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TIME FOR CHANGE…

Time for change

Over the past few months, I have found that my priorities are changing. For the last seven years, my focus has been on reading, reviewing and blogging, and all the other things I used to enjoy have very much taken a back seat. My cake-baking has been almost non-existent (much to my husband and son’s disapproval); my collection of 1930s and 1940s movies has been gathering dust, and it’s been years since I picked up a pair of knitting needles. So, with my 73rd birthday fast approaching, I thought it the perfect time to make some major changes in my life.


Firstly, Rakes and Rascals will be closing down with effect from 1st November 2019. The blog will remain live for the time being and all posts will be accessible, but there will be no new content after 1st November..

(Wendy and I will continue to post future reviews on Goodreads and Amazon)


Secondly, for the past few months, I have been experiencing a reading slump and, although I won’t be abandoning Historical Romance altogether, I feel that I want to diversify and explore other genres.


Finally, I would like to say a HUGE thank to:

All the readers and fellow bloggers who have loyally followed and supported Rakes and Rascals over the years, without whom this blog would not have been so successful.

My friend and fellow reviewer, Wendy Loveridge, for her invaluable contributions to the blog.

The authors who have contributed to and supported the blog over the years, with a special mention for those brave authors who were willing to share their most embarrassing moments in my series of “In the Spotlight” interviews.

 

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(Glasgow and Clydebank Sagas, #1)

 Genre: Historical Romance (Glasgow, mainly during the Depression and WWII)

 Cover Blurb (Amazon):

A warm and poignant story of love, triumph over adversity and the building of the great ocean liner, the Queen Mary, set in Clydebank and the West of Scotland during the Hungry Thirties. Times are hard, but a close-knit community always manages to find a way to laugh at its troubles.

Robbie Baxter is the boy next door, the man Kate Cameron loves like a brother, the man who’s always ready to give her a shoulder to cry on, but it’s Jack Drummond who dazzles her. Kate meets him when she finally achieves her goal of attending classes at Glasgow School of Art in pursuit of her dreams of becoming an artist.

When Jack Drummond shows his true colours, it’s Robbie Kate turns to. Yet she cannot tell him the truth, which means that their growing happiness is a fragile flower, based on a secret which could blow their love and their family to pieces in an instant.

 ♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was a delightfully real, sometimes poignantly sad, but ultimately beautiful tale of Glasgow and its inhabitants. Set mainly during the Depression and WWII, it journeys through eight decades of the life and loves of Kathleen Cameron or Kate as she is mostly known. Her life is alternately joyous and heart-breaking, yet still she triumphs.

The story begins in 1924 when Kate Cameron is 16 and lives in a Glasgow tenement with her father Neil, mother Lily, sisters Jessie and Pearl, and little brother Davy. The family is poor but fiercely proud. Amongst other families sharing the same house are the Baxters, Robbie being the most prominent, as he has loved Kate and will continue to love her through many trials and tribulations. The two families share everything – their happiness, sorrows, even their baking and crockery when needs must. Ms. Craig describes how they prepare for Hogmanay – the scrubbing and cleaning, the first footing of a tall dark man with a lump of coal and black bun, and then the hooting of the ships on The Clyde. All of this I have heard from my own mother, a Glaswegian by birth, and therefore close to my heart.

Kate is a talented young woman and, unusual for the time, is still at school at the age of 16, but it is her father’s desire to see his favourite child continue with her schooling. Kate’s ambition is to attend the Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of the many facts incorporated into the story by Maggie Craig to set the scene and stimulate the senses. For anyone unfamiliar with Glasgow, this is a beautiful, iconic building in the Art Nouveau style. Then Kate’s father is laid off work at the Donaldson’s shipyard, along with a large proportion of the workforce of Glasgow. The Great Depression has begun and Kate is finally forced to leave school by her shrewish mother and made to look for work to supplement the family’s meagre income. She is fortunate enough to have the support of two of her former schoolteachers who recommend her for an apprenticeship as a tracer at Donaldson’s.

Two years on, her fairy godmothers further help by pulling strings to obtain Kate a bursary to the School of Art, where she attends as a part time student, and there becomes friends with Marjorie Donaldson, her employer’s daughter. Fellow student, Jack Drummond – upper-class, handsome, elegant, languid, idle, cynical, and a friend of Marjorie’s – begins a charm offensive on Kate but his intentions are far from honourable. Unbeknownst to Kate, he has aspirations of marrying Marjorie for her money. Eventually after plying Kate with champagne at a lunch given at his home, Jack takes advantage of her infatuation but leaves her without a backward glance. Kate discovers that he has become engaged to Marjorie and then that she herself is pregnant. Faced with the choice of an abortion or tricking the honourable Robbie into marriage, she chooses the latter and begins her deceitful secret life with an adoring Robbie. Grace is born, to all intents and purposes a premature baby, and Robbie is in raptures over his daughter.

Robbie Baxter is the epitome of the dark, brooding, honourable hero. He worships Kate and their child and, although Kate is grateful to him, she does not believe she loves him. A few years into their marriage, it takes a visit from Marjorie and Jack to show her what a fool she has been, and it is then she realises how much she loves Robbie, who at last has the love and devotion of his ‘nut-brown maiden’ as he has always called her.

Maggie Craig has absolutely captured the poverty, lives and loves of the people of Glasgow and has a rare talent for understanding together with a real sense of place and time. She captures the hopelessness of The Great Depression, with the proud, brave men of Glasgow traipsing from one place to another in search of work; the horror of the war, both for the families and the men sent to fight; the utter devastation of the bombs being aimed at the shipyards, often missing their target and wiping out whole streets and families. I had a tear in my eye on more than one occasion during this beautiful, turbulent story.

I will always listen to the audio version when one is available, because Maggie Craig employs the talented, versatile, Scottish narrator, Leslie Mackie, who is so in tune with the author’s sensitive storytelling. Ms. Mackie’s beautifully modulated tones capture the feisty, fiercely independent Kate, the languid, slightly bored Jack Drummond, the softly spoken Neil Cameron with his gentle highland lilt, and then there is the darling Robbie Baxter. Who couldn’t love this wonderful, dignified man, so perfectly characterised by the clever Maggie Craig? Ms. Mackie employs a slightly deeper melodious tone for him – the image of this darkly beautiful, decent man so expertly conjured up by this gifted actress. Even the excited childish voice of wee Grace when her father comes home is perfectly captured. The Epilogue is enchanting too.

MY VERDICT: A magnificent feast of a story with a fitting and moving ending. Maggie Craig’s love for her City and its people is apparent in the care and thought she has poured into this wonderful tale of triumph over adversity.

 

REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Ben

(Seattle Stories, #1)

Genre: Contemporary Romance (Male/Male)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

No more kissing a ghost…

A year after the sudden death of his longtime partner, Ben, Theo Anderson is still grieving. The last thing he’s looking for is a new lover, but as Theo discovers, sometimes life has its own plans.

The strength of his attraction to fellow gym member Peter is surprising. So is how compelling he finds Morgan, a new friend he makes online. Morgan is witty and fierce on the internet forum they frequent, while Peter is physically present in a way that’s hard to ignore.

Both men bring Theo closer to acceptance: he needs to lay Ben’s memory to rest if he’s to start afresh with a new lover.

Getting honest about the reasons for his yearlong isolation means confronting why he lost Ben… only just when he’s ready to commit, Theo finds he isn’t the only one haunted by the past.

Whether with Peter or with Morgan, choosing to love again—after Ben—might not be Theo’s toughest challenge.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have only recently become a fan of Con Riley’s after a personal recommendation from favourite author, Joanna Chambers, who assured me that I would love Ms. Riley’s writing and particularly After Ben. She wasn’t wrong.  What completely astounded me, and I didn’t discover this fact until after I had devoured the author’s first edition of After Ben, was that this beautiful, insightful story of love after loss was Con Riley’s debut novel.

This novel was first released in 2012 and has recently been given a bit of a face-lift and a wonderful new cover. As far as I’m concerned, and I’ve read both editions, it needed little, if anything, to improve it. As well as the changes the author has made internally, without a doubt she has played an absolute blinder in her choice of the stunning new cover, which perfectly reflects my vision of the kind, charismatic, life embracing Ben de Luca. I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about book covers and titles and, in this case, both are as classy as the writing and the story.

The author opens the story with Ben already deceased. How many writers could pull that scenario off? Well Con Riley does, and to wonderful effect. One year on, Theo Anderson is a grieving, heartbroken man, who had cut himself from friends and family, his love and partner of fifteen years having died of a heart attack at the wheel of his car. The sudden, brutal ending to their life together has left Theo incapable of coping with life other than in an automaton kind of way. Ben had been his everything – lover, friend and homemaker. His death has touched every part of Theo’s life just as his living did, and Theo is floundering without him. He immerses himself in work and pounds the treadmill at the gym feeling nothing but exhaustion. And that’s the way he prefers it – cutting himself off from family and friends is so much easier than caring again after Ben.

And then two things happen that are about to change Theo’s life once again. To help fill his lonely nights during the early days of his ‘annus horribilis’, Theo had joined a local, online political debate forum and it’s here he eventually ‘meets’ angry, argumentative, and quite obviously intelligent Morgan. Theo feels a connection to him/her immediately and I really liked how Con Riley grew this ‘friendship’ from a purely intellectual connection to begin with. And then, during one of his early morning relentless-pounding-of-the-treadmill sessions, he’s befriended by paramedic, Peter Morse, who senses Theo’s desolation – yes, he wants to help him – Peter’s a lovely guy – but his feelings are not completely altruistic – he fancies the pants off of him. These two men, each in their own way, are Theo’s salvation, pulling him back from the edge of not-giving-a-damn to the land of the living once more.

Slowly and painfully Theo begins his rehabilitation, and it is with the help of these two men that Theo starts to ‘listen’ to what Ben would have wanted for him. It soon becomes apparent that Theo will begin his ‘new normal’ with one of them and, oh my goodness, but the thought that only one of them would find happiness with the delectable Theo had me tied up in knots. I loved the characterisation of both Peter and Morgan and really couldn’t choose between them to begin with.

How did Con Riley convince me that it was okay to love again after loss? How did she put it all so perfectly into perspective that I didn’t feel that Theo was betraying the complete and utter love he had felt for Ben? The way I see it is that Theo keeps Ben with him – not a three in a bed kind of relationship –  but rather Ben is accepted by Theo’s new love as someone who has shaped the man he loves and is therefore an integral part of their relationship. I love that Theo can talk about Ben without his ‘new love’ feeling like second best. The author shows us, in her intuitive way, that Theo needs help in order to let Ben go before he can live again.

Ms. Riley, very cleverly, has her remarkable character Ben living and breathing throughout this story. She’s so skilled in the way she keeps him alive that it’s almost impossible to feel sad, revealing that she is quite obviously a caring and thoughtful people watcher, who is able to transfer what she sees around her into her characters to marvellous effect. I find that, as I get older, I really need to feel an emotional depth and caring in my reading; a writer may be technically brilliant but if he/she isn’t ‘kind’ I’m left feeling cheated. Con Riley has this elusive quality in spadesful. She has also captured ‘grief’ in all its intricacies – I’ve been there, felt what she describes, and totally agree.

I know it is a book I shall comfort read regularly. I’ve already read it twice. Ben, Theo, Morgan and Peter are superbly drawn MC’s, and there’s also a fabulous cast of secondary characters who we don’t have to say goodbye to as they reappear in later books in the series, and who help make this memorable story even more unforgettable. Just to whet your appetite, Saving Sean, the second in the Seattle series, also soon to be re-released, sees the lovely man who didn’t capture Theo’s heart find a love of his own.

MY VERDICT: This is a wonderfully emotive and beautiful read and, if you want to go all gooey inside, then I can recommend AFTER BEN wholeheartedly.

 

REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SIZZLING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trick of Fate

Someone is misusing Max Brandon’s name – resulting in bills for services he never ordered and goods he did not buy. For reasons he can’t begin to guess, he has become the victim of some unknown person’s campaign of persecution.

When the games move closer to home, almost forcing him to fight a duel … more particularly, when they draw in Frances Pendleton, a lady he never expected to see again … Max vows to catch the man behind them, no matter what the cost.

The result is a haphazard chase involving ruined abbeys, a hunt for hermits, a grotesque portrait … and a love story which, but for this odd trick of fate, might never have been given a second chance.

 

A TRICK OF FATE, the first book in Stella Riley’s new Brandon Brothers series, will be released on October 25th and can be pre-ordered from from Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

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This is Lucinda Brant’s stunning new cover for NOBLE SATYR, the first book in her outstanding Roxton Family Saga series. To discover the fascinating story behind this cover from inception to publication click on the link below. The same in-depth research and attention to detail that characterise her books are evident when you read the blog post and watch the video.

https://www.lucindabrant.com/blog/noble-satyr-cover-reveal

A Fallen Lady.jpg

(Ladies of Scandal, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1820)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

Six years ago, to the outrage of her family and the delight of London gossips, Lady Helen Dehaven refused to marry the man to whom she was betrothed. Even more shockingly, her refusal came on the heels of her scandalous behavior: she and her betrothed were caught in a most compromising position. Leaving her reputation in tatters and her motivations a mystery, Helen withdrew to a simple life in a little village among friends, where her secrets remained hers alone.

For reasons of his own, Stephen Hampton, Lord Summerdale, is determined to learn the truth behind the tangled tale of Helen’s ruin. There is nothing he abhors so much as scandal – nothing he prizes so well as discretion – and so he is shocked to find, when he tracks Helen down, that he cannot help but admire her. Against all expectations, he finds himself forgiving her scandalous history in favor of only being near her.

But the bitter past will not relinquish Helen’s heart so easily. How can she trust a man so steeped in the culture of high society, who conceals so much? And how can he, so devoted to the appearance of propriety, ever love a fallen lady?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was such a beautifully written and deeply emotional love story and it has definitely made me want to read more of Elizabeth Kingston’s books.

The traumatic events of six years ago left Lady Helen Dehaven ruined in the eyes of society. It also led to an estrangement between herself and her brother, Alex, Earl of Whitemarsh, when he rejected her explanation of what happened as ‘wild, incomprehensible tales.’

Forced to flee her brother’s home, she has built a new life for herself in the rural Herefordshire village of Bartle-on-the-Glen and the rent from the Dower House, inherited from her grandmother, provides enough income to live on. Helen has a small circle of devoted friends and has earned the loyalty and respect of all those around her. But her quiet, unobtrusive life is about to be shattered by the arrival of a stranger.

I admire Helen for her courage and determination in the face of such adversity but she remains haunted by the ghosts of the past. She still feels deeply hurt by her brother’s treatment of her and I couldn’t help but be moved by her yearning for something she believes she can never have…an ordinary life.

Stephen Hampton, the younger son of the Earl of Summerdale, has a gift for discovering other people’s secrets, and his reputation for the upmost discretion has garnered him some influential friends and a position of relative power. Following the death of his elder brother from influenza two years ago and his father’s recently, Stephen is now the earl. In his position, he could easily use his skills for his own benefit, but he has ‘grown to hate tawdry secrets and intrigue’ and wants to get as far away from London as possible. An opportunity arises when the Earl of Whitemarsh, encouraged by his new wife, asks Stephen to approach his sister with a view to seeking a reconciliation, and discovering the truth of what happened six years ago. As Stephen’s Manor House is not far from Bartle-in-the Glen, he accepts.

Stephen is a man who has never really belonged anywhere and it was heart-breaking to see how his own family subjected him to ridicule and scorn. I had a real sense of the depth of loneliness he feels.

The initial meeting between Helen and Stephen does not seem very auspicious but, as they get to know each other, Helen is won over by Stephen’s friendly and easy going manner, and Stephen realises that, with Helen and her friends, he has found somewhere he truly feels he belongs.

For the first time he could remember, he belonged. He was not shut out here.

I like how Ms. Kingston develops their relationship gradually, which not only heightens the sexual tension, but also reveals what a wonderful hero Stephen is – tender, patient, amusing and protective. At the same time, it was heart-rending to see Helen struggle with her deep-seated fears.

It was a monster from the deep, dedicated to pulling her down into the depths and smothering her.

Stephen’s reputation has always been spotless and it is testament to the strength of his love for Helen that he is willing to sacrifice everything by marrying her. So, I was really frustrated by her lack of trust in him.

There are some very emotional twists and turns before they reach their Happy Ever After, which made me enjoy the delightful Epilogue even more.

I loved seeing the close bond of friendship between Helen, Marie-Anne, a woman entirely at ease with her own scandalous reputation, and Maggie, Helen’s small but fierce Irish servant.

Having lived in Herefordshire for several years, I had to grit my teeth every time Bartle-on-the-Glen was mentioned. There are glens in Scotland but not in this particular English county!

MY VERDICT: Elizabeth Kingston weaves such a compelling and intensely emotional love story with complex characters that I truly cared about. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Ladies of Scandal series (click on cover for more details):

A Fallen Lady (Ladies of Scandal, #1) by Elizabeth Kingston House of Cads (Ladies of Scandal, #2) by Elizabeth Kingston

 

Genre: Contemporary Romance (Male/Male)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

Things haven’t been going well for Cam McMorrow since he moved to Inverbechie. His business is failing, his cottage is falling apart and following his very public argument with café owner Rob Armstrong, he’s become a social outcast.

Cam needs to get away from his troubles and when his sister buys him a ticket to the biggest Hogmanay party in Glasgow, he can’t leave Inverbechie quick enough. But when events conspire to strand him in the middle of nowhere in a snowstorm, not only is he liable to miss the party, he’ll also have to ask his nemesis, Rob, for help.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I’ve only discovered Joanna Chambers in the last couple of years and find I can’t get enough of her writing now.  Once I start one of her books I need to leave myself enough time and a clear run as I find it difficult to put it down, and this has been the case with everything of hers I’ve read and she never disappoints. There’s something special in her way of writing – an innate kindness and compassion that calls out to me. It says a lot about her writing, that because I feel the need to read everything she’s written, I’ve now even begun to enjoy some contemporaries, mostly hers, as well as my usual favourites, historical fiction and historical romance. My first by Joanna Chambers was her utterly fabulous Enlightenment series, which I chose for its compelling synopsis. It had me captivated from page one of the first book and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Rest and Be Thankful would normally have slipped through my reading net as it’s not only a contemporary but also little more than a novella. I’m generally not fond of novellas because I feel the majority of authors can’t tell a plausible story in such a short word count. However, Rest and Be Thankful is 76 pages of pure delight, which I read in one sitting in a coffee shop. I absolutely adored this heart-warmingly romantic and eloquently written little book, which is packed full of love and understanding, and I’m sure I must have had a silly grin on my face as I read the last page.

Cam McMorrow, who having been made redundant from his accountancy firm at around the same time as his relationship failed, has decided to see the positive in the situation and has seized the opportunity to change his life. Discovering that he no longer wants to sit behind a desk and, having always enjoyed the outdoor life, he has used his redundancy money, together with a further loan, to set up an outdoor activity business, which is centred in and around the village in the wilds of Scotland where he has happy memories of the holidays spent there as a child. Looking back through rose tinted glasses, he remembers the carefree time when he’d had no responsibilities, and life with his happy, loving family in their little holiday cottage had seemed like endless fun. Fast forward to adulthood, and now aged thirty, Cam is stony broke; bookings for the spring and summer are good but he hadn’t counted on his business being so seasonal. Consequently, he has no money coming in during the winter months. So, with a loan to repay, food to be bought, and the ancient heating boiler in his parents’ dilapidated holiday cottage having irretrievably broken down, he’s at an all-time low, both mentally and financially.

Cam’s sister, Eilidh, pays him a visit to invite him to a Hogmanay bash in Glasgow and insists they eat lunch together in the cafe owned by local artist, Rob Armstrong. Cam reluctantly agrees to lunch there, and we learn the reason for his reticence as his bright spark of a sister winkles out the truth. When Cam had first arrived in the village a year previously, the two men had begun a tentative friendship, enjoying a pint together in the local pub, but more importantly, there was the stirring of an attraction between them. Both had suffered in their previous relationships for different reasons. And then Cam unwittingly steps on Rob’s toes in the course of his business dealings and ends up having a very angry and public confrontation with Rob. Obviously, after this, the attraction has no chance of developing further and, worse still, Cam imagines that the villagers are taking sides and so withdraws into himself.  I felt Cam’s loneliness very keenly; it was impossible not to, such is the author’s clever and compassionate way with words.

Cam’s natural reticence doesn’t help, manifesting itself in apparent arrogance though in reality he’s far from it.  Both Cam and Rob have since had time to cool down and realise that they both overreacted. Eilidh very astutely sees that there is still something simmering under the surface between the two men. Cam sets out on his much anticipated journey to Glasgow for Hogmanay which doesn’t go to plan and that’s all I’m saying, except that we discover there’s a lot more to both men than meets the eye…

I love Joanna Chambers’ ability to have her characters jump right off the page. They’re real and multi-dimensional, coping with the everyday problems and difficulties we all have to deal with. Her observational skills are phenomenal and she has no problem in transferring them to the written page. It’s so subtle that it seems almost effortless but it’s a rare gift.

This story is eloquently written and wonderfully descriptive, with expertly developed and lovable characters, both central and secondary ones. I was completely invested in the lives of Cam and Rob, their struggles and sadnesses, and the growing attraction between these two gorgeous men who had a way to go to overcome their differences and find each other.

What’s more, Joanna Chambers’ ability to describe a scene, such that I feel as if I am right in the middle of it, is another quality of her writing I am in awe of. Here, she’s talking about a gathering snowstorm:

Already a clutch of sooty storm clouds was scudding across the horizon, bullying the last of the weak, winter daylight away and ushering in a violet-grey dusk. In that strange half-light, the colours of the landscape were oddly intense—the darkly vivid green of the sweeping hillsides, the rusty amber of the dying bracken, the silvery grey of the road itself, meandering through the glen

Can’t you just imagine it? Feel it?

MY VERDICT: This little gem of a book gets 5 stars from me and Joanna Chambers has become an auto-buy author – I’ll read anything she puts her name to. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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