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Posts Tagged ‘Regency Era’

(Wicked Widows, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

IS IT A REASON FOR ROMANCE?

In Why Earls Fall in Love by Manda Collins, young widowed Georgina Mowbray is settling into her role as Lady Russell’s companion quite well—until the lady’s nephew Dominic, the Earl of Coniston, arrives in Bath for a visit. Georgie’s always found him shallow and too smooth, and trusts him as much as she trusts most men…which is to say, not at all. But Con turns out to be more intriguing than she remembers—and completely irresistible…

OR A PROMISE OF PASSION?

Pretty, practical Georgie is nothing like the women Con usually woos—especially since she seems blind to his charms. But his elderly aunt is so fond of her that Con is determined at least to be sociable…with the occasional flirtation thrown in just for fun. But things take a serious turn when a dangerous figure from Georgie’s unhappy past appears and threatens to bring her harm. Con will do whatever it takes to keep Georgie safe. And if he can show her that all men are not menaces, he might be able to keep her in his arms and never let go…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the second book in the Wicked Widows series from Manda Collins.

The series centres on sisters, Isabella and Perdita, and their friend, Georgina… all widows of abusive husbands. They share a terrible secret concerning the death of Perdita’s husband, the Duke of Ormonde, but find themselves threatened by someone who obviously knows that secret and is out for revenge. The first book, Why Dukes Say I Do, told Isabella’s story and this is Georgina’s (Georgie’s) story.

 “…he has nothing more to concern himself with than the betting book or which opera dancer he’s going to bed.”

This is how Georgie sees Con at the beginning of the story. Not very flattering to a potential hero but, of course, Con gradually reveals those qualities that make a good romance hero. It’s clear that he adores his aunt, Lady Russell, and that he had helped her through a very painful time in her life. I love how protective he is towards Georgie when he learns of the potential danger she may be in; how fiercely he defends her honour when Mr. Gilloway, the investigator makes disparaging remarks about her. After hearing how Georgie suffered during her abusive marriage, he comes to fully appreciate how difficult it is for a woman, forced to obey a father or a husband without redress. He had wanted to put a stop to the abuse that Perdita had suffered but, as a duke, her husband was far too powerful for a mere earl. I liked that Con’s thoughts weren’t solely occupied with lustful thoughts of Georgie but he also ‘found her quick wit and kind heart just as alluring as her pretty face’.

Georgie had long ago mastered the art of keeping her emotions in check. It gave her the inner strength to survive the years of her abusive marriage. She also appreciated the well-ordered army life which helped form a welcome counterbalance to the volatile relationship with her husband. Understandably, she has a deep distrust of men and deters any unwelcome attention with her serious demeanour, drab clothes and severe hair styles. I like how she refuses to be intimidated by Con but eventually comes to trust him and recognises his innate sense of decency and goodness. Her fears about remarrying again are very real. She made a terrible mistake in her choice of her first husband and no longer trusts her own judgement as regards men. I love Con for understanding her fears rather than sweeping them aside.

“No one who has endured what you went through could emerge without some sense of scepticism about people around them. It would be impossible not to.”

The romance between them is witty, tender and passionate and Ms Collins manages to convey all the emotion and passion quite beautifully and without being overly explicit. I’m sharing two of my favourite moments:

And with each beat of her heart she felt the threads of their souls knitting knitting together in a fabric no amount of strife could unravel.

It was a kiss of reverence, as if she were as precious to him as a fragile treasure. And Georgie felt her eyes prick with unshed tears. How did he know that what she always wanted deep down in her innermost soul, was to feel valued like that.

I love their conversation in Lady Russell’s breakfast room the morning after they have made love. It sounds perfectly innocent but is full of naughty innuendo.

There is well-drawn supporting cast including Con’s friendLord Archer Lisle who is in love with Perdita but unwilling to tell her. There is some delightfully witty banter between Archer and Con. I also liked Lady Russell who treats Georgie more as a friend than an employee.

”I am an eccentric old woman who has more money than is good for her, who wishes to see her dear friend , who is also her companion, enjoy herself for a change”.

The scene where she gives Georgie a sapphire necklace to wear and reveals her tragic past is both poignant and heartrending. Later in the story, I did find it hard to believe that, given their close relationship, Lady Russell would readily accept, without any question, that Georgie would steal her jewellery.

In the theatre scene, I love how Ms Collins makes reference to her characters in the Ugly Ducklings series, when Con is pointing out some of the more notorious members of the ton to Georgie. Isabella, Trevor and Perdita also make a welcome appearance to offer their help in tracking down the person threatening Georgie.

One reviewer says that Ms Collins’s dialogue is stilted but I totally disagree and found it natural and not at all stilted. I also like how she emphasises the reality of being a wife trapped in an abusive marriage and the limitations on women in general.

There are enough red herrings so that I didn’t guess the identity of the person threatening Georgie until right before the climax. It’s evident there is a master villain at work, who has been using others in pursuit of his or her revenge. At the moment, I have no idea who this mysterious person might be and can only wait for all to be revealed in the final book.

This is a delightful, entertaining romance and I’m really looking forward to reading Perdita and Archer’s story in Why Lords Lose Their Hearts (29th July)

 

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read July 2014

 

The Wicked Widows series (click on covers for more details):

Why Dukes Say I Do (Wicked Widows, #1) by Manda Collins Why Earls Fall in Love (Wicked Widows, #2) by Manda Collins Why Lords Lose Their Hearts (Wicked Widows, #3) by Manda Collins

 

A special thank you to Manda Collins for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review. 

 

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(The Ministry of Marrriage #5)(The Westruthers, # 2)

Genre:Historical Romance

Cover Blurb

Passion to last a lifetime…

The Sweetest Scandal

Beautiful, exuberant, and stubborn Georgiana Black has more spirit than sense—which she learns when an ultimatum to the Earl of Beckenham ends their engagement. Six years later, Georgie is less concerned with impending spinsterhood than with making sure her young sister doesn’t make the same mistakes she did. But soon Georgie stumbles into a scandalous encounter with none other than her former fiancé. Beckenham is still breathtakingly desirable.

The Truest Temptation

Beckenham’s brief engagement to Georgie taught him one thing: when it comes to a wife, he wants a woman who will do her duty and cause no trouble. When the fiery Georgie falls unexpectedly into his arms, Beckenham remembers just how lushly delectable she is. Suddenly, the idea of actually marrying Georgie is irresistible. In a battle of wills, can passion conquer pride?

♥♥♥♥♥

The Westruthers series is a spin off from Ms Brooke’s popular Ministry of Marriage series and features four cousins, Jonathon, Earl of Davenport, Marcus, Earl of Beckenham, Xavier, Marquis of Steyne and Andrew, Viscount Lydgate, all intent on avoiding the parson’s noose. Jonathon succumbed to cupid’s dart in London’s Last True Scoundrel and now it’s Marcus’s turn.

How I imagine Marcus

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“Beckenham’s a dark horse, mark my words. It’s the quiet ones you have to watch.”

How true these words spoken by Jonathon Westruther in London’s Last True Scoundrel turned out to be. Marcus, the eldest of the four cousins, has always been the level-headed, dependable one but, in the previous book, we get a hint of just how devastated he was when Georgie broke off their engagement. In his cousin Cecily’s words…

“…you must know he’s still eating his heart out for that dreadful creature.”

Marcus knows it’s his duty to marry and produce an heir but he wants a countess who will perform her duties without any fuss, leaving him in peace. Someone, totally unlike his former fiancée, the impetuous Georgiana Black.  He decides to seek Xavier’s advice on suitable candidates but arrives to discover one of his cousin’s notorious parties in progress. When Xavier tells him that an unknown woman has claimed his protection, he finds himself involved in a scandalous encounter with none other than his former fiancée.

How I imagine Georgie…
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Six years ago, Georgie’s beauty and vivacity drew men to her like bees to nectar and she enjoyed playing the femme fatale and relished the power it gave her. Only Marcus refused to play her little games and she lost the only man she ever wanted. Her parents were furious when they heard she had jilted Marcus and her father punished her by changing his will leaving all his un-entailed property in Gloucester to Georgie’s half-sister, Violet.

Georgie had refused all subsequent offers of marriage, subduing her impetuousness and devoting herself to seeing Violet settled and happy. Then she intended to set up her own household with the monies left in trust to her by her father. When she discovers that Violet is attending a masquerade party at the Marquis of Steyne’s house, she knows that her sister risks ruining her reputation. Whilst searching for Violet, she finds herself at the mercy of the notorious marquis and insists she is under the protection of the Earl of Beckenham. Locked in one of the empty bedrooms, she is desperately searching for a weapon to protect herself when the door opens…but it not the marquis standing there but her former fiance, Marcus Westruther, Earl of Beckenham.

I loved the romance between Marcus and Georgie…so full of heady sexual tension, passion, wit and charm. I’m sharing a few memorable moments.

In a London ballroom, she was as exotic as a bird of paradise among a gaggle of geese.

~~~~

Her mouth dried as he reached up a hand to loosen his cravat, flick it open, and pull the long strip of linen from around his throat. Then he walked over to the washstand, where a pitcher of water and a basin stood as if ready for guests.
“Take your clothes off,” he said to her over his shoulder. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

~~~~

He couldn’t be in the same county as Georgiana Black and resist her siren’s lure.

~~~~

How could the strength and warmth of him feel so utterly perfect, when everything else was all wrong?

~~~~

His whole spirit lifted, soared high and bright. Filled with an extraordinary sense of rightness, even as the flame of his passion for her burned ever brighter.

~~~~

That kiss was incendiary, lascivious, thoroughly consuming, everything he’d dreamed.

~~~~

I enjoyed seeing the more playful and seductive Marcus emerge when he is with Georgie while she is now free to be true to her passionate, sensuous nature.  I liked that they were both willing to acknowledge the mistakes of their youth and I love Marcus for appreciating the real Georgie behind her beauty and cherishing her.

There are some lovely funny moments in this book like the amusing scene where Marcus and Georgie have to rescue his rather inebriated group of prospective brides from the grotto or Lydgate’s humorous comment when Marcus is going through the list of potential bride candidates.

Beckenham glanced up from the list. “Doesn’t madness run in the Maxwell family?”
Lydgate ran the feather of his quill between his fingers. “Eccentricity, yes. Madness, no. Never fear. Miss Jennifer Maxwell doesn’t seem to have a tendency to wear a flowerpot on her head instead of a hat or anything like that
.”

I do love the scenes between Marcus, Xavier and Andrew…the witty banter and the obvious familial affection. You know that they have each other’s backs covered

This was a delightful ‘second chance at love’ romance and there is an excerpt from The Wickedest Lord Alive which definitely makes me want to read Xavier’s story. Not long to wait because it is released on July 1st.

REVIEW RATING:  4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read June 2014


The Westruthers series so far (click on the book cover for more details):

London's Last True Scoundrel (The Westruthers, #1) by Christina Brooke The Greatest Lover Ever (The Westruthers, #2) by Christina Brooke The Wickedest Lord Alive (The Westruthers, #3) by Christina Brooke- July 1st 2014

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(Marlow Intrigues, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

Young, naïve and innocent, Lady Ellen Pembroke falls for a young army officer. Paul has such an easy enchanting smile and his blue eyes glow, vibrancy and warmth emanating from him. She is in love.

Captain Paul Harding, the sixth son of an earl, finds his attention captured by the beautiful young daughter of the Duke of Pembroke at a house party in the summer. Finding Ellen is like finding treasure on a battle torn field. His sanity clings to her; something beautiful to remind him that all in the world is not ugly. She’s someone to fight for. Someone to survive for, when he is called to arms in the battle of Waterloo…

♥♥♥♥♥♥


Information from Jane Lark’s Website:

This is an unusual story for me. I chose to write the prequel to The Illicit Love of a CourtesanThe Lost Love of a Soldier – because the readers who love the series asked for a prequel. But when I decided to write this, I realized I had to follow elements of a real story.

I’d made the decision when I wrote The Illicit Love of a Courtesan to use the title of a real regiment who fought in the battle of Waterloo. I chose the 52nd(Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot. So when I began this story my first task was to research the 52nd, to find out how they came to be there, and what part they played in the battle.

The 52nd returned from The Peninsular War to Britain, in the summer of 1814, two hundred years ago to the year of this novel, and therefore this became the window of opportunity for my fictional characters, Paul and Ellen, to meet.

I’ve dedicated this story to all those who serve in the military, and the families who support them.

 

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(Lonely Lords, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

Nicholas Haddonfield has something to hide…

After a wild youth, Nicholas Haddonfield, Viscount Reston, has promised his ailing father he’ll finally take a bride, though doing so will force Nick to make impossible choices and face old, painful wounds.

Leah Lindsey is glad to find refuge from her own desperate situation in a marriage of convenience with the gallant viscount. But soon convenience is not enough, and Leah can’t understand why Nick remains so distant. What is he hiding, and will he ever allow her into his heart?

An extraordinary and passionate tale of courage tested and fears overcome. Once you enter the lush Regency world of award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes, you’ll never want to leave.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the second book I have read in the Lonely Lords series and, once again, Grace Burrowes has written an engaging story full of heartfelt emotion and richly drawn characters.

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The Snowdrop is for hope.”

Nicholas is a big man with an even bigger heart…so devoted to his family and willing to allay all Leah’s fears and do whatever it takes to protect her from harm –

I will see to your welfare, and without bringing you further misery. You are out of the habit of hoping and trusting, and you grow frantic at the thought of fate pressing upon you. Trust me, and I will win you free of it.”

I did want to bang his big, stubborn head against the nearest wall for keeping secrets from Leah for far too long and causing so much pain and heartache. But the scene where he finally gives up all his secrets was so moving, that I couldn’t help but want to throw my arms around that great big bear of a man and hug him tightly.

Hope, he thought with a flash of insight. Hoe that set teats seeping from his closed eyes, and joy sang through him in the very coursing of his life’s blood.

Other things endeared him to me; his charm and humour and when he sends flowers to Leah with a special meaning and the fact that he likes making birdhouses.

I had so much sympathy for Leah; her life marred by a youthful scandal and feeling alone and unloved.

She’d felt cast out, judged, unclean, and unforgivably stupid as a younger woman, and Society had done its cruel best to reinforce her opinion.

She is barely tolerated by a cruel, unfeeling father, who is only too happy to see her off his hands and married to an old lecher of a man. All she has ever wanted is to be accepted, loved and cherished. I love her courage, her honesty and her wit. Despite Nicholas’s insistence on a ‘White Marriage’,  Leah’s love and loyalty remains steadfast. She is there to support him when he most needs her.

The story also introduces Nicholas’s older, illegitimate half-brother, Ethan Grey. He is still living with the legacy of his father’s betrayal when he was a boy. which also caused a rift between himself and Nicholas. It was heart-warming to see these two starting to rebuild the close relationship they once shared and I was also moved by the poignant scene between Ethan and his dying father.

Favourite romantic quotes

When Nick Haddonfield held her, she felt protected, cherished, understood, and…treasured. When he kissed her, she felt all that, and so much more.

Sitting on the stone bench in the moonlight, his backside going numb, his wife in his arms, Nicholas Haddonfield knew he was absolutely and unshakeably, unequivocally and eternally loved.

Nicholas: Lord of Secrets is another wonderful addition to this delightful series.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5 /5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING:  HOT

Read April 2014

 

The Lonely Lords series to date (click on cover for more details):

Darius  Lord of Pleasures (Lonely Lords, #1) Nicholas  Lord of Secrets (Lonely Lords, #2) Ethan  Lord of Scandals (Lonely Lords, #3) Beckman  Lord of Sins (Lonely Lords, #4) Gabriel  Lord of Regrets (Lonely Lords, #5) Gareth  Lord of Rakes (Lonely Lords, #6) Andrew  Lord of Despair (Lonely Lords, #7) Douglas  Lord of Heartache (Lonely Lords, #8) David  Lord of Honor (Lonely Lords, #9) Trenton  Lord of Loss (Lonely Lords, #10)

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(Marlow Intrigues, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

Trapped under the reign of a cruel keeper, Ellen Harding longs to be free. Under his oppression, her soul and conscience have died while her body lives on, fulfilling his dissolute desires. She is empty—a vessel—deaf to the voice of morality and blind to shame.

When her eyes are drawn to a beautiful man for no other reason than his looks, she imagines what it would be like to escape her chains for a night by giving her body to him.

But Edward Marlow is kind and gentle when he touches her, and her subconscious whispers, this man could be her salvation. Yet how can he help her when she has secrets which prevent her freedom?

Edward is restless, lonely, and a little angry with his lot in life—it is his only excuse for being drawn to another man’s mistress. The woman’s dark hair and pale eyes are striking, and he cannot take his gaze off her while she watches him over the top of a fan with an illicit intent in her eyes.

Once he’s known her, he cannot forget her, and once he’s seen the evidence of her supposed benefactor’s brutality, he wants to help her. But how can he when she will not run any more than she will speak of her past?

When a desperate Ellen finally relents and shocks Edward from his sleep, he doesn’t hesitate, he helps her flee. He just doesn’t know he’s running headlong into the secrets of her past.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved this passionate, intense and engrossing romance. Jane Lark brings such emotional depth to the story and a gift for breathing life into her characters.

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… if God judged a woman with such a pure, good heart as hers, for deeds that were forced upon her, then in his opinion, God was an ass.

I feel so much sympathy for Ellen, trapped in a sordid existence with an abusive and manipulative protector with no way out. Sometimes, I would catch a glimpse of the vulnerable woman beneath the hard, protective shell…a woman who still dreams of a happy-ever-after although she knows it can never be.

…no matter what Edward said or what she thought, he could not rescue her from this life and nor could he take back the intervening years of pain.

It was so satisfying to watch Ellen slowly regain her self-esteem and, through Edward’s steadfast love, have the courage to face her father and take back the life which should have been hers. Seeing her overwhelming love for her son, John, was so touching.

 

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She loved him, his patience, his kindness—his determination.

Edward is a true hero. His love for Ellen never falters and he will do anything to protect her and restore her to the life she deserves.

He’d vowed to give it back to her—that time—the life she’d lost.

I adore him for making Ellen challenge all the assumptions she has accepted about her own worth and see the woman she truly is.

Ellen and Edward’s romance is full of ups and downs and Ms Lark captures all the charming, heartrending, poignant, passionate and joyous moments so beautifully.  What really shines through is the unshakeable love that they share.

I admit to being intrigued by Edward’s brother, Robert. He is downright unpleasant at first, insulting Ellen and baiting Edward so much that they almost come to blows. But I got the sense that there is something in Robert’s past that has made him who is.He does redeem himself when he comes to Ellen’s defense when she is threatened by Gainsborough. Luckily, the next book in the series, The Passionate Love of a Rake, tells Robert’s story.

The reunion between Ellen and her sisters is heart-warming and I love how the sisters and their husbands all rally round to support Ellen in any way possible. Gainsborough may be a loathsome toad but the Duke of Pembroke, Ellen’s father, is an outright bastard. It was bad enough that he spurned his daughter and made her mother and sisters believe she was dead, but when the full extent of his betrayal is revealed, I would gladly have seen him horsewhipped.

With its passionate and sensual love story, memorable characters, compelling plot and great writing, I can highly recommend THE ILLICIT LOVE OF A COURTESAN to lovers of Historical Romance.

REVIEW RATING:  5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING:  HOT

Read April 2014

The Marlow Intrigues series (click on cover for more details):

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan (Marlow Intrigues, #1) The Passionate Love of a Rake (Marlow Intrigues, #2) The Scandalous Love of a Duke (Marlow Intrigues, #3)

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(Secret Brides, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

How to Stop a Wedding

Young, widowed, and penniless, Lily Andrews, the Countess of Merrill,has strong opinions on marriage. When she spots a certain engagement announcement in The Times, she decides to take action. She will not allow another hapless girl to fall prey to a man—particularly the scoundrel who broke her heart five years ago. Anonymously she writes and distributes a pamphlet entitled “Secrets of a Wedding Night,” knowing it will find its way into his intended’s innocent hands…

How to Seduce a Widow

Devon Morgan, the Marquis of Colton, desires a good wife and mother to his son—someone completely unlike Lily Andrews, the heartless beauty who led him on a merry chase five years ago only to reject him. When Devon’s new fiancée cries off after reading a certain scandalous pamphlet, he vows to track down the author and make her pay. But when he learns it’s his former fiancée Lily, he issues a challenge: write a retraction or prepare to be seduced—to find out how wonderful a wedding night can be…
♥♥♥♥♥♥

SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT, the first book in Valerie Bowman’s Secret Brides series, is a delightful tale of secrets, seduction and second chances, written with warmth, wit and style.

The things I love about this book:

Sexy, confident, strong, compassionate but stubborn hero ~

Society sees Devon as a gambler, a drinker and a rake. The reality is very different. Using his skill with numbers, Devon has accumulated a large fortune at the gaming tables and invested it wisely. Now he gambles in the squalor of the Rookery for one reason only…. to restore a family heirloom which was a symbol of his ancestry. Having once been deserted by the woman he loved in favour of an older, richer man, Devon now hides his true financial situation. The woman he marries must love him for himself and not his money. His love for his illegitimate son, Justin, and his rescue of an adorable puppy reveal a kinder and softer side to Devon. When Lily needs a knight in shining armour, he comes to her aid.

Resilient, protective, loyal and equally stubborn heroine ~

Left in financial straits after her father dies, Lily is determined to keep her “ragtag little household” together. Nothing is more important than her sister’s happiness and I can understand why Lily is overprotective. She wants Anne to have the freedom she didn’t enjoy whilst under the control of firstly her father and then her elderly husband. I can also understand her reluctance to trust Devon with her heart. To all appearances, he is a carbon copy of her father who drank and then gambled away everything. I love the fact that she is scared of spiders…something so many of us ladies share. It gives her a very human edge.

Delicious sexual tension and steamy passion ~

I enjoyed all the varied nuances of Devon and Lily’s romance.

The feelings of hurt and anger reflected in their barbed remarks to each other…

“I see in addition to your renowned gambling and rakishness, you’ve also turned to the bottle. Are you trying for all the seven sins?”
His voice was calm. “And I see in addition to your renowned flirtations and fickleness, your skills as a hostess leave much to be desired.”

The strong attraction that still simmers below the surface…

He was a drug. That’s what he was. Like opium. A maddening, unhealthy pleasure that left her senses reeling.

Blast it. He was already plagued with indecent thoughts. This entire seduction plot would be much easier if he weren’t driven half mad just looking at her.

The seduction …

She moaned when his warm lips finally touched hers. The contact was almost unbearable. It was the softest, smoothest, least aggressive kiss he’d ever given her. It demanded nothing from her and made her feel more than all the other kisses combined.

The lies…

“Damn it, Lily. Will you listen you me? I never intended to profit from it. You must belive me.”
She clenched her fists at her sides. “Believe you? A liar? A gambler? A man who prizes money above all else? What sort of fool do you take me for?.”

A lasting love

Tears flowed down Lily’s cheek. She smiled through them. “I love you, Devon. I always have.”

An engaging cast of secondary characters ~

I adore Lily’s loyal servants – Evans, the butler who had the habit of falling asleep at the most inopportune moments and Mary, the lady’s maid with an unfortunate memory problem. I love the way in which Lily’s sister, Anne matures during the course of the story:

Oh, Anne, when did you become so wise?”
Anne smiled a knowing smile. “When you weren’t looking, dear sister.”

I also enjoyed the interactions between Devon and his friend, Jordan Holloway, Earl of Ashbourne and Devon’s jealousy of Lily’s friend, Viscount Medford.

Overall, this was a charming fast-paced story filled with humour and passion and a very impressive debut novel from Ms Bowman. I will definitely be reading the other books I have in this series.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read March 2014

The Secret Brides series (click on cover for more details):

Secrets of a Wedding Night (Secret Brides, #1) A Secret Proposal (Secret Brides, #1.5) Secrets of a Runaway Bride (Secret Brides, #2) A Secret Affair (Secret Brides #2.5) Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage (Secret Brides, #3) It Happened Under The Mistletoe (Secret Brides, #3.5)

 

 

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(Wicked Widows, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

Even in London society—where everyone knows what you did last season—you never know who’s next in line to walk down the aisle, in Why Dukes Say I Do

TRUE LOVE IS OFTEN FOUND

With her whirlwind social life in London, Lady Isabella Wharton has little interest in the customs of the country. But when her godmother asks her to pay a visit to her bachelor grandson in Yorkshire, Isabella can’t refuse. It behooves her to please the old dowager, since she harbors one of Isabella’s most scandalous secrets. So off she goes to see the newly-titled—and notoriously rustic—Duke of Ormond…

WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT

Trevor Carey doesn’t care about what goes on behind ballroom doors. He is content with the simple life—and isn’t ashamed to admit it to a society flirt like Lady Isabella. But the country air brings out a different side of Isabella—one full of longing and passion. Can her sophistication be hiding a desire for love? When a blackmailer from the city arrives to threaten Isabella, Trevor will shield her from harm—even travel to London. Can the duke tackle the ton on Isabella’s behalf …and manage to keep her all to himself?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I enjoyed this book with its intriguing story (inspired by the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer), engaging characters, passion and romance.

WHY DUKES SAY I DO is the first book in Manda Collins’s new series, Wicked Widows, which centres around sisters, Isabella and Perdita and their friend, Georgina… all widows of abusive husbands. They share a terrible secret concerning the death of Perdita’s husband, the Duke of Ormonde, but find themselves blackmailed and threatened by someone who obviously knows that secret.

Trevor reminds me of Alec, the hero of Ms Collins’s How to Romance a Rake. He is honourable, a gentleman and treats everyone with kindness and civility. As one of his tenant’s remarks to Isabella - “a kinder, more dedicated master we could not have asked for.”  His care and concern for others is also seen in the importance he attaches to his duties as magistrate and how protective he is towards Isabella when he finds out about the threatening letters.

I understand his determination not to take up his role as the Duke of Ormonde. He holds no love for the Ormonde family who turned their back on his father who chose to marry for love rather than wealth.

He clearly loves his sisters but tends to be overprotective… a trait which I am sure is shared by a lot of older brothers. It is hard for him to accept that the seventeen year old Eleanor is now a young lady as Isabella points out.

“She isn’t so much older than Belinda,” he said defensively.
“There is a vast ocean of difference between thirteen and seventeen,” Isabella said. “And well you know it. You simply wish there were not. It won’t be long before she has beaux. I wouldn’t be surprised if she weren’t already smitten with some country swain.” He gulped down his brandy at the thought.
“You don’t think…” He glanced warily at Isabella.

I thought it was amusing that he was horrified by the fact that Eleanor may have a beau.

I admire Isabella…her strength, resilience and courage. She went through a soul-destroying, abusive marriage but has lost none of that indomitable spirit. Her selfless love for her sister and her need to ensure Perdita’s future happiness, above all else, made me like her even more.

Her interactions with Trevor’s sisters, Eleanor and Belinda, show the genuine affection she has for them. She also recognises how ill-equipped they are to take their place in society as the sisters of a duke and desperately need her guidance.

…there was something familiar about these two sisters, something that made Isabella want to shield them from the hurts and embarrassments that awaited them in the world outside their little village.

I particularly love the scene where Isabella loans Eleanor a gown …… Eleanor’s reactions and excitement are contagious.

I found the romance between Isabella and Trevor perfectly paced. They both start out with preconceived ideas about each other. Isabella has been preconditioned by the Dowager Duchess to expect some kind of stuffy, country yokel living a rustic existence while Trevor initially believes Isabella to be nothing more than a frivolous society lady. It is both amusing and delightful watching their preconceived notions slowly shattered allowing them to move from physical attraction to falling in love.

He’d expected Isabella to be incapable of conversing about anything but the latest on-dit, but she had proved knowledgeable on a variety of topics, including, to his great surprise, the glamorous world of crop rotation. She’d explained it away, saying that her father had been fond of agricultural talk despite making his home in London. She had, she said, absorbed the information over the course of many years listening to him drone on about it.

…to her surprise and admiration, Ormonde not only knew everyone’s names, but he also was able to ask after their siblings and parents and children and grandchildren and in some cases great-grandchildren, with an easy manner that indicated he had been doing so for years. He clearly cared for their welfare beyond just ensuring that they were able to produce a good crop yield. He cared about them as people.

The secondary characters add depth to the story. I was charmed by Trevor’s sisters, Eleanor and Belinda with their delightful banter and I love the humour Trevor’s friend and neighbour, Sir Lucien Blakemore, brings to the story:

“I took Lady Wharton and my sisters into York yesterday to go dress shopping.”
Blakemore blanched. 
“Ye gods, no wonder you’re livid. A shopping trip could make any man go mad.”

I like how Ms Collins intersperses social comments throughout the story and highlights the often harsh realities of being a woman during this era.

It wasn’t hard to figure out the identity of the person sending Isabella the threatening letters, but the action was still dramatic enough to keep me turning the pages. There is a cliff-hanger because the villainous mastermind behind the threats is still at large and the mystery surrounding his identity is set to continue throughout the series.

Overall this was an enjoyable start to Ms Collin’s new series with just the right amount of romance and mystery. I will definitely be reading the next book, Why Earls Fall in Love, which is Georgina’s story.

REVIEW  RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read February 2014

The Wicked Widows series (click on covers for more details):

Why Dukes Say I Do (Wicked Widows, #1) Why Earls Fall in Love (Wicked Widows, #2) Why Lords Lose Their Hearts (Wicked Widows, #3)- 29 July 2014

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(Castles Ever After #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?
Abducted by handsome highwayman?
Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I didn’t think anything could possibly match Tessa Dare’s fabulous Spindle Cove series but her new series, Castles Ever After, promises to be just as wonderful. The first book, ROMANCING THE DUKE is enchanting, romantic, sexy and funny and I was totally captivated from the first page to the last!

I love Tessa Dare’s writing… so rich in warmth, emotion, and humour. She brings each scene to life with such vivid imagery. This is one of my favourite descriptions:

It started to rain. Fat, heavy drops of summer rain— the kind that always struck her as vaguely lewd and debauched. Little potbellied drunkards, those summer raindrops, chortling on their way to earth and crashing open with glee.Image

“I’m no one’s hero, Miss Goodnight. You’d do well to remember that.”

Ransom is certainly my hero but then I do have a soft spot for scarred, emotionally wounded heroes. I just knew that under that gruff exterior beats a vulnerable heart and it just needs the right woman to break down his defences. Izzy is just perfect for him with her warmth, passion and gentle heart.

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I adore Izzy. Tired of being treated like the wide-eyed girl of her father’s stories, she longs to be seen as a grown woman with her own dreams and desires. It is Ransom who is able to see the real Izzy – ‘a beautiful temptress of a woman, with interesting ideas and sensual wit.

I enjoyed the initial sparks and tension between Izzy and Ransome. They were such a delightful couple and watching their romance unfold was a joy. I loved sharing their…

Charmingly wicked banter:

He leaned one shoulder against the archway. “Aren’t we going to continue?”
“Continue what?”
“This game.” His voice was so low it seemed to crawl to her over the flagstones, then shiver up through the soles of her feet. “Am I a Russian prince? No. Is my favorite color yellow? No. Would I object if you were to come inside and remove every stitch of your damp clothing?” His voice did the impossible. It sank lower. “No.”

Tender moments:

Izzy didn’t know if these gentle sweeps of her fingertips could erase his pain— but they were dismantling the safeguards around her heart.
She soothed her touch over his brow and scalp, making shushing noises and whispering what she hoped were comforting words.

Sigh-worthy moments:

It was oneness, and it was glorious, and it was perfect, and it was her. All her.
God, he loved her.

Poignant moments:

…since she was there . .  . he couldn’t deny that a scarred, neglected part of him craved that softness.
 Hell, he ached for it, straight to his bones.

Hot sexy moments:

“Oh, I mean to do this everywhere. I plan to have you in every room of this castle. And why stop there? On the ramparts, beneath the stars. In the park, on a blanket spread amid waving grasses.” He pushed her skirts to her waist. “But we start right here, right now. I’ve been dreaming of taking you on this table for weeks.”

There are some rather delightful but unusual secondary characters…

The Knights and ladies of Moranglia who offer their loyal support when it is most needed (all will become clear when you read the book).

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Snowdrop, Izzy’s pet ermine, who seems to have got to grips with a certain duke!
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I loved Ransom’s devoted valet, Duncan, especially in the scene where he douses Ransom with freezing cold water!

Tessa Dare continues to wow me with her beautiful writing, heart-warming stories and loveable characters and  ROMANCING THE DUKE will definitely be one of my favourite books of 2014.  Now I just have to wait for book 2, SAY YES TO THE MARQUESS!

REVIEW  RATING: 5/5 STELLAR STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read January 2014

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

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(League of Rogues #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

The League of Rogues takes what they want—but have they taken on too much?

For too long Miss Emily Parr has been subject to the whims of her indebted uncle and the lecherous advances of his repulsive business partner. Her plan to be done with dominating men forever is simple—find herself a kind husband who will leave her to her books.

It seems an easy enough plan, until she is unexpectedly abducted by an incorrigible duke who hides a wounded spirit behind flashing green eyes.

Godric St. Laurent, Duke of Essex, spends countless nights at the club with his four best friends, and relishes the rakish reputation society has branded him with. He has no plans to marry anytime soon—if ever. But when he kidnaps an embezzler’s niece, the difficult debutante’s blend of sweetness and sharp tongue make him desperate for the one thing he swears he never wanted: love.

Yet as they surrender to passion, danger lurks in Godric’s shadowed past, waiting for him to drop his guard—and rob him of the woman he can’t live without.

Product Warnings:
This novel includes a lady who refuses to stay kidnapped, a devilish duke with a dark past, and an assortment of charming rogues who have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

**4.5  Roguish Stars**

 

I really enjoyed WICKED DESIGNS, Lauren Smith’s debut Regency Historical novel. This witty and entertaining romance features an emotionally scarred hero, a smart heroine and a loveable group of rogues.

Emily is a delightful heroine. She is smart, courageous and spirited enough to stand up for herself. I love her determination to outwit her captors and escape. She certainly keeps those five rogues on their toes!

Emily rammed an elbow backwards into her attacker’s stomach and began to wrestle free until he grabbed her arm. She swung about, striking him across the face with a balled fist. The man staggered back, leaving her free to dive inside the coach.

I enjoyed seeing her not only capture Godric’s heart but also the affection of the other members of the League of Rogues as well.

Godric is my favourite type of hero…arrogant and self-assured on the outside but hiding a wounded heart. His childhood experiences have made him avoid becoming emotionally involved and so he is unprepared for the feelings that Emily arouses in him. I enjoyed watching him gradually open up to the belief that love was possible.

He could never regret each kiss, each second that Emily’s touch reawakened the ghost of the man he used to be.

I LOVED the other four rogues Ashton, Cedric, Charles and Lucien. They didn’t seem like secondary characters because each one has his own distinct personality. I enjoyed the camaraderie between them and the sparkling dialogue. It’s apparent that Lucien and Horatia, Cedric’s sister, have a history and I’ll be intrigued to read their story.

Blankenship is creepy and menacing as the lecherous villain and I am not quite sure what to make of Miss Evangeline Mirabeau, Godric’s former mistress. Friend or foe? I’m not quite sure.

Favourite Romantic Quote

 “Emily, I know you won’t marry me. I know that. But I can’t live one more day without you. All I ask is that wherever you go, whatever you do, let me come with you. We can travel the world. Whatever you want, it will be yours. I just wish to be with you.”

WICKED DESIGNS is a delightful romance and a great introduction to what promises to be an excellent series.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 Read January 2014

My sincere thanks to Lauren Smith for providing me with a copy of her book in return for an honest review.

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I wasn’t intending to post anything until after the New Year but I thought I should post this review.

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Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

Four breathtakingly romantic tales of a Regency Christmas from four bestselling romance authors.

Down through the years, enchantment touches a tall gray house in Grosvenor Square. The legend of Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball promises true love and happiness to one lucky couple. Who will feel the magic this winter?

1803 – The Seduction of a Duchess by Shana Galen

Rowena Harcourt, the Duchess of Valère, never forgot the handsome footman who helped her escape the French Revolution. For fourteen years, Gabriel Lamarque has loved Rowena—now at Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball, has fate finally delivered a chance to win her hand?

1818 – One Kiss for Christmas by Vanessa Kelly

Nigel Dash is London’s most reliable gentleman, a reputation he never minded until he fell in love with beautiful Amelia Easton. Unfortunately, Amelia sees Nigel as a dependable friend, not a dashing suitor. At Lady Winterson’s famous Christmas ball, Nigel vows to change Amelia’s mind—by sweeping her off her feet.

1825 – His Christmas Cinderella by Anna Campbell

At the season’s most glittering ball, a girl who has never dared to dream of forever after discovers a Christmas miracle.

1830 – The Last First Kiss by Kate Noble

Susannah Westforth has always loved Sebastian Beckett – but he’s only ever seen her as a friend. When Sebastian takes his Grand Tour, Susannah transforms herself into a woman he’ll notice. Now Sebastian is back, just in time for Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball – but the last thing he expects to see is his little Susie, all grown up…

You’re invited to join the whirling dance at Lady Winterson’s sparkling Christmas ball, where miracles happen and true love shines forever. How can you resist?

Mistletoe

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

REVIEW OF THE SEDUCTION OF A DUCHESS BY SHANA GALEN

This was a sweet, tender older woman/younger man romance.

The heroine, Rowena not only battles her own insecurities but also the overprotectiveness of her sons. I enjoyed watching Gabriel convince Rowena that he truly loves her and coming to the conclusion that sometimes actions speak louder than words.  I wanted to hug Rowena when she finds the courage to follow her heart…. she doesn’t care what her sons think and ‘the beau monde could go hang itself’.

Ms Galen has such an engaging writing style and I definitely look forward to reading more of her books.

Favourite Romantic Moment…

“But how can you want to marry a woman my age?”
“Yes.” He chuckled. “What was I thinking? A beautiful, vibrant woman in the prime of her life. How could I want to marry a woman like that? How could I want a woman like that in my bed?”

REVIEW RATING:  4/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

REVIEW OF ONE KISS FOR CHRISTMAS BY VANESSA KELLY

This was a delightfully entertaining friends-to-lovers romance with an endearing hero and heroine.

I adored Nigel who thinks that the way to Amelia’s heart is by sweeping her off her feet…becoming the dashing Mr Dash, complete with bright red waistcoat. But Amelia is tired of being regarded as nothing more than ‘a decorative knick-knack and a means of plumping some man’s bank account’. She wants to marry a kind, loving man who accepts her for who she is…a man who will be a good husband and father. I enjoyed their journey together… Nigel discovering that he just needs to be himself and Amelia discovering that her perfect man has been right there all the time.

Favourite Romantic Moment…

 “It’s your heart, Amelia. Your lovely, kind heart,” he said with a smile that melted her from the inside out.

Vanessa Kelly charmed me with her lovely writing style and I am delighted that I have more of her books on my Kindle.

REVIEW RATING:  4/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

REVIEW OF HIS CHRISTMAS CINDERELLA BY ANNA CAMPBELL

Anna Campbell gives us a spicy twist to the traditional Cinderella story.

Campion Parnell is forced to live with her unloving relatives, Aunt Ida and her two daughters.  Treated worse than a servant, she lives for the times she spends with her illicit lover, Lachlan Macmurrie but knows only too well that her happiness is fleeting, even though she dreams of Lachlan being hers forever. Enter Campion’s ‘Fairy Godmother’ in the person of Lachlan’s mother, Lady Ravenglass who is determined to ensure that Campion does go to the ball…Lady Winterson’s Ball where dreams do come true!  This was such a deliciously passionate story and Lachlan was one sexy Prince Charming. The only thing that irritated me was Campion’s reluctance to accept that Lachlan genuinely loved her and her insistence on torturing him undeservedly. I’m glad this was overshadowed by the lovely romantic ending.

Favourite Romantic Moment

Lachlan turned her into his arms and smiled down at her, his eyes alight with pride and unashamed worship. “May I have this dance, my darling?”

(I hear the mutterings…that’s not particularly romantic. Well, you will just have to read the story to appreciate why it is!)

This had all the emotional and passionate intensity I’ve come to expect from Anna Campbell.

REVIEW RATING:  4/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

REVIEW OF THE LAST FIRST KISS BY KATE NOBLE

This was an enchanting story of a young girl’s unrequited love for her neighbour and what happens when he returns from his Grand Tour to find her all grown up.

Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball is the last place Sebastian Beckett wants to be until he catches sight of the lady who is garnering every man’s attention. He is shocked to discover that it is Susannah Westworth and she is no longer the little girl he left behind! I loved Sebastian’s mixed reactions to seeing Susannah all grown up and his amusing conversation with Philbert, Lady Winterson’s butler. I also enjoyed how the various lessons, she was taught by her Aunt Julia, kept popping into Susannah’s mind.

Favourite Romantic Moment…

And she knew. Susannah knew she was about to be kissed. Well and truly kissed for the first time. By Sebastian. And it would be the moment that he finally came to know, to feel everything she felt for him.

The kiss that would alter everything. The last first kiss.

There was also a sigh-worthy HEA for Lucy Frost, Lady Winterson and her butler, Philbert.

REVIEW RATING:  4/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

Kate Noble is another author who impressed me with her writing and I’m eager to read more of her books.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Overall, this anthology was perfect for the holiday season with just the right amount of magic to warm the heart.

 

Read December 2013

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