I won’t be around for the next two weeks because Wendy, my lovely friend and guest reviewer, and I are going on a dream trip. We are attending the first ever Historical Romance Retreat which is being held at the historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington State, USA.


“Washington’s grandest hotel. Whether it’s the soaring architecture, award-winning amenities, rich history, or simply its proximity to nearby Spokane attractions, The Historic Davenport Hotel has welcomed film stars, explorers, writers, politicians and other luminaries for more than 100 years.”

It has been organised by authors, Renee Bernard and Delilah Marvelle,  who have some some fabulous events lined up, including High Tea, a Gambling Night with Historical Games, an Absinthe Night with Historical Drinks, and a Grand Ball. There is also a book fair and book signings.

We get the opportunity to mingle with lots of authors and fellow lovers of historical romance for three days in this beautiful historical setting. I can’t believe I will actually be meeting some of the top names in historical romance… Mary Balogh, Tessa Dare, Elizabeth Hoyt, Lorraine Heath, Anna Campbell to name but a few.

I am hoping to keep a diary while I’m there and, as many of the attendees will be wearing historical costumes, I will have my camera at the ready. You can read all about my adventures and see some of the photos I took in my October post.


I’m delighted to welcome Regency Romance Author and member of the Bluestocking Belles CAROLINE WARFIELD to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

This is a great opportunity, but, goodness, I am nervous. You ask wonderful questions. I’m going to have to dig deep for answers. When someone makes me think about life in new ways, it is always a gift, though. Thank you.

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

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, but by the time I was two years old we moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, the first of many transfers. My father reenlisted in the army after WWII; he served in the Korean War as well. My folks were both born and raised in Detroit, and my grandparents lived there, but by the time I was six I had lived in the Midwest, New England, and the Deep South in the United States. What remains of Detroit in me is a love of the Great Lakes, a love of extended family, and a fairly urban, blue-collar, view of the world.

When I was just shy of six, my mother and I joined my father in Germany.  It was 1953 and we sailed on a big grey troop ship with furnishings of metal all bolted to the floor. Crossing the North Atlantic in a stormy February was an adventure. I learned about bulkhead doors when we reached the English Channel, and they closed them due to lingering fears of mines left from the war. To me as a child it just meant that to get to the playroom I had to go all the way up to the top deck and then back down again.

Crossing the North Atlantic

World traveller

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

I can be quite intense, so I wouldn’t say easy-going. Driven might be a better word. Once I set a goal I can be tenacious in pursuing it. I tend to charge forward once I know what I want, which can be hard on people around me.

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

Both! Faced with a choice of a cheese plate or a hot fudge sundae, I will gravitate to the hot fudge. That is, I would gravitate to ice-cream unless there was red wine on offer. In that case, I would choose the cheese plate and hope for a little dark chocolate.


What is your most treasured possession?

Aside from photos of my children, I have two. The first is a painting of myself that my parents had done when we lived in Germany.  It always had pride of place in my mother’s house, and it survived a nasty house fire. When the firemen came and asked Mom what she particularly wanted saved, she asked them to rescue the painting.  Now it is in my dining room.

The Painting

The other is my mother’s locket. My father gave it to her the first Christmas he knew her when there were only eighteen. It has the unromantic inscription, “To Bern From Jim.” Those words are amusing because my mother, whose name was Bernadette, had been called Barney by her brothers. One suspects she was trying to escape that when she met my father, but it caught up with her eventually, and Barney she remained. It features a cameo and mother of pearl. I wore it at my wedding and my daughter wore it at hers.

If you were able to afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

My current fantasy revolves around a house in Cape May, one of the Victorian Painted Ladies in walking distance of the shore, yet close enough to the Philadelphia area for my grandson to visit.  However, I’ve never given up on the idea of an apartment in Paris.  Tuscany has some appeal as well.

Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Oh, so many choices! I think I have to say it involved getting stopped for speeding.  I crossed from West Virginia into Maryland and failed to take notice of the change in speed limit until after the trooper pulled me over. He leaned in, sized up my passengers and said, “Lady, why would you pass a state trooper speeding?” At that point the two teenage boys I was transporting to a soccer tournament were convulsed in laughter. He smirked at me and said, “I think I’ll let you off with a warning. You’ll suffer enough.”


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

Goodness! You ask some tough questions. Thank you for letting me take part and for giving me a chance to sort through all those embarrassing moments.


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






(House of Trent, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:


Simon Hawkins, Duke of Trent, is no stranger to scandal. Rumors and innuendo have darkened the House of Trent for decades, and it has fallen to Simon to restore his tattered family name. He lives by a strict code of honor, but when he is called home to investigate his mother’s disappearance, the distinguished duke will tangle with temptation. For there waits the only woman he has ever loved-and the last woman he should desire . . .

Sarah Osborne has spent her life dreaming of Simon’s touch. But dukes do not long for lady’s maids–or so Sarah believes, until a stolen kiss sparks a passion that could be her ultimate undoing. As the couple begins a forbidden romance, a cunning enemy plots to destroy the duke and everything he loves. Now, caught in a blackmailer’s web, Simon faces an agonizing choice: Sacrifice his family’s future, or break Sarah’s heart.


This is my first time reading Jennifer Haymore and I really enjoyed THE DUCHESS HUNT, the first book in her House of Trent series. A charming story, it features two of my favourite tropes, friends to lovers and a cross class romance.

When Simon Hawkins, the Duke of Trent, receives news from his sister, Esme, that his mother has mysteriously disappeared, he returns home to Ironwood Park to investigate, aided by his three brothers and his half-brother. Honour, integrity, decency and propriety are the principles by which Simon Hawkins has lived since becoming Duke of Trent. His parents’ scandalous behaviour has brought the House of Trent into disrepute and Simon has spent all his life trying the restore the Hawkins’ family reputation. However, these principles are tested when, after an absence of three years, he sees Sarah Osborne again.

His body came instantly alive at the sight of her, even after all this time. Even under the circumstances. Lust. Desire. Need. All of it barreled through him in a hot rush.
Damn. She was more beautiful than ever.

Sarah Osborne was eight years old when she went to live at Ironwood Park with her father, who is employed as the Duke of Trent’s gardener. After being rescued from a blackberry bush by the thirteen-year-old Simon, he takes Sarah back to the house to have her injuries attended to. Simon’s unconventional mother takes a shine to the girl and arranges for Sarah to be raised and educated with her own children. What starts as a friendship between Simon and Sarah soon develops into a strong attraction which culminates in a passionate kiss.  Shortly after, Simon leaves for London but now, after an absence of three years, he is back. Sarah knows that, as a housemaid, there can never be any future for them but…

…she was as besotted with the Duke of Trent as she’d ever been. More so, probably.

Fearing for Esme’s safety, Simon decides to take her to London with Sarah acting as her companion. As circumstances throw them ever closer together, how long will it be before Simon and Sarah succumb to the passion that burns between them ?

I sympathised with Simon, torn between his strong sense of honour and his overwhelming love for Sarah. He knows that having such feelings for someone who works for him and is under his care is morally wrong but…

His body paid no heed to his strict attempts at discipline, to his notions of honor and responsibility.
   He wanted her.
   God help him.

Even so, he respects Sarah too much to make her his mistress and I also like the fact that, when he finally does marry, he intends to remain faithful to his wife.

I like Sarah very much. She is kind, honest, loyal and compassionate and understands Simon and loves him for himself and not for his title. She is pragmatic enough to appreciate the vast gulf that lies between them and knows that one day Simon must marry. She accepts this but I love her boldness in wanting to experience making love with Simon.

 “No regrets, Your Grace. I offer you this with my eyes wide open. I know” – she took a deep breath – “our time together will be limited. But it can be for now. Just for now, we can offer each other comfort.”

I like how she truly cares about Simon’s socially awkward sister Esme and tries to help her overcome her fears.

The romance provides a satisfying blend of emotional and sexual tension. There is potential heartbreak when a blackmailer threatens to keep the lovers forever apart but, when the blackmail threat is thwarted, Simon realises that nothing matters more than the woman he loves and refuses to live without…honour and responsibility be damned.

Sarah Osborne was the only woman who moved him. Who he admired. Who could engage him, body, mind, and spirit. He loved her. And he wanted it all.

I love the rest of the Hawkins family, particularly Lukas, the apparent black sheep of the family; Sam, the hard-working, illegitimate, half-brother; quiet, studious Esme who is keeping a rather scandalous secret. I’m definitely looking forward to reading their stories. I  love the dynamics between the brothers and their bond is obvious. I also like how they show their support for Simon and Sarah.

The deeper they dug into the mire that was his mother’s disappearance, the murkier it became.

I am definitely intrigued by the mystery surrounding the duchess’s disappearance and, as there is no resolution at the end of this book, it appears that the mystery is set to continue throughout the series…definitely an added incentive to read the other books.

MY VERDICT: This was an enjoyable introduction to this series and I will definitely be reading the next book, THE ROGUE’S PROPOSAL, Lukas’s story.




Read September 2016


House of Trent series (click on the book cover for more details):

The Duchess Hunt (House of Trent, #1) by Jennifer Haymore The Rogue's Proposal (House of Trent, #2) by Jennifer Haymore The Scoundrel's Seduction (House of Trent, #3) by Jennifer Haymore



I’m delighted to welcome Award-Winning Author ELIZABETH ESSEX to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

It is such a delight to visit with Rakes & Rascals today. You have long been a favorite place for me to discover new authors—I read my first review of a Grace Burrowes romance here, and became an instant fan.



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

I am a New Englander. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but grew up on the Connecticut coast, with a view of Long Island Sound. Looking back now, I can see how lucky I was—my childhood was filled with dogs to walk, ponies to ride, woods and marshes to explore, little boats to sail, and best of all, an unlimited supply of books to read. It was a childhood full of freedom tempered with responsibilities and loads of chores—those ponies had to be mucked out! But I know that childhood full of exploration and vivid imagining—I was a knight on my own pint-sized charger, heading off into the forest to slay my own dragon—helped me develop the intellectual curiosity and sense of wonder that still fuels me as a writer.

A very old picture of me in the late 60’s with my lovely old dappled pony.


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

I wish I could say I’m easy going, but the truth is, while I’m not exactly temperamental, I’m a little too high-strung for ‘easy.’ I am a worrier—as a writer this manifests itself in constant editing and revising. I’m constantly asking, “Is it good enough?” “Did I convey the emotional truth of this scene?” “How can I make this better.” I hate to disappoint people, especially my readers.


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

Savory!!! I am a slave to the salty snack. I write best when I have a bowl of salted almonds at my elbow—somehow crunching away at the almonds helps me to concentrate.🙂


What is your most treasured possession?

Too difficult to choose! I am vastly sentimental, and my house is filled with things that mean a great deal to me—antique furniture from one grandparent, teapots and china from another, linens from a great auntie, paintings and artwork by my friends or my children, and many, many photographs of my large and exuberant family. But if I had to choose just one possession, it would be my wedding ring, which was the one thing that made all the other things possible.


If you were able to afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Again, so difficult to choose! But I think because I live in a hot, rather urban environment in Texas now, I would choose someplace rural and bucolic and green, where I could ramble with my dogs for hours on end. I’m torn between imagining a house in the English countryside, or a return to my childhood, with a bolt-hole in New England. In the end I am sure I would choose the comfort of the familiar and go back to New England.


Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Again, too many to choose from!!! I constantly say or do just the wrong thing. Constantly. Which is very likely why I LOVE being a writer—I can edit and revise until I finally get it right! But of all my gaffes, I think my most embarrassing is when I have not stood up or adequately expressed the courage of my convictions, and have let myself, or other people down. That’s the kind of thing that stays on my conscience far longer than that time my skirt fell off during a school play, or I fell off my high heels during a dinner date and pulled the entire table over when I grabbed at the table cloth, or I pulled my pants down in a bar to show a guy where I got bit by a dog. (To be fair, it was his dog that had bitten me, and he was being a complete jerk and accusing me of lying to get him kicked out of our apartment building, so I felt compelled to show him the evidence in the flesh. And he was the one who was then kicked out of the bar. SO maybe it wasn’t the wrong thing after all.🙂


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

Thank you so very much for inviting me to Rakes & Rascals! There is nothing I like more than talking books and ideas with readers! Wishing everyone Happy Reading!


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




(Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy, #2)

Genre: Historical Fiction (12th Century – London, 1154)

 Cover Blurb:

 As Queen of England, Eleanor has a new cast of enemies—including the king.

Eleanor has more than fulfilled her duty as Queen of England—she has given her husband, Henry II, heirs to the throne and has proven herself as a mother and ruler. But Eleanor needs more than to be a bearer of children and a deputy; she needs command of the throne. As her children grow older, and her relationship with Henry suffers from scandal and infidelity, Eleanor realizes the power she seeks won’t be given willingly. She must take it for herself. But even a queen must face the consequences of treason…

In this long-anticipated second novel in the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy, bestselling author Elizabeth Chadwick evokes a royal marriage where love and hatred are intertwined, and the battle over power is fought not with swords, but deception.


The Winter Crown is the second instalment in Elizabeth Chadwick’s trilogy of books about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and I devoured it! Ms. Chadwick weaves a rich tapestry of life in medieval England and France under the early Plantagenets – love them or hate them, they shaped English history in a manner that is far-reaching, fascinating and shocking, starting with the large, dysfunctional family of Henry and Alienor (as she was actually known).

The story opens in Westminster Abbey in December 1154 with the coronation of the new king and queen. Already, Alienor has proven her worth in the short period of time she has been Henry’s wife, with one boy child and another in her womb at the time of her crowning – her position is secure. Alienor is Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, and has brought her young, powerful husband, wealth and additional power through their dynastical marriage. However, he has no intention of allowing her any input into the governance of their lands, and instead keeps her firmly in what he believes to be her place – carrying a child most of the time. They had eight in all, seven of whom live, which was quite a rare feat in those days of high infant mortality.

Ms.Chadwick’s novels are richly character driven, and The Winter Crown is no exception. The intriguing relationship between Henry and Thomas Becket grows through Becket’s Chancellorship to his eventual position as the highest primate in the land – Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry wheels and deals and is eventually hoist by his own petard when his devious, self-serving plan to have Becket holding both offices simultaneously flounders, much to his chagrin. Henry’s intention to stop the church interfering in state business fails so spectacularly that far from being his ally, Becket becomes his enemy and the two men are eventually at loggerheads.

Alienor is depicted as an intelligent and discerning woman with a keen eye and quick brain, more than able to understand the workings of the politics and intrigue of the times; and more importantly, was usually one step ahead in working out her husband’s controlling machinations. A loving and caring mother to her brood, she was nevertheless pragmatic, even if she was not always happy that her children must be sold off in marriage to increase and ensure the continuing fortunes and power of the dynasty. As her family grew into young adulthood she had great influence in their lives, especially in that of her her sons – and most particularly Richard, whom she adored and was the heir to her Duchy. This influence was eventually to be the root cause of her downfall.

Henry is portrayed as being devoid of deep feeling, or at the very least unable or unwilling to show it. There was a powerful, almost animalistic passion between Henry and Alienor in the early days of their marriage, which inevitably burned out as quickly as it had begun. I can see how Elizabeth Chadwick reached her assumption that this was lust and duty as opposed to love; no tender lover would treat his wife and the mother of his children as abominably as Henry did Alienor, especially in his eventual cruel incarceration of her. It is also reasonable to assume that Henry was capable of more, if not love, then at least tenderness, as was shown in his long relationship with Rosamund Clifford.

Ms. Chadwick sets the scene for the emergence of William Marshal as a man to be watched – from his first appearance he is seen as a man of honour and unwavering loyalty. For anyone reading this who has not yet had the pleasure of reading The Greatest Knight you are in for a treat!

All in all, the author’s research into the background and real people in this richly decadent time is impressive. She captures the time and place so perfectly that the characters leap to life before our eyes. Ms. Chadwick’s careful and thorough historical investigation reveals itself in the detail, for instance:

…the tiny bone needle case, exquisitely carved out of walrus Ivory… a length of narrow red ribbon was tucked down the side of the case, and when drawn out, proved to be embroidered with tiny golden lions. It was skilled and beautiful work. One needle was threaded with gold wire mingled with strands of fine honey-brown hair.

Alienor finds this needle case in Henry’s chamber, and throws it into the fire in a fit of temper – the natural reaction of a woman scorned. It adds that touch of understanding and hurt that, despite her regal and dignified bearing, she would have felt when faced with the evidence of her husband’s paramour in his private chambers. And the seamless introduction of this historic artefact, obviously discovered during Ms. Chadwick’s extensive research, is just another way in which this author excels and delights.

MY VERDICT:  If only our children could be taught history in the way that Elizabeth Chadwick tells it – we would have a generation of young people growing up with a thirst for knowledge. The Winter Crown is highly recommended.



Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy (click on the covers for more details):

The Summer Queen (Eleanor of Aquitaine, #1) by Elizabeth Chadwick The Winter Crown (Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy) by Elizabeth Chadwick The Autumn Throne (Eleanor of Aquitaine, #3) by Elizabeth Chadwick

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest view.**


This review was originally posted on Romantic Historical Reviews:

VIRTUAL TOUR: The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick







Dair Devil

(Roxton Series, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1777)

Cover Blurb:

 Opposites attract. Appearances can deceive.
A dashing and rugged facade hides the vulnerable man within. He will gamble with his life, but never his heart.
Always the observer, never the observed, her fragility hides conviction. She will risk everything for love.

One fateful night they collide.
The attraction is immediate, the consequences profound…

London and Hampshire, 1777: The story of Alisdair ‘Dair’ Fitzstuart; nobleman, ex-soldier, and rogue, and Aurora ‘Rory’ Talbot; spinster, pineapple fancier, and granddaughter of England’s Spymaster General, and how they fall in love.

Awards for this Book
2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Medalist: Romance-Historical
2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Finalist: Fiction-Historical

Book Details
Series: Stand-alone fourth book in the highly acclaimed ROXTON family saga
Classification: Parental Guidance Recommended (mild sensuality)
Style: Classic romance with a modern voice.


A beautifully crafted, deliciously romantic love story from Lucinda Brant, superbly performed by the hugely talented Alex Wyndham – what more could I ask for?

Dair Devil is the fourth book in the Roxton series and, although it can be read/listened to as a standalone, I cannot recommend the other books in the series highly enough.

Lord Alisdair (Dair) Fitzstuart, cousin to Antonia, Dowager Duchess of Roxton, is a former major in the British army who fought bravely during the American Revolutionary War and survived despite having a reckless disregard for his own safety. Since returning from the war, he has garnered a reputation for drinking to excess, womanising, never refusing a bet and involving his friends, Cedric Pleasant and Lord Grasby, in all sorts of outlandish pranks. Not commonly known is the fact that he works for Lord Shrewsbury, England’s Spymaster General, as a spy for the Crown. Although Dair is heir to the Earl of Strathsay, his father, who has lived on his sugar plantation with his mistress for years, has given the Duke of Roxton control over Dair’s inheritance and all decisions regarding the estate.  In the meantime, the estate is falling into disrepair, his father refusing to allow any money to be spent on it, and Dair is left playing a waiting game…

Waiting for his father to die. Waiting to inherit. Waiting to do something other than wait.

Aurora Christina Talbot is Lord Shrewsbury’s granddaughter and Lord Grasby’s sister. Born with what we now know as a club foot, Rory walks with a pronounced limp.  At the age of 22, she has no expectations of every marrying , instead…

With no fortune and not enough beauty to overcome a meager dowry, Rory was resigned to living her days as she had begun them, as her grandfather’s dependent.

Both her grandfather and brother love her very much but are often overprotective. So she lives a safe, boring, conventional existence, only alleviated by her interest in the cultivation and caring of her precious pineapple plants.

I love the scene at the beginning where Rory and Dair get all tangled up (literally), Rory having become innocently involved in one of Dair’s escapades which goes dramatically wrong. I won’t spoil it for you because this scene is hilarious and reminded me of one of the old slapstick comedies. Of course, although they have met on occasion socially, Dair has never taken much notice of Rory and fails to recognise her. He is totally captivated by the lovely, witty, honest young woman in his arms and they share a passionate kiss… a kiss that that will turn both their worlds upside down.

I totally fell in love with Dair and Rory and watching their romance gradually unfold was a delight… unashamedly romantic but with just enough hurdles confronting the couple to maintain an element of tension. Rory sees through Dair’s devil-may-care façade to the vulnerable man beneath, whose childhood experiences, especially the reason for his fear of rowing Rory across the lake, are truly heart-breaking. Dair sees past Rory’s disability to the wonderful woman she is and realises how much she has changed his view on life.

Here was a young woman who, through no fault of hers, lived with an impediment every day. It was a circumstance out of her control, and yet she had not allowed it to rule how she viewed the world. She was not bitter. She did not blame others. She was joyful and full of optimism. He needed that in his life. He needed her in his life.

I love the scene on Swan Island where Dair and Rory finally consummate their love because Ms Brant weaves a lovely romantic, playful and sensual atmosphere without being explicit. I also love the story of the tapestry which has special significance having read Noble Satyr.

Dair and Rory have a champion in Antonia, now Duchess of Kinross, and when Lord Shrewsbury refuses to allow the marriage, she is more than a match for the England’s Spymaster General. As she tells Dair – “All men have secrets, Alisdair. Even spymasters.” –  and when she confronts Shrewsbury with his secrets, she is just magnificent.

I thought that Dair’s interactions with the Banks’ family and his acknowledgement of his illegitimate son showed what an honourable man he is. At the same time, I was very relieved that the storyline didn’t veer in the direction of a Big Misunderstanding.

Ms Brant has drawn together an excellent cast of secondary characters, all adding colour and depth to the story. There is also an element of mystery and intrigue as Dair works to uncover the identity of a traitor within Lord Shrewsbury’s spy network, and someone thought long dead is very much alive.

As other reviewers have commented, it is impossible to think of superlatives to describe Alex Wyndham’s performance that have not already been said. He does an amazing job of giving each character their own distinctive voice and literally breathes life into Ms Brant’s characters making listening to her books such a wonderful experience.

MY VERDICT:  Another winner from the magical team of Lucinda Brant and Alex Wyndham. Highly recommended!



Read/Listened to August 2016


Roxton Series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

Noble Satyr (Roxton Series #1) by Lucinda Brant Midnight Marriage (Roxton Series #2) by Lucinda Brant Autumn Duchess (Roxton Series #3) by Lucinda Brant Dair Devil (Roxton Series #4) by Lucinda Brant Eternally Yours Roxton Letters Volume One A Companion To The Roxton Family Saga Books 1–3 by Lucinda Brant


**I received a free download of this audiobook from the author in return for an honest review**


Scandalous Desires

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