Happy Marriage?! (Volume 4) by Maki Enjoji

Happy Marriage?! Volume 4 Front cover (VIZ Media)

Happy Marriage?! Volume 4 Front Cover (VIZ Media)

I enjoy manga, and I tend more toward shojo, like Fushigi Yugi and Fruits Basket, than shonen (although I do love Rurouni Kenshin). When I saw the first volume of Happy Marriage?!, I was drawn to the plot…a sort of rom-com setup where a young woman is asked to marry her company’s CEO in order for his grandfather to forgive her father’s debt. The young couple had never met, and they don’t exactly foresee a “happily ever after” scenario…but they may be surprised.

THE PLOT: In this volume, the couple is drawing closer, but an incident with one of Hokuto’s family members causes Chiwa to think Hokuto will be better off without her. Her departure causes Hokuto to, at long last, come to some firm decisions.

MY TWO CENTS: I enjoy this manga, and I’m glad things are finally moving along in the couple’s relationship. I didn’t want the misunderstandings and interruptions to go on too long. Hokuto is still a little too controlling for my taste, and Chiwa is still a bit of a basket case, but at least they’re starting to balance each other out. I don’t want to give away spoilers in my review, but readers looking for a payoff should be happy with this volume.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a really cute series if you don’t take it too seriously and try to analyze the characters too much. If you’re looking for a love story manga, check this out. WARNING: This subject matter is intended for mature audiences, and there is some nudity in this volume.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups. I want to see what’s covered in the last volume. Will the couple finally be truly happy?

ONE SALE DATE: This volume will be available on February 4th, 2014. Volumes 1 and 2 are available now; Volume 3 will be released on December 3rd.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Angel by Sally Beauman


Dark Angel E-book Cover (Open Road Media)

Every once in a while, you run across a book that makes you want to skip work, stay up all night, and just…keep…reading. You can’t stop thinking about the characters and wondering what secrets are coming next. For me, Dark Angel by Sally Beauman was one of those books.

THE PLOT: The book follows three generatrions of an upper-class English family and the very disturbed little girl they adopt, and her effect on the entire family. The story is framed by the narrator, Victoria Cavendish, who relates the story of her family…including her godmother, Constance Shawcross. Ten-year-old Constance is adopted by the Cavendish family in 1910, and spends the next 60 years manipulating, twisting, and blackmailing; essentially wrecking the lives of her four adopted brothers and pretty much everyone else in the family. She torments each brother in a different way, chooses a husband that fractures the family, and ultimately becomes guardian to orphaned Victoria. She raises Victoria with love and ferocious jealousy, keeping Victoria from the man she loves and from forming a family that would take her from Constance.

The book also centers around an accident or murder that occurs in 1910. Is it a murder? And if so, who is the murderer? Everyone had motive; some had opportunity. But how did it happen?

MY TWO CENTS: It took me the first few chapters of Victoria’s searching for Constance in New York to really get into the book, but by the time it turned back to 1910, I was enthralled. Constance is a HIGHLY damaged child who becomes an unbalanced and sometimes dangerous adult. However, she’s also intelligent and sometimes likeable, and you pity her. You can’t help rooting for her and hoping she’s punished at the same time. Make no mistake: this book is VERY disturbing. There are descriptions of child rape, horrific death, kinky sex, pornography, suicide, pet trauma…basically anything you’d find in an original V.C. Andrews series (NOT the ghostwritten messes of recent years).

The relationship between Constance and her eventual husband also reminds me of Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Constance marries a man who understands her, the only one who really gets what a malicious, scheming lunatic she is, and yet loves her all the same. But Constance’s love for someone else, plus all her issues, just keep the couple from ever really connecting and being happy. The reader sees the marriage breaking down and thinks, “If only they’d communicated at this moment…if only she’d said…if only he…” The reader becomes very emotionally involved in the narrative.  You feel for every character.

A great portion of the action takes place in 1910, and then between 1914 and 1919, so the time period should be very attractive to Downton Abbey fans. You also see some of the “Upstairs, Downstairs” interaction between the family and their servants.

BOTTOM LINE: An absolutely enthralling book, well worth the read. Just be warned: this is a LONG book (800 pages in hard copy format), but you will not want to stop. Also, I’m glad I already have another Sally Beauman book to read, because I’m interested in checking out all her work.

TEACUP RATING: Definitely 5+ teacups. Even though I have the digital copy, I may also invest in a hard copy to have on hand. It’s just that good.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When the Rogue Returns (The Duke’s Men #2) by Sabrina Jeffries

Front Cover for When the Rogue Returns (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

Front Cover for When the Rogue Returns (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

Don’t let the cover fool you: while this book does contain some steamy romance scenes, it’s primarily about rebuilding a marriage in which trust was utterly destroyed by a third party.

THE PLOT: Victor Cale (who readers met at the end of book 1 in the series, “What the Duke Desires”) and Isabella are a newly married young couple torn apart by Isa’s plotting sister Jacoba and brother-in-law Gerhart. Isa is an expert at making paste jewelry, and Victor is  guarding some important diamonds.  Jacoba and Gerhart steal the jewels, and also A) convince Isa that Victor helped them and has now abandoned Isa with his share, and B) convince Victor that Isa has left him and set him up to take the fall for the jewelry theft she planned. Neither actually took part in the robbery, but each is left believing that the other used and abandoned them. All that young love is turned to hatred, and they spend 10 years apart…until Victor finally tracks his wife down by accident. He’s hired as a private detective to investigate a Scottish baron’s future intended. When he realizes this questionable woman is Isa, at long last, he plans to make her pay for her crimes.

MY TWO CENTS: This is the kind of romance book I love, where two lost people somehow have to find their way back to each other. Isa escaped her family years ago, but has long since given up hope of reuniting with Victor. Plus, she’s afraid of what he wants from her now…and his reaction to finding out another secret she has hidden all these years. Victor is sure his wife is out to steal more jewels. How can they possibly learn to trust each other enough to rebuild their relationship? (Here’s a hint: It starts with realizing their marriage wasn’t that strong to begin with if they could be turned against each other so easily.) Their reunion is very gradual as they are forced to work together to escape from Isa’s villainous family once and for all.

THE BOTTOM LINE: This book is perfectly paced. It didn’t linger too long at any of the stages in this journey. For example, Victor and Isa realize they’ve been duped about a third of the way through. it takes another third for all the other secrets to come tumbling out. Finally, the last third is about them strengthening their relationship into a true marriage that will last. I never felt like any part of it was rushed or took too long.

TEACUP RATING: I love characters that really make you feel. Five teacups, no question. I hope all readers hurt and rejoice along with Isa and Victor as much as I did.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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