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Author: Sophie Jordan
Title - While the Duke Was Sleeping (Rogue Files)
Poppy Fairchurch fantasizes about the handsome Duke of Autenberry. Yet she knows that it could never happen. After all, she is but a plain shop girl. As the duke is exchanging blows with a large Scot, Poppy spies a carriage bearing down on him and leaps into action. Poppy manages to push the young duke to safety, but he lapses into a coma. Poppy is mistaken for his fiancée. She planned to tell his family the truth, but the duke’s best friend, Lord Strickland, convinces her to continue the ruse until the duke is well – for the family’s sake. As the family embraces Poppy and her fifteen-year-old sister, Bryony, into the fold, she feels even more guilty. But one family member is not fooled. The infuriating Scot.
Struan Mackenzie is the illegitimate and abandoned son of the late duke. He may have been born in poverty, but he now has more money than his half-brother would ever acquire. Struan knows that he will forever be an outsider among the ton, just as he knows the annoying Poppy to e a fraud. His haughty step-brother would never court a lowly shop girl, much less propose to one. Struan finds Poppy to be a liar and tightly wound; however, he soon also finds her to be charming, loyal, and far too tempting.
**** FOUR STARS! Sophie Jordan has long been one of readers’ favorite authors for Historical Romance stories. This novel clearly shows why. All characters are well developed, including secondary ones. The writing style is easy to read and the plot is not only realistic, but humorous at times. The heroine, Poppy, is kind-hearted. She enjoys daydreaming about the duke, but never really fools herself into believing her fantasies could ever happen. As always, I look forward to Jordan’s next romantic tale. ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - A Convenient Christmas Wedding (Frontier Bachelors #5)
When Nora Underhill learns that her brother, Charles, and his wife, Meredith, are coming to live in Seattle, she knows it is to draw her back into a life of drudgery. Yet this little seamstress has no intention of allowing that to happen again. In a bold move, Nora proposes a marriage of convenience to Simon Wallin, a rugged logger. In return for Simon’s protection from her overbearing family, Nora offers one hundred and sixty acres of prime farmland.
Simon shoulders the responsibility of caring for his family. That includes his mother, sister, brothers, their wives, all future babies, and the animals. By his calculation his family would just scrape through this winter with enough food for them all. He accepts Nora’s proposal, hoping that he is not making the worst decision of his life. But little by little, Nora’s warmth opens his heart. Simon’s family adores Nora and hopes to see their relationship grow into a true marriage with love. And by the looks the pair shares, that may happen in the near future.
***** FIVE STARS! This story targets the readers who enjoy a Christmas romance story without a lot of danger and tension. After a rough week at work, this way exactly what I needed to help me relax over the weekend. Charles and Meredith bring much drama to the story, but the primary focus remains on Nora and Simon. Nora’s character is honest, warm, and kind-hearted. She loves to do things for others, including the adoptions of a few interesting animals – such as the dog who can talk! Simon’s character is focused mainly on his growing family with no thoughts as to himself. He likes things told to him straight up and no surprises. It is wonderful to watch Nora simply be herself and end up making Simon realize that his life can have the loving happiness that his brothers do.
If you have read the other titles in this series, you will see familiar names as secondary characters. However, you do not have to read any of the other stories to fully enjoy this one. It stands alone. And so does this author! I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - A Rancher of Convenience
(Lone Star Cowboy League: The Founding Years)
Set mainly on the Windy Diamond Ranch in Little Horn, Texas, 1895. Nancy Bennett never had a clue that her husband, Lucas, was a cattle rustler. Now that Lucas is dead, Nancy is in trouble. Banker Winston Cramore does not believe that a pregnant woman can run the ranch and is threatening to foreclose.
Hank Snowden is stricken with grief about his role in Lucas Bennett’s death. To help Nancy and her unborn child, Hank proposes marriage. What begins as an obligation has a good chance into becoming something more; but first the new couple must deal with the shady banker, figuring out who the other rustler is, and Hank’s estranged father.
**** FOUR STARS! This inspirational historical romance has a little bit of everything. The author includes, not only some romance, but also mystery, suspense, and drama. Who can possibly resist such a mixture? There are no really hot bedroom scenes or foul language, if those bother you. Just a wonderful story, filled with a variety of likable characters, and dealing with real issues of life. Brava! ****
Author: Lenora Bell
Title - How the Duke Was Won
(The Disgraceful Dukes #2)
James Warren never expected his father and older brother to die, but now he is the Duke of Harland. His plans are to marry a lady with a spotless reputation, sire an heir, ensure the success of his new cocoa manufactory, and then return to his business in Trinidad. He invited four ladies and their mothers to his home in Surrey. After only a few days, James would choose his new duchess.
Charlene Beckett is the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan. It is an answer to all of her prayers when Lady Desmond makes her an offer. Charlene agrees to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. The other ladies battled for prestige, glory, and the thrill of being called “Her Grace.” But Charlene is fighting for freedom, her sister’s innocence, and her mother’s health.
***** FIVE STARS! OMG! I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of novels set within the Regency Era. It is rare when I find one that has no life threatening danger, yet holds onto my interest as if it overflowed with suspense. I only managed to put this book down once – to order pizza because I certainly was not going to take the time to cook anything.
The character of Charlene is a strong one, yet very loving. The new earl, James, is selfish at first but quickly changes. He has also brought his illegitimate daughter from Trinidad, to the surprise of the Society ladies. Of course, this young girl plays a key role in helping Charlene and James in various ways. She is absolutely precious!
Though I have never read anything from this author before, Lenora Bell has made a new fan in me. I will be looking into the first title of this series and will definitely be reading the next. I cannot recommend this story highly enough. Stellar! *****
Author: Diane Gaston
Title - Bound By One Scandalous Night
(The Scandalous Summerfields)
The story is set in the year 1815. Lieutenant Edmund Summerfield and Amelie Glenville spend one night of bliss together before he sets off to war. Three months later, after his leg is injured in the Battle of Waterloo, Edmund returns. Amelie pulls him aside to inform Edmund that she is pregnant but expects nothing from him. Of course, Edmund refuses to be released from his responsibility. He is determined that his child would be not be labeled as illegitimate, as he had been. After only a little coaxing, Amelie agrees to marry him.
Lord and Lady Northdon are shocked when they learn of their daughter’s pregnancy. Had Amelie not been pregnant, they would never have allowed Edmund to even court her. The tension between several family members is too thick for the newlyweds to tolerate; thus they relocate to one of Lord Northdon’s properties in the Lake District. Once the pair settles in at Middlerock, Amelie and Edmund hope to turn their marriage of convenience into something more.
**** FOUR STARS! Though I really did not like Amelie’s character at the very beginning, she grew on me very quickly. This heroine never tried to blame their night of bliss on Edmund. On the contrary, Amelie tried her best to let everyone know that she had been the one to convince Edmund to stay the night with her. She never expected to ever see him again after that single night. However, neither her family members, nor Edmund’s, would allow Amelie to take an ounce of blame. All of it fell upon Edmund’s head. That was the way things were during this time in history. The author remained true to the era during this entire story. Everything was realistic to the time period.
Diane Gaston’s writing style flows smoothly. The main characters are very well developed; though it takes them awhile to learn that trust between couples is essential to a marriage. I can hardly wait to read the next installment in the Summerfield family. Highly recommended! ****
Author: Katharine Ashe
Title - The Rogue (Devil’s Duke #1)
Lady Constance Read is independent, beautiful, taught archery, how to shoot, and is in need of a husband within the next month.
Six years ago Constance had driven Evan Saint-André Sterling crazy and now he is finished with women forever.
The pair come together as Constance (part of the Falcon Club) investigates a secret cult that seems to sacrifice maidens as part of their Dark Arts.
**** FOUR STARS! The character of Constance (a.k.a. Sparrow, in the Falcon Club) is not new. The Falcon Club has a series of its own and Constance is excellent at cozening information from others to help her fellow agents; however, this story is the beginning of a new series and this intriguing pair starts it off right!
Author Katharine Ashe has long since proven to be a master of the writing craft. This tale shows why. At times I found the writing to be a little too long-winded, but it also allowed for a fuller, richer background on the main players, as well as for some surprises. I look forward to the next installment of this series. ****
Author: Brenda Jernigan
Title - Western Seduction
Set in 1935. Shannon McKinley flees her drunken and domineering father, Angus, when he arranges for her to wed with Buchanan. Shannon leaves Scotland for America and prepares to begin a new life. She answers an advertisement for a nanny and makes a very uncomfortable ride to Texas Territory with her fingers crossed.
Luke Griffin expects an older woman to answer his ad for a mail-order nanny. With his past, Luke has enough to worry about with all the hot heads that come around trying to make a name for themselves as a gunslinger. Since his wife died a few years ago, Luke has had his hands full with running the ranch. This leaves very little time for his children and he does not believe someone as frail-looking as Shannon will be up to the task either. He gives her one month to prove him wrong.
Growing up in the Highlands, Shannon is much tougher than she appears. The children are stubborn and willful, but Shannon is sure that she can turn them around. Eight-year-old Molly and six-year-old Tobey simply need a bit of attention, discipline, and guidance.
As everything begins to settle into place, Shannon realizes that her father has not given up chasing her. Angus has sent two clansmen to America with orders to bring Shannon home, whether she wants to come or not. However, Luke has changed his mind about Shannon, in more ways than one, and the clansmen will have to go through him if they want to reach his fiery-haired lass.
***** FIVE STARS! The story of Shannon and Luke was so much fun to read! I knew upon first meeting the character of Shannon that she was going to give the hero a run for his money – and I was not disappointed. As for Luke, the way the author introduces him shows that there is more to this man than meets the eye. His past experience makes him the perfect match for Shannon. The two are a lot alike and that means you (the readers) are in for a special treat as this romantic adventure unfolds.
Author Brenda Jernigan paints a vivid portrait of the early West that almost made me feel as if I were there. Romance, adventure, and some historical bits thrown into the mix make this story just too good to miss. I cannot recommend this tale highly enough! *****
Author: Kathleen E. Woodiwess
Title - The Flame and the Flower (Reissue)
Our story begins in England.) Heather Simmons had it all, until her father made poor decisions. Destitute, Heather had to live with Aunt Fanny who forced Heather to do all the chores, wear oversized rags, and all but beg for crumbs to eat. So when William Court, offered her a respectable position, Heather jumped at the chance. However, the position turned out not to be respectable at all and after defending herself from Court’s unwanted lust, Heather fears she may have killed the man and flees to the docks. She is still in shock when she is approached by two men and ends up in the cabin of Captain Brandon Birmingham.
Having asked George, his man servant, to locate him a lady to spend the evening with, Brandon never expects Heather to be anything but a prostitute. When it becomes clear that the lady is not acting shy and coy, it is too late. Not only has Brandon taken her virtue, but he refuses to let her go. (Skipping much to shorten my synopsis and not give away spoilers.)
When Heather’s uncle, Lord Hampton, forces the Yankee to wed his pregnant niece, Brandon is furious. He blames Heather for everything. Once he returns home to the Carolinas, he must explain to his fiancée, Miss Louisa Wells, how he was blackmailed into marrying someone else. Of course, the two women are instantly enemies. His brother, Jeffrey, is delighted that his new sister-in-law is not only nice and sweet, but will never be the shrew named Louise. Now if only Heather and Brandon can earn the love and trust of each other.
**** FOUR STARS! This was one of the first adult romances that I read as a teen and I am delighted that the publisher is bringing it back for a whole new generation to enjoy. The only downside to this story is the various misunderstandings because the main couple refuses to communicate with each other. I just wanted to pop them upside their heads a few times. As for Louisa, now there is a bad girl that readers will just love to hate! This story is one of the classics of the Historical Romance genre and one that every young lady should read at least once. ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - Instant Frontier Family
(Frontier Bachelors #4)
Set in Seattle, Washington Territory. The year is 1866. Madeleine “Maddie” O’Rourke left her eleven-year-old half-sister and seven-year-old half-brother in New York with a friend while she traveled west with the Mercer expedition. It has been months, but Maddie has finally settled in Seattle and sent for her siblings. Ciara and Aiden were supposed to be accompanied by a female companion, who Maddie had hoped to hire as help in her newly established bakery. Instead, the children are escorted by Michael Haggerty and her siblings expect Maddie to wed him. Maddie allows Michael to work off his passage by assisting in her bakery and helping care for her siblings, but she will never risk her newfound independence by marring the handsome Irishman.
In New York, Michael ran afoul of a notorious Irish gang called the Dead Rabbits; therefore, traveling west was best for his continued good health. Michael has grown fond of his two charges. Upon meeting Maddie, he firmly states that he will abide by her wishes for him to be on his way, but only after he has repaid her for his traveling expenses and he is sure the children are well cared for. The longer Michael is around Maddie the more fond he becomes of her. So when danger rears its head, threatening Maddie, Ciara, and Aiden, he will do anything to protect them.
**** FOUR STARS! All the stories I have read by Regina Scott have been well written and inspirational. The characters are fully developed, the plots are situated on strong foundations, and the stories remain true to their time periods. This story is no different from those facts. I opened the book to its first page and was swept away to a time long ago. The only character that I never came to care for was Ciara. Though to be honest, I have no doubt that many eleven-year-olds act too regal for their own good; however, I just never seemed to connect with the girl. This title is a terrific addition to the series and I can hardly wait for Regina Scott’s next release! ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - Frontier Engagement
(Frontier Bachelors #3)
Set in Washington Territory, June 1866. Alexandrina “Rina” Fosgrave has traveled west to seek a fresh start as a teacher, not to find a groom. To that end, Rina agrees to travel with James Wallin to Wallin Landing for an interview. If all goes well, Rina would become a teacher at Lake Union School. Upon reaching her destination, Rina finds out that the school is brand new and she would be the only teacher. There are only a few students, but the community is growing, as would her class size.
James Wallin’s family is depending on him to find the new community a schoolteacher. Rina fits the bill perfectly. The problem is how he would convince her to accept the position. Just as the new teacher is settling in, one drunk, threatening parent has Rina reconsidering the position.
When Rina and James end up stranded in the wilderness together for a few days, James offers his hand in marriage to protect her reputation. Neither wants to wed or expects to fall in love, but perhaps “an engagement of convenience” could change that.
***** FIVE STARS! The character of James is unlike most I have read. He is a tease and jokes often. He can take any dark situation and show you there is still light to be found somewhere. Though his family has known James all his life and loves him deeply, only Rina’s character could see what lay behind his glib façade. These are the types of characters that Regina Scott has become a master at crafting. Her characters have multiple layers. They do not fall into any set template. Each is well developed and has their own personality. At the same time, the author keeps the people, their situations, and the world around them true to the time period. That includes Society’s rules for the era. Even minor background characters, such as Robert McKenzie who runs an out of the way hostelry, are memorable. (Now there is a character I would live to see again someday!)
If you love Romance, you will love this tale by Regina Scott. *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - Would-Be Wilderness Wife (Frontier Bachelors #2)
Set in and close to Seattle, Washington Territory. It is May 1866. Catherine Stanway has traveled from Boston to use her nursing skills to save lives, not to find a husband. Catherine is currently the nurse for Doctor Maynard’s clinic. When a man enters and asks the doctor to come with him to care for his mother, Catherine cannot help but compare his to a knight. But the clinic has too many patients for the doctor to make a long distance house call. Shortly after the man leaves, a younger one enters. Before she knows what is happening, Catherine finds herself gagged, tied, and kidnapped.
Since his father’s death Andrew “Drew” Wallin has been busy raising a passel of brothers and a headstrong sister. Eighteen-year-old Levi is the one that gives the most trouble. Yet Drew never imagined that Levi would kidnap the lovely nurse. By the time Drew finds out, it is too late to return Catherine before dark. This means Drew has to return the lady to Seattle tomorrow, taking away time from his busy schedule.
After tending to Mrs. Wallin at Wallin Landing, Catherine decides to stay until her patient is well. The ailing woman’s typhoid fever is traced to a spring that someone has contaminated. According to Deputy Hart McCormick, there has been a recent outbreak of various troubles and harassments in the area and Wallin Landing seems to be the troublemaker’s main target. But who is it and why?
Meanwhile, Catherine is doing her best to keep herself from becoming too attached to the Wallin family; especially from Drew. But the longer Catherine must reside in their home, the more her heart begins to melt for Drew. It does not help that Drew’s matchmaking family wants Catherine to end up changing her last name to Wallin.
***** FIVE STARS! As much as I enjoyed the first title of this series, I love this one even more. For me, this tale was like watching an episode of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. I would also dub this book as a Christian Romance. The characters often call on God for guidance. I was treated to drama, romance, and even a bit of suspense as I read Catherine’s story. It seems to have something for everyone.
The character of Catherine is a strong one. No simpering miss here! She is intelligent, brave, and knows what she wants. She is also wise enough to know when to bow to another’s expertise; such as when a large cougar appears and she does not know how to shoot. Drew’s character is a perfect match for Catherine. Family is very important to him. This gentleman is brave, skilled, and has much honor. I cannot express how great this story is, nor can I recommend it highly enough. Absolutely wonderful! *****
Author: Julia Quinn
Title - The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
Sir Richard Kenworthy needs to wed within the month. Though he only just managed to save Maycliffe Parks’ lands from his late father’s mismanagement and he is the sole guardian of his two sisters, it is not a quick influx of funds that he requires. When he spies a lovely lady playing the cello in a (dreadful) musicale, he thinks he has struck gold.
Iris Smyth-Smith is witty and intelligent. She tends to blend into the background, which suits her just fine since that means she may do what she enjoys most, watch people. This has made Iris a very observant person. So when Sir Richard demands an introduction, she is suspicious. As he courts her with a cheerful briskness, Iris cannot help but wonder just what he is hiding from her.
In less than two weeks Sir Richard proposes to Iris. Just as she is giving her answer, the proposal turns into a compromising position – and she believes that was exactly what Sir Richard wanted to happen. But why?
**** FOUR STARS! The first half of this story is the introduction, whirlwind courtship, and wedding of Iris and Sir Richard in London. The second half takes place far away at Sir Richard’s estate, Maycliffe Park. I feel unable to tell much about that portion for rear of giving away spoilers. I can say that Iris and Sir Richard learn about each other and the reader will meet the estate’s stall and Sir Richard’s two sisters. The two sisters are not exactly inviting because they know why their brother married Iris so fast. However, Iris has five siblings and thirty-four first cousins, so she is more than able to handle them.
I have always enjoyed a story in which neither the hero, nor the heroine, are idiots. This is one of several things about Julia Quinn’s writing that I love. The author consistently creates likeable and believable characters and dumps them into intriguing situations. Brava! ****
Author: Megan Frampton
Title - The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior
Lilly Russell, along with two friends, open an agency to help less fortunate woman. When a position for a governess comes in, Lilly takes the job herself in order to help the agency’s future reputation. Having grown up as a lady, there should be no trouble handling anything that may come up in a Duke’s household. She can easily teach a young girl all she would need to know. Yet Lilly has no idea how alluring she would find the child’s father to be.
Marcus, the Duke of Rutherford, never expected to inherit the title. He knows nothing about how to manage an estate or his new responsibilities. When his illegitimate daughter, Rose, is dumped on him, Marcus is shocked to understand that he knows even less than nothing about caring for a four-year-old girl; however, he is determined to care for Rose. To this end, Marcus hires a governess but fails to check out her references (or lack thereof.)
*** THREE STARS! Megan Frampton has crafted a humorous romance with a child that I often found to be more interesting than the adults. The hero came across to me as a lazy waste of flesh at first; yet the devotion he shows in being a decent father went a long way toward redemption in my eyes. The story has a humorous undertone and watching the two main characters clash was pure delight! Megan Frampton seems to know what her readers enjoy in a romance. ***
Author: Deb Stover
Title - Maid Marian and the Lawman
In Southern Kansas, 1888, Mary Goode had been thirteen-years-old. After her parents died, she has watched helplessly as her brother, Robin, was torn away from her and placed in an asylum because he was slower than others his age. But his new teenager rescued Robin, along with an Indian named Little John and a small man called Friar Tuck. The group fled to Indian Territory so the authorities would not take Robin away again. The group planned live in hiding until their grandfather found them.
It is not 1896, eight years later. Shane Latimer is a United States Marshal. It has not been easy, but he has finally found where Robin Hood’s hideout is. He is on the verge of solving the Merry Men case. But thanks to a snake, Shane’s horse dies and he has been bitten. Little John, having seen what happened, takes Shane to Mary. Once awake, and seeing that he is vulnerable, Shane pretends to have lost his memory. While recuperating, Shane watches and learns about the odd group taking care of him. Then his idol and friend, Marshal Sam Weathers, shows up. Sam agrees to keep Shane’s identity secret while he visits Robin and Mary. Sam is on the tail of another criminal, Buck Landen. While with Mary and Robin, Sam teaches Shane that crime is not always black and while. After all, Sam had once saved Shane from being hanged unjustly. The longer Shan observes Mary, Robin, Little John, and Tuck, the more he realizes Sam is right. Good thing too, because Shane’s feelings for Mary just keep growing.
***** FIVE STARS! This title was previously published under the name Stolen Wishes. My synopsis hardly scratches the surface of what this story entails. There is a lot more action, danger, and drama than I tell. For example: Tuck has a secret past, Little John’s tribe is close by, a dangerous man has previously forced himself upon Mary and intends to again, there is a snag with Mary’s grandfather…and yes, there is even MORE. I never found myself growing bored. And when Mary and Shane finally admit their feelings for each other, the bedroom scenes become spicy. (However, that does not happen until around mid-novel and Stover does not get so kinky that I end up blushing.)
Deb Stover has an eye for details too. She explains why everyone is named after characters from the tales of Robin Hood. She even adds little touches such as the sign near their isolated cabin that welcomes travelers to Sherwood Forest. This is a fantastic story that I am sorry to have missed years ago and very happy that it has been republished! *****
Author: Katharine Ashe
Title - I Adored a Lord (Prince Catchers)
Ravenna Caulfield was the adopted daughter of a poor country vicar. Ravenna ran free and had a wonderful way with animals. She learned all she could about how to care for them. At the age of seventeen, the Reverend Caulfield allowed Ravenna to seek employment (of caring for the animals) in an unknown gentleman’s distant household with nothing but a great black dog (named Beast) to defend her. Of course, Mr. Pettigrew had no idea that his new employee was to be a woman and he could not allow a lady to reside with him for the sake of her reputation. It had been Ravenna’s idea for Pettigrew to apply for a transfer of guardianship and the reverend allowed it with no trouble. Thus Pettigrew and Sir Beverley came to care for Ravenna as if she were their own. The two men had the pleasure of watching the lady continue to grow and bloom. Her talent of caring for animals also continued to grow. But when Beast finally died, Ravenna’s heart broke and she became depressed.
Mr. Pettigrew and Sir Beverley, at the urging of Ravenna’s older sister, accepts an invitation to a house party hosted by Prince Sebastiao of Portugal. The house party is set in the remote mountains of France in early March. Ravenna has no interest in the prince but is drawn to the animals. While visiting the stables at night, she is caught by an unknown man. The man tackles her and then he kisses her. She hits him with a door and then a pitchfork and bites him. This is how Ravenna and Lord Vitor Courtenay meet.
Vitor has known battle for so long that all he now wants is to dash off to another dangerous mission. Instead he is playing babysitter to his spoiled prince of a half-brother and his international cast of potential brides. Even if Vitor were allowed to leave he could not, because the castle is now snowbound. Vitor’s stolen kiss in the stables causes him guilt, but he is unable to stay away from the intriguing lady. And when Ravenna comes across a corpse in a suit of armor, the need to protect her is strong. Ravenna and Vitor quickly find themselves wrapped in a mystery they’re perfectly paired to solve.
**** FOUR STARS! This story may be wrapped in the form of a historical romance, but is actually a challenging who-dunit mystery with a large cast of suspects. With a snowbound castle set in remote mountains, I got the feeling of the old types of stories where all the suspects are gathered into one room for the climatic revealing of the killer’s identity. I did not know which part I was enjoying more, the unusual romance or trying to figure out who the murderer was (based on the clues) before the main characters managed to.
Katharine Ashe writes with an eloquence that kept me enthralled with the story and begging for more once the last page had been turned. ****
Author: C.H. Admirand
Title - Patience (The Three Vices #1)
Set in London, 1815. Three years ago Lady Patience Wainwright had been betrayed by Lord Alasdair. Having been through the humiliation and hideous gossip due to a man she trusted, Patience now finds it impossible to trust any man. Patience is selfless. She never thinks of herself. She has a good, pure heart and goes out of her way for those in need of assistance. Her biggest problem is that she acts without thinking things through first, especially when it comes to caring about how Society will view her after her actions. This is how Patience came to be on the field one early morning when her dear friend, Oliver Higginbotham, was to duel a viscount.
Phillip Carrington, Viscount Rexley, is stunned to see that he has shot the wrong gentleman. When Rexley realizes that the wounded person is actually a lady, he is horrified. The lady left quickly and he was unable to ask about her identity. So imagine Rexley’s surprise to learn that the lady his father has betrothed him to is no other than the lady who should never have been out on a field of honor. Rexley did not want to wed, especially a lady who acted like anything but; however, his family’s honor demands it. The more time he spends with Patience, the more Rexley becomes enamored of her. Once wed, he could lay down the law to Patience. For now, Rexley is too busy trying to figure out why his father recently tried to commit suicide, who is blackmailing his father and why, and who is out masquerading as him (Rexley) and accosting ladies.
***** FIVE STARS! C.H. Admirand has crafted a brilliant love story, filled with action, humor, and drama, that often had me sitting on the edge of my seat. The heroine, Patience, does not have a selfish bone in her body, but the red head is prone to obstinacy and to rushing into action whenever someone needs help – especially if it is someone she cares for. As for the hero, Rexley, I admired his honor and the dedication he has for his family; however, once the pair are wed, Rexley makes the HUGE mistake of demanding Patience to change simply by telling her to obey him. (Needless-to-say, that does not work out well for him.)
It seems to me that C.H. Admirand gets better with every story she writes – and I believe this is the best yet! I can hardly wait until the cousins’ (Charity and Prudence) have their stories told. Stupendous! *****
For your convenience you may read more about, or purchase this book, from Amazon by clicking HERE!
Author: C.H. Admirand
Title - For Love of Flynn
(Irish Western series #5)
Set in Emerson, Colorado, late 1870s. Michael Flynn had only two shillings in his pocket when he had left Ireland five years ago. The hardest part was leaving Meg, the love of his life, to wait for his return. During those five years apart, Michael worked hard and saved all he could. He wanted to return to Meg with a small fortune so they could have a good start as they began their lives together. But greed caused Michael to lose everything to a card shark named Eli Banning.
It had been four years and three hundred forty-nine days since Megan O’Mara had watched Michael sail away. Tired of waiting and worrying, Meg traveled across an ocean and then half of the rugged country to find him. But once she arrived in Emerson, she learned that Michael had left town the previous night. As Marshal Justiss and a few others had begun to form a posse, Michael’s horse ran into town – and there was blood on the saddle.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the fifth in C.H. Admirand’s Irish Western series. If you purchase the electronic format (priced low) then you will receive only this short novella. However, if you purchase the paperback, you will also be able to read large sections from the first four novels in this series.
As with all the stories that I have read by Admirand, this one is fast paced and very entertaining. I ended up reading Michael and Megan’s tale in one sitting. It begins with conflict, as Michael realizes that he has lost everything to a dangerous card shark, and the tension remains high until the very end. Though I enjoyed the characters, I especially could not help but love the character of Meg. She is a strong-willed, red-headed lady with the famous Irish temper that takes no nonsense from bullies. (Sounds like a few other female characters from the previous tales.) There are no hot bedroom scenes and no fluff or filler; just action and drama from cover-to-cover. Absolutely terrific! ****
Author: Brenda Jernigan
Title - The Duke’s Lady (The Ladies)
It is the end of September, 1813. Adam Trent, Duke of St. Ives, had to return to England, and take over Briercliff when his grandfather died a year ago. His twin sister, Elizabeth, is still in New Orleans. Though Adam currently resides in Cornwall, England, he is still half American and believes that the United States should be allowed to govern themselves. This means he must be careful so as not to be labeled as a traitor by England.
While on the coast with his close friend, Jonathan Hird, Adam finds an unconscious lady who has been washed ashore. At Briercliff, Adam and his staff care for the young lady. It seems someone had her beaten with cat-o’-nine-tails before allowing the sea to claim her. But who would even think of doing such a thing? And why?
Once the lady wakes, she has no memory. Clues provide her name, Jewel; however, her last name remains a mystery to all. Flashbacks prove that her memory will return in time, but until then Jewel would remain at Briercliff. Meanwhile, Jewel, Adam, and Jonathan are amazed at the skills she possesses. The lady is an excellent swordsman and a certain knife never strays far from her thoughts. Why she feels the urgent need to locate the knife is unknown to her though.
The attraction between Jewel and Adam sizzles, threatening to flare into an inferno. But both of them have unfinished business to attend to first.
***** FIVE STARS! Wow! Nothing else really needs to be said. This story has mystery, suspense, action, and (of course) romance. I honestly do not see how the author managed to put all of that (and more) in one novel, yet she has! Both the hero and heroine are strong characters who complement each other. The more I learned about each, the more intrigued I became. I cannot recommend this title highly enough. *****
Author: Sarah MacLean
Title - No Good Duke Goes Unpunished
(Third Rule of Scoundrels)
He is the Killer Duke. Twelve years ago he was accused of murdering Mara Lowe on the eve of her wedding. At the time, he had not known that the lady he was about to take to his bed was supposed to become his newest stepmother. His father was three times her age. With no memory of that fateful night, Temple had been exiled by his father and shunned by the rest of the aristocracy. But now Temple has reigned over the darkest of London’s corners for over a decade. Though he is wealthy and powerful, he is still considered to be beyond redemption. Until one night, Mara comes out of hiding, offering the one thing he has dreamed of … absolution.
It had been a young, desperate Mara that had disappeared twelve years ago. She planned never to return, but when her brother gambles away not only all of his money, but hers, at Temple’s exclusive casino, she has no choice but to offer Temple a trade that ends in her returning to society and proving to the world that he is no killer. Mara well knows that Temple would not care what had happened that night long ago, nor why she had framed him for murder.
Though she deserves his anger, Temple soon finds that it is difficult to resist the pull of the mysterious and maddening woman who often smells of lemons. Yet he would give her no mercy. He would ruin her, return to his rightful place, and never look back.
***** FIVE STARS! As I read, I could not help but wonder why Mara would frame a man for her murder on the eve of her wedding and then disappear. Where did Mara hide? What has she been doing for twelve years? I had so many questions. Temple was an innocent. He was collateral damage. Therefore, I found myself on Temple’s side from the start.
Sarah MacLean has given her main characters dark and difficult backgrounds, so when they finally meet again the emotions run high; volatile. MacLean does not simply toss an ordinary main character to her readers. She makes them unique, such as giving Mara miss-matched eyes. This makes the people more believable. With strong characters and intensely emotional clashes, Sarah MacLean’s Third Rule of Scoundrels is un-put-down-able! *****
Author: Sophie Barnes
Title - The Scandal in Kissing an Heir
(At The Kingsborough Ball #2)
Lady Rebecca is the ward of Lord and Lady Grifton. The pair are forcing Becky to wed a much older man for their own selfish gain. They are, in effect, auctioning her off to the highest bidder. The winner of the young ward’s hand is the Duke of Grover. So Becky sneaks in and attends the Kingsborough’s ball in search of a husband – someone who can help her avoid marrying Grover.
Daniel Neville, heir to the Marquisate of Wolvington, is one of England’s foremost rakes. His uncle, the current Marques, has finally decided to put his foot down. Daniel must abandon his rakish ways and get wed quickly. But no family in Society would ever consider allowing Daniel to approach them, much less court one of their daughters. Yet everything changes when he spies a stunning woman across the ballroom.
***** FIVE STARS! Sophie Barnes has taken the romantic notion of spying one’s soulmate across a crowded room and added an interesting twist. This rake must convince an insane lady to marry him. Of course there is more to it than I say, but I refuse to give spoilers. I can say that I enjoyed this story so much that I read the entire novel in one sitting. Fast paced, hot passion, and overwhelming odds, make this novel absolutely stunning! *****
Author: Lorraine Heath
Title - When the Duke Was Wicked
Lady Grace Mabry’s large inheritance has made it impossible for her to tell whether a suitor is in love with her or with her money. Most gentlemen around her were charming. That was part of her dilemma. How could she separate charm from con? Grace turns to notorious childhood friend, the Duke of Lovingdon. After all, who better to identify a blackguard than another blackguard?
The Mabry and Lovingdon families were close and Grace had practically grown up within Lovingdon’s shadow. He has been her unofficial protector for most of her life. He sees little harm in helping Grace find a suitable husband. All he needs to do is teach her all the ploys that scoundrels, blackguards, and fortune hunters would use. Demonstrating each ploy seems the easiest way to ensure that Grace would recognize any con a gentleman may try.
Lovingdon has had no interest in marriage since he lost his wife and daughter. But as lessons lead to passion and Grace becomes ensnared in another man’s marriage plot, Lovingdon must decide whether to open his horribly scarred heart fully – or risk losing Grace forever.
**** THREE & A HALF STARS! Though the plot has been done before, Lorraine Heath has added her unique style to create an enchanting tale of love. The hero is scarred on the inside. The heroine is scarred on the outside – where no one can see. I really like how that author has given the main characters imperfections. This adds a touch of realism to the story. The people become a bit more believable to me. More real.
Heath has a bold writing style – perfect for her adventurous characters – that I found to be captivating. I never became bored. My attention never wandered off. If you are searching for a way to forget about your own troubles or pass a rainy afternoon, this novel is for you. ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Husband Campaign
Set in Derbyshire, England. The story begins in July, 1815.
John, Lord Hascot, lost his ability to trust when his elder twin brother, James, stole the woman he had been about to propose to. Since then John has devoted his life to his horses on Hollyoak Farm. A horse from Lord Hascot is coveted, but John will only sell a horse to one who meets his standards. In addition to his declining to sell to just anyone with money, John has a reputation for incivility. Needless-to-say, marriage is the last thing John is contemplating when he spies Lady Amelia Jacoby asleep in his stable. Bad weather has trapped the couple together and, to save her reputation, the pair soon wed.
Lady Amelia understands that John does not expect any heirs. He only offers the shelter of a home, funds to furnish and decorate it, funds for clothing, and his utmost respect. He would keep his wedding vows and she would manage the house, staff, and deal with unexpected guests. For Amelia, loves comes softly and unexpectedly. She soon decides to begin a campaign to win her husband’s heart, for her sake and his.
When the Dowager Lady Hascot arrives unannounced, with Major David Kensington on her arm, John realizes that the visit has all the makings of a disaster. Caroline may be the Dowager, but she is not John’s mother. She is his brother’s widow. The resident veterinarian, Dr. Fletcher, and Amelia believe that their guests are here for some purpose other than making the acquaintance of John’s new wife … and they are correct.
**** FOUR STARS! Regina Scott has written a story true to the Regency era. The characters, as well as the circumstances, are totally believable and highly entertaining. (I became very attached to Amelia’s outspoken maid.) As for Lord Hascot, John is not only loyal but honorable. He never lies to Amelia, even before they wed. His horses mean much to him. He cannot tolerate anyone who is mean to an animal. He also does not suffer fools, stupidity, or any person who does not prove they are honorable.
Regina Scott’s writing style is as graceful as her heroine. She does not toss in a lot of rare words that would have readers reaching for the dictionary every few minutes. This story is easy to read and flows smoothly. My interest was captured almost immediately and I never found myself getting bored. An excellent tale for all who enjoy a good Regency, Historical Romance, or just want a realistic love story. ****
Author: Jacquie Rogers
Title - Sleight of Heart (High-Stakes Heroes #1)
The story begins in Silverton, Colorado. It is the middle of June, the year 1883.
Burke O’Shaughnessy’s parents used to work the riverboats, so he and his brother, Patrick, grew up learning all about games of chance. Burke is now a thoroughbred gambler; however, his mind is not currently concerned with picking his next target to con. Burke’s mother is ill in St. Louise. She is using the family fortune as an incentive to reunite her sons. The fortune is close to six figures, but neither son could have any of the money unless both brothers claimed the entire sun, together and in person, within the next two months. Otherwise, all the money would be donated to her favorite charity. Burke has tracked Patrick to Silverton, Colorado. Yet, according to the lovely lady shooting at him, Patrick is long gone.
Alexandra “Lexie” Campbell had thought she was shooting at Patrick. The brothers look a lot alike. Patrick had gotten her sister pregnant, sweet talked Helen into handing over their savings of five thousand dollars, told Helen a story about going to purchase supplies for the sisters’ mine before marrying her, and then took off. If Burke thinks Lexie will tell him where Patrick said he was going, then Burke has another thought coming! There is no way Lexie would let Patrick’s brother disappear. He was her ticket to locating Helen’s runaway fiancée and forcing him to wed Helen. Lexie is unlike most females. She is a genius when it comes to numbers and amazing at handling finances. Lexie is also very logical. Since she has already shot at him, he really should have concluded that she would not hesitate to do anything drastic – such as knocking him senseless and forcing him to take her on his search for Patrick.
As Lexie and Burke travel together, they come to know each other on a deeper level. Burke no longer tries to abandon the sensuous Lexie behind. The lady has an outstanding mind and he is enjoying her company; perhaps too much. Lexie takes longer to trust the maverick, but with all the danger that seems to be stalking them she plans to keep him close.
**** FOUR STARS! To me, this story is a riot. I had loads of fun watching Lexie and Burke outmaneuver each other. Once they became a team… Well, I do not want to give away any spoilers. Lexie and Burke are the leading characters and the main focus is on them; however, there are several secondary characters that add some zesty spice to the tale. All are well developed and most are what my mother would call “a hoot”. The pace is steady and the writing style is crisp and clear. Author Jacquie Rogers has yet to disappoint me with any of her stories; no matter its genre. This one is no exception. I can hardly wait for the next book in the series. ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Wife Campaign
Whitfield “Whit” Calder, Earl of Danning, has a very loyal and devoted valet named Peter Quimby. Quimby has been Whit’s valet since Whit inherited the earldom around the age of fifteen. This means that Quimby knows his duties thoroughly enough to anticipate Whit’s needs before they even cross his employer’s mind. Whit knows this. Whit appreciates this. Whit values this. On the down side, this also means that Whit would never seriously consider firing Quimby whenever the valet does something for Whit’s own good.
Whenever Whit is able to leave his duties behind and have some stress-free time alone, he travels to Fern Lodge, his fishing retreat. But this time Whit arrives at Fern Lodge to find his home being invaded by three eligible young ladies and their parents. Unknown to Whit, his loyal valet sent each lady an invitation to attend a house party where (or so the invitation eluded) the earl would propose marriage to her. Each lady thought that she was the only one invited. Each lady was happy and ready to accept the proposal – except one.
Ruby Hollingsford believes she will never find love with an aristocrat for various reasons. Ruby has been tricked into attending the Earl of Danning’s gathering by her father, but she certainly will not compete for the earl’s attentions. Yet, Whit is not the selfish aristocrat she envisioned. And with a little trust, two weeks may prove to be ample time for an unlikely couple to fall into love.
***** FIVE STARS! My synopsis of the story does not do it justice. To me, the author hits the nail on its head when she describes the snobbishness and drama that Society had (back in the era) for those lower in rank. This is, to say, no matter how rich Ruby is now, she still has no title and her father is in trade. There is also some danger involved in the tale, but I cannot discuss it without spoilers (which I refuse to do.) Once you read this book, you should understand why I will always snatch up any title with this author’s name on it. If the book has the name Regina Scott on its cover, it is sure to please. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Sophie Jordan
Title - How to Lose a Bride in One Night (Forgotten Princesses)
Annalise Hadley has a muddied lineage and walks with a limp, so she is amazed that the handsome Duke of Bloodsworth chose to marry her. But the new duchess learns what type of man her husband is on their first night together, when Richard smothers her with a pillow and tosses her body over the side of the honeymoon barge. Annalise is left for dead and would have perished were it not for the honorable earl that rescued her.
Owen Crawford, the reclusive Earl of McDowell, does not like the man that the war has made him. He has spent the last five years in India attacking the sepoys and assassinating the people his commanders ordered. The war has turned Owen into a killer. When he first spies the lady’s body he wonders if it is a trap. He cannot help but think that way. The lady is near death and he could not just leave her there. Owen reluctantly scrapes her up off the banks of the river. He will help her heal, teach her to protect herself, and then send her away. Anna claims to have no memory, but Owen feels the lady recalls more than she admits. He soon finds Anna to be as enchanting as she is mysterious. All the more reason to quickly be rid of her.
***** FIVE STARS! After a horrid night of work, all I wanted to do was climb in bed with a good book. Reading about someone else’s problems usually helps me relax. By the third page my world had dissolved. I lost myself in Annalise’s life, unable to stop reading. I did not notice time slipping away. I did not notice my husband come home from work. I did not notice anything at all until the story ended.
Author Sophie Jordan has an incredible writing talent that borders on sublime. Her characters are original, intelligent, and engaging. Her descriptions are vivid, easy to imagine, and believable. This book is going directly to my Keeper shelf. *****
Author: Caroline Linden
Title - Love and Other Scandals
Joan Bennet has had four Seasons without a single suitor or serious flirtation. At balls she could be found chatting with the other wallflowers. The closest Joan has come is reading the lascivious adventures detailed in each episode of 50 Ways to Sin, the most sought after publication in London. Of course, her family would be shocked if they ever learned that Joan delighted in such wicked reading. Joan’s life begins to change when her mother falls ill and her father rushes them off to Cornwall for the sea air. Not wanting Joan to miss the Season, he asks his sister to be with his daughter. Normally Joan’s brother could step in, but Father sends him off to supervise some building. Joan realizes Mother must be very sick to even consider allowing the renegade aunt to chaperon her. Joan has heard several tales of her high-spirited, unconventional aunt. But what really surprises Joan is that her brother has asked his childhood friend, Lord Burke, to attend her.
Tristan, Viscount Burke, has been Douglas’s friend since childhood. Every bit of wild gossip about the man is true. So Tristan is shocked when Douglas asks him to attend his sister for a month or so. Joan Bennet is what Tristan would call a Fury and best avoided. In the end, Tristan agrees to treat her like his sister and perhaps ask her to dance once at a ball. It is the least he could do for Douglas. In the beginning he is mainly intent on besting the Fury. But then he notices her mouth, her bosom, and the way her eyes seem to gleam with gold sparkles when she delivers a stinging set-down. Before long all he can think about is her: laughing, teasing, somber, and breathless with desire. When had he stopped telling himself she was trouble?
**** FOUR STARS! This delightful story follows an average looking lady instead of an exquisite beauty. It is refreshing to read about a lady with a backbone and some intelligence. Caroline Linden has written a very believable drama that had me chuckling often. There is no physical danger, but being involved in even a minor scandal is akin to death for unwed ladies in the Regency Era. I enjoyed watching as Joan and Tristan verbally clashed. I never knew which would win. This is an entertaining read for all fans of Regency Romance. ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Courting Campaign (Master Matchmakers #1)
Set in the Grange, near the Peak District, Derbyshire, England. It begins in June, 1815.
Miss Emma Prymont has been Alice’s nanny for three months and would protect her young charge with her life. During this time, Emma has seen how lonely the child has been. Her mother is deceased and her father is too wrapped up in his work to take notice. The cook, Mr. Jennings, believes Sir Nicholas Rotherford needs a new wife and that Emma would be perfect. Emma refuses to wed a scientist; however, she agrees to do her best to bring father and daughter closer together. With the cook’s help, Emma shows the workaholic scientist just what Alice needs.
Ever since scandal destroyed his career, Nicholas has secluded himself in the Grange and has devoted all his time to his new invention. He is developing a special lamp that miners can carry into the ground so they can see their way safely. Now his daughter’s sweet, quick-witted nanny is proving to be an unexpected distraction. Emma challenges Sir Nicholas to see things differently – Alice, his role as a father, even his work. But she does it with a general good nature and pragmatic approach he cannot refute.
***** FIVE STARS! In this Inspirational Regency Romance, Regina Scott’s heroine grew up an abused orphan. Her foster father was involved in destroying the hero’s career. This is how the author ensures that the pair has the same interest of natural philosophy. (Especially in the making of lamps for underground miners.) Though Emma is in hiding from her foster family, knowing that her past could very well pop up to cause trouble kept me in suspense, as did the conflicts with Sir Rotherford’s widowed sister-in-law who ran the household and knows about Emma’s past. The main characters are not above praying to the Lord for guidance. (That is why this is dubbed and “Inspirational” story.)
If you are searching for a historical romance that does not have characters you would want to hit upside the head due to miscommunications or stupidity, then this story is for you. The sweet, intelligent, and lovable characters will warm your heart while the romance and suspense keeps your eyes glued to the pages. Perfect. *****
Author: Tessa Dare
Title - Any Duchess Will Do
Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed. His mother has decided that it will be happen this season. So when Griffin awakens to find that his mother has abducted him to “Spinster Cove” and then insists he select a bride from the ladies in residence, he wants to teach her a lesson. Griffin chooses the serving girl. Not just any serving girl would have done either. This serving girl must be the clumsiest to be found. After all, when she enters the room she is a royal mess, covered head-to-toe in sugar.
Pauline Simms works as a barmaid in town and works at home on her abusive father’s farm. She wants nothing more than to take her slow sister away with her and to open a bookshop where they could live together in peace. That dream becomes possible when an arrogant duke offers her a small fortune for a week’s employment. All Pauline has to do is submit to his mother’s “duchess training” and fail miserably. But in London, nothing goes as planned. Sometimes opposites really do attract. ****
Author: Nicola Cornick
Title - Mistress by Midnight
Merryn Fenner has waited ten years to get revenge against Garrick Northesk, the Duke of Farne. But in Merryn’s mind it is justice. He had ruined Merryn’s life and shamed her family’s name. Now she plans to do the same in return by locating the true heir to the duke’s title. But when she is compromised, Merryn must marry her enemy.
*** THREE STARS! As I began reading this story, I had no idea that it was the third book in a series, Scandalous Women of the Ton. The plot is not new, but still juicy enough to be interesting; however, I never came to really care for the heroine, Merryn. This is the type of heroine that I wish I could just slap upside the head. I actually liked the hero, Garrick. He is mysterious, yet honorable. But I feel that he fell in love with Merryn way too easily and put up with too much. ***
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Heiress’s Homecoming (Everard Legacy #4)
Set in Cumberland, England. The year is 1813. After his wife died giving birth to Jamie, Will ran off with the diplomatic corps. Only the death of his older brother brought him home. If he had not been called home to claim the title and assume its responsibilities, Will might never have seen his son grow up. Now he is William Wentworth, Earl of Kendrick, and his son, Jamie, is an impressive young man at seventeen years of age. Will suspects that his neighbors, the Everards, were connected with his brother’s death eight years ago; therefore he wanted nothing to do with them. But Jamie had grown up with Lady Samantha Everard as his best friend. Upon meeting the young lady, Will can easily understand why.
Baroness Samantha Everard will lose Dallsten Manor and the bulk of her fortune if she does not wed by her twenty-fifth birthday. That fateful day is less than a fortnight away. Until a few odd years ago, Samantha had not known that she had any living family members. Since she met her three handsome cousins and watched them fall in love and begin having children, Samantha’s life has been filled with so much joy. But if she has learned nothing else, Samantha knows that those in her family feel their emotions stronger than most others. Samantha fears that she may repeat her mother’s mistake of marrying someone she loves only to realize a few years later that it had been only an illusion. It would be a few years of false love, followed by a lifetime of misery. Therefore, Samantha is fiercely determined not to wed in order to keep her inheritance – even if that means losing her home and becoming the poor relative of the family.
Will knows from his son that Samantha is under a great deal of pressure, yet Jamie refuses to divulge her secrets. Even with his years of diplomacy, Will is unable to convince the lady to tell him what is wrong. But when Will notices that Samantha is being stalked, he becomes even more determined to solve the mysteries surrounding her.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! This is the final book in the Everard Quartet. There is not as much danger as in the previous titles of the series, but there is enough suspense to keep readers glued to their seats until the very end. (For those who would like to look up the Cousins’ stories: The Rogue’s Reform is the story of Jerome and Adele. The Captain’s Courtship is the story of Captain Richard and Lady Clair. The Rake’s Redemption is the story of Vaughn and Imogene.) Those who have read the prior stories have seen Samantha grow into a lovely and intelligent lady, who is very good at horseback riding and fencing. Now we see the results of her unusual life. And I could not be happier.
It is pretty obvious who the bad guy of this story is, but that does not lessen the suspense at all. About the half-way point of the book, Samantha’s cousins arrive with their families. Vaughn is the only one who plays an important role though. After all, Samantha cannot reveal any of the information about Will’s brother and she certainly is not going to put her personal problems on display for him or anyone else. I admire that about Samantha’s character. She is a strong role model. I would also like to mention to readers that this is an Inspirational Regency Romance, meaning that the main characters often say a short prayer or recall a Bible verse. Do not fret if you are not a Christian though. The author does not shove religion down the reader’s throat. It is one of the traits that I love so much about this author. Regina Scott’s stories seem to come directly from her heart. Highly recommended reading! *****
Author: Sophia Nash
Title - The Duke Diaries (Royal Entourage)
Rory Lennox, the Duke of Abshire, is new to his title, which was bestowed upon him for services rendered to the Crown. As the story opens, Rory is caught in bed with his archenemy’s still-innocent sister, Miss Verity Fitzroy, the morning after the (soon to be well known) bachelor party. Verity refuses to wed Rory, preferring to be sent away until things blow over. But once settled in Derbyshire, Verity becomes so bored that she actually agrees to educate the children in the village while their teacher is away for a fortnight or so. When Rory appears, Verity knows it is his intension to persuade her into accepting his hand in marriage. While Verity has always been fascinated by Rory, she has too much pride to wed a man against his will. In the end, she agrees to an engagement, which she insists that she will break off at the end of the season, even if it renders her unmarriageable. (Not that it matters, as she never intends to ever wed.)
Meanwhile, a London newspaper begins to publish excerpts from a mysterious diary, detailing the most shameful exploits of the most scandalous bachelor party (which was also attended by the Prince Regent.) These stories could easily incite the country to riot, as they come so soon after the French Revolution. Rumor is that Rory recorded his friends’ misdeeds, but Verity knows he is innocent. Should the truth be revealed, it could destroy any hope of happiness for Verity. But when a series of mysterious accidents takes place, Rory realizes he must face down his greatest fears not only to save Verity, but to win her hand and her heart.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Sophia Nash sharpened her claws on certain gentlemen during the previous titles of this series. Now, to my utter delight, Nash sinks those slender talons deeply into the lives of Rory and Verity. I have been quoted in the past as describing Sophia Nash as “having an awe-inspiring, book-writing talent” and this story shows exactly why.
Unlike many other Heroines, this one has a backbone and can think for herself. She is not responsible for the stories printed, though they do come from her missing diaries. And unlike other Heroes, this one is certain of his actions (mostly) and has no urge to flaunt his brave acts from during the war to prove anything. The author has created believable characters and taken strides to keep events true to history. I found myself curious at some points and laughing aloud at others. Mystery, suspense, and romance collide to give readers a fun and memorable story. ****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - The Importance of Being Wicked
Lady Miranda Garrett is twenty-eight years of age and has been a widow for three years. Shortly after their marriage, John founded the construction company of Garret and Tempest. The Mr. Tempest part of the firm’s name helped with the funding needed to begin the business, but he has never set foot in the company’s door. He only asked that the money be repaid over time – with no interest – and his name to be used in the firm’s title. Miranda has always been interested in drawing buildings and eventually became the brilliant architect behind the company’s curtains. Because no one would hire a company run by a woman, Miranda let John take credit for her work. Upon John’s death, Miranda and her small staff of employees kept the business going, but never revealed who the firm’s architect really was, especially not to Miranda’s own family.
Winfield “Win” Elliott, Viscount Stillwell and heir to the Earl of Fairborough, very much regrets that Fairborough Hall caught fire; however, he knows that the damage could have been far worse. Win contracts Garrett and Tempest to do the reconstruction. He is startled when Miranda arrives to represent the firm and survey Fairborough Hall’s damage. His first thought is that the lady looks more like a governess than a Viscount’s widow. Her clothing is years out of fashion, her hair is arranged in a stiff manner, and she wear the most dreadful shoes. Win quickly comes to realize that the lady knows much about architecture and construction and, with a bit of clever manipulating, manages to convince him to improve the plumbing and even (Heaven forbid!) install electricity. Though Win understands that a man (Emmett) will handle the construction crew and that the elusive Mr. Tempest will draw up the plans, he is still uncomfortable knowing that Miranda will be on site to oversee everything. After all, it is such a long way for a woman to travel daily. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whom you ask), his mother solves the problem. Margaret knows Miranda’s mother from long ago and insists that Miranda stay with them at Millworth Manor until Fairborough Hall’s restoration is complete.
The more time that Win spends in Miranda’s presence, the more confused Win becomes about her. For Win, charming women was almost a natural skill. Miranda is the first woman who did not easily fall for him. Every encounter with her leaves him frustrated. Miranda is annoying, argumentative, intelligent, and obviously hiding something from him. And frankly, it is every little boy’s dream to be with his pretty governess. Perhaps that is why Win cannot seem to stay away from the lady.
***** FIVE STARS! Once again Victoria Alexander has done a masterful job at creating believable characters that stay true to Society’s rules of the Era. By the time Miranda meets Win, he has already had three broken engagements. Throughout the story, bits are revealed about each former fiancée. I found myself curious as to what had happened. Who was at fault? Was there something too wicked about Win? Therefore, I was thrilled to find that the author included a novella after Miranda’s story. The novella is broken down into three sections. Each section gives the name of Win’s fiancée and tells what actually happened to cancel the wedding. So with this book, you get a full-length story, as well as a novella. (Score!)
Both Miranda and Win love a good argument, ahem; I mean a good debate, so they are often challenging each other. This causes a lot of witty dialogue and utterly hilarious situations. I laughed so hard at one section (when the couple finally decides to hit the bedroom together) that I marked the first three pages for my husband to read later. He laughed almost as much as I did. This is because the author has an outstanding writing style that allows the reader to easily picture the scenes in their minds.
The secondary characters are entertaining as well. Miranda’s family is lively. When the parents, siblings and their spouses all get together for dinner, things are never boring. Win’s family is not so dramatic, but they are not dull either. All characters, be they main or secondary, have well developed backgrounds. The plot moves at a good pace. And I cannot wait to read the story all over again. I feel very sorry for anyone who misses this fantastic tale. *****
Author: Lecia Cornwall
Title - How to Deceive a Duke
With the sudden and mysterious death of his brother, Nicholas Hartley becomes the new Duke of Temberlay. In Spain, Nicholas had lived by his wits, and has now returned to England a military hero. War has changed him. He is harder, stronger, and smarter. He had earned his name of Devil many times over – with his enemies on the battlefield and with his women in the bedroom. A bride is the last thing Nicholas wants, but his grandmother demands that he provides and heir quickly. She has even decided on whom the bride will be, Rose Lynton.
When her stubborn sister abandons the family and runs off before the wedding, Marguerite “Meg” Lynton decides to don the wedding veil and walk down the aisle herself. It is the only way to save her family from sure destitution. This what Meg has done since her father’s death. She takes care of everything for the family, even at great cost to herself. Meg knows that she does not have Rose’s beauty, but the groom has never met his future duchess. By the time her wealthy groom discovers he has married the wrong sister, it will be too late to annul their vows.
From the second Nicholas sees his bride he realizes that his wedding night will be a great pleasure indeed. The woman is lovely. But when he learns of Meg’s deception, he decides to teach her a lesson. Yet as he comes to really know his new wife, Nicholas begins to understand just how lucky he really is.
***** FIVE STARS! This story has something for every romance fan: deception, murder, betrayal, blackmail, a bit of mystery, a dash of suspense, bravery, a short time on the battlefield, romance, and – of course – a “happily ever after” ending. This book contains the whole package and is laid out for your enjoyment. I sat down expecting to pass an hour or so reading (hoping the rain outside would stop) and when next I looked up I was amazed to see that it was dark outside. I had read the entire story in one afternoon.
I believe this is the first story that I have had the pleasure of reading by Lecia Cornwall and it certainly will not be the last! I am still in a bit of awe at how easily the author captured my attention on the first sentence and kept it prisoner until the last had been read. The plot is sound and flows smoothly, while a couple of subplots add some extra spice. The characters are well developed with unique personalities. (In fact, I hope Delphine and Ives will have their story told someday.) If you enjoy historical romances set in the Regency Era, then you simply must read this story! *****
Author: Nina Rowan
Title - A Study in Seduction (Daring Hearts)
Though it is not fitting for a woman in 1854 to be intelligent, Lydia Kellaway was a mathematical prodigy by the age of eight. Now a young woman, Lydia can solve the most complex problems. In fact, Lydia recites advanced mathematical rules and phrases within her mind whenever she needs to keep calm or hold onto her temper. This means that once she meets Lord Northwood, Lydia’s mind is continuously busy. Lydia’s grandmother, Mrs. Charlotte Boyd, pawns her mother’s one-of-a-kind silver locket without considering the priceless sentimental value it holds for Lydia. The locket has been purchased by Northwood. Her only hope is that the man would allow her to purchase it back.
Alexander Hall, Viscount Northwood, knows that the gentlemanly thing to do would be to simply return the locket to Lydia; however, Alexander finds himself intrigued with the lady. He cannot help being curious as to just how far she would go to get the item back. Every time Lydia and Alexander meet, their attraction grows. For several years his father, the Earl of Rushton, has expressed the desire to see Alexander married and an heir born. But Alexander has been occupied with his business and other family matters. Therefore he has had no time to search for a woman that he could imagine marrying. Until now.
Unknown to any of them, someone from Lydia’s past is watching. It is only a matter of time before a dark family secret will be thrown into the equation and it might divide them forever.
**** THREE & A HALF STARS! The dark secret does not come into play until far in the story. If you want a lot of danger in your romance, look elsewhere. This story is well written and entertaining, but no real danger appears for quite some time. Most of the story revolves around Alexander trying to restore honor to his family, Lydia trying to retrieve the locket, and Jane (Lydia’s little sister) secretly corresponding with an unknown person via letters. What I find to be very amusing is that fact that, for most of the story, Lydia is trying to use math to quantify love. There is a bit of suspense sprinkled throughout the story. These are small scenes where the reader is reminded that someone is watching Lydia. But, for me, that are too few and far between. Still, if you are searching for a story to make a rainy afternoon fly by, this one is perfect. ****
Author: Lorraine Heath
Title - Lord of Temptation
(Lost Lords of Pembrook #2)
Set mostly in London, 1858. Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped – to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle – awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright. That return happened two years ago. The uncle is gone. The eldest brother, Sebastian, is now the Duke of Keswick. Though he had lost half his face in faraway battle, Sebastian is currently happy with his wife, Mary.
Lord Tristan Easton is Sebastian’s twin, the second son. He is more commonly known along the waterfront as Crimson Jack, a notorious privateer beholden to none. But all that will change when Lady Anne Hayworth hires his protection and his ship.
Without the approval of her family and with only her lady’s maid to accompany her, Lady Anne will journey from England’s shores to Scutari, where her fiancé was laid to rest. Before Anne can move on with her life, she must first say good-bye to Walter. The captain demands that her payment for passage to be one long kiss aboard his ship, the moment of his choosing. Anne has never known temptation like this and by the time she returns to England, Anne is changed. Anne promises her father that she now feels confident that she would be able to put her best foot forward and secure a husband by the end of the Season. To protect her heart, Anne knows she must put her time with Tristan behind her. But Tristan cannot forget her. Anne is charming, yet feisty. She can stand toe-to-toe with him, never backing down. And when they meet again in a London ballroom, he vows that he will not lose her a second time.
**** FOUR STARS! Lord Tristan is the second son. Unlike Sebastian’s story, this one does not have a lot of danger and suspense. Yet even though the danger content is not high, the entertainment is. I never found myself bored. The story mainly concentrates on the romance between Lord Tristan and Lady Anne, but the past scandal surrounding the three lords and their uncle still causes problems at various times. Lady Anne’s family keeps urging her to encourage a match with her late fiancé’s brother. As much as I wanted to hate that brother, I could not. I can only hope he finds someone worthy of him someday.
Once again Lorraine Heath has created a wonderful Regency Romance that will thoroughly please her readers and linger in their thoughts long afterward. Very well done! ****
Author: Katharine Ashe
Title - How A Lady Weds A Rogue
(Falcon Club #3)
Miss Diantha Lucas understands Society’s rules. Being a young lady, she must find a man to marry. But Diantha intends to seek out her biological mother first. Her family believes Diantha to be at Brennon Manor for a fortnight. She has only that short amount of time to travel across England with her maid, Annie, in attendance for propriety. When Annie abandons Diantha, she is desperate to find a replacement before ill can fall upon her. When Lady Fate places Wyn Yale in her company, Diantha decides he is just the hero she needs. After all, he saved her once before, many years ago. Diantha needs only to convince Wyn to escort her to her mother, instead of back to her family.
Wyn Yale is the Raven. He is an agent of the Falcon Club and a consummate gentleman. He is something of a specialist at rescuing runaway and/or abducted young girls and returning them to their families. Wyn’s current duty though is to steal back a prized horse, murder and evil duke, avenge an innocent girl, and probably get hung for it – in that order. But when Wyn runs into Diantha, keeping her safe until her family comes for her takes priority. It is only a short while before Wyn realizes there are two major problems. The first is that the country miss and the hardened spy cannot keep their hands off each other. The second is that a man from Wyn’s past is trailing them, waiting for the perfect time to strike.
*** THREE STARS! Author Katharine Ashe has written another delightful romp among the agents of the Falcon Club. This time the hero is not so perfect. Wyn drinks in excess. To keep Diantha safe from himself, Wyn totally stops drinking alcohol. This is the first time that I have read a Historical Romance where one of the main characters must go through withdrawals. (I work in a hospital and the author did a fantastic job on the detox.)
The only real unbelievable thing (to me) about this story is Diantha’s amount of luck. Somehow, Diantha manages to come across an honorable man ten years after last seeing him, recognizes him, and enlists his help, just as she begins to believe that Mr. Sausage Fingers is about to take some advantages. Also lucky is that the one man she has come across is one that her family implicitly trusts, so her reputation would not be ruined after spending weeks in his company.
Ashe is known for creating interesting characters, often with complex personalities, to ensure readers never get bored. Then she places these characters in difficult circumstances, usually with a suspenseful plot too, so readers may enjoy watching them try to wiggle their way out. Do I even need to say that this story fully lives up to Ashe’s well-earned reputation? ***
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Rake’s Redemption
(Everard Legacy #3, Inspirational Regency, 10/30/12)
Set in London, England, spring 1805. Lady Imogene Devary is the only surviving child of Robert Devary, the Marquess of Widmore; therefore, it is no wonder that the father dotes on her. At least he did until recently. Lord Widmore has been spending more and more time away, dealing with matters at the War Office.
Vaughn Everard is an infamous duelist and poet. He is also the cousin of Lord Jerome Everard and (former) Captain Richard Everard. The three cousins are searching for the killer of Arthur Everard, their uncle. At the same time, the cousins are helping Samantha with her first Season. Three weeks ago, a man connected to the Marquess of Widmore had warned them that the marquess meant to topple the crown. Though Vaughn has qualms about dragging an innocent lady into his quest for revenge, his conscience assures him that as the daughter of his enemy, she is fair game to help uncover the truth.
Imogene cannot believe that her father is guilty of the crimes Vaughn suspects. He does not know her father. The marquess would never commit murder in cold blood or collude with the French to overthrow the crown. Yes, her father’s actions have been odd lately, but that does not make him guilty. Then Imogene and Vaughn discover a terrifying plot. Only together can they learn the truth and protect their newfound love and England’s very future.
**** FOUR STARS! This is a stand-alone story; however, I urge you to read the first two titles so that you may fully sympathize with the cousins’ mission. Otherwise, Vaughn may come across as too stone-hearted at times. (The first title is The Rogue’s Reform. The second title is The Captain’s Courtship.) Characters from the previous titles make cameos, but the only one that actually plays some minor parts is Samantha. Samantha tends to speak her mind, which I believe is often very entertaining; but this time around Samantha comes across as more childish than previously. Yet I still cannot help but like her. (Samantha’s story will be told in early March, 2013. The title will be The Heiress’s Homecoming.)
Romance, mystery, suspense, and drama collide to ensure that readers will never find themselves bored. I can only hope that Samantha’s story is as intriguing as this one. ****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - What Happens at Christmas
(Christmas Regency Romance, 10/30/12)
Young Camille had wed a man who was substantially older than her, and they had spent eight comfortable years together. Now Camille is a very wealthy widow and is looking to remarry. This year for Christmas, Camille wants a wedding proposal from Prince Nikolai Pruzinsky, of the ruling family of the Kingdom of Greater Avalonia. She does not love the man, but fully expects to fall in love with him after they are married. Since Nikolai has been reading novels by Mr. Charles Dickens, he mentions wanting to experience a traditional English Christmas. Camille decides to grant his wish. Of course, her family has never been what one might call proper, but by a very good stroke of luck everyone is out of the country for Christmas this year. Camille hires a troupe of actors to play the parts of her family, as well as all the other servants. What could possibly go wrong with such a brilliant plan?
Young Grayson Elliott did not confess his feelings of love to Camille until the day before she was to marry. From the kiss they shared that day, Gray could tell that she returned his feelings. Yet he had been too late. He spent the next eleven years on business travels and amassing his fortune. But this year Gray is spending Christmas with his family. Gray tells himself that he is over his feelings for Camille and that seeing her around the area would not be difficult. He should have known better.
Camille has always had some sort of impulsive adventure going on; however, this time her scheme borders on outrageous! Be that as it may, Gray never ignores an opportunity when it presents itself. So when Camille introduces him to Nikolai, Gray insinuates himself into her household by announcing that he has come to spend Christmas with Cousin Camille. Let the games begin!
**** FOUR STARS! I have long enjoyed stories by Victoria Alexander. She always cooks up a wild, romantic plot and spices it up with several tablespoons of wicked humor. This time the author has created a farce to end all farces. The story begins shortly before December Twenty-First and concludes on Christmas Day. Though this time frame is only five days, mad mayhem runs rampant in each one. Not only are the hired troupe filled with poor actors, but Gray is simply delighted to add more chaos into the mix. (I refuse to reveal what he does. Hilarious!) If anything could go horribly wrong for Camille, it does. But for the reader, that is a good thing. I am proud to highly recommend this jewel for your Regency/Romance Christmas list this year. ****
Author: Tracy Anne Warren
Title - The Princess and the Peer (Princess Brides #1)
Princess Emmaline “Emma” of Rosewald is attending an academy when she receives a summons from her brother, Rupert, the prince regent of their small European country. In order to preserve national sovereignty and solidify dynastic alliances, it has been decided that Emma would marry King Otto. Emma knows it is time to embrace her royal duty, but she yearns for just one week in London. Just one week to take in and experience all of the excitement that London has to offer. Then she would bow to her destiny of being locked away in a loveless marriage forever. Thus, Emma sneaks away.
With the recent passing of his older brother, former naval captain Dominic “Nick” Gregory has inherited a title he never wanted. As the new Earl of Lyndhurst, Nick is land-locked and his sea less future looks dreary. That all changes when he meets a mysterious young beauty who has just had her funds stolen by thieves. Believing Emma to be an unemployed governess, Nick takes her to Lyndhurst House and calls for his aunt to come reside with him for a week and act as the young lady’s chaperone.
As Emma and Nick come to know each other, romance blooms. Knowing that a future together is impossible, Emma sneaks off again and goes to resume her royal responsibilities. But fate has them meeting again at Carlton House, the London residence of England’s prince regent. And now that Nick has finally located his wayward love, he is determined to make the princess his bride – no matter the odds.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Tracy Anne Warren returns with a new trilogy guaranteed to please. This is the first title about three blooded princesses who became close friends while attending academy together in Scotland. Emma’s character is full of life. She is never condescending. Emma and her two royal friends have indomitable spirits, yet they clearly understand the heavy burdens that are required of them as royalty. I guess what I am trying to say is that the author has managed to make these characters believable. Had they been real, I could have called them friends. Tracy Anne Warren writes her stories with a blaze of unmatched vitality! ****
Author: Katharine Ashe
Title - How to Be a Proper Lady
Set in 1818. At the age of ten, Viola Carlyle was abducted from her stepfather’s home by her biological father, an American smuggler named Fionn Daly. Now, fifteen years later, only her half-sister, Serena, believes that Viola is still alive. Serena is now the wife of Alex, the Earl of Savege. Alex wants nothing more than his wife’s happiness.
Jinan “Jin” Seton feels that he owes Alex a debt for saving his life many years ago. To repay this debt, Jin has been searching for Vi almost two years. But when he finally finds her, Jin is outmaneuvered by the woman and watches as his precious ship is sunk.
Vi is now called Violet la Vile, captain of her own ship, the April Storm, and has fifty men wholly devoted to her. Vi is an American privateer for the state of Massachusetts. She is strong, clever, and has managed to deal with anything that has come her way during her years on the sea. She is the woman who has sent the legendary Cavalier to a watery grave. Jin joins Vi’s crew as her lieutenant. She knows he intends to return to London with her in tow, however, Jin cannot force her cooperation. But after Vi makes and loses a foolish wager with him, she has no choice but to accompany Jin back to England, and to her former life as a noblewoman.
Over the last ten years, Vi has been in love with Aidan Castle, her late father’s friend. During the years Aidan has often spoke of him someday building a grand home and marrying her. But when Aidan finally finishes building the home and Vi arrives, Vi learns that Aidan is courting another. One with a family that is well connected and wealthy. Vi’s heart breaks and Jin sees an opportunity for all to get what they desire. Once Jin reveals Vi’s real name and heritage, Aidan would not hesitate to drop the lady he is courting and travel to London. As a noblewoman, Viola’s family has more connections, power, and wealth than Aidan could possibly imagine. In return, Vi would have the man she has loved for so long and be reunited with her English family.
As for Vi, she is uncertain about her feelings for Aidan and Jin. How can she possibly learn all the rules of behavior so as not to embarrass her half-sister, Serena? How will she be able to deal with a stationary life on land?
**** FOUR STARS! My synopsis only covers part of the story. Much more happens than I reveal. Jin has other obligations that cause problems, personal and otherwise. So once the story hits London, events become both humorous and dangerous. This fast-paced story caught my attention immediately and it kept my interest until the very end. Excellent! ****
Author: Genevieve Graham
Title - Sound of the Heart
Dougal MacDonnell, from Invergarry, is a fierce Highland warrior of Scotland. During the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746, Dougal is separated from his brothers and sees his father fall. Devastated by the loss of his family, Dougal becomes a prisoner of the English. During this time Dougal strikes up a friendship with John Wallace, another prisoner. Together they keep all of the other prisoners from preying upon the two drummer boys, Joseph and Aiden. (Skipping a lot here to avoid spoilers.)
Dougal falls in love with Glenna and the pair spend many years together living in an abandoned croft. But the Sassenach still scour Scotland, searching for all Highlanders, and it is only a matter of time before Dougal and Glenna are discovered. Glenna is captured, shipped overseas, and forced into indentured servitude. Dougal joins an English army made of vanquished Scots and sails for the colonies in hope of locating his Glenna. (Skipping a lot here to avoid spoilers.) Glenna, believing Dougal to be dead, fights simply to survive. And Dougal will risk everything for the chance to find his true love.
***** FOUR AND A HALF STARS! This book is broken into two parts. Part One is a little over two hundred pages and follows Dougal. Most of my synopsis covers it. Part Two follows Glenna, from the moment she is captured in Scotland, and is around ninety pages in length.
Those who read the reviews on my site know that I always warn of any cruelty to animals and children. Rest assured there is no need to fear either type of cruelty within the pages of this novel. I also warn readers of any forced intercourse. Readers will find one or two unwilling scenes; however, the author glosses over these parts. Nothing is too graphic and readers with very soft hearts should have no trouble. In fact, I am very impressed with how Genevieve Graham handled it all.
Graham has a rich writing style that flows smoothly and backgrounds of the characters are well developed. The only thing that I do not recall ever learning is Glenna’s last name, but for this tale I do not feel it to be important. As for the battles, especially at the beginning, Genevieve Graham brought the fields of war to such vivid life that they seemed chillingly real at times. I could almost feel the ground quake from the cannons, see the fear or anger in surrounding faces, and smell the stink of death. I am proud to highly recommend this story to everyone I meet. Absolutely surreal! *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Rogue's Reform
(Everard Legacy #1, Inspirational Regency)
(Set in Evendale Valley, Cumberland England. The year is 1805.) Jerome Everard had expected to inherit his uncle's estate. So it comes as a surprise that Lord Arthur Everard has a sixteen-year-old daughter named Samantha. Only be disproving Samantha's claim can Jerome secure his legacy. The solicitor is due to arrive at Dallsten Manor within the week for the official reading of the will. This means that Jerome has less than a week to travel to Evendale Valley in Cumberland and search Dallsten Manor for evidence. His brother, Richard, and cousin, Vaughn, will aid Jerome in the task.
They arrive to learn that Samantha has a champion in the form of her governess, Miss Adele Dallsten Walcott. Not only is the lovely governess devoted to ensuring Samantha takes her rightful place in Society, but Adele knows the estate better than anyone else. Adele holds the key to all of Lord Everard's secrets. With time running out, Jerome needs to focus on the task at hand. Problem is that he is inordinately attracted to the governess and whenever she is near, Jerome tends to forget himself. It soon becomes obvious that someone at Dallsten Manor is trying to kill Jerome. But who stands to gain anything by keeping Jerome from the barony?
**** FOUR STARS! This is an Inspirational Regency Romance; meaning that God, love, faith, and family play a prominent part in the story. This title is the first of a miniseries about three cousins who set out to claim their inheritance. In this story, the couple mainly focused on is Jerome and Adele. There is a rigid dichotomy between a titled gentleman and a mere governess; however, this author has managed to blur the line between them. Cousin Vaughn is a secondary character. Some of the foundation for his story is built within this one and I, as the reader, am now eager to get my hands on his story. (Vaughn plans to hunt down Uncle's murderer. So his tale is looking as if it will be an exciting one.)
All the primary characters have well developed backgrounds and distinct personalities. For example, I could easily see Adele's honor and loyalty, Samantha's innocence with a touch of imp in her manner, and even the oiliness of the footman. Regina Scott is a first-rate storyteller who knows what her readers want in their romances. ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Captain’s Courtship
(Everard Legacy #2)
Our story begins and ends in London, England; however, most of the story takes place at Dallsten Manor, in Cumberland. The year is 1805.
Lady Claire Winthrop is the daughter of the former Earl of Falbrooke and widow of the former Viscount Winthrop. During Claire’s ten years of marriage, she had learned to endure with the help of the Lord above. She will forever remember those cold years. How could she possibly forget when every shooting pain in her right leg reminds her? After dealing with the debt left to her, Claire is all but penniless. But then the Lord answers her prayers in the form of Richard Everard.
Captain Richard Everard’s task is to bring his sixteen-year-old cousin, Samantha, to London and unite her with a suitable sponsor. Samantha has just inherited a barony and is set to make her debut. But her sponsor must be someone able to present Samantha to the queen, help her gain entrance to places Uncle had been refused, and have a grand reputation. The good news is that Richard knows of a lady who meets all of these requirements. The bad news is that the lady is Claire – the lady who coldly jilted him years ago.
As Claire helps Samantha prepare for her first Season, she finds herself in Richard’s company often. Claire and Richard soon wonder if perhaps the Lord is gifting them with a second chance. Yet the mystery surrounding Uncle’s death remains and danger is beginning to rear its head again. Someone does not want Samantha to leave for London. But just how far will the villain go to ensure that Samantha remains in Cumberland?
**** FOUR STARS! This story is an Inspirational Historical Romance. (It is set in the Regency Era and the main characters have faith in God.) Most of the story focuses on Claire and Richard; however, Samantha takes the spotlight several times as the (continuously running) mystery subplot moves forward at a steady pace. Speaking of the circumstances surrounding Uncle’s death, more clues are revealed and quite a few pieces of the puzzle fall into place. It is clear that the third book in this trilogy will be fast paced and stuffed full of action, suspense, and romance. I can hardly wait! (I believe the third book will be titled “The Rake’s Redemption”.)
Jerome and Adele (from The Rogue’s Reform, the first book in this trilogy) have very little to do in this episode. Vaughn will be the focus in the next story. The ground work for Vaughn and Samantha’s debut begins in this tale. Each book within this trilogy is still a stand-alone story, yet Uncle’s mysterious death and the inheritance links them all together.
Character backgrounds are fully developed, events are kept true to the era, and in the back of the book are some questions for reading/book groups to discuss. So there is something for almost everyone to enjoy.
Author Regina Scott understands what her readers want in their Inspirational Romances and she delivers! ****
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Title - Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane #4)
The tale is set in London, England, 1738. Winter Makepeace lives a double life. During the day he is the mild-mannered schoolmaster of the Home for Unfortunate Infants & Foundling Children. At night he becomes the Ghost of St. Giles – protector of the innocent and punisher of the wicked. When the Ghost is wounded and hounded by a mob, he is rescued by a lovely aristocrat. Though the Ghost knows his rescuer, he dares not let her know his identity. Even so, their worlds are about to collide.
Isabel, the Baroness of Beckinhall, is one of the members of the Ladies’ Syndicate for the Benefit of the Home for Unfortunate Infants & Foundling Children. She had no idea that it was Winter beneath the harlequin outfit. The manager of the Home is such a staid schoolmaster, who represses all of his emotions, carefully tucking them away behind the bland mask he wears in public. A few of the Syndicate members feel that he should be replaced. After all, Winter must represent the Home whenever he attends an event in which high society does and he is simply too unsophisticated to do it well. The other ladies believe that the manager just needs to be taught. Lady Isabel is given the task of being Winter’s social tutor.
As Isabel and Winter spend their days together they begin to enjoy, not only the good-natured sparring, but the little things about each other. Yet when little girls start disappearing from St. Giles, the Ghost must jump into action. In order to find and rescue these poor girls, Winter might have to sacrifice everything, including his life.
**** FOUR STARS! One of the things I enjoy most about this author is that she not only makes her secondary characters interesting, but often uses them to discreetly set up events that will be essential to the next title’s story. To me, it feels like a hidden picture or a tiny clue – if I am sharp enough to spot it. However, THIS story’s focus is on Lady Isabel and Winter. These two are from totally different worlds. Isabel is an aristocrat and Winter is a commoner. The author bypasses many of the Regency Era’s rules pertaining to ladies by making Lady Isabel a widow. This also helps to spice things up between the main couple. The entire story is well written, backgrounds are fully developed, and a few small surprises pop up to keep the plot moving along at a good pace.
Once you have finished reading this book, you will fully understand whey Elizabeth Hoyt is considered to be one of today’s best writers of Regency Romances! BRAVA! ****
Author: Cara Elliott
Title - Too Tempting to Resist (Lords of Midnight #2)
Lady Eliza Brentford is a widow who cares deeply for her wayward brother. Perhaps too deeply. Eliza secretly earns funds as an illustrator. She is close to saving enough to buy a snug little cottage of her own in the Lake District. A place where she could live independently at last, free from the grasping demands of the men in her life. One more commission may do it. However, even if she could purchase a cottage immediately, Eliza would be unable to rest easy. Lord Leete is her brother. Harry’s role model in debauchery is the notorious Marquess of Haddan, Gryffin Dwight. Harry is squandering their dwindling fortune with his out of control hobbies. Leete Abbey is in trouble. The farmlands are neglected and the creditors are barking. But Harry turns a deaf ear to Eliza’s pleas. The only person Eliza can talk openly to about everything is her old governess, Miss Augustina “Gussie” Haverstick. Visiting Gussie at her home is a pleasure that Eliza wishes she could do more often.
Gryffin, the Marquess of Haddan, is one of the notorious Hellhounds. They have a terrible reputation for wildness. But with time comes change. Recently her fellow Hellhound, Connor Linsley, has wed. Though Connor often still joins Gryffin and Cameron Daggett for drinks and fun, he no longer gets too wild. It is obvious how much Connor adores his wife. But there is more to Gryffin than his friends could possibly imagine. Gryffin is about to publish a book. His publisher, Watkins, is in the process of contacting his best illustrator. Contact is taking longer than he had anticipated. But Gryffin has seen the work of “Linden” and the man is perfect for his book.
When Gryffin appears on Eliza’s estate as a guest of her brother, a stolen kiss within the garden leads to a night of passion. The man is sinfully attractive, yet he is also the one Harry is determined to mimic. Could this wild rogue possibly feel true emotion for Eliza?
**** FOUR STARS! There is more going on than I reveal in my synopsis. Suspense, blackmail, and art forgery are also mixed into this romance. Neither Eliza, nor Gryffin, is new to the delight of the bedroom. Since Eliza is a widow, most of the obstacles keeping her from enjoying private time with Gryffin have been removed (as long as she is discreet.)
Cara Elliott has a smooth style of writing. Scenes do not jump around, the story is true to its era, and each of her stories tends to linger in my mind long after I have finished reading it. If you are a fan of Regency Era romances, this author is one to keep an eye on. Splendid! ****
Author: Lorraine Heath
Title - She Tempts the Duke
In 1844, immediately after the death of their father, fourteen-year-old Sebastian Easton and his two younger brothers were locked in the tower by their uncle, Lord David. They would have been killed had it not been for twelve-year-old Mary, daughter to their neighbor the Earl of Winslow. Mary had overheard Lord David tell someone to murder the boys. Fearing for her friends' lives, Mary rescued them. The three brothers escaped - to the sea, to the street, to faraway battle - until they could return and reclaim their birthrights. Mary promised to meet Sebastian once more in the abbey ruins where they shared a forbidden kiss. Twelve years passed.
It is the year 1856. Sebastian Easton, the rightful Duke of Keswick, returns from Battle to reclaim his title and heritage. He is now a hardened, changed man. He tries to keep the scarred side of his face in the shadows and wears a patch over the socket that is missing an eye. Lord David wed only a few months prior and has recently petitioned the court for the title. The three brothers make a grand, unified appearance at the ball hosted by Lord David and his new wife. All three men know that Lord David would eventually try again to kill them. But their uncle would find the task to be much harder now.
Lady Mary Wynne-Jones paid dearly for helping the imprisoned Lords of Pembrook. The young girl had told her father of Lord David's execution order, believing he would do something to help her friends. Instead, the Earl of Winslow had sent her off to a nunnery. Now, at the age of twenty-four, Mary has been allowed to return to London and is having her first Season. Mary is already betrothed to handsome Viscount Fitzwilliam when Sebastian finally reappears for retribution. Understanding that the brothers feel uneasy in society, but knowing they must be accepted by their peers, Mary does all she can to help. Unexpected passion soon burns between Mary and Sebastian, causing problems for many. As the danger mounts from Lord David, Sebastian may have to choose between the title that has obsessed him and Mary, the woman he cannot seem to let go - even for her own good.
**** FOUR STARS! Lorraine Health has created a story about three boys who were forced to grow up far too early. The story is so well written that I could almost feel Sebastian's consternation about reentering society, how is battle scars may horrify any young lady and harm his chance of finding a wife, as well as his need for revenge. The two younger brothers are mentioned, as well as how and what they did during their time apart, but the main focus of the story is kept on Sebastian and Mary. I do not believe enough is said about how Mary must feel toward her father. She never seems to be very upset about being sent away and seemingly forgotten. I cannot help but believe that Mary should have shown more regret, anger, or embarrassment at having her first season years later than normal. Much of the time that the story focuses on Mary, it is to show Mary considering how Sebastian must feel and how to help him. Therefore, not enough is told about how she must feel. I am a bit disappointed in that regard. Still, this installment is very entertaining and has laid the foundation for the stories of Sebastian's brothers. I eagerly look forward to them. ****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - My Wicked Little Lies
(Sinful Family Secrets #1)
Set in London, 1886. Evelyn Turner Hadley-Attwater, the Countess of Waterson, has an interesting past. Until two years ago, Evelyn had been an agent of a secret government department. But after five years of service Evelyn had wanted to settle down with a husband and have a family. The first time she had danced with Adrian Hadley-Attwater, the Earl of Waterson, Evelyn felt as if they had known each other forever. Once she had retired from service, Evelyn wasted no time in marrying the man she had fallen in love with. She has not told Adrian about her time with the department because they had both agreed that nothing in their lives mattered before the time they had met. Evelyn has not heard from the department since she had sent in her resignation to her contact, a mysterious man known only to her as Sir. Therefore Evelyn is not at all happy to get a visit from Sir Maxwell "Max" Osgood, the current head of the department. An important file has recently been stolen and she is the only person he can trust at the moment. Evelyn would have declined to help, but when Max informs her that Sir's name is in the file, Evelyn feels she must agree. Sir had saved her life more than once in the past. Recovering the file is the least she could do. It is to be one last duty for the Crown.
For Adrian, the last two years with Evelyn has been bliss. He well understands just how lucky he is to have, somehow, earned the love of Evelyn. Yet recently his wife has been distracted and Adrian begins to worry that she is growing bored of him. Fearing that Evelyn may be seeking a lover, Adrian begins keeping a close eye on her. When he comes to an erroneous conclusion of who Evelyn is seeing and which hotel room they were at, Adrian ends up bursting in on Lady Dunwell and her paramour. With luck, Evelyn would never learn of the event.
Lady Beryl Dunwell has few scruples, her morals are questionable, and she is quite selfish. She has little sense of propriety and her reputation is extremely wicked. But she is unfailingly loyal to the few people she considers to be her friends. Evelyn is one of the few and Beryl tells Evelyn about the dreadful scene. Of course, Evelyn is furious to learn that her husband believes she would cheat on him. Hurt and humiliated, Evelyn confronts Adrian and they have their first major argument. Until Adrian can convince her that he loves and completely trusts her, Evelyn would reside at the house left to her by her deceased parents.
Adrian knows he deserves Evelyn's anger. Adrian has known Max a long time and figures that the man is somehow involved in his wife's recent strange behavior. Then Adrian begins to wonder how much she loves him and whether she regrets getting married. To find out, Adrian begins a deception that, should she ever learn of it, Evelyn would be hurt again and far worse. This would be the most dangerous game Adrian has ever played.
**** FOUR STARS! This is a hard story to explain without using spoilers. Everything in my synopsis is from the first half of the novel and everything I revealed is easily deduced by the reader early in the story. Most of the tale focuses on Adrian's mistakes, although Evelyn has her moments too. The author has also given Max a lover with another secondary character. It will be interesting to see how Max manages to snag her (in a later story.) If that is not enough, Adrian's mother is meddling ... uh, helping her other six children with their marital problems or lack of having a spouse. Readers see a bit of foreshadowing for future adventures.
The author has given all the main and secondary characters the ability to prevaricate; however, each character has his or her own personality and set of quirks. Filled with a few unpredictable twists, this story kept me guessing and the story ended before I was ready to let these fascinating people out of my life. I console myself by knowing that I have not heard the last of them. I can hardly wait to learn what the next "Sinful Family Secret" is. Spectacular! ****
Author: Alexandra Hawkins
Title - Sunrise with a Notorious Lord
(Lords of Vice #4)
Set in London, 1823. Christopher Avery Courtland, Earl of Vanewright, is known as "Vane" to his friends. But he and his friends are known by the ton as "The Lords of Vice". A few of the gentlemen in his Vice circle have recently wed. Though their marriages are happy ones, Vane is simply not ready to stick his head through the marriage noose. Yes, Vane knows he must eventually wed, but not now. The Marchioness of Netherley, his seventy-two year old mother, has been doing her best to push Vane down the aisle of a church. Lady Netherley's schemes are becoming rather shrewd and Vane must constantly be on his guard. So when the marchioness invites the Thorne sisters to London for a season, Vane's mental alarms begin screaming.
Isabel and Delia Thorne live with their mother in Cotersage. Since the death of her father, Isabel has been the responsible one. Her younger sister, Delia, has a high opinion of herself. Delia is the pretty one, while Isabel blends into the wallpaper. Like their mother, Delia has volatile moods. Isabel fears that her sister's recklessness will one day cause enough scandal to ruin her reputation. So when Isabel receives a letter from Lady Netherley it seems to be the answer to her prayers. Delia is exactly the type of young lady that could tempt Vane. A match between the two would be perfect. And no matter how attractive Isabel finds Vane to be or how intrigued with the man she becomes, Isabel will do everything she can to see her sister safely wed to the earl before the season ends.
**** FOUR STARS! Many consider those in the ton of the Regency Era to have been the hight of etiquette and decorum. Others consider them to have been snobbish, unhappy people with inflated egos. Personally, I have no real opinion one way or the other. I do, however, know that Alexandra Hawkins writes some of the best stories set in the era!
This is the fourth "Lords of Vice" title. Each one is a stand-alone tale that will entice your curiosity and keep you well entertained. This one has more than one twist to keep things interesting. The other gentlemen of the Vice circle are mentioned, but have no real impact on Vane's story. However, readers will get a glimpse of who will be the next Lord Vice to fall in love. (Just a vague mention in a conversation among the men. Do not skim or you may miss it.) As with all the other stories by this author, the characters' backgrounds are well developed and nothing unbelievable is added to the tale. The story stays true to the Regency Era time line. There is witty banter and clashing emotions, but no simpering miss with zero intelligence. I loved every moment I spent reading this delicious story! When a new reader picks up a title by Alexandra Hawkins, becoming a fan is inevitable. ****
Author: Sarah MacLean
Title - A Rogue by Any Other Name
A decade ago, young Michael Lawler, the Marquess of Bourne, lost everything on one turn of a card. Viscount Langford had been a friend and neighbor to his father, handpicked by the former Marquess of Bourne as guardian to his only son and heir. Langford's betrayal changed the life of the young Bourne. Bourne left, but vowed to restore Falconwell's lands to the manor and claim vengeance.
Now Bourne is a partner in London's most luxurious gaming house. He has more money than he could ever hope to spend. When Bourne learns that Langford has lost Falconwell's land to the Marquess of Needham and Dolby, he immediately begins making plans. Needham has included the land in the dowry of his daughter, Lady Penelope "Penny" Marbury. Bourne had grown up with Penny. They had been close friends. But now Needham has sealed her fate.
A broken engagement and years of mundane courtships has left Penny bored. She yearns for something more. But never did Penny imagine that her closest childhood friend would suddenly reappear, abduct her, thoroughly compromise her, and then force her to marry him. One look into Bourne's eyes and Penny cannot help but understand that all traces of her dearest friend is gone. He has been replaced by a cold-hearted, hardened man. And unless something drastic happens, Bourne will destroy everything - even her - for his vengeance.
**** FOUR STARS! This tale opened with such a life-altering blow to a young man that my attention was hooked instantly. Bourne's tenacity for Falconwell was everything. I found the man to be aggressive, self-absorbed, harsh, and intimidating. Yet by the story's end, I could not help but like and admire him. The author made it very clear to me as to why his character acted in such a manner. The story is well written, with fully developed characters, and the threat of scandal is constant. One thing is for sure: Stories by Sarah MacLean can become addictive. ****
Author: Sophia Nash
Title - Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea
(Royal Entourage #1)
It was to be considered the most extravagant royal bachelor party of all time. It was to be the greatest send off in honor of the Duke of Condover's wedding. Six men of privilege had the night of their lives. Too bad none of them of them remember it. When the men (who had not managed to somehow vanish during the night) awoke, it was to learn that the groom had missed his wedding and the Prince Regent was not happy. The prince commands all the dukes to mend their ways. As an example (for benefit of the press) they will be exiled from London for a time, wed to an aristocratic heiress (chosen from a list Prinny gives), and more.
Alexander Barclay, the newly minted ninth Duke of Kress, wakes from the night of debauchery to find his fortune missing. The Prince Regent orders Alexander to immediately retire to his principal seat - St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. The Mount is in poor condition. It is up to Alexander to restore the place and prepare for the onslaught of house guests. (Among which he must choose his bride.)
The first time Alexander lays eyes on the lovely Roxanne Vanderhaven, she is hanging onto the side of a cliff. Her blackguard of a husband, the Earl of Paxton, had left her to die. After saving her, Alexander agrees to hide the countess in his crumbling castle until she can figure out why her husband wanted her dead. With a castle full of people, Roxanne poses as one of Alexander's distant cousins. She only plans to remain until she can retrieve her hidden gold guineas and perhaps get a bit of retaliation. Roxanne is surprised to find herself drawn to her rescuer. And no matter that he claims her to be a plague on his existence; Roxanne knows that the infamous Duke of Kress is not the scoundrel he seems.
*** THREE STARS! I never found myself warming up to the character of Alexander. He came across to me as a very condescending man, especially for one who has only received his title a couple of weeks ago. On the other hand, I came to adore his elderly relation, Mémé. Roxanne is the direct opposite of Alexander. Her character is gloriously warm. The author has done a great job at developing their backgrounds and has kept the story's settings and events true to its era. There are times I felt as though a couple of secondary characters stole the spotlight. I look forward to seeing more of Candover and a certain duchess.
Fun, entertaining, and with a touch of dry wit, this story is perfect for your next vacation or to help pass a rainy afternoon. ***
Author: Laura Lee Guhrke
Title - Trouble at the Wedding
(Abandoned at the Altar)
Set in 1904. Miss Annabel Wheaton of New York has no interest in true love. Until three years ago, everyone considered her to be nothing more than white trash. But this Southern Belle is now an heiress. She had been humiliated and discarded by her former beau and had taken great pleasure in her revenge. This time Annabel has agreed to marry an earl who needs her money. No one will look down at her or her family ever again. Bernard David Alastair, Fourth Earl of Rumsford may be a fortune-hunter, but the young man is exactly what Annabel wants. That is, until ...
Christian Du Quesne, Duke of Scarborough, is in America to investigate possible business investments. His older brother had accumulated a massive amount of debt before his death. Christian has decided to quit the gaming tables and concentrate upon restoring the family fortune. Not with marriage though. His American wife died twelve years ago and Christian refuses to wed again. So when Annabel's uncle, Arthur Ransom, offers a half million dollars for what should be an easy task, Christian agrees. All Christian has to do is talk Annabel out of marrying Rumsford. What Christian never expects is to fall in love with her.
*** THREE STARS! In this wicked tale the heroine is no weak, simple miss. She is intelligent, resourceful, and has a mean right hook. The hero is a rogue who never intends to reform. He is wild, reckless at times, and a master at lying to himself. Author Laura Lee Guhrke brings London and New York together for this, the third stand-alone story in the "Abandoned at the Altar" series. I admit that there were times that I wanted to strangle each of the main characters, but overall I enjoyed their stubbornness. Delicious! ***
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - His Mistress by Christmas
The story begins on November 30, 1885. Lady Veronica Smithson has been a widow for three years and cherishes her freedom. The last thing Veronica wants is to lose her independence, but she has begun to miss having a man in her life. She does not want a short fling. She wants a monogamous relationship without the restrictions of marriage. Not any man will do either. While attending a lecture in the Explorers Club, Veronica sets her mind on Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater. The man is a renowned explorer and rogue. He is charming, intelligent, humorous...and the favorite cousin of her close friend, Portia. If all goes well, Veronica could be his mistress by Christmas.
After a dozen or so years, Sebastian no longer feels the need to be constantly traveling and exploring the globe. He has money and fame. What he did not have was the respect of his family. However, Sebastian expects that to soon change. He is ready to settle down, find a wife, and start a family. He will turn thirty-three only two days after Christmas, at which time he would come into the inheritance his father had left him. Sebastian recently purchased a country home, Greyville Hall, and has plans to restore it to its former glory. It is his first step to acquiring a veneer of responsibility and perhaps the acceptance of his family.
Upon the conclusion of his lecture, Sebastian meets Veronica. It does not take him long to realize that she is exactly what he wants. Sebastian even tells his younger sisters, Bianca and Miranda, that Veronica would be his wife by Christmas. Sebastian's plans did not take into account Veronica's unwillingness to remarry. After turning down Sebastian's marriage proposal, Veronica gives him the counteroffer of becoming his mistress. Undeterred, Sebastian plans to let her think she had won. He agrees to have her as his mistress, at least through Christmas. She agrees to spend Christmas with him in the country and stay through Twelfth Night. During their time together, Sebastian fully intends to use his charms as a weapon and persuade her into becoming his bride. But before Sebastian or Veronica even manage to get settled in at Greyville Hall, Bianca and Miranda show up uninvited. Because Sebastian had boasted to his sisters that he and Veronica would be spending their first Christmas together as a married couple, they had spread the news to the family. Before the day is over, Greyville Hall is invaded by his huge family and then by her family.
Understanding how much it means to Sebastian to have his family believe he has matured into a respectable and responsible man, Veronica is willing to go along with the deception of being wed until after Christmas.
***** FIVE STARS! If you are looking for a romantic Christmas story to brighten the upcoming holiday season, then this Regency Romance is for you! This story has no life threatening dangers or dozens of hot bedroom scenes. (In fact, I only recall one, short bedroom scene and it is far into the story.) Instead, this story overflows with humorous scenarios, romance, and a cast of characters with quirky attitudes that I could not help but enjoy. However, do not expect this to be a mellow or serene (a.k.a. boring) read. Sebastian may be determined to claim Veronica as his wife, but, as a widow, this lady is allowed to make up her own mind and she is just as determined to claim Sebastian without the shackle of a ring being wrapped around her finger. Watching the pair go toe-to-toe, clash, retreat to form new strategies, and then clash again was utterly delightful. But it was when Greyville Hall began to fill with the most unprecedented cast of characters that the story actually doubled my interest. A few times as I read, I was surprised to realize that I had a huge grin on my face or that I had giggled aloud in amusement. Highly recommended reading for the holiday season. *****
Author: Joanna Bourne
Title - The Black Hawk
French spymaster Justine DeCabrillac (agent name is Owl) and English spymaster Sir Adrian Hawkhurst (agent name is the Black Hawk) have run into each other since they were preteens. Both started in their careers early in life. But now, in the year 1818, Justine lives in London and runs a shop named "Voyages". The lovely French émigré designs and sells gear for those planning to travel to the far corners of the globe. With Napoleon gone, Justine was not a threat. She was nobody Military Intelligence had to watch.
Justine and Adrian may have been enemies in the past, but even during all those years of war the two had always played the spy game fair. They had helped each other out and passed on secrets that did not betray their own countries. Many times Justine and Adrian have tempted fate by slipping into bed together. And today those tender feelings are still strong. But again, Justine was currently no threat. So why is someone trying to kill her?
Adrian opened his front door to find a stabbed Justine bleeding out. Worse, the knife used was one of his own. Men all over Europe know the Black Hawk's knives. Someone is killing Frenchmen and leaving one of the Black Hawk's knives to frame him. Whoever the culprit is also knows about his past with Justine. Adrian has no doubt that Justine was targeted because it would hurt him. This was personal. Adrian wanted the treacherous beauty back in his bed, but not wounded and clinging to life. Now, as he helps her heal, the two must learn to trust each other, explore the passion simmering between them, and discover who is trying to kill them.
**** FOUR STARS! This is a terrific story full of spy missions, romance, and intrigue. I have only one real problem with the tale. The story begins in London, 1818, but jumps back into the past several times. I do not mind a story that jumps back one (hopefully only for a brief period of time), but I found three or four times to be too much. However, to be honest, I can think of no other way the author could have explained to the reader the vital information from the past that was causing the current deadly events.
Readers who like mysteries will especially enjoy this story. The main questions are who stabbed Justine and why it was done. Of course, the answer to the first question goes a long way into answering the second. I had a great time following the main characters as clues and deductions were made. The author tossed in more than one twist that managed to take me by complete surprise.
Once again Joanna Bourne has created an exciting and dramatic story that is steeped in English and French history while keeping everything true to its time line. Very resourceful and highly recommended. ****
Author: Cathy Maxwell
Title - The Seduction of Scandal
Set in the early 1800's. Ferris Parish was located on a piece of land that jutted boldly into Scotland, although only the wealthy took pride in English roots. The rest were descended from reivers, border raiders who had crossed between Scotland and England with impunity until the first earl of Bossley battled the raiders, offered protection to his people, and brought peace. That had been almost two-hundred years ago, and times had changed.
The current earl of Bossley is a hard, greedy, and ambitious man. His coffers are rich because he takes everything from his people - and often he takes more than his people have. Lord Bossley's son and heir is Lord Sherwin "Freddie". Freddie is determined to wed Lady Corinne Rosemont, youngest daughter of the seventh duke and duchess of Banfield. Once Freddie marries her in three weeks, Bossley will have more power than any man in England.
Lady Corinne wants nothing to do with Freddie. The man may be young and considered to be handsome, but Cory finds him repulsive. Pleading with her parents not to make her marry Freddie does no good. They are intent on the match, even after Cory walks into her room and finds Freddie in bed with her maid. Cory wishes she had the nerve to run off. Then it dawns on Cory that there actually IS a way. Lately there has been a masked highwayman in the area. The thief is called the Black Thorn and has been causing Bossley all sorts of grief. When Cory spies Major John Ashcroft, commander of the local militia, riding away in a carriage, she hides in the boot. Cory wants to sneak into London and hide away until after the wedding date has passed. When the Black Thorn holds up Major Ashcroft's carriage, Cory slips out of the boot. Not expecting her to be there, the major ends up shooting Cory. Instead of helping Cory, Major Ashcroft flees, abandoning her to the mercy of the thief.
Reverend Mr. William "Will" Norwich is the foster son of Lord Bossley. Will had been only three when Bossley took him off the street in Barbados. He owes his life to the earl; however, Will is unable to overlook the misery that Lord Bossley is causing to the people of Ferris. Though he feels much guilt in doing so, Will has been stealing the money his father tries to deliver to London and quietly divides it among the Ferris locals. Will knows that Major Ashcroft has a large amount in the carriage. Getting the money is easy, but seeing Cory shot and left for dead is not. The pastor cannot leave her alone, but by taking her with him, Will must reveal his identity. Once on the mend, Will wants to return Cory to her parents. But Cory insists that he hide her until after her wedding date. To keep the noose from his neck, Will agrees. Now if only he can keep her hidden from his foster family for three weeks. And if only he can keep his feelings hidden from her.
**** FOUR STARS! I have seen the damsel in distress with the highwayman scenario done often in the past; however, rarely have I seen it played out with the damsel blackmailing the highwayman and never have I seen the highwayman as a pastor. I could not help but find it intriguing. I am so grateful that I gave this story a chance!
Cory, the heroine, was not stupid or ignorant as many Regency ladies are often portrayed, but she was apt to do things spur-of-the-moment (without planning ahead). I admit that her recklessness irritated me a time or two. As for the bedeviled hero, Will's ambivalent feelings for Cory were so well described that I actually felt sorry for him. (Will often found himself in one quandary or another.) Not only did the author do a great job on background developments, but she also managed to discreetly insert a bit of mystery which later became a pretty nifty twist. Cathy Maxwell has taken an overdone plot and altered it until it became something unprecedented. Terrific! ****
Author: Annette Blair
Title - Jacob's Return
(Amish Historical, formerly published as "Thee, I Love")
Set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The year is 1885. Jacob Sauder had left his home, his Amish life, behind four years ago, never intending to return. While away, he had committed several sins. One was fortification. Jacob's twin children, Emma and Aaron, had been two-years-old when he discovered they existed. Their mother had died during child birth. For the sakes of his children, Jacob returned to his Amish home.
Rachel Zook and Jacob Sauder had grown up together and they had loved each other almost as long. Simon, Jacob's brother, knew this, yet wanted Rachel for his own. To get Rachel, Simon had deceived Jacob at a time that his grief over their mother's illness clouded his judgement. Simon convinced Jacob that Rachel loved him more and had agreed to become his wife. Once Jacob had left the community, Simon coerced Rachel into marrying him by stating that Levi (his father) would grieve Jacob's departure less if he had grandchildren to love.
From the date Rachel wed, she had suffered all forms of abuse at her husband's hands. Jacob's return made the volatile situation even worse. Simon's hate for both Jacob and Rachel ran deep. Simon blamed them both for his own lies, deceptions, and manipulations. The fact that Rachel had not as yet given birth to children incited Simon's rage more than anything else. Even more so than Rachel's determination to print and circulate an Amish newspaper for their people. Once ordained a Deacon, Simon's sermons became vengeful and often shamed Rachel before the entire church district for being barren. Simon blamed Jacob for several imagined faults as well. Yet through it all, Rachel had persevered.
Though Rachel had married Simon, the love between Rachel and Jacob could still be easily seen. Emma and Aaron became Rachel's world. It did not take Jacob more than a day or two to notice Rachel's abuse. Levi had unknowingly turned a blind eye to Rachel's various injuries and Rachel never let her father, the Bishop, know of her hardships. Thus Jacob took matters into his own hands. Once the Bishop learned of his daughter's abuse, he stepped forward and threatened to reveal to the community how cruel Simon, a Deacon, was to his own wife. The Bishop would only remain silent should Simon immediately change his sinful ways. But did the Bishop really open Simon's eyes? Though Simon instantly changed, was his humility false? Could Rachel forgive Simon and try to have a decent, if not loving, marriage with him? And could Rachel and Jacob dwell on the same farm, him working alongside Rachel's husband and her caring for Jacob's children, every day without giving in to their love?
***** FIVE STARS! Annette Blair has crafted a story that will long linger in the minds of her readers. You need not be Amish, or a fan of history and/or cultures, to thoroughly enjoy this romantic tale. Every page seems to overflow with some form of strong emotion. Love, hate, sympathy, kindness, pity, vengeance, heartbreak, sorrow, despair, apathy, regret, graciousness, hope, serenity, and so much more. I find it impossible to articulate my true feelings about this story. After reading the last page of a book, I usually sit quietly awhile and try to think of key words to describe how it left me feeling. However, the way this story leaves me feeling is almost impossible. My emotions are in a state of turmoil. Yes, the ending is happy, joyous. But I read this entire story in one sitting and I currently feel as though the author grabbed each emotion from within me and wrung it dry. I laughed. I cried. My heart ached. I despaired that a happy ending could ever come to be. I bit my nails (something I do have not done since I was a child) down to nubs. Right this second, I can say that I am extremely happy and emotionally exhausted. So exactly how else can I describe this story, other than to say that it is indescribable? I am totally flummoxed.
It has now been one hour since I finished reading this story. Here is what I have come up with. Annette Blair has a phenomenal writing talent. Readers will find themselves instantly transported to another time and place, where they will meet and come to know the most amazing people. The author shows the pros and the cons of living an Amish life, as well as the need for faith in their Maker. Be prepared for a wide variety of emotions to collide within yourself as you read this ambivalent, yet inspiring, story. Brilliant! *****
Author: Christina Dodd
Title - Taken by the Prince
Victoria Cardiff is the English governess for the Johnson family who are temporarily in the country of Moricadia. She is also the only outsider who knows the truth about Raul Lawrence. He is a renegade prince plotting a revolution to take back control of Moricadia from the de Guignards. To ensure her silence, he kidnaps Victoria and carries her to his castle deep in the woods.
Raul Lawrence may be the name his English father demanded he use, but no matter how cruel the Englishman had been, Raul never forgot that he was actually Prince Saber of Moricadia. Soon, within the next two months, Raul would rescue his people from oppression. But with one innocent remark Victoria could ruin everything he and his people are so close to accomplishing; therefore, the lovely governess will remain with him until the revolution has succeeded.
Victoria is well cared for during her sojourn in Raul's castle. Needing to do something, anything, Victoria agrees to spend her days teaching the children. In return, the children begin teaching her their Moricadian language. Victoria spends time with the adults as well, teaching them about decorum and etiquette. They need to know how to properly conduct themselves once the fighting has ended, how to speak and act once they are part of a king's household staff. At night Victoria is locked within Raul's bed chamber. Refusing to be his lover, Victoria sleeps on the couch. Raul vows to vanquish her reserves. Each night he seduces her a little more, intending to imprint himself on her. Eventually he will possess her heart and soul.
***** FIVE STARS! I just cannot help loving a heroine who refuses to be swayed by a hero's debonairness and a hero equally determined to woo her. Though with other authors this may be mundane and cliché, Christina Dodd never fails to make it breathtaking. The secondary characters in this tale are no less interesting. They actually seem to radiate stoic resilience (against their government) from their pores. At times, their unwavering loyalty to Raul made me proud. I tell all this to help explain how incredible the writing style of Dodd is. Character backgrounds are detailed and each person seems to have his/her own personality. The plot line is solid with not a crack to mar it. Christina Dodd has shrewdly written a subtle, yet somehow bold, romance that may prove lethal to your heart strings. Highly recommended. *****
Author: Kasey Michaels
Title - How to Wed a Baron (The Daughtry Family)
Baron Justin Wilde is an assassin for the Crown. The handsome man has always been excessively good at completing his missions quickly and quietly. But eight years ago Justin had been forced to dispatch an earl and, to avoid hanging, he had to leave England behind. Justin had spent those eight years doing anything and everything necessary for the chance of receiving a full pardon. And finally it has happened. The Prince Regent (Prinny) is granting the Bad Baron the full pardon he has been craving for so long. All Justin must do is marry the daughter of a war hero. The lady's deceased mother was English. Her father, General Valentin, was a favorite at the court of Austria until his death at Waterloo. Justin's affianced bride is named Lady Magdaléna "Alina" Valentin. There is, however, one snag. Someone wants Lady Alina dead. Prinny makes it quite clear that it is up to Justin to keep the lady breathing.
Lady Alina believes her marriage is to help advance some sort of political (trade) union between the two countries. She has no idea that her life is in danger. After spending only a brief time with her betrothed, Alina realizes that her passionate feelings for Justin are returned. Her life should have forever been as a romantic fairy tale. Instead, Alina learns that someone wants to kill her, and only two questions remain. Why? And what is to be done about it?
As an assassin, Justin has always prided himself on his lack of emotional involvement with the rest of the world. Yet while at the dock at Portsmouth, he spies Lady Alina standing at the head of a gangplank in a ridiculous cloak and his carefully crafted world tips on its axis. Escorting her is Major Luka Prochazka, emissary of His Highness Francis of Austria. Until Lady Alina is settled in her new life, Luka would remain in her company. Should any intend to kill this marvelous lady, this precious and undeserved gift that has been placed in Justin's arms, they would first have to go through a dedicated major and the lady's personal assassin.
*** THREE STARS! This romance was filled with drama and had several political twists and unforeseen surprises. And though the story had fabulous potential, it failed to meet my expectations. It was a bit unbelievable, to me, that such a hardened assassin would become smitten with a lady before he even spoke a word to her. And there was so much political drama and talk of strategies that little time was left for the main couple to get to know each other. I believe the story would have been better if Alina and Justin had spent more time together. I found plenty of suspense, but not enough actual danger. Though I do not believe this to be the author's best work, I still believe it to be a very good tale and well worth your time and attention. ***
Author: Margo Maguire
Title - Seducing the Governess
Twenty years ago the Duke of Windermere disowned his daughter. That daughter eventually gave birth to twin girls. The twin infants became orphans soon thereafter. They were given to separate couples for raising and the duke never really gave them another thought ... until now. The Duke of Windermere is dying with no heir. His vast treasures will go to the contemptible son of a distant cousin. In the duke's dreams his beloved wife had informed him that he would soon join her in heaven, but only if he made amends. The duke hires Captain Gavin Briggs to find his estranged granddaughters so he may apologize and give each a generous dowry out of his estate.
With the deaths of her adopted parents, Mercy Franklin accepts a position as a governess for the Earl of Ashby's niece. Upon arriving at Ashby Hall, Mercy finds that the house and it estate are in terrible condition. Even worse, the household staff has been replaced by unruly former soldiers, none of whom knows anything about decorum or protocol. Yet Mercy still finds herself drawn to the estate's new dark master and has fallen in love with little Emmy.
Nash Farris never expected to become the earl. He had two older brothers after all. And until he became too impaired for duty, Nash had been a captain in Wellington's army. Now he has the enormous task of restoring the Ashby estate and is the sole guardian of his eight-year-old niece, Lady Emmaline. Nash has only been at the Ashby estate one month, yet he already understands that it will take a lot of money to bring the properties back to life. To this end, the scarred earl is seriously considering the idea of marriage. At the same time, Nash wants to know more about his brothers' deaths, especially Hoyt's, the oldest brother. It is said that Emmaline's father was the victim of a hunting accident; however, Nash cannot help but feel that something is off about the incident.
Nash decides to wed Helene Carew, the daughter of his wealthy neighbor. Their union would revitalize the Ashby estate and merge the two lands. Helene has incessantly bland manners that often grate on his nerves, but she is attractive. No, marriage to Helene would not be unbearable. Nash's problem is that he cannot stop thinking about Emmy's governess. Unlike Helene, Mercy never shies away from looking at his face. In fact, Mercy does not even seem to notice the dull gray of his injured eye. The burn scars on one side of his face never makes Mercy flinch. Whenever she is near, his frequent headaches disappear. Due to Mercy's care, Emmy is finally beginning to come out of her shell. But in order to fulfill his duty and care for those which depend upon him, Nash would have to give up his one chance at happiness.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Margo Maguire's writing clearly proves her to be an Anglophile. Everything Mercy has been raised to believe in has to do with decorum, etiquette, proper conduct, and duty. Though some readers may find it tedious at times, the author keeps true to the Regency era. Therefore, Mercy's attitude came across as totally believable to me. The use of a timid and/or handicapped child that needs to be coerced back into life has been overdone in novels. (My opinion, of course.) Yet after seriously considering alternatives for several minutes, I was stunned to realize that I was unable to think of another believable way that someone prim and proper, such as Mercy, could be brought into Nash's harsh and brutal life.
A few times during the story my attention was shifted to Captain Briggs. These scenes were not lengthy, but managed to insert the flavor of danger. As the reader, I witnessed several attempts to stop Captain Briggs from finding the twins. As Captain Briggs neared Mercy's vicinity the danger increased. The swelling suspense kept me looking forward to the time in which Briggs, Mercy, and Nash would finally meet.
If you are looking for an author who keeps true to the setting's era, instead of ignoring its rules, look no further than Margo Maguire. ****
Author: Margaret Mallory
Title - The Guardian (Return of the Highlanders #1, 4/26/11)
When Sìleas was thirteen-years-old she learned that her stepfather, Murdoc MacKinnon, planned to wed her to his son, Angus, so they could claim Knock Castle. When Ian MacDonald attempted to help her flee, her virtue was compromised. Though Ian had always been fond of the lass, his anger blew out of control when he was forced to marry her. Ian and three of his kin left the Isle of Skye to fight abroad, leaving Sìleas behind with her ears still ringing from his words and her face still flush from humiliation.
It has now been five years. The four Highlanders return from France to Connor's father, the chieftain, dead and his black-hearted uncle, Hugh Dubh, living in the chieftain's castle. Their clan is in a dire state. Ian is for Connor to be their next chieftain and the Gathering to choose will be in two weeks. During that time Ian expects to have his marriage to Sìleas annulled. But upon walking into his home, Ian finds that his awkward bride has matured into an independent beauty. Ian's father lost his leg at Flodden and only Sìleas can seem to calm the man. His mother had been dying slowly from heartbreak and Sìleas has brought her back from the edge. Hugh has made sure that no one would help the family so it is Sìleas and his younger brother, Niall, which does all the work. In truth, Sìleas has cared for his family, doing Ian's duty for five years. Upon seeing her beauty and deeds, Ian decides he is ready to claim his wife.
Sìleas has decided that she deserves better than a man who prefers war to her. Though she has not forsaken their vows, there are others ready to claim her as their bride. Sìleas has only waited for Ian's return. But now the Highlander is falling in love with Sìleas and wants a second chance with her - and he refuses to take no for an answer.
*** THREE STARS! The author has done an outstanding job with the character of Sìleas. As for the development, from her awkward stage and into her mature age, I found Sìleas to be nothing less than a masterpiece. Unfortunately I do not feel the same way about the character of Ian. From the moment Ian spoke his vows, and for most of the story, Ian's character came across to me as a condescending brat. His selfishness knew no bounds and he was genuinely surprised whenever Sìleas stood up for herself. I simply never came to care for Ian, and I am pretty sure that I am not the only reader that will feel this way. On the other hand, the three who went off and returned with Ian greatly interested me. Those three, compared to Ian, came across as mature and honorable. I look forward to reading their stories. I plan to keep an eye on Margaret Mallory. The author shows promise and may someday become well known in the Historical Romance genre. ***
Author: Hannah Howell
Title - If He's Dangerous (Psychic Wherlocke series, 6/7/11)
Lady Lorelei Sundun, seventh child of the Duke of Sundunmoor, is minding her own business when a handsome man suddenly appears in her garden. He is not wearing any clothing either. Too bad the roses are keeping her from seeing his best parts. Until now Lorelei has never heard of the Wherlocke or Vaughn clans - or their paranormal abilities. His name is Sir Argus Wherlocke and he proceeds to explain that he has been taken captive by a madman. After asking Lorelei to notify his family, the man disappears before her very eyes. Argus had only been able to give a few clues as to where he was being held. But Lorelei has a skill for finding things or people. After sending off letters to his family, Lorelei decides Argus is in too much danger to wait for the letters to reach their destinations, so she begins searching for the poor man.
Argus does not think his family will locate him in time. Charles Cornick has learned of his gift. Argus can use his voice and his eyes to make people tell him the truth, to make them even do as he wishes, or to firmly believe in what he says even if all evidence shows what he said to be a lie. Cornick believes he can steal the ability from Argus. When Lorelei arrives, Argus is in no shape to decline her help. The lady rescues him and hides him in the gatehouse on Sundunmoor lands. As he recovers, Argus comes to learn that Lorelei is clever, kind, has the sort of open mind that allows her to accept his family (when they arrive) and its gifts, and she makes his blood burn with just a smile. Somehow, she is immune to his gift. So is Max, the butler with the personality of a kind-hearted-but-stern general. Trouble is that Argus has seldom seen marriages work for a Wherlocke or a Vaughn. He never intends to wed. Besides, Lorelei is the daughter of a duke and his is but a knight.
Argus's presence could not be kept secret for long. Yet Lorelei's family does not react the way most others would. Roland Sundun, the Eighth Duke of Sundunmoor, is where Lorelei (and all of his relatives) got their open mindedness from. Between His Grace's amazing family and Argus's newly arrived kin, there is hope of stopping Cornick and any allies he may have. Otherwise tales will spread, the Wherlocke and Vaughn clan would be hunted, and death would follow.
**** FOUR STARS! Hannah Howell has taken a stubborn man, matched him with an elegantly unattainable lady, added in plenty of paranormal elements, and then decided to go all out by tossing in lots of danger and suspense. The character of Lorelei may be innocent and kind, but there is a naughty girl under all that prim-and-proper. And Argus is truculent when it comes to the subject of marriage. Before Argus's relatives arrive to help, the story line trots along at a good pace. Yet once they arrive, the plot slows down and more subterfuge enters the story. Argus's relatives must utilize their various gifts to learn who Cornick is, if he has allies, where he is hiding, and what he may be planning to do next.
My only real problem with the story is that no one interferes when it becomes obvious that Lorelei and Argus are lovers. I simply could not swallow the idea of a duke, during the Regency era, standing aside as his favorite daughter gives herself to a man, especially one they have not known but a very short while. Otherwise, I found this to be an excellent tale. I actually read this entire adventure in a single afternoon. Hannah Howell knows what her readers crave in their romance stories! ****
Author: Alexandra Hawkins
Title - After Dark with a Scoundrel (Lords of Vice #3)
Set in London. In the year 1817, fifteen-year-old Lady Regan Bishop blows up the kitchen of Nox, the notorious gentlemen's club. It was not on purpose. Regan had been assisting Lord Vanewright in making fireworks and accidently tipped over a lamp. Regan had been raised by her brother, Frost, the Earl of Chillingsworth, who is one of the infamous Lords of Vice. With Frost as her guardian, Regan has been exposed to things few ladies ever see and each Lord of Vice has taught Regan about his interest. Vane has taught her chemistry. Hunter has shared his appreciation of prime horseflesh. Reign has shown her how to avoid a fist. Sin has trained her to fence. Dare has taught Regan to fish and swim. But a couple of years ago Dare stopped his lessons because he realized Regan was beginning to bloom. Too bad, because by that time Regan had already given her young heart to Dare (Lord Hugh Mordare). After the kitchen fire, as Dare assures himself that Regan has come to no harm, he finds himself kissing her. Frost walks in on the tender scene and immediately sends Regan away to Miss Swann's Academy for Young Ladies.
After five years at the academy, Lady Regan Bishop is now more lovely than ever. Miss Swann's lessons were rather mundane. There was not a single fireworks rocket, sword, or brace of pistols on the property. However, the academy has schooled Regan on dancing, patience, and how to play the part of a proper lady. They are lessons Regan fully intends to utilize as she bedevils Frost and seduces Dare.
Dare is the second son of the Duke of Rhode. The duke has always encouraged his heir, Charles, and Dare to beat each other to a pulp. Of course this ends up making the brothers hate each other. Years ago, Charles noticed that Dare had feelings toward Lady Allegra, so he impregnated and then wed her out of spite. Since then Dare has kept up sturdy emotional barriers to protect himself. But Regan has always been able to slip by those barriers and is currently engraving herself upon his heart.
Honorable to a fault when it comes to his family, Dare goes almost every time Allegra summons him to help her with some sort of family matter. Usually it involves Charles begin drunk and/or making some sort of scene that could very well turn into scandal. Charles has also become less discreet with the various women he sleeps with and it is getting harder for the duke to handle all the pregnant women that show up on his doorstep. With such a dysfunctional and volatile family, Dare refuses to marry and place a lady within his own predicament. This is especially true for Frost's sister. If only Regan were not so irresistible.
**** FOUR STARS! With a family like Dare's it is no wonder that he has such vitriol feelings. My only real problems with this story are that Dare never actually says the words "I love you" to Regan and Frost never really acts worried that his little sister is no longer pure. During the Regency Era that was a big deal. The author inserts a bit of mystery and danger toward the middle of the story. This adds some zing to the mix because I am now trying to figure out who is behind the attacks and why. There are not a lot of suspects; however, each suspect on the list has at least one huge motive.
Alexandra Hawkins makes it difficult for me to get any housework done when I know one of her books is just waiting for me to sit down and enjoy it. Wonderful as always! ****
Author: Eloisa James
Title - When Beauty Tamed the Beast
Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, and heir to the Duke of Windebank, lives in Wales. He is a brilliant physician and uses parts of his castle as hospital wards. However, Piers is not the saint this makes him sound. His awful temper causes all to compare the earl with a beast, with the beast coming across as much more congenial. No one escapes Piers's sarcastic, fiendish, and often personal insults. Rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl impotent.
Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne lives in London and is the extremely lovely daughter of Viscount Sundon. When someone spies Prince Augustus kissing Linnet the rumors begin to travel. Add in a bout of food poisoning and an unflattering, bulky dress, and everyone believes Linnet to be pregnant by the prince. Even her father and Aunt Zenobia believe the rumors. Once Linnet manages to convince her relatives that the rumors are false, Aunt Zenobia states the unfortunate truth that it did not matter. Since everyone in London believes Linnet to be pregnant, her reputation is ruined. Luckily, Aunt Zenobia knows that the Duke of Windebank would jump at the chance of having Linnet as his daughter-in-law. Knowing his estranged son, Piers, is unable to produce a biological heir, Linnet's unborn child could fill the position. The rumored fact of the babe having royal blood is simply icing on the cake. Yet even though both of Linnet's relatives send her out to seduce Prince Augustus in hopes of her really becoming pregnant, the young beauty just cannot bring herself to do it. Her only hope is to wear padding and later claim to lose the babe.
Piers is disgusted to see his estranged father arrive. And though Linnet is beyond beautiful, Piers refuses to wed anyone his father has picked for him, even though the lady is turning out to be more than simply a pretty face. Linnet is equally charming and intelligent. Neither Piers nor Linnet have a clue that their hearts are headed straight to the danger zone.
**** FOUR STARS! When I enter a book store, Eloisa James is one of the first names I look for. With its intriguing cast of characters full of sass and being set in an area (Wales) well known for unpredictable weather, I found this story to be utterly addictive. I cancelled my scheduled night out with friends and stayed home to see who would win the next battle of wits. Though Linnet's father and aunt were not believable to me, their parts were early in the story and brief. Otherwise this story ROCKS! ****
Author: Robyn DeHart
Title - Treasure Me (Legend Hunters #3)
Graeme Langford, Duke of Rothmore, has always been torn between his Scottish homeland and his English loyalty. In England, people have always given him respect. Yet this is only given begrudgingly due to his family name and title. In their eyes, Graeme's blood is tainted with the poor Scots blood from his mother. In Scotland, people believe Graeme to be arrogant, that he considers himself too good for them with his fancy title and money. Graeme tries not to let the opinions of others bother him. As a member of Solomon's their opinions often come in handy.
The Men of Solomon's are treasure hunters, seekers of myths and legends. They are wealthy, titled men with the desire to explore and the need for adventure. Graeme is in Scotland seeking the Stone of Destiny, a Biblical relic that is said to hold mysterious powers - prophetic dreams. Then the leader of Solomon's arrives tasking Graeme to spy on his cousin, Niall, the Earl of Camden, who is a fellow member of Solomon's. Graeme soon believes that the notorious villain known as The Raven has somehow gotten his claws into Niall. But is Niall being coerced or has he joined with The Raven willingly?
After seeing her fiancé, Jeremy, and her younger sister, Violet, in bed together (well, it was not actually IN a bed), bookish Vanessa Pembrooke heads to the Highlands to prove Jeremy's scientific theories wrong by getting proof of a legendary beast's existence. Many claim to have seen the sea kelpie in Loch Ness, including Graeme's grandmother. After an accidental handfasting ceremony at a pub, Vanessa and Graeme are wed. Though Vanessa had no plans any longer of marriage being in her future, finding herself married to a man with an itch for adventure is not a bad thing. It is even better that the Scotsman is very intelligent as well as handsome. And though Graeme had no thoughts toward acquiring a wife, he is quickly coming to see the advantages in having one. His new spouse may test his patience often, but life with Vanessa would never be boring.
***** FIVE STARS! With lost treasures, legendary quests, old maps of ancient caves that are riddled with booby traps, and a delightfully vile villain, this story is sure to please. Robyn DeHart's characters are well developed. Each has his/her own set of quirks and personality. And there is no fainting lass here. The heroine is smart, resourceful, and stubborn to a fault. The author paints such vivid details that I could almost smell the loch and the boundaries of science and legend began to blur. Splendid! *****
Author: C.H. Admirand
Title - A Saxon Bride (Merewood Keep #2)
Set in 1072, Northumbria. King William plans to ensure the entire border between Northumbria and Scotland is protected by Norman strongholds. To this end, the king has decided to give Merewood Keep to Baron Augustin de Chauret. Augustin will be thirty-five come winter and has a ten-year-old daughter named Angelique. His wife, Monique, died giving birth to their child and Augustin has no wish to ever wed again. However, after the king has an audience with lady Eyreka, the current mistress of Merewood Keep, Augustin has no choice in the matter.
Lady Eyreka would do absolutely anything for her people. Though she is soon to reach the age of forty, Eyreka still fears for her grown sons; therefore, Eyreka has her oldest son, Garrick, delayed so she may speak with King William first. Lady Eyreka convinces the king that all would profit by a marriage between her and Augustin. The people of Merewood Keep would accept a new Norman lord if she were standing by his side in a show of loyalty. Garrick would stay on as seneschal and manage the keep until Augustin and his new people become accustomed. Dunstan, her middle son, is knowledgeable on crops. He not only keeps starvation away, but also makes the king's wine of choice. By keeping Dunstan, the king would not lose his favorite wine and the lands of Merewood Keep would continue to flourish.
Lady Eyreka lost her husband, Addison, three years ago when a Norman arrow pierced his heart. Deciding to marry a Norman was not easy for her. But by wedding the new Norman lord she will remain the mistress of Merewood Keep. This means that the new lord could not bring in a future Norman wife. It also means that Eyreka could help ease her people through this volatile transitional period and ensure that her crofters, who have planted and reaped their lands for generations, would not lose those lands.
After the ceremony has been completed, Eyreka and Augustin return to their new lives. The atmosphere is tense. Not every Saxon has learned to accept that the Normans are here to stay. There are those who would see the new lord fail, from the highest Saxon guard to the lowest Saxon servant. As for the Norman guardsmen, they do not trust any Saxon and are openly hostile toward lady Eyreka. This is especially so of Georges, who is not only Augustin's cousin and second in command, but had been Monique's brother.
In this chaotic time of change, Eyreka and Augustin must meet on common ground to keep things from erupting or worse. Soon the pride, loyalty, and courage Eyreka and Augustin sees within each other has them opening up and learning to trust. The passionate feelings they have been holding back from one another goes from smoldering embers to a fiery blaze. However, unknown to everyone at Merewood Keep, an enemy from the past is about to reemerge and threatens to ruin everything that Eyreka and Augustin have accomplished thus far.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the second title of a trilogy. The first book is titled "The Lord of Merewood Keep" and tells the story of Garrick and Jillian. Since I read the first book, I am delighted to reconnect with Garrick and his wife, Jillian. Though they are secondary characters this time, they still play vital roles, especially Garrick. The character of Lady Eyreka is Viking by blood, Saxon by marriage. It is not difficult for me to see where Garrick's strength and courage come from. As for Augustin, the author has given the Norman honor and an urge for unbiased justice.
The author has somehow managed to seamlessly invaginate Garrick's story into Eyreka's. I can hardly wait to see how the third story, titled "A Scot's Honor" (no ISBN at the time of this review), will be folded into or around its predecessors.
C.H. Admirand has penned a wonderful tale of courage, loyalty, pride, and love that will long linger in the minds of her readers. ****
Author: Laurel McKee (a.k.a. Amanda McCabe)
Title - Duchess of Sin (Daughters of Erin #2)
Set in Dublin, December 1799. Lady Anna Blacknall had not seen Conlan McTeer, the Duke of Adair, in about two years. During those fearsome days of the Uprising, Anna had been on the run with her family, and Conlan had been intent on his own unknown, dangerous mission. Anna still has occasional nightmares about that horrible time, but now she is the daughter of Protestant aristocracy and the toast of the Society Season. In need of a bit of excitement, Anna had convinced her widowed friend, Lady Jane Cannondale, to take her as a guest into Dublin's most notorious den of vice, the Olympian Club. Coming face-to-face with Conlan manages to strip away Anna's decorum.
Conlan McTeer has come to Dublin to fight for a free Ireland. All anyone is talking about are the Union debates in Parliament. Those Union debates are what have Conlan's life in danger, because he works for those who oppose it. There are many who would do anything to stop Conlan's interference. Should his enemies notice Conlan's interest of Anna, danger would find its way to her door. Should anything happen to the lady, Conlan would never forgive himself.
None would enjoy seeing Conlan fail more than Sir Grant Dunmore. Grant is Conlan's cousin and most bitter enemy. Years ago Grant had tried to use the old Penal Laws (that allowed a Protestant to claim a Catholic relative's property) to gain Adair Court. But Conlan's ancient title had saved his ducal estate, which his family has held on to for centuries. The suit had tore the Irish branch of the family from the English once and for all. Grant plans to wed Anna, who would be the perfect Society wife to further his ambitions.
Anna must quickly decide whether to be safe and wed Grant or risk all for the wild Irishman she loves.
**** FOUR STARS! In the first title, Countess of Scandal, I was treated to Eliza's story, Anna's older sister. I was happy to notice that the author, Laurel McKee, let me know how Eliza was fairing by including a letter written to Anna and the family. This made the story just a bit more real to me, yet it did not distract from Anna's spotlight. Each title of this trilogy is a stand-alone story, so if you have not read the previous title, you will still fully enjoy all aspects of the plot, characters, and family innuendoes. I love it when authors write their trilogies this way.
My attention was immediately captured, on the first page, with Anna getting ready to enter a forbidden and potentially dangerous club. This turned out to be only the beginning of my infatuation with Anna's strong-willed character. However, though the danger toward Anna was hinted of often, it did not actually come about until way past the story's middle. Up until then, only the danger from years before was mentioned. I never felt as though Anna were in any clear and present danger; therefore, I was not kept on the edge of my seat throughout the entire story. This is not to say that I was not entertained. I was!
To me, the best thing about Anna's story was that the author kept all of the historical facts accurate. I have found that if the events and strife of a time period are altered, it would cause the story to seem flat and unbelievable. McKee created engaging characters with well developed backgrounds, gave them political, as well as personal problems, and then slipped them all into the country's history with ease. A profound tale of romance and courage that I happily recommend. ****
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Title - Notorious Pleasures
(Maiden Lane #2)
Set late in the year 1737, London, England. Lady Hero Batten is the lovely sister of the Duke of Wakefield. She has recently become the fiancé of Thomas Remmington, the Marquess of Mandeville. Wakefield and Mandeville are friends, as well as parliamentary alliances, who are actively fighting against the scourge of gin drinking among the poor of London. Many babies become orphans due to gin; therefore, Hero is a patroness of the Home for Unfortunate Infants & Foundling Children. Hero does not love Mandeville, but does like him and is content. But then she meets his notorious brother.
Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading, enjoys his rakish ways. His brother never had a head for business, so when their father died ten years ago, Griffin took over the financial dealing for the family. Mandeville knows that their late father left then penniless; however, he has no idea that Griffin saved them from financial ruin by becoming the biggest gin distiller in St. Giles. Though the family no longer has serious debts, Griffin feels he cannot give up the still until his family funds are stable. Things would be a lot easier if his nasty gin competitor would quit attacking his distillery and/or killing the employees.
Hero takes an instant dislike to Griffin. Due to the way she first met him, Hero calls him Lord Shameless. Griffin believes Hero is too serious and calls her Lady Perfect. Yet their battle of wills quickly sparks into the flames of desire.
**** FOUR STARS! Never satisfied to give her readers a simple story, author Elizabeth Hoyt keeps a variety of subplots running in the background. For example, each chapter begins with a short paragraph about Queen Ravenhair. By the end of this book, readers have also completed reading a brief fairy tale of Queen Ravenhair's search for a worthy king. Mixed in with the story of Hero and Griffin are sections about Silence Hollingbrook, the manageress of the foundling home. There is a teaser chapter in the back of the novel giving a glimpse of Silence's upcoming story, "Scandalous Desires". (No ISBN at the time of this review. Release date is currently set for November 2011.) If that is not enough, the Ghost of St. Giles makes an appearance once or twice. Yet none of these subplots detract from the story of Hero and Griffin. Hoyt manages to weave the subplots, not the fairy tale though, into Hero's life.
Filled with engaging and well developed characters, sizzling romance, and some suspense filled danger, I had a hard time putting this gem down. The writing style of Elizabeth Hoyt flows smoother than silk against skin and is just as seductive. ****
Author: Sarah MacLean
Title - Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord
Set in 1823. After a popular ladies' magazine names Lord Nicholas St. John as one of "London's Lords to Land", Nick agrees to help the Duke of Leighton locate his runaway sister, Georgiana, who went north. Georgiana has a ten day head start and has covered her tracks well, but Nick specializes in tracking people. With his Turkish companion, Rock, by his side, Nick gladly leaves London behind. The hunt leads Nick to Yorkshire where he meets and becomes intrigued by an enigmatic female.
Being the daughter of a title wastrel, Lady Isabel Townsend is used to uncaring men. After her father's passing, Isabel continues to do what she has done for several years now: Care and protect those dwelling within Townsend Park, as well as her brother's birthright. Ten-year-old James is the new Earl of Reddich. Isabel knows that James needs a man to guide him, but no one is available. Their father certainly never cared about his heir and was never in Yorkshire. James also needs to go to school, but everything that had not been entailed to James is gone.
Townsend Park is also a secret sanctuary for ladies in need, fondly called the Minerva House. The house is filled with two dozen mouths to feed, all of which were females required to remain well hidden. In dire need of funds, Isabel decides to sell her collection of Grecian marble statues. Lord Nicholas St. John is a well known antiquarian, so when Isabel meets him in Dunscroft she is eager for him to view, value, and perhaps help sell her precious marbles. But Isabel must be wary. Should Nick learn her secrets, the Minerva House would be exposed and James's future could be ruined.
***** FIVE STARS! In a word, "WOW!" MacLean has a smooth, yet vivid, writing style that quickly caught and held my interest. Several intriguing characters, each with their own secret or two, caused my surroundings to blur. The real world seemed to fade away as I found myself pulled (unprotesting) into the lives of Nick and Isabel. No simpering miss here! This heroine does whatever needs to be done, including getting on the roof to fix leaks. Be prepared to spend several hours reading once you crack open this book. So order out, unplug all electrical devices, and lose yourself in this romance for an extended period of time. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Title - The Reckless Bride
(Black Cobra Quartet #4)
Set in the year 1822. Jace Carstairs, late of His Majesty's Army in India, is one of four with the mission of delivering a letter to England. The letter is the only evidence that names the mysterious leader of the Black Cobra cult. They left Bombay on the same day, all heading to England by different routes. All four are carrying identical scroll-holders, but only one contains the original letter - and that original letter must reach the Duke of Wolverstone. The four men did not reveal to anyone, even among themselves, as to who carries the original.
Jace and Hassan, his companion, rescues Lady Esme Congreve when she is attacked in Buda. Esme is traveling the globe, accompanied by her great-niece, Miss Loretta Michelmarsh. Esme insists that there is no better way to elude the cult's assassins than by taking positions as their courier-guide and guard. The men cannot help but agree as Lady Congreve shoots down every argument they toss her way. For Jace, Loretta is even more dangerous than the assassins. She seems to know what is best for herself; therefore, she does not blindly follow his orders and he cannot force her to do so. Yet her determination to defy convention, as well as to think for herself, is but a couple of the things that attracts Jace. Their passion flares brightly, but before they can have a possible future together, they must unmask the Black Cobra.
***** FIVE STARS! Here is the long awaited conclusion to the Black Cobra Quartet. Toward the novel's end, all four men (Captain Derek Delborough, Major Gareth Hamilton, Major Logan Monteith, and Captain Jace Carstairs) will come together for the villain's capture and unmasking. Mystery, suspense, danger, and delicious romance smoothly blend and I was left breathless. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Jillian Hunter
Title - A Duke's Temptation (Bridal Pleasures #1)
Samuel Charles Aubrey St. Aldwyn, Duke of Gravenhurst, is a radical rogue who often champions unpopular causes. However, Samuel also has a secret life. Only an elite few know that he is Lord Anonymous, the mysterious author of several volumes consisting of dark-hearted fairy tales. Though the unknown author is currently considered to be popular fiction's latest darling, he is also accused of corrupting the morals of the public, especially among the females. Samuel is at an all-night literary party when he meets wellborn Miss Lily Boscastle. Having at last found a lady he would willingly wed, Samuel has his lawyer draw up the marriage contract. Yet it is the very next day that the announcement of her engagement to Captain Jonathan Grace is posted.
The members of the Boscastle family have often amused the gentry with their scandalous antics, but thus far Lily has been the exception. That ends when she witnesses Jonathan shoot a man. Yet no one believes Lily when she returns with help. With her family and Jonathan, who has long been a close friend, insisting that it had all been in her imagination - most likely due to reading the books by Lord Anonymous - Lily ends her engagement and seeks employment outside of London.
Lily is soon a housekeeper for Gravenhurst himself, not realizing that the shameless duke had arranged it so. Samuel will do anything to win the heart of the woman he craves.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the first in what looks to be a very promising, and extremely seductive, new quartet. Most of the focus is on the main couple, Samuel and Lily. This is as it should be; however, a bit of danger and suspense makes enough surprise appearances to keep thinks intriguing. Few can resist a novel by Jillian Hunter! ****
Author: Miranda Neville
Title - The Dangerous Viscount
For many years Lady Diana Fanshawe has been infatuated with the Marquis of Blakeney. No one has ever been as handsome as Blake and she fully intends to marry the man. But while Diana is one of the guests at Mandeville, she meets Sebastian Iverley. The bespectacled scarecrow's interests tend toward the intellectual, so it is no wonder they meet in the library. Diana soon finds herself making a wager with Blake that she could get Sebastian to kiss her. As Diana spends more and more time with the awkward Sebastian, she finds herself enchanted. When the kiss occurs, the young widow realizes how much she actually enjoys his presence.
All his life, Sebastian had been told by his uncle that women were poison and that treachery was part of their nature. But Diana turns his head as no other ever has. Shortly after he kisses Diana he learns of the wager. Before he can do anything rash, Sebastian is called away to his uncle's deathbed in Northumberland. He returns as a viscount. His rage toward Diana never dims. With the help of his peer friends, Tarquin and Cain, Sebastian has a complete makeover. He would make Diana care for him and once she wants him as he had once desired her, he would reject her and teach her the meaning of humiliation.
**** FOUR STARS! Though this plot has been done before, I seldom recall reading the lady as the character placing the wager and the gentleman as the innocent. I must say that it gives the story a bit of zest this way. The main characters are well developed with interesting backgrounds. Their friends, as secondary characters, are equally engaging and manage to add their own bit of flavoring to the ongoing plot line. Filled with irony, romance, and humor, readers will find time zip by as they enjoy this gem. Perfect for some cozy reading near the fireplace on a cold evening. ****
Author: Joanna Bourne
Title - The Forbidden Rose
Marguerite de Fleurignac "Maggie" is part of an underground movement which helps people flee France to London. However, her network has recently been exposed from Paris to the coast. It is time for her people to run, to take new names, and set up elsewhere. Her family's chateau has been burned down. The roads are teaming with scavengers, bandits, deserters, and Jacobins. Before Maggie can leave the area, she is captured by the man named Guillaume LeBreton.
William Doyle is one of the best British spies. He is going by the name of LeBreton. He and his "servant boy", Hawker, know they are being watched. But their observer turns out to be a lovely female. Though Maggie does not give her real name at first, William is not fooled for even a moment. Her father is the Marquis de Fleurignac, who escaped before the Jacobins came to arrest him and drag him back to Paris, to the guillotine. William has come to France to put a stop to the assassinations in England. Maggie's father has a list of those to be killed. William wants Maggie to lead him to her father. But during a time when Death stalks Paris, could William keep his real identity a secret while still protecting the heroic young lady that has managed to wiggle her way under his skin?
***** FIVE STARS! My synopsis only covers the first half of this amazing story. To tell anything of the second half would reveal spoilers. Therefore, I will only say that I found many twists, turns, and lots of suspense. Author Joanna Bourne has crafted a tale so vivid that I could almost hear the feet scampering in the night and smell the fear that scents the dark air. The plot remains true to historical facts, which proves the author has done her research thoroughly. This suspenseful tale will ensnare your imagination right from the start and keep it enraptured until the very end. Excellent! *****
Author: Cara Elliott
Title - To Tempt a Rake
(Circle of Sin #3)
Katharine "Kate" Woodbridge has spent most of her life sailing around the world. The vagabond travels and the pressures of poverty had demanded a toughness in order to survive. Her parents died of a fever within days of each other, and only a deathbed promise brought her to seek a reconciliation with her grandfather, the Duke of Cluyne, in London. Her grandfather's gruff attitude and stubbornness are unyielding, but Kate has the same blood in her veins, mixed with her American father's. With her seafaring pirate background, Kate is very good at navigating through stormy seas, slipping in and out of tight spaces, and climbing to precarious heights. Yet Kate is doing her best not to disregard too many rules of propriety. It all would have been unbearable had it not been for the group of ladies that share her love for science. The close group of ladies is known as the Circle of Sin. Thanks to Kate's travels, she has become quite an expert on botany. Between her intelligence, beauty, and fiery temper she ends up catching the eye of Giovanni "Marco" Musto della Ghiradelli.
The Italian Conte of Como is a rake and a reprobate, but Marco also has many hidden facets to his character. Marco does covert work with the British government. He has been a clandestine agent for the Marquess of Lynsley for the last few years. At the request of the Foreign Office, the Duke of Cluyne is hosting a house party at his Kent estate in honor of the upcoming Congress of European powers that is scheduled to take place in Vienna. Lynsley has Marco's name added to the guest list. It was supposed to be a simple surveillance mission, a way to keep an eye on any alliances that might be forming for the upcoming peace conference. Instead, murder strikes at the house party and all the evidence points to Kate as being a murderess. Marco is determined to learn all of Kate's secrets and prove her innocence.
*** THREE STARS! Politics is an ugly business, especially when the stakes are high. This tale takes place during one of the most volatile times in European history. The first half of the story sets up the characters and gives readers information about the important events. This is where romance begins to bloom between the main characters. The second half is more suspenseful and deals with a lot more political issues, not to mention the murder. Having to learn the subtle intricacies of each character involved with the political interests of the story takes a large chunk of time away from the relationship between Kate and Marco, as well as from Kate's reconciliation with her grandfather. Though I found all the political intrigue to be ... well ... intriguing, I would much rather have witnessed Kate using more of background skills. Yet even though I do not believe this story to be the best in the series, it is still a very good story and well worth your time to enjoy. This author remains one of my favorite romance writers about the Regency era. ***
Author: Madeline Hunter
Title - Sinful In Satin (Rarest Blooms #3)
Celia Pennifold is the daughter of the famed London courtesan, Alessandra Northrope. Celia's mother educates her in the art of pleasure, but instead of following in her mother's footsteps, Celia flees and takes refuge with friends. Five years later her mother dies and Celia inherits all of her property, including a small house on Wells Street, and huge debts. Celia also inherits Jonathan Albrighton. The gentleman is a tenant and dwells in one of the attic chambers. Due to Jonathan's contract, she cannot evict him, yet she fears his presence could completely ruin her reputation - which is tarnished enough already. However, Jonathan only uses the attic chamber during the rare times he must be in London. Since he enjoys his privacy, Jonathan has never even told his friends where he resides and he uses a discreet method of entry to the house. The man refuses to heed her hints that he move elsewhere.
It is an awkward arrangement, but Celia does not have too much time to dwell on it. Celia is in business with her good friend, Daphne. The small house is an ideal spot for transporting, selling, and the deliveries their flowers. Problem is that the debts are still mounting. Celia is forced to consider embracing the profession for which she was groomed. At the same time, she has no idea that Jonathan is conducting a secret investigation into her mother's mysterious activities.
***** FIVE STARS! It is always a pleasure to spy a new story by Madeline Hunter whenever I haunt the local book stores. This is the third title of a quartet. (Somehow I have missed the first two titles, which I intend to rectify shortly, so I can tell you from experience that you do not HAVE to read the first two titles in order to thoroughly enjoy this tale.) The author's creative writing style is so vividly detailed that I could almost see the fashionable people strolling along the street and smell the flowers as Celia arranged them in the front room. The characters are full of life and have well developed backgrounds. Full of humor and clever dialogues, I never grew bored. I also found the spicy romance between the main characters to be as riveting as the investigation plot. An unexpected twist added a bit of surprise as well. Brava! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - The Perfect Mistress
Lady Julia Winterset is the widow of Sir William Winterset. When her parents died six years ago, Julia found out that she had a grandmother, Lady Eleanor Everett, still living. Julia has taken over the responsibility of caring for Eleanor, who resides about two hours away by train. William's family has made it abundantly clear that Julia no longer has a position in their family and cut off William's allowance upon his death. Julia is now reaching a point where she can barely support one household let alone two; therefore, she has decided to sell her great-grandmother's memoirs.
The publicist is positive the memoirs of Lady Hermione Middlebury will fly off the shelves. Scandal sells and Hermione's manuscript overflows with details involving all the men and adventures she enjoyed as a widow. With the sale of Hermione's memoirs and future royalties, Julia hopes to be able to support herself and Eleanor. Most of those named in the book are dead. However, a few are still breathing.
Harrison Landingham, the Earl of Mountdale, is horrified when he learns that his father plays a part in Hermione's memoirs. Though his father considers it to be of much amusement, Harrison is determined to stop the manuscript from being published and keep scandal from tainting his family name. Yet Julia refuses to sell to him, because Harrison plans to destroy them. (Hermione's ghost has specifically told Julia that she does not want her memoirs destroyed.) Harrison, who believes women could never be as intelligent as men, decides to charm and seduce Julia into handing the papers over. The first step is to make the young widow like and trust him.
Then there is John Eddington Ellsworth, who is an author that has let his fame go to his head. He, too, wants to buy the manuscript so he may embellish those events and create a work of fiction. Neither Julia, nor Hermione, wants that but in agreeing to John's arrangement Julia's financial future would become secure If only the egotistic author did not make her skin crawl...if only the publicist could offer more money up front...and if only the conceited earl's charms were sincere...
***** FIVE STARS! This story by Victoria Alexander is filled with sensuous romance, engaging characters, and a very lively ghost who seems to still be enjoying the company of men. I found myself laughing with Hermione, applauding Julia's actions, and bouncing between actually liking Harrison and wanting to box his ears. This tantalizing gem is the perfect book to start the New Year off right! *****
Author: Vicky Dreiling
Title - How to Marry a Duke
Tristan James Gatewick, the Duke of Shelbourne, is ready to wed. His worst fear is failure to produce an heir and have the family title end with his death. But he has no idea of how to choose between the crush of wealthy-but-immature ladies. Tristan wants a lady who would be honest, faithful, and has an unblemished reputation. Yet his future wife must also be able to easily handle the various arrays of duties her new title will require, be proper in public, and be a temptress in his bed. So he hires London's infamously prim and proper matchmaker, Miss Tessa Mansfield.
Thanks to her late uncle, Tessa has inherited a considerable fortune and never has need to wed. She much prefers her independence. Tessa helps other ladies, who do want to marry, find love matches. If she successfully married off the duke, other gentlemen might seek her services and Tessa would be able to help even more young ladies. So she creates a contest where over twenty eligible young ladies would try to prove themselves worthy. The ladies vie for the Duke's affections and after each round of events fewer ladies remain.
Tessa soon realizes she is losing her own heart to the stubborn man and a stolen kiss confirms Tristan desires her as well. But Tessa fails Tristan's list of what his future wife must be. Tessa has not been totally honest and her past holds a secret scandal. And that past is about to come back ...
**** FOUR STARS! In this tantalizing, yet humorous story, the Regency Era is actually having the equivalent of a modern reality television show. I must admit that it is fascinating to see how Tristan dwindles two dozen ladies down to only a select few. (My favorite section involves the part telling about the candlestick in Lord Randy's unmentionables.) The author also blends a dash of danger and scandal into the tale, which adds some zest to the overall plot. Well written and very entertaining, this story leaves me wanting more! I eagerly wait for Hawk's story to be told. ****
Author: Paula Quinn
Title - Seduced by a Highlander
Set in the 1700's. Tristan MacGregor had been little more than a lad when Alex Fergusson and he got into a fight. Afterward, Archibald Fergusson's rage had him riding to Campbell Keep, where Tristan's family was visiting their Campbell kin. The result was the death of Robert Campbell, Eleventh Earl of Argyll. Uncle Robert had been like a second father to Tristan and his death was a harsh blow to the boy. That moment Tristan changed his destiny. Instead of becoming the honorable knight-like image he had always yearned for, he became a thoughtless, reckless rogue. In retaliation for Robert's death, Tristan's father, Callum MacGregor, killed Archibald. Unknown to the Devil MacGregor at the time, he made orphans of Archibald's children.
In 1685 everyone gathers at Whitehall Palace in England for the Duke of York's coronation. Isobel Fergusson and Tristan meet and flirt, never knowing that last name of each other. When they finally learn, Isobel's attraction turns to anger and humiliation, while Tristan's turns to remorse. His family would never approve should he continue to see her.
Once back home, Tristan is unable to forget Isobel. He gives in to temptation and decides to go see her. But Isobel's protective brothers spy Tristan watching their sister and shoot him with, not one arrow, but two, before knocking him out cold with a flying rock. Isobel is frantic to save Tristan's life. Should he die on their land, the Devil MacGregor would kill them all.
**** FOUR STARS! The author has more romance and less battles this time around. To me, the story of Tristan and Isobel has the sweet flavor of Romeo and Juliette without the tragic ending. I found it very amusing to watch as Tristan slowly won over Isobel's brothers and then her, while dealing with her prank-loving youngest brother. Filled with humor, romance, and hot Highlanders, this book is sure to please. ****
Author: Gail Ranstrom
Title - A Rake By Midnight
(Regency Romantic Suspense)
Shortly after Eugenia "Gina" O'Rourke's family arrived in London her sister, Cora, was kidnapped and murdered by a group of men calling themselves the Blood Wyvern Brotherhood. Soon afterward, Gina found herself kidnapped by the Brotherhood. As she resided upon their stone alter, her body totally exposed to the view of all, and a drug to keep her from struggling, Gina knew they planned to violate and murder her just as they had killed her sister. But rescue arrived in the nick of time. James Hunter, with the Home Office, had been the one to cover Gina and rush her to safety.
Now, a couple of months later, Gina is still uncomfortable whenever James is near. Since his brother is married to her sister, that is often. But knowing James witnessed her most humiliating moment is not her only problem. Gina feels the need to avenge Cora, as well as learn what had been done to herself during the blank spots in her memories caused by the drugs. To achieve this Gina must locate Cyril Henley, the only top man in the Brotherhood who had managed to escape that awful night. With the Home Office getting nowhere, Gina begins using other sources to find out where the evil man is hiding.
James Hunter cannot believe the lengths Gina is willing to go. In order to protect her, whether the little hellion likes it or not, James hounds her every move and encourages his peers to believe he is courting the feisty lady. Then the people around Gina begin to turn up dead. As one of the few people alive who could recognize the men from that horrible night, Gina's name is at the top of Henley's murder list. James must dodge killers who want to collect the bounty on his own head, locate Henley, and protect the brave lady who has managed to somehow get under his skin and into his heart.
***** FIVE STARS! Murder and mayhem stalks the ballrooms in this suspenseful romance. I could not blame Gina for wanting answers and revenge, but there were times in the story that I believe she was too reckless.
As with her previous novels, Ranstrom's characters, including the secondary ones, are so well developed that I began to feel as if I really knew them. They became MY friends. Then there is the author's astounding ability to craft such vivid scenes that I could almost smell the flowers in the gardens and hear the gun shots from unseen assassins. When it comes to Regency Romantic Suspense, absolutely no one can compare to Gail Ranstrom! *****
Author: Tracy Anne Warren
Title - Wicked Delights of a Bridal Bed
Set in Gloucestershire, England, 1812. For ever a year Lady Mallory "Mal" Byron has grieved for the death of her fiancé, Major Michael Hargreaves, who had been killed in battle. It is now late summer and the Braebourne House's usual summer house party is beginning. The estate quickly fills with family, friends, and new children. Mallory's family is still unable to coax her to eat or smile, so when Adam, third Earl of Gresham, arrives they ask him to try. Adam has long been a family friend and he has always had a special way of handling the Byron brothers' sister. As Adam sees how much weight Mallory has lost and her weary eyes from horrid nightmares, he is determined to help bring her out of her grief.
Adam has loved Mallory for years, but due to his late father's vices was too poor to even consider courting Mal. When her engagement to the major had been announced, his heart broke and he has never been seriously interested in any other lady. The major's death is like a double-edged sword. Adam is happy to have a chance with Mallory again, yet he cannot help but hurt for the pain Mal is obviously going through. Adam knows exactly how Mal's loss of a loved one feels. After all, he still feels the ache of loss whenever he remembers his lovely deceased sister. However, it has been over a year since the major's death and Adam fears for Mallory's health should she not recover very soon. Now that he has regained his fortune and more, due to wise investments, Adam makes plans to help draw the old, full of life Mallory out of her depression and open her eyes to see him as much more than a simple friend.
Scandal has Adam and Mal agreeing to wed. Adam uses their honeymoon to entice Mallory to put the past behind her and begin life anew, hopefully with her eventually falling in love with him. But an unexpected revelation threatens to tear their new marriage apart. Can their fragile love overcome the strange turn of events?
*** THREE STARS! This is one of my favorite authors in the Historical Romance genre; however, I do not believe this is one of her better tales. The first half of this story is Adam bringing Mallory out of her depression. The next quarter is their love forming. The last quarter deals with the unexpected event, which I saw coming from very early in the story. Though this is a charming love story, not much really happens.
Readers who have been following the stories involving the Byron brothers will get to see many of the characters from those previous titles. The next Byron brother will be Drake, the scientist, and an excerpt is given in the back of this novel. (It sounds fabulous.) If you yearn for action, skip this one. But if you are seeking a simple love story, this book is perfect! ***
Author: Alexandra Hawkins
Title - Till Dawn with the Devil (Lords of Vice #2)
Set in London, 1821. Gabriel "Reign" Housely, the Earl of Rainecourt, is handsome, charming, and wealthy. Normally those qualities in a bachelor have mothers trying to make a match with their young daughters; however, the mysterious death of his first wife makes the opposite true for Reign. Even eight years later the scandalous cloud seems to hover over him. Yet Reign has no intentions to seriously court any young lady again, so it does not bother him. That is, until a bow on a lovely lady's dress captures his interest.
Lady Sophia Northam has lived in a world of shadows since the age of six. That is when a blow to the head caused her to lose a considerable portion of her eyesight. Sophia normally avoids attending balls in London society. Yet when Reign whirls her onto the dance floor and then outside, she begins to fall in love. Problem is that Reign is the son of the man who murdered her parents and almost killed her. But when her older brothers are faced with possible financial ruin and Sophia learns they plan to marry her off, it is Reign that comes to her rescue.
***** FIVE STARS! This latest story by Alexandra Hawkins contains so much drama and intrigue that I hardly know where to begin describing my reactions to the book. Fans of the older titles by Laura Kinsale will especially enjoy this tale, as it seems to have the same sort of flavor. One main character (Reign) has a shady past that refuses to quietly fade away. The other main character (Sophia) is flawed, nearly blind. Both of their families share a volatile history. It all adds up to drama, drama, drama. The author also includes some plot twists and surprises, none of which I saw coming. An absolutely tantalizing read! *****
Author: Gaelen Foley
Title - My Dangerous Duke
Set in Cornwall, 1816. When twenty-two-year old Kate Madsen is kidnapped from her small Dartmoor home, she keeps trying to tell her abductors that they have stolen the wrong person. Her name is Kate Madsen, not Kate Fox. Kate soon learns that an entire village of smugglers is responsible for her dilemma. Their lord, Rohan Kilburn, the Duke of Warrington, has returned and the villagers plan to offer Kate as a gift. Unable to tame Kate, the villagers drug her into compliance, dress her as a doxy, and inform Lord Kilburn that she is determined to become a rich man's mistress and wishes for Rohan to teach her how to please a man. However, the villagers know more about Kate than even she does herself and there is good reason that the people want their lord to take her innocence.
Rohan Kilburn is one of the top assassins of the Order of St. Michael the Archangel. Just as his father was before him, Rohan carries out missions for the secret hereditary Order. They are sworn to rooting out the Prometheans, a group that uses people for their own evil agenda. Rohan and Kate must work together if they are to have any chance of figuring out what the Prometheans are up to. It soon becomes apparent that everything is connected to the last case Rohan's father had handled for the Order, the DuMarin affair. Even as several shocking revelations are revealed, Rohan and Kate begin to give in to the passions which blaze between them.
***** FIVE STARS! This story has it all: a dark past that claimed countless lives returns, forbidden love, smuggling, surprises, unexpected twists, shocking plots within plots, and much more! I could not stop reading. Every page kept me riveted as this multi-plotted story engaged my imagination as so few tales ever have. Make room on your Keeper Shelf. *****
Author: Tessa Dare
Title - Twice Tempted by a Rogue (Stud Club #2)
Rhys St. Maur, Lord Ashworth, did not have a happy childhood. Two or three times per week his father would physically and emotionally abuse him. Rhys left fourteen year ago, after accidently burning down the stables (due to his father's violence), to serve in the war. His death wish went unanswered on the battlefield even though he took outrageous risks in his search for oblivion. But now his father is dead. As the new Lord Ashworth, Rhys returns to Buckleigh-in-the-Moor. His ancestral home on the moors of Devonshire is nothing but ruin. His people have either left or turned to smuggling simply to survive. The scarred war hero is unwanted by the locals, but Rhys is determined to redeem his wasted life by rebuilding his home, helping his people, and bringing Buckleigh-in-the-Moor back to life. He looks to Meredith, the innkeeper, for help. She is no longer the scrawny, freckled girl of his memories. She is now a strong and beautiful woman. She is the sole reason that Buckleigh-in-the-Moor still exists. And no matter how much she resists, Rhys would persuade her to become his wife, by any seductive means necessary.
Meredith Maddox inherited the Three Hounds Inn from her late husband. She believes in hard work. Slowly, she is striving to build a name for Buckleigh-in-the-Moor and make the inn a respectable establishment for travelers. When Rhys returns, Meredith finds him even more attractive than ever. She is soon torn between her feelings for Rhys and the respect of all the locals who look to her for leadership and guidance.
***** FIVE STARS! More is going on than I tell in my synopsis. There is also a big murder mystery which brings in a couple of secondary characters. (One of these secondary characters will get his story told in the future.) Then there is the smuggling and a twist or two or three. I never found myself in danger of boredom. Tessa Dare has made a strong name for herself in the Historical Romance genre and seems to get better with every story she releases. *****
Author: Zoë Archer
Title - Scoundrel
(The Blades of the Rose #2)
As mankind developed, so did its capacity for destruction and abuse. To keep mankind from annihilating itself, magic needed to be hidden. Even though magic was sheltered in myth and legend, people managed to concentrate it into physical objects that hold great power. Those objects are known as Sources. Most are safely hidden from those that would exploit them, such as the Heirs of Albion. The Heirs believe that Britain and its citizens are superior to all others and should rule the world. They have already managed to get hold of the Primal Source from Africa. It is the oldest and most powerful Source of all. No one knows what horrors will occur should the Heirs manage to unlock its secrets. One group stands and fights the Heirs. They are known as the Blades of the Rose. The Blades believe that no one should rule over all. Where the Heirs pillage, plunder, and slaughter, the Blades help and protect.
London Harcourt never knew that her brother, father, and even her late husband were major players of the Heirs of Albion. The Heirs do not allow women in their elite group. London always thought they worked for the government in some fashion. Her father, Joseph Edgeworth, has a seat within the inner circle and is planning to subjugate the world's magic to British rule. After her smothering marriage and three years of widowhood, London is thrilled to travel with her father to the Greek isles. She only wishes the horrid men around her father were not accompanying them. London is the only known speaker of a dialect of ancient Greek that holds the key to calling down the wrath of the gods. Of course, London has no idea what it is her father wants her to translate. But then she meets Day.
Bennett Day has always had a way with the ladies. After all, a man has to have some stress relief after dodging lethal attacks to protect the Sources. When he meets London, it is obvious she has been kept in the dark as to the destruction the men around her has accomplished and have plans to do in the near future. Can Bennett and his allies open London's eyes to the truth? Once done, will the lovely and brilliant linguist join the Blades against her father? And can Bennett survive the spell London seems to be weaving around his heart?
***** FIVE STARS! This story is a Historical Romance with a touch of the paranormal. I believe that the story also has an "Indiana Jones" flavoring to it. Action, drama, suspense, and romance all blend together to form a whirlwind adventure that kept me super-glued to the pages. Well developed characters, with manners depicted true for their era, and a sold base-plot makes the story very believable. And minor sub-plots keep the story flowing smoothly, enticing readers to continue turning the pages for more. Admirably crafted and very addictive. *****
Author: Emily Bryan
Title - Stroke of Genius
The works of Mr. Crispin Hawke, a brilliant sculptor, are touted by all the titled members within Society. He is considered to be the greatest living artist in all Britain. During his earliest years, he had been raised in a house of pleasure. He was rescued by one of the finer doxies and sent off to art school. Therefore, Crispin has seen the richer and poorer sides of life. Though he is revered by the Ton, Crispin has little but contempt for the upper crust. So he is as rude as he wishes toward them simply because he can get away with it. By his side is his ever present manservant, Mr. Brice Wyckham. In between Crispin's commissions, he sketches the woman who has been invading his dreams. Yet neither Crispin, nor Wyckham, ever expected to find the dream woman's doppelganger in reality.
Miss Grace Makepeace has come to London (from Boston) with her parents, Horace and Minerva, in search of a titled husband. Minerva's grandmother had been the daughter of an English viscount. She wishes Grace to marry back into the Society in which she deserves. However, Grace's Bostonian bluntness and tall height are not considered to be fashionable. So to gain Society's acceptance, Grace's parents use their very deep pockets and entice the incomparable Crispin Hawke to do a sculptor of Grace's hands.
Against his will, Crispin soon finds himself enthralled with Grace and helping her fit into Society. He not only puts high praise in the right ears, but also schools Grace in the art of flirting. Grace soon catches the eyes of two titled gentlemen. The first is a distant cousin, Lord Jasper Washburn. The second is Richard, the Marquess of Dorset. Only then does Crispin realize he has done his job too well.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Emily Bryan returns with yet another hot and sinfully delicious romance. I found the secondary characters to be almost as fascinating as the main couple. (Especially Grace's French maid, Claudette, and Mr. Wyckham.) The author has done an exceptional job on giving threaders not one, but two sleazy villains to hate. I still cannot decide which is more awful, Lord Washburn or Lady Sheppleton. Steamy romance, sassy dialogs, and dicey risks make this story a winner. Brava! ****
Author: Julia Quinn
Title - Ten Things I Love About You
Set in London, 1822. Annabel Winslow is staying with her grandparents, Lord and Lady Vickers, in London for The Season. She hopes to find a husband rich enough to bring financial support for her family and ease her mother's burdens. Her grandparents are determined she would wed the Earl of Newbury, a horrid, portly man who is actively seeking a bride to beget an heir with. Lord Newbury's son died a year prior. Unless a new heir is born, Lord Newbury's title and wealth would go to Sebastian Grey, the nephew he deeply despises. Since Lord Newbury is in his late sixties, he has no time to lose. Of course, Annabel knows the slimy old man is interested in her because the females of her family have all proven extremely fertile. It has become a jest among the mature gentry that the birds begin singing whenever Annabel walks by. If only Lord Newbury's gaze did not make her skin crawl.
Sebastian Grey is not eager for his uncle's title or wealth, though the money would be convenient. Most believe Sebastian has little money to call his own. However, unknown by even his closest friends, Sebastian has a secret income. Due to his insomnia, caused by memories of being a sniper in the war, Sebastian writes outrageous gothic novels. They are published pseudonymously and over the last few years have become all the rage.
When Sebastian meets Annabel, he has no idea that she is his uncle's latest victim...uh wife-to-be. Annabel becomes the object of both their affections. Soon Annabel must choose between her family's livelihood and the man she has come to love.
***** FIVE STARS! To read a book by Julia Quinn is always a pleasure. This story overflows with Quinn's signature talents. ONE: The characters are very well developed. TWO: The plot is believable because THREE: many young ladies of this era had to wed much older men for titles and/or money. Of course, there is also FOUR: the witty dialogue, FIVE: humorous scenes and SIX: romance, which leads to SEVEN: some laugh out loud antics (or contagious giggle fits). All of which concludes with EIGHT: a happily-ever-after ending and NINE: readers feeling so happy that TEN: the book is given a place on their Keeper Shelf.
This is one of Quinn's best, in my opinion, and not to be missed! STELLAR! *****
Author: Amanda Scott
Title - Tempted by a Warrior
Seventeen-year-old Lady Fiona Jardine has been wed to her abusive husband, Will Jardine, for two years. Heavy with child, Fiona twists and dodges Will's blow to her belly. However, the hit connects elsewhere and Fiona's head ends up hitting a rock. It is the last Fiona recalls before waking in her bed. After Will is missing for over a fortnight, Old Jardine summons Sir Richard Seyton, Laird of Kirkhill. Old Jardine is as cruel as his son, Will. Believing Fiona murdered Will, Old Jardine has decided to name Kirkhill the guardian of Will's soon-to-be born child. If the baby turns out to be a boy, Richard is to be the trustee and steward for the estate until the child reaches his twenty-fifth birthday. If the baby is a girl, Richard is to inherit.
Everyone knows that Fiona was the last person to see Will alive. Rumors of her guilt have spread far and Old Jardine vows to Fiona that she will hang, even if he dies before the deed can be done. Dies he does, while Fiona is in labor. And though Richard has his own estate and troubles, he is determined to protect Fiona against Old Jardine's wild accusations. People have been hanged due to rumors too often in the past. He could not live with himself unless he did all he could to help Fiona. That means Richard must find Will, dead or alive.
***** FIVE STARS! Personally, I am not a fan of historical romances set in Scotland, though I adore the accents of the people who live in the area. However, there are a select few authors whose writing styles and gifts for storytelling are so engaging that I feel compelled to pick up and read any title I come across with their names on it. Author Amanda Scott is one of this elite group of names. If you read this book, you will understand why. Danger, intrigue, forbidden romance, believable characters, compelling plot twists...this story has something for every reader to enjoy, all of which is set in one of the most volatile times of Scotland's history. I recommend ordering out for pizza, making sure you will not have any interruptions, and then taking a deep breath before you open the cover of this title. The action begins with the very first sentence and it only gets better from there. Amanda Scott writes excellence. *****
Author: Jackie Ivie
Title - A Knight and White Satin
The year is 1541. Payton Dunn-Fadden is the King's Champion. He is notorious for never losing a fight. His powers of seduction are just as legendary. He and his men tell no one that they are planning on attacking the White Tower. It is a sudden, drunken lark and they are lucky enough to succeed. Payton weds the heiress, Dallis Caruth, against her will. Until then, she had been betrothed to Laird Kilchurning. When the Caruth clan finally gains entry to the room in which Payton has Dallis, it is to see Payton escaping through the window. With Dallis looking ravished, all believe the union had been consummated. Only Payton and Dallis know that she is still a maiden or that the blood on her thighs is from a knife wound she had inflicted upon the scoundrel. No one could see the blade, which was still embedded in his side. Neither admits, for reasons of their own, that the consummation is a lie.
For two years Dallis tries to become a widow. After all, she never asked for Payton's attack, the forced marriage, or for him to kill her clansmen. Yet still Payton lives, winning every battle inside, and outside, of the king's arena. When Payton finally returns to claim his wife and lands, a major clash of wills between the King's Champion and Caruth outcast that has become known as White Satin. Neither can deny their maddening desire for the other and it soon explodes into fiery passion. Yet as they slowly learn about each other and lust turns into love, danger rears its head. For the king has plans for the couple which may very well cost them their lives.
***** FIVE STARS! Author Jackie Ivie writes what I can only describe as wonderful disasters. The very first sentence of this story begins with such an occurrence. Wonderful for the reader and a disaster for the heroine. I found my imagination instantly stimulated and the world around me faded away. The character of Dallis was easy for me to relate to. I could actually feel her humiliation. I understood and agreed with most of her actions too. I applauded her strong will and loyalty. As I finished reading and closed the book, I was amazed to discover that I had read, nonstop, the entire night through. Seldom do I find a book that causes me to lose my sense of time, to blink and see that hours had flown by. This "wonderful disaster" is going to my Keeper Shelf, never to be loaned out. *****
Author: Patricia Rice
Title - The Wicked Wyckerly (Rebellious Sons #1)
The year is 1807. John Fitzhugh "Fitz" Wyckerly never expected to inherit the family title. But after the deaths of his father and older brother, Fitz becomes the seventh Earl of Danecroft. Having grown up pretty much ignored by his family, Fitz had not received a great education. Yet when it comes to mathematics, Fitz is a genius. With his talent, Fitz wins enough money gambling to allow him the pretense of luxury and indolence. Now an earl, Fitz learns that he has inherited the crumbling estate and massive debts. Gambling will not help with the amount of debt involved. Fitz decides that the first thing he needs to do is reclaim his illegitimate daughter, Penelope, from her caregiver and then head to London to search of a very rich wife.
Isabell Hoyt is the youthful Dowager Marchioness of Belden. Lady Belden has achieved the envious state of being a titled, independently wealthy widow. Having just found the unopened letters to her late husband from Abigail Merriweather, Lady Belden decides to give dowries to deserving young women so they may have the freedom to choose their own paths to happiness and need not depend on finding a husband. Lord Quentin Hoyt, younger son of the recently installed fourth Marquess of Belden, claims that those same young women would be happier married to his friends. A wager is made and Lady Belden takes Abby under her wing.
Abigail "Abby" Merriweather runs a rural farm. Her father is deceased and she has lost custody of her four young half siblings. Her letters to her father's marquess cousin for help in regaining the children have gone unanswered. Then Fitz and his rebellious daughter show up. As Fitz and Penny stay with her for a short spell, Abby begins considering finding and marrying a lawyer. But where does one find a potential lawyer husband that would also care to have an instant family? When Lady Belden shows up, Abby's entire world changes.
***** FIVE STARS! Patricia Rice is fast becoming the go-to person for readers seeking entertaining, yet believable Regency Romance stories. This tale has a little danger and suspense, but the main focus is right where it should be - on Abby and Fitz. A sub-plot with engaging secondary characters adds a bit of zing and foreshadows events to unfold later in the series. I can hardly wait for the next rebellious son. *****
Author: Kira Morgan
Title - Captured by Desire
Set in Spring, 1568, Scottish Lands. Florie Gilder is a respected apprentice of a goldsmith, who happens to be her foster father. Her precious crafts have often been for the Princess May herself. She is even well known to the queen. The only item Florie has left from her deceased mother is a golden pomander. This pomander is more than a trinket. It holds the secret to learning who her real father is. Florie only knows he is from Selkirk. Thus, Florie attends the Selkirk Fair. But due to a mix-up, Florie finds herself fleeing with her pomander as Lady Mavis Fraser begins exclaiming Florie to be a thief.
Lady Mavis Fraser is the cruel wife of the sheriff of Selkirk, Lord Gilbert Fraser. Upon seeing the pomander, Lady Mavis knows her future is at stake. She must be rid of it quickly. The only way to be sure is for her to obtain the piece and melt it down. However, Florie has been granted sanctuary by Father Conan, the blind priest of a run-down church. Lady Mavis once held the status as the English Crown's most valuable spy. Unwilling to wait forty days (the terms of sanctuary), Lady Mavis begins using her connections and begins devising Florie's death.
Rane MacAllister, Huntsman to Lord Gilbert, poaches in the sheriff's forest to feed the starving people. Accidently, Rane shoots an arrow into Florie's leg. Having the guilty feeling of shooting a lady is bad enough, but then the sheriff tasks his with guarding Florie and preventing her escape. As Rane tends Florie's wound, passions ignite. The enemy is at the door and it will take all they have simply to survive the next forty days.
**** FOUR STARS! A tantalizing story of love set in an era filled with traitorous people. The characters are well developed and the author's talent shines on every page. I foresee a rewarding career in this author's future. ****
Author: Mary Balogh
Title - A Secret Affair (Huxtable #5)
Hannah Reid, Duchess of Dunbarton, had adored her elderly husband during their ten years of marriage. Of course, no one would have believed it had they known. Many believed Hannah married the duke for his fortune and that the men who had often escorted Hannah to events were her lovers. Now that Hannah's year of mourning is over, she has become the thoroughly enviable female creature known as a widow of wealth and superior social standing. Hannah is determined to continue on as her late duke had taught her. Other than her continued childhood friendship with Miss Barbara "Babs" Leavensworth, Hannah never looks back, only forward. The London Season is about to begin and Hannah plans to take her first paramour. Though he did not know it, Mister Constantine "Con" Huxtable would be that gentleman.
Every year Con chooses a new mistress to dally with during the Season. Normally the Duchess of Dunbarton would never have been on his mental list of wanted lovers, but Hannah has managed to alter that. Slowly, and without even realizing it themselves, Hannah and Con open up to each other. They begin to understand each other and their pasts as few truly ever do. They may even be able to accomplish the impossible - heal all past wounds.
*** THREE STARS! This is the last story about a member of the Huxtable family. Though I dreaded the series to end, it had to happen eventually. The duchess came across cold as ice in the beginning. As more of her past was revealed, I understood why that was so. The author did a superior job of peeling back the multiple layers of this character's personality and showing her various sides. However, Con's character remained too stiff and bland for my liking.
Characters from past titles appear in cameos. It was nice to see how they were fairing. I found this story to have more bedroom scenes than the previous titles. Do not expect a lot of danger and suspense. The story keeps focused on the two main characters' affair and pasts. Therefore, this is a slow paced tale. I do not believe this is the best work of the author's, but it is still a sweet romance and worth your time. ***
Author: Laura Kinsale
Title - Lessons in French
Lady Callista "Callie" Taillefaire had been seventeen when her father, the Earl of Shelford, caught her in the carriage house with Trevelyan "Trev" d'Augustin, Duc de Monceaux. Having interrupted the couple, only seconds from Callie being ruined, the furious earl rejected the young duc as a penniless nobody of unsteady character. Having been treated as a contemptible French scoundrel, Trev went to France.
Nine years have passed. Callie has recently gotten out of mourning for her father's death. Cousin Jasper is the new Earl of Shelford. He and his wife, Dolly, now reside at Shelford Hall. Having reached the age of twenty-seven, Callie has resigned herself to becoming a spinster. Three times Callie has been engaged. Three times Callie has been jilted. She now spends her time trying to be invisible at gatherings. Otherwise, Callie's time is divided between her animals and caring for Madame de Monceaux, Trev's dying mother. Once again Callie trying to fade into the background of a party when Trev enters the room.
During the previous nine years Trev has become embarrassingly wealthy by arranging boxing spectacles of both fixed and fair varieties. Having been exiled from England recently, Trev is staying one step ahead of the hangman's noose so he may be with his dying mother. Spying Callie, Trev's emotions rise from whatever grave he had buried them into so long ago. Before he disappears forever, Trev is determined to sweep Callie into one last adventure.
***** FIVE STARS! After a long self-exile one of my all-time favorite authors, Laura Kinsale, has returned! I could not be more thrilled. This time the story is a light romance and, as usual, the author manages to weave animals into the tale. No small animal such as a hedgehog, porcupine, skunk, or ferret during this adventure though. Instead, I found myself enchanted by a humongous bull named Hubert.
All the characters are well developed, including the secondary ones. The story is well written with various sub-plots to keep things moving along smoothly. There is a bit of mystery, some exciting romps, and odd but lovable characters as well. Laura Kinsale's stories are absolutely yummy! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - Desires of a Perfect Lady
Ten year ago Lady Olivia "Livy" Newbury thought she would wed Sterling Harrington, the Earl of Wyldewood. But then she had been forced to marry Viscount Rathbourne, a cruel man and avid collector of rare treasures. It was well known that Rathbourne's artifacts were not always obtained legally and he never let anyone view his hidden collections.
After ten years of abuse and basically kept as a prisoner, Livy has a chance at freedom. Someone has finally murdered Viscount Rathbourne. But the viscount has devised a way to control Livy even from his grave. His will stipulates that Livy may continue on as always, living off a minimal allowance to be allotted by a solicitor, or she may embark on a quest to acquire three specific treasures that he had been unable to acquire.
Sterling had been told by Olivia's father that she had changed her mind about marrying him, would wed Rathbourne, and wanted nothing more to do with him. The earl had been so hurt that he never stopped to wonder about Olivia's sudden change of heart and he ignored the three letters Livy sent to him shortly thereafter. But with the manner of Rathbourne's death, her father fears for Livy's life and goes to confess his lies to Sterling and begs him to help Olivia. Only then does Sterling realize that those three letters had been Livy's pleas for help. After reading them, Sterling understands how much he failed Olivia. So when Olivia asks for his aid in locating and retrieving three treasures, Sterling sees an opportunity to win her forgiveness and then her heart.
**** FOUR STARS! The character of Sterling takes all his responsibilities very seriously. That usually makes for a dull personality and a boring read; however, the author refuses to let the hero remain stodgy. To that end, a strong and adventurous heroine is needed and many readers will be able to relate to Olivia. After years of living in a horrible marriage, Livy wants what any female would - freedom. I could easily picture Olivia's excitement at the prospect of being independent only to have the rug virtually pulled out from under her. Sterling and Olivia will travel during their quest, giving readers a glimpse of two exotic locations. Interesting sub-plots keep the story flowing at a steady pace and adds a bit of danger to the story for extra flavor. Well done! ****
Author: Paula Quinn
Title - Ravished by a Highlander
(It is the year 1685. King Charles II has died. James of York is about to be crowned the new king.)
Lady Davina Montgomery has been locked away from society all her life. Her true identity is the Crown's most closely guarded secret. She resides on the southern Scottish border, within Saint Christopher's Abbey. Captain Edward Asher of the King's Royal Army and his men have guarded Davina for several years now. But somehow, someone has learned of Davina's existence and wants her dead.
Robert "Rob" MacGregor is the first born son of the powerful Scottish laird, Callum. His small group reaches the abbey to find it under attack. He vows to Captain Asher that he will rescue Davina and take her to safety. Soon Rob realizes he cannot stand the thought of being parted from the lady. With Davina's enemies on their trail, Rob must choose between all he holds dear and the brave young woman he cannot resist.
***** FIVE STARS! Author Paula Quinn keeps events as close to true history as possible. Set during one of England's more bloody eras, I found myself amazed at how smoothly these characters seemed to fit right in. The writing style is so vivid, I could almost see the scenery and hear the battles within the halls of Camlochlin Castle. This author is one to watch! *****
Author: Patricia Grasso
Title - Marrying the Marquis (Flambeau Sisters)
(Set in Newmarket, England.) Blaze Flambeau is one of seven illegitimate daughters of a penniless French countess and the Duke of Inverary "Magnus". With their mother deceased, the Flambeau sisters live with their father and their stepmother, Roxie. Each sister has a genetic gift. Blaze can communicate with animals. Magnus has given Blaze a filly named Pegasus "Peg". Blaze intends to race Peg and use her winnings to buy land for an animal refuge.
Though Blaze has no intention to ever wed, Roxie is determined to do right by her stepdaughters. This time Roxie's target is Blaze. To that end, Roxie invites three bachelors to dinner and the games begin. The choices Blaze will have are between Dirk Stanley, the Earl of Boston, Ross MacArthur, the Marquis of Awe, and Prince Lykos Kazanov of Russia.
Ross never thought he would ever fall in love; however, he soon finds himself partial to a lady with red hair, freckles, and noble causes. It is then Ross becomes determined to win Blaze's hand in marriage by fair means or foul. Things get dicey when someone desperate to win the Triple Crown begins harming jockeys, horses, and even Blaze. Ross, Blaze's family, and the legendary Constable Amadeaus Black pull their talents, wits, and resources to discover the villain's identity.
***** FIVE STARS! This story has several surprises in store for readers. Danger, suspense, betrayal, and humor combined to keep my eyes glued to the pages, eager to see what would happen next. I have high hopes that Raven Flambeau's story will be the next title's focus. (Raven's gift is as fascinating as Blaze's.) The author made this story even more adorable to me with the addition of odd animals, such as a deaf kitten. Then there are some very interesting secondary characters that I cannot mention or risk spoilers and revealing a surprise or two. I honestly believe this story by Patricia Grasso to be more sinful than chocolate! *****
Author: Laurel McKee
Title - Countess of Scandal (Daughters of Erin #1)
Set mainly in Kildare, Ireland. When they were children, lady Elizabeth "Eliza" Blacknall and William "Will" Denton were often together. They had been close friends. But in the year 1790, Will purchased his commission in an English regiment and went to England, leaving fifteen-year-old Eliza behind in Kildare.
Seven years have now passed. Eliza is now a widow, Lady Mount Clare. The young Irish countess is still the vibrant, intelligent, and independent lady that Will recalls so well. Will has returned, as an English soldier, to crush the Irish uprising. And it seems that Eliza is in the middle of it all. The last thing he wants is to see her neck in a noose when Lord Lieutenant Camden and his generals unleash their forces. All too soon Ireland is embroiled in bloody conflicts. Will's regiment is ordered to the front lines. Will worries not only about Eliza, but his mother too. Battle lines become blurred and Will must choose between all he cares for and his honor and duty to the king.
**** FOUR STARS! I found this story to have a deep and serious plot, very political. But the romance between Eliza and Will came across to me as unbelievable in the early parts of the tale. After all, early in the story Will admits to Eliza that he is determined to climb high in the English ranks and about how he believes in the Crown. He seemed to truly believe in his English duty. So I found it difficult to accept that he would put it all on the line for a lady from his past, no matter how close they had been. Otherwise, this story is intense, with action and high drama. I proudly recommend it to all fans of Historical Romances, as well as to fans of History. It is MORE than clear to me that the author has done her research and understands this era very well. BRAVA! ****
Title - All Night with a Rogue (Lords of Vice #1)
Author: Alexandra Hawkins
Set in London, 1820. Alexius Lothar Braverton, Marquess of Sinclair, is known as Sin to his friends. He is one of the seven founding members of the Lords of Vice. His half sister, Belle, tells Sin that Lady Juliana is a heartless chit who is determined to steal her suitor, Lord Kyd, away. Belle instructs Sin to seduce the girl and then cast her aside. Sin is happy to oblige. He neither wonders, nor cares, if Lady Juliana is the jade Belle claims. As with the numerous ladies he has bedded in the past, Sin only sees Juliana's beauty and targets her as his next conquest.
Lady Juliana Ivers knows only too well that her family's position in polite society had plummeted considerably since her father, the Marquess of Duncombe, died five years ago. The title now belongs to a distant cousin. Her mother has brought Juliana and her two older sisters to London in hopes of them marrying well. Sin is one of the rogues that all mothers know to keep their daughters far away from. Yet as Sin begins paying close attention to Juliana, her mother does not seem to object. As for Lady Juliana, she has been interested in Sin since she had been trapped in a tree while he and another lady had a small tryst. Even knowing him to be a rogue, Juliana cannot resist Sin's seduction. It is not long before scandal threatens and Juliana realizes she has become the pawn of several selfish creatures.
**** FOUR STARS! Alexandra Hawkins does not reuse the same characters with different names or the same old and worn out plots that several authors do. I found myself treated to an interesting assortment of characters, each with their own personality and set of habits. The hero in this story, Sin, came across to me as quite a bit more selfish than any hero I had previously read. (And I found myself growing more and more angry at Juliana's mother as the woman's actions were revealed.) But by the end, I was in awe of the author for a variety of reasons. Alexandra Hawkins's writing style flows smoothly and can paint a scene in such detail that I almost felt as if I could smell the surroundings. The backgrounds of the main and secondary characters are so well developed that I actually grew irritated at some - as if they were real people! Best of all is the fact that the story started out with (what I thought to be) one plot, before branching out to reveal that there were actually several sub-plots and more than one surprise twist. Alexandra Hawkins does the Regency era as no other! ****
Author: Nicole Jordan
Title - To Tame a Dangerous Lord
After his first youthful love betrayed him, Rayne Kenyon, Earl of Haviland, became determined to remain unencumbered by emotional attachment. The former spymaster has no interest in marrying for love, but desires an heir to carry on his title. He decides to wed Madeline Ellis, the plain spinster daughter of a fellow spy who once saved his life.
Madeline is heading to London in hope of gaining new employment. She meets Rayne at an inn while attempting to avoid the grasp of Lord Ackerby and his plans of making Madeline his mistress. Once wedded, Madeline becomes adamant about winning the love of her new husband. With some advice from the Loring sisters and techniques taught to her by a renowned courtesan, Madeline begins her assault upon the barriers surrounding Rayne's heart. Madeline's resolve would soon be tested as she must also deal with Rayne's vile grandmother, avoid Lord Ackerby, find and rescue her brother from a possible hanging, and help her husband assist a friend with a blackmail problem. Whoever said peer marriages were boring had never met Madeline and her spymaster.
**** FOUR STARS! Even though this is the fifth book in the Courtship Wars series, each titles is a stand-alone tale. Madeline and Rayne's story has an abundance of danger and romance. Any time things start to slow down, something wicked rears its head to cause untold amounts of new chaos. This is a terrific tale to heat up your blood on a chilly night. ****
Title - Early Dawn
Author: Catherine Anderson
In 1887 the Sebastian Gang assaulted Matthew Coulter Junior and his wife, Olivia. When Matthew regained consciousness, he learned that the gang had left him for dead. To Olivia, they had not only physically assaulted her, but also tortured her before finally killing her. In the aftermath, Matthew honed his weaponry skill, locked up all his emotions somewhere deep within, and vowed to track and kill all six Sebastian brothers.
In 1890, Eden Paxton and her mother, Dory, left San Francisco after Eden's fiancé broke off their engagement (in a letter) and spread rumors about her. As Eden and Dory travel toward Colorado, to live near her brothers, their train is held up by the Sebastian Gang. They kidnap Eden, intending to sell her across the Mexican border. Matthew comes upon the train shortly afterward. When Dory informs him of her daughter's abduction, he realizes he must delay his vengeance in order to rescue Eden, should she still live, and get her to safety.
During Matthew's three years of tracking the Sebastian Gang, Matthew managed to kill one of them, bringing the gang's number down to five. Eden is with the ruffians five days before Matthew locates them. Yet even after all the brutes' mauling and abuse, Eden is able to recognize the kind heart beneath Matthew's rugged exterior.
**** FOUR STARS! Catherine Anderson's mellifluous stories will capture your heart and imagination. This western overflows with believable characters, suspense, drama, and a slow-blooming romance. You will not find any faint-of-heart heroine here! Eden's brothers taught her some self-defense moves and forced her to practice with weapons. Highly recommended reading! ****
Title - At the Duke's Pleasure
Author: Tracy Anne Warren
Edward Byron, tenth Duke of Clybourne, had been trained from an early age not to show emotions. No matter the provocations, a peer is always in control of both his thoughts and feelings. His marriage has been arranged to Lady Claire Marsden since he was a lad. When duty finally requires he wed, Edward decides the long-standing arrangement will do nicely. Edward thought his betrothed would be thrilled when he finally sends word that their wedding date is nearing. He quickly learns otherwise.
Lady Claire is twenty-one by the time Edward decides they are to wed. Claire has been in love with Edward since she met him five years ago. However, Claire does not wish to be wed without her love being returned, even if that means becoming a spinster. Claire informs Edward up front that she does not want a dutiful marriage, but rather a love match. When he refuses to release her from their engagement, Claire decides that her only escape is to force Edward to jilt her. Therefore, during the Season, Claire engages in various eyebrow-raising peccadilloes in hopes of Edward jilting her. Instead, Edward realizes her game and picks up her thrown gauntlet.
At the same time, Edward is secretly working to uncover the identity of a spy buried deep within the system - a mole who had access to information at the highest levels of government. Does Lady Claire even stand a chance of shaking Edward up, when even a dangerous spy fails?
***** FIVE STARS! Who could NOT love a lady with the courage to stand up for herself? I was thrilled as each antic Claire engaged in turned out to be grander than the one before! By the last one, Claire even had me admitting that I would never have dared to go half as far. Tracy Anne Warren has brazenly shown that she is one of the best Regency Romance authors of our time! *****
Title - To Sin with a Scoundrel (Circle of Sin #1)
Author: Cara Elliott
Lady Ciara Sheffield is a young widow with an eight-year-old son, Peregrine "Perry". The serious-minded scholar is an expert in chemistry. This is how the rumors of her husband's death began. The inquest of Sheffield's death showed no proof of foul play. Yet Sheffield's horrid relatives have helped rumors spread that Ciara had poisoned her husband. The nephew, Arthur Battersham, and his mother are trying to reopen the inquest. They are high in Society and well connected. With their whispering into the right ears, they could very well succeed in their attempt. Arthur has gambled himself into debt, which is why Ciara believes the Sheffield relatives are campaigning to steal away her son, by proving her unfit to be a mother. Should they win custody of Perry, they would also control his grand inheritance. Being called the Wicked Witch of Pont Street, Ciara keeps to herself and shields Perry from Society's barbs. Her close friends are the five women, two of which are elderly, which make up the Circle of Scientific Sibyls, affectionately known as the Circle of Sin. The other "Sinners" decide Ciara needs to get a fiancé with enough stature and connections in Society to counter the malicious machinations of Sheffield's relatives. And who better to play the part of a sham courtship than Lucas Bingham, the Earl of Hadley.
Lucas has never cared what Society thought of him. No matter how outrageous he behaves, Society loves him. Everyone loves nothing more than to read the morning paper to see what wild thing "Mad, Bad Had-ley" has recently done. However, Lucas does have a soft spot. His love for his uncle, Sir Henry Phelps, clearly shines through to those who know Lucas. Sir Henry has recently discovered what seems to be a lost manuscript by Hippocrates. Confined to a Bath chair, Sir Henry asks Lucas to ask Ciara to help decipher the manuscript. The "Sinners" convince Ciara and Lucas to make a deal. Ciara will tackle the enormous task of deciphering the manuscript and Lucas will escort her around Society to squelch the slanderous rumors that threaten to have her hanged. But soon the sham engagement becomes something more and then the accidents begin to happen. Lucas is determined to protect the brilliant widow and the adorable little boy he is coming to care way too much for.
***** FOUR AND A HALF STARS! Author Cara Elliott has created a magnificently compelling read! She has paired a scholar and a scoundrel. Well, science does show that opposites attract. This story follows that logic and I had a wonderful time watching the chemistry of these two main characters mix. This author has made a new fan in me! *****
Title - Prelude to Camelot
Author: Cynthia Breeding
Astrala, the Grail Maiden, informs Myrddin of what he must do to ensure Arthur would be born. Myrddin enlists the aid of Morgan Le Fey to accomplish this. In exchange, Morgan would experience the mortal world as an invisible faerie by Myddin's side. (Upon his shoulder, to be a bit more precise.) Once born, Arthur is raised by foster parents who love him as if he were of their blood. None of them knew Arthur was the first born son of High King Uther.
Before she wed Uther, Ygraine gave birth to a daughter, Morgana. Morgana blames Uther for her father's death. Secretly, she began learning the dark arts for future revenge. When caught, Uther sent Morgana to a convent; however, this did not stop Morgana from learning the art of dark magic. It only made her slyer. After sneaking out one night, Morgana lures Arthur into the woods for a quick bedding. Neither knew the name of the other at the time. Of course, once pregnant Morgana was caught. Uther forced her to wed an old king. Yet even so, Morgana's scheming had only just begun.
Arthur eventually entered King Uther's army and the heart of the Arthurian lore truly began...
**** FOUR STARS! This story begins in the year 469 A.D. and concludes in the year 500 A.D. As the title suggests, readers follow the legend from shortly before the birth of Arthur until he is about to be crowned as High King. In my opinion, the characters of Gwenhwyfar and Morgana are developed the best. I feel that the author really captured their personalities. The story changes scenes often, because it must show what is happening in several groups of characters. Then there are times that characters from one group will merge with another. Therefore, the tale often reads in a narration-type of style. All-in-all, I found this to be an entertaining read and recommend it to all fans of Arthurian lore. ****
Title - To Desire a Devil
(Legend of Four Soldiers, #4)
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
This story is set in London, England, and begins in October, 1765. Everyone believed that Reynaud St. Aubyn died seven years ago when his regiment had been massacred in the Colonies due to a traitor. In truth, he had been held captive, enslaved by Indians. His time in the Colonies had changed him, warped him. So when Reynaud stormed into Blanchard House (wild, unkept, and bellowing in French), no one recognized his as the earl.
Miss Beatrice Corning lives in Blanchard House with her uncle. Uncle Reggie was given the title, Earl of Blanchard, when news of Reynaud's death had been received. It is Beatrice who notices the slight resemblance to the portrait of the young lord. The dashing gentleman in the portrait has long held her attention. Now that the man is here, Beatrice finds herself even more attracted. It appears that Reynaud is drawn to her as well. She is the only person able to see past his savagery to the noble man inside.
Reynaud is determined to reclaim his lands and title. Beatrice's uncle is just as determined to keep them. Beatrice is caught between her loyalty to Uncle Reggie and to the man she is falling in love with. This also puts her in the line of fire, because someone wants Reynaud dead.
***** FIVE STARS! This is the last book of the quartet. As usual, the best was saved for last. Throughout the story, there were times Beatrice would convince Reynaud to tell a little bit more about his years in captivity. I must admit that I found these conversations to be both fascinating and dreadful. This story mimics the ear's settings and events so realistically, that I often forgot that I live in the Twenty-First Century. It is this talent of creativity that has placed Elizabeth Hoyt on my Must Buy list. *****
Title - If He's Sinful
Author: Hannah Howell
Set in London, England, 1788. Lady Penelope Wherlockes Hutton-Moore will inherit the house someday. Until then her step siblings live in luxury, while Penelope's bedroom is in the attic. Lady Clarissa Hutton-Moore wants to be a viscountess. Her brother, Charles, is practically buying her the title with Ashton, Viscount of Radmoor. Ashton needs money to keep his family out of debtor's prison. Lord Charles holds the markers of Ashton's late father. Clarissa's large dowry would see the markers gone and his family secure. Ashton believed the marriage with Clarissa would be tolerable, but then Ashton's friends took him to Mrs. Cratchitt's. Ashton did not know his "surprise", Penelope, was at Mrs. Cratchitt's against her will until he found himself surrounded by young boys and a gun to his head.
Ashton and his friends quickly learn just how vile Clarissa and Charles are. However, it does not change the fact that Ashton must wed Clarissa. Soon after, Penelope is shot. Ashton, his friends, and even his family band around Penelope and the horde of boys she takes care of. (The boys are the by-blows of Penelope's relatives. They reside at one of Penelope's bungalows, unknown by the Hutton-Moores.) It is said that the Wherlockes and Vaughns (Penelope's family lines) are considered eccentric, a little wild, and very reclusive. Turns out this is by necessity. Many Wherlockes and Vaughns are gifted with various abilities. Penelope's gift is to see spirits and she tries to help them move on.
The attraction between Penelope and Ashton grows into something much more. As Ashton tries to find a way out from under the thumbs of Clarissa and Charles, his friends and high society family members look out for Penelope and the (close to) dozen children she raises. And with the help of those children's special talents, perhaps things may actually work out.
***** FIVE STARS! OMG! An outstanding story that starts out with danger and only gets better from there. I found myself hooked by the end of the very first sentence. No kidding! Hannah Howell's magical talents are for creating villains that her readers love to hate, and in developing characters that readers cannot help but come to care for. I can hardly wait for the next Regency adventure! *****
Author: Hannah Howell
Title - If He's Wicked
Miss Chloe Wherlocke comes from a long line of people who are gifted. For many generations the Wherlockes and their cousins, the Vaughns, have been whispered about or called eccentric. Few actually believe the rumors. The rumors, however, are true. Chloe's gifts are "visions" and "knowing". When a vision informs Chloe that her sister will die from giving birth to a stillborn babe, she rushes to her sister's side. Neither sister is surprised as the event unfolds. They both know the next part of the vision will come in the form of men bringing another newborn infant in and swapping it for the dead one. The men do not know Chloe hides nearby. Following the orders of Lady Beatrice, they take the dead back and leave the live one to perish along with Chloe's sister. One of the men leaves proof of the live infant's identity, in the long shot that the dying woman may somehow live and raise the boy until he can reclaim his rightful heritage. Once all is done, Chloe comes out of hiding and takes the boy to safety.
Lord Julian Kenwood, Earl of Colinsmoor, knows that someone keeps hiring thugs to kill him. Yet having learned of his wife's many acts of adultery he is too hurt to care enough to do anything about it. Everyone in London seems to know about Lady Beatrice's many lovers. This time Julian is too drunk to fight off the hired thug. Rescue arrives just in time and he is taken away to heal.
Lord Sir Leopold "Leo" Wherlocke of Starkley and his cousin, Chloe, have cared for Julian's son for three years now. The child is named Anthony. Julian had believed his son had died at birth. Leo, with the Home Office, and Chloe tell Julian just how evil Beatrice and his uncle, Arthur, truly are. As Julian heals from his wounds, word spreads in town that he is dead. Julian and his allies plan the couple's downfall. At the same time, Julian and Chloe's attraction for each other deepens. The group faces more than just the adultery and attempted murders from Beatrice and Arthur. They will face spies, neglected tenants, and a mad man. Only then will Julian and Chloe be free to consider raising some "rabbits".
***** This is one of the best novels I have read all year. Everything I told in the synopsis is know very early in the story. Nothing is a spoiler. The author hides nothing. However, with so much happening there is no need for hidden plots or sub-plots. There are plenty of secondary characters with gifts for the author to use in future stories too. I have high hopes that this is the first of a series. I want more! *****
Title - The Lord of Merewood Keep
Author: C.H. Admirand
Lady Jillian's parents are dead. Her family holding, Loughmae Keep, had been lost to the Norman King. For three years now Jillian has toiled as a servant to the cruel mistress of Sedgeworth Keep. Lord Owen and Lady Haldana of Sedgeworth scheme to claim Jillian's inheritance.
When Owen has Roderick tossed in the dungeon and scheduled to hang, Jillian rushes to his brother, Lord Garrick of Merewood. She offers to rescue Roderick if Garrick would agree to wed her, freeing her from Sedgeworth. Once wed, Garrick and Jillian could petition King William to reinstate Loughmae Keep to them. This would solve Lord Garrick's problems too.
When Lord Garrick and Lord Owen meet, Garrick finds himself appalled at Jillian's abuse. Though she has suffered physical, mental, and verbal abuse for years, Jillian's heart has remained kind. Garrick cannot help but begin having warm feelings for such a lovely, brave, and stubborn lady. But once the vows are spoken, Garrick receives word that King William is about to grant Loughmae Keep to Henri du Guerre. Even though his own mother, Lady Eyreka, says Jillian is innocent of any betrayal, Garrick believes his bride knew her ancestral home would never be granted to him.
Winslow MacInness had been a mercenary in Owen's pay. The honorable Scot cares a great deal for Lady Jillian and looks after her. MacInness and his men are finishing up their duty time with Owen and vow their life-long fertility to Garrick. As trouble brews, MacInness and Lady Eyreka try to help the new couple cope and reconcile. But the problems are mainly Garrick's pride, his feelings of past guilt, and duty to provide for his family and people. Unless Garrick can deal with his own private burdens, everyone will lose.
**** FOUR STARS! If not for the numerous typos, this story would have gotten the full five stars from me. Either this story had no editor or the editor did not do his/her job well at all. Otherwise, this is an awesome medieval tale with interesting characters and lots of suspense. In my opinion, Lady Jillian spent way too much time recuperating from either exhaustion or wounds. I prefer my heroines not to swoon so much.
All-on-all, a wonderful medieval tale that will hold onto a reader's attention. I hope MacInness and Sara gets their stories told as well. ****
Title - Mistress by Mistake
Author: Susan Gee Heino
Set in Warwickshire, England. The year is 1816. Lord Dashford does not want to wed Claudia, but her father, Sir Victor Graeley, has the signed engagement papers. In hopes of changing Claudia's mind, the viscount convinces the world that he has thrown away his fortune on courtesans and gambling. Not even his mother knows that they are not really deep in debt as the world now believes. So when his mother, Lady Dashford, invites an heiress, Miss Evaline Pinchley, and her Aunt Bella for a short stay, he cannot blame her. His mother only wishes to help him. However, Lord Dashford is determined he will not succumb to the heiress or her scheming aunt.
The trust Evaline's father left for her is set up so that she receives it whenever she marries or reaches the age of twenty-five. Her mean Aunt Bella believes Evaline's twenty-fifth birthday to be five months away. In truth, Evaline has only just turned twenty-five. Evaline sneaks out to the garden - alone - to toast her birthday. The drunk heiress never recognizes the man she meets there is Lord Dashford; not even when she wakes - alone - in his bed the next morning.
Lord Dashford is surprised to learn that the servant from the garden is actually the heiress. He is still engaged to Claudia after all. But still, when Evaline refuses his marriage proposal he is both relieved and disappointed. The attraction between them is overwhelming. Things turn for the worse when Claudia and her father arrive to insist on a date for their wedding (within the month). Then, to cap it all off, a man from Evaline's past shows up, along with a guest, and the area becomes too flooded for anyone to leave. Lady Dashford's little visit of two ladies has turned into mad chaos.
*** THREE STARS! Here is a good debut novel from a new voice in the Regency Romance genre. The story has a sound plot and is executed with style. If you are looking for a realistic story, this is it. No danger lurking around the corners here. Instead, readers get a romance with hot bedroom scenes, scheming characters, and a hidden treasure subplot. This author shows lots of promise and I plan to keep a close eye on her future work. ***
Title - Touch Me (Blaze Historical)
Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Set in Little Longstone, Kent. The year is 1820. Thirty-two-year-old Genevieve Ralston has everyone in her small town believing she is a widow. Therefore, no one snubbed her for having a lover. For over a decade she was the mistress of Richard, the Earl of Ridgemoor. Though only his mistress, Genevieve thought Richard loved her as much as she did him. Then came the horrible moment, one year ago, when Richard learned of her arthritis. Richard told Genevieve that he could not stand the thought of her hands, with swollen joints, touching him. He broke off their affair. Richard did not even tell Genevieve in person that it was over between them. He sent the news in a letter. So when Genevieve received an alabaster puzzle box from Richard with a note for her to safeguard it until he arrived to retrieve it, she did not hesitate to solve the puzzle and snoop to find out what the box contained. Believing Richard may send someone else to collect the box, Genevieve hid the paper she had found within the box. If Richard wanted it back, he would have to come in person and face her. If nothing else, she deserved that.
Simon Cooperstone, Viscount Kilburn, had been a spy for the Crown for eight years. As the Earl of Ridgemoor was dying, he told Simon that his killer's name and important evidence could be found within the alabaster puzzle box he sent to Genevieve. Though his superiors knew him well, all evidence pointed at Simon as Richard's murderer. Given a fortnight to clear his name, Simon rented the home next to Genevieve and began to pass himself off as a simple steward on vacation.
With no way of knowing if Genevieve had a hand in Richard's death, Simon decided to seduce the former mistress and search her home for the box. He quickly learned there were several problems with that plan though. Genevieve refused to even touch anyone. She constantly wore gloves to make sure of it. In addition, the lovely lady refused to ever become close to a man again. Then there was the problem of her only servant, Baxter. The giant bald manservant overflowed in bulk and muscles. It was obvious that Genevieve and Baxter have long known each other. Baxter made sure Simon knew that he would be keeping an eye on him and gladly rip Simon into tiny pieces should he ever upset Genevieve.
***** FIVE STARS! Jacquie D'Alessandro doesn't just pen a barren road that eventually leads to a happily-ever-after ending. She paves a highway with several NON-rest stops of action and adventure. There is much more going on than I mention in my synopsis. More than once I had to remind myself to breathe! But it is more than simply all the danger and intrigue jammed into this single story that kept me devouring each page. It is also due to the steamy love scenes. Harlequin titled the books of this line "BLAZE" for a reason! This is a wonderful way to warm up on a chilly night. *****
Title - My Unfair Lady
Author: Kathryne Kennedy
Set in the year 1885. Summer Wine Lee grew up with her father in Tombstone, Arizona, a mining town in America. Even though she is now rich, her fiancé's upper crust family does not consider her to be an acceptable bride. To remedy this, Summer travels to London, England, with her friend, Maria Sanchez, and her Chihuahua, Chi-chi. Her intension is to be presented to the royal family. With the acceptance of England's highest-of-the-high, Summer can prove her worthiness.
Summer hires the Duke of Monchester (Byron) to teach her all things necessary to successfully complete her quest. However, Summer did not realize there would be so much to learn. Summer is used to carrying a knife (a gift from an Apache friend) at all times. Guns, loose women, and harsh language do not bother her. So Summer is amazed at how stifled the women in England are. English ladies cannot even touch anyone, unless she is presenting a properly gloved hand to be escorted to the dance floor. Summer must face the fact that she has her work cut out for her.
Monchester, who is used to intimidating others and has developed a talent to humiliate his prey, cannot shock or insult Summer, no matter how hard he tries. He even bluntly admits at their first meeting how much he despises all American women. Yet Summer is a constant surprise to him! If she is not totally shocking him, she is causing him to laugh aloud; something he cannot recall doing for years. All too soon, this American lady is changing how Monchester looks at her.
***** FIVE STARS! Historical Romances by Kathryne Kennedy always has something for everyone. This one has hot romance, suspense (someone is trying to kill Monchester), humor, and so much more. Summer's collection of adopted pets kept me constantly amused. She has a monkey, a vixen, an old cat that cannot use its hind legs so it gets around by using ... Never mind. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the odd animals.
For the history buffs, the story tells much about history in America and England. Prince Albert Edward even makes several appearances. As I said, something for everyone. I loved every moment of Summer's story! The author, Kathryne Kennedy, is more than good. She is downright smashing! *****
Title - A Lady of Persuasion
Author: Tessa Dare
Sir Tobias "Toby" Aldridge's bride-to-be ran off to seek adventure. She has recently returned to London as the wife of Benedict "Gray" Grayson. Toby is still pondering how to achieve some revenge on the scoundrel who stole his bride when his eyes catch sight of a woman who takes his breath away. Toby decides to court the lady; however, she is seeking to wed a wealthy, powerful lord and become a lady of influence. This way she could help the needy. Sir Toby utilizes his talent for smooth debating to convince the lovely lady that should she consider him as a husband, she could and would be able to achieve her desires. Learning that the lovely lady is Isabel "Bel" Grayson makes her acceptance of his marriage proposal deliciously sweet, because Bel is the sister of Gray.
With just over two months until their wedding date, Toby must promise Bel anything she asks. Otherwise, Bel would break their engagement. This is how Sir Toby ends up promising to run for a seat in the House of Commons, though the very thought of possibly winning horrifies him. But as Toby's passion for Bel deepens into something more powerful, Toby must choose between a miserable political life or a miserable private life without Bel.
*** THREE STARS! An entertaining story that is perfect for warm, indoor reading on a rainy afternoon. Joss, Bel and Gray's widowed brother, is part of a romantic sub-plot with a physician's daughter. So readers will have the pleasure of two romances within this story. Tessa Dare's future as a romance writer looks bright indeed! ***
Title - To Catch a Bride (Devil Rides #2)
Author: Anne Gracie
Rafe Ramsey is the younger son of the late Earl of Axebridge. Since George, the current earl, is unable to produce an heir the task falls to Rafe. Rafe is furious about the marriage of convenience his brother is setting up for him. Rafe decides to leave England for a bit and perhaps cool off. As an excuse, Rafe offers to do a favor for his late grandmother's oldest friend, Lady Cleeve. Until recently, Lady Cleeve believed her son and granddaughter had died several years ago in Egypt due to plague. Now she has hope that her granddaughter may still be alive. Rafe goes to Cairo in search of the missing heiress. However, instead of a frightened young girl, Rafe finds a beautiful woman who is in hiding from something far more serious than an unwanted betrothal.
Ayisha has been orphaned and living on the streets for over six years. No longer is she the wide-eyed and innocent child she once was. She has managed to pass herself off as a young male street urchin. Should certain people learn of her gender or who her parents had been, Ayisha would find herself sold into a harem or worse. But this time Ayisha is being hunted down by an Englishman who is as determined to locate her as she is not to be found.
***** FIVE STARS! I cannot think of how to explain exactly how much I love this story. Should it ever become available in hardback, such as through a book club, I will instantly snatch it up. This couple clashes will against each other very often. It is a marvelous sight to behold. Author Anne Gracie has been added to my Must Buy list! *****
Title - Destiny's Captive (Captive #3)
Author: Kate Lyon
Texas, 1875. During his childhood he survived the raid at Baldwin Fort. The entire community had been massacred. Juan Delgado, one of the raid leaders, sold him to the Comancheros. For many years he lived with the Comanche. His name was Chikoba. Chikoba married. But his wife and their unborn son were trampled to death by soldiers. Many in the area have heard of the white warrior's fierceness against the soldiers, but he never harmed civilians. During Chikoba's vision quest, the Great Spirit tells him to return to where it all began - Baldwin Fort. Thus Chikoba puts aside the way of the People and once again wears the name of Jeremiah Baldwin.
Jeremiah returns to the site of Baldwin Fort and finds nothing is left of his past. The land now belongs to Señor Don Miguel Sanchez, the wealthiest rancher in the area. No one seems to know how he became owner of the land and Sanchez refuses to say. Then Jeremiah is attacked and left for dead.
Angelina "Angel" is another survivor from the massacre. Sanchez found her and raised her as his daughter. She has no memories of her horrible ordeal and loves Sanchez dearly. As she, Bull, and Little Bird tend to Jeremiah's wounds and hide him from Juan, her memories of the massacre begin to return. Jeremiah believes Sanchez led the attack long ago. Angel is determined to prove Sanchez's innocence. Meanwhile, Angel must deal with Juan's unwanted attentions.
***** FIVE STARS! Kate Lyon has written an exciting romance filled with the rich culture of the People and the undeniable passion of two hearts in love. The main characters have multiple problems to overcome, so I was constantly wondering what would happen next. This author has proven to me that she can write breathtaking action and romance, and still have her own distinctive flair shine through. Excellent! *****
Author: Tracy Anne Warren
Title - Seduced By His Touch
Lord John Byron "Jack" is the third son of a duke. The rake has never had any trouble charming a female into his bed. His life forever changes when he loses a large sum in a card game to a wealthy merchant, Ezra Danvers. Ezra and Jack make a deal. Ezra will forgive Jack's debt and give him over one hundred thousand pounds if he weds his daughter, Grace. But she must never learn of this arrangement. Jack must woo Grace until she falls in love with him and always make her happy.
Jack expects Grace to be ugly or have something wrong with her. Turns out that even though she is not beautiful, Grace is very pretty. She is taller than most females, but that only means Jack will not get a sore neck whenever he looks at her. The more Jack is in Grace's company, the more Jack's fondness for her grows. Then, only a few days before they are due to wed, Grace finds the contract between Jack and her father.
**** FOUR STARS! This plot has been done often in the past. Even so, the author has written a delicious story around it. Tall and bookish Grace is not perfect, head-turning beautiful, or have the blonde hair which is so in fashion for the year 1809. Instead, she has bright red hair, is well educated, conservative, and even paints natural subjects (such as flowers) that are published in folios. As the reader, I instantly connected with this common heroine. I could easily imagine myself walking a mile in her shoes since Grace is in no way tied to high society. I would especially recommend this story for reading on your vacation, such as at the beach. ****
Author: Tessa Dare
Title - Goddess of the Hunt
Set in the year 1817. For the last several years Henry Waltham has hosted an annual hunting party in the autumn for his three closest friends at Waltham Manor. The only female among them had been his little sister, Lucinda "Lucy". Little Lucy has adored Sir Toby Aldridge since the first gathering when he dubbed her his "Diana, Goddess of the Hunt". Lucy never went off to school or had a Season in London. Henry kept Lucy at home, her education taught by a never-ending-line of governesses. But then Henry wed.
Looking back, it seems to Lucy that Henry's marriage is what began all her current problems. Felix, one of Henry's three friends, followed Henry's example and has recently wed. As much as Felix's new wife and Lucy dislike one another, Lucy feels that she could simply ignore the spiteful woman. Problem is that the hag brought her sister, Sophia Hathaway, to the hunting party this year and Toby is so smitten by her that he plans to propose. Desperate to turn Toby's affections toward herself, Lucy decides to seduce Toby. She even read a book on how to do so. For practice, Lucy wakes up Jeremy Trescott, the sixth Earl of Kendall.
After eight annual hunting parties with Lucy, none of Henry's three friends see Lucy as the desirable young lady of marriageable age in which she has become. Yet all the gentlemen, including Henry, have known about Lucy's crush on Sir Toby. But when Lucy wakes Jeremy up in the middle of the night to practice kissing seductively with him, Jeremy knows the men have a real problem. The men decide that Jeremy should distract Lucy from Toby and Sophia by paying a bit of romantic attention to her. Jeremy dares not inform them that after Lucy's practice kisses his brotherly feelings toward her have changed. Then Lucy comes up with a plan for Jeremy to help her make Toby jealous by pretending to court her. What starts out as Jeremy's way to eventually help Lucy keep her pride once Toby proposes to Sophia turns into self-torture, because Jeremy has begun to crave Lucy's kisses.
**** FOUR STARS! Tessa Dare's writing talent shines through on every page. This story is so well written that I could easily feel Lucy's desperation and later her confusion about her feelings. Yet I also understood why Jeremy kept silent about his own troubling past, as well as why he felt he did not deserve Lucy. Those of us who were tom-boys in our youths will easily relate to Lucy's situation. I loved every minute. I look forward to reading Sophia's story, Surrender of a Siren. ****
Author: Tessa Dare
Title - Surrender of a Siren
Wanting to experience a grand adventure, real life and true passion, Sophia Hathaway jilts her fiancé and disappears. After packing up her paints and sketchbook, the pampered heiress assumes a new identity and secures passage on the merchant ship Aphrodite. Sophia pretends to be a governess named Jane Turner heading for Tortola to begin her new position. With these actions, Sophia knows she has been labeled as a fallen woman. She is about to learn that the real world is far different from the romantic fantasies she imagines.
Benedict "Gray" Grayson used to be a privateer. This is to be the ship's maiden voyage as a respectable merchant ship. No longer will Gray be a conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for profit and pleasure. Gray immediately knows that there is more to the lovely governess than meets the eye. He also understands that everyone is allowed their secrets. But when Sophia's perception, kindness, sass, and artistry begins to stir his heart, Gray simply cannot resist her.
***** FIVE STARS! Time wise, this story begins immediately following the ending of Lucy's tale, Goddess of the Hunt. Sophia was a secondary character in the previous book and I had been hoping she would get her own story told. I believe this adventure to be even better than the last. Author Tessa Dare has a wonderful writing style that allows the story to flow smoother than a calm day at sea. An enticing plot with engaging characters, this romance is pure delight. *****
Author: Deborah MacGillivray
Title - One Snowy Knight
(Dragons of Challon #3)
Set in Scotland, December of 1296. Noel de Servian's parents had died when he was but five-years-old. He was raised by the Earl Michael and grew up as a brother to the Challon siblings. Now the Challon brothers, including Noel, are known as the "Dragons of Challon". After long years of battles, the war weary dragons yearn to settle down and create their own families. Noel has been granted the title of baron and a small holding called Craigendan located in the rugged Northland. Eager to see his new home, Noel sets out during a massive snow blizzard. He ends up lost and face down in the snow. He is found by two children who go for help. The next thing he recalls is a beautiful woman shielding him from a wolf attack.
Lady Skena MacIain of Craigendan has seen too much of life's harsh realities to ever believe in wishes coming true. Her young twins, Andrew and Annis, insist the knight they found in the snow storm is the answer to their Yuletide wish. Though supplies are dwindling, Skena uses them to help save the knight. Unlike with her late husband, Skena finds herself drawn to Noel. The bond between them is so strong that it makes Skena nervous. Before Noel is fully healed, Sir Guillaume Challon arrives. Skena is shocked to learn Noel is the foster brother of Craigendan's overlord, not to mention he has come to take control of Craigendan.
As Noel heals, the bond between him and Skena continues to grow. The attraction is almost magical. But as the two begin to explore their feelings for each other, danger rears its ugly head. Someone is trying to kill Skena! When Skena informs Noel that she has been seeing glimpses of her first husband and that perhaps he was not really dead, Noel sets out to learn who is acting as the late baron's ghost. Noel knows for a fact that Skena's first husband is dead, because Noel's hand is the one that felled him. And though Skena claims she and her late husband never loved each other, how will she react when she told that her soon-to-be-husband is the man that killed her children's father?
***** FIVE STARS! Though this is the third book in the "Dragons of Challon" series, you do not have to read the previous titles to fully enjoy the story. The previous titles (A Restless Knight and In Her Bed) are about Skena's cousins. Each title is a stand-alone story. Those who have read the first two stories will feel as though they already know a bit about the main characters' personalities. The author made Noel and Skena even more real to me by giving the couple their own private jokes. (After all, every close couple I know have their own humorous quotes that makes them grin at each other or laugh, yet no one around them knows what is so funny.) These little touches endear the characters to me.
As with any good book, there is at least one villain so sneaky and vile that I could not help but love to hate. For me, this makes a book more interesting. I love it when I see the villain do horrible things to the heroine, because it makes me enjoy their capture so much more. This is a terrific addition to the "Dragons of Challon" series and I am happy to recommend it to fans of historical romances! *****
Author: Mary Balogh
Title - At Last Comes Love (Huxtable Family #3)
Duncan Pennethorne, the infamous Earl of Sheringford, left London five years ago after jilting his fiancé on their wedding day and running off with a married woman, Mrs. Laura Turner. Now Laura has been dead several months. Duncan plans to move into Woodpine Park in Warwickshire. Duncan has no doubts that his son, Toby, will love growing up there as much as he did. However, Duncan is cut off from his grandfather, the Marquess of Claverbrook, and Duncan returns to London to discover why. It seems Duncan has forgotten that he had promised he would wed before his grandfather's eightieth birthday. Unless Duncan weds a respectable lady within fifteen days, Woodpine Park would go to his cousin instead.
Margaret Huxtable is the sister of the young Earl of Merton. Margaret had only been a girl herself when their father died and she promised to take over the care of two younger sisters and one younger brother. Now the sisters have grown and are happily married. The brother has grown too and will soon be searching for a bride. Thirty-year-old Margaret has fulfilled her promise, but is now considered a spinster. While at the Tindell's ball, Margaret meets up with Crispen Dew, the man who had betrayed her and wed another. Now a widow, Crispen believes Margaret will jump at the chance to still wed him. Unfortunately for him, Fate steps in. Margaret collides with Duncan in the doorway, where he asks her to dance and to marry him - all in one sentence. A lie to Crispen has Margaret accept Duncan's offers for the dance and the proposal, on one condition: Duncan must woo her.
**** This is the third story of the Huxtable Family series. It is terrific to finally see the responsible sister get her own story told. (The brother's story will be next.) Over half the book deals with the fifteen days between Duncan and Margaret. The rest of the story is set at Woodpine Park, where a subplot that is read about in London takes off to become the main focus. This deals with the newly wed couple settling in and with Toby. I cannot say anything about that without major spoilers though. However, in my opinion, it is even more interesting than the time spent in London. The main characters from the previous titles of the series appear as secondary characters in this one, so if you have read those stories you will get to see how they are doing. This makes the story even more believable. I look forward to the brother's story! ****
Author: Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Title - A Highlander's Temptation
Set in the year 1350. Lady Arabella is the eldest daughter of Duncan MacKenzie, Black Stag of Kintail. After Arabella's father refused or frightened off all the suitors who had offered for her hand in marriage, Arabella decides to visit Seal Isles which had recently been added to her dowry to tempt new offers. Though the MacKenzies have had an ancient claim to the isles, no one has been there in a long time. With the support of her seer mother, Linnet, and Sir Marmaduke, Arabella is finally given permission to sail to Seal Isles.
When an unexpected attack from the ominous Black Vikings sink the ship, Arabella is rescued by Darroc MacConacher, chief to his people and keeper of Castle Bane. It had been the MacKenzies that led the raid (now known as the MacConacher Slaughter) which left most all his people physically scarred and drove them from their lands. Now Darroc finally has the means to extract the vengeance his people deserve. Arabella has no idea that this is the clan her grandfather ruined. Her charm and good heart quickly works magic on Darroc's people. Darroc desires the enchanting lady and must fight to keep his distance from her.
Due to interference from Mother Nature, compliments of a famous cailleach named Devorgilla, the MacKenzies and the MacConachers are isolated on their own lands. And Darroc now wonders if he will be strong enough to keep from falling in love with his enemy's daughter.
***** FIVE STARS! I do not normally read books about the Highlander clans, but occasionally the mood strikes and I pick one up. I am very happy that I chose this title to read. The main characters are well developed and the history between the clans is dark, yet intriguing. The author does not skimp on the secondary characters either. I came to care for several of them within both clans. I love the fact that even though Darroc has the right and desire for revenge upon the MacKenzies, his honor keeps him from venting this rage upon an innocent lass. The touches of magic add a mystical flavor to the story as well. Terrific! *****
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Title - To Beguile a Beast (Four Soldiers #3)
Helen Fitzwilliam has been the mistress of Algernon Downey, the Duke of Lister, for years. During that time, Helen has given birth to a daughter and a son. Lister has not come to Helen's bed for a very long time, yet refuses to let her go. Lister considers Helen and the kids as his property. If Helen even hints at leaving him, Lister takes the children away. Finally it is too much. With the help of Lady Vale, Helen and the children flee to Castle Greaves in Scotland. Helen is to pose as a widow and announce to Sir Alistair Munroe that she is his new housekeeper. Helen had been told the man was a recluse, but no one warned her of his ghastly scars of injured fingers. Unable to do anything but go forward, Helen must somehow convince the disagreeable man (she mentally addresses him as "Sir Beastly" due to his rudeness) to let her take the position of housekeeper. Every inch of the crumbling castle is caked with dust and grime. But this is the perfect place for Helen and the children to hide.
Six years ago Alistair had been charged with discovering and describing the flora and fauna of New England. It was a civilian position with the 28th Regiment of Foot. Due to a traitorous spy, the men walked into an ambush at Spinner's Falls. Alistair is one of only a few survivors. It was there he lost an eye and found the scars. Since no female or child can see him without screaming in horror, Alistair stays in his castle. The last thing he wants is a servant underfoot, much less two children. If only he did not find Helen so desirable or the children such a delight.
***** Elizabeth Hoyt loosely takes the foundation of the classic "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale and spins a web of pure delight. Helen did what any good parent would by risking her life to remove her children from possible harm. But only a strong woman would be a match for Sir Beastly, right? As an added bonus, there is part of a short fairy-like-tale about the "Truth Teller" at the beginning of the prologue, each chapter, and the epilogue. I believe this story will be another sparkling diamond for the author's crown. Nothing less than magnificent! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - The Virgin's Secret
Enrico Montini found an ancient Akkadian seal with reference to the Virgin's Secret of the lost city of Ambropia. It is one of three seals that (together) would reveal the location of the city itself. When Enrico went to present the seal to the Antiquities Society he discovered it had been stolen and a false seal left in its place. Enrico was discredited and died shortly thereafter.
Gabriella, Enrico's sister, believes the seal was stolen by one of the Harrington brothers. While searching the Harrington's library, she is caught. The Harrington brothers are sons of the Earl of Wyldewood. After hearing Gabriella's tale, Countess Wyldewood insists they help Gabriella in her quest. Believing Gabriella alone in the world and in financial trouble, the countess offers her a room in their home. Nathanial "Nate", the youngest, agrees to help Gabriella. Nate and Gabriella had danced at a ball recently and their attraction to each other is demanding. So while residing in the same home they can not only keep an eye on each other, but also team up to learn the identity of the real thief and recover the seal to clear the Montini name. And perhaps, if Fate smiles upon them, Gabriella and Nate may take a leap of faith.
***** This is the first of a series about three brothers. Though they are sons of an earl, these brothers love to explore the world and discover artifacts, much like Indiana Jones. I can only hope the two other brothers' stories will be as exciting as this one is. The author created the heroine, Gabriella, to be loyal, brave, and incredibly intelligent. No wimpy lady for this exhilarating adventure. I could not help but admire the earl's entire family. Each member is totally unique in their own way. The author even goes so far as to give each their own set of quirks and personality. Victoria Alexander has outdone herself yet again! Brava! *****
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Title - Always a Scoundrel (Notorious Gentlemen #3)
Lord Bramwell "Bram" Johns is the second son of the Duke of Levonzy. Bram has always wanted to master every vice known to man, and if possible to create several new ones. He is already made a very good start too. Since the few men Bram will admit to calling his friends have recently gotten wed and reformed their wild ways, Bram has become bored. In an attempt to rid his restlessness Bram has started breaking into the homes of his peers. But while sneaking within the home of the Earl of Abernathy, Bram overhears the earl informing his daughter, Lady Rosamund "Rose" Davies, that she will marry the Marquis of Cosgrove at the end of the month. It seems Abernathy's heir, James, has gambled away ten thousand pounds that the family is unable to pay. Cosgrove will forgive the debt in exchange for Rose's hand. Bram knows Cosgrove better than anyone else. Lady Rose would not survive long once she was wed to the monster.
Rose never enjoyed being in Cosgrove's company, but now she actually loathes it. If the marquis were a decent man then she would not mind marrying him and would have done her best to be a good wife. However, it is fast becoming clear that Cosgrove intends to humiliate and even physically abuse her. Since it is obvious that her parents do not care, Rose decides to risk everything and accept help from Bram, a man who's heart is as black as her intended's is.
***** Suzanne Enoch makes being notorious fun! Bram really is as bad as he appears, so watching him reevaluate his life and actually try to be good is extremely entertaining. Do not open this book until you have plenty of time to dedicate to reading. I found it difficult to put down for even a few minutes. If you read the first previous books in the Notorious Gentlemen series, then you will be pleased to know that Bram friends are Sully and Phin. Bram helped them out during their stories, now they get to return the favors. Wickedly delightful! *****
Author: Emily Gee
Title - The Laurentine Spy
She was born dirt poor, below even the peasants. Dreading the life open before her, Saliel takes an opportunity to become a spy in the Corhonase citadel. With the money she earns Saliel could buy a better life for herself. She could have her independence and land with a small cottage by the sea. She becomes part of an elite spy group. She is only called Three whenever she meets with the others. Two is a servant and One is a nobleman. They meet secretly, deep under the citadel, within the catacombs. They are cloaked and wear hoods, keeping each ignorant of the others' identities. Only the Guardian knows their true names and faces. Up in the citadel, in the ballrooms and salons of the nobles' Court, she is believed to be Lady Petra.
After so long, Saliel's time of spying is almost over. Arrangements are being made for her departure. The only things left to do are to copy the third code book and disappear forever. But a sadistic Spycatcher is brought in. His pale eyes force people to speak the truth. Saliel is the only spy with the ability to lie to the Spycatcher. She keeps quiet as to how she accomplishes this. Should it ever become known that she has just a bit of magic, she would be burned at the stake.
**** This story is very much like a Historical Romance with small tad of magic thrown in. If you are looking for more magic than what seems to be hypnotizing, you will be disappointed. The setting is much like the Regency era of London's past. Saliel is the heroine of the story, but there is also a hero, Athan of House Seresin. Once out of the citadel, the story does not dwindle to a stop. On the contrary, it actually picks up and becomes even more exciting. The two spies must learn to trust each other and share their darkest secrets if they are to escape their pursuers. A believable story that shows prime examples of how far people may go for love and loyalty. ****
Author: Robyn DeHart
Title - Seduce Me (Legend Hunters)
Esme Worthington believes it to be her fault that she is on the shelf. After all, her mother had warned Esme that men did not want a woman who spoke her opinions or had any book learning. Esme is very knowledgeable about the legendary Pandora's Box. This is why Esme finds herself kidnapped by the Raven's men. The Raven is a ruthless treasure seeker. He hunts and steals antiquities for profit. Before Esme knows it she is unwillingly wearing a bracelet from the box. Each bracelet represents one of the curses. Esme's is cursed with Lust. She has about two weeks to figure out how to remove the bracelet before the curse kills her.
Fielding Grey used to work for the Raven. Now he is freelance. Fielding hunts treasure on his own, hiring himself out to clients who are collectors. When the members of Solomon's hire him to locate and retrieve Pandora's Box, Fielding realizes that this is his chance to infiltrate the club. Somewhere within Solomon's is the answer as to who is responsible for his father's death. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one's point-of-view, Fielding finds himself rescuing a damsel in distress. The longer Fielding spends in Esme's company, the more attracted to her he becomes. But is it real or a result of the curse dangling from her wrist? And how can he keep Esme safe from the Raven, help her figure out how to remove the bracelet, keep the box out of the wrong hands, as well as search for information about his father's death?
***** This is one of the best historical romances I have read this year. I have always been interested in the legend about Pandora's Box. Perhaps that is why I found myself unable to stop reading. I read the entire book in one night. (Who needs sleep?) The engaging plot and charming characters blend together for one intoxicating read. *****
Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Title - Tempted at Midnight
(Mayhem in Mayfair #4)
Lady Emily Stapleford knows that her father owes an enormous debt to the wealthy American, Mr. Logan Jennsen, and that financial ruin now threatens to crash down on the family's head. As the oldest, Emily understands that should she marry someone rich her family will be saved. However, Emily only wants to marry for love. Emily pens a romantic story about a female vampire, but every publishing firm rejects it. The story is wonderful. It is that London readers were not interested in a vampire heroine. Emily decides to create interest by dressing as a vampire and having one or two sightings around town. The stir would cause interest and sales with her novel, relieving her family of it financial troubles. Then she would not be forced to wed for money. The only problem is the beautiful (in a very manly way, of course) Logan Jennsen.
Logan knows Emily is up to something. But he is too busy with his own problems to worry about her at the moment. Logan has an arsonist targeting his business. Unknown to Logan, his past has returned. Once the evil man realizes Logan's interest in Emily, the attacks cease on Logan's business and begin on the woman he is growing very, very fond of.
***** Though I hate to see the series come to an end, I love seeing all four couples interact in this installment. In my opinion, the author has saved the best for last. I actually devoured this story in one sitting. To stop reading was simply NOT an option. Each character is unique and I feel as though I know them personally. An entertaining romp that I will never forget. Do you know what that makes you? One lucky reader if you pick up a copy. *****
Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Title - Seduced at Midnight
(Mayhem in Mayfair #3)
Lady Julianne Bradley's parents could easily be called cold-hearted and uncaring. In fact, those are the nicer terms one could use to describe Lord and Lady Gatesbourne. Being the daughter of titled parents, Julianne always knew her marriage would be arranged by her father to the one with the highest title and wealth. Now that time has arrived. Instead of going through the motions of posting the bans and a long engagement to prepare for a lavish Society wedding (and help her to mentally prepare for a long, loveless life) Julianne learns that she is due to wed the Duke of Eastling within two weeks and immediately be stashed away in Cornwall. Though resigned to her fate, Julianne longs for love and passion. She wants what two of her friends were lucky enough to find in their marriages. When thinking of her imaginary love, Julianne always conjures up the image of Bow Street Runner Gideon Mayne. She met Gideon two months ago when he was investigating a series of murders plaguing Mayfair. His image is what Julianne sees whenever she devours the latest novel her bookclub is reading. You see, the Ladies Literary Society of London did not read boring, but acceptable, books. Instead, the books they chose to read are very sexually explicit.
The topic on everybody's tongues these days is about a murdering ghost robber. All the victims are wealthy ladies, found dead with their valuables missing. And it seems Julianne is next on the killer's list. Gideon is hired by Lord Gatesbourne to guard Julianne until she is safely wed and Eastling's responsibility. Gideon accepts, though he finds himself strongly attracted to Lady Julianne. While Gideon protects her from a murderer, who will protect him from Julianne?
***** A story by Jacquie D'Alessandro is to be slowly savored like fine wine. This author excels in making readers feel the same emotions her characters do. These emotions are so strong at times that they may punch you harder than brandy. And this latest installment of the Mayhem in Mayfair series is no exception. From beginning to end, this tale over flows with romance, passion, humor, and danger. I came to care deeply for the main couple (even the huge guard dog and the tiny ankle biter). I dreaded seeing the number of pages left to read dwindling and found myself reading slower and slower. Now if only I can make it until this author's next release. Astounding! *****
Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Title - Confessions at Midnight (Mayhem in Mayfair #2)
Carolyn Turner, Viscountess Wingate, has been in mourning for too long. Her recently wedded sister, Sarah, has convinced her to at least attend some parties and join the Ladies Literary Society. Not wanting to read the boring tales most other ladies do, they choose "Memoirs of a Mistress". Shocked as she is, Carolyn reads the book - many times. Soon Carolyn finds herself succumbing to the seductions of Daniel Sutton, Earl Surbrooke. She is positive it is only due to her steamy reading of late; however, Carolyn yearns to feel alive again. Her answer is to begin an affair with the handsome rogue.
Daniel has been besotted by Carolyn for over a decade, but she had been wed to Edward, a friend of his. Therefore, Daniel has kept his distance. Now that Carolyn is a widow, he decides to get her out of his system by getting the lovely widow into his bed until such time he grows weary of her. But Daniel is about to learn that falling arse over backwards in love is not something you plan for.
**** Each chapter begins with a sneak peak into the scandalous book Carolyn and her group is reading. Keeping in mind the era this story is set in, I am amazed the book was not more notorious with the gentlemen of the Ton. I would think they would have been trying to figure out who the anonymous lady author is and exactly which gentleman she dallied with. There are more love scenes than normal, but if you are not reading a "romance" novel for the romance then you are choosing the wrong genre to browse. There is danger in the story, though not a lot. Seems someone is killing Daniel's ex-lovers, however, the intrigue does not start as soon in the story as I would have liked. If you want something to put you on the edge of your seat, go elsewhere. This story, in my opinion, is great for light reading, such as while you are on the beach or in the mountains. Pick up a copy and tuck it into whatever suit case you plan to use on your next vacation. Excellent warm weather reading. ****
Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Title: Sleepless at Midnight (Mayhem in Mayfair #1)
Matthew Devenport, Marquess Langston, must marry an heiress within the next few months. However, a trip to London and courting ladies would take time away from a second vital task. His solution is to invite some gentlemen, unwed ladies, and chaperons to Langston Manor for a house party. Matthew could look over the ladies, court the one he chooses, and never have to cease his search in the garden. (But his search would have to be done late at night when no one would see.)
Problem is that even though the beautiful heiresses are exactly what he needs, Matthew is drawn to Viscountess Carolyn Wingate's plain companion, Miss Sarah Moorehouse. Sarah is not only plain, but wears spectacles. She is Lady Carolyn's sister, but a lowly physician's daughter and no heiress. Matthew would never have noticed her except he unexpectedly meets her in the garden as she sketches. Their brief exchange is anything but boring. No weather, no fashion, but a REAL and intelligent conversation. Sarah quickly becomes everything Matthew wants, but cannot have.
All the ladies, minus the chaperoning mothers, form the Ladies Literary Society of London. Instead of poetry and other novel approved by Society, they decide to read "Frankenstein". During a lively discussion, they decide to create the perfect man - figuratively, of course. Each is assigned a task. Sarah is to pilfer a shirt from their host, Matthew Devenport. When Sarah spies Matthew in the garden, at midnight, with a shovel, her imagination goes wild.
While Sarah and Matthew are distracted by each other, someone else is watching. Someone who wants what is buried in the garden. Someone who has already killed once for it and may again.
***** Jacquie D'Alessandro brings enticing characters and drama to her readers once again. Sarah Moorehouse is unique and a refreshing change from normal Society ladies. Romance, drama, and a bit of danger make this novel spectacular. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. DO NOT MISS IT! *****
Author: Connie Brockway
Title - So Enchanting
As a child, Grey Sheffield's father had dragged him from séance to séance to communicate with his dead sister, ruining the family's fortune and name, while all young Grey could do was watch, helpless and infuriated and incapable of preventing it. It is no wonder that, once an adult, Lord Greyson Sheffield became a predator, chasing down and exposing charlatans, destroying their reputations and their livelihoods in a court of law. This time Grey exposed Alphonse Brown and his wife, Francesca, as the frauds they were. Alphonse escaped and fled from London and soon afterward died in an accident. Francesca never left London. Very shortly after her husband died, she disappeared.
Francesca never wanted to help Alphonse in his scams and she did not mourn his death. But when Alphonse courted her he did not seem to care that all animals responded to her emotions. She thought he actually loved her. Now with his death, Francesca was adrift and wondering what she should do now. Her family wanted nothing at all to do with her. Fate comes in the form of Colonel Chase. The colonel knew of Francesca's affinity with animals having known her long ago. The colonel's young daughter, Amelie, has begun showing signs of paranormal abilities. Colonel Chase offers Francesca a position as Amelie's governess. She accepts on the condition that no one knows of her past. Francesca Brown became Fanny Walcott.
Colonel Chase, Amelie, and Fanny settle down in the small town of Little Firkin in Scotland. Diagnosed with a terminal disease, Colonel Chase set up his will, naming Amelie's legal guardian to be Lord Collier should he die before she reached her majority. The will also states that when Miss Chase reaches the age of twenty-one AND provided she is still living in the town of Little Firkin, she will inherit the bulk of Colonel Chase's estate. Those who were residents of Little Firkin at the time of Colonel Chase's death and are still residents upon Miss Chase reaching her majority will divide a huge sum amongst them. Shortly thereafter, Colonel Chase dies. The residents are not thrilled with having Amelie, who is considered to be a witch, living among them. However, for the money they tolerate her and the governess, Fanny Walcott.
Six years pass. Lord Collier receives a letter stating that Amelie Chase's life may be in danger. He sends his son, Lord "Hayden" Augustus Collier, and Lord Grey Sheffield to Little Firkin to learn whether Amelie's life is actually in danger or not. Grey is surprised to see Francesca with Amelie and instantly believes Fanny to be performing a scam of some sort. Grey cannot help but feel the same attraction to Fanny as he did six years ago. Grey also finds it to be refreshing to be with a lady who is sick of subtlety and equivocation. Fanny speaks her mind and challenges Grey over just about everything. Hayden is too smitten with Amelie to bother noticing the sparks between Grey and Fanny. The four begin brainstorming to figure out who send the letter to Amelie's guardian and why anyone would risk harming the girl and losing a fortune.
***** An exhilarating ride full of wit, romance, and a bit of magic. Each character is well developed and watching Grey and Fanny have heated arguments (that often become funny) is so much fun! I hated to see it end. Perhaps Amelie or her offspring will get a story. I can only hope. *****
Author: Julia London
Title - Highland Scandal (Scandal #2)
It is the year 1807. The situation in London is rather tense with the Delicate Investigation under way. That is what people are calling the investigation into the princess's behavior. The Lords Commissioners are examining the accusations against the princess. Most of them are untrue. A wrathful Prince of Wales (George) is hauling in anyone believed to have shared the princess's bed.
When Jankin "Jack" MacLeary Haines, Earl of Lambourne, is accused of adultery with the Princess of Wales, he flees to his native Scotland. Jack believes that George would soon come to his senses and realize that Jack would never have committed the treasonous offense. Once the ridiculous charges were dropped, Jack could return to his London home. Instead, George hires Scottish bounty hunters to search Scotland for the earl. The men that finally capture Jack take him to their laird, Carson Beal. Carson blackmails Jack into handfasting his niece, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Drummond Beal. A handfast is an old Highland custom - a marriage lasting a year and a day, unless both partners agree to make it a lifelong vow. Lizzie may be beautiful, but she is a hellion.
Lizzie is forced to handfast to the earl by her uncle, Carson. Carson is using the handfast to ruin her chances of a respectable marriage with Gavin Gordon of Glen Cochill. Carson claims it is due to an old family feud, but Jack believes there is another reason the laird wants Lizzie and her sister to keep living in poverty at Thorntree. As Jack ponders it all, he also begins to thaw Lizzie's attitude.
***** I must say that Lizzie's unintelligent attitude at the beginning was a bit too much for me. She kept ignoring Jack's sound advice and making matters worse. (As my mother would say, "She was cutting off her nose, despite her face.") That is the only time Lizzie grated on my nerves and I did not think it was irritating enough to subtract even half a star. This tale began with Jack running from bounty hunters. Needless to say, that caught my attention immediately. This story kept me glued as the author toyed with my imagination like a child with building blocks. I would be enthralled by a conversation as the main characters brainstorm what to do, when suddenly I would find myself laughing out loud as something ridiculous happens or is said. Ingenious! *****
Author: Catherine Kean
Title - A Knight's Temptation (Knight's series #3)
Set in Moydenshire, England. In Summer, 1183, an eight-year-old Leona Ransley was tied to a tree against her wishes by her brother and his new friend, Aldwin Treynarde. The boys were pretending to be knights and planned to bravely rescue Leona, their damsel in distress. But the boys' fun became dangerous when, as they vanquished their invisible foes out of sight from her, Leona became covered in a swarm of bees. For twelve years Aldwin heard nothing and believed his actions had killed an innocent maiden.
In Summer, 1195, Aldwin Treynarde is a loyal servant of Geoffrey de Lanceau, lord of Branton Keep and all of Moydenshire. Aldwin is ordered by his lord to retrieve a stolen ruby pendant before it falls into the hands of the Baron and Veronique. Baron Sedgewick was sent to the king's dungeon for plotting to kill de Lanceau and Lady Elizabeth's sire, as well as his cruel deceptions that led to the death of de Lanceau's father eighteen years prior. The baron's conspirator, de Lanceau's former courtesan by the name of Veronique Desjardan, was also imprisoned for trying to poison and stab de Lanceau. Somehow, they escaped. They were never recaptured. De Lanceau once heard they had fled England for Normandy, but this was never proven. For years, there was no word of them. Now they have returned to Moydenshire and are once again plotting against de Lanceau.
Lady Leona Ransley, trying to help her depressed father and the people of Pryerston depending on him, intercepts the ruby pendant before it reaches Veronique and wants only to hand it over for the reward. Upon meeting, Aldwin believes the hooded lady to be a courtesan with information on the whereabouts of the Baron and Veronique. Aldwin takes the mysterious woman hostage, meaning to deliver her and the pendant to Lord de Lanceau. Not only does Leona NOT want to go with Aldwin, but dangerous people pursue them. And when Aldwin realizes who the mysterious lady is, he knows that he has one last chance to protect her.
***** I am not a big fan of stories with knights in them, but there are a handful of authors that are an exception simply because they write the stories so well that I cannot resist! Author Catherine Kean is one of those few. The characters are so realistic because the author shows their flaws. They are not perfect. They are human. They are believable. Another thing I hate is when the main characters are just hard-headed or the wedge between the two is due to a series of miscommunications. I want to smack those upside their heads. I found none of that nonsense here. Everything in this story could have actually happened. The tale does not slow down in the middle either. I could not bring myself to stop reading long enough to fix dinner. (I ordered pizza and kept on reading.) Catherine Kean writes dazzling and unforgettable stories. *****
Author: Sarah Stanley
Title - Star-Crossed Summer
Set in 1815. Jane had been a soiled dove lucky enough to marry wealthy Esmond Tremoille. Upon Esmond's death, Jane made sure she would get everything by doing away with the lawyer and torching his office. But rumor has it that Esmond had drawn up another will, revoking the one Jane has and leaving all to his daughter, Elizabeth "Beth". Jane had tossed Beth out last year and waits for her year of bereavement to be done so she can wed Lord (Thomas) Welland.
Sir Guy Valmer of Greylake is determined to claim Tremoille House, which had once belonged to his family. He needs only to find the second will and then marry Beth, by force if need be. Locating Beth is the harder of the two, because she knows Sir Guy is hunting her.
Beth had come across the dead body of the man taking Jane's money to the bank. Though Beth did not kill the man, she did steal the money. She leaves half the money for Jake Mannacott, the blacksmith she had been with since Jane kicked her out. With the other half, Jane goes to London. When Sir Guy finds her in London, Beth flees to the coast of Exmoor and leases the Dower House. It is there Beth meets wealthy landowner Landry Haldane. Once Beth feels safe, she allows herself to be with Landry even though she secretly longs for Sir Guy. Unknown to Beth though, Sir Guy has finally found her again.
***** Author Sarah Stanley keeps the story realistic to its time setting. I never found a flaw, though I admit that there are a bit too many coincidences. The secondary characters are almost as well developed as the main characters. Each personality has several layers, much like a real person. The story so well written that I found myself hating the wicked stepmother, and loving every moment of it, only to later actually start feeling a bit sorry for her. (Just a bit though.) This title is can work as a stand-alone story, however, if you do not know that there is to be a sequel released (Midwinter Marriage, May 29, 2009) you will not feel totally satisfied. It ends in a good spot, but leaves a few strings dangling. Be warned that this book is hotter than your average historical romance. All-in-all, Sarah Stanley has proven herself to be a terrific writer and I eagerly look forward to another story by this amazing author. *****
Author: Emily Bryan
Title - Vexing the Viscount
It has been over a decade since they had sparred with play swords and she had scarred his chin. Yet Daisy Drake recognized Lucian Beaumont, Viscount Rutland, the instant she saw him again. The pair speaks only briefly before Lucian enters a meeting with the Society of Antiquaries. Lucian has discovered ancient Roman relics and hopes to gather a partner or two for funding. However, his father is still held accountable for the South Seas Company scandal, so no one will take the risk ... except Daisy. Problem is that Lucian's father blames Daisy's uncle for the doom of the South Seas Company because the man refused to invest. Should Lucian accept funding from any Drake, life with his father would become even more unbearable.
Daisy's great-aunt, Lady Wexford "Isabella", used to be a highly sought after courtesan. For over a month now Daisy has been reading in Isabella's library. Being "on the shelf" meant she could do as she pleased, within reason of course. It is in this library Daisy found the unpublished memoirs of Mademoiselle Blanche La Tour, a French courtesan. With Isabella's approval, Daisy dons the guise of Blanche and joins her great-aunt's masquerade party. As Blanche, Daisy becomes Lucian's partner. Not only does Daisy become his business partner, but "Blanche" also promises to teach Lucian how to kiss and please a lady. Blanche's memoirs were very detailed so Daisy would have no troubles. At least that is what Daisy told herself. Yet any time Lucian touches her, Daisy is hard pressed to remain in character.
**** There is more than one charade going on in this story. Daisy by day, Blanche by night, and Miss Clavenhook whenever Lucian's father is near. (Lucian's idea.) There is also a pair of treasonous men after the Roman treasure. It all adds up to one of the most wickedly fun reads I have had in quite some time. Terrific! ****
Author: Cathy Maxwell
Title - A Seduction at Christmas
(Scandals & Seductions, Book 1)
Dominic "Nick" Lynsted, Duke of Holburn, has been hunting the Spaniard named Andres for over nine years. Back then, after a night of drunken debauchery, Nick had woken to find his priceless signet ring stolen - along with bits of clothing. Nick had still not shaken off the effects of the night when he spied what could not be anything other than an oracle. After nine years he could still hear her say "Beware innocence." It was advice Nick took to heart. Unfortunately it was the only advice he took. Nick began gambling and soon lost his fortune. Now Nick believes that his only hope of salvation is to find that ring. To this end, Nick goes to an arranged meeting in a private room at The Swan's Next. Nick expects to capture Andres as the man enters the room. Instead he finds his hands filled with a lovely lady from his past.
Fiona Lachlan had been born a magistrate's daughter. She met Nick at a ball but left shortly thereafter to help her brother and his new wife escape London before they could be captured. It has been a long time since then. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Fiona is penniless and needs funds to keep a roof over the heads of herself and a big wolfhound named Tad. For twenty pounds Fiona agrees to help a courtesan named Hester teach an ex-lover a lesson. Fiona is to slip an elixir into the man's drink to entice stomach pains only. Instead of the man Fiona expects to be in the room, it is occupied by Nick. They quickly find themselves on the run from assassins.
***** Non-stop action from the first page until the last. I could not put the book down. Of course the heroine, Fiona, is putty in Nick's hands she still has sense to keep her distance. Fiona had been violated a year prior and wants nothing to do with men. This makes for some interesting reading because the hero has his work cut out for him to win the heroine's affections. Nobody writes Regency Historical Romances like Cathy Maxwell. Pure bliss! *****
Authors: Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Candice Hern
Title - It Happened One Night (4 Novellas)
The Fall of Rogue Gerrard by Stephanie Laurens
Lydia Makepeace needs to infiltrate the home of Lord Alconbury in order to retrieve a letter her sister had written. Problem is that Lord Alconbury has several guests and nightly orgies that do not end until past dawn. After scoping out Alconbury's home one evening, Lydia returns to the inn and is shocked to see Lord Gerrard "Ro". Perhaps Lydia can get a bit of help. **** A bit of adventure with this romance - and who would not enjoy that? ****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - Seduction of a Proper Gentleman
(Conclusion of Last Man Standing saga)
Set in England, the year 1854. According to a legend, five hundred years ago this very season two border families, one Scottish and one English, were supposed to be joined in marriage to end the years of violence between them. But the marriage never occurred. An old woman, who had lost everyone she loved to the bloodshed, was furious that it would continue. She cast a curse on the families involved. If they did not join in marriage by the end of five hundred years, both families would cease to exist and terrible, dreadful things would happen.
Lady Kathleen MacDavid is the widow of Sir Kenneth. She is the granddaughter of the dowager Countess of Dumleavy, the niece of the current earl, Malcolm, and his sister, Hannah. Kathleen did not believe in the curse until recently and now seeks to wed Oliver Leighton, the Earl of Norcroft, to break the curse. Though Kathleen has come to accept this marriage between the two families as inevitable, she is still reluctant and uneasy. Kathleen and Hannah travel via train to the country, where Oliver is spending time at Norcroft Manor with his mother, Lady Norcroft (Edwina). Hannah, who dabbles with magic, wants Kathleen to pretend to lose her memory. When Kathleen refuses, Hannah casts her spell.
Oliver Leighton and his mother are surprised when the unconscious is brought to Norcroft Manor by two locals and a lady en route to Lord Darlington's current party. When the lady finally awakens, it is without her memory. The doctor is sure the memory will return eventually. Until then Edwina insists the lost lady remain at the manor. Oliver is suspicious and doubts the memory loss; however, it only takes a few days and tests to totally convince him. She is given the temporary name of Kate. Oliver cannot help but become smitten by the lady.
Exactly one week after Hannah's spell was cast, Kate wakes up with her full memory. But how will she convince Oliver of a curse, much less of magic? And once Kathleen/Kate tells everything, will Oliver believe her or hate her?
***** This is the last story in the The Last Man Standing saga. I dreaded seeing it end. Author Victoria Alexander breathes life into her characters and I feel as though I know them well. I will miss these friends terribly. However, this also means that the author is free to begin a new trilogy and I have no doubt I will feel as though I am making new friends. I have rarely found an author that can create such wonderful people, loosely link them all together in some manner, and do so in such a way that it all seems believable.
The couples from the previous novels are mentioned briefly at the beginning, to help refresh the memories of readers. Afterward, the entire story focuses on the main couple. There are some secondary characters, Oliver's cousins, who enter the story mid-way. I cannot help but wonder if these three female cousins will be the next trilogy. I can hardly wait to see. All-in-all, this is a light and romantic read that I found to be totally delightful. Brava! *****
Author: Patricia Grasso
Title - Enticing the Prince
Set in London, 1821. Katerina Pavlova Garibaldi, the Contessa de Salerno, creates priceless jewelry. This is how she supports her family. Five years ago her sister, Alina, died while giving birth to a baby girl. Alina died with the name of Prince Drako Kazanov on her lips. Katerina and her brother, Hektor, do not know if Alina was trying to point an accusing finger at Drako or wanted his help. Their father and another sister, Ilya, died around the same time. Within a scant day, Katerina's family had been destroyed and she was determined to have vengeance. When several members of the Kazanov royal family come to London, Katerina has her chance.
Prince Drako Kazanov is enticed by Katerina upon sight. The lady is giving him the cold shoulder even though he can tell she is attracted to him. The arrogant aristocrat wants her in his bed and is sure the chase will be a delight; however, Drako never thought he may become smitten with Katerina. As the two circle each other warily, Society watches in amusement. But the Blonde Brigade is seething with jealousy and have plans of their own.
Soon there are attempts on the lives of Katerina and Drako. Alexander Blake, the Marquis of Basildon, and Raven Flambeau, an amateur sleuth with the ability to receive impressions from objects, begin investigating the murder attempts. Raven entices her way into the Blonde Brigade in order to ferret out any possible clues. By doing so, her sisters consider her to be a traitor and Raven must wonder how long she can hold onto her charade.
***** This is part of the author's Prince titles series. Alexander and Raven have an ongoing Slasher investigation. There are even some secondary characters in this tale that were main characters in previous ones. Though each title is a stand-alone story, they also seem to over-lap each other. So if you read the other books by Patricia Grasso, you cannot help but feel as if you are part of the "In" crowd. The best part of this particular story is, in my humble opinion, the spectacular ending. No peeking! *****
Author: Gail Ranstrom
Title - Unlacing Lilly
With no father to care for her mother or sisters, Lillian "Lilly" O'Rouke's family has had it rough. Cora, one of the sisters, had been murdered not too long ago, one of the victims of the Blood Wyvern Brotherhood. The Brotherhood would abduct ladies to be tortured and then sacrificed. The Brotherhood would have done the same to Gina and Bella O'Rouke, but for their timely rescue. (In Bella and Andrew Hunter's story titled "Lord Libertine". Bella married Lord Hunter and is happy; however, Gina has withdrawn within herself. To support and protect her family, Lilly accepts the marriage proposal from Edward Manlay, the Marquis of Olney. She has no idea of his horrid reputation though. But right after Edward's mother loans Lilly the Rutherford Sapphires and only moments before she is to walk down the aisle to wed, Lilly is kidnapped and a forged note left for the groom.
Devlin Farrell is the illegitimate son of a duke and desires revenge for his mother's murder. Since neither the duke, nor his heir, seems to care about anything but the family name, Devlin decides that scandal and public humiliation would be best. To do this Devlin kidnaps the bride and leaves a note informing Edward that he has been jilted. Devlin only intends to keep Lilly hidden a few days and to return Lilly to her family, unsullied. He never stops to think about Lilly's ruin, even though she is still chaste. To make matters worse, the resurgence of the Brotherhood has begun and a few low class ladies have already disappeared. Devlin had a hand to stopping the Brotherhood before, along with Andrew, Lilly's brother-in-law. Now Devlin must return Lilly, somehow make things right for her, accept that he has probably lost a close friend in Andrew, and help stop the Brotherhood all over again. Can Devlin forfeit his desire for vengeance in order to achieve his desire for Lilly?
***** Author Gail Ranstrom has quickly become one of my favorite Regency authors to date! After you read this story, or Lord Libertine, you will understand why. It is no wonder to me that the author is getting more and more fans. Ranstrom knows drama and she knows it well. Readers are kept enthralled not only the drama between the main characters, but also with sub-plots. The story never slows down in the middle and the secondary characters (gypsies are but a few) are fascinating. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Minda Webber
Title - The Daughters Grimm
Though beautiful and titled, the daughters of Baron Grimm face, well grim, prospects in the marriage department, since they are not wealthy. Their mother, however, is obsessed with getting her oldest two girls married well and hopefully, but not necessarily happily. Greta and Rae find themselves vying to catch the eyes of every baron, prince, duke, etcetera near and far. Yet, when their prince or barons do come, the days ahead seem to be ones that are anything but fairytale like, at least, not the Disney versions. They might look forward to as much joy as one of Anderson's tales, unless they can do something to break through to their less than joyful husbands' hearts.
*** Though less replete with hidden puns than her prior books, there is still a great deal of fun to be had here. Dual stories are well balanced as both Rae and Greta pursue their goals, matrimonial and otherwise. Most of the laughs come from their aunt, who would make an ideal wicked stepmother in any tale. ***
Author: Jackie Ivie
Title - A Knight Well Spent
Set in Scotland, 1141. King David sits upon the throne. Formidable knight Rhoenne Guy de Ramhust has been gifted a fiefdom. As liege lord, Rhoenne has the difficult task of taming the Highland people that live there. Rhoenne arrives and receives the warm welcome of a lance in the leg before he even reaches Tyneburn Hall. (In Rhoenne's absence, his half-brother, Brent, has been in charge and ignoring the orders left for him.) Rhoenne would have expired had he not been found by a lovely healer with one brown eye and one green eye. Once tended, Rhoenne wanted her name and residence so he could send payment. She wished only to be forgotten. Yet as Rhoenne continued his ride to Tyneburn Hall, he could not get the image of the healer out of his mind.
Soon afterward Rhoenne finds Brent entering the hall with an unwilling wench. Once Brent is dealt with, Rhoenne seeks out the wench and is amazed to see it is the healer. Her name is Aislynn. Rhoenne becomes her protector. Due to his family curse, she is to be his healer. Nothing more - ever. In return, she gets control of the household and should she need or want anything, it will be granted.
Aislynn has secrets of her own. Upon her hip is the god-mark. Unpredictable dreams come to her; nightmares warn of imminent disasters and horror. Fear of being branded a witch, Aislynn has told no one. And when Rhoenne's actions on her behalf threaten to destroy Rhoenne and his people, Aislynn and his senior vassal, Sir Harold Montvale, must pretend to betray him so he will do what is best for the fiefdom.
***** BUY THIS! I totally believe this to be the best book Jackie Ivie has ever written. All the characters, including the secondary ones, are well developed and the plot is solid, believable. I came to care for Old Rosie and Sir Harold very much, but what I came to feel for Aislynn and Rhoenne was deep. I seldom cry while reading, but I actually felt the anguish of Aislynn and Harold as they did what they thought best for Rhoenne and the people. And I could not stop tears from forming when Aislynn must face Rhoenne after he believes she betrayed him.
Author Jackie Ivie writes scenes that will dance wildly upon readers' emotions. Unforgettable! *****
Author: Catherine Kean
Title - A Knight's Reward
Set in Moydenshire, England, the year of 1194. It is the land of Geoffrey de Lanceau. A rich French merchant, Varden Crenardieu, encourages his thugs to undermine the local traders so he can take more and more control of Clovebury, a town on the edge of Moydenshire. Crenardieu had stolen de Lanceau's load of costly silks as they were being shipped down river to Branton Keep.
When Gisela Anne Balewyne finally has enough abuse (physical, mental, and verbal) from her husband Ryle, she flees with her small son, Ewan. They are hiding in the town of Clovebury. Gisela works as a tailor, trying to earn enough money to finally leave the area and be free from her dangerous and insidious husband. When Crenardieu gives her a commission, Gisela has no idea the silk is stolen. Once she suspects, Gisela does not report it to the authorities because she needs the money from the commission too much. But then Dominic de Terre spies her in the market place.
Dominic is a knight in the service of Lord Geoffrey, sent to investigate the recent cloth thefts. He is amazed to find Gisela in Clovebury. Then he is horrified to learn that her husband had changed her from his laughing, vibrant love into a frightened, suspicious woman. Gisela and Dominic were lovers until he had gone away on crusade. Though the two still care for each other, Gisela fears any help due to what Ryle would do should he locate her and Ewan. As for Dominic, he discovers that not only has Gisela lied to him about the stolen silks, but also did not tell him that Ewan was his illegitimate son. Having betrayed him twice, Gisela expects Dominic to arrest her and take Ewan away. Before anything can happen though, Crenardieu's thugs get their hands on Dominic. Gisela must go to de Lanceau for help, even though doing so would condemn her. And then she must face Ryle.
***** Geoffrey de Lanceau is from the previous book titled A Knight's Vengeance. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are secondary characters in this adventure though. I found it wonderful to see them briefly. It also made this story a little more realistic to me. The character of Gisela is one that I could not help but respect. All the choices she made, good or bad, were made for her child. All good parents would have done as Gisela did. Therefore, readers with children will easily identify with her.
The story begins with the sense of danger surrounding Gisela. I was hooked instantly. From then on, it was non-stop drama with plenty of action. Author Catherine Kean has become the queen on her genre! Superb! *****
Author: Dawn Mactavish
Title - Prisoner of the Flames
In 1533, Scotland, an infant was harmed when his room accidently went up in flames. The nursemaid was killed for her negligence.
Twenty-nine years later, Robert Mack, the young Laird of Berwickshire, is a seasoned warrior. Few have seen his true face. Beneath the half-mask helmet he wears, the right side of his face is untouched; his left side looks as though it has melted, scar tissue narrowed the eye and pleated the corner of the mouth beneath. The young man now yearns for a wife and a family to call his own. Believing no female would ever wish to wed such as him, Robert has but one hope left. Word has reached Robert's ear of Doctor Nostradamus's healing talents. Since the doctor resides in France, Robert must seek out his uncle, Aengus Haddock, a monk of Mount St. Michael Abbey. Robert then goes, with his uncle's letter of recommendation, to seek out Michel Eyguem, seigneur de Montaigne, in Paris.
In Paris, before Robert even find Montaigne, he spies two drunkards accosting a flower girl. Of course, Robert dispatches of the men. The lovely girl is named Violette Cherier and she is blind. She has barely thanked Robert for the help when he is arrested. Returning the favor of rescue, Violette goes to Montaigne for help.
These are dangerous times in France. The king is a lad of twelve and his mother rules France. The country is in the middle of a bloody civil war between the Catholic Royalists, and the French Protestants - the Huguenots. Though Montaigne frees Robert from prison, they find that their troubles have only just begun. Doctor Nostradamus is unable to cure Robert's scaring, but is able to give some prophetic advice and a vile-tasting substance to help keep from catching the plague, which has been spreading like wildfire. The most important piece of advice is to learn to trust his instincts (senses) and that fire will always be around during any of his life-altering events.
Robert and Violette are soon being hunted by both sides of the civil war. It will take a lot of faith in God and in love for the pair to reach safety in Scotland.
**** For any fan of France's history this story will pack a punch. The author, Dawn Thompson, obviously did a lot of research about France's turbulent years. However, due to the necessity of explaining to readers why things were happening around the country, which affected the two main characters' travels, the author was unable to show the romance blooming between the two main characters as much as I would have liked. This made the romance seem very rushed to me. Yet other than that, this historical romance is full of chase scenes and rescues (much like any television drama) and will keep readers well entertained. A very nice addition to a memorable lady's writing legacy. ****
Author: Donna MacMeans
Title - The Trouble with Moonlight
To support her sisters and aunt, Lusinda "Sinda" Havershaw slips through the London nights to recover lost or stolen items for a fee. Sinda's family is one of the rare Nevidimi. Upon becoming a woman, many of them gain special talents. Sinda considers her talent to be a curse. Sinda soaks up moonlight and becomes invisible. Yet clothing does not turn invisible. This is why her recovery business must be done without any clothes. If the moon is not full, Sinda must take time to soak up moonlight in order to phase into invisibility. Whenever talk begins about ghosts and spirits, the Havershaw family moves away to avoid discovery.
British spy James Locke is in the middle of cracking open a safe when he hears footsteps approaching. He hides and ends up astonished when he witnesses a ruby necklace steal out of the safe without any help. As the ruby necklace retreats, James follows. Now knowing Sinda's ability, he enlists her reluctant services to help him locate and retrieve a list containing the name of British agents.
Lusinda wants nothing to do with espionage, but to protect her family and earn more money to help them through the winter months she agrees. As James teaches Sinda lock picking, safecracking, and other tools of the trade, the two begin to find their close proximity to be very distracting. But can Sinda trust James to keep her secrets? Can James allow someone to become close to him and risk them being used against him sometime in the future?
***** Though this story focuses on Lusinda, her sister, Portia, begins to show some talents too by the ending. I hope Portia (and perhaps Rhea) will get a story someday. That in no way means the sisters' will have the same ability though. The author makes it clear that chances are Portia's talent will be very different and even more fascinating. I cannot say more without spoilers, so I will stop now. This story's plot is mainly on retrieving the list of agents before it can reach the Russians. There are no real sub-plots, but there are some slight arrangements for possible future stories about some secondary characters. As with most great stories, this one begins in the middle of something exciting. In this case, it is James seeing the ruby necklace being taken by the invisible Sinda. The story does not slow down in the middle of the book, which is a delightful surprise for readers. All-in-all, this is an exciting trip into the dark alleys of treason. I look forward to the author's next book! *****
Author: Joanna Bourne
Title - My Lord and Spymaster
Jessamyn "Jess" Whitby had once been a poor but cunning pickpocket. Due to her head for accounting though, she and her papa no longer have money troubles. Jess's main problem now is that her papa has been arrested, and due to hang, for treason. He is accused of being the murderer and traitor known as Cinq. Cinq has helped himself to secrets from the War Office and the Admiralty. Jess believes Cinq is really Sebastian Kennett. To prove this, Jess plays a damsel in distress and while clutching Sebastian she needs only lift the stolen papers from his person. Unfortunately for her, she has been marked for kidnapping and her would-be abductors move in during her play of damsel.
Sebastian knows a skilled pickpocket when he feels himself being searched by one. However, he is enticed by the enchanting lady doing the act of helpless female. The act quickly becomes reality. After rescuing Jess with the aid of his good friend Adrian (Head of Section for the British Intelligence Service), Sebastian learns that she is the daughter of the man he believes to be Cinq. Worse, according to Adrian the Service is using Jess to locate the real Cinq. Sebastian, well skilled with knives, intends to protect Jess to his last breath and eventually make her his.
***** Author Joanna Bourne has a new fan in me! All the characters are well developed with their own personality and set of quirks. But the author goes even further by giving them special touches, such as Jess having a ferret that dislikes Sebastian. The plot does not have any loop holes which I can find. It is very solid and kept me guessing. Secondary characters, such as those in Sebastian's home, are charming and add even more to the atmosphere. One or more sub-plots keeps things moving right along; I never found myself growing bored. No one writes Regency Romance as gracefully as Joanna Bourne! *****
Author: Susan Enoch
Title - After the Kiss
Sullivan Waring will go to any lengths, even thievery to recover the legacy lost to him. In pursuit of that dream, he embarks on a career as a masked bandit in order to take back what is rightfully his, his mother's paintings. All goes well until he breaks into the Chasley home and is confronted by the daughter of the family, Lady Isabel. Though he steals a kiss, his own heart is stolen. Isabel is intrigued by this man who has hidden his face and sets out to learn more. However, with his life's course so focused on his purpose and on a road to disaster, does Sullivan have the right to bring someone he loves so intensely into his world?
*** For fans of historical romance, there is little doubt this is a four star read and even those of us who prefer their stories set in the present and alternate worlds can not help but recognize the charm and quality of the writing. Sullivan is a delightful rogue who grows into a man of depth after the touch of love enters his life, and Isabel's character grows equally, proving Ms. Enoch's talent for developing her cast in a fashion that is just right. I believe characters make the book, and this pair certainly fulfill their job assignments. ***
Author: Hannah Howell
Title - Highland Fire
Tavig MacAlphin is wanted for murders he did not commit. Disguised as an older, heavier man (George Fraser) he is en route, via ship, to (his cousin) Mungan Coll's keep and safety when he first spies the lovely Moira Robertson. Her beauty, combined with her fear of her abusive guardian, just may be his down fall.
Moira more than simply fears her cruel guardian, Sir Bearnard Robertson, not to mention his man-at-arms, Connor. So when Sir Bearnard made the group travel on the small, crowded ship, Moira dared not complain. It would only turn their attentions toward her. The ransom for her cousin, Una, arrived weeks ago, but Sir Bearnard did not leave to rescue Una until recently.
Soon Tavig and Moira find themselves stranded. Tavig is determined to reach Mungan for aid. Moira is aghast since Mungan is the one holding Una for ransom. Yet when fate decides to unite these two for life, it changes everything.
***** It is no wonder to me that everyone seems to love any story written by Hannah Howell. All books by this extraordinary author have multiple plots constantly running, not to mention the romance between the main characters (and often the secondary characters as well). And it looks like this story is another winner! This story hooked me almost immediately and the main plot gradually expanded until it included several sub-plots. If that is not enough drama to tempt readers then rest assured that the outside plots add quite a bit of danger an intrigue. An outstanding achievement by author Hannah Howell! *****
Author: C.H. Admirand
Title - Pearl's Redemption
(Irish Western series, Bk 3)
Set in Emerson, Colorado Territory, in the late 1870s. Pearl Lloyd is the widow of a cruel man, John. John made Pearl run his saloon, Pearl's Place. It was also a den of iniquity. John tried his best to make Pearl for sale, as well as his normal upstairs girls. After all of John beatings and other abuses, Pearl is happy that she no longer has to answer to any man. Pearl's Place is no longer a saloon or pleasure house. However, Pearl lets the girls remain on her ranch until they can learn a new skill and get honorable employment elsewhere. Some people, such as O'Toole's gang, still tries to use Pearl's Place for what it was once for. So Pearl keeps her Winchester handy, shoots first, and asks questions later.
The Committee for the Betterment of Emerson is at it again. They have taken it upon themselves to cleanse Emerson of Pearl's Place and the soiled doves within. To this end, they place an ad in the Boston paper and sell Pearl's ranch right out from under her. The ranch is purchased by Davidson "David" Smythe; however, they neglect to inform David of the current people living on the ranch. So when David arrives to move in, Pearl shows him the deadly end of her gun.
David's brother, Michael, had been killed. The killer's target had obviously been David though. Needing to lay low for a bit, the ad for a ranch in the Colorado Territory seems like a blessing, until he finds himself looking down the barrel of Pearl's gun. Pearl claims the ranch belongs to her and has the deed. Soon David is living in a jail instead of the ranch and his purchase papers (and his deed) are in the hands of Marshal Ben Justiss.
The Committee for the Betterment of Emerson is surprised when Pearl and David decide to join forces. The two owners are very attracted to each other and sparks begin to fly. But Pearl does not believe she can ever trust another man and David intends to prove that there can be pleasure between two people who love and respect one another. At the same time, Michael's killer has sent an assassin after David. Pearl's Place is about to become a war zone, in more ways than one.
***** Here is a story that will curl your toes. Strong and believable characters stand up against blood-thirsty opponents, each one well described and developed. This author knows how to hook readers from page one and gives the main characters many obstacles to overcome. You will not find yourself growing bored while you read this story. Superb! *****
Author: Eloisa James
Title - Duchess by Night
At seven and twenty, Harriet feels her life over or at least severely stalled. Though still young, she is a widow and expected to hang back from society following her husband's suicide over a game of chess She wants more in life, as does her dear friend, who is not a widow, but is a married virgin whose husband has been gone for far too long. She's desperate to incite his jealousy and bring him back to make their union real. Harriet is just desperate. What begins as a lark and experiment turns into something more when Harriet agrees to accompany a notorious wastrel and her friend to Lord Stranger's party, disguised as a man. As herself, she could never go and have any fun, but in this guise, she can experience the fun of the party and meet Lord Strange. She had not counted on the fact that her beauty would shine through the "masculine" mask, making the macho man of Jem Strange have unnatural feelings, or so he believes until he takes another look. If Harriet wants to learn anything, she's going to have to go back to being a lady, it would seem.
**** With as much humor as Victor/Victoria, this "gem" of a story will enchant readers. However, it does not get silly, as many woman pretending to be a man or the reverse stories tend to. Even those of us who by far prefer our books to be set in modern times will find something enchanting about this. ****
Author: Julia Quinn
Title - The Lost Duke of Wyndham
When a highwayman stops her employer's carriage, it's tough to know who is the most surprised at what happens next, Grace or the robber himself. The disagreeable duchess not only cooperates, but wants to give the thief more. As it happens, she recognizes him as possibly being a long lost grandson and has soon brought him into her home to claim his legacy. However, what Jack Audley, as he calls himself of late, would like most to claim is his grandmother's companion, Grace, and against all social norms, she finds herself wanting the same thing. However, Jack has to choose between love and convention and between the past and the future.
**** Since her debut, Julia Quinn has been a jewel among historical romance authors, making conventional plot devices sparkle with fresh life, thanks to her humor and cleverness. An expert at characterization, she brings to life each member of her cast, making them become people who will live in her readers' hearts and minds forever. ****
Author: Paula Quinn
Title - A Highlander Never Surrenders
Claire is perhaps the most unusual maiden Graham has ever encountered, much less tried to rescue. For one thing, she hardly needs help in being rescued, other than needing his sword to finish off her foe. She is no pliable miss, but a woman on a mission, to save her sister from marriage to a hated man. Graham soon finds their fates united as the two Highlanders seek both personal and national salvation for those who are important to them. Moreover, he finds himself, despite all his resolve, falling for her, and she can say the same about him. Although there are many reasons that they should remain apart, their hearts have other plans.
*** If you love historicals, then you will surely enjoy this. With the same fire that the beloved late Arnette Lamb brought to her Highland set stories, Ms. Quinn portrays a passionate, loyal people willing to sacrifice all for what they love most. ***
Author: Kathryn Caskie
Title - How to Propose to a Prince
Elizabeth is the youngest of the notorious Royle sisters. It is whispered that they are the daughters of the Prince of Wales, secreted away and raised by the personal physician. Whether true or not, the sisters are close to each other, as well as to the man who raised them. Elizabeth is the sister who has "the sight". Her dreams always come true. The only real problem is that they are only HALF true. No one is ever sure which part is correct and which part is not.
As the story opens, Elizabeth is telling her sister that she dreamed about her future husband. Elizabeth is positive he will be a prince and clearly recalls his features. Very shortly thereafter, they see the man while out shopping. They follow him into a store and hear the clerk call him "Your Highness". The man sternly informs them all that he is Sumner Lansdowne, Marquess of Whitevale, and NOT the prince. After he is gone, the clerk tells them that he saw the prince as he entered town. No one knows why the man will not admit that he is the prince.
Prince Leopold has secretly come to London to seek the hand of the Prince Regent's daughter, Charlotte. Word is that she is most amenable to his suit. Sumner Lansdowne is the cousin to Prince Leopold. From a distance, they look identical. Closely though, one may tell the difference, especially in their heights. To protect Leopold, Sumner poises as the prince at the Ton balls. There, he is reacquainted with Elizabeth. But someone in the area wants Prince Leopold dead. Sumner and Elizabeth soon find themselves with targets on their backs.
**** Mystery, intrigue, romance, or adventure, no matter what your tastes are you will find them satisfied in this story set within the Regency era of London. Since Elizabeth's dreams are only half right, there are plenty of humorous situations due to interpretation mistakes. This is one to pack in your traveling bag. Whether you go to the beach, the mountain, or simply to your back yard, this romance is the perfect accessory. ****
Author: Sophia Nash
Title - The Kiss
As a child Georgiana Wilde had been close friends with Quinn and Anthony Fortesque. As Georgiana grew up, she secretly loved Quinn. After an accident, Georgiana's leg was disfigured and Quinn was sent away to boarding school. Georgiana had not seen Quinn since the day he married another woman and broke her heart. But now Quinn was a widow with a nine-year-old daughter, Fairleigh, and had returned to Penrose on estate business.
Georgiana had married Anthony, the Marquis of Ellesmere, much to Anthony's mother's anger and dismay. Gwendolyn Fortesque thought Georgiana too common for her precious Anthony! Georgiana was the steward's daughter and disfigured trash. Anthony did not care what his mother thought. He loved Georgiana. However, Anthony died in Georgiana's arms...on their wedding night.
Quinn became the new Marquis of Ellesmere. It was not a title he wanted. Gwendolyn was demanding that Quinn investigate and annul Anthony and Georgiana's marriage. The maids had not seen any blood on the sheets of the newlyweds. Georgiana still resided on Penrose, but does not use the Marchioness of Ellesmere title by choice. Quinn hoped to deal with the matter quickly and leave. He would like nothing more than to turn the entire estate over to Georgiana and leave, forgetting again the painful memories of his former life. Yet her beauty and bravery enticed him. Quinn forced himself not to respond to the urges he has had due to the surprising feelings after one kiss.
**** Author Sophia Nash has yet to write a book that I do not enjoy. There are several secondary characters; many are part of the Widows Club (a.k.a. the Barely Bereaving Beauties'). It consists of four widows, most young, and they are all residing at Penrose, invited by Georgiana. These ladies and Fairleigh combine to make a witty addition to the story, at times downright hilarious. Luc and Rosa, from a previous story, are secondary characters too. If you have not read their tale, you will not be left adrift at all. (For those interested, click HERE! Their story is book one of the Widow's Club.) Fans of Regency Romance will NOT be disappointed with this story. There are many road blocks for the main couple to over come and a few surprises along the way. Recommended! ****
Author: Jo Beverley
Title - A Lady's Secret
Robin Fitzvitry, the Earl of Huntersdown, is en route home from Versailles. When he spies a nun muttering curses, Robin cannot help but smell a mystery; and Robin loves a good mystery. The lady going by the outrageous name of Sister Immaculata needs to escape her traveling companion, Lady Sodworth, and the Lady's two spoiled brats. Seeing some amusement as he travels, Robin offers to help the Sister reach England as quickly as possible. During the ride, Robin intends to learn all the secrets the good Sister is hiding.
Petronilla "Petra" Maria d'Averio has spent years with her widowed mother in an Italian convent. Recently her mother has died, leaving Petra in danger. Her only hope is to reach England and locate her father, who has no idea she even exists. Her father is an English lord, so there is a chance he will not want anything to do with her. First, though, Petra must reach England. She is being pursued by a possessive and dangerous man. Therefore, she jumps at the offer from Robin. He clears does not believe Petra is a nun and has made it clear that during their travels he fully intends to coax all her secrets from her. The travel time should not be more than a few days, but Petra finds herself becoming attracted to the young aristocrat - whoever he really is. But Robin is her only hope.
***** Author Jo Beverley has a one of the best imaginations I have encountered in years! Those few days of journey for the main characters are filled with not only Petra's pursuers, but also unexpected dangers. Petra's secrets are neither blurted out from the start, nor kept hidden until the end of the story. Instead, they begin to slowly emerge during her travels with Robin. Once in England their adventures get even more complicated, involving a prayer book. Absolutely terrific! *****
Author: Sari Robins
Title - The Governess Wears Scarlet
Two strangers, Abigail West and Jason Steele, each hiding their true face for reasons of their own, meet in a dark alley when he rescues her from thugs. The intensity of the situation and an immediate attraction lead them to a one night stand. Not even when they meet again, this time with their true faces revealed, do they know each other. Now, she is a proper young woman seeking employment as a governess for the Viscount's two nephews, a job she is able to attain. What she can not do is deny the attraction to her boss. However, secrets and their stations keep them apart. She is on a quest to discover the truth behind her brother's fate, and he is part of a group of masked vigilantes that keeps London safe by night. It seems to be a doomed affair, but as we all know, love can find a way where there is none.
**** If it were not for the rapidity of Jason and Abigail's romantic encounter, this would be a wholly credible story. Ignoring that, Ms. Robbins has successfully combined the classic governess/employer romance with the intrigue of the Scarlet Pimpernel type adventure, making for something sure to win her fans among historical romance aficionados. ****
Author: Debra Mullins
Title - The Night Before the Wedding
The threat of being cursed with madness and their two clans being destroyed by famine causes Catherine and Gabriel to accept their fate and marry. Yet, even before the wedding, they discover they have passion that should make the union one with at least some degree of pleasure. Despite this, both parties are sure their marriage will be doomed. Catherine longs to have more choices and her father does not support the marriage, despite the fact that his own wife died for ignoring the curse. Gabriel has had to defy his own ethics and his father for the sake of his people. Magic brought them together, though, and the truest magic of all is love.
*** If readers can suspend their disbelief and ignore some holes in the plot, this will be a very sweet, yet spiced, romance they can enjoy. Though it is simple, supporting characters add depth and humor to the tale. It's a perfect beach read, even if you have to pretend there's a beach around you. ***
Author: Julie Ann Long
Title - The Perils of Pleasure
Wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to be hung, Colin Eversea is without hope of life until, out of nowhere, his freedom is purchased by Madeline Greenway, who has been assigned to procure his life. She is not, however, to release him, nor does she know who did this. Her motives are simple, to earn enough cash to start over in America. It seems, though, that someone wants her dead. Could the same person be the true culprit in the crime for which Colin was convicted? Is her unknown employer trying to avoid paying? Solving these puzzles and preventing the wedding of the woman Colin thinks he loves will unite the pair for a while longer, and might change at least one of their minds about what they want in the future, should they survive to have one.
**** Deftly weaving together humor, mystery, and adventure, Ms. Long brings her scenario to vibrant life. Strong characterization as well as an action laden plot make this one no historical romance fan should miss. ****
Author: Cathy Maxwell
Title - In the Highlander's Bed
It was a daring plan, and one that would be rather inconvenient, but Gordon Lachlan saw it as his best hope of regaining the family sword his clan desperately needed. By kidnapping and ransoming the "spoiled" sister-in-law of his sworn enemy, he would attain his goal, no matter he would be required to put up with her until such time as the Englishman chose to grant his demands. However, Constance turns out to be much more than a weak willed, simpering London miss. She has fire worthy of a Highland woman, and soon, those who began as enemies discover a passion that can dare defy convention and death itself.
**** It is easy to see why, since her sparkling debut, Cathy Maxwell has been royalty among historical romance writers. Her heroes and heroines remain strong, amusing without being silly, and she never falls into the trap of re-writing the same book over and over, changing only names and settings. Constance is someone that any reader would want to be, if we were forced to live in that time, and as long as we could have Gordon at our side. He has all the bravery of Braveheart himself, the daring of Casanova, and the wit of one of the better versions of Robin Hood. ****
Author: Barbara Pierce
Title - Naughty By Nature
Set in London, the year 1810. Patience Rose Farnaly was young when her head was turned by the beautiful words of actor Julian Phoenix. Patience blindly followed Julian. She ran away from her family, believing they would elope and live happily-ever-after and entertaining the world in plays. Instead, Patience found herself disowned by her parents (Sir Russell and Lady Farnaly) and tossed aside like garbage by Julian. Having no other real choice, she changed her name to Miss Patience Winlow, learned the arts of thievery, and became part of Julian's acting troupe. Patience did not even have her virginity any longer, thanks to Julian's little drug. Even so, Julian thinks he can convince Patience to consent to a night with a certain gentleman for profit. Patience proves Julian wrong. In the struggle for her freedom, Julian is accidentally impaled on a nearby tool (think pitchfork). Not wanting anyone to know that she has become a murderess, Patience tells the troupe Julian left them and she takes over as manager. Patience learns that keeping the troupe together is not easy. Guilt keeps her going though. But when Fowler Knowden "Ram", the Earl of Ramscar, offers Patience a position as his sister's companion, she is surprised to hear herself accepting.
Ram would do anything to coax his sister, Lady Meredith, back to the polite society into which she had been born. Meredith had been the only one Ram could save from the fire years ago. There are still visible scars on her face and neck. The other visible body scars are kept covered, yet Meredith feels as if everyone can still see them. She never leaves Swancott, their country estate, and wishes that she had died long ago with her mother and sister. The last thing Meredith wants is a paid companion, especially a commoner. But Patience is a baronet's daughter! Patience never tells Ram or Meredith who she really is, but Patience uses all her skills as a lady and an actress to get her charge to London. Once there, Her Grace, the Dowager Duchess of Solitea, will help Patience and Ram ease Meredith back into Society's view.
***** Though Patience and Ram are the two main characters, I was happy to learn that the author, Barbara Pierce, was letting me watch Lady Meredith come out of her shell. Seeing Patience and Ram dance around each other remained in the spot light; however, Meredith's life often threatened to steal that spot light a few times. This was like reading two different Regency Romances in one...and I loved every single minute I spent with my nose buried in this story! This author has made a new fan in me. Life seemed to jump out of every character. It did not matter if the character was main, secondary, or minor to me. I felt anger toward the bad guys. I felt pain and sympathy for Patience and Meredith. I even cheered aloud twice as I watched Patience fight and Meredith bloom. Hopefully, someone out there will realize how serious I am when I say that this book is a rare gem. I pity anyone who misses this title. BRAVA! *****
Author: Sherry Thomas
Title - Private Arrangements
During the late 1800's, the only kind of marriage that was looked well upon was a courteous marriage. In the eyes of London Society, this was exactly what lord and Lady tremaine has had for the past ten years: Therefore when Lady Tremaine "Gigi" petitions for a divorce, worlds are turned upside down. Matters only worsen when Lord Tremaine (Camden) arrives from New York after ten years of separation, and demands that he will only grant the divorce if GiGi will produce an heir within a years time.
Gigi, is now engaged to Lord Fredrick, must comply with these demands in order to have one last chance at happiness. The situation is only worsened by tragic memories and a title seeking mother ferverently pushing for the pair to get back together. Passions and tempers fly, and love is rekindled behind closed doors in private arragements.
**** The depth of this book is phenominal. I loved how the plot developed and intertwined between past and present. I also enjoyed how the author made the characters more realistic by giving each one some kind of flaw or past mistake. I found this book to be funny, romantic, and enraging all at the same time. Simply fabulous! ****
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Title - To Taste Temptation
(The Legend of the Four Soldiers #1)
Lady Emeline Gordon has been a widow for five years. She has an eight year-old-son named Daniel Gordon, Baron Eddings. She is part of London's elite social circles. She is also the sister of Reynaud, which makes her vital for Samuel Hartley's plans! Reynaud had been a captain, fighting in the colonies when he fell at Spinner's Falls. Samuel had been one of the few survivors. He is now very wealthy due to his Boston import/export business. In fact, his business is one of the things that has brought him and his younger sister, Rebecca, to London. While here, Sam convinces Emeline to chaperone Rebecca for the Season. Yet that is mainly a cover story for him, because Samuel is convinced that the Wyandot tribe had not stumbled upon the soldiers at Spinner's Falls; they were betrayed and led to slaughter.
Emeline considers Samuel to be too barbaric for London Society, even if he is wealthy. The man even wore moccasins to a grand ball. Yet Emeline cannot help but wonder what the man's touch would be like. Emeline agrees to chaperone Rebecca. With the help of her aunt, Tante Crestelle, Emeline begins teaching Rebecca all she would need to know in order to be a success. There is no time to waste. However, Samuel begins acting strangely around her. Dare she hope the odd colonialist feels the same attraction between them?
*** This is the first of four books. The plot is sound and the story flows smoothly, yet I never came to really like the heroine, Emeline. I grew to care for all the other characters though, especially Rebecca and Melisande (Emeline's friend). At the beginning of each chapter is a small narration of "The Legend of the Four Soldiers". Obviously Samuel is the one who headed east. I found this to be a wonderful addition to the entire book. Very well done! It will be interesting to see how the other three soldiers fair. ***
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Title - Where the Heart Leads
Though raised in power and privilege, Portia Cynster is not blind to the plight of those less fortunate and devotes herself to caring for and helping the street children of London. When some of her charges begin to disappear, against the rules of society and all logic, she, an unmarried lady, calls upon Barnaby Adair, uninvited, hoping to enlist his aid in discovering the truth. This unconventional beauty intrigues the Sherlock like gentleman and he is willing to help her. Thus begins their quest for the truth, one that will take them into the slums of London and into each other's hearts. Along the way, they partner with one of the first Scotland Yard inspectors and run into dangers the like of which most people of their set can only imagine happening in penny dreadfuls.
**** Danger, romance, and intriguing characters, what more could a reader ask for? Fans of the Cynster series will be delighted with this newest entry, even though Basil Stokes and Barnaby Adair are the most intriguing characters in it. Having never read anything by this author before, I can safely say that it should easily be considered a stand alone novel, so newbies need not be discouraged. ****
Author: Emily Bryan
Title - Distracting the Duchess
Lady Artemisia, Duchess of Southwycke, may only be twenty-five-years-old, but she has already been a widow for two of those years. Knowing Society would snub a female in business, Artemisia does her dealings behind an alias. Artemisia's nom de guerre is Mr. Beddington. In her employ is one assistant, James Shipwash. James runs the day-to-day operations and does interference on the occasions someone tries to call on Mr. Beddington at the office. All goes well until her father, Angus, slips into dementia.
The Honorable Trevelyn Deveridge, second son of the Earl of Warre, is in Her Majesty's Secret Service. The last coherent message received from Angus simply said "Beddington holds the key". However, no one can reach the elusive man. The key refers to a list Angus created of all his operatives. Should it fall into the wrong hands, many would die. When Trevelyn shows up at the Southwycke estate, Lady Artemisia assumes he is the new model she had sent for. Disrobing and posing nude for the lovely lady was not what Trevelyn expected, but he was not one to say no. It is not long before things start getting dicey, as espionage often does. As the intrigue deepens, as well as the passion they share for each other, Artemisia and Trevelyn must team up to figure out where the key is.
***** There are secondary plots, secondary characters, and foreign villains galore, but there was no way I could tell much more in the synopsis without giving away something vital and spoiling the adventure. The amusing mistaken identity at the beginning sure caught my attention and the suspense began quickly thereafter. The character of Artemisia is deeper than I could explain as well. She grew up in Bombay, where riding elephants and going on tiger hunts were considered the norm. Between her background and her stiff backbone, Artemisia is a force to be reckoned with. Trevelyn has his hands full with her. No faint-hearted miss here! I found this story to be downright engrossing and I cannot recommend it highly enough! Author Emily Bryan simply oozes talent! *****
Author: Alexandria Scott
Title: Southern Seduction
Brooke Hammond had not chosen the life of a courtesan. It was the only way for her to survive. Her life changed when she was taken under the wing of Jackson Montgomery, Duke of Devonshire. Their relationship was platonic. Jackson had promised he would leave Brooke and his two nieces, Jocelyn and Shannon, well taken care of. When he had died, he'd left Brooke his American plantation, Moss Grove, and enough money for the young women to leave England for a new life. Mr. Jeffries, the solicitor in charge of the duke's affairs, went with them.
Once in New York, the three ladies have a tearful farewell and go their separate ways. Mr. Jeffries travels with Brooke to Moss Grove. However, the duke had not told Brooke the entire truth. Brooke arrives at Moss Grove, in New Orleans, to find out that Travis Montgomery, Jackson's son out of wedlock, is already in residence. Mr. Jeffries reads Jackson's will aloud and shock Brooke and Travis to their very cores. The two are now business partners; both have inherited half of the sugar plantation.
Travis is furious! He knew Jackson never really cared for him. When Travis was but sixteen, the duke had sent Travis and his mother, Margaret, to live on the failing plantation. Travis has only recently managed to turn Moss Grove into a profitable business. Due to other items in Jackson's will, Moss Grove may fail after all. Currently, Travis's mother is up north with Hesione, his fiancée. With luck, by the time they get back he will have managed to get rid of the unwanted business partner. No matter how lovely the "widow" is, Brooke could ruin everything.
Brooke is not happy with the news either. Due to the will's terms, should Travis marry Hesione, Brooke would no longer have a claim to the estate. No one knows Brooke had survived as a courtesan, but those skills may help her seduce Travis away from Hesione.
***** Do not judge Brooke harshly. There are more terms in the will than I mention in my synopsis. There are more characters than you would guess as well. I fell in love with Mammy, the housekeeper, and twelve year old Eliza, Travis's second cousin. Hesione's Creole family can cause major problems too.
Author Alexandria Scott has created an exceptional tale set during a time in history when such situations could become most volatile. I found this story to be very extraordinary; the heroines of most historical romances are of young, naive, ladies or widows. This author has dared to go against the grain and has earned my high regards. BRAVA! I can hardly wait for the nieces' stories to be told. *****
Author: Julie Garwood
Title - Shadow Music
Princess Gabrielle of St. Briel was positioned perfectly to be used as living currency so that King John could form a political alliance by marrying her off to a decent, albeit not romantic, lord. However, the man's murder ends the engagement and sets off a chain of events that ends in Gabrielle's kind heart and the vicious lies one act of mercy inspires getting her banished from the kingdom. Taken in by a man who owes a debt, she finds a new life in Scotland, protected by one of the most confounding gentlemen she has ever encountered. Colm MacHugh seems immune to her charms and beauty, but he is not. Yet, even as a reluctant and passionate love blooms between them, forces are still at work that could change or end their futures forever. Treasure, greed, deception, and murder mingle with passionate innocence in this story that will sweep you back to a more heroic, wilder age.
**** No matter what era she write in or which genre, Julie Garwood pens a gripping tale that has earned her a well-deserved spot in readers' hearts and a position as a grand dame of romance. Gabrielle proves to be one of her best heroines, with her charming naiveté and her dauntless courage that make her the perfect match and balance for Colm, a man who definitely needs some sparkle in his life. She also shows exactly how powerful one misspoken word can be, but also, how true it is that when God shuts a door, He opens a window. ****
Author: Leisha Kelly
Title - Till Morning is Nigh
Julia Wortham and her husband find themselves caring for a bunch of abandoned children in the winter of 1932, just before Christmas. Though facing many difficulties and uncertainties, she strives to make this a happy time for them and to keep the focus on the Christ child. One of the ways they try to make it a special season is by creating a paper Nativity, scattered throughout the house in appropriate places for the time; i.e., the Baby is in Heaven, aka, the upstairs, the magi are in an Eastern corner of the house, moving steadily toward Bethlehem. Yet, the nagging worry plagues Julia; what will she do if their father does not return?
*** Other than the Christmas story, there is not a special emphasis on the gospel, yet this is a stereotypical "inspirational" story in that it feels a bit watered down, and also has the sensation that this is the middle of a larger story a new reader is not privy to. If you enjoy Hallmark channel movies where they are happy about being in troubled times, you'll be delighted with this. ***
Author: Kinley MacGregor
Title - The Warrior
Two emotionally scarred people learn to love and trust in this sweeping story of the Highlands. Lochlan was a warrior born, and as such compelled to rescue the lovely Catriona when he sees her being attacked. From then on, his fate is caught up with that of the woman with three lines of royal blood in her veins. Though they are far apart in station, their hearts know none of this, and they are willing to face any odds and any tests to be together.
**** This story ends on a true feel good moment. How Lochlan and Cat get to the reward is a grueling journey with a grand pay off. Though I was disappointed that this was not an Avalon book, as I had expected, historical fans will discover that Ms. MacGregor writes as well as the late Arnette Lamb, who was a shining star on the Highland historical scene. ****
Author: Jenna Petersen
Title - Seduction is Forever
Set in London, 1814. Emily Redgrave, Lady Allington, is a young woman of charm, beauty, intelligence, and grace. She is also a spy for the Crown. Six months ago Emily had been shot. However, Emily believes she is ready to return to the field.
Grant Ashbury, Lord Westfield, knows from experience that anyone he cares for will be in danger while he remains a spy. Seeing his late wife's lifeless eyes had taught him that. But now Grant want to get back into the field. He would gladly accept ANY case for a chance to prove to his superiors that he is ready.
Emily's mission is to protect Grant against the nameless, faceless enemies who seek his destruction. Grant's mission is to defend Emily for the same reason. Neither knew the missions were false. However, while Emily searched for Grant's enemies, she stumbled upon a real case of treason.
**** This story will keep all regency and historical romance fans on their toes! The first half of the book reads like a soothing and romantic Regency and then the author adds a touch of danger and suspense. An excellent way to enjoy a rainy evening. ****
Author: Catherine Delors
Title - Mistress of the Revolution
At fifteen, Gabrielle de Montserrat meets the man she longs to marry, Pierre-Andre Coffinal; however, economics and social considerations cause her family to choose to deny his suit in favor of a rich baron's. Despite her protests, she finds herself in a short marriage that ends when her older husband dies. That does not free her to reclaim her true love, though. Before that can happen, Gabrielle will find herself a part of court life at Versailles, at the worst possible time. When next she meets Pierre, he has her life in his hands, as a member of the group who determines which of the nobles will have a date with the guillotine. Though they do get that second chance, it is not without problems. Their world is in a state of chaos that must surely affect everyone in France.
**** Fans of this genre or students of the era will be delighted. A complex plot is complemented by richly developed characters, both real and imaginary ones who come into reality thanks to the author's painstaking details. If you want a light, purely for enjoyment read, then you might chose to pass, but those in search of weightier novels should not forgo it. ****
Author: Gail Ranstrom
Title - Lord Libertine
Set in London, 1821. When her sister, Cora, is dying before her, Isabella "Bella" O'Rourke vows to find the killer and bring him to justice. The only thing Cora can tell Bella is that the man is a gentleman of the Ton, dark haired, licks his lips after every kiss, and his kisses taste bitter. Bella has no delusions about Cora's murderer. Cora had been bled from the wrists, partly skinned, her private parts mutilated, and had a wyvern dragon drawn (in her own blood) on her belly. Whoever this madman is, he is able to hide his dark soul beneath a handsome face and great charm.
Since the Home Office has no leads and stopped investigating, Bella can think of no way to locate her sister's killer except to kiss every dark haired gentleman she can during the Season and watch to see if he licks his lips or tastes bitter. Bella has no doubts that the hunt will destroy her reputation; however, she needs to protect her identity as much as possible so that her vigilante justice does not ruin her two remaining sisters chances of making a good match. The men have begun calling her Lady Lace. One dark haired and charming gentleman, Andrew Hunter, is fast becoming a problem. Bella finds herself attracted to him, but she cannot get him to give her a kiss. Yet she must find a way to make sure he is not the man she seeks. At the same time, the gentleman keeps scaring off the other gentleman she is trying to test.
Andrew "Drew" Hunter is known as Lord Libertine. After witnessing horrors during his time in the war (not to mention the horrible acts he had to commit to others), Drew is doing every wild thing he can imagine to keep himself from remembering. Drew has become numb and not even his wild nights are interesting any more. But then his former commanding officer and friend, Lord Wycliffe with the Home Office, convinces Drew to help locate a serial killer. Ladies are disappearing, only to turn up dead with ghastly wounds that speak of cult rituals. Lord Wycliffe had been present when Bella and Cora spoke. Cora had only been the first lady from the upper class to been kidnapped. The facts show that she won't be the last. The number of bodies is now in the double digits and the night of something called the Thirteenth Sabbath draws near. Drew must keep silent on what he knows from everyone, including from the tempting Lady Lace once he knows her secrets. But how can Drew keep the lady he adores from putting herself in danger without revealing Lord Wycliffe's secrets?
***** This may be a romance set during the Regency era of London, but it is overflowing with drama and gripping suspense! The identity of the killer is pretty obvious to the reader, but the author has more than a few twists and surprises in store. You will never grow bored of this excellent story and I highly recommend it to all. *****
Author: Sophia Nash
Title: A Dangerous Beauty
Rosamunde is the daughter of the Earl of Twenlyne. She grew up wild and very loved. But she made a huge mistake. When her father demanded she wed the man she erred with, Rosamunde refused and became a ruined woman. She finally married a common man and suffered more than she would ever reveal to anyone. Her sister, Sylvia Langdon, went wherever Rosamunde did, no matter that it meant she would share her sister's tainted title.
When her abusive husband dies, Rosamunde flees from her late husband's cousin, who thinks to continue where his kin left off. Rosamunde and Sylvia accept an invitation to spend a season with the Dowager Duchess of Helston and join her unique Widows Club. Rosamunde wants only to stay in the shadows and catch no attention; however, the brother of her mistake is with Ata. Rosamunde does not believe the St. Aubyn family knows that she has a horrid past with their family. If they did, they never would have invited her to Cornwall and she has no where else to go.
Luc St. Aubyn, the Duke of Helston, never beds the same woman twice. He has the well-deserved titled of Lord Fire and Ice. He is as fire with the woman he chooses for the night and as ice the instant he wakes in the morn. Luc knows how cruel is father and the dukes before him were. Luc is still trying to build up the funds they lost. Luc is pulled toward Rosamunde, but knows that she has suffered much at the hands of her late husband and his family. He is determined to repair the repressed look within Rosamunde's eyes and try to make up at least a bit of what his family did to her.
***** This story is full of drama, bravery, and humor. From the first page I found myself enthralled by Rosamunde and her unbreakable spirit. Author Sophia Nash has proven that as great as she was with the short Regency Romances, she is even better with the longer ones! If this author's name is on the cover, do not even bother reading the back; simply BUY it. Sophia Nash is one of the best! *****
Author: Kat Martin
Title: Heart of Fire
Determined to prove her beloved sister did not kill herself, Coralee Whitmore dons the guise of Letty, a simple, but impoverished young woman who needs shelter at the home of her "husband's cousin," Gray, the Earl of Tremaine. She is sure that he belongs on her short list of suspects, yet the gentle, generous man she meets rapidly becomes someone she does not want to be a killer. Gray is tortured by dark memories of his wife's death, but something about Letty makes him begin to heal. Each is falling in love with a facade, or do their hearts see the real person beneath? Moreover, who did kill Corrie's sister, and if it's not Gray, will they try to silence the truth?
**** Romance and mystery are intertwined in this complex story that has more twists and turns than a roller coaster. Ms. Martin's legion of justly loyal fans will not be disappointed as they watch Gray and Corrie discover the truth, not only about the past, but about each other. ****
Author: Lauren Royal
Title: The Art of Temptation
In 1817, Sean Delaney has become a profitable businessman. He had taken a small inheritance and, within ten years, has acquired much wealth. The only blight in Sean's life is seeing how miserable his sister, Deidre, is.
Deidre's husband, John Hamilton, treats Deidre worse than dirt, but refuses to grant her the divorce she desires. That is, until now. John's a famous painter and his dying uncle is Samuel Hamilton, the Earl of Lincolnshire. John is Samuel's heir and insists John come stay with him during his final few weeks of life so they may come to know each other. John and his uncle have not seen each other since John's infancy. Of course, John cares nothing for the earl and wants only for the man to die and give over the title, estates, and wealth to him. John does not want to see the old man. John wants to spend those few weeks elsewhere, so he makes a deal with Sean. If Sean pretends to be John and stay with the earl until he passes away, John will grant Deidre the divorce.
Budding artist Lady Corinna Chase has her mind on improving her technique, not marriage. She hopes that one of her canvases will be selected for the annual Summer Exhibition. Corinna is soon one of an elite few who knows Sean is not really John. (After all, a painter cannot possibly be color blind, as Sean is.) Wanting the earl's last days to be happy ones, Corinna is more than happy to help Sean pull off his hoax. But neither Corinna, nor Sean, thought that they would become enamored of each other.
***** Though this story's main focus is on Corinna and Sean, it also delves into a sub-plot romance of Lady Rachael and Griffin (Corinna's brother). Somehow the sections with the secondary couple makes the story more realistic. Life often has more going on than one romance at any given time, correct? Perhaps this is the reason for my interest. Whatever the reason, author Lauren Royal proves that she knows what her readers enjoy. Brava! Encore! *****
Author: Gwen Rowley
Title: Gawain: Knights of the Round Table
The tale of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady is fleshed out and given new life as it is presented here to modern readers. Once, Aislyn and Gawain were in love, but a deception lay at the root of their affair; she was his mother's disciple, ordered to seduce him and enchant him so that he would betray Arthur. However, Aislyn could not go through with the plan and left him out of love. Now, years later, she has a chance to be with him again. Knowing that Gawain and the King are seeking the answer to a riddle, "what do all women want?," she transforms herself into a crone and offers Arthur the solution for the price of a husband. As Arthur's most trusted and loyal knight, Gawain offers himself. Against all good sense and protests from the king, he goes through with the bargain. Aislyn continues to maintain her ruse because she is hiding from Gawain's mother, Morgause, the king's sister. However, she can change back into her true form at will until Morgana, the king's other sister, visits and makes her crone like state permanent, unless she can win the kiss of true love from Gawain. Then, she might have a partial reprieve. How can Aislyn hope for such a thing when her face is hideous and her lies even uglier?
**** This has always been one of my favorite legends of the Round Table. Seeing it expanded into a full blown story is a joy that I hope many readers will share. Multiple flashbacks hamper the flow somewhat, however, in the end it comes together to make sense. ****
Author: Elizabeth Thornton
Title: The Pleasure Trap
Eve Dearing was only a little girl in 1806 when her mother, Antonia, died. She woke up in her little bed, hearing her mother's voice within her mind calling out to her. Eve followed the voice to find her mother dying near a quarry, just outside of London. Antonia had always had a sixth sense. The family called it the Claverly Charisma. As Antonia died, she imprinted a picture within Eve's mind, a premonition of future danger, and warned Eve to be careful. From then on, Eve refused to believe that she had the Claverly charisma.
In 1818, Eve has become a lovely lady. When her father remarried, Eve moves in with her Aunt Millicent, who has a small portion of the Claverly charisma. Eve writes Gothic romances, which are all the rage now. Since Gothic romances are sneered at by many, no writer dares to reveal her true identity. All authors write under a pseudonym. Eve is known as Mrs. Barrymore. Eve and Millicent go to attend the annual writer's symposium, as they do each year, and then prolong their time in town with Lady Sally Sayers to take in the Season. Eve plans to have a Season in her next novel and needs the experience to make her tale more real. Along for the trip is Eve's dog, Dexter.
After years of battling the French, Viscount Ash Denison wants only to enjoy and savor the good life. Then a friend asks Ash to attend a writer's symposium to unmask the true identity of Angelo. Angelo has been resurrecting fourteen-year-old tragedies of high society families and writing them in articles for the newspapers to print. However, Angelo writes up the accidents as if they were murders instead. The latest article implied that Ash's simple-minded brother, Harry, did NOT accidently drown at the young age of ten, but was murdered instead. Thus, Ash's spy mission has become personal, especially since Ash had loved his brother.
Ash meets Eve at the symposium and is instantly interested in her. Ash even begins to dream of ravishing her. Eve is dreaming the same. Neither knows that they are sharing dreams together. Had the thought crossing their minds, they would have laughed. Ash does not believe in sixth sense and Eve refuses to believe she still has the Claverly charisma. But then one of the Gothic romance writers, Lydia, plays a dangerous game by pretending to be Angelo. Eve and Ash's dream is interrupted by Lydia's scream when she is attacked. More danger comes into play when a patient escapes from the hospital (Bedlam) nearby. However, the scariest part is that Eve's gift is reawakening and she is, somehow, getting inside the mind of a killer. The killer is after Nell, the little escapee who witnessed Lydia's attack, and turns his sight on Eve as well.
***** W-O-W! That is all that came to my mind when I finished this book. Author Elizabeth Thornton has a new fan in me! This story has all the pleasure of a Historical Romance, all the suspense of a Mystery Thriller, and some Super Natural Romance tossed in for good measure. I read this entire book in one sitting! I simply could not put the book down. Therefore, I went to work the next day with absolutely zero sleep! Yes, this story is THAT great. This is going directly to my Keeper Shelf, never to be loaned out, and to be read again at a later date. Put this title on you Must Have list! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title: Secrets of a Proper Lady
Set in London, 1854. Four men, totally opposed to marriage made a bet. The last man standing gets a bottle of special cognac and a small amount of money. In only four months since the wager was made, two of the men are happily married. The two men remaining are Oliver Leighton, the Earl of Norcroft, and Daniel Sinclair, the American entrepreneur.
Lady Cordelia Bannister is the last unwed daughter of the Earl of Marsham. Cordelia is nearing the age of twenty-six and has yet to find a man she loves. Three men have proposed to her and, for various reasons of her own, all three men were politely turned down. But now her father has presumptuously arranged for Cordelia to wed Daniel Sinclair, a man she has never even met. If Cordelia declines, the family's finances will be is serious trouble. Lord Marsham owns a rather impressive shipping line. Harold, Daniel's father, wants to merge the shipping line with his own steamship interests. This would give Harold an entree into Europe's area.
Cordelia decides to learn all she can about Daniel to see if they would get along well or if she should somehow bow out of the whole thing. To do this, Cordelia pretends to be Sarah, her companion/cousin. She then lies in wait for Daniel's secretary, Warren, to appear for his daily walk and approaches him.
Daniel is startled when the lovely lady mistakes him for Warren and approaches him to ask detailed questions about "his employer". Yet Daniel jumps at the chance to learn more about Cordelia. Daniel believes that he may learn what Cordelia does not like and then pretend to be all she hates. If Cordelia backed out of the marriage proposal, then his father could not force him to walk down the wedding aisle. But neither Daniel, nor Cordelia, expected to really like the false people they pretended to be. Both believe that a confession would make the other hate him or her. Yet sooner-or-later, the real Daniel and Cordelia must meet face-to-face.
***** A hilarious story of mistaken identities blended with a romance that only Victoria Alexander could possibly pull off so well. I found myself thoroughly amused throughout the entire book. PERFECT reading during a long rode trip, on vacation, or just to cheer you up on a lonely day. BRAVA! *****
Author: Lisa Jackson
Set in the early thirteenth century of North Wales. Bryanna of Penbrooke has always stood out from the rest. It is something she has always hated. No one ever believed Bryanna when she was little and mentioned the people and animals around that no one else could see. She has always been plagued by visions and voices. She has always been a sorceress, though she has been careful to keep it quiet. Now she is compelled by destiny to fulfill an age-old prophecy and to save an innocent life. So she begins traveling, alone, toward Tarth, in hopes of receiving some answers. At the same time she searches for four jewels for an enchanted dagger. Bryanna never expected to meet a stranger deep in the woods.
Hallyd killed a witch sixteen years ago, but not before the beautiful vixen cursed him. Hallyd must now keep to the darkness, never to enjoy the slightest bit of sunlight. He has waited so long for the witch's daughter, Bryanna, to come. She is the one chosen by the Fates. He will make her lift the curse and then enjoy the other sinister plans he has devised for her.
Gavyn of Agendor is hunted by his biological father, Lord Agendor, and his hired killers. Horribly wounded during his flight, Gavyn stumbles upon Bryanna's campfire. He is shocked to realize that Bryanna is the woman from his dreams; dreams he has had for years. If she will let him, Gavyn will protect Bryanna while teaching her amazing things. But Gavyn has no idea that Bryanna is also being hunted. Nor does he believe that one so lovely could possibly be a sorceress.
***** This story hooked me immediately and never let go. As I finished one suspenseful section, I was shocked to realize that my body had actually gone totally still and I had been holding my breath along with Bryanna! Author Lisa Jackson has written a breathtaking tale that will leave you believing in magic and true love. Astounding! *****
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Title: Twice the Temptation
In the summer of 1814, Evangeline Munroe inherits the Nightshade Diamond. It is one hundred and sixty-nine carats and supposed to be cursed. She does not believe in curses, of course, but then she literally runs into the Marquis of Rawley. For some odd reason, any time she wears the diamond, all her suitors EXCEPT the marquis show up. Whenever she does not wear it, the marquis is there!
In 2007, reformed thief Samantha Jellicoe discovers the Nightshade Diamond hidden in the wall of her billionaire boyfriend's estate while she is prepping the area for an event. The note with it is dated from the early eighteen hundreds.
*** The plot is wonderful, the characters are developed pretty well too. However, since each story only takes half the book I never felt close to any of the characters. They came across as flat. But all-in-all, this book is worth your time and money. ***
Author: Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Title: Bride For a Knight
Set in the Western Highlands, 1347. All his siblings are dead and only Jamie MacPherson remains. Thus, Jamie returns to Baldreagen Castle. Upon arriving, Jamie finds a golden goddess in the glade. Desire ignites immediately. So when Jamie later learns that she is soon to be his wife, he is more than simply pleased. He desires her as no other before.
Aveline Matheson seems just as willing to wed. She actually longs to have a husband and household to call her own.
Danger seems to follow the couple. Someone close has already murdered Jamie's siblings, yet is now intent on wiping out the rest of his family, including his new bride. But the enemy did not believe Jamie would risk all for his Aveline.
**** Wonderful historical romance. Lots of romance and intrigued with some danger and suspense as well. I would never have guessed as to whom the enemy was or why. Recommended! ****
Author: Catherine Kean
Title: My Lady's Treasure
This story is set in England and begins in early December, 1192. Lady Faye Rivellaux is an impoverished widow. She resides in Caldstone Keep. One of her dearest friends, Elayne, was the wife of Lord Torr Lorvais. Elayne is now deceased; however, before Elayne died, Faye was her companion. Faye would often go with Elayne and little Angeline (Elayne's daughter) to the river for picnics. It was during the last picnic together that Angeline found the slightly dented golden chalice in some mud and rocks. The goblet became a secret of the trio.
Though Elayne is now deceased, Faye cares for eighteen month old Angeline as if the child were her own. Angeline is kidnapped and a ransom for silver is sent to Faye, along with a warning to tell no one of the demand. Faye meets a man at the arranged destination and offers the gold goblet instead of silver.
Sir Brant Meslarches does not care for Lord Torr Lorvais. Yet due to the last words uttered from his older brother, Royce, Brant must comply to Lord Lorvais's demands. Brant had been assured Faye would not have the ransom. Lorvais's orders were to scare Faye and leave. So Brant is shocked when Faye offers a gold goblet! It looks to be part of King Arthur's legendary treasure.
Faye does not trust Brant to not disappear with the goblet and never return Angeline. Faye does not believe Brant when he confesses that he has no idea who Angelina even is. At the same time, Brant desperately wants to locate the rest of the treasure that Royce had been positive existed. The two must team up, even though there is very little trust between them, in hopes of locating the untold riches, rescuing the little girl, and foiling the plans of an insane overlord.
***** An excellent tale which surrounds one of my favorite legends and set within the days of yore. The descriptions of events, such as the fateful picnic, were so realistic that I could almost feel the chill from the wind on my face. I consider this story to be MY treasure and it will go directly to my Keeper Shelf. Filled with drama, betrayals, romance, suspense, and mystery, this adventure will remain in your mind long after you finish reading the last page. *****
Author: Jocelyn Kelley
Title: Lost in Shadow
Miss Jade Nethercott is the middle daughter of Lord Nethercott, a professor who died before he could prove that ghosts were real. Since her father encouraged his daughters to ask questions and actually think (unlike most Society ladies), Jade did not run screaming when the ghost of Sir Mitchell Renshaw appeared in front of her. Lord Renshaw says that Jade's father told him to seek her out in hopes of bringing Lord Renshaw's killer to justice. Lord Renshaw is just as pompous and condescending in death as he was in life. This, of course, grates on Jade's nerves at times. Yet Lord Renshaw tells Jade that should she help him find proof against his killer, he would have the spirit of Jade's father come visit her. Lord Renshaw also promised to try to become visible to others so that Jade can prove to the world her father was correct in his research of ghosts. Jade agrees. Lord Renshaw's ghost swears that Lord Bannatyne, the brother of his fiancée, Lady Persis, is the one who stabbed him in the back and killed him, even though he never actually saw Lord Bannatyne's face. Lord Renshaw knows that Lord Bannatyne's knife was used and that is all the proof he needs for himself. However, the living requires more proof than simply the knife, since anyone else could have used it. Lord Renshaw insists that the proof Jade must retrieve can only be found in the demimonde. (This is where gentlemen find various mistresses and cyprians.) Even knowing this task could ruin her, Jade is determined to succeed. As one last favor, Lord Renshaw asks Jade to contact Persis and let her know that she could very well be in mortal danger.
Lord Gideon Bannatyne, third viscount, has a low reputation even without people whispering that they believe he murdered Lord Renshaw. So he is amazed when Jade walks directly up to him and requests his assistance in helping her slip into the demimonde to discreetly question some of the demimondaines. Normally Gideon would refuse, but something about Jade has him making a deal with her. He would help Jade in her quest, yet should she not have her answers by the seventh night, Jade must spend a month in Gideon's bed. Only shortly thereafter, Gideon proves he is not totally a cad when he risks arrest rather than ruin Jade's reputation. Once they have leaped that particular hurdle, Gideon introduces Jade to Miss Sharla Maguire. Sharla is the mistress to another gentleman, but a dear friend to Gideon, and she agrees to tutor Jade, for a week, in how to behave like the women in the demimonde. In this way, Jade should be able to slip in and out of the demimonde without Society ever hearing of it.
But someone out there seems to be gunning for Gideon and will stop at nothing to succeed.
***** Author Jocelyn Kelley proves that she can easily cross genres with this suspenseful novel set in London's Regency era. Readers are treated to ghostly tasks, drama, and romance all wrapped up in a fascinating murder mystery! Sharla is the best secondary character, imho, of the story and I hope to see more of her in future tales. Recommended as one of the highest dramas I have read all year! Fabulous! *****
Author: DeborahAnne MacGillivray
Title: In Her Bed
Set in the Scotland Highlands, 1296. Aithinne Ogilvie is heiress of Clan Ogilvie. A charter granted two centuries before protected the right of the Picts. Yet this did not stop the English monarch from sending the Dragon of Challon to claim Glen Shane by wedding Aithinne's cousin, Tamlyn. (Story in "A Restless Knight".) Soon King Edward would look toward Coinnleir Wood and Lady Aithinne. Now that her guardian, Gilchrist Fraser, Lord Lyonglen, is dead, Aithinne is desperate to keep the Norman's king and her awful neighboring suitors away from her people. Thus a plan is made from desperation. But before the plan is put into motion, Aithinne must become pregnant fast and keep Gilchrist's death a secret just a little bit longer. Aithinne sends her most trusted men out to kidnap a handsome man. He is to be chained to a bed in the tower for a full week, beginning on Beltane Night. During that time, Aithinne will use him to conceive a babe. Afterward, the man would be given a potion to forget it all.
Damian St. Giles, Lord Ravenhawke, is in love with Tamlyn and must watch silently as she weds Challon, his cousin. When three Scottish men offer Damian some special Beltane mead, he gladly accepts in hopes of oblivion taking away his heartache, even if only temporary. Damian wakens to find himself in a strange bed, with the woman he longs for making love to him. Time blurs. When Damian finds himself back with Lord Challon, he cannot explain where he has been.
Aithinne's plans backfire when Lord Challon enters her gates, with Damian at his side, to announce that King Edward had made him overlord of all Glen Eallach, including Coinnleir Wood. Fate must be laughing at them all, because Damian is somehow the heir of her deceased guardian! When Damian remembers everything, not even her magical Kenning talent from her Sidhe blood will be able to save her!
***** This author writes with a flavor that reminds me of Johanna Lindsey. Not many people write stories with such passion any longer. At times the drama was so intense it made me wince. Often the words were so heated that, had it been dark, they would have lit up the sky like lightning. I can only hope the author releases another story soon ... and I will be waiting. Highly recommended reading here! *****
Author: Lynsay Sands
Title: The Brat
Balan of Gaynor needs a rich wife in the worst way, but does he need one badly enough to dare to wed the infamous Brat, aka, Murie, King Edward's beloved goddaughter? Something makes him believe there is more to Murie than her nickname implies, making him dare to disrupt an evil plot against her and win her heart for his own. However, not everyone wishes them well, so even as the pair finds great joy, someone is trying to turn Murie into a widow.
**** It is refreshing to see a story told so sweetly and without relying on artificial excesses. Murie's true nature and how she copes with the challenges of the court is a profound reminder to not be quick to judge, and her superstitions are very amusing. If you miss good, old-fashioned romances, then hurry and grab this. ****
Author: Patricia Grasso
Title - Tempting the Prince
Belle Flambeau and her six sisters each have a special "gift". Belle's is a healing touch. Belle's passion for gardening has made her famous in certain circles. Belle is happy with her lot in life and is about to marry. But it all changes when a vicious attack leaves her with an ugly scar on her face. Belle's fiancée dumps her and Belle retreats from society.
The Flambeau Sisters do not know who their father is (except for Fancy, who is not telling). They only know he is a duke and he always provides well for them. But after Belle's attack, their father comes forward to acknowledge them. Worried for the safety of his daughters, the duke and his wife convince the girls to move in with them. This is not as awkward as you would think. The duke has always cared for his six daughters and the duchess, "Roxie", greets them with open arms. In fact, Roxie treats the six sisters as if they were her own daughters, offering love and words of wisdom. Belle is the only daughter Roxie cannot convince to go out into society again. Belle wants only to be left alone to tend the gardens.
Prince Mikhail "Mick" Kazanov wants a loving, nurturing wife, not one of the shallow fortune hunters that are constantly vying for his attention. His young daughter, Bess, is eager for a new mother as well. Bess insists that Mick search through all the "mummy stores" and get one who knows a lot of stories, loves laughing, plays in the garden, helps with tea parties, and bakes happiness cakes. And upon sighting Belle, Mick knows he has found the perfect woman to be his wife. Problem is that Belle's scar would keep her from allowing anyone to meet her, much less court and marry her. Thus Mick, the duke, and a select few others get together and begin scheming.
Meanwhile, London is being plagued by a murderer dubbed "The Society Slasher". The Slasher's victims are female. He slashes his victim's throat, leaves a gold sovereign in her hand, and takes some of her hair for a souvenir. And Belle just may be next.
***** I found this enchanting story to be a subtle twist on the "Beauty & the Beast" tale. The book caught my attention with the very first line, the Slasher stalking his latest prey. There is so much more going on than my synopsis reveals. Author Patricia Grasso has many secondary characters throughout the entire book; however, I never found myself confused by them all or distracted from the main plot by rambling. There is no "filler" within the pages to deal with. Everybody mentioned is relevant to the story. I became so enthralled by everyone and everything that I felt as though I were actually there. I came to know each character's quirk and attitude. I could guess how each would react to news. And let us not forget the villains that readers all love to hate. This story has quite a few of them for me to despise!
This is part of a series, but I did not have to read the previous novels to enjoy it at all. Yet after reading this book, I intend to search the book store for "To Charm a Prince", "To Love a Princess", "Seducing the Prince", and "Pleasuring the Prince". If they are even half as good as THIS title, I'm in for a treat. Patricia Grasso, you have a new fan in me! *****
Author: Carolyn Lampman
Title: Shadows in the Wind
Cole Cantrell and his son, Josh, find an unconscious young woman with no memory lying in front of their horse's hooves and decide to take her home. When she awakens, she has no memory and the only clue to her identity is a letter that indicates her name is Stephanie. As the months slip by, Stephanie's health is restored, but she still does not know who she is. Cole does though; she is the woman he loves. She has brought life and joy back into his home, but the shadow of the unknown truth lies between them and the future.
*** This sweet, classically themed tale evokes thoughts of Julie Garwood's westerns. The ironic twist at the end is charming and you will root for the protagonists to get their happily ever after. ***
Author: Barbara Metzger
Title - The Hourglass
Ar, a member of the Dead Letters, aka, Grim Reapers, gambles with the devil to regain his humanity. After winning, the devil double crosses him and gives Ar six months in which to find the symbol of his office or face damnation. Before Ar can protest, he finds himself alive again, near the battlefields of Waterloo, with a newly liberated gremlin as his companion. Soon, he meets a disgraced, young, pregnant widow and marries her out of kindness. Yet, as the weeks pass, Ar finds himself growing to love Genie, his wife, and though his powers baffle her, she feels something in kind for this strange man who has defended and befriended her so well. However, will death claim its due, or will Ar find happiness is a question that hangs over them every moment.
**** This book reminded me of the classic film, Death Takes a Holiday and of the first, and best book in Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, Bearing an Hourglass. The premise, though not wholly new, is one seldom explored and is very well executed. Ar's pet gremlin is an added bonus, providing an amusing note to balance out the necessary moodiness. ****
Author: Taylor Jones
Title - The Untamed Earl
Estella's great love of pranks backfires so that she finds herself married to the boring Godolphon, Earl of Seabrook. She is utterly miserable, for the marriage is not based at all on love. She simply found herself trapped and having to save face, while her husband married her to get access to information to help in his investsigation into a smuggling ring. However, one of their wedding gifts, a "dog training" manual, offers some hope in Estella's quest to turn her union around. Yet, there is danger all around, and someone is taking advantage of Estella's penchant to make her look bad. Can the mismatched pair find love, or will circumstances tear them apart?
*** This is an unusual story. Estella often seems vain and shallow, while Godolphon's hair-trigger temper combine to make this romance seem utterly unworkable. Somehow though, a certain charm comes through as the sum of the parts of this book proves to be greater than the individual facets. ***
Author: Connie Mason
Title - Highland Warrior
Ross MacKenna first met Gillian MacKay on the field of battle when the tempestuous woman tried to kill him. He never expected to find himself married to her, but when her father offers her hand to him as a way to end a generations' old feud between their clans, that is just what happens. Their marriage begins on rocky ground, but passion is a powerful thing, and soon they find a common ground. However, revenge and hate are also powerful. When those opposed to the marriage, namely the two who lost out on marrying Ross and Gillian respectively conspire to end both the union and the truce, their new love is tested severely and almost to the point of death.
*** This is a story full of fire and passion, though the narrative seems a bit rushed at times. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a fast paced, fiery tale, this is the ticket. ***
Author: Karen Harper
Title - The First Princess of Wales
In the mid-fourteenth century young Joan of Kent is sent to live at the court of King Edward III and meets her heart’s destiny when she first arrives at court. Joan and Edward have an immediate attraction to each other even before they know each other’s true identities. When Joan learns the truth about the role that the royal Plantagenets, whose court she now lives in, played in the murder of her father she vows revenge for her family. Joan wants very much to avenge her father’s betrayers by destroying the royal family but finds her heart unwilling to hurt Prince Edward even as she fights her feelings of love for him. So ensues the private desires and passions between the Prince of Wales and Joan and their very public verbal sparring. But the winding paths of their separate lives would continue to bring them together and thrust them apart these two hearts that strained to be as one.
***** At first, I was having a difficult time getting into this novel concerning its Medieval Age time period and all the descriptions of life at court, but as I read on I was swept up in the epic love story of Edward, Prince of Wales, and his dearest Jeannette, Joan of Kent, and could just not read it fast enough. Karen Harper has written a lovely romance intertwined with the historic events of the Medieval Age. I was thrilled with Prince Edward’s perseverance in seeking a way to be with his lovely Jeannette even when she all but gave up on her heart’s desire. The First Princess of Wales is a very enchanting love story! *****
Author: Julia London
Title - The Perils of Pursuing a Prince
(Bk2 Desperate Debutantes)
Set in 1820, Greer Fairchild is left destitute by her guardian's death. In hope of avoiding being wed to the first offer, regardless of her say so in the matter, Greer travels to Wales in search of an inheritance she is not sure even exists. The good news is that Greer finds the inheritance DOES exist and is four thousand pounds. The bad news is that the inheritance went to Rhodrick Glendower, Earl of Radnor, the Prince of Powys. Rhodrick will not release the money to Greer unless she can give him proof that she is who she claims to be. So Greer writes to Lord Middleton, who is married to Greer's cousin, Ava Fairchild, in London for a letter of introduction. It will take over a month for the letter to reach London, find Lord Middleton, and for the return reply to reach Greer at Llanmair. Until then, Greer is Rhodrick's reluctant guest.
Greer's first impression of Rhodrick is tainted by Mr. Owen Percy who has traveled with Greer to Llanmair. Having only seen Percy at his best, Greer has no idea that all the tales he told her about the Prince of Powys are lies. The impression is made worse by Rhodrick himself, when he appears with his two enormous wolfhounds (Cain and Abel) and a bold scar upon his face, which would not have been so bad had the prince not been scowling down at her in displeasure.
Rhodrick is familiar with Percy's lies and scandals. Since Greer is in Percy's company, he assumes she's only trying to scam money from him too. No one can be as naïve as this woman appears to be! Yet at the same time, her story is intriguing. He decides the best thing to do is get rid of Percy and then wait for Lord Middleton's proof of Greer's identity. Greer believes that Percy has gone for help and refuses to believe that Percy left her after getting one hundred pounds. The lady grates on his last nerve!
After a bit of time together, the pair begin to thaw toward each other. Greer's hatred turns into desire of the mysterious prince who dares her to become his wife and princess.
***** This is the second book in the Desperate Debutantes Trilogy. I did not think the author could possibly write a story better than the first title (The Hazards of Hunting a Duke). I am very happy to be proved totally wrong! The hero of this story, Rhodrick, is not as hideous as Greer's first impression describes. But combined with the two wolfhounds, it gives the tale a small flavor of "Beauty and the Beast". In this case, however, Beauty is not tempted by a forbidden rose, but by an abandoned white mansion from her past that resides six miles away, which all are forbidden to visit. Author Julia London breathes life into the characters and I could not help but sympathize with both sides. Everything is detailed vividly, from the people involved to the places surrounding them. I easily envisioned everything and could not pull myself away from reading except for short trips to the restroom or to search for food. Extremely well done and highly recommended reading! *****
Author: Elizabeth Clarke
Title - The Bare Truth
Perhaps Juliette Garrison's means of securing employment at the Whitehall estate are not strictly on the up and up, but her skills make up for her white lies. Yet, one white lie turns out to be the key to her future. When she impulsively calls herself "Juliette Whitehall" in order to rescue an urchin, American Thomas Jameson hears and is impressed by a young lady who would defend a child with no status. When he turns up at a house party her employers give, it matters not a bit to Thomas that the woman who intrigued him is simply a lady's maid. But, Juliette truly is more than that; she is a long-lost grandchild of a nobleman. However, her happy reunion lasts only a short time, ending when her grandfather is murdered and she is accused of his death. Thomas is willing to help her escape, but he has nothing to offer her except freedom. In the days to come, for all her lies, Juliette will discover that she does need the truth to set her free.
**** Though historicals are not my first choice for reading material, I found this to be a compelling story that was quite difficult to put down. Juliette is a flawed, yet easilly likeable heroine whose dramatic life makes a fantastic story. ****
Author: Andrew Greeley
Title - Irish Linen
When a young Irish American soldier goes missing in Iraq, it falls to Dermot Coyne and his adoring, sensible, fey wife, Nualla McGraill, to do what they can to see about making sure he gets home safely. As per usual, they find that their present difficulty might have answers in the past, in this instance, the love story of another young Irishman and the beauty he fell for in Pre World War II Germany. As the two stories play out, truths are uncovered in a delightful fashion.
**** Reading Andrew Greeley is like putting on your favorite, comfy clothes and curling up by the fire. His gentle story telling style will make you swear he's a new incarnation of Taliesin, or some other Irish bard. Old friends reappear, reassuring you that they are still well and alive in his mind. Throughout the narrative, a lesson is given, but not in a preachy fashion, at all. Celebrate St. Patrick's Day or any day at all by giving yourself this treat. ****
Author: Cassie Edwards
Title - Savage Quest
Annamae's life has been the carnival since her family was slaughtered by Indians. Though she hates her work as a charlatan dream interpreter, she endures it with no hope of escape until her guardian brings in an Indian child he captured with the intent of displaying him a wild thing. Annamae is more than willing to take what risks she must to rescue the child and escape. They run into the boy's uncle's search party who takes them back to the camp. Once Cougar is convinced that Annamae is not responsible for his nephew's plight, he realizes that he is falling in love with her, for she resembles his lost love. Annamae by far prefers the honest life in the Indian camp to the fakeness of the carny world and the odious man who wanted her for his own. However, her guardians and her unwanted suitor might not give her up so easily.
*** If you are a fan of Indian romances, then this has all the trademarks of one and you will enjoy it. Though Annamae's easy adaption to the life in the wilderness stretches credulity, the story is written well enough to satisfy fans. ***
Author: Zoe Archer
Title - Love In A Bottle
Set in England, 1763. Sophie Andrews loves the field of botany; however, no one takes females seriously. Vexing, but all too true. That does not stop Sophie from studying and sketching to her heart's content. She is even trying to prove a theory on symbiosis. Her favorite uncle, Alforth "Uncle A" Morley, is the only one in the family who seems to understand Sophie at all. In fact, Sophie is in Whiltshire, with her uncle when she spies a rare specimen of fungi. Upon approaching the mushroom, she meets Ian Blackpool. Amazingly, Ian approves of her hobby.
Ian never tells Sophie that he is a gentleman, but he certainly never bothers to tell Sophie he is an elixir salesman, a peddler. When Ian spies Sophie in the crowd around his caravan, he can see her disappointment. Ian claims to have found the chemical combination that makes people fall in love ... or at least feel as though they are in love. Ian sells Love in a Bottle. Ian later makes sure to meet Sophie one last time, to apologize, before she leaves town. While doing so, Uncle A and his coachman are kidnapped by the notorious "Dark Dan McGannon". There is no time to call on the law for help. McGannon usually collects a ransom and then sells his victims into servitude. Sophie and Ian team up to rescue the men.
***** Readers, that is only the BEGINNING of this marvelous story. The author also includes Sophie's dominating mother, an engagement with an overbearing and unwanted suitor, the outlaw returning for revenge, and a romance unlike any other. Author Zoe Archer's writing talent has the similar flavor of Laura Kinsale's older titles. The heroine is someone readers can look up to and admire. The hero is intelligent, yet believable. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. *****
Author: Jannine Corti Petska
Title: Rebel Heart
The year is 1873. When the wealthy Leif Danning realizes he cannot change Courtney's mind about leaving New York City to run off and wed Stanley Burgess in Santa Fe, he turns his attention to finding someone to protect his rash daughter. His solution is to hire an ex-gunfighter named Beau Hamilton. Without Courtney's knowledge, Beau will make sure she reaches Santa Fe safely. Once Courtney is wed, Beau is to quietly keep an eye on her for one year.
Beau is attracted to the lovely heiress the moment Leif points the lady out to him. Pampered as Courtney's life has always been, Beau knows Leif is right to find Courtney a watch dog. But Beau still believes this will be the easiest money he has ever earned.
Courtney could hardly wait to wed Stanley and begin their lives together on a ranch. The traveling is smooth, if a bit uncomfortable. The wedding is nice, if a bit rushed. Yet once married, Courtney begins getting many shocks. Stanley is murdered before her very eyes only a few hours after the wedding. She would be dead too if the stranger from the train ride had not showed up. Courtney decides to grow up and run Rancho Ortega herself. It sounds easy until Courtney finds out that her ranch raises sheep instead of cattle and Stanley left her with a pile of debt. As much as Beau Hamilton aggravates her, Courtney needs his help; especially when a neighboring ranch owner, Jared Stover, begins a range war with her. Courtney must learn how to defend herself - fast!
**** Author Jannine Corti Petska must have done a lot of research on sheep ranching to create such a beautiful and well written story. I only wish it could have been longer so Courtney would not have had to give in to her attraction to Beau so quickly. The main couple is very different from each other, but a perfect match. The author made sure that this is one pampered, but feisty, lady that readers cannot help but cheer for. Keep your eye on this author. I certainly will be. Jannine Corti Petska's future looks bright. ****
Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Title: Never A Lady
Colin Oliver, Viscount Sutton, left his countryside estate in Cornwall for London. Recently, Colin has been having the feeling of impending doom. Recalling that his own mother died at the same age he currently is, Colin decides it is time to find a bride and provide heirs for the family line. Thus the unwanted, but necessary, trip to London is done. What Colin does not expect is to find a face from his past. Madame Alexandra Larchmont may be the most sought after fortune teller for all the Society parties lately, but four years ago she had been a thief who tried to pick his pockets. Since the night she escaped him, Colin feared for the unknown girl's fate. The question now is whether she has really changed her ways or if she is using her talent of reading cards to gain entry into the homes of the upper crust.
The cards have warned Alexandra for years about a certain man that would enter her life and turn it upside down. Yet she never expects to see him at a London soiree. In trying to slip away unnoticed, she ends up overhearing an assassination plot. Trying to stay out of danger, but unable to sit by and do nothing, Alexandra leaves the host of the party an anonymous letter, explaining what she had overheard. Later, when Alexandra learns the host has been murdered, she rightfully fears for her own life. The only person she can turn to is Lord Sutton. It does not seem as though the gentleman recalls their encounter four years ago, but the longer she stays in his presence, the higher the odds that he will remember her. Even worse, the man may figure out just how much she yearns for his touch.
***** Author Jacquie D'Alessandro has yet to disappoint me with any of her romantic and suspense filled tales. Until the unlikely day occurs of D'Alessandro suddenly getting writer's block so badly that she totally flops in story telling (Heaven Forbid!), I will remain one of her biggest fans. Once again, all the characters in the story are very well developed and totally believable. The main and secondary characters are so detailed that each seem to have their very own personality and little quirks. I not only came to care for the main characters, but also all the secondary and a few of the background characters as well. (Little Robbie is a perfect example.) Wimpy, fainting, and useless females need not apply to be in any D'Alessandro novel. The same can be said for stiff, recherché, and boring men. Excellent and highly recommended reading! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - What a Lady Wants
(Bk 2 Last Man Standing series)
Set in London, 1854. Of the three remaining bachelors, Nigel Cavendish is the one most prone to outlandish behavior. Usually it involves married or widowed women. He knows that he must wed some day to produce an heir; however, he assumes he has many years before the drastic action must be taken. Nigel meets Felicity while escaping via the bedroom window of Felicity's neighbor. His short conversation with her leaves him intrigued, to say the least. He wrangles an introduction at a ball shortly thereafter and realizes that the lady might be the most dangerous female he has ever met. Her forthright manner and intelligence keeps him coming back, just to chat, or so he thinks.
Lady Felicity Melville is the only daughter of Lord Dunbury. She may be an amateur astronomer, but she is actually WISHING upon a star on the night that her life changes. Felicity wishes for "a future that is not staid and boring and ordinary. A man who will make the rest of my days an adventure. The grandest of adventures." When she hears a gunshot and sees someone slipping over her garden wall, she decides not to be meek and call for someone to help her. Instead, she starts up an odd conversation with the handsome rogue that climbs up her trellis, then tells him how to escape the area unseen. She immediately decides Nigel will do. He will need some reforming though. To do this, Felicity seeks out Nigel's twin sister, The Countess "Maddy" of Windham.
After meeting Felicity, Maddy is convinced that the young lady is perfect for her rascal of a brother. She becomes the perfect ally for Felicity. While the women plan their strategies, Nigel's Viscount father "Edmund" executes a plan of his own. Nigel will turn thirty-one in six more weeks and Edmund is handing over management of all the family's accounts, assets, investments, and properties to Nigel. During those six weeks, Nigel must study it all, but may come to his father for questions, help, and advice. It seems that Nigel's philandering ways are about to end.
***** When Felicity wished for the grandest of adventures, she got more than she bargained for. Unlike most heroines in recent Historical Romances, Felicity is intelligent as well as sharp and devious. Maddy's character is extraordinary also. I was delighted every time she entered the story. Author Victoria Alexander not only gives readers the romance they desire, but also hands them a story that they will never forget. I can hardly wait for the third novel in this series. OUTSTANDING! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - A Little Bit Wicked
(Bk 1 Last Man Standing series)
Set in London, 1854. Four titled gentlemen make a pact, the last of them to remain unwed will win four shillings (yes, just a token four shillings) and a bottle of rare Cognac. "Gideon" Pearsall, Viscount Warton, was married for a single day, years ago. He now considers Violet to be in the past, a youthful mistake that he will never repeat. Gideon knows he must marry soon to beget an heir. Until then, Gideon plans to enjoy himself with an enticing widow.
Lady "Judith" Chester has been a widow for about twelve years now. She had married Lucien when she was but eighteen. Even so, Judith is financially independent now and is determined to never wed again. (If only she could be rid of her sister-in-law as easily.) Of course, that does not mean Judith does without male companions. On their first night together, Judith makes sure that Gideon knows that their time together will be no more than a discreet adventure together. It will eventually end with no hard feelings and, if all goes as her previous discreet adventures did, they will still remain good friends once they part ways.
Susanna, Judith's close friend, keeps a sharp eye on the pair. The last thing she wants is Judith being hurt. Gideon's aunt, Louisa, feels the same way about her nephew and is vocal to the couple about it. Judith and Gideon never intended to begin falling in love with each other. Yet once their hearts begin to melt together, Violet shows back up, baring her sharp claws, and determined to marry Gideon again...whether he wants to or not.
**** The title may be "A Little Bit Wicked", but the hot scenes within this novel are a great deal more so! (Just the way I like it.) This is the beginning of a new four-book series (The Last Man Standing). The story holds little in the way of danger, but it is filled with plenty of tantalizing romance. Author Victoria Alexander remains one of the best writers today when it comes to Historical Romance. And do not worry, if you prefer a hint of danger with your romance, book two is coming out only one month later! ****
Author: Leslie LaFoy
Title - The Rogue's Bride
Following the untimely deaths of his father and brothers, Tristan Townsend returns to London to assume the family title. As the Marquis, he will be expected to wed, and the first woman who catches his eye is Lady Simone Turnbridge, the least likely prospect of the season. Known for her unconventional behavior, Simone has few hopes of marrying, nor does she really want to, until she meets Tristan. All that stands in their way is his former flame and the fact that someone is trying to kill all the heirs to his estate.
*** Ms. LaFoy effectively uses standard conventions to produce a fast-paced, intriguing romance. Her heroine is truly outstanding, hearkening back to ladies such as Jo March, but with her own unique sense of style. ***
Author: Kat Martin
Title - Heart of Honor
The moment Krista Hart hears the star attraction at a freak show speak, she knows he is not a monster, but a man who speaks Old Norse and she manages to procure his freedom. Leif Draugr is the son of a chieftain of a lost tribe of Vikings who followed his heart to seek what was beyond his island home. He is sure that the gods have brought him and Krista together. As her father turns him into a gentleman, Krista begins to feel something for this warrior as well, but he is determined to return to his land. Though he promises to take her with him, she really does not want to go. She has duties to her family and to the magazine she produces, even if those could lock her in a loveless marriage or get her killed.
**** This is a compelling take on "My Fair Lady" with a touch of "Brigadoon" thrown in, as well a a ton of passion to round things out nicely. Once again, Ms. Martin has a winning tale that is sure to please anyone who loves a good romance. ****
Author: Christina Dodd
Title - The Prince Kidnaps A Bride
Crown Princess Sorcha was six when her queen-mother died bearing a third daughter. From the day Grandmamma came to live with them, Sorcha felt like a project that was being molded. Oh, Grandmamma kept an eye on Sorcha's younger sisters, but Sorcha got special treatment that she did not want. It was up to Sorcha to continue the Beaumontagnian royal line.
Princess Sorcha has been betrothed to Prince Rainger de Leonides since infancy. Sorcha ends up in a remote convent until the age of twenty-five. While watching the sea she spies Arnou, a fisherman. However, this odd fisherman turns out to be Prince Rainger in disguise. He has been imprisoned in a dungeon and rumored to have died. During his time in the dungeon, Rainger has changed into a dangerous and hard man. He has returned to win back his kingdom and Sorcha, no matter what.
Sorcha must travel home, with Rainger still disguised as a fisherman. But unlike Rainger, Sorcha has not lost her ability to trust. It is up to Rainger to somehow keep her reined in and protected.
**** Author Christina Dodd has yet to disappoint me when it comes to historical romance. Sorcha's character is a bit hard to believe at times, but I love the way Dodd has both main characters behaving in completely opposite manners. Another great tale for romance fans to cherish! ****
Author: Shannon Drake
Title - Beguiled
England is in a turmoil. The anti-monarchists are causing political furror and a mysterious killer is eliminating those who support the crown. If they could find out who A.Anonymous was, he or she would probably be on the killer's hit list, but the outspoken editorial writer lives in relative safety under their pseudonym. No one would guess the author to be Ally Grayson, a very proper, engaged young lady. Ally has dreams of being a great writer, ala Conan Doyle, but imagines her only adventures will be on paper until a highwayman kidnaps her and wins her heart. Unfortunately, she has an arranged marriage in her near future, and her fiance', Mark, is just not as exciting as the stranger. Or is he? Little does she know, the man to whom she is engaged is the man she loves and is trying to keep both England and her safe using his secret identity. Nor does she comprehend how much danger there is. Of course, Mark does not realize how much he needs her yet, either.
*** The idea of a "love triangle" involving the heroine, the hero, and one or the other's secret identity is not a new one, but it is not common in historical novels. It is still an intriguing device, well combined here with a complex mystery and interesting historical insights. Ms. Drake's loyal fans will be pleased, and new readers should be as well. ***
Author: Elaine Barbieri
Title - Hawk's Prize
Drew Hawk went through the Civil War believing he was an orphan and that his siblings were all dead, something each of his them also thought true. Now, he has returned home to Galveston where he lands in the town bordello, not for fun, but because a wounded leg is keeping him laid low. The madam's adopted daughter, Tricia Shepherd, takes care of the handsome soldier, and when he begins searching for who killed his best friend, she is at his side. However, that's the most dangerous place to be; the man who destroyed Drew's family is in Galveston and determined to finish what he began long ago.
*** The series ends on one of the most heartwarming notes in literary history. If you have followed the rest of the Hawk series, the conclusion will leave a smile on your face.***
Author: Jocelyn Kelley
Title - My Lady Knight
(Bk 4 Ladies of St. Jude's Abbey)
Queen Eleanor, wife of King Henry II, mother of Prince Richard - the king's heir - and his brother Prince John, had established St. Jude's Abbey. The ladies within the abbey's walls are different than most, however. Each train in various talents, knowing that at any time the queen may call upon their service. As this story begins, the queen had been imprisoned by her husband almost a dozen years ago. In all that time, there had been no communication between her and St. Jude's Abbey. The king's favor remained with the Abbey as long as the abbess made no attempt to contact the queen. However, as the abbess pointed out, there was nothing to keep the queen from writing to the abbess for "guidance on her life".
Isabella de Monfort's major talents are in logic and working with herbs, elements, and science. For the past six months Isabella has been trying to devise the proper formula for a compound she heard about in a fantastic tale. When properly mixed and lit with a brand one can create a controlled explosion. She was getting closer to the solution, but has not quite figured it all out as yet. An accident has just caused some of Isabella's ingredients to mix and blow up the barn when she learns that the abbess has sent for her. Isabella's calm logic is the reason she has been singled out to serve Queen Eleanor in an important errand. The queen left documents within a casket residing in Lincoln. Isabella is given the key to the casket, but in order to use it she must first FIND the casket. It may be anywhere within Lincoln. It is vital Isabella collect the documents and deliver them to the queen by month's end. To assist Isabella, the abbess tells her to meet her nephew, Lord Jordan le Courtenay. He is familiar with the city's secrets and is intelligent Between Isabella and Jordan, completing the task in time is possible.
Isabella finds Jordan at Kenwick Priory. Jordan's dear friend, Sir Ryce de Dolan, died the previous fall in a tournament for a female's hand. The monks buried Ryce where he fell, on unconsecrated ground. Jordan plans to disinter the body (no more than bones now) and move it to La Tour de Courtenay for burial beneath sacred soil. Isabella assists Jordan with Ryce's remains, even helping with the digging, before beginning the search for the documents. The pair is confused when they find a dagger beneath Ryce's bones. The design on the blade belongs to "the Brotherhood", a secret and deadly organization of which no one will speak. The Brotherhood wants the dagger back, thus begins the attacks. Soon the pair is joined by Lord Weirton of Kenwick Castle and his sister, Lady Odette, in their journey to Lincoln. Once there, the real danger begins.
***** Author Jocelyn Kelley has outdone herself in this soon-to-be bestseller novel! Unlike the previous ladies, Isabella's weapon is a whip. (I still have hope that a pair of sai will be used by one of the ladies in a future tale.) I could not help but admire Isabella for her cool and logical way of thinking. The hero, Jordan, is one of honor, intelligence, and curiosity. He came across to me as a blend of knight and street rat. Extremely well done story that will linger in your thoughts long after you turn the last page! *****
Author: Catherine Kean
Title - A Knight's Vengeance
King Henry ordered Lord Arthur Brackendale to besiege the keep at Wode and kill Lord Edouard. Arthur obeyed his king. Therefore; at the tender age of ten, young Geoffrey de Lanceau held his father, Edouard, as he died, tainted with the title of "traitor". Geoffrey never believed his father betrayed their king. Geoffrey vowed that one day he would have his vengeance upon Lord Brackendale and reclaim Wode. Eighteen years passed.
Due to his valor in the King's Crusades, Geoffrey de Lanceau has been granted the new position as lord of Branton Keep. With his faithful friend, Dominic de Terre, Geoffrey has decided to begin his quest to fulfill his vow. To do so, he kidnaps Lord Brackendale's lovely daughter, Lady Elizabeth, and Mildred, a gray-haired lady-in-waiting. Geoffrey will let Arthur suffer fear for his daughter before sending the ransom demand. To save Elizabeth, Arthur must give up Wode or fight. But Geoffrey never expects to fall in love with his feisty and brave captive.
Lady Elizabeth has always dreamed of marrying for love, but she is promised to an old baron which rumors claim his cruel bed games is what killed his previous three wives. Then she is abducted by a scarred, tormented rogue who attracts her even though she despises him. Elizabeth wants nothing more than to escape with Mildred and return to her father. But Elizabeth and Geoffrey must join forces to find out the truth of what happened in the past, before it tears apart the present.
***** Fabulous! Author Catherine Kean gives readers everything they could possibly want in this tale of heroism and betrayal. There is a handsome and tormented hero, a brave and loyal heroine, a jealous and vindictive courtesan, as well as a romance that overcomes all obstacles. This will be one of the best historical romances of the year! *****
Author: Cheryl Holt
Title - Too Wicked to Marry
After her weak-willed, utterly despicable brother wagers away not only their home, but Helen Mansfield's virtue, she goes to Luke Westmoreland, hoping for mercy. Yet, the licentious nobleman has none for her, at first, and insists that the bargain be kept. However, he finds himself treating her gently and unexpectedly reluctant to cause her any pain, physical or emotional. When the deal is consumated, it is a matter of love, not lust, though neither will admit it. Because of this stubborn refusal to admit the truth, Luke knows he will have to leave Helen behind, not realizing that the revolting villains ever to grace a romance novel are waiting to fill the void he leaves behind.
*** Though some parts are far too graphic, the redemptive story and fascinating secondary romance compensate for that. The antagonists are utterly evil, with absolutely no saving qualities. The subplot of Robert and Patricia's transformations and growing love is beautiful, however. In fact, it is more interesting than Luke and Helen's tale. ***
Author: Bonnie Vanak
Title - The Panther and the Pyramid
Graham Tristan's dreams have been haunted by the image of a red headed beauty he has never seen until the night he chooses to lose his virginity. The woman who is doing the same with him's wig slips, revealing her to be the dream lady. Then, later, at a more formal affair, he sees her again. She is Jillian, the daughter of the man who abused him long ago in the most unspeakable of ways. She needs to escape before her father can sell her, and Graham offers her a rescue, become his wife. Jillian finds she has no choice but to wed this enigmatic man who is unwilling to share himself beyond the barest of details. However, when an emergency forces Graham to go on a treasure hunt, Jillian proves to be the key to not only his success, but to his heart.
*** Lush, exotic backgrounds provide for a hypnotic setting. Despite the brilliant sunlight, the tone is rather dark much of the time. This is no gentle romance, but one where revenge and passion take center stage. ***
Author: Cindy Holby
Title - Whirlwind
Mary Dunleavy hoped she would never see the infuriating cowboy who saw her at her worst, but Zane Brody is a fellow passenger on the train taking her to Laramie where she will be the town schoolteacher. He even lives in that town. Still, it could be worse, and indeed, it gets that way rapidly. First, Indians board the train and take Mary's doctor brother away with them to cure their chief. So, Mary decides to horse-nap Zane's thoroughbred and find her sibling. Naturally, he comes after her and the two, along with a goat named for the devil, decide to try and rescue the doctor. Before they can, other Indians capture them so they can have someone to torture. Although Mary manages to escape, she knows she can't leave the man she has come to love trapped.
*** Zane and Mary hurtle from one misadventure to another without stopping. Though the scenes at the Indian camp tend to have a very graphic feel, there is not much actually "shown". Ms. Holby is adept at painting scenes by implication. It's refreshing to find a romance that does not go too far into the red zone. ***
Author: Betina Krahn
Title - The Book of True Desires
To gain her grandfather's financial backing for an expedition to seek King Solomon's Mines, Cordelia O'Keefe agrees to go on a quest to prove her worth as an adventress and locate the Gift of the Jaguar, a valuable Mayan artifact. As galling as the delay and having to prove herself is, it is made more so by the fact that her cantankerous grandfather sends along "the worst butler in the history of butling", Hartford Goodnight, a man who has been forced into being somewhat of an indentured servant to the old man to repay a debt, to authenticate her work. The two strike sparks off each other from the outset, first due to profound irritation, then due to something much pleasanter. Danger makes for unexpected bedfellows.
*** Lush, exotic settings and quick witted dialog keep this story moving well. The romance takes a long time to build, but there is a good adventure story as well as a love story. ***
Author: Donna Fletcher
Title - Taken by Storm
In the historical romance Taken By Storm, the dashing and brave American Burke Longton is in Scotland on a mission to save his imprisoned brother when, unfortunately, he also finds himself wrongly imprisoned. He is amazed when he is freed from the prison by a ragtag band of outlaws led by the beautiful and courageous Storm. When Storm and her men agree to help him locate and free his brother Burke joins the outlaws and finds he cannot resist his attraction to Storm. Burke is challenged to break the walls that Storm has built around her heart as she is determined to never love again. Even though Burke declares his love for Storm and is the first to touch her heart in years she knows that they can have no future as their destinies lie in separate lands.
***** Donna Fletcher’s Taken By Storm is an adventurous romance set in the wild Scottish Highlands. It was exciting to read about a stubborn and courageous woman who leads a band of outlaws and who goes head to head with an obstinate American. This was the first historical romance I have read in many years, and it was a very enjoyable read with a surprisingly bittersweet ending. *****
Author: Laura Kinsale
Title - ShadowHeart
The assassin, Allegreto, first appeared in the novel "For My Lady's Heart" and readers screamed for his story to be told. Finally, his story has arrived!
Elena's life had been simple, sweet, and shielded for as long as she could recall. When Sir Raymond de Claire went to his lord and asked for Elena's hand in marriage, the customary background check was done of her blood lines. That was the end of her innocence. The shocking truth was revealed. Unknown to most, including herself, she was Princess Elena Rosafina di Monteverde, the direct descendant from the ruling house of Monteverde. She was the granddaughter of Prince Ligurio and long since thought dead. The Lady Melanthe (from "For My Lady's Heart") had hidden Elena, with the help of an assassin, from the sight of those who would see her dead.
The house of Riata ruled Monteverde for now. Knowing the people would embrace Elena as the true ruling house, she was charged to marry Franco Pietro which would combine the houses of Riata and Monteverde. Unhappy, but with no other choice, Elena set sail for Monteverde and her marriage.
Allegreto Navona, the illegitimate son of the cruel Gian Navona intercepted Elena's passage. She was taken to his island and was saved from being forced to wed the Riata. Instead, she would be forced to wed Allegreto of the Navona house. His marriage to Elena would seal his claim to rule Monteverde. Then he and his men, specially trained by him, would invade the city Monteverde and become the ruling lords.
Elena fell in love with Allegreto, but he was a man with many dark secrets. He claimed to have no heart, but pledged his life and service to Elena. Once in Monteverde, Elena must somehow return her people to the peaceful ways of her grandfather. But the houses of Riata and Navona caused unrest and some others plotted Elena's death, thus eliminating the last of her house.
***** Author Laura Kinsale and her legendary ability to weave spell binding tales has come forward once again to offer readers the long awaited story of the mysterious assassin known as The Raven. The result is "Shadow Heart" and it was worth the wait!
Elena's character is so realistic that readers can easily sympathize with her and feel the uncertainty that consumes the young princess and slowly changes her to become the strong leader the people so desperately need. As for the two house leaders who fight to claim Elena's hand, the reader is able to see and understand BOTH sides. The story, itself, flows smoother than silk with remarkable secondary characters that will claim the hearts of all. Highly recommended reading! This book will stand out from all others on your Keeper Shelf! *****
Author: Celeste Bradley
Title - Seducing the Spy
A dreadful muddle of events lead to Lady Alicia Lawrence becoming a social outcast five years ago, but now, she's set to return due to an equal measure of happenstance. After overhearing a plot to kill the Prince Regent, she goes to Stanton Horne, the Lord of Wyndham with the story, knowing he alone among the powerful will speak to a pariah such as herself. She does not know he is one of the Royal Four, or that he has a strange talent that makes him able to know who lies and who does not, except for her. Stanton can not read Alicia, and that makes her fascinating and dangerous. He needs her to identify the potential killer, and the perfect ruse entails her pretending to be his mistress. Thus, her life of poverty is ended to accomodate the ploy, and perhaps that would be enough for Alicia, but she's becoming as obsessed with Wyndham as he is with her. With the Chimera on the loose, that might be too much of a distraction.
*** Alicia is a fun heroine and the reparte' between her and Wyndham is charming. Secondary characters, especially her ladies "maid" truly add to the well - paced plot that rockets to a thrilling conclusion. ***
Author: Jackie Ivie
Title - The Knight Before Christmas
The story is set in the year 1455. Myles Donal is ordered by his father to marry the female nicknamed the Harridan of the Highlands. Having delayed as long as possible, Myles sets out for the Eschoncan Keep to meet and wed his betrothed. Yet before he can reach his destination, he becomes trapped in a furious blizzard. With no other choice, Myles stumbles into a small croft. He never expects to find a female already within, also riding out the blizzard. She has laryngitis and communication is all but impossible. Yet she is clearly high born; therefore, untouchable. But when Myles learns she is the daughter of Laird Eschoncan, he does not even try to hold back his desire for her.
Kendran Eschoncan ran away from an arranged marriage. The blizzard traps her in a small croft and she has no choice but to wait it out. She does not expect to share her shelter with anyone, especially not a man! Men cause nothing but pain. Kendran has marks from her father's previous beatings to prove it. However, their battle of wills soon turns into passion.
When they eventually meet again at Eschoncan Keep, Myles learns that Kendran is the not the daughter he is expected to marry. To keep Kendran's honor intact, they can neither show their love for each other, nor admit to having met before. Through it all, one of Kendran's sisters, Lady Sybil, gives the two star-crossed lovers advice. Before it is over, they may have to admit that Lady Sybil is touched by the fey after all.
**** Author Jackie Ivie delivers a little magic, a little fate, and a lot of passion in this tale of Highland romance. I found some surprises and a twist or two as Myles and Kendran battle destiny. As for Lady Sybil, that character is more than meets the eye. I can hardly wait to dive into her story! Excellent reading here. ****
Author: Brenda Joyce
Title - The Stolen Bride
Since childhood, Elle de Wareanne and Sean O'Neill have been the best of friends as well as step-siblings. Moreover, they are each other's first love until the day he disappeared. Two years pass, and Elle is forced to believe he was unable to keep his promise to return, and so pledges to wed another. Then, before she can, Sean comes home, under a death sentence for treason. Against all wisdom, she abandons everything to help him escape and run away with him. In the end, though, both of them are captured, but only she is freed. Sean is due to hang, and only by agreeing to wed a man she does not love can she hope to use the connections that come with that union to free her true love. It is what Sean wants for her, as he believes himself too broken and dangerous to be right for her. Elle does not agree, but she has honor to consider.
*** Though overly long and feeling almost padded at times, the final chapters have a heart-breaking quality that atones for any excess verbage. Sean and the secondary character of Peter have a poignancy that will bring tears to your eyes. ***
Author: Lynsay Sands
Title - Love is Blind
Every girl who has ever worn glasses knows how Lady Clarissa feels as this story opens; as if no man will ever look twice at you again because you are four-eyed. Clarissa could cope with that, however. She can barely cope with not seeing and the inherent clutziness that comes with her dim view on the world, but her stepmother has forbidden her to wear her spectacles. This works out well for Adrian Montfort, Earl of Mowbray as the war has left a scar on his face that repels all women who see him clearly. He seeks Clarissa out, and soon begins to court her and to fall in love. He even wins her hand, but their happiness might be short-lived as someone wants to kill Clarissa.
***** This is a pure delight of a story. Clarissa and Adrian's misunderstanding is poignantly realistic, and her kindness in forgiving those who wrong her is lovely. Love is Blind is the epitomy of a feel good romance. The mystery is an added bonus. *****
Author: Jeane Westin
Title - Lady Katherine's Wild Ride<
Lady Katherne "Kit" Lindsay has resided within her uncle's home for years. During this time, Kit has been treated like a servant. But when her uncle, Sir William, tried to force his attentions upon her late one night, she was compelled to defend her virtue. It was a fight Kit would have lost had the kitchen maid, Martha, not shown up in time. Since Lady Joan, Kit's cousin, always hated having Kit live with them, Kit figured that she had no time to lose. The two women fled.
Master Jolly takes Kit as an apprentice. She will be a leading lady on the stage, opposite Jeremy Hughes. Jeremy is well known for being very talented, on stage and with the ladies. Jeremy watches as Kit's acting abilities get better-and-better. Kit and Jeremy cannot help becoming attracted to each other. But danger always surrounds Kit. How can she hope to win Jeremy's true love without the law locating her?
**** All-in-all, I found this to be a very good read. There is not as much danger as I thought there would be, yet the plot never slowed down too far. Great for a Summer beach read! ****
Author: Caroline Linden
Title - What a Gentleman Wants
Marcus Reece, duke of Exeter, had always acted to preserve the family name, and his twin brother's along with it. To keep his brother, David, from being called out for a duel of honor, Marcus again cleans up David's mess and sends him out of London for awhile. But David ends up injuring his leg when his carriage wrecked during a race in a small town called Middleborough. The vicar's widow, Hannah Preston, takes care of David as he heals. David comes to care for Hannah, and for her small daughter, Molly. David is sincere when he proposes to Hannah, but the day before the wedding he panics.
Hannah curses her own idiocy. With few choices open to her, she weds a gentleman she hardly knows. David escorts Hannah and Molly to London, says he must be away on business for a bit, and promptly disappears. Hannah does not learn that David forged Marcus's name to the marriage license until the cold and aloft duke appears before her in person with accusations. Of course, Hannah is ready to simply walk out. But before she can, David and Marcus's sister, Celia, and stepmother, Rosalind, arrives and proceeds to gush all over Hannah and Molly.
Reluctantly, Hannah agrees to play the part of Marcus's duchess for a while. In doing so, Hannah will help secure Molly's future and Marcus can keep his relatives from hating David. The entire mess would sort itself out within only a month or two. Meanwhile, Marcus can continue his investigation with Bow Street of a counterfeiting ring. David seems to be mixed up in entire counterfeiting scheme and Marcus hopes to prove his brother innocent. But with tempting Hannah nearby, Marcus is having trouble concentrating. Marcus learns that by playing the part of husband, he has a chance to claim happiness.
***** Caroline Linden's characters are so vivid that, for awhile, I forgot they were all part of a fictional piece. As I read, I could easily see the events unfold before me and felt as though I were a part of everything. An outstanding story that I hated to see end. BRAVA! *****
Author: Jo Beverly
Title -To Rescue a Rogue
After being nearly compromised by a lech, Lady Mara McBride turns to the only man she feels will not be utterly horrified to have her turn up wearing underwear and a sheet, Dare Debenham, one of her brother's oldest friends, and someone she loves. However, romance is impossible, in Dare's mind, for thanks to an evil woman, he has become addicted to opium and will not force Mara to endure the nightmare he faces. She is determined, and so, for her, he struggles to best his beast, only to find that that is not the sole challenge to their bliss.
*** This is a weighty topic, one that the author handles well. Although the story felt padded at times, the heart of the tale is indeed food for thought, and commendable. ***
Author: Naomi Bellis
Title -Step Into Darkness
To save her father from a death sentence in France, Sarah Leaford will do anything; as evidence by first her plea to a known criminal to help her, then her bargain to marry a man she does not love when "Gentleman" Jack refuses her. However, Jack has a change of heart, upon the advice of his spectral father, to take the opportunity to set things right; years ago, Jack was accused, albeit falsely, of murdering Sarah's grandfather, her father's father, and helping her might be the path to clearing his name and balancing the scales. Since that time, he has established a reputation as a criminal, but it is only a guise for his true activities. Those skills make him the best suited to help Sarah, and so, she accepts his offer to help when he changes his mind. Thus, Jack and Sarah become allies in an adventure that will span the continent and bring equal amounts of love and peril into their lives.
*** This fast paced adventure has something for almost every historical fan; romance, adventure, a trace of magic, secrets, and espionage. The plot is just complex enough to intrigue without boggling the mind. Both Jack's spectre of a father and his enigmatic boss make for fascinating supporting characters that you will want to see more of. ***
Author: Morag McKendrick Pippin
Title -Blood Moon Over Britain
Cicely Winterbourne would be just an ordinary file clerk except for the fact that the top secrets of WWII are filed by her. She knows more than any one person should and becomes the most hunted person in England in December 1942. She posses the last piece of information to breaking the German Enigma Code and is not sure who to trust as those closest to her are being murdered. Realizing that there is only one person she can trust to turn the code over to, Cicely sets out on a journey from London to Cornwall.
Special Inspector Alistair Fielding of Scotland Yard knows that Cicely is keeping secrets. He joins her on her journey with the code, and both of them are caught up in the turmoil and espionage of warfare. Leaving a trail of bodies in their wake, both Cicely and Alistair are deep in wartime subterfuge as they risk their lives to keep the code safe from the Germans, Russians, and even spies in their own government. Strongly attracted to each other but still wary about trusting each other, Cicely and Alistair are caught up in a fierce passion during the unpredictable and harrowing times of WWII.
***** At first, the reading of Blood Moon Over Britain seems to be a bit bogged down with all the unfamiliar idioms unique to the British dialect and the WWII time period, but that is also part of the story’s charm and the uniquely British expressions do become familiar as the story progresses. From the nightly blackouts and London bombings to warfare espionage, Morag McKendrick Pippin covers all the cloak and dagger aspects of a good suspense novel combined with the passion of a good romance story. I really enjoyed reading Blood Moon over Britain and found it very difficult to put down as I was very caught up in this fast paced romantic adventure riddled with intrigue. *****
Author: Julia London
Title -The Hazards of Hunting A Duke
(The Desperate Debutantes)
Our story begins in March, 1819. Lady Ava Fairchild is heartbroken when Aunt Cassandra dies. Then her stepfather, Lord Downey, absconds with the fortune and disappears for a year. Ava, her younger sister, Phoebe, and her cousin, Greer, are left in the cold hands of Downey's sister. No money is left for their care. Their time in Society seems to be over. But Ava soon has enough of it and decides to hunt down the rake Jared Broderick. Jared is the Marquis of Middleton and heir to a dukedom. He would be the ticket to their freedom.
Jared is sick of hearing his father, the current Duke of Redford, harp on about settling down and begetting an heir. To shut him up, Jared chooses Ava. Of course, his father is not happy since he had another lady in mind. After all, Ava has no money at all to bring. Yet Jared does not care. Their marriage would be one of convenience. She would give him an heir and stay out of his life otherwise. In return, he would care for her, her sister, and her cousin.
However, Ava soon decides that she does not want a marriage of convenience, she wants passion. So now Ava is out to win her husband's heart, with a bit of help from her unusual maid (former lady of the night).
***** Author, Julia London, takes a realistic situation of the time and turns it into a wonderful romance that will bring a blush to your cheeks and warmth to your heart. Since Ava's maid is a former lady of the night, the bedroom scenes are very steamy. Ava is a very strong heroine that will do anything to help the ones she loves. Her strength and determination is a wonder to behold. The whole plot sounds so simple, yet I found myself unable to put the book down for even the shortest of time. I never got bored or wanted to strangle one of the main characters. No sappy people, well written, and downright enthralling. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Annette Blair
Title - Scoundrel in Disguise
This story is set on the East Sussex Coast, England, 1847. Jade Smithfield's grandmother unwittingly sold a land option to the South Downs Railroad before she died. When Jade learned that her man of affairs, Neil Kirby, engineered it, she discharged him. However, when Kirby left he took her inheritance, her copy of the land option sale, and the money from the sale with him. Jade needed that money and receipt if she was to have any hope of stopping the railroad from laying track on her property and keep them from uncovering her grandmother's secret. Then there is Giles Dudley, her fourth cousin twice removed. He intends to inherit the Peacehaven Estate by proving Jade's grandmother insane at the time she made her will. If he succeeds, Dudley inherits everything. Jade and all the people who depend on her will be thrown into the streets.
Marcus Fitzalan wants to save his disabled brother's railroad, and the families who will lose their living without it, by investigating into the railroad accidents halting construction. To do so, Marcus applies as Jade's new man of affairs. But Marcus finds out upon meeting Jade that his philandering days are over. The more learns about Jade and the women and children she takes care of, the more he knows that Jade must have a very good reason for wanting to stop the railroad's construction. However, he cannot help Jade if she does not trust and confide in him.
***** Author Annette Blair combines action and romance with strong characters and a bit of comedy to give her readers a story they will never forget! I could not help but fall in love with little Emmy and her puppy's antics. Nor could I stop myself from feeling as though I knew all the main and secondary characters for real. The story is written so smoothly that I felt as if I was a part of their circle. Such writing talent is rare and I am grateful to have come across this novel. It is heading straight for my Keeper Shelf, never to be loaned out, and hoarded for my future reading pleasure alone. Annette Blair is a master (or is it mistress?) of the Historical Romance genre. I cannot recommend this tale highly enough and I plan to tell everyone I know about it. *****
Author: Jocelyn Kelley (aka Jo Ann Ferguson)
Title - A Moonlit Knight
(Ladies of St. Jude's Abbey #3)
Queen Eleanor d'Aquitaine goes to St. Jude's Abbey in England for a third time. Sister/Lady Mallory de Saint-Sebastian is the best archery person within the abbey. Mallory will be the sister of St. Jude's Abbey to serve the queen and join her pantheon of heroines.
The two King Henrys (father and son) battle to see which one rightfully holds the English throne and controls the destinies of all who live within their realm. Queen Eleanor is residing at her court in Poitiers. There are times when Queen Eleanor's guards cannot be with her. For those times, she needs a lady who can protect her. Therefore, Lady Mallory becomes part of the queen's personal household guards.
Queen Eleanor's "Court of Love" is anything but what the title describes. The court overflows in subterfuge, gossip, and betrayal. When the queen's life is in danger, Mallory and her bow are there. Thus the queen requests that Mallory teach archery to her ladies. Of course Mallory obeys, but none of the queen's ladies are serious about it. They prefer to flirt with any man nearby. So Mallory finds herself protecting the queen, dealing with sappy ladies, and wondering just what Saxon Fitz-Juste is really up to. He may really be a jongleur, playing a lute and captivating people with his tales, but something does not sit quite right.
***** Each book is a story in itself. This tale is full of drama and kept me wondering who Mallory could possibly trust in the court of snakes. The history of this knightly era makes a perfect back ground for the characters. The author keeps history straight, never bending it to her own whim, and this makes it so believable. Whether you love history, historical romances, or simply high drama, this book is made just for you! *****
Author: Deborah MacGillivray
Title - A Restless Knight
Setting begins in the Scotland Highlands, the year 1296. The Sacred Mists is a warding set long ago by the Daughter of Anne, to ward the Glen Shane. The mists kept the passes hidden by a fog so none could see the entrance ... until now.
As revenge upon the Sisters MacShane for scorning his matchmaking efforts for nearly a decade, King Edward sent them dragons for husbands. Julian, Earl of Challon, is known as the Black Dragon. He has been the king's champion for far too long. He and his two brothers, Sir Guillaume and Sir Simon, have tired of war. Edward's insatiable greed and uncontrollable rages have grown stale. The three Dragons of Challon want only to settle down and have families. Sir Julian is to wed Tamlyn MacShane and seize control of the domain known as Glenrogha. This is a task much easier said than done. Tamlyn has good reason to hate Edward and wants nothing to do with the Norman's king. Yet for the sake of her clan, Tamlyn must surrender without a fight. Julian must convince the Scottish wildcat that she would still be the lady of Glenrogha, even though she would no longer be the top person. The Black Dragon would be the true leader, but he would act as a buffer between King Edward and her people.
Tamlyn is the youngest of the sisters and has the blood of the Sidhe within her. She has the gift of sight, of the Kenning. With a touch she knows of the bloody horrors Julian has witnessed and the brother he lost at Berwick. The last thing Tamlyn wants is to see the horrors of Berwick being committed within Glenrogha. With the aid of the Three Wise Ones of the Wood, her Sidhe gift, and her own black dragon, Tamlyn is charged with the task of keeping her people safe.
But neither the dragon, nor the wildcat, expected to find their soulmates!
***** This terrific Highland tale, with a pinch of Fae magick, captured my attention from the very first page. I was told long ago that an author should write what s/he knows. This way the author can better express the intensity of the characters, the places, and will write the little things known only to those who has experienced them. Author Deborah MacGillivray does this with a style and grace befitting the noble Knights and Clans of Yore. I could see the characters so vividly in my mind that they almost seemed real. The author seemed to breathe life into her characters! For those of you who do not care of Scottish Historical Romances, take a second look at this one. I usually avoid Highland romances, but was told to read it anyway. I am glad I did. I all but inhaled this novel! Highly recommended reading! *****
Author: Kasey Michaels
Title - A Gentleman By Any Other Name
(The Beckets of Romney Marsh series)
Thirty-year-old Chance Becket remembers his horrid beginning. He has spent most of his life trying to forget. He married well in Society, had a daughter, and even landed a prestigious position with the War Office. Now chance is a widow, as of six months ago. Alice, his five-year-old daughter, needs the attention Chance does not believe he can give. Therefore, he quickly hires a nanny, Julia, and off they go to Romney Marsh on the coast. Chance full expected to simply drop Alice and Julia off at Becket Hall, when his large, motley collection of adopted family members reside. However, the War Office, charged Chance with looking into the smuggling situation and other possible problems within the Romney Marsh area. So Chance's plans to escape back to London are no null and void. Chance will have to face his past, smooth over all rough family matters, and help the family deal with a serious gang problem.
Julia Carruthers knows all about smugglers. She may be a vicar's daughter, but neither she, nor her father, condemned the people in their village for how they survived. They even helped a bit. When Julia finds herself alone in the world, she is relieved to be hired as Alice's nanny. She is also happy that they are leaving London for the coast. However, even before they reach Becket Hall, Julia has seen too much, heard too much, and she is just too smart for her own good. So even if Julia wanted to leave the marsh, Chance and his family would not, could not, allow her to. Besides, before Julia was fully hired by Chance, they were arguing, and the clashing of wills is just as passionate in the bedroom. Still, Julia is the outsider. She will have to earn the Becket family's trust.
Everything better get settled quickly. The family will soon deal with the Red Men Gang. It is a large, well-controlled, strongly led, and generously financed organization that now controls all the smuggling for miles of the coast. The only section left for the Red Men to seize is Romney Marsh.
***** OMG! Non-stop action from start to finish! It seems that author Kasey Michaels does nothing half way. Many could have made a dozen novels out of the characters and plots within this single book. Yet it looks as though this will only be a trilogy, with the next two books being released within the next two months. Of course, each book will be a stand alone story. You do not HAVE to read them all. But I pity anyone who misses them! I wonder, if enough fans write the publisher, perhaps the author can be persuaded to create even more novels about the Becket family. How easily I came to care for every single member of this odd family, even the voodoo priestess. (Yes, she is part of the family too.) A fabulous story that I hated to see end. *****
Author: Kate Lyon
Title - Hope's Captive
This tale begins in the year 1878. Zach McCallister believes his son, Luke, has been taken captive by the Northern Cheyenne. Zach's main objective is to locate and rescue Luke. To accomplish this Zach hires on as a guide to a lady believed to be the white wife of their chief.
Caroline Whitley owes her life to the Northern Cheyenne's leader, Little Wolf. She knows that they currently reside at the Darlington Agency (a reservation) and that they are dying by the hundreds from malaria and dysentery. To repay them, Caroline packs a wagon full with medicine and blankets for them and hires Zach to guide her to them.
Little Wolf, along with almost two hundred women and children and less than one hundred men to defend them, have left the reservation. They are determined to reach the Powder River country they love and call their home. The Army had called in a special unit of cavalry to keep the Northern Cheyenne on the reservation. The Army goes after the small band of Cheyenne.
As Zach and Caroline travel together, they slowly learn about each other. Zach not only meets and learns that the Northern Cheyenne are honorable, no matter how much he wishes to hate them, but he also finds himself attracted to the spitfire that hired him as guide. If only they could trust each other.
***** The author adds another young boy into this story, Yellow Swallow. This child is a half-breed. Just wait until you find out who his parents were! In fact, the author has added quite a few surprises for her readers within this exciting novel. Everything is historically correct and it is obvious that much research went into making this tale. In the back of the novel, within the "Author's Note", Kate Lyon gives a brief report of what happened to the Little Wolf and the others mentioned in this book. History, romance, and harsh reality come together to make an unforgettable adventure that will live on in the memories of all readers. Best I've read in a long while! *****
Author: Pamela Clare
Title - Surrender
After witnessing her uncles depravity and fearing she will be the next victim, Lady Anne Campbell tries to escape, but is caught. Falsely accused of theft and branded in a very intimate place with the mark of her "sin", she is exiled to Pre-Revolutionary War America as an indentured servant. Her enslavement ends when an Indian raid kills her cruel masters, allowing her to flee, one step ahead of Indians who would do unthinkable things to her. She runs straight into a band of Scots who have been forced into the Crown's service. Their leader, Iain MacKinnon, defies orders and rescues her, though the price he will have to pay is high. Annie creates a new identity for herself. She has come to care for Iain and his clansmen, and does not want her noble birth, her shamed named, or any other thing in her past held against her. Moreover, she recognizes the British commander as a man her uncle knows, though Lord William fails to realize who she is. He and Iain both want Annie, but her secret hangs like a shadow over everything until things blow up in her face.
**** This is a fantastic book. The action remains fast paced from start to finish, with a new twist coming along each time you begin to relax and think things will go smoothly for Annie now. Secondary characters add depth and interest. Though Lord William is ostensibly one of the bad guys, I would love to see him get his own book, for he has potential to be a real hero. ****
Author: Tina St. John
Title - Heart of the Dove
(Third in the Dragon Chalice trilogy)
Our story begins in June, 1275. Randwulf of Greycliff has part of the legendary Dragon Chalice. Rand plans to use it for revenge against the sorcerer who had his wife and child killed. The sorcerer's name is Silas de Montaine and he has shapeshifters to help aid in his dark cause. During a fight with one of these demons, Rand finds himself tossed off a ship. Rand's only thought at the time is to survive and hold onto the pouch containing the Chalice.
Rand washes ashore on the north English coast. He is found my Serena, a young lady with a magical gift called "the Knowing". With a simple touch, Serena sees directly into a person's heart. Serena and her mother, Calandra, live in isolation, by choice. They take no chances on someone learning of Serena's gift and using it for ill deeds or to have her labeled "witch" and killed. Yet Serena cannot ignore her own heart, which demands she help Rand.
***** Author Tina St. John writes magical dreams for us to enjoy. This one overflows in romance and magic. By the time you finish reading you will find yourself totally believing magic exists, and glad of the fact. I highly recommend this entire trilogy. *****
Author: Jackie Ivie
Title - Tender Is The Knight
Lady Elise, the young Dowager Duchess of Wynd, is known by all as "The Ice Goddess". She has survived living among the nobility by making all believe she has no heart or kindness. Nothing and no one can break through her calm, icy façade. No one recalls ever seeing her smile warmly, laugh gaily, or making friends. She needs no one. She depends only upon herself and her maid, Daisy. She refuses to ever marry again.
Elise also has secrets. She's extremely good at keeping them. However, she promised her late sister that she would see to the care of Rory. Elise is to let Rory know his Scottish kin. Problem is that the father, Evan, is dead too. The only thing to do is meet Evan's brother, Colin, and inform the man of his illegitimate nephew. But Elise does not know that Colin is "a big, bullheaded, boorish brute bred in the barbaric boundaries of a backwater country."
Colin, the new Duke of Gowan and Laird of MacGowan, is the very image of a fierce Scottish warrior. London's elite circle consider him a barbarian, though a rich one. Upon first sight of Elise their wills clash. Both are warriors among their own peers. Both have met their match!
***** Author Jackie Ivie succeeded in capturing my interest right at the beginning of the story and never letting me go. I understand now that Jackie Ivie enjoys pitting strong heroes and heroines against each other.
The heroine, Elise, is no fainting violet who needs to be constantly rescued. Nor does she do things so incredibly stupid that I just want to slap her. As for the hero, Colin ... well, let's just say the author wrote his character perfectly: from the haughty Laird to the confused and caring man.
An exceptional tale filled with honor, love, and witty banter that I am thrilled to highly endorse! OUTSTANDING! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - Let It Be Love
Story begins in December, 1853. Jonathon Effington, the Marquess of Helmsley and heir to the Duke of Roxborough, knows he will marry eventually. He simply has yet to meet the lady who can fill all the qualification he demands in a wife. He and his closest friends often discuss these highly set standards. In the meantime, Jonathon writes stories and tries to get published under an anonymous name. (He refuses to be published simply because of his status.)
At each Christmas Ball his family hosts, Jonathon selects a lady to share the evening with in bed. This year, the lady he chooses is not waiting for him in his rooms. Instead, he finds an unknown lady awaiting him. She claims to related to one of his close friends, Lord Norcroft "Oliver". She gives him an outrageous story about her father's will and having to marry in order to save her three sisters from poverty. Jonathon believes it all a hoax, set up by his friends. So when she proposes marriage, he accepts. Shortly afterward he finds out Fiona Fairchild told nothing but the absolute truth!
Jonathon does not want to marry yet, but he cannot simply retract his word of honor. After all, she IS related to Oliver and is actually living with him at the moment. Oliver, Fiona, and Jonathon decide to enter into a business proposition. Her nude art work and his story, published anonymously. IF the erotic and mythical story sells well, Fiona will not have to wed at all and Jonathon is off the hook. However, unknown to Fiona, Jonathon has no intension of having it published. He will simply claim it is selling well and give her "royalties". Now if only he can keep his hands off her enticing body while they work together.
***** Extremely well done! Fiona is no meek miss! I was totally taken with her character. Jonathon is nothing to sneeze at either. Noble until the end. A little too much so though. All-in-all, Victoria Alexander has an instant winner in this novel. Bring on the next man! *****
Author: Sophia Johnson
Title - Risk Everything
Set in Scotland, the year 1074. Rolf and Meghan had fancied each other as children, but Fate sent them upon different paths.
Meghan of Blackthorn grew up training with her brother, Connor. She is efficient in archery, blade throwing, some hand-to-hand combat, and training animals. Her people affectionately call her their "Warrior Woman - the Pride of Blackthorn". Meghan knew that there was some bad tidings between Rolf and Connor, but no one ever told her what happened to cause the feud.
Meghan sneaks away from her brother and her laird for some time alone hunting. She soon finds herself kidnapped by Rolf. But he is no longer the boy she once loved. In his place stood a cold warrior with hate burning within his eyes and a sneer upon his lips.
Rolf of Rimsdale is known as the "Lord of Vengeance". He has proof showing that Connor was the one who led the raid two years ago. During that raid Connor hilled Rolf's wife and new born son. It is only fitting that Rolf uses Meghan for his revenge. Where before Rolf once had dreams of Meghan being his bride, now he has dreams of using Meghan to correct Connor's wrongs ... even if it means crushing Meghan's pride and spirit to do it.
***** OMG! This has got to be one of the very best Historical Romances I have ever read. I cringe at the thought of anyone missing out on this book. Yes, it is THAT great! It has strong characters full of honor and dignity. Lots of action, adventure, romance, and betrayal. I even fell in love with a few of the secondary characters. I hope to see young Garith get his own story told one day. If you are looking for a story that will grab your attention on the first page and never let go, reach for this title. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Jolie Mathis
Title - The Sea King
Princess Isabel is the half-sister of King Ranulf. When she is thrown from her horse and into the river she expects to die. Instead she is rescued by a handsome man. As she awakens from her injuries, she learns that her savior is being whipped for harming her. Unable to make anyone listen to her and stop the abuse, she can only wait until everyone sleeps before helping the man escape.
Two years have passed. Kol Thorleksson wants revenge against King Ranulf for the injustices done to him on his previous stay. However, Ranulf escapes the siege, leaving his two sisters behind. When the two princesses are brought into his presence, Kol is stunned to learn that one of them is the lady he rescued two years previously. No matter that Isabel helped him escape, Kol plans to use her as bait to lure Ranulf out of hiding. Kol is also stunned to learn that Isabel has a two-year-old son, Godric, and that HE has been named as the father! Kol is positive Isabel told the lies to protect another man. After all, he never seduced her. But Isabel seems to honestly believe her lies.
Isabel had no idea who Kol was when she helped him two years ago. If she had known he was a mercenary out to kill her brother OR that he had gotten her pregnant while she had been unconscious, she would have killed him herself. Now her people believe her to be a traitor. No one would wed her since she has been ruined, and Ranulf has made her a virtual prisoner in her own home. But prisoner to an over protective brother is one thing. Prisoner to a merciless barbarian is quite another! The Dane even has the nerve to use their son as leverage to keep her in line. No matter how handsome and attractive this devil may be, Isabel refuses to betray her brother and king, Ranulf. With luck, Isabel will be able to kill Kol and save her brother the trouble.
***** In a word, "W-O-W!" You have GOT to read this book! All through the story I kept wondering who Godric's father really was. I had several theories, all of them wrong. Author Jolie Mathis shows readers her sly and wily side. At the same time, she keeps you totally enthralled with the lives of her characters. It is utterly impossible to resist Kol and Isabel. They are so real, so believable. It is as if the author breathed life into them. They seemed to jump off the page and into my heart. Honestly, if you read only a single book this entire year, let it be this one! *****
Author: Jillian Hunter
Title - The Wedding Night Of An English Rogue
(Bk 3 of the Boscastle trilogy)
Six years ago Julia Hepworth met Lord Heath Boscastle when she shot him. But that did not stop the two from being dangerously attracted to one another. They were almost caught in a very compromising position. So they quickly parted ways, but never forgot each other.
Now Julia is the fiancée to Sir Russell Althorne, Heath's commanding officer. Russell is chasing Armand Auclair, a French spy that one tortured Heath to near insanity before Russell rescued him. Russell calls in the debt of honor. Heath is to protect Julia while Russell is away, in case Armand sends someone to harm her. But Heath and Julia both know that they can't be in the same room without falling into each other's arms.
*** There are some very colorful secondary characters in this tale. Julia's aunt, Hermia, actually steals the show a few times! You will also get to see how Grayson and Jane (from a previous novel in the Boscastle series) is doing. As for Julia, she is a widow when she meets Heath again, no innocent miss fresh from the school room. This makes the romance between the two main characters explosive. All-in-all, this is not the best story in the Boscastle series, but well worth your time to pick up and read. ***
Author: Jocelyn Kelley
Title - One Knight Stands
Set in twelfth-century England. Queen Eleanor, of Aquitaine, established St. Jude's Abbey. There, young women train in the knightly arts, as well as the martial arts from the East. In times of trouble, when hope is slim, Queen Eleanor calls upon these women to protect the royal family and England.
Elspeth Braybrooke's weapon of choice is a staff. Queen Eleanor gives her the task of locating the "Llech-lafar". It is a legendary stone of Merlin's. Prophecy states that if the King steps upon the stone he will die. So Elspeth's quest is to find the stone and keep the prophecy from happening.
(Welsh Prince) Tarran ap Llyr and his men are escorting an elderly woman, Vala, to Tyddewi when they see Elspeth hanging from a castle's narrow window. Tarran is surprised to learn that she is trying to get in, rather than out. Soon Tarran and his men come to respect Elspeth's fighting abilities and bits of wisdom. Tarran convinces Elspeth to accompany them and keep Vala company. Since they are going her way, and it is safer to travel with a group, she agrees. Yet she must not let herself be diverted from her important task by Tarran's touch.
Tarran feels the same heat of attraction for Elspeth. Yet he, too, must not be diverted. Tarran is searching for the man who murdered his wife, Bradwr ap Glew. A man who was once Tarran's most trusted friend.
**** This is the second book involving the strong women of St. Jude's Abbey. (The first is titled A KNIGHT LIKE NO OTHER.) I found myself so engrossed in this story that I did not realize I was learning so much about English history! The tale grabbed my attention from the beginning, then kept up a steady pace of action, plot, and romance until the very end. You will never find yourself growing bored while reading this book. Recommended! ****
Author: Cheryl Bolen
Title - One Golden Ring
Lady Fiona Hollingsworth needs twenty-five thousand pounds quickly to free her brother, Randy, who has been abducted by Spanish bandits in The Peninsula. However, the family fortune is depleted. When she sees Mr. Nicholas "Nick" Birmingham, the richest stockbroker in England, she gets an idea. The very next day, Fiona goes to Nick's office and offers to marry him in exchange for his help. It is fairly well known that Nick's deceased father had always hoped his son would make an aristocratic match. Even though Nick does not believe himself worthy of Fiona, he agrees. It does not take the pair long to fall totally in love with each other.
Lord Edward Warwick, the Foreign Secretary, had grown up unofficially betrothed to Fiona. Yet last year he jilted Fiona to marry another, Countess Maggie. The Crown needs the help of Nick, his brother (William), and his money. Edward goes to Nick, hoping Nick's patriotism will force his agreement. It does, but only because William has experience in stealthy dealings. If not for his loyalty to his country, Nick would have refused. Nick could not help being jealous that Fiona had once loved Edward for so long.
Fiona has truly gotten over Edward. She is deeply in love with Nick. She is even growing to adore Nick's illegitimate, eight-year-old daughter, Emmie. But she is jealous that Nick keeps disappearing at night and fears he is going to another woman. In addition to this, it is no secret that Randy frowns upon Fiona marrying so beneath their station. Yet Randy may soon be forced to eat crow.
***** You say that you want dreamy romance? Then pick up a copy of "One Golden Ring". This has got to be the most PERFECT Regency Romance that I have read this year. I actually found myself envying Fiona. You will not find any stupid characters that you will want to strangle. These characters are intelligent and realistic. I have high hopes that a couple of the secondary characters will get their own stories told someday soon. *****
Author: Catherine Kean
Title - Dance of Desire
Set in England, 1192. After doing his duty in the crusade, Fane Linford is the High Sheriff of Warringham. He has been granted a bride of his own choosing, by King Richard himself. Fane has only to choose. However, Fane is kept busy. There is a rebellion forming against the crown. Rumor says Fane has a list of traitors that he will be turning over to the king.
Lady Rexana Villeaux learns that her brother's name is on that list and that he resides in the High Sheriff's dungeon! She is determined to see Rudd's named cleared. He would never turn traitor! Rexana dresses in the gauzy disguise of a desert courtesan and performs for the new High Sheriff, distracting him so her servant could steal the list.
The passion in her dance does indeed catch Fane's eye. Too much so. Fane is determined to claim Lady Rexana as his bride. To save her brother she will agree. Then he may take his time to win her trust, followed by her heart.
However, the area's unrest seems to be against the new couple. Not only that, but Lord Darwell's son, Garmonn, has always believed that he would be Lady Rexana's husband some day. And if he must kill the barbaric new High Sheriff, then so be it!
**** Author Catherine Kean writes with such passion that you can feel the hurt and joy that her characters' experience. I could easily imagine myself in the heroine's place and understand all her actions. No stupid little fits or tantrums for this brave heroine! Wonderful tale that I proudly recommend! ****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - When We Meet Again
Prince Alexei Pruzinsky of Avalonia is arrogance personified, dangerously charming, and a master at the art of seduction. He meets a mysterious young woman at a masked ball and spends one night in bed with her. His heart is touched in ways he has never felt before. They both know that marriage is impossible due to their stations, however, Alexei is upset that she refuses to take off her mask or tell him her name.
Miss Pamela Effington fled London six years ago rather than face scandal, thanks to George Fenton, son of Viscount Penwick, bragging to his buddies. She lives and travels with Aunt Millicent, who uses her widowhood and vast wealth to live as she pleases. It seems that Aunt Millicent is known world wide by all who matter. Pamela knows it is not safe to succumb to Alexei, yet she now has takes with her a glorious memory to cherish forever. Imagine Pamela's surprise when she finds Alexei and his staff occupying the London townhouse that she has recently inherited.
Aunt Millicent suggests that Pamela and Alexei pretend to be engaged. This would help ease Pamela back into Society's good graces. After all, no one could think badly of her if a PRINCE wishes to wed her. When she breaks the engagement later, every eligible man will beg for her hand in marriage. However, Alexei finds himself drawn to Pamela without knowing why and Pamela is desperately keeping her secrets.
***** The author includes a character named Valentina. She is Alexei's traitorous cousin. She has spent her life trying to kill Alexei, for Avalonia's own good of course. Valentina resides in the townhouse as well, claiming to have changed. As much as I really wanted to hate Valentina, I simply could not! The author did such a fantastic job on this character that she actually steals the show often. I dearly hope that Valentina gets her own story. The very idea is tantalizing!
Author Victoria Alexander has done an outstanding job in this tale. The heroine is someone that today's ladies can easily look up to. For best results, read this novel just before going to bed. Guaranteed to give you some memorable dreams. I tell that from experience. *****
Author: Annette Blair
Title - The Butterfly Garden
The story begins in Walnut Creek, Ohio, 1883. Amishwoman Sara Lapp, has all but been shunned for studying with "the English" local doctor, Dr. Jordan Marks, to become a midwife. After months of waiting, she is called to tend the birth of her best friend, Abby. However, upon arriving, Sara finds Abby has already died in childbirth. Abby's husband, "Mad" Adam Zuckerman, did not want Sara to help Abby deliver the baby. He wants Sara to take his four daughters, including the new born, home with her to raise.
Adam is a self-appointed outcast. He keeps everyone at a distance. He dares not love anyone, including Abby and his children. Adam's childhood had been far from happy. In fact, Adam never recalls smiling even once in his entire life. Adam fears that he has too much of his father in him and he cannot have his children around him without Abby to protect them should his father's blood prove true. It is best for him, and his children, that they be raised with someone who could give them the love they so desperately need. Someone like Sara.
When a drunken Adam falls from a barn loft Sara moves in to tend him, and she brings his girls. Then the Bishop and the Elders take a stand. They must marry or they, and the children, would be shunned. Sara knows there is something good in Adam. There has to be or Abby would never have fallen in love with him and married him. Sara has hope of drawing it out of him. She hopes to heal him. If not, she will love and raise the children as her own.
Unexepected help, and trouble, arrives when Lena (Adam's mother) and Emma (Adam's quiet sister) knock on the door. Adam has believes them to have died long ago, another lie from his father. Now Sara has help with the children and can do her midwife duties without worrying about the children. However, Adam, Lena, and Emma have much to resolve. Sara must teach everyone in her new home that there is a time for everything under God's heaven. Now is the time for healing. Yet as Sara teaches those she loves to bloom, they teach her much more in return.
***** Fans of the TV show "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" will adore this novel! Sara came across to me as almost a mirror image of Dr. Quinn. She is strong when need be (stubborn), stands up for those in need (sharp tongued), and has so much love to give everyone. She also must deal with the Amish ordnung (rules) which makes everything near impossible. I found myself cheering her on to victory.
The author, Annette Blair, has a real writing talent. She inserts tiny things that the reader does not immediately notice, but makes the reader come to care for the characters as if they were kin. You may need tissues nearby at some points of the story. Another award winner that I cannot recommend highly enough. *****
Author: Annette Blair
Title - A Christmas Baby
Ashford "Ash" Edward Blackburne, Fifth Earl of Blackburne, wanted nothing more than to clear all his debts (and his late father's) and save Blackburne Chase, the family estate. To do so, he must bow to his grandfather's will. (Grandfather is alive in this story.) By Christmas, Ash must have married and his wife must be pregnant with his first child. Otherwise, Ash will lose everything. If Ash succeeds, his grandfather will go ahead and give a huge amount of cash up front, to pay all debts. The story begins in March, 1818. Ash has nine months. So disgusted with the situation, Ash cares not where he plants his seed. An innkeeper offers him a game of chance. If Ash wins, he gets to own the inn. If Ash loses, he must pay a cash price; however, as a consolation prize, Ash would get to wed his daughter. Either way, Ash wins.
Ash had no idea what he was getting himself into when he accepted the game. He lost the game and found himself marrying the innkeeper's daughter at gunpoint. She looked and smelled something AWFUL! Once he got her to the estate, cleaning her was a fight to the death - almost. He seceded at getting her clean, but when he tried to consummate the marriage with the she-cat, she shot him in the butt!
Larkin "Lark" Rose McAdams was furious at her situation! Yet, decided it could work. After all, she had been fond of the earl for several years already and if she did what he wanted he might agree to let her bring Micah, her deceased sister's son, to live with them. But Micah was not the only surprise for the new couple. By Christmas, their house will swell with people and the newly married couple will teach each other the true meaning of Love.
***** OMG! This story could not possibly have been any better! I could not stop myself from reading AT ALL. I read the entire thing in a single day. Yes, it is THAT good. This story is not one to be missed! BRAVA! *****
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