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Page: 1
by Amanda Quick
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You'll be saying "Northumberland Ballingers" in your sleep, 12 Feb 2002
This review is from: Rendezvous (Paperback)
Yes, as another reviewer has noted, the phrase "Northumberland Ballingers" is used with irritating frequency.
Apart from that little point, 'Rendezvous' is a great book. Amanda Quick has an amazing talent. She writes books that have improbable plots, two-dimensional characters, and dialogue that skirts parody - "I am not at all that is a sound notion, my lord." Despite all these things, her books are always enormously enjoyable, the best possible thing is you want a bit of escapism.
Suspend your disbelief, indulge, and enjoy.

Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter without ME
Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter without ME
by Paula Begoun
Edition: Paperback

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone who has ever wondered "Does that really work?", 4 Feb 2002
Paula Begoun is a woman on a mission. That mission is to provide the as much information as possible on cosmetics and skincare. I, for one, think she succeeds.
I have to say, I didn't feel entirely happy after I had read the first two chapters, aimed at demystifying skincare and make-up myths: I realised that I have been entirely taken in by extravagant claims made by cosmetics companies, not to mention the pretty bottles, nice colours and lovely smells that draw you over to make-up counters.
Some of the other reviews have said that Ms Begoun is not completely objective - well, she never claims to be - and that she has an irritating "attitude." I think I'd have an attitude if I had spent twenty years reading claims like "See a 154% improvement in wrinkles in only three days!" when I knew that no such thing was possible!
While Ms Begoun might have some personal biases, such as not recommend using bright colours (apparently a heading from an earlier edition was "Blue Eyeshadow Should Be Illegal"), that doesn't change the fact that if she recommends a certain line's eyeshadow, that eyeshadow is going to have good application and texture whatever colour it is. This book is not the law - the make-up police will not be knocking at your door because you wear metallic green nail varnish! (Yes, that's another of her pet hates.) You don't have to follow her advice to the letter - or even at all.
Admittedly, the product reviews are based on ingredients - but a review of 30 000 products that she has personally tried would be an impossible feat. Besides, what works for one woman does not work for another, as Ms Begoun so often states. What the reviews do help you do is make an informed choice. I was considering spending £22 on a new moisturiser, a treat after the £2.25 stuff I've been using. After checking out the review of the really rather expensive moisturiser, and then looking at the ingredients in my cheapy stuff, well, I've decided to stick with the cheapy stuff - even better, the bottle is four times larger: 200ml as opposed to 50ml, which works out as £88 for an equivalent quantity! This book really makes you think "Am I paying far too much?" and then helps you decide whether you are.
One gripe I've heard is that the book list some products that are available in the United States and not here in Britain - and of course, there are no reviews of Boots' own brands, for example, or a few of the other lines you might come across. But all the major ones that you'd find in Superdrug or at the department store are there - if you still want to pay for them after reading this book! And if you're considering something that isn't reviewed, then there's a list of ingredients that you can check to see whether it's going to irritate, clog your pores, etc, etc.
As for pushing her own line of skincare and make-up products, Ms Begoun is very honest. She sets out what she thinks should be a good skincare regime, and her products follow her recommendations. For those complaining that she didn't use her happy/unhappy face-style rating for her own products - do you think there would be any unhappy faces in that section?! And she does point out that while her products are formulated to be suitable for as many people as possible, there are some that won't find them possible. Anyway, Ms Begoun's line is only available her in Britain if you can be prepared to pay rather steep delivery costs - a shame, as I'd certainly be interested in trying it out!
It should be said, that this book is not the be-all and end-all. I'll say it, and Ms Begoun says it. If you disagree, fine; if a product that works for you but gets a bad review, you don't have to stop using it. This book is invaluable for giving you more information than anywhere else, unless you feel like reading scientific journals to find out whether that extract of oak root will really get rid of your wrinkles.
Buy this book. You will be better informed, and it will undoubtedly save you money.

Seduction in Mind
Seduction in Mind
by Susan Johnson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.82

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 1 Feb 2002
This is my first Susan Johnson book, and I don't think I'll be buying any more.
There is an excuse for a plot in 'Seduction in Mind': Samuel Lennox, Viscount Ranleigh, is determined to seduce Alexandra Ionides, independent woman, painter, and occasional nude model. Of course, with that title, you can pretty much guess what you're getting. There are couplings aplenty, in the graphic style more often found in erotica. This I do not have a problem with.
What I do have a problem with is that Ms Johnson's writing style is very, very flat. She has very little description, was there is does not help you envision the scene and be absorbed into the mood. This is compounded by the fact that her book is heavily researched - it even has endnotes! Thanks, but I want romance, not a lesson in art history.
I suppose the art history wouldn't be so bad if she could evoke some kind of atmosphere; she certainly does have an interesting range of secondary characters, including the Prince of Wales and his actress-mistress Lillie Langtry, but these aren't anywhere near fleshed out enough.
What's really annoying is that she obviously has a good grasp of some period history, but makes some horrid slip-ups. I don't mind a little historical inaccuracy, but sometimes it jolts me when I was deeply involved, and that's really annoying. But when she mentions "the parish courthouse", I laugh out loud, and "cookies" are "biscuits"! Goodness, she'll be mentioning the "sidewalk" next...Apart from this, the characters are late-twentieth century through and through - their dialogue is not that of the nineteenth century, and their behaviour! I can't see any well-bred man or woman handing around plates of cakes: that's what they have servants for, and they knew it. Oh, and tea and cakes was a late-afternoon occasion, not a 10am one.
Of course, you're saying, what we want from Ms Johnson is sex. Lots and lots of sizzling, raunchy, hot hot HOT sex. And there is plenty of sex, but it just becomes dull after the first couple of times: quickies are nice, but wouldn't you get tired of them time after time?
If you want sex, and lots of it, you'd be better off reading Black Lace books, or something similar; 'Seduction in Mind' gets repetitive very quickly. It's only redeeming feature is its "Happily ever after..." ending, and even that's weak, because the story that's gone before has been so underdeveloped.
Take my advice, and go buy some erotica instead.

Major Chancellor's Mission (Mills & Boon Historical)
Major Chancellor's Mission (Mills & Boon Historical)
by Paula Marshall
Edition: Paperback

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Fun!, 1 Feb 2002
You don't read a Mills and Boon for deep, profound thinking, and you don't get that in 'Major Chancellor's Mission'. What you do get is a frothy, engaging love story that is surprisingly well written and very readable.

A Lady's Mischief (Zebra Historical Romance)
A Lady's Mischief (Zebra Historical Romance)
by Barbara Pierce
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The hero has a daft nickname..., 13 Jan 2002
Yes, the hero is called 'Le Cadavre Raffine', which means 'The Refined Corpse'. We are then supposed to think he's sexy in a dark way, which is isn't. He's just bad-tempered and bitter.
The heroine isn't much better; she's called Devona Bedegrayne. Although she's supposed to be plucky and daring, Barbara Pierce seems to have mixed up courage and a lack of thinking.
The plot chugs along quite happily, being readable and completely unremarkable, with the psycho villain appearing at the end to explain everything before being killed.
This is not so much a bad book as a distinctly mediocre one. I'm not sure what's worse; at least a bad book you'll stop reading. With 'A Lady's Mischief', you get to the end and wonder whether you were wasting your time.

The Perfect Princess
The Perfect Princess
by Elizabeth Thornton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.45

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fun - but not at all believable, 13 Jan 2002
'The Perfect Princess' is a historical suspense-intrigue. With these kind of books, the villain's identity is either blatantly obvious or completely unlikely. With 'Princess', it's the latter, and the plot follows a similar incredible path.
This aside, Elizabeth Thornton manages to write rather good lead characters, and their adventures together are as exciting as their growing relationship.
A good book for a being curled up by the fire or sat by the pool.

Secret Fire
Secret Fire
by Johanna Lindsey
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.84

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Utter dross, 26 Nov 2001
I have never read one of Johanna Lindsey's books before, despite them enjoying quite a good reputation. I finally took a chance and picked out 'Secret Fire' because of the unusual setting - "A Russian romance," I thought. "Hmm, sounds interesting."
Unfortunately, the book has turned out to be so bad that I haven't finished it. I read the first hundred pages, skimmed the rest to see whether it got any better, and have now put it into my "Get rid of this quickly" pile.
The premise is that Lady Katherine St. John is mistaken for a common maid, and is kidnapped to serve the pleasure of Russian prince Dmitri Alexandrov. Through some extremely loose reasoning, she is taken back to Russia. Of course, Dmitri falls in love with her and they all live happily ever after.
The most striking problem is that the standard of writing is possibly the worst there is: not bad, but competent and pedestrian. There is no life in the prose and it is dull, dull, dull to read.
Another big difficulty was the first sex scene. Lady Katherine is given a potent aphrodisiac, and she is so aroused that it is Dmitri's duty to satisfy her. Is it just me that finds this a little dubious? Swap the handsome prince for a less physically attractive individual, and would the situation be the same? I don't think so...
And a last, rather petty gripe: the cover sucks. I didn't get the edition you see above, but rather a nasty peach affair, with metalic turquoise script and a poor painting of a torch.
Don't get burned - avoid 'Secret Fire'.

Wicked Angel
Wicked Angel
by Julia London
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Angst-a-rama, 4 Nov 2001
This is the second Julia London book I've read, and angst is definitely her forte. The characters' every emotional agony is clear; fortunately so are their joys - otherwise things would be very gloomy!
I have to say that Ms London writes character-based books, so if you like an action-packed plot, her work probably isn't for you. Even for me the character-driven story is a bit much at times, especially towards the end when I just want the characters to get together. How many misunderstandings can there be between two people?! But then that's love, I guess.
There is a nice dash of originality in the plot, in the form of politics. It's nice to read an author who does more research than looking at 'The Illustrated History of Costume'.
One gripe: the title is a blatantly mismatch for the plot inside. Otherwise, 'Wicked Angel' is a rollercoaster of emotional turbulence, with all the graphic detail a romance junkie could want.

The Husband List (Avon Romantic Treasure)
The Husband List (Avon Romantic Treasure)
by Victoria Alexander
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.08

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, but not memorable, 3 Nov 2001
There is something very likable about 'The Husband List'. The characters aren't particularly memorable - I couldn't describe either Richard Shelton or Gillian Marley, partly because they're both a little bland - but the plot goes beyond the standard inheritances and misunderstandings, livened up with a dash of originality.
If there is one quibble, it would be that the word "cent" managed to slip through the entire editorial process. Any writer of historical novels should at least know that Regency England used pennies, shillings, pounds and guineas! I know it's just one word, but for mistakes like that make it imposible to get properly involved in the book.
'The Husband List' is an enjoyable book, if not an excellent one. It's a light-hearted, frothy way to pass the time, but probably not a keeper.

A Matter of Scandal: 3 (Avon Historical Romance)
A Matter of Scandal: 3 (Avon Historical Romance)
by Suzanne Enoch
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.68

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointingly average romance, 31 Oct 2001
Well, you've proabably read the plot summary, and the good reviews - they're what persuaded me to buy this book. But having just finished reading it, I have to say that I found 'A Matter of Scandal' disappointingly average.
Firstly, the period detail is almost non-existent. Yes, Ms. Enoch mentions breeches and barouches and all the other things she should, but there's no sense that the story could only happen in another time. Greydon Brakenridge might as well be visiting a finishing school in Switzerland, climbing out of a sports car, as dismounting from his horse in Hampshire. And is it me, or does his name seem somewhat American - it certainly looks peculiar to my English eyes. Names are so important, and his was so out of keeping with the period that it jarred horribly, that I just didn't fancy 'Grey' at all.
As well, how much does Ms. Enoch know about Regency manners - or is she choosing to ignore what she knows to make the plot work? Grey might well be in a position to ignore etiquette if he likes, but surely the headmistress of a finishing school would be more reluctant to abandon propriety.
This brings me to the second, most important fact: the romance wasn't convincing. All the ingredients are there - he's tall, handsome and well-built, she's slim and equally well-built, in a female way - and you read over and over again how they can't stop thinking about each other, how much they desire each other, but there's just no spark. These characters are attracted because the author makes them attracted to each other, and in the blandest, most conventional way possible. It's no surprise, then, that when Miss Emma does give in to Grey's advances, the sex is treated briefly and unerotically - if you've read a few romance novels, you'll know that these are stock scenes with stock descriptions.
'A Matter of Scandal' is not a bad book, but it is average, which is possibly worse. I would only recommend it to Suzanne Enoch completists, or somebody desperately in need of a romance fix. For everybody else, there are better reads out there.

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