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cadenza

(Rockliffe, #6)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian – 1778 )

Book Blurb:

Julian Langham was poised on the brink of a dazzling career when the lawyers lured him into making a catastrophic mistake. Now, instead of the concert platform, he has a title he doesn’t want, an estate verging on bankruptcy … and bewildering responsibilities for which he is totally unfitted.

And yet the wreckage of Julian’s life is not a completely ill wind. For Tom, Rob and Ellie it brings something that is almost a miracle … if they dare believe in it.

Meanwhile, first-cousins Arabella Brandon and Elizabeth Marsden embark on a daring escapade which will provide each of them with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The adventure will last only a few weeks, after which everything will be the way it was before. Or so they think. What neither of them expects is for it to change a number of lives … most notably, their own.

And there is an additional complication of which they are wholly unaware.
The famed omniscience of the Duke of Rockliffe.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Cadenza is the sixth and sadly the final book in the superb Rockliffe series and, as I have come to expect from Stella Riley, I was totally enchanted by this beautifully written story.

In this series, Ms. Riley has created some of the most memorable heroes and Julian definitely belongs to their exalted ranks. He is such a complex character and surely one of the most refreshingly unusual heroes to grace the pages of a Historical Romance. He is gentle, kind and shy, with a sweet smile, guaranteed to pierce even the stoniest heart. But what a dramatic transformation when he plays the harpsichord – gone is the hesitant, socially awkward young man and, in his place, is someone who is relaxed, confident and totally in command.

Music is paramount in Julian’s life and he would willingly have given up the earldom to fulfil his musical ambitions. So, it speaks volumes for the man he is – honourable, compassionate and selfless – when, despite being totally out of his depth, he refuses to turn his back on the estate workers, even working alongside them when they are shorthanded, or to abandon his predecessor’s three illegitimate children. It is heart-warming to see how everyone around Julian has such affection for him. As Max, Arabella’s brother, comments…

“The children idolise him; his servants and the villagers think the sun shines out of him; Belle’s totally besotted and Mother wants to adopt him. How does he do it?’

I put it down to Ms. Riley’s ability to create such an endearing character who effortlessly steals your heart by just being himself.

The romance between Julian and Isabella (Belle) develops slowly which makes it feel natural and believable. Young ladies like Belle have always terrified Julian, leaving him tongue-tied and feeling like a fool. Initially he is wary of her, but soon discovers that Belle is not like the other ladies he has known with their lingering, speculative glances. He finds that he can talk to her without feeling clumsy and foolish and her warm, melodic laugh is like music to his ears.

…a laugh which made his insides uncurl and yearn to hear it again in order to recapture the elusive phrase it had brought to mind. A rondo in a bright key, he decided. G major, perhaps?

I love Belle and she is the perfect match for Julian with her cheerfulness, determination, resilience and obstinate streak. When she sees him struggling to keep the impoverished estate going, she tries to help in practical ways and recognising that, without his music, there will always part of Julian missing, she is determined to help him achieve his dream of becoming a concert performer.

Ms. Riley’s eloquent writing conveys their growing feelings for each other so beautifully.

His arms went round her automatically and for perhaps three seconds, they remained perfectly still, startled green eyes locked with grey ones in which laughter was fading into confused awareness.

In the second his mouth touched hers, the entire world was full of music … rare, elusive and utterly compelling. A melody more beautiful that any he had ever either heard or even imagined.

Again, we are treated to two romances running concurrently, the other being a secondary romance between Elizabeth (Lizzie) and Ralph Harcourt, Earl of Sherbourne. Those who have read Hazard will remember Sherbourne as Genevieve’s loathsome brother and it was hard to imagine how Ms. Riley could possibly redeem him. It is a mark of her skill as a writer that she redeems him without changing his intrinsic character. The gradual revealing of his past is masterfully done and the truth surrounding the duel was an unexpected twist and one I would never have suspected. I found myself not only sympathising with Ralph but also rooting for his Happy Ever After.

Lizzie is beautiful, honest, modest and warm-hearted. I admire her for refusing to take Ralph at face value and seeing something behind his chilly exterior that makes her believe he is not as black as he is painted. She believes in him and trusts him which means so much to Ralph because no one else ever has. She is also aware of his intense loneliness and the way he has walled off his emotions and one of the loveliest moments is when she says…

“But impeccable manners are your shield and armour, aren’t they?’
‘What?”
“And very effective they are, too.”
She rose to face him, hoping she looked calmer than she felt. “But you don’t need them with me. I could quite easily love the man they are hiding if only you would let me know him.”

I thought it was realistic that Aristide and Genevieve were never going to suddenly forgive Ralph, given his actions in Hazard, but I was pleased to see the hint of a possible future reconciliation.

Ms. Riley’s secondary characters always add richness and depth to her stories, whether they be much-loved characters from previous books or new characters. Tom, Rob and Ellie (not forgetting Figgy), the children whom Julian ‘adopts’, are just delightful and watching him gain their trust, loyalty and love, by just being himself, is so touching. I really like Max Brandon who is the sort of elder brother every girl should have and with a great sense of humour as well.

As always, the all-seeing, all-powerful Rockliffe is there to take charge and deal with the consequences of Belle and Lizzie’s deception in his inimitable way. I love how, beneath that ducal exterior, lies a man who can be kind, unbiased, generous and loyal to a fault when it comes to those he cares for. We see these qualities in the way he bestows his patronage on Julian and his belief in and support for Sherbourne. Oh, and I also love his dry wit.

“Pomp and magnificence? Do we have some of that?”
“You have a great deal of it”, grinned his wife.
“Really? How gratifying.”

Ms. Riley’s musical background and her in-depth research really show in her detailed descriptions of both the harpsichord, its workings and Julian’s repertoire. I love how she makes you feel as if you are in the room listening to him play and experiencing all the emotions his audience are. Under ‘Extras’ on her website, Ms. Riley has provided full details of the repertoire and, so readers can experience Julian playing, there is an opportunity to hear one of the pieces played by Jean Rondeau, a young, French harpsichord virtuoso. Now, that is what I call going above and beyond the call of duty for her readers!

I haven’t yet read Garland of Straw, the second book in Ms. Riley’s Roundheads and Cavaliers series, but I was interested to read in the Author’s Note that Arabella’s great-great-grandparents are Gabriel and Venetia, the hero and heroine of that book.

While I am sad to see this wonderful series end, I am waiting with relish for whatever Ms. Riley pens next.

MY VERDICT: A wonderful ending to this superb series. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


REVIEW RATING:  STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eleven Scandals

(Love by Numbers, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1823)

Cover Blurb:

She lives for passion.

Bold, impulsive, and a magnet for trouble, Juliana Fiori is no simpering English miss. She refuses to play by society’s rules: she speaks her mind, cares nothing for the approval of the ton, and can throw a punch with remarkable accuracy. Her scandalous nature makes her a favorite subject of London’s most practiced gossips . . . and precisely the kind of woman The Duke of Leighton wants far, far away from him.

He swears by reputation.

Scandal is the last thing Simon Pearson has room for in his well-ordered world. The Duke of Disdain is too focused on keeping his title untainted and his secrets unknown. But when he discovers Juliana hiding in his carriage late one evening—risking everything he holds dear—he swears to teach the reckless beauty a lesson in propriety. She has other plans, however; she wants two weeks to prove that even an unflappable duke is not above passion.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

After being slightly disappointed by Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, I really loved this final book in the Love by Numbers series. The ‘opposites attract’ storyline is one of my favourites and Sarah MacLean pulls it off brilliantly by pairing the fiery Juliana with the oh-so-proper Duke of Leighton.

This is Simon Pearson, the 11th Duke of Leighton, and, like his forebears before him, he has led an exemplary life – his reputation untarnished. Cold, arrogant and domineering, his aloofness and contempt for those he considers beneath him has earned him the title, Duke of Disdain.

Duke of Leighton

This is Juliana Fiori, the daughter of an Italian merchant and a disgraced English marchioness. Beautiful, bold, unconventional and passionate, Juliana refuses to bow to the dictates of London society. Both her exploits and her scandalous family have become fodder for the gossipmongers.

Juliana

I must admit that after reading Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, it was hard to like the unfeeling, haughty Duke of Leighton, but gradually I came to understand why he believed that honour and duty came before anything else. All the previous ten generations of dukes had been raised with one rule – ‘Let nothing besmirch the name’ – and he saw it as his duty to live an unblemished life. Being raised by a cold, unloving mother had only further reinforced these beliefs and shaped him into the man he had become.

And there it was, in the cool, unmoving tenor of his mother’s words. Get it done. The demand . . . the expectation that a man like Simon would do whatever it took to ensure the safety and honor of his name.

It made Simon a far more sympathetic character and one I was rooting for.

I could see the vulnerability that lurks beneath Juliana’s boldness. While she gives the impression that she cares nothing for society’s censure, secretly she longs to be accepted. My heart went out to her because, no matter how hard she tries, she can never escape the legacy of her mother’s scandal and society’s expectations that Juliana is destined to be just like her.

Your mother’s daughter. The words were a blow she could never escape. No matter how hard she tried.

With a family scandal involving his younger sister Georgiana looming, Simon decides that marriage to a lady of impeccable character will overshadow the scandal.  But Juliana has turned Simon’s orderly world upside down and, although he knows she is totally unsuitable, he can’t seem to resist her. While I enjoyed the sizzling chemistry between Simon and Juliana, I also enjoyed seeing them discover the real person behind the facade that they each present to society. Simon sees that Juliana is not only mesmerisingly beautiful but also charming, intelligent, quick-witted and committed to those she loves. He also realises that she is as much a victim of circumstances as he is. Juliana discovers that, lurking beneath that the arrogant, oh-so-proper Simon is a charming, teasing, passionate man. Even though I was often frustrated by his misguided determination to resist the inevitable, I enjoyed watching Simon finally come to realise what he truly wants.

…you taught me that everything I believed, everything I thought I wanted, everything I had spent my life espousing—all of it . . . it is wrong. I want your version of life . . . vivid and emotional and messy and wonderful and filled with happiness.

It was heart-warming to see how determined Simon is to love, protect and support his niece so that she would never have to experience the same pain that Juliana had. He also realises how much he had failed his sister when she needed him the most.

I did enjoy Juliana’s amusing habit of using the wrong words:

“He called me a pie!” she announced, defensively.
There was a pause. “Wait. That’s not right.”
“A tart?”
“Yes! That’s it!”

♥♥♥

 “I am not an invalid, Simon, I still have use of all my extremes.”
“You do indeed—particularly your extreme ability to try my patience—I believe, however, that you mean extremities.”

Gabriel and Nick St. John and their respective wives, Callie and Isabel, characters from the previous books, are on hand to help or, in some cases, hinder Juliana and Simon’s journey to their Happy Ever After. I particularly enjoyed the rather volatile scenes between Simon and Gabriel!

MY VERDICT: This was a perfect end to an excellent series which I can definitely recommend.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Love by Numbers series (click on the book covers for more details):

9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love by Numbers) by Sarah MacLean Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart (Love By Numbers, #3) by Sarah MacLean 

(UK covers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for change

We have decided that, from January 2019, we will only be posting reviews for those books which we have rated either 5 stars or Stellar 5 stars. These will be the books that we can wholeheartedly recommend and ones we would want to re-read or listen to again.

Retro Reviews 2

We have decided to add Retro Reviews as a new feature from 2019. We both have memories of older books that we read and loved in years gone by and will now have the pleasure of re-reading and reviewing them. Hopefully, we can introduce you to some gems from the past.

We both have books that have been on our TBR lists for years and these books might also be reviewed under the Retro Reviews banner.

 

We would like to wish everyone…

R&R - Merry Christmas 3

Carol and Wendy will be spending time with their families over the holiday period and won’t be around  until 2nd January 2019 when the blog will be up and running again. We would like to thank everyone for their continued support of Rakes and Rascals.  

 

Lady Joy and the Earl

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1815)

Book Blurb:

They have loved each other since childhood, but life has not been kind to either of them. James Highcliffe’s arranged marriage had been everything but loving, and Lady Joy’s late husband believed a woman’s spirit was meant to be broken. Therefore, convincing Lady Jocelyn Lathrop to abandon her freedom and consider marriage to him after twenty plus years apart may be more than the Earl of Hough can manage. Only the spirit of Christmas can bring these two together when secrets mean to keep them apart.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was both a heart-breaking and heart-warming second chance love story, made all the more satisfying by the Christmas setting.

I really felt so desperately sad for the young James and Jocelyn (Joy, as he calls her) and how their hopes and dreams of a life together were destroyed by their respective fathers. Neither arranged marriage was a happy one and, now they are both widowed, James is determined to marry Joy, the woman he has never stopped loving. However, he discovers that Joy is no longer the vibrant, happy girl he remembers. Instead, he finds a sad, bitter, resentful woman who seems to blame him for her unhappiness.

The abuse that Joy suffered at her husband’s hands was truly heartrending and she still bears the physical and emotional scars. Since her husband’s demise, under unusual circumstances, she has been determined to control her own life, building defences around herself, and never letting anyone close. Her sons have become her world and her love for them and her need to protect them is paramount. She also has secrets which she has never revealed, even to her own family.

Joy’s feelings of bitterness and anger towards James are understandable because, for all these years, she believed that he had simply married someone else, leaving her broken-hearted. It is only when she learns the true nature of his marriage does Joy realise how much James had suffered too, in a different way.

James treats Joy with such patience and kindness, and I love his determination to restore her love of life, even though he faces an uphill struggle. When Joy’s secrets are finally revealed, James is there for her and it is heartening to see how supportive Joy and James’ families are.

I like the fact that Ms. Jeffers does not have Joy suddenly recovering from the years of abusive marriage. It will take time to dispel those terrible memories but, with James’ love, she can gradually replace them with joyful ones. The final scenes, at the end of the book, convey the love they share so beautifully and left me with a warm glow, knowing that their future held the happiness that had so long been denied to them.

MY VERDICT: An emotional, poignant and heart-warming Christmas novella – just perfect for curling up with on a dark, winter’s evening.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

**In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author with no strings attached. It is my personal choice to write this review and these are my honest thoughts about the book.** 

 

 

 

The Laird's Christmas Kiss

(The Lairds Most Likely, #2)

 Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – 1818)

Book Blurb:

Down with love! 

Ever since she was fifteen, shy wallflower Elspeth Douglas has pined in vain for the attentions of dashing Brody Girvan, Laird of Invermackie. But the rakish Highlander doesn’t even know she’s alive. Now she’s twenty, she realizes that she’ll never be happy until she stops loving her brother’s handsome friend. When family and friends gather at Achnasheen Castle for Christmas, she intends to show the world that’s she’s all grown up and grown out of silly crushes on gorgeous Scotsmen. So take that, my gallant laddie!

Girls just want to have fun… 

Except it turns out that Brody isn’t singing from the same Christmas carol sheet. Elspeth decides she’s not interested in him anymore, just as he decides he’s very interested indeed. In fact, now he looks more closely, his friend Hamish’s sister is pretty and funny and forthright – and just the lassie to share his Highland estate. Convincing his little wren of his romantic intentions is difficult enough, even before she undergoes a makeover and becomes the belle of Achnasheen. For once in his life, dissolute Brody is burdened with honorable intentions, while the lady he pursues is set on flirtation with no strings attached.

Deck the halls with mistletoe! 

With interfering friends and a crate of imported mistletoe thrown into the mix, the stage is set for a house party rife with secrets, clandestine kisses, misunderstandings, heartache, scandal, and love triumphant.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have read and enjoyed several of Anna Campbell’s Christmas stories and this delightful novella was no exception.

For the past year, Brody has been unhappy; his hedonistic lifestyle had begun to pall and he is feeling aimless and lost when he arrives at Achnasheen Castle for Christmas. I love how, for the first time, he actually sees Elspeth. To her family she is a ‘wee mouse’, but to Brody she is intelligent, interesting and pure of heart and he is perceptive enough to notice her beauty and charm. I love how his actions reveal an honourable man when he steps up to offer marriage because he believes he has compromised Elspeth’s reputation.

Elspeth may appear dull and mousy but when she makes up her mind to do something, nothing  deters her. I saw this in her determination to forget her childish infatuation for Brody and enjoyed seeing a more mature and confident Elspeth emerging. It was satisfying to see her turn the tables on Brody by indulging in a no strings attached flirtation with him and discover what it felt like to be pursued by a rake, when she held all the cards.

Poor Brody has his work cut out convincing Elspeth that his love is sincere, given his past reputation. His friends, Elspeth’s brother, Hamish, and her cousin, Diarmid, certainly don’t help matters because they don’t seem to regard him as a worthy suitor for Elspeth.

I enjoyed seeing Brody and Elspeth discovering things about each other but also about themselves during the course of the story. They are such a likeable couple and I was rooting for them. There maybe trials and tribulations but the spirit of Christmas prevails and love wins through in the end.

“Oh, Brody, you make me so happy. This morning, I thought I’d never be happy again.”
He stared into her face, recognizing her as his destiny. “I’ll do my best to make ye happy for the rest of your life.”
Her lips curled in a smile that expressed a universe of joy. For the first time, he genuinely believed that she did love him.
“I’d love that.
“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
“So?”
She laughed, and the warm sound rippled down his backbone and settled in his heart. “Of course I’ll marry you, Brody.”

I love Marina for the way in which she supports and encourages Elspeth, unlike her mother who is more interested is gaining influence as a political hostess than her daughter’s happiness. I hate how she denigrates Elspeth at every opportunity.

Having met Fergus and Marina in this novella, I definitely want to read their story in The Laird’s Willful Lass, the first book in the series. I am also looking forward to seeing Hamish and Diarmid brought to their knees by love and sincerely hope that Brody and Elspeth get the chance to gloat!

MY VERDICT: A real holiday treat from one of my favourite authors.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Lairds Most Likely series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

 The Laird's Willful Lass (The Lairds Most Likely, #1) by Anna Campbell The Laird’s Christmas Kiss (The Lairds Most Likely, #2) by Anna Campbell

 

**In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of this novella as a gift from the author. It is my personal choice to write this review and these are my honest thoughts about the story.** 

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