Thursday, November 12, 2009

Feature Review: "The Untamed Bride," By Stephanie Laurens

By PJ Ausdenmore & Gannon Carr, RBTB Correspondents

Gannon and I love to talk about the books we’ve been reading! We’re excited to kick off our monthly visits with the Bellas by sharing our gabfest about Stephanie Laurens’ hot new historical, “The Untamed Bride.” It’s the first book in her new Black Cobra quartet and it rocks! The hero is Colonel Del Delborough, one of four sexy, single officers of the East India Company on a mission to bring down an evil villain known as the Black Cobra. They head for England by separate, secret routes, carrying evidence that will finally bring the villain to justice. Del’s the first to arrive.

Gannon: I love this book! And Del’s my kind of hero. He’s dedicated to carrying out his mission but when he gets to England he discovers that his plan has just hit an unexpected snag by the name of Deliah Duncannon. Del’s aunts have offered his services to escort Deliah to her home. He intends to send her on her way, not allowing her to interfere with his mission, but Deliah’s not some biddable young miss, and she refuses to let Del shirk his responsibility. Through a quirk of fate, she saves Del’s life from The Black Cobra’s henchmen, and so, whether Del likes it or not, he’s stuck with her. For better or worse.

PJ: Deliah’s such a contradiction. Here’s this confident, successful woman, capable of holding her own in business and going toe-to-toe (and other delicious body parts) with Del in, and out, of the bedroom. Yet, at her core, she’s still the young girl who believes she isn’t good enough just because she doesn’t conform to society’s accepted standard. I think many of us have felt that way at certain times of our lives. I know I have. Like Deliah, we’ve been judged as too tall, too plump, too smart, too opinionated. You know: that square peg that doesn’t quite fit into the popular circle?

Gannon: Exactly! We put on this brave face, but inside we’re this vulnerable soul longing for love and acceptance. It was wonderful to watch Deliah bloom under Del’s touch. Oh, yes, I did quite a bit of sighing in this book.

PJ: Del’s such a delicious hero. I love his acceptance of Deliah exactly as she is and how he sets about showing her how much she means to him but even more than that, I love the fact that Laurens guides Deliah to her self-defining moment through her association with the Cynster wives.

Gannon: That’s wonderful, isn’t it? Deliah’s convinced these women of the ton will find her inadequate, and instead it’s like she’s found her soul sisters: strong, intelligent women who aren’t afraid to stand up to their formidable husbands. Acceptance by the man you love is a beautiful thing, but acceptance by other women, your friends and peers is what we all wish for. Don’t you think?

PJ: I agree. It’s very satisfying to see Deliah take those first steps toward forming strong bonds of friendship with other women but, with the Black Cobra’s henchmen hot on their heels and Del and Deliah caught squarely in their sights, I wonder if she’ll find her happy ending with Del? To find out, you’ll have to --

Buy the Book!

Is it more important to be accepted by our friends or the man in our life? Have you ever felt like a square peg in a round hole? How did you handle it? What advice would you give to a girlfriend who thought she needed to change herself to meet society's accepted standard, i.e. starve herself to meet Hollywood’s standard of beauty?


Becke Davis said...

Sounds like a great book! I'm a relatively new convert to the historical romance genre, and I hate to admit I haven't read Stephanie Laurens yet. I have a stack of her books in my TBR pile because I've heard such great things, though.

I definitely want to read this series.

Good discussion question, too. I think it's equally important to find acceptance from your friends AND your husband. Too many friends got caught in abusive relationships because they thought their husband could provide everything, and later realized they'd been cut off from their friends. In romance, we want that perfect relationship, but it's also extra enjoyable when the H/H have a strong group of friends, too.

When I was in high school, I was tall, skinny (hard to believe now), with red hair, freckles and very pale skin. I felt like I'd come from another planet next to all my tanned friends. I had confidence on some levels, but not with my looks. I figured I was one of those girls guys liked for "personality," and we all know what that means.

It was a shock to dig up some pictures from that era and post them on Facebook. Friends from high school have commented on how pretty I was, and it makes me so sad that I never had a clue back then.

My daughter suffered through high school with braces, skin problems and extra weight. She's blossomed since then and is happy with herself, but I worried about her at the time. She was convinced the cool, pretty, skinny girls had perfect lives and she didn't want anything to do with them. She's reconnected with a lot of those girls and it shocked her to realize they suffered from self-doubt every bit as much as she did.

Every time you turn on the TV, open a magazine, go to a movie you see images that are supposed to represent perfection. I think that's why I've always preferred books -- so I can insert my own mental images.

amy kennedy said...

Brava PJ and Gannon -- I love this! I felt like I was in the room with you two while you were telling me about this great book. I'm hooked.

And what a question -- girls, women are such funny creatures, we're our own best(worst) critic...and so often, just like Becke said, the girls we thought of as "perfect" had their own lack of confidence.

Sometimes (if we're in the wrong relationship) acceptance from our girlfriends leads to the opposite in our man. Confidence in ourselves can be a scary thing to a guy who doesn't have his own.

I love this question and could go onandonandon...but I have to get ready for work. I'll be back later.

David B. said...

From the male perspective, the "square peg, round hole" dilemma is actually kinda familiar when it comes to the work environment. And it can actually be a positive thing.
Many people end up going through employment transitions that they didn't ask for, but in many instances, these forced transitions don't have to be taken personally. Th recent economy has forced a lot of square peg, round hole realtionships in th business world, but that doesn't mean either side is wrong, or bad. In other words, Square peg round hole situations really can exist without judgment or "failure." They just are. They happen because of situational changes out of everyone's control.
I've been in this kind of situation is the past, and when I thought about it is this non-judgmental way, I realized that it gave me an opportunity to find a place where I fit. You know, round peg, round hole.


Sewicked said...

Square peg? Ha! I was a rhomboid peg in high school. My friends were guys because I didn't know any girls who liked the same things that I did. Finding out that some guys did find me attractive was a thrill, yes, but nothing (sorry boyfriends) compared to the epiphany that I was not the only woman who loved Star Wars, gaming & my other geeky interests.

On the bright side, being a female in a male-dominated group did make it easy to find guys, usually.

The Reading Frenzy said...

Good morning ladies and guy,
What a great article and the book looks amazing so I'll be putting it on my ever growing TBR pile.
And what a tough question to answer, I would hope that my answer would be that it's equally important to be accepted by my friends and my main squeeze.
And yes I've been that square peg and in my younger days it bothered me and I tried to change to be more like everyone else ie. diet, change my hair, dress differently. In fact as I've mentioned often I must have been the inspiration for Janis Ian's At Seventeen, because the whole song is my high school life. But as I grew older and hopefully wiser conformity became less important than raising my family and being a competent worker for my bosses. And finally one day I must have just said well screw it, if someone doesn't like me too bad.
Now the advice I would give to a friend who wanted to change herself is to sit her down and tell her how important she is to me and gather around her all the people that matter to tell her the same thing.
Actually Dove has made great strides in helping young women feel better about themselves and they have a great commercial on YouTube
here's the link if you want to watch it:

Thanks and have a great day everyone!!

Monica Burns said...

Great review. I've always enjoyed Stephanie's books. This new one looks good. Although I'm curious as to whether I'm going to get confused with the DEL aspect. LOL I wonder if that was a deliberate choice on Steph's part.

Acceptance...the love of your life should by default accept you for who you are. Friends should equally do so if they're true friends. Of course, we're talking huge amounts of trust here too.

As to advice to someone who feels the need to walk to the same drummer as everyone else...well, I'd say go for it, but be well prepared for a bumpy ride. Those who walk outside the boundaries of social norms are often ridiculed and ostracized, although some are viewed as eccentric and more than a little odd (as moi). So the question is how important acceptance is to someone.Generally people who don't give a fig for what people think are more comfortable walking to a different beat. But I'd still say be true to yourself, because when you walk to the same drummer as everyone else, you're the round peg in the round hole, but I've found being a square peg for a round hole has made life a bit more of an adventure and it's certainly introduced me to a lot of experiences I might never have had (good and bad). Life is an adventure and with some great chocolate and some sass, one can survive quite well without society's acceptance.

pjpuppymom said...

Morning Bellas!

Becke, I also think it's important to have a good friendship/relationship with both your girlfriends and the man in your life.

Those teen years are filled with angst and insecurities, aren't they? I don't remember the emphasis on "perfection" back in our day that today's teens have to deal with. It's an enormous amount of stress to place on very young shoulders.

Gannon Carr said...

"Life is an adventure and with some great chocolate and some sass, one can survive quite well without society's acceptance."

I love it, Monica! :-D

No matter who we are, I think we all, at one time or another in our lives, have struggled for acceptance. And high school can be such a trial for kids, but most of us survive and may even look back on it with fond memories.

THE UNTAMED BRIDE is an excellent book, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens with The Black Cobra.

PJ and I had fun with this, but having a "conversation" while trying to write a review, was a challenge. Thanks for letting us share!

pjpuppymom said...

Thanks, Amy! I'm sure there were many kids in my youth who viewed me as one of the "perfect" girls. I was cute, smart, in the popular group, upper middle class, etc. What they didn't know is that, outside my core group, I was a very shy and insecure person. I spent almost my entire freshman year of high school avoiding eye contact with all upper classmen and got a rep for being stuck-up. In reality, I was terrified someone was going to talk to me and even more terrified of having to respond.

pjpuppymom said...

David, that is so true. I've seen many instances of that in the business world, especially in recent times. As you said, it isn't right or wrong, it just is. People have to be open to all possibilities.

pjpuppymom said...

Sewicked, I'm glad you were able to find other women who shared your interests. I think the hardest part of being, or being perceived as, different is feeling like you're the only person on the planet who feels that way. Finding others who share your interests is like watching a beautiful sunrise. It's the dawning of a new day filled with wonderful possibilities.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas! And, grazie, Gannon and PJ for this marvelous debut column! As Becke said, it really is like hanging out with girlfriends or, um, maybe evesdropping. :) So cool that you're jazzed about this new series. I love that the hero's so disgruntled about having to escort Deliah. And I'm wondering about the 'all roads lead to Rome' nature of the series, with four guys after the Black Cobra: Will everyone be dying to know what comes up next in the search by the end of "Untamed Bride?"

pjpuppymom said...

Life is an adventure and with some great chocolate and some sass, one can survive quite well without society's acceptance.

Monica, I'm going to make this my new mantra! lol

I've also found that the older I get the less I need societal acceptance. Turning 50 seemed to be a personal turning point for me in that regard. As my best girlfriend told me: turning 50 turned us from self-conscious women into self-confident broads who speak our minds and walk our own path.

pjpuppymom said...

Will everyone be dying to know what comes up next in the search by the end of "Untamed Bride?"

Absolutely! And, thankfully, they won't have to wait long to find out. The next book in the series, "The Elusive Bride", will be released Jan. 26, 2010.

Becke Davis said...

Oh yeah, It didn't hit me until I turned 55. After a lifetime of being a pleaser, I made a conscious decision to start cultivating my inner bitch and doing what I want. I wish I'd started this a lot sooner!

Gannon Carr said...

Michelle, what's a little "evesdropping" between friends? *g*

Michelle, I had someone suggest that maybe The Black Cobra could end up being a hero. Hmmmm.......

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

OMG, becke: if this is your inner bitch, you've gotta dig a little deeper.

The Reading Frenzy said...

Becke, I love your inner bitch, don't change a thing.

Gannon Carr said...

Becke, I hear you on being a people pleaser. I've been that way most of my life, but enough is enough. So says my inner bitch. LOL

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

You're right, Ames, that it's tough for men to grow w/us as we do. If we're lucky, we have girlfriends to moan to about the whole dilemma. If we're luckier, the guys learn to grow, too. But a really wise girlfriend of mine once said, "You know, we think we're so 'liberated,' but we're really all still married to guys from the '50s." Did she mean the 1850s, I wonder???

Ah, sewicked (great to see you, btw) :) I so hear you on that 'girlfriend like me who likes the same weird things I do' connection. For me, that was finding other women who like romance, though I dont mean to say that's weird, just that it's sometimes hard to find women who like em 'out loud.'

When I was younger, I didn't have a lot of girlfriends, probably because like a lot of girls, I'd had some really rough experiences fitting in. I also was raised in a way that sort of made other girls 'competition' instead of support systems. I wasn't big on trust due to either o f thos things. I think I was around 30 when I found a quote from Toni Morrison: The loneliest woman in the world is the woman w/out a close woman friend.

it changed my life, and I dedicated myself to making friends w/woman, opening up and trusting them and learning how to get them to trust me. A lot of it was learning how to help others feel good about themselves, which made me feel good, too. But my life changed immeasurably.

Starting RBTB extended that a billionfold, and I've been blessed by reaching out and continuing to do so. The approbation is amazing, the opportunities to make connections and learn about myself through other women's experience is invaluable.

I don't believe the same connections can be made w/ men, and that's ok. We're just different creatures, and our relationships are necessarily different. We've lots to learn from one another, but it's just not the same as connecting w/a girlfriend and being nurtured by the situation.

The Reading Frenzy said...

Michelle, can I just say to your comment.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

MPG, I, I think I love you! Seriously, in romances, we set up the "square peg" sitch and really dislike the ones who don't see the heroine for the fabulous woman she is. It resonates w/us, and definitely is a pretty b/w, tug-at-the-soul construct. But, like a guy, you do make a reasonable point: If "the other side" isn't being malicious in their "differentness" (it's a damn word if I say it is), then it doesn't make them wrong. Assuming as I believe, that being malicious, etc., is the wrong way to live, and I get to be condescending about that, cause this is my damn blog.

It's a lot like we try to get our kids to understand: Everybody feels like an outsider at their age, even the 'cool' kids. And there are three ways kids process their discomfort: a)They turn it outward at others in ugly ways; b) they turn it inward in ugly ways; or c)they channel it into activities that take their minds off it, and help them grow as people, as well as have fun.

I think this works for adults, too, because we all still have moments of self doubt and feel like square pegs, etc. I like the idea of thinking one side's not wrong or right (as long as nobody's hurting anybody else), but that we're all just different.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Wait a sec, Deb, that was mysong!

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG>>>>GANNON!!! That's too much!!! What if?! Oh, that SO deserves the question mark/exclamation point combo.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Deb, I love that Dove campaign, too. I remembr being so excited when they started it. Thanks for the URL. Check it out, everybody, and recommend it to young girls you know and moms/dads of young girls, too. Maybe boys, too, to help them understand what girls go through... And, you know, deb, I think we get to a point, usually aroung 40, that we start to think we're getting more ok w/ourselves and what the heck were we working so hard, expending so much precious energy over pleasing others for? It didn't work, did it?

I like your advice to your friend. I think my friends know I LOVE to give them advice, the kind they hate. I'm usually like, "the changes that make us happiest suck and are really hard. The less we want to make them, the more we probably need to. So if we're thinking constantly, 'i need to lose weight, i wish i were prettier,' it means there's something bigger going on that we're not paying attn to. Now, what are you gonna do about it?"

Usually, the biggest change we need to make is learning how to articulate what we need. We bitch/moan about our jobs our guys our friends, even, but if asked "what do you really want?" we can't answer it. Women are strongest when they learn to answer that question.

Then, when you ask for what you want, you'll know whether someone can give it to you, and move forward accordingly w/your life.

But don't go thinking I always follow my own advice. I just love to give it.

Buffie said...

PJ and Gannon -- as usual, the fabulousity that *IS* you shines brightly in this debut column!!! Wonderful job! I love the idea of doing a review as a discussion between two girlfriends.

Love the question - have you ever felt like a square peg in a round hole? Only for most of my teenage years. We moved around a bit and with a "different" name, I was always the new kid who got picked on. But by 16 or so I was starting to feel more comfortable with myself. Not to say I still didn't want to be in the inner circle, but I was more content with being on the fringes.

Myrin said...

Aaaargh, I'm horribly late today (my, my, it's already evening here), so I'd better post this one quickly (as if that made a difference now, I know...)

PJ and Gannon, what a fantastic way to make a review! I was wondering yesterday how you were going to write a review with two reviewers and I absolutely LOVE this dialogue!

I've suffered a lot when I was a child, like, eleven or twelve. Today, I can't imagine how mean little children can be when I look at them with my mature, wise eyes (haha).

I have red hair, too, but that never actually bothered anyone. The thing is, at the aforementioned age, I was really, really ugly. I've never had a beautiful face (but I was a sweet child in kindergarten) but my strange glasses and braces and strawy hair only made it worse. I can't imagine why anyone would bully another because he/she is ugly, but it was like that for me. In addition, I've always been very clever, the best girl in class, but at the same time really not-sporty and had that enormous ass (still have that).

But I also seem to have inherited my mother's and granfather's proud appearance, shoulders back and head up and everything, and giving people the Look (we talked about that when Tessa Dare was here, remember?). So later I realized that, added to the things I've mentioned, the others were likely also afraid of me.

Still, I never changed one bit just to have the others like me. I cried a lot in this time but I never gave in. People might say I'm arrogant, but my mum says I'm brave. I went to my German teacher then and told her everything and she gave those bullies a stern talking to. They never bothered me again.

Today, I like myself well enough and I'm proud of what I've become. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant or something, I just have a lotta self-confidence. I'm still not overly beautiful but I've learned how to use make-up and now I can look pretty enough. I like my shape, really, I do, and I like to eat and how I am and what I do and no one can allure me from this. Sometimes the old insecurity and fear I felt back then come back, but I won't allow that for long. I've got a few great people who dearly love me, and I'm content with that.

So my advice to give to a girlfriend: Baby, don't change yourself, you're wonderful as you are!

Becke Davis said...

Aw, Lisa -- you make me want to cry. You could have hung out with my best friend, Kerry, and me. We were a couple of real odd-ball ugly ducklings -- at least we sure felt that way in middle school. She had her cat's eye glasses and biggish nose (it fits her perfectly now, not big at all), and she was barely five feet tall. I don't seem all that tall now, but in fifth and sixth grade, five seven was waaayyy too tall. Put the two of us together, and we were total geeks.

Kerry was my first friend who loved to read and write as much as I do. I wish I could find some of the stories we wrote back then. She's a teacher now, and I bet she's AMAZING. And I bet she makes sure no kid is ever left feeling ugly or ignored.

Gannon Carr said...

Michelle, it's always much easier to give advice to others, but not necessarily follow that same advice ourselves, right? :)

"So my advice to give to a girlfriend: Baby, don't change yourself, you're wonderful as you are!"
Lisa, that's fantastic advice!! I think we should all have that put on a shirt and wear it with pride!

Gannon Carr said...

(((Buffie))), thanks!! I really love that word, 'fabulosity.' *g*

Eloisa James said...

HI Gannon and PJ -- so nice to see you two blooming in a new place! The book sounds great, and I love your two-voiced approach.


pjpuppymom said...

LisaK, I agree with your mum. I think you were very brave. Brava to you for staying true to yourself!

pjpuppymom said...

Thanks so much, Eloisa!

Gabriella Edwards said...

Hey Gannon and PJ! I loved the review. That duo style is fun! Historicals have always been a personal favorite, but the heroine being her own woman has always been a necessity for the full enjoyment of the read for me.

As for my experience,I was the only kid in my family born in the US, so there were times when I felt like a fish out of water both outside and inside of my home. *Think MY Big Fat Greek Wedding but only Italian* All of it's true!

My advice to anyone not wearing their own skin: find the courage to claim it fast or you'll regret wasting so much time living up to everyone's expectations.

Of course chocolate and sass always work! But it never hurts to set the bitch free. Something I never have a problem with *grin*(I blame that on my Italian-ness.)

Gannon Carr said...

Thank you so much, Eloisa!

Gannon Carr said...

Hey, Rosie! I'm all for setting the bitch free!!! *vbg*

Gabriella Edwards said...

Ah ha! I knew there was a reason why I liked you, Gannon!

amy kennedy said...

Michelle, you Love to give advice? Really? I never noticed...cough...choke...gasp...thud.

Yes, it was the one wise thing your friend ever said, besides, "Where's all your clothes?"

I LOVE the idea of the Black Cobra being a hero, or maybe a heroine.

Buffie, you bad girl, where have you been?

LisaK, I feel as if I'm still growing into the possibility of me, I'm so much more than who I was at 17, and yet I have so much more "me" to be.

Buffie said...

Hey Amy *waving like the bad girl I am*

Been a bit busy, and my cyber travels have suffered for it. Work is just . . . hectic. Six days a week. Anyhoo, I'm trying to carve out more play time. Who needs sleep, right?! LOL!

Monica Burns said...

I LOVE the idea of the Black Cobra being a hero, or maybe a heroine.

Ames, I think that heroine idea is one HELL of an IDEA!! We need to email Stephanie and have her write that story. Wonder if all four books are already done though??? If they're coming out back to back, then it might not be possible. Most books are always turned in about a year or more in advance. Kismet was contracted in late November last year and will come out Jan. And Kismet was actually written.

BUT! That would be one hell of a book wouldn't it!

Andrea said...

Great column, PJ and Gannon!! I also love the idea of a "girlfriend conversation" review and y'all did a fabulous job. :)

I think everyone wants to be accepted for who they are. I've always tried to live my life with a "treat others how you'd like to be treated" attitude and while some could care less, I'm happy and that's what matters.

Gannon Carr said...

Amy and Monica, the idea of the Black Cobra as a heroine would be WILD!!!!

Hey, Andrea! Fancy seeing you over here! *g*

amy kennedy said...

Buffie, just glad to "see" you. I get the work gets in the way of so much better stuff.

Mon, Gannon, I know! I thought it sounded cool too, thanks. But, you're right, it's probably written already.

Andrea, I try to live my life that way too.

Jill Kemerer said...

Okay, my heart actually skipped a beat (cliche'd, I know!!) and I can barely breathe because I did not realize Stephanie had another book out!!!

She's my hands-down favorite author. I can't wait to read the new series! And your review of it makes me want it that much more.

Oh Delilah, I'm ready!!

Gannon Carr said...

Jill, you will absolutely love this book! Glad you enjoyed our review!

snulfers said...

I grew up outside of society so I kind of march to my own drum. However when I grew up and left home It took me about 3 years to acclimate to society. I determined from the beginning to proceed as I meant to go on and never regretted decisions made based on my knowledge and experience.

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Michelle! Hi Bellas! And a specially big welcome to Gannon and PJ! How fantastic that two of my favorite people are together here. I think the monthly column is going to be a must-read. Anna x