Tag Archives: Fashion

High-Heeled Wonder by Avery Flynn Combines Fashion and Revenge in a Suspenseful Love Story

27 Jan

High-Heeled Wonder (A Killer Style novel) by Avery Flynn (Entangled Ignite, January 27, 2014)

I have got to hand it to the editors of Entangled’s Ignite line, they know how to choose romantic suspense stories that have me yelling out things unhelpful to the hero and heroine during the last few pages (things like “No, look out!” and “Oh my God, be careful!”). You should see me at a Jaws viewing.

With a clear emphasis on fashion, I worried that High-Heeled Wonder would be the typical bodyguard falls for fluffy woman with a heart of gold. It’s not that there is anything wrong with this trope per se, but I did not expect the emotional and extremely well-crafted story I actually got from Avery Flynn (thank you, Avery!). Having never had the pleasure of reading anything by her before, I have my eyes fully open now. This is an author who offers the reader deep characters carting a complete Samsonite set of baggage behind them, not all of which is dealt with in the course of the novel (which I appreciate).

Sylvie Bissette is having a phenomenally bad 24 hours. She’s supposed to be a cheerful, serene bridesmaid for her sister Anya, but in actuality she’s about to yak into a potted plant due to the whiskey bender she chose after catching her boyfriend going down on a waiter…a male waiter. With two dads, she thought her gaydar was well-developed but apparently not. Being the daughter of famous fashion designers means Sylvie is as much a target of public attention as the bride, so she’s trying to put a pleasant smile on her face and just tough it out. It’s hard to do when her anonymous fashion blog, High-Heeled Wonder, is getting increasingly more violent threats. But for Sylvie, she is going to tell it like it is and operate business as usual, putting out of her mind deceptive boyfriends and someone who hates her enough to possibly hurt her.

I was worried this novel would be an homage to fashion, but it's really pays due to women who enjoy looking good and feeling confident. Who can't get behind that? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

I was worried this novel would be an homage to fashion, but it’s really pays due to women who enjoy looking good and feeling confident. Who can’t get behind that? (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Those unpleasant emails are the reason that her fathers have asked her to take on a bodyguard, none other that the uber-hottie she almost kissed on Anya’s wedding day. Tony Falcon has been hired by her family to watch over Sylvie and hopefully discover who this mystery threat is. With a list as long as her arm of important people she’s pissed off, this is not an easy job, particularly when you could boil water with the heat between them. However, Tony not only doesn’t succumb to lust for his clients (no matter how hot they are) but he also doesn’t begin to fall for a woman when he’s secretly investigating her family for murder, right?

This situation was like watching a freight train crash, yet Sylvie and Tony have so much to offer each other you just can’t look away. While my favorite character was undoubtedly the 150 pound Newfoundland dog with a hankering for peanut butter, Sylvie was the perfect blend of vulnerable and smart, a fact Tony caught on to pretty quickly. He was an excellent hero, blinded to doing things the right way by his sense of guilt and desire for vengeance. With revenge the point of the mystery antagonist bent on destroying Sylvie’s work and taking her life, there were actually some pretty big themes in this novel, all of which were well-executed.

Based on the fact that the book is being marketed as “a Killer Style novel,” I can only hope that this is the first of a series since Tony has a few security firm compatriots I’d like to see more of and Sylvie’s friends are pretty winning as well. Please note that Avery Flynn’s excellent website is having a TERRIFIC giveaway in honor of the book’s debut, with a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $100 DSW gift card, swag, and several ebooks that are part of Entangled Ignite’s recent releases.

Happy reading!

A Fabulous Male/Male Regency Novella: The Sartorialist by Cecilia Ryan

30 Apr

There is no lover of Regency romance who doesn’t have a little crush and a lot of admiration for George Bryan “Beau” Brummel.  An elegant trendsetter from modest beginnings (compared with the aristocrats with whom he rubbed shoulders), Beau Brummel served as a captain in the Dragoons prior to the outbreak of the Peninsular and Napoleonic Wars, catching the eye of Prince Regent.  Included in the Prince’s inner circle for years, they eventually had a falling out, with Brummel finally fleeing Great Britain with his creditors on his heels and living out his days in poverty in France.

Brummels understated and elegant style of dress not only set a new trend known as “dandyism” but eventually became the foundation upon which the modern men’s suit is based. His fashion sense was only equalled by his wit and he made or broke many a man or woman’s reputation during this time period. Perhaps due to his rapier tongue, I’ve always wanted to include him on my short list of people from history I’d invite to dinner (and I would just make sure to dress really, really well).

When I came across the description of Cecilia Ryan‘s novella, The Sartorialist, and realized it was a male/male romance starring my favorite Regency fashion arbiter of taste, I was extremely curious.  Written in the first person, Ryan does a fabulous job at embodying the spirit of Brummel with all his wit (the whole book is from Brummel’s first person perspective), while still crafting him as a far more compassionate and empathetic creature than other renditions of this historical figure I’ve seen fictionalized.

In just the brief biographies I’ve read of him, I really haven’t heard Brummel’s sexuality discussed with abandon (I really need to read a full-length biography to tackle this topic) but since he never married despite his many debts, I could easily believe him to have had male lovers.  The Sartorialist does a wonderful job at showing how the recent war hero, Toby, catches Brummel’s and the Prince Regent’s eye with his good looks albeit unrefined taste.  Beau tells the Prince he will take him under his wing and make him more presentable, but the more he knows Toby (who is more than happy to fall into bed with the witty and elegant Brummel) the more he realizes he is falling in love with him.

The cover is beautiful, naturally, but I’m also a firm believer in the book cover hinting at the level of sensuality in the text – and this stunning look hints at no more sexual content than a Georgette Heyer novel, which may cause some readers to be misled.  The only inaccurate point I noted was the mention in a few scenes where Beau is undressing/dressing Toby were there is a reference to all the “shirt buttons”.  Regency lovers know that buttons on men’s shirts the way we envision them came much, much later in time (think of the shirt Colin Firth wears when he jumps into the pond in Pride & Prejudice and you have a good sense of how they were constructed back then). If there were buttons on a man’s shirt, it was likely to be just one to help shut the placket, although the cravat did the majority of the work in that respect.  It’s a small detail, but considering Brummel’s attachment to fashion, a point worth noting for the story.

There is a great deal of passion and tenderness in Beau’s and Toby’s love scenes, which Ryan writes with a very Regency voice (in many ways, this would be a good introduction to male/male romance for readers who worry they might be uncomfortable with the material but who still want to dip their toe into this popular sub-genre – it’s just about love and passion, people, like every other romance!). Knowing how Brummel lost favor with the Prince and was drummed out of the country, I was particularly worried about the chance for a Happily Ever After (HEA), but I thought the author did a great job melding the facts of Brummel’s actual life with a very believable happy ending.

I don’t know if Cecilia Ryan plans on writing any other Regency based romances M/M or otherwise, but I would definitely buy them considering the success of this wonderful novella.

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