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Pursuing Lord Pascal

(Dashing Widows, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Golden Days… 

Famous for her agricultural innovations, Amy, Lady Mowbray has never had a romantical thought in her life. Well, apart from her short-lived crush on London’s handsomest man, Lord Pascal, when she was a brainless 14-year-old. She even chose her late husband because he owned the best herd of beef cattle in England!

But fate steps in and waltzes this practical widow out of her rustic retreat into the glamour of the London season. When Pascal pursues her, all her adolescent fantasies come true. And those fantasies turn disturbingly adult when grown-up desire enters the equation. Amy plunges headlong into a reckless affair that promises pleasure beyond her wildest dreams – until she discovers that this glittering world hides damaging secrets and painful revelations set to break a country girl’s tender heart.

All that glitters… 

Gervaise Dacre, Lord Pascal needs to marry money to rescue his estate, devastated after a violent storm. He’s never much liked his reputation as London’s handsomest man, but it certainly comes in handy when the time arrives to seek a rich bride. Unfortunately, the current crop of debutantes bores him silly, and he finds himself praying for a sensible woman with a generous dowry.

When he meets Dashing Widow Amy Mowbray, it seems all his prayers have been answered. But his mercenary quest becomes dangerously complicated when he finds himself in thrall to the lovely widow. Soon he’s much more interested in passion than in pounds, shillings and pence. What happens if Amy discovers the sordid truth behind his whirlwind courtship? And if she does, will she see beyond his original, selfish motives to the ardent love that lies unspoken in his sinful heart?

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Anna Campbell continues her delightful Dashing Widows series with three more young, widowed friends – Amy, Lady Mowbray, Sally Cowan, Countess of Norwood and Morwenna Nash – who decide they need a little adventure in their lonely lives and this is Amy’s story.

Ever since she was a girl, Amy had been interested in the scientific farming, publishing her first article on animal husbandry when she was not much more than sixteen.  At the age of eighteen, her prime reason for choosing to marry her neighbour, Sir Wilfred Mowbray, forty years her senior, was the chance to be involved in his farming experiments. Although her husband’s infrequent attentions were not onerous, there was never any passion in her marriage and Amy thought of him as more of a friend and mentor than a husband. Since her husband’s death five years ago, Amy has been content to run the estate and continue writing her articles on new farming methods. She had never considered herself beautiful or been in love, but as a graceless fourteen-year-old, Amy had suffered an adolescent crush on Lord Pascal, considered the handsomest man in London.

When the story opens, Amy is in Leicestershire at the home of her brother, Silas and his wife, Caroline (The Seduction of Lord Stone), for the christening of their fourth child. It is there that a reluctant Amy, her sister-in-law, Morwenna, and Morwenna’s friend, Sally, decide to follow in the footsteps of the original Dashing Widows and head off to London.

“Then I hereby declare the return of the Dashing Widows. Watch out, London. We’re on our way.”

While attending a ball one evening, Amy finds herself face to face with none other than the man of her adolescent fantasies, Lord Pascal. When he shows a definite interest in her, Amy, aware of his reputation, is distrustful and wants to get to know him first before making any rash decisions and therefore insists that he courts her.

A storm has left Gervaise’s estate in ruins and he needs cash urgently for repairs. Hence, he is in London to find a wealthy wife. At a ball one evening, he despairs of ever finding an alternative to the pretty, empty headed heiresses he is forced to dance with; that is until he spots a certain lady across the ballroom.

How could he concentrate on half-baked girls when that luscious banquet of a woman wandered into sight?

He discovers the beguiling lady is widowed Lady Amy Mowbray who is not only wealthy but also intelligent and funny, attributes he finds very appealing. He is determined to pursue her but Amy isn’t about to fall at his feet and, for once in his life, Gervaise will have to work hard if he wants to win this lady’s heart.

Amy and Gervaise are such likeable characters and watching their romance unfold was delightful. I cheered Amy for not having her head turned by his handsome face and obvious charm, and wanting a proper courtship to get to know him better before risking her reputation. For a man who is used to having any woman he wants, this is a new and intriguing experience for Gervaise.

I like how the courtship not only heightens the sexual tension but also acts as a catalyst for a growing sense of trust and intimacy between them; enough to share things they have never shared with anyone else. Gervaise reveals the pain of his bleak and loveless childhood and Amy starts to see the real man beneath the handsome face. Amy reveals intimate details of her marriage and Gervaise realises that Amy has never known desire or passion in her marriage, something he is determined she will experience in his ams.

I love a story where the hero pursues a reluctant heroine, but there were times when I felt sorry for Gervaise. At the age of thirty, he has finally met a woman he really cares for who doesn’t seem to want him. But “faint heart never won fair lady” and he is willing to do anything to please Amy and I especially love the thoughtful but unusual gift he gives her.

Despite her apprehensions, Amy is not immune to Gervaise. She sees how caring and considerate he is and how cherished he makes her feel and I cheered her on when she decides that she wants a taste of the passion she has always been denied. Ms. Campbell always succeeds in writing love scenes that emotional, tender and sensual.

“I want to please you.”
“You do.” He ran his hand down her arm, delighting in her silky skin, and laced his fingers with hers. “You will.”
Her fingers twined around his with a swift trust that made his heart somersault. Pascal leaned in and placed his lips on hers, leashing his ravenous passion.
   She responded with the sweetness so essential to her nature. Under his gentle exploration, she sighed, and the tension gradually seeped from her body. Taking exquisite care, he began to touch her, finding the places that made her tremble.

However, some overheard gossip seems set to destroy their new-found happiness but Amy is mature enough to listen to what Gervaise has to say and consider everything she has learnt about him, before making a decision. Bravo to Ms. Campbell. How refreshing to find a heroine who doesn’t storm out as so many other heroines would have done.

I enjoyed the witty dialogue between Gervaise and Amy:

“I can’t think when you kiss me.”
  He liked the sound of that even better. He smiled smugly. “Then clearly kisses must be allowed.” She cast him a repressive glance.
“Clearly they mustn’t.” He closed his eyes and groaned.
“You’re going to kill me.”
“That would be a pity when you’re so spectacular to look at. Every lady in London will weep at your funeral.”

and the lovely touches of humour too:

 “Who knows?” Morwenna sent Amy a sly glance. “Perhaps you’ll find Lord Pascal more entertaining than a field full of fat Herefords.” 
“He’s definitely prettier than a Hereford,” Sally said.
“Sally, you have no idea how beautiful a fine cow can be,” Amy said with perfect sincerity.
Morwenna threw up her hands. “Amy, you’re utterly hopeless.”

We learn some interesting facts about the other Dashing Widows, Sally and Morwenna, which provide intriguing teasers for their own books. I am also curious to know what mischief Sally’s niece, Meg, is up to.

This novella can be read as a standalone but it would be a pity to miss the other novellas in this series.

MY VERDICT: Another charming novella to add to this delightfully entertaining series which I can definitely recommend.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

The Seduction of Lord Stone (Dashing Widows, #1) by Anna Campbell Tempting Mr. Townsend (Dashing Widows, #2) by Anna Campbell Tempting Mr. Townsend (Dashing Widows, #2) by Anna Campbell Pursuing Lord Pascal (Dashing Widows, #4) by Anna Campbell Charming Sir Charles (Dashing Widows, #5) by Anna Campbell Catching Captain Nash (Dashing Widows, #6) by Anna Campbell

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review**

The Wicked Cousin

(Rockliffe, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian)

Cover Blurb:

Sebastian Audley has spent years setting every city in Europe by the ears and keeping the scandal-sheets in profit. Word that he is finally returning to London becomes the hottest topic of the Season and casts numerous young ladies – many of whom have never seen him – into a fever of anticipation.

Cassandra Delahaye is not one of them. In her opinion, love affairs and duels, coupled with a reputation for never refusing even the most death-defying wager, suggest that Mr Audley is short of a brain cell or two. And while their first, very unorthodox meeting shows that perhaps he isn’t entirely stupid, it creates other reservations entirely.

Sebastian finds dodging admiring females and living down his reputation for reckless dare-devilry a full-time occupation. He had known that putting the past behind him in a society with an insatiable appetite for scandal and gossip would not be easy. But what he had not expected was to become the target of a former lover’s dangerous obsession … or to find himself falling victim to a pair of storm-cloud eyes.

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I absolutely love Stella Riley’s Rockliffe series and THE WICKED COUSIN is another wonderful addition to the series.  At its heart is a gentle, heart-warming, funny and beautifully written, traditional love story.

Ms. Riley drew me into the story from the first page with a powerful and heart-breaking Prologue. I could feel the eight-year-old Sebastian’s intense feelings of pain, guilt, anger and bewilderment, following the loss of his beloved twin brother, Theo. His family do not realise just how deeply he has been affected, that, for Sebastian, it was like losing the other half of himself. As the only remaining heir, his father takes every precaution to keep Sebastian safe, wrapping him in a cocoon of overprotectiveness for the next thirteen years. Even at university, where Sebastian hoped to enjoy freedom for the first time, he couldn’t escape his father’s control entirely. So, when the opportunity finally arises, I could perfectly understand Sebastian’s desire to ‘kick over the traces’ and enjoy all the things he had been denied.

The Honourable Mr Audley didn’t give a damn about the gossip and rumours or what anyone said.  After thirteen years in the cage he was entitled to enjoy his freedom and do what the hell he liked.
So he did.

In the next few years, he cuts a swathe across Europe and the gossip sheets eagerly report his daredevil exploits and success with the ladies. However, when he receives a curt letter from his eldest sister, Blanche, advising him that his father has suffered an apoplexy, he is ready to return home as his life of excess had started to pall some time ago. Now he is back in England, Sebastian hopes to live down his reputation with some help from his good friend, Adrian Devereux, Earl of Sarre (The Player).

Despite everything, Sebastian still loves his father and makes annual trips home hoping that his father’s attitude might change, but it never does. He is also subjected to Blanche’s bitter and cruel words which still have the power to hurt, and his trips home over the years have always been brief ones. When Sebastian finally returns home, I was touched by the scene where his father admits that he had only himself to blame for his son’s actions and I liked that they made tentative steps towards a reconciliation. I also enjoyed seeing Sebastian’s interactions with the other members of his family and couldn’t help feeling satisfaction when he took his subtle revenge on his hateful sister, Blanche.

Cassandra (Cassie) Delahaye, the eldest daughter of Sir Charles Delahaye, has always been the perfect daughter; biddable, gentle and demure. Among the ton, she is considered a lady of ‘impeccable behaviour and perfect propriety’ – just the perfect daughter-in-law for all those matching-making mothers with marriageable sons. However, Cassie seems to attract nothing but mild-mannered, dull suitors whom she is constantly having to reject in a kindly way. Her younger sister, Olivia, has been constantly bombarding Cassie with all the latest gossip regarding ‘Wicked Cousin’ (a very distant relative) Sebastian’s exploits abroad, and is in a flurry of anticipation because of his return to London.  Cassie, however, is not at all impressed:

‘If you ask me, all those duels and love-affairs and ridiculous wagers make him sound like an idiot.

Sebastian and Cassie are such engaging characters and watching them falling in love was just delightful. I enjoyed the animated exchanges between them in their unconventional, first meeting, which only serves to confirm Cassie’s opinion of Sebastian as both arrogant and conceited, but she is not completely unaffected by the experience…

As for the interlude in the library … it had been the most peculiar, alarming and exhilarating half-hour of her life and she still didn’t know what to make of it.

As they meet at various functions, Cassie finds Sebastian dangerously easy to like with his charm, intelligence and humour. She also notices his kindness in dancing with Harry Caversham’s cousin, Henrietta, who is in her third season and so often left on the side-lines with the chaperones…not to mention his smile which makes her nerve-ends tingle. Sebastian realises how much he has come to like Cassie and enjoy her company and, unlike the other men, he sees the real Cassie, a lovely, intelligent and witty young woman. It isn’t long before they are both smitten and there is a very moving scene at Theo’s graveside where Sebastian talks about his feelings for Cassie.

She makes me want the things that are meant to go with it; things I’ve never wanted before.  Love, I suppose – though I know damn all about it. All I do know is that I’ve got this all-encompassing sense that she’s mine but nobody knows it, not even her. How stupid is that?’

There is drama in the form of Sebastian’s venomous, former mistress, who has become obsessed with the idea that he still wants her, and a scandalous accusation made against Sebastian. I love how Cassie believes in Sebastian in spite of what the rumours say and is a veritable Valkyrie in her defence of him. I also like how Sebastian is open and honest with Cassie and there are no secrets or misunderstandings between them.

Families are often portrayed as dysfunctional in historic romances and it was refreshing to see such a loving family like the Delahayes. I really like Cassie’s father because he appreciates his daughter’s worth and wants her to marry the man of her choice. He also understands that Sebastian had valid reasons for his wild behaviour and is ready to believe that he can put his past behind him. He is also astute enough to realise the significance of Sebastian being the first man that Cassie has ever sent to him to ask for leave to court her.

One of the joys of reading this series is seeing the characters from the previous books. The wonderful camaraderie and easy rapport between the Rockliffe circle of family and friends always produces some delightful scenes, memorable moments, and witty banter. Among my favourite moments are:

  • Adrian, usually the epitome of sartorial elegance, having to meet his wife’s grandfather for the first time, looking as though he’d been rolling in a ditch.
  • Adrian’s wife, Caroline, giving her odious mother-in-law a well-deserved set-down.
  • The normally sophisticated Rockliffe with his baby daughter dozing contentedly in the crook of his arm.

I am also intrigued by the situation between Nicholas Wynstanton (Rockliffe’s younger brother) and Madeline Delacroix ( Aristide’s sister) and I hope their story is next.

I like how Ms. Riley gives the reader snippets of information which, on the surface, seem unimportant but only later in the story does their relevance become significant.

MY VERDICT: Another beautifully written story from Stella Riley. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

The Parfit Knight Volume 1 (Rockcliffe) by Stella Riley The Mésalliance by Stella Riley The Player (Rockliffe, #3) by Stella Riley The Wicked Cousin (Rockliffe) (Volume 4) by Stella Riley

I’m over on Meghan Holloway’s Blog today chatting about Rakes and Rascals, reviewing and lots more. You will find the link below, so do stop by.

https://authoramholloway.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/eleven-questions-12/

Traitor in Her Arms

(The Scarlet Chronicles #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (French Revolution – Paris during The Reign of Terror)

Cover Blurb:

Two morally compromised souls wage a battle of wits—and seduction—against the backdrop of the French Revolution in this thrilling romance from bestselling author Shana Galen.

After her late husband leaves her in debt to some dangerous people, Lady Gabrielle McCullough is forced to become a thief. In the intervening years, her skills have not gone unnoticed. After being recruited by the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious do-gooder spiriting aristocrats out of revolutionary France, Gabrielle crosses the Channel for the most daring mission of her life. Accompanying her is the Earl of Sedgwick, a thief in his own right and an enticingly masculine presence. The man is not to be trusted—nor is Gabrielle’s body when he’s near.

Ramsey Barnes would not say he is an honorable man. His whole life has been based on a lie; why change now? Although it pains him to deceive the tantalizing Gabrielle, he’s working toward an altogether different objective: unmasking the Scarlet Pimpernel. If Ramsey fails, his blackmailer will ruin him. But when Ramsey’s confronted with the carnage of the Reign of Terror, he seeks refuge in Gabrielle’s heated embrace. Now he faces a terrible choice: betray the woman who’s stolen his heart—or risk losing everything.

Publication Date: 22 August 2017

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I really enjoyed this first book in Shana Galen’s new The Scarlett Chronicles series. Set during the French Revolution, it combines a well-written, action-packed story, with intriguing, flawed characters and a passionate romance. I have always loved the idea that the Scarlet Pimpernel actually existed and the fact that Ms. Galen uses that premise in this new series, only enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

Gabrielle
Gabrielle is not a thief by choice but by necessity. Her late husband was a heavy gambler and left large gambling debts and his creditors are hounding her for payment. If he doesn’t receive payment, one particularly unsavoury creditor has threated to exact payment in another way. It is either stealing or end up in a brothel!

Her expertise as a thief has been noticed by the Scarlet Pimpernel who wants her to travel to Paris to rescue the wife and daughter of the compte de Tonnerre, a close friend of the King. I love Gabrielle’s courage and compassion in agreeing to do it.

How could she refuse this desperate man? How could she allow a woman to be murdered and her child orphaned in a cold, harsh prison?

Ramsey
Ramsey has a secret which, if revealed, would cost him his life and bring suffering to those he loves. Unfortunately, a certain Madame Fouchet has incriminating documents which she is using to blackmail him into doing her bidding. He hates being under her control but has no choice because he will do whatever it takes to protect his family and those who depend on him. His latest assignment is to discover the identity of the Scarlett Pimpernel.

There had once been an undeniable attraction between Gabrielle and Ramsey and, after they shared a passionate interlude together, Ramsey was on the verge of asking her to marry him. However, when he failed to declare his intentions, Gabrielle married his best friend, George. Now, events are about to throw them together again which only serves to reignite and intensify that attraction.

When Ramsey discovers both he and Gabrielle are both going to Paris, he persuades her that she needs his help but intends to use her to uncover the Scarlet Pimpernel’s identity. I enjoyed seeing Ramsey’s struggle with his conflicting emotions. He has never thought of himself as loyal, noble or honourable but he is. Time and again, he could leave Gabrielle but he can’t because she means too much to him.

At some point, protecting her had become more important than protecting himself.

Some reviewers have criticised the book for its lack of romance, but I can’t imagine anything more romantic than a man willing to give his life for the woman he loves.

By his own admission, Gabrielle should not trust Ramsey, but his actions are continually at odds with his words. He is always there to protect her when she needs him, and shows compassion for people in a Paris prison whom he has never met. I like how she realises that she had no right to pass judgement on Ramsey for stealing and lying, when she has been guilty of the same thing herself, and his motives were far nobler than her own.

Who was she to judge? And hadn’t his motives been much nobler than hers? She had only wanted to save herself. He had an entire family, an entire estate, to think of.

The sexual tension between these two is palpable…

He rose hastily, fists clenched and jaw tight, and she realized he was angry. “Neither are you. You practically attack me when we come in here, and when I resist, you stand naked before me.” He paced, speaking quick, clipped English. “And then when I capitulate, you tell me no. What the hell is this?”

…and the danger only intensifies their desire for each other culminating in some highly charged love scenes.

I like how Ms. Galen includes moments of humour in the story which help to provide a welcome counter-balance to the darker elements of the story. My favourite scene is where Ramsey becomes somewhat distracted by Gabrielle’s disguise.

“I thought it might make movement easier in case we need to leave quickly.”
You’re wearing breeches. He almost said it again before he realized he’d already pointed that out.
“Don’t you agree?” she asked.
“I . . .” You’re wearing breeches. He finally looked up. She was wearing a man’s shirt and coat as well. “Where are your…?” He gestured helplessly at her shirt.

The plot has plenty of suspense, action and danger, and there were times when I was literally holding my breath, wondering what would happen next. I felt Ms. Galen resolved the issue of Ramsey’s ‘secret’ in a believable way.

Ms. Galen brought the chilling horrors of the Reign of Terror vividly to life and I could feel the blood lust of the crowd as the tumbrels rolled past and share the despair and hopelessness of the poor prisoners.

Certain members of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s League are introduced including Alexandra Martin (Alex), Gabrielle and Ramsey’s contact in Paris, who plays an important role in the story and really impressed me as a very smart and brave woman, worthy of her own story.

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Gabrielle couldn’t help but wonder to whom the Pimpernel’s note was addressed – my sentiments exactly!

MY VERDICT: If you are looking for a fast-paced adventure combined with a passionate romance, then you will enjoy TRAITOR IN HER ARMS.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Scarlet Chronicles series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

Traitor in Her Arms (The Scarlet Chronicles, #1) by Shana Galen

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. **

Someone to Love

(Westcott, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had…

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

SOMEONE TO LOVE, the first book in Mary Balogh’s new eight book Westcott series, is a charming, character-driven romance, written with her usual warmth, humour and emotion.

Anna is such an engaging heroine. I love the quiet, inner strength she demonstrates when first meeting her family and the calm, dignified way in which handles herself despite the hostile reactions. My heart ached for Anna because her dearest wish has always been to discover her rightful family and become a part of it, only to find that they hate her.

It’s understandable that she decides to stay and explore her new life as Lady Anastasia Wescott but I also admire her determination not to lose a sense of who she really is.

I must remain, I have decided, and learn who Lady Anastasia Wescott is and what her life would be if she had not been turned into Anna Snow at the age of four and left there at the orphanage. I must decide how much of her I can become without losing Anna Snow in the process. It may be conceited of me, but I am rather fond of Anna Snow.
(from a letter to Miss Ford, the matron of the orphanage.)

I like how she stands up for herself, refusing to let the ladies of the family manage her life or shape her into a perfectly polished lady.

I love her kindness and generosity which is evident in the way she provides employment to some of the orphans and her determination to share her fortune with her half-siblings.

Avery is certainly not your typical hero. Instead of tall, dark, handsome and muscular, he is short, slim and graceful (I pictured him with a Fred Astaire like physic) with beautiful angelic looks. His gold-handled quizzing glass at the ready, he appears the epitome of a bored, languid, haughty aristocrat.

…the Duke of Netherby rarely made the effort to do what was inessential or what was not conducive to his personal comfort.

However, he exudes an unexplainable aura of power and danger, commanding attention whenever he enters a room and the story of how he acquired such incredible self-possession adds an intriguing layer to Avery’s character.

I love how Ms. Balogh builds their relationship, gradually moving from attraction to friendship to a genuine loving relationship…one I believed in. When Avery first sees Anna, she’s quite unappealing in her drab clothes and severe hairstyle, but there is something about her that intrigues him. Most people are intimidated when they first meet him but Anna stands her ground and Avery admires her quiet dignity. He frequently utters the most absurd things but Anna is the only one who has ever had the audacity to call him absurd. At first, Anna doesn’t know what to think of Avery; she is both attracted and repelled by him, but the more time they spend together, she realises that there is more to Avery than he allows the world to see. Watching these two finding common ground, falling in love and marrying was such a joy. Ms. Balogh enhanced my pleasure with witty dialogue and a sensual, emotional and tender love scene.

The scenes when they visit and spend time with Anna’s grandparents after their marriage reveal so much about Avery. He is more at home in the country and I loved seeing a relaxed Avery who treats Anna’s grandparents with such warmth and respect.

I like how Ms. Balogh realistically highlights the difficulties facing the couple as they adjust to married life, after the glow of the honeymoon period has worn off. Both Avery and Anna want to recapture the wonder of those three weeks but Avery realises that he has to reveal his real self to Anna despite his fears and insecurities.

You will not remain on the surface of my life, will you, Anna Archer? You will not be content to bring me comfort and delight, though there has not been much of either, has there, since we returned to London. Is it because this question has needed asking and answering? Is it because you will not be content until you have seen to the very core of me? And perhaps because I will not be content until I have allowed you there?”

This scene is moving and beautifully written and seeing Avery so vulnerable really touched my heart. Both discover that they have always been searching for the same thing – someone to love – and have found that someone in each other.

“My duchess.”
“My love.”
Dreamy blue eyes gazed down into hers for a moment. “My love?”
“My love,” she repeated. “Of course. Did you not know? Oh, Avery, did you not know?”

♥♥♥

“You can be and may be and already are, Anna. My someone to love. My everything.”

As this is the first book in the series, there are a lot of family members introduced in quick succession and it was a difficult to keep a track of who is who (see note 1). The good thing is that many of these wonderful secondary characters will get their own books and therefore I’m not complaining.

MY VERDICT: This is a fabulous start to the new series. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Note 1 – The published version of the book has a family tree at the front.

 

Westcott series to date (click on the book covers for more details):

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1) by Mary Balogh Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2) by Mary Balogh Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh

 

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. **

 

 

A Woman Entangled

 (Blackshear Family, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

An ambitious beauty seeking a spot among the elite is thwarted by a most disruptive gentleman in Cecilia Grant’s witty, elegant, and exquisitely sensual novel.

Kate Westbrook has dreams far bigger than romance. Love won’t get her into London’s most consequential parties, nor prevent her sisters from being snubbed and looked down upon—all because their besotted father unadvisedly married an actress. But a noble husband for Kate would deliver a future most suited to the granddaughter of an earl. Armed with ingenuity, breath-taking beauty, and the help of an idle aunt with connections, Kate is poised to make her dreams come true. Unfortunately, a familiar face—albeit a maddeningly handsome one—appears bent on upsetting her scheme.

Implored by Kate’s worried father to fend off the rogues eager to exploit his daughter’s charms, Nick Blackshear has set aside the torch he’s carried for Kate in order to do right by his friend. Anyway, she made quite clear that his feelings were not returned—though policing her won’t abate Nick’s desire. Reckless passion leads to love’s awakening, but time is running out. Kate must see for herself that the charms of high society are nothing compared to the infinite sweet pleasures demanded by the heart.

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This is the final book in Cecilia Grant’s Blackshear Family series and it has everything that made the other books in this series so outstanding – a unique writing style, a thought-provoking storyline and seriously flawed and interesting characters

Like Ms. Grant’s heroines in the previous books, Kate is difficult to like at first. She gives the appearance of being a superficial, selfish social climber who is willing to use her beauty to ensnare a wealthy, titled gentleman into marrying her.  However, it soon becomes clear that her motives are far from selfish because she cares deeply for her family and will do anything she possibly can to achieve the social acceptance they deserve.

Her father, Charles Westbrook, caused a scandal when he married an actress and, although she was a woman of character and intelligence from a proud theatrical family, Charles’ family disowned both him and his family and have had no further contact since. Kate has worked hard to capture the attention of her father’s family with the hope of not only healing the rift between them but also of making an advantageous marriage which would provide opportunities for her sisters to have a better life. I like how Ms. Grant shows glimpses of a very different Kate in her protective concern for her sister, Rose, and the kindness she shows her friend, Louisa. I particularly loved how she decided not to make a certain choice because she knew it would have been hurtful to Louisa.

Like Kate, Nick is also hoping to restore his family’s respectability. A respected barrister, Nick had ambitions of one day becoming an MP, that is until his brother, Will, brought the family name into disrepute by not only marrying a courtesan, but fighting a duel over her as well (A Gentleman Undone). Nick has tried to repair the damage by publicly cutting off all contact with his brother, but many of the solicitors have stopped sending him clients because of the stain on the Blackshear family name. Nick sees his chance of having enough money to purchase the land needed to qualify him for a seat in Parliament slipping away. Then his close friend and mentor, Charles Westbrook, recommends Nick to Lord Barclay, who is looking for someone to tutor him in the art of public speaking, before he takes his seat in the House of Lords. The honorarium from Lord Barclay will hopefully provide the necessary funds Nick needs. Nick has been a good family friend to the Westbrooks and had once harboured hopes of marrying Kate, but she had made it very plain that she had set her sights on someone of higher social standing than a mere barrister

I love Ms. Grant’s flawed heroes and heroines because they always seem more human. They make misjudgements and mistakes as I’m sure we all do, and it those very fragilities that make them interesting and their journey to finding what they really want in life more emotionally satisfying.

Having believed that the only way to attain what she wants is through an advantageous marriage, Kate comes to realise that the very same things can be attained through friendship without sacrificing her own happiness.

Nick has always felt guilty about cutting himself off from his brother, whom he still loves, whilst still keeping the familial connection with his sister, Martha, who herself had been guilty of scandalous impropriety (A Lady Awakened). The only difference being that Martha and her husband had been discreet and avoided steeping the family name in scandal as Will had done.  Nick has always regarded himself as a man of integrity, but his actions force him to question that integrity and the choices he has made, not only regarding his brother, but also his failure to tell Lord Barclay about his family scandal for fear of jeopardising his political aspirations.  I like how Nick reaches out to his brother and there are definite signs of a reconciliation and his honesty in telling Lord Barclay the truth regardless of the consequences.

The romance is intelligently written and I enjoyed watching it unfold. They have remained friends and Nick has tried to put all thoughts of marrying Kate out of his head, aware that someone with such social aspirations would never make a suitable barrister’s wife, but it’s obvious that he is still in love with Kate. It’s only when her father asks Nick to keep an eye on Kate at the social events she is attending, and they are constantly thrown together, does Kate realise that she loves Nick and it may be too late. She has to learn to think with her heart rather than her head and decide where her happiness lies. I like how she comes to the realisation that life married to a titled gentleman would be exceedingly dull but, married to Nick, she could play an active role in his life in so many ways.

The secondary characters all add depth to the story. I especially liked Kate’s sister, Viola, a bluestocking with definite opinions on women’s rights and some of their conversations made me smile; Louisa who is a true friend to Kate and genuinely has her interests at heart, and the liberal-minded Lord Barclay. I also enjoyed seeing the other members of the Blackshear family who play an important role in the decisions Nick must make.

I love how the Epilogue offers of a positive glimpse of the future for both Nick’s and Kate’s immediate families.

Wedding breakfasts usually were, of course, and indeed this one celebrated the commencement of their married life. However, it also sketched a tentative outline of how their two families would fit together. And how Nick’s own might come to be whole once again.

MY VERDICT: Ms. Grant’s books are ones you don’t simply read; they are ones you savour like the finest wine. This is a series that shouldn’t be missed and I am now waiting patiently for Cecilia Grant to publish more books!

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong (Blackshear Family, #0.5) by Cecilia Grant A Lady Awakened (Blackshear Family, #1) by Cecilia Grant A Gentleman Undone (Blackshear Family, #2) by Cecilia Grant A Woman Entangled (Blackshear Family, #3) by Cecilia Grant

Obsession Wears Opals

(Jaded Gentlemen, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Darius Thorne has learned to use his wit and intelligence to strategize a better life for himself. He is the White Knight amidst the small secret circle of gentlemen known only as The Jaded. The handsome scholar shields his heart by keeping a studied distance from the world…until he rescues a beautiful woman.

Isabel Netherton isn’t merely a damsel in distress. A highborn lady of quality unwilling to be a pawn, she is defiantly escaping an abusive husband. But under Darius’s protection she discovers an unexpected champion–a man who teaches her the power of true desire and what it means to be treated like a queen.

However, the law of the land supports her husband’s cruel claim. It will take all of Darius’s cunning to keep one step ahead of their enemies and protect Isabel. In a deadly game of chess, Darius must defeat the Black Knight and sacrifice himself for his Ivory Queen or forfeit all.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the fifth book in Renee Bernard’s highly addictive Jaded Gentleman series.

Darius Thorne is the second son of a dockworker and a fishmonger’s daughter whose drunkard of a father regularly beat his wife and children. Believing he is cursed to become just like his father, Darius pursues an entirely different life, totally immersing himself in scholarly pursuits. He has never let anyone get too close because he’s always been afraid that ‘blood will tell’ and he will hurt someone. His resolve is to be tested when he discovers a half-frozen woman lying in his garden, who obviously needs his help and protection.

After a whirlwind courtship, Lady Isabel, daughter of the Marquis of Penleigh, had fallen in love with the handsome Earl of Netherton. He swept her off her feet with his tender and romantic gestures and her wedding day is filled with thoughts of their future happiness. Those thoughts are soon dispelled on her wedding night when she discovers her husband’s true depraved and sadistic nature. With no-one to help her and fearing for her life, she seizes the opportunity to escape on her beloved horse, Samson, with no money and only the clothes she is wearing. Riding until her horse becomes lame, she collapses from exhaustion, to be rescued by a man who offers her both his help and protection.

I totally fell for the shy, bespectacled, thoughtful, intelligent, scholarly Darius. I love how he cares for Isabel without knowing anything about her, not even her name. He recognises the signs of abuse and, seeing her wedding ring, knows exactly who is responsible and vows to protect her from harm.

Every fiber of his being felt protective of her, unwilling to think too far ahead of his improvised plan to simply provide her a haven until she’d recovered and a better solution could be found.

I really felt all Isabel’s pain and humiliation and understood why, however foolhardy it might seem, escape was her only option. The law provided little or no protection for a married woman and she was at the mercy of her husband, and his threats to have her committed to an asylum or worse were only too real. I like how Ms. Bernard highlights the plight of women during that time and it makes me realise just how lucky we are today.

Although a stranger, Darius’ sincerity and kindness make Isabel feel safe for the first time in months and instinctively she knows that she can trust him.

He’d said he’d not hurt her for all the world and it made no sense in the world she’d experienced to believe him. But there she was, sitting in front of his fire with her bare feet tucked into his lap, half frozen and miserable— and inexplicably feeling safe for the first time in months.

Gradually in the compassionate care of Darius and his housekeeper, Mrs MacFadden, Isabel’s physical and emotions scars heal but she is still lives in fear of her husband finding her. I love how Darius uses the game of chess to convince Isabel that she can be strong and command power, just like the White Queen on his chess board. I enjoyed the fanciful stories they both create around chess pieces as Darius teaches Isabel the intricacies of the game, but also the sense of the growing attraction between them.

“And you?” he asked, still holding her hand across the board. His gaze was steady, the green in his eyes deepening as the contact between them lingered.
M-me?” Isabel tried to regain her mental footing and ignore the sweet fire curling up inside of her.

If there were ever two people who were meant to be together, it is these two. They complement each other in so many ways but there seems an insurmountable obstacle in their way… Isabel’s husband. I love how Darius uses his intellectual prowess and puzzle solving skills to outmanoeuvre Netherton and achieve Isabel’s freedom. However, his plan takes him into dark underbelly of London and he is sickened by the vile things he discovers about Netherton. I love how Isabel helps to dispel his despair in a rather unusual way.

Darius has never allowed himself to fall in love fearing that he could turn out to be a monster just like his father and he would never subject Isabel to such a fate. He also believes that, as a lady of quality, she will be repelled by his humble origins. I love how Isabel makes him realise that his origins do not matter to her; she fell in love with the gentle, caring and intelligent man he is, and he could never be like his father.

I adore Darius’ housekeeper, Ms MacFadden, who is ‘like a kitten that spits and hisses but has no claws’, to quote Darius. In public, she and Darius’ driver and houseman, Hamish, are constantly at each other’s throats, but secretly they are carrying on a clandestine affair which Darius swears is like watching ‘the courtship of porcupines.’

The other members of the Jaded Gentleman make an appearance and I always enjoy seeing the close bond between them, forged during their imprisonment in India.  I also like the genuine friendship that develops between Isabel and Caroline Blackwell, Ashe’s unconventional, American wife (Seduction Wears Sapphires).

The mystery surrounding the identity of their nemesis, the Jackal, and the exact nature of the sacred treasure is very much overshadowed by the romance in this book. I’m sure all will be revealed when I read Desire Wears Diamonds, the final book in the series.

MY VERDICT: Ms. Bernard pens an entertaining, romantic and sensual love story.  With only one more book to go, I will be sorry to say goodbye to the Jaded Gentlemen.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

Revenge Wears Rubies (Jaded Gentleman, #1) by Renee Bernard Seduction Wears Sapphires (Jaded Gentleman, #2) by Renee Bernard Ecstasy Wears Emeralds (Jaded Gentleman, #3) by Renee Bernard Passion Wears Pearls (Jaded Gentleman, #4) by Renee Bernard Obsession Wears Opals (Jaded Gentleman, #5) by Renee Bernard Desire Wears Diamonds (Jaded Gentleman, #6) by Renee Bernard

 

 

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