest, I wouldn’t look at existing reviews of the books. I didn’t want to go into something already dreading it, or with my expectations far higher than they should be for a non-romance reader. I used a highly sophisticated eeny-meeny-miney-mo method for choosing my book, and voila!

Can I just start by saying…o hai grown-up Ben Barnes lookalike! Who cares if the cover costuming looks rather modern when we’ve got him smoldering at us???

*clears throat* Aaaanyway.

I loved this book. Seriously.

As I believe I’ve already said, I’m a little afraid of historical novels in general. I’ve never been a fan of history, in school or otherwise, and so I guess I go into these books assuming that I can’t enjoy the story if I don’t already understand some element of its setting. The advantage, of course, is that I also don’t know if the author’s getting it wrong. I also imagine that it will be more difficult to become absorbed when I don’t know the world already. (Which is dumb, I know, as I read epic fantasy…but still.) I found out pretty quickly that my fears were unfounded–for this book, anyway.

The story starts in England, and we’re introduced to our Hero, Saber/Raul, who is the bastard son of nobleman (don’t ask me to give you the proper titles and levels and stuff…see above, re: history) and has come to England to take his proper place as the heir, since said nobleman has only daughters by his wife. We know immediately that the kid does NOT want to be there, but he’s forced (i.e. punished) into behaving somewhat. He believes that he’s the heir to a long-lost throne in the country from which he came (Moricadia), and he’ll just have to endure England until he can go home and conquer the evil rulers.

Fast forward a bit, and we get to see Raul grown up and then meet our Heroine, Victoria, who is a friend of one of Raul’s sisters. She’s feisty, and Raul is cocky, and they immediately clash…very politely, because that’s the way of things. The “problem” is that they are both sort of justified in their attitudes, so while they have conflict, it’s a very nice sort of conflict from the reader’s perspective. You wanna root for both of them.

Oh yeah, and there’s that super hot kiss at the Raul’s family’s ball. Very nice chemistry, and then BOOM.

All of that takes up the first 44 pages, and it’s really sort of the backstory. It’s good, entertaining backstory, but the real plot kicks off in chapter 7, which is 3 years later. Raul has returned to his home country and is working on reclaiming his throne, and Victoria is there as a governess because her charges’ father comes to Moricadia for work. Neither of them remembers that scorching kiss, naturally. No really, they DON’T. Really. Well, okay, maybe a little. But it wasn’t all that great. No, really. Can Victoria help it if coming to his country makes her think of him, or if she makes smart ass comments about him being some wannabe prince? It can’t be true. That would mean she’d kissed a prince. Not possible.

Except said smart ass comments are ill-placed, and Raul has to act quickly to make sure she doesn’t say the wrong thing to the wrong people…by kidnapping her, of course. When I read that bit on the back of the book, I figured that part of the story would be dumb, and I’d have to just accept it as a plot point and move on. But really, it made sense. Raul’s right-hand man is trying to convince him it’s the best plan, and I’m nodding along with him. “Yes, kidnap her! It’s the only way you can make sure your secret doesn’t get out!”

The story reads a lot like a fantasy novel. There’s no magic or odd creatures, but I was struck by how similar some of the bits of the story were. (Now I’m wondering if other historical novels might be like this, too.) There’s a good deal more sex here than in most of the fantasy epics I’ve read, but it’s not of the annoyingly descriptive sort. It’s spicy without having to name every. single. body. part. involved. The build-up to capital-L love is gradual and believable, and the climax (heh – no pun intended) and conclusion are exciting and satisfying. So much so that I don’t want to summarize here.

Everyone else has probably read this stuff already, but if you haven’t, DO IT. I really enjoyed it.

I’m adding Christina Dodd to my list of authors to read in the future, but for now it’s off to another random book. What will I choose next??

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Goodwill Book Cache

Since I’m on a quest to read a bunch of different romance novels of all sorts, I decided I needed a more cost-effective way of building my library than spending $7.99+ for the kindle versions of titles I might not even enjoy. I’m all for ebooks, and 90% of the stuff I read these days is in an electronic format, but I haven’t won the lottery yet. And since it’s not Saturday at 6 am, I can’t venture to neighborhood yard sales (though HEY, that’s an idea!). Thus:

Goodwill.

I have to say, I was disappointed in their pricing. $1.99 per book for a crappy selection? Dayum. And, naturally, it was orange tag day, and practically none of the books I wanted had orange tags. Still, it comes in at about half the price of my local used bookstore, it was more convenient (because it’s actually still open when I get off work), and I’m not terribly picky at this point. Only two lousy shelves worth, but I can make do. For now.

I picked authors I’ve heard of, and I tried to get a spread of subjects and time periods. I attempted to silence all of my fears about cowboys and the Scottish Highlands and rakish princes. They didn’t have any sheik books, which is something of a relief. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through one of those. (But I will, dammit! I mean, what if I like it???) I even let myself get one paranormal suspense, because I’ve yet to read the author, and I figure I’m more likely to enjoy that one. It’ll be my reward if I suffer through something I hate.

Man, I sound pessimistic about this, don’t I? I’m really not. I’m really excited to dive into a new set of fictional worlds and see what I think of them.

How do you think I did?

Goodwill Books

A Noble, Romantic Quest

And what is this quest, you ask? Well, I was an English major, and I’ve read plenty of stories detailing quests. Among my favorites were those of Arthurian knights looking for the Holy Grail, or Psyche trying to get back to her Cupid. Alas, this quest is not so classic, nor is it that kind of romantic, though I consider it rather noble in its own way.

I want to find truly awesome romance novels.

Now, a little background: I am not a romance reader. While I’ll admit to rolling my eyes at some passages I’ve seen or been shown, I’m not intrinsically opposed to them. I think that, like all books, there are good ones and bad ones. I gravitate toward urban fantasy, young adult, and suspense novels, because I enjoy the subject matter they tend to explore–worlds unlike our own where myth and magic come alive, finding yourself before your life has already been decided, escaping from danger and ridding the world of truly evil people…there are just so many possibilities!

I also enjoy a healthy dose of romance in just about all things fiction, whether that be books or movies or TV. So why do I eat up movies like When Harry Met Sally and While You Were Sleeping, root for Buffy and Angel to hook up (again), wonder why Wyatt Cain didn’t just kiss D.G. already, and yet when I go for a novel, it’s never based on the romance alone? What is it about the romance-centric story that puts me off?

Well, I don’t think it actually does.

I’ve read a few romance novels (see below), and I’m almost always pleasantly surprised–when said books make it onto my TBR list based on recommendations, anyway. So really, maybe the problem is that I just don’t know how to pick ’em. I see pretty covers, and I assume they’ll equate to a book I’ll like. Unfortunately, that method doesn’t seem as useful as it is when I read fantasy novels. There are some downright gorgeous historical romance covers, but they’re often the ones that sound the least appealing when I read the cover copy.

So. In short, I’m going to collect recommendations, search for them if I have to, and I’m going to read a ton of romance novels and find my Holy Grail. I’m not going to limit the sub-genre of romance, because I’m not widely-read enough to know for sure what I do and do not like. I have my suspicions, but who knows? Something awesome just might surprise me. (And I LOVE being smacked upside the head with a book I don’t expect to like, but end up loving.) My only limitations are this: no inspirational (i.e. religious) romance,  no YA (I read plenty of that already), no “classics” (I’m already a big Pride & Prejudice fan), and no erotica. I’ll read any time period, normal or paranormal, small town or foreign country. Any length, series or not, cheesy or not. I’ll try any trope at least once, any author at least once. I plan to track and review them here, for my amusement and, hopefully, yours.

What I have read:

  • Silver Lining by Maggie Osbourne
  • Pandora’s Daughter by Iris Johansen
  • Dying to Please by Linda Howard
  • River’s End by Nora Roberts
  • Everyday, Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann

Um, yeah. These are honestly the only ones I can remember. If there were others, they didn’t make much of an impression. Though, to be fair, I have a terrible memory for books.

Any suggestions, oh great interwebs? Give me the best of the best!