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Annabelle Anders Interview - Author picture 2

I’m delighted to welcome historical romance author ANNABELLE ANDERS to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

I’m honoured to be asked, Carol!

~~~~~~~

 

R&R:
Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?

Annabelle:
My dad owned a photography studio in Englewood, Colorado, so my childhood was probably a little different than most. We spent a lot of time at his studio. I remember my first job was stuffing school picture packages into bags for a penny a package LOL… Believe it or not, I earned enough to buy a bicycle! Englewood is a suburb just south of Denver. Last time I went back I found that most of my schools had been torn down and rebuilt or turned into condos… Don’t get me started about Cinderella City, the local mall where we all hung out… it’s now a major condo development with the light rail running through it. So many changes!

 

R&R:
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?

Annabelle:
At times temperamental, and other times easy going… My husband says I’m mostly easy going, though, so let’s go with that.

 

R&R:
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?

Annabelle:
Sweet, for sure. I fight a sugar addiction, specifically red vines.



R&R:

What is your most treasured possession?

Annabelle:
My laptop. We lost our house on the front end of the housing crisis and I have to admit that ever since, I’ve been way less materialistic. I like nice things, don’t get me wrong, but I’m much more selective than I used to be. Second, I guess is the book collection I have in kindle… I don’t have room for many paperbacks now. Two years ago, we were able to buy a house again. I love my little house! It was built in 1910 and is around 1000 square feet. We’ve opened up the attic and someday (soon, I hope) will finish the remodel that will give us another 600 feet.
                                                                                                                                                           


R&R:
If you could afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Annabelle:
Somewhere tropical, on a beach. I just love the idea of escaping the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. I’d also want a pool. Hmm… I was just thinking that I wasn’t very materialistic…

 

R&R:
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Annabelle:
I used to embarrass easily, but not so much anymore. Oh, wait! At the Historical Romance Retreat that I attended recently, I was fitted for my gown. BY. A. MAN! He was very professional, but it was more than a little unsettling when he climbed under my skirt to adjust the waist from the inside. I’m standing there thinking, “what underwear did I put on this morning?” Oh, yeah. Definitely was embarrassed then. And then the photo shoot. Snuggling up to a man twenty years younger than me and then pretend we were kissing… By far the most embarrassed I’ve been in a long time LOL!

 


My husband and me at the Historical Romance
Retreat in 2016

 

~~~~~~~

 

Thank you for taking time out to be here today and sharing these interesting facts about yourself, Annabelle.

Thanks Carol! You brought up some fun memories!

 

 If you would like to find out more about Annabelle and her books, here are the links:

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

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The Winter Bride

(Chance Sisters, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – 1816)

Cover Blurb

Award-winning author Anne Gracie delivers the second in her enticing new series about four young women facing a life of destitution—until a daring act changes their fortune and turns them each into a beautiful bride…

Damaris Chance’s unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway—and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun.

When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him—as long as it’s in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride.

Will Damaris’s secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

After being somewhat disappointed by THE AUTUMN BRIDE, I LOVED this book. Beautifully written, emotional, romantic and funny, it was a total delight from beginning to end.

I absolutely adored Freddy. In The Autumn Bride, he is seemed nothing more than a handsome, charming, entertaining, frivolous rake who has no interest in marriage and avoids ‘muffins’ – eligible young ladies who are constantly trying to trick him into marriage – like the plague. However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Freddy’s carefree lifestyle is a carefully cultivated façade to hide the guilt he feels over his brother’s death and the hurt caused by his parents’ indifference and insults. He is an honourable man who proves to be a loyal friend to Max, a valued and shrewd business partner to Flynn and a man who inspires the love and loyalty of his servants.

I truly felt for Damaris whose mother died when she was twelve, leaving her to be brought up by her missionary father who only believed in duty and obedience not love. He instilled in Damaris a belief that she had inherited her mother’s wanton nature. Forced to flee China after her father is murdered and his mission burnt, she manages to escape to England. What happened during that journey is her terrible secret; one which has convinced her that she will never marry and one which she has never shared with anyone. I could not help but be moved by her longing for a life she knew she could never have.

Did they think she didn’t want to be loved, didn’t want to have someone whose business—no, whose pleasure it would be to take care of her, protect her? And who would let her take care of him and love him in return?

Ms. Gracie builds the relationship between Freddy and Damaris slowly making the romance both believable and emotionally satisfying. As they come to know and understand each other, during the pretend betrothal, their tentative attraction gradually blossoms into love.

London society sees Freddy as nothing more than the ‘frivolous fellow with not a serious thought in his head’ but Damaris sees beyond that façade to the kind, charming, clever, loyal, thoughtful, funny man who deserves to be loved. Damaris has captured Freddy’s heart with her beauty, serenity, stubbornness, courage, understanding and laughter.

I love the scene where Damaris shows real courage when she defends Freddy and gives his parents a good tongue-lashing, refusing to be intimidated by them.

“The entire time I’ve been here all you’ve done is make cutting remarks about him to me—and I’m his betrothed. I’ve heard nothing but criticism, disparagement and negativity. I cannot credit it. You are his mother and you, his father. He is your son—your only son.” Her eyes prickled with angry, frustrated tears. “What kind of parents are you? You lost one son, but you threw the other away.”

When Damaris reveals her secret to Freddy, I love his reaction…

“You did the only thing you could. No one would blame you. I certainly wouldn’t.”

and his willingness to risk his life to slay dragons for her.

The love scene in the cottage is so beautifully written, full of warmth, humour and passion. I love the lengths Freddy is willing to go to allay Damaris’ fears, especially his own paticular interpretation of certain Biblical stories!

He picked up her hand and kissed it. “Enough of that, insatiable creature. I’m explaining something to you and it’s very important. God’s plan.”
“Oh. Yes?” she said vaguely.
“Yes. The pleasure men and women receive from lying together. Without the pleasure, it would happen far less frequently, and then where would we be? Would we be so happy about going forth and multiplying, as we’re told to do in the Bible?”
She stretched languorously and didn’t answer.
He went on. “Stop distracting me and listen. No, we wouldn’t. So the pleasure is all part of God’s plan and it is your sacred duty to enjoy it to the best of your ability. The future of the human race depends on it.”

There is a colourful cast of secondary characters including:

  • the indomitable Lady Bea of whom Freddy says – God, but the old lady was a tricky piece. He felt like he’d gone three rounds in a verbal boxing ring. 
  • Mrs Jenkins, Damaris’s employer, who is always warning her about ‘headin’ down the Road to Roon’ 
  • Captain Patrick Flynn, a lapsed Irish Catholic, with a penchant for bright colours and earrings and a desire to marry a fine young English lady. 
  • The experimental Chinese swimming pigs (to know more, I’m afraid you will have to read the book)

 Max and Abby (The Autumn Bride) and Jane and Daisy are also there to provide aid and support to Freddy and Damaris, and those who like a delightful Epilogue will not be disappointed.

 MY VERDICT: A charming, heart-warming romance with characters who will steal your heart. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Chance Sisters series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Autumn Bride (Chance Sisters, #1) by Anne Gracie The Winter Bride (Chance Sisters, #2) by Anne Gracie The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters, #3) by Anne Gracie The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters, #4) by Anne Gracie

 

The Autumn Bride

(Chance Sisters, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – 1805 and 1816)

Cover Blurb

Governess Abigail Chantry will do anything to save her sister and two dearest friends from destitution, even if it means breaking into an empty mansion in the hope of finding something to sell. Instead of treasures, though, she finds the owner, Lady Beatrice Davenham, bedridden and neglected. Appalled, Abby rousts Lady Beatrice’s predatory servants and—with Lady Beatrice’s eager cooperation—the four young ladies become her “nieces,” neatly eliminating the threat of disaster for all concerned!

It’s the perfect situation, until Lady Beatrice’s dashing and arrogant nephew, Max, Lord Davenham, returns from the Orient—and discovers an impostor running his household…

A romantic entanglement was never the plan for these stubborn, passionate opponents—but falling in love may be as inevitable as the falling of autumn leaves…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Having previously read and loved THE PERFECT RAKE, I had high expectations of this book, the first in Anne Gracie’s Chance Sisters series. However, while there were aspects of the book I really loved, there were others I found disappointing.

I really liked Abigail. She is such a warm and caring person and you see that in her love for her younger sister, Jane, as well as her willingness to take in Damaris and Daisy. I also admired her courage and resourcefulness in rescuing Jane from the brothel and Lady Beatrice from the clutches of her dishonest and neglectful servants.

Max is an honourable man who is determined to work to pay off his late uncle’s debts and restore the family fortunes, and he also reveals a caring nature in his genuine love and concern for his Aunt Beatrice. While I liked Max, I did find him a rather lacklustre hero, possibly because he was overshadowed by more vibrant and memorable characters like Lady Beatrice and Freddy Monkton-Coombes.

I loved seeing the unbreakable bond that develops between the four girls and the loving relationship that grows between them and Lady Beatrice, who is definitely one of the highlights of the book. She’s such a colourful and larger than life figure who is outspoken and delights in flaunting the stuffy rules of society, even claiming the Chance sisters as her ‘nieces’. I love the scene where she regales Lady Beddington with the scandalous story of her fictitious half-sister, Griselda, her nieces’ mother, much to Max’s annoyance. I adored Max’s best friend, Freddy Monkton-Combes, who brought some lovely humour to the story with his talk of ‘muffins’ (and I don’t mean the edible kind).

While I appreciated that this was the first book in a new series and setting up the bond between the ‘sisters’ and establishing their relationship with Lady Beatrice were important elements of the story, I did not feel that it allowed enough time to fully develop the romance between Abby and Max. For me, there was no steady development of their relationship and I did not sense the deep emotional connection between them. However, some of my criticisms were softened by the charming Epilogue.

The touch of mystery surrounding Jane’s abduction added an interesting layer to the story but I felt that the opportunity to introduce a dramatic resolution to the plot line was sadly missed. Everything is neatly resolved off page with Max and Daisy relating details of what happened to the others. A clear case of telling rather than showing.

MY VERDICT: Despite my reservations, overall I enjoyed THE AUTUMN BRIDE and will definitely be reading the other books in the series to see Jane, Damaris and Daisy get their Happy Ever Afters.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


Chance Sisters series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Autumn Bride (Chance Sisters, #1) by Anne Gracie The Winter Bride (Chance Sisters, #2) by Anne Gracie The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters, #3) by Anne Gracie The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters, #4) by Anne Gracie

**RAKES AND RASCALS WILL BE TEMPORARILY CLOSING DOWN FROM TODAY, THURSDAY 6TH SEPTEMBER, AND NORMAL SERVICE WILL RESUME ON MONDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER.**

 

Regular visitors to the Rakes and Rascals blog will recall that we attended the first ever Historical Romance Retreat, held at the historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington State in 2016. We are excited to be attending again and, this year, it is being held at the Mission Inn, a historic Spanish-mission style hotel, in Riverside, California.

Mission Inn - courtyard

Mission Inn - Rotunda. jpg

Mission Inn - Restaurant

Once again, we will have the opportunity to mingle with lots of authors and fellow lovers of historical romance as well as hanging out with some lovely Facebook friends, both old and new.

There are exciting events to look forward to including Historical Presentations and Workshops, Afternoon Tea, a Speakeasy Club, a Highlanders and Highwaymen Gambling Night, a Book Signing and Historical Fair, culminating in a Grand Masquerade Ball on the last night.

If you would like to read about our adventures and see some of the photos, look out for our series of posts in October.

(UK cover)

(Scandal and Scoundrel, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (late Regency – 1834 and 1836)

Cover Blurb:

The one woman he will never forget…
Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only one problem—he already has one.

The one man she will never forgive…
After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a single goal—to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement…which requires her to spend the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow cannot resist.

A love that neither can deny…
The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their broken past, he can give her forever, making every day The Day of the Duchess.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I absolutely loved this book and was totally swept away by the beautiful, compelling, intensely emotional and deeply romantic, second chance love story – a story that really touches the heart.

For the past two years and seven months, Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has searched the world for his estranged wife, Seraphina, without success. There has never been a single moment in all that time when he has not regretted everything he said and did that caused her to leave.

Would there ever be a time when he stopped thinking of her? Ever a date that did not remind him of her? Of the time that had stretched like an eternity since she’d left?

He longs to find her. To win her back. To start afresh.

It is the last day of the Parliamentary session and, as soon as he leaves the House, he intends to continue his search, because no matter how long it takes, he will find her. Then, there she is standing boldly before the assembled lords announcing…

“I am Seraphina Bevingstoke, Duchess of Haven. And I require a divorce.”

Seraphina is no longer the frightened, broken girl who fled, but a strong woman with a purpose. She has forged a new life for herself but, to secure that future, she requires a divorce from her husband.

Malcolm has no intention of granting Seraphina a divorce but needs time in which to woo her back. On the spur of the moment, he comes up with a mad plan – he will agree to a divorce as long as Seraphina agrees to spend six weeks at his country estate, Highley, to find him a replacement for her. Seraphina is reluctant but, if this is the only way to obtain her divorce, so be it. After all, she will not be alone. She has reinforcements in the form of her formidable sisters, who hate Malcolm as much as she does!

This book had such a profound emotional impact on me. I lived every moment of Mal and Sera’s heart-rending story – the regret, the anger, the guilt, the pain and the shattered dreams. It was hard to imagine that they would ever find each other again. This is why I love second-chance stories because, however difficult the journey, I know that there will be a happy-ever-after and it will be all the more rewarding.

I like how Ms. MacLean uses flashback chapters in the early part of the book, gradually revealing the events that led up to their marriage falling apart. She makes Mal and Sera seem very human. I think we have all made mistakes in our lives which we later come to regret. So, it was easy to relate to Mal and Sera, however misguided their decisions, which were to have terrible consequences. Despite everything that happened, I could feel their deep yearning for each other.

I know that many reviewers had already formed a very negative opinion of Mal from events that occurred at the beginning of A Rogue Not Taken, the first book in the series. I think that not having read that book myself was an advantage because it allowed me to judge Mal more objectively. He had seen first-hand his parents’ disastrous marriage (his own mother had trapped his father into marriage) and I could understand him lashing out at Sera, believing that she had never cared for him, only his title. That does not mean I can excuse his words and actions but I felt Mal’s pain, remorse and shame, knowing that he had been so blinded by his feelings of betrayal and anger that he had shattered everything between them. Mal redeemed himself in my eyes because of his willingness to admit his mistakes, his enduring love for Sera and his determination to fight for her, even though he fears she no longer feels the same about him.

He had left her because he’d thought she cared for his dukedom more than she cared for him.
By the time he’d discovered that it mattered not a bit why she’d landed him – only that she’d landed him at all – she’d been gone.

It was heart-breaking to see Sera so alone and broken when she left. All she ever wanted was Mal, not his title but, unwisely, she listened to her mother’s advice. Now, she is like a Phoenix risen from the ashes – stronger, wiser and determined to live her own independent life. She soon realises that, despite everything that had happened between them, she has never stopped loving Mal but is afraid that she will never be enough for him.

I love the scene in the underwater ballroom (yes, there really is one at Whitley Park in Surrey) where Mal draws a parallel between himself and Sera and the story of the Pleiades, as a way of conveying his own feelings for Sera. It was so romantic and I felt so much sympathy for Mal. The love scene that follows carries all the years of longing and is beautifully written that it bought tears to my eyes, because Sera is too afraid to believe there is a future for them.

The scene in the little garden when Sera sees the stone angel, dedicated to their daughter, is so moving and, for the first time, they are able to speak openly and honestly about the past and mourn their loss together.

I love Mal for recognising that he needed to give Sera the freedom to choose and his grand gesture is just so sigh-worthy…

“Yes, love. I’m through chasing you. I shall have to be happy with finding you in the stars, at night.” He paused, and she gasped, realizing what he was about to do. “There will never be another for me. But it is not my choice that matters; it is yours.

and the Epilogue left me with a lovely warm glow, seeing Mal and Sera deliriously happy after so much heartache.

I adore the Talbot sisters (aka the Soiled Sisters) who care nothing for Society’s censure.  Outrageous, forthright, loyal, dramatic and convivial, they bring some welcome humour to the story. I love the scene where they are all piled into a carriage, accompanying Sera to Highley. The dialogue between them is so funny. Another hilarious scene, involving the sisters, is the lawn bowls in which they team up with Mal’s prospective brides. I was intrigued by the interactions between Sesily, Sera’s unmarried sister, and Caleb Calhoun, Sera’s American friend, and I believe they will be getting their own book in due course. That promises to be an interesting pairing.

MY VERDICT: If you enjoy a superbly written, compelling, angst-filled romance with unforgettable characters, then I can definitely recommend this book.

REVIEW RATING : 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


Scandal and Scoundrel
series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Rogue Not Taken (Scandal & Scoundrel, #1) by Sarah MacLean A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel, #2) by Sarah MacLean The Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrel, #3) by Sarah MacLean

I am delighted to welcome Award Winning and USA Today Bestselling Historical and Paranormal Romance Author CAROLYN JEWEL to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Thank you so much for having me here!

~~~~~~~

 

R&R:
Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?

Carolyn:
I was born in Southern California but we moved to a small town in Northern California when I was six. We lived out in the country and since I had siblings, we played together and outside a lot. I was involved in a lot of activities such as music and ballet that kept me pretty busy after school. I have been very fortunate in my life, I must say.

 

R&R:
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?

Carolyn:
I would love to say I’m easy-going, but I think not.

 

R&R:
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?

Carolyn:
At times I have survived on coffee and dark chocolate. Draw your own conclusions from that!

 

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Carolyn:
My iPhone. If I can’t pick that, then I’ll say my grandmother’s rock collection. There are some really beautiful samples in it and my son was enthralled with the collection when he was a boy.

 

R&R:
If you could afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Carolyn:
This is a tough choice. It might be a three-way tie between a house in California’s Gold Country, a pied-a-terre in Paris, or a Scottish croft house. If money is no object and maintenance is included, then I would choose a castle in Scotland. If that happens, please come visit me!

 

R&R:
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Carolyn:
I wish I had a better answer to this question. Like most authors, I am an introvert who has to be an extrovert for brief periods. This means that I limit my interactions and thus my opportunities to make a fool of myself. In my adult life, however, I reached a point where I concluded that as long as I am being true to myself, fair to others, and interacting in good faith, I have nothing to be embarrassed about.

 

~~~~~~~

 

Thank you for taking time out to be here today and sharing these interesting facts about yourself, Carolyn.

Thank you so much!

 


If you would like to find out more about Carolyn and her books, here are the links:

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

Hazard audiobook

(Rockliffe, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Paris, 1770 and London, 1777)

Cover Blurb:

Hazard: a game of Chance and Luck, made riskier when Fate is rolling the dice.

For Aristide Delacroix, the first throw summons shades from his past. A man he had met, just once, over a card-table … and the lovely girl indirectly responsible for plunging his life into catastrophe.

For Lord Nicholas Wynstanton, tired of waiting for Madeleine Delacroix to make up her mind, it slyly suggests he begin a whole new game with loaded dice; while for Madeleine, it devises a terrifying lesson in missed opportunities and the uncertainty of second chances.

And for Genevieve Westin, hoping widowhood will be happier than marriage, it brings a rude awakening – leaving a single, wild gamble her only option.
A cardsharp turned businessman, a duke’s charming brother, a stubborn, razor-edged beauty and a desperate widow.

Four players in a game of Hazard … all playing for very high stakes.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Stella Riley has kept my interest from the first page of the first book in her Rockliffe series (The Parfit Knight), which was originally written in her earlier life as a traditionally published author. Three years ago, she took up her pen again as an Indie author and I have not only discovered her (how did I miss her the first time around?) but now eagerly await each new release – three so far, and counting (plus of course, an addition to her superb English Civil War series). Both of her two earlier books are now available in e-format, as well as in paperback AND audio, and all the books in this series have been treated to stunning new covers. The Rockliffe series is rapidly becoming a reader’s favourite; a considerable success considering there are some thirty plus years between the first book and the last, and she has seamlessly continued the series as if that large gap never existed.

Hazard (book five), as the name suggests, is set in part against the backdrop of a gaming club. There are four players (as in the game); two equally spine-tingling romances playing out in parallel, and, as always, the enigmatic, all-seeing, all-knowing and utterly delicious, Duke of Rockliffe (aka Rock) is central to the story and its outcome. Each of Ms. Riley’s fabulous cast of characters introduced over the course of the series (some with books of their own), are in evidence, and as I always say, these men and women feel like old friends after five books.

Two of the main protagonists, brother and sister, Madeleine and Aristide Delacroix, get their HEA, and so too does Nicholas Wynstanton, Rock’s younger brother, who has long been smitten with the prickly Madeleine. By the time we reached the end of The Wicked Cousin, Nicholas was becoming more and more frustrated and Madeleine more difficult. However, fans of the series probably knew that Stella Riley would find a way for this unlikely pair to overcome their difficulties. Aristide’s love interest comes from a totally unexpected quarter and ties in nicely with his earlier life and his connection to Adrian Deveraux, Earl of Sarre (The

One of Stella Riley’s greatest strengths lies in her characterisation. The people she ‘creates’ take on a living, breathing persona and, in Hazard, Nicholas Wynstanton, who has been around as a secondary character since the first book, is fully developed into a larger than life, loveable and honourable man. No longer just the happy-go-lucky, younger brother of a duke, he is now a man not to be trifled with as he sets his sights on demolishing the walls Madeleine Delacroix has erected around her heart. Madeleine’s arguments against the match stem from her own insecurities – her earlier life in Paris where she had lived a hand-to-mouth existence with her brother and mother, and the unrequited, girlish infatuation she had briefly felt for her brother’s friend, Adrian Deveraux (The Player). Being the proud young woman, she is, Adrian’s rebuttal was all the more devastating and she has never fully recovered her composure or confidence with the opposite sex resulting in her unfortunate standoffishness.

Her brother, Aristide, is a cool and quiet man and, with a few well-chosen words the author conjures up a man I can see in my mind’s eye…

long blonde hair, eyes the blue of a cloudless winter sky and neatly tailored bones.

He says little but, through his inner musings, we get a great deal of insight into the man he is – suspicious, frustrated and angry – emotions he keeps carefully locked away. Aristide, on the face of it, seems to be calmly and emotionlessly going about his business, but he too has a bruised heart from which he has never fully recovered. His carefully locked away hurt at the way he believes he was treated by his ‘almost love’ comes back to haunt him. Seven years on he is no longer the tender-hearted, kindly young man working hard to care for his teenage sister and ailing mother, but an affluent, respected partner in one of London’s premier gaming/gentleman’s clubs. We see the cool, carefully cultivated aloofness slowly disintegrate before the onslaught of the attraction he discovers he still feels after the intervening years.

Stella Riley has the sibling relationship between Aristide and Madeline just right. Their character traits suggest a familial relationship; both are reserved as a result of brushes with young, unrequited love and both are over sensitive about their humble beginnings. As a result, they are both wary of allowing anyone to scale the walls of their self-erected defences. An intriguing pair and so the final capitulation to their respective loves is all the more satisfying.

Beautiful and sweet Genevieve has erupted back into Aristide’s well-ordered life after seven years. She has suffered much at the hands of her brothers and her now deceased, dissipated husband. She is aware that society views her with distaste by association and, as a result, she is extremely vulnerable and lacking in confidence and self-esteem. In fact, her very vulnerability and suffering is just what the calmly controlled Aristide needs as a salve to the perceived injustices he believes her responsible for in his past life. He is still the kind of man who needs to be needed, and Genevieve Westin certainly fits that bill and so we watch him crumble. It puts me in mind a little of The Mésalliance (although nothing quite compares to the final chapters of that magnificent story) in which we see Rock lose his legendary ‘cool’. I love these hard to read, mysterious men.

There is a plausible plot running throughout the story which involves most of the main characters but has its roots in Paris and Aristide’s earlier life. Rock always strolls in and takes centre stage at just the right moments – urbane and cool-as-cucumber, he steals every scene he is involved in. With just a few carefully selected words designed to defuse, he delivers a set-down, often without the recipient being aware he or she has been insulted. His character is one of Stella Riley’s triumphs, and this series is well named because Rock’s unfailing omniscience and his ability to always be in the right place at the right time is something I have come to look forward to with much anticipation in every book, and I’m never disappointed.

Hazard follows on within weeks of the end of The Wicked Cousin. Cassie and Sebastian are welcomed back into ‘the gang’ after their recent honeymoon and are evidently very-much-in-love newlyweds. They run the gauntlet of the banter and risqué comments of their close friends. Sebastian’s wicked and naughty sense of humour is very much in evidence, another area in which the author excels; her wit and humour are always lurking in the background, adding another dimension to her intriguing characters and expertly researched Georgian world. As we near the end of the series, it is going to be sad to say goodbye…but not yet. Ms. Riley is busy writing another/final book in the series and I am eagerly looking forward to a further intriguing addition to the Rockliffe series, and maybe Ms. Riley will tie off a few loose ends, such as, will Rock get his heir and let Nicholas off the hook?

I’ve read the book and now I’ve listened to the audio version performed by the talented actor Ms. Riley always employs to perform the books in this series (and two of her English Civil War/Restoration books). I’m always struck anew by Alex Wyndham’s versatility – it’s no easy job, after the many books he’s recorded for Ms. Riley and the large cast of characters he has had to keep track of. Yet, he does. Each person is easily identifiable and one excellent example is the Duke of Rockliffe whose smooth, rich voice is quite unique. When Rock appears in any scene he doesn’t need to be announced and Alex Wyndham has him to perfection using a voice and tone like warm treacle trickling down the spine – soft and loving – soft and menacing or simply in conversation with his peers – there’s no mistaking Rock for any other character. During one particular scene in which Madeleine is a guest of the Rockliffe ‘gang’, the ever, all knowing, all seeing Rock immediately recognises her vulnerability, as a result of her actions, and reacts in the most bone melting way. Reading the words had me sniffing but hearing them, well…have your tissues ready is my advice. As I previously remarked, much of Aristide’s thoughts and feelings are revealed to us through his inner musings. To the outside world, he is the proverbial ‘swan’, calm and unruffled, but paddling away furiously out of sight. Alex Wyndham is taxed with making this work and he does so spectacularly. I suspect that some readers may well have missed the ‘real’ Aristide in the written word – so my advice is to listen to this performer’s delectable French accent and fall in love with Stella Riley’s dreamy Aristide.

A new reader/listener to Stella Riley’s books may be a little overwhelmed by the number of characters in Hazard, but this is book five and therefore many have been introduced throughout the previous books. The writing, research and characterisation is, as always, superb and the book could be enjoyed as a stand-alone, but I recommend beginning with The Parfit Knight or, at the very least, it’s important to read/listen to The Wicked Cousin because Hazard follows on immediately from that book, although Cassie and Sebastian’s story is not left hanging.

MY VERDICT: Another stellar five stars read/listen for me. I might have my favourites in this series, but each book is as well written as the last and I can’t penalise the author for making me prefer one character or storyline over another, and besides which, I love them all.


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE


Rockliffe
 series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

The Parfit Knight (Rockliffe, #1) by Stella Riley The Mésalliance by Stella Riley The Player by Stella Riley The Wicked Cousin (Rockcliffe, #4) by Stella Riley Hazard by Stella Riley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

 

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

 

 

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

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