10 Years of Bitchery: May Retrospective - Your Most Favorite Reviews, Continued

During our 9th anniversary giveaway, Kitty commented

Is it too premature to suggest a monthly nod/countdown toward the tenth anniversary? Not suggesting a year of giveaways, but perhaps a retrospective? Once a month look at highlights from a specific year? Just a thought.

Each month on the 30th, I'll be highlighting some of the most popular content, including reviews, commentary, rants, kerfuffles, and random acts of camel toe and man titty. Thanks to Morgan Doremus from Miss Media for digging through the statistics and coming up with all the cool stuff from the way, way back. 

Last month, we looked at the most popular reviews for contemporary romance which were many of those with low grades – D-, F+ or F.

This month, we're looking at the next set of most popular reviews, most of which are historical romances, and most of which are very high grades. (There's also a review of a sample I read of a book with a title so incredible, you just have to read it for yourself.) 

Let's take a journey down Bitchery Memory Lane with more examples of the most popular entries and comment threads from the past 10 years!

Our most popular historical review is: 

Book The Duke's Wager

The Duke's Wager by Edith Layton
Grade: A- 
Reviewed by: Sarah 

Book For the Love of a Pirate - he's kneeling on sharp rocks and she's balanced on his leg - and there's a huge wave approaching. I'd never read an Edith Layton novel, though I was very familiar with For the Love of a Pirate, the book of hers that depicted people having impossible rocky sex on a beach with a menacing wave approaching. 

The Duke's Wager was one of Layton's earlier Regency romances, and isn't yet available digitally. It is still worth tracking down a copy (the used ones are not much money at all) because oh, this book is fantastic and fun. As the reader, I wasn't sure who the villain or the hero was until the very end, and the whole thing was so charming. 

Favorite quote from the review: 

When Regina realizes that she’s been led astray by her maid and by her own blithe curiosity and social ignorance, she leaves immediately, but on her way out, she is spotted by the Duke of Torquay and the Marquess of Bessacarr, both of whom are rakes who absolutely must have been clad in Teflon for all their bonking proclivities, and who decide they want Regina as their own.



Book Unraveled

Unraveled by Courtney Milan
Grade: A
Reviewed by: RedHeadedGirl

It's no secret that RedHeadedGirl, myself and many other readers here are big fans of Courtney Milan's historicals. This book was the conclusion of the Turner series, and each one is worth reading. Unraveled, the story of Smite Turner, was RedHeadedGirls' favorite. Plus, she read it at a time when she was just about done with law school and clearly the end is in sight. 

As she wrote: 

You guys know that I’m in my last year of law school (ABOUT FUCKING TIME) and it’s finals coming up and I SHOULD be writing a paper, but Sarah knows very well that I usually do reviews when I’m avoiding writing.  Or studying.  Or doing anything I really should be doing.  SO HERE I AM and I’m also a little (a lot) unhinged (which totally should be the title of Courtney’s next book).

      Anyway, so I got an advance copy of Unraveled in a giveaway during the Sizzling Not Summer Book Club chat and there was pressure for a review and here we are because Smite is AWESOME and I LOVE HIM and Miranda is FANTASTIC and also I really don’t want to write this stupid paper.  SO HERE WE GO.

      (Told you.  Unhinged.)


Book Your Scandalous WaysYour Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase
Grade: A-
Reviewed by: Candy

Candy is the one who introduced me to Loretta Chase's books – and many readers who have discovered her have reported similar reactions. To wit, Where the hell have these books been all my life?! 

This is not one of Chase's most popular historicals in terms of review averages, but Candy adored it, specifically for many of the reasons other readers disliked it. 

As she wrote: 

I checked the reviews on Amazon before I wrote my review for this book, just because I was curious to see how other people’s reactions stacked up to mine, and found that the two most popular complaints were:


2. Loretta Chase has lost her zing.

The first criticism is something I can empathize with, even though I strongly disagree with it. I love Francesca because she’s an unrepentant, magnificent, ruinously expensive whore, and because she doesn’t mince words about it. On the other hand, I can understand people finding that utterly repulsive, an affront to their moral sensibilities. I’d feel the same way if I had to read a romance novel featuring, say, right-wing talk radio hosts, or Carrot Top. We all have our lines in the sand, and apparently, Francesca crosses it for many people. And what’s more, I love James, the hero, because Chase sets up his character and motivations in such a fashion that he recognizes Francesca as a kindred spirit, thus bypassing most beautifully the whole “You’re a whore, and therefore untrustworthy in every way” conflict I was dreading when I first picked up this book.


Book A Lady By MidnightA Lady By Midnight by Tessa Dare
Grade: A-
Reviewed by: Sarah

Even now, two full years after I read it, when I talk about how much I love this book, I develop an inability to use most consonants, and start sounding like an internet meme: Oh my gaaaah I looooov iiiiiit.

Y'all, I love this book like damn, whoa, and hell yeah. 

As I wrote in the review: 

As I have mentioned, I have a big ol weakness for “I don't want to like you, I don't want to like you, I can't stop thinking about your hair DAMMIT” romance. I love when a character has a Definite Reason to avoid getting involved with someone he or she desires. I love when the Definite Reason is deeply embedded in the person's character, when acting on the impulse that draws one person toward another means breaking a tightly held self-promise. I love when the tension stems from one person desiring another, and the other person feeling that desire and attempting to squish it down because it would be better for everyone if nothing ever happened.

Most of all, I love when the Definite Reason, when revealed, is not utter piffle, not meaningless twaddle that isn't nearly sufficient enough to have held back all that pent up and denied desire.

A Lady By Midnight contained all of those things I loved. A hero denying to himself how much he adored the heroine. A heroine who didn't understand why he rejected her but attempted to persevere anyway. And Definite Reasons why the hero made himself so miserable, reasons that, when revealed, revealed more about him and about her. It's delicious.


This last book is not a historical, and it's not a highly graded book – it's not even a full review. But it's popularity is alongside the books listed above, and I had to include it. 

Book When The JonQuils Bloom Again: An Enema, A Birthday Spanking, A Love Story

When The JonQuils Bloom Again: An Enema, A Birthday Spanking, A Love Story by JG Knox
Grade: DNF
Reviewed by: Sarah

When I saw this book listed in the statistical analysis of popular content that I'd requested, I had no idea what it was. I didn't remember reading or reviewing it. 

Clearly I'd blocked it out of my memory. And now it's back. Yay. It's part memoir, part poetry, part chronicle of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and part…something else.

I wonder if RedHeadedGirl would like a gift… of this book? 

Favorite quote from the review: 

Then the narrator jumps back in time a number of years, and all plot lines run through her colon.


Thanks for taking this trip down Bitchery Memory Lane with me. Next month, we'll be featuring some of the most popular discussions in the past 10 years, and we'll keep going until it's time to celebrate our 10th Anniversary in January 2015!

What historicals are your most favorite? What books reside on your “I don't use consonants when I squee about this book” list – from any sub-genre?

Comments are Closed

  1. Diana says:

    My no-consonants book is Judith McNaught – “Almost Heaven”. “Whitney, My Love” is also in the top. Almost all of Eloisa James’ titles deserve the Good Book Noise (TM) too!

  2. Francesca says:

    Very few historicals survived the great purge of my last move 18 months ago, but I still have all of Edith Layton’s Regencies. False Angel was probably my favourite; a scheming villainess is one of my preferred brands of crack. I remember haunting the bookstore while waiting for each installment of her Super Regency trilogy. The Game of Love turned me into a puddle of mush.

    I guess you could call them historicals (early 20th century) and they seem to be promoted as YA books now, but Eva Ibottson did this to me every time. My life, at the time I discovered her, was pretty lousy and her exquisite prose and humour just made me feel good all over. Once, when I knew I had a particularly horrendous week to get through, I saved my latest purchase as my reward.

  3. Jan says:

    What a treat for a Friday morning.  OK, my “Oh my gaaaah I looooov iiiiiit” book is The Devil in Winter by the fabulous Lisa Kleypas.  Not joking, I read it every 6 months or so.  Why?  Without a doubt one of the best hero/heroine combinations ever!  If I’m stuck on a project, I go read that book.  The floodgates open and my brain can start creating again.  It’s sigh worthy. 

    One of my all time favorites is Edith Layton’s The Duke’s Wager.  Thank you to Sarah and SBTB for writing that lovely review.  I would have never picked up that book without that review.  I’d never heard of Edith Layton until then.  Now, I recommend it to everyone.  If you love historicals, you should pick it up!

  4. narelle says:

    Just wondering if Candy and other fans of the Loretta Chase book have checked out Emma Locke’s naughty girl books. There are three(point five) but one is not available digitally. The two full length books that I read were both about courtesans (one is even older than the hero) and they were great. In both, the heroine’s sexual experience was something the hero grappled with and eventually dealt with. Personally, I like the difference brought by a heroine with a bit of experience,  even if its crap experience like for the heroine in Victoria Dahl’s a little bit wikd

  5. redheadedgirl says:

    Wow, I really was about to lose my mind when I wrote the review for Unraveled. 

    It’s still one of my favorites.

  6. Elinor Aspen says:

    I really enjoyed Your Scandalous Ways. Loretta Chase is like crack for me, and this one was set in Venice! The hero was a superspy manwhore named James! What’s not to love?

  7. denise says:

    I love all the authors you mentioned, plus I love books by Sarah MacLean, Julia London, Valerie Bowman, etc…

  8. Ducky says:

    I remember it was because of the A review here that I discovered Layton’s The Duke’s Wager and I love this book – so thank you very much!

    I love Loretta Chase romances and I enjoy re-reading her books quite frequently.  I have a lot of admiration for the heroine of Your Scandalous Ways – her asshole ex-husband wanted her to die penny-less on the streets but she didn’t let him destroy her and is instead living the high life in Venice. I say good for her and you go girl!

  9. Mag says:

    My favorite historical is The Spymaster’s Lady by joanna Bourne.  I love most of her work, but this ranks supreme.  I own it digitally, in paperback and on audio.  (Kirsten Potter is phenomenal with her narration.). All her heroines are strong and sensible.  Love,love, lovey.love.

  10. Vasha says:

    The unrepentant-courtesan book which in my opinion is even better thanYour Scandalous Ways is A Gentleman Undone by Cecelia Grant. It even avoids what Candy highlighted as a problem, the overly sugary ending—I want to quote her words for truth and thank Grant for living up to them:

    Srsly, why do romances insist on making everything nauseatingly perfect for their characters in the happy ending? Authors: it’s OK for the protagonists to not get every single goddamn thing they want. I just want a solid reassurance that they’ll be happy. In fact, knowing that there are one or two things off-kilter makes the sweet parts even sweeter. You don’t want to douse a decadent brownie with maple syrup; you want to complement it with some slightly tart berries, or pair it with the subtle sweetness of freshly-whipped cream, or the mellow accents of vanilla ice-cream.

  11. ridiculousspider says:

    I tried so hard to read and like The Duke’s Wager but I detested both males so intensely it was a DNF – though I read the very end just to see which jerk she ended up with.  I have liked other books by Edith Layton so I guess The Duke’s Wager just isn’t for me. 

    I do love Courtney Milan’s books.  I glommed as many as I could buy in a week.  I got nothing done that week.  It was glorious.

  12. Darbi Bradley says:

    Jan— The Devil In The Winter!!!! Cosign x a million

    I’m a huge Julia Quinn fanatic, so my favorite historicals are The Viscount Who Loved Me, Just Like Heaven, and What Happens in London.  I like a good, feather-light, low-angst story. Basically, I like if all the conflict is external to the protagonists. If someone gets kidnapped, so much the better.

    Also, this just confirms that I need to read more Courtney Milan. I just read my first of hers a few weeks ago (The Countess Conspiracy) and I loved it.

  13. sweetsiouxsie says:

    My all time favorites form the first trilogy of novels written by Elizabeth Hoyt. They are:
    The Raven Prince, The Leopard Prince and the Serpent Prince. I just adored them!!!!

  14. Lulu says:

    I am SO HAPPY that the Jonquil Enema link to Amazon is still active. Not that I plan to purchase and read – knowing it’s there? Truly priceless.

    It’s a giddy feeling – like David Sedaris describes experiencing when he enters shops offering preserved body parts, and replications of spines.

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