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Archive for November, 2013

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I LOVE THE WEEKS LEADING UP TO CHRISTMAS…DECORATING THE TREE, WRAPPING THE PRESENTS, ENJOYING ALL MY FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES AND, OF COURSE, DOING SOME CHRISTMAS READING.  SO THIS YEAR RAKES AND RASCALS IS GETTING INTO THE FESTIVE MOOD.

THERE WILL BE SOME REGULAR FEATURES PLUS SOME SPECIAL SEASONAL ONES. SO JOIN ME AND…

 

Learn what’s on my auto-buy list for December

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Check out the new books added to my bookshelves during the month

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Find out what books are on my Christmas reading list and read my reviews

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Sample a Victorian Christmas

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Share my memories of a 1950’s Christmas

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and discover whether my favourite Christmas movies are yours too

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Christmas snowman graphics

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WHAT HAPPENED AT MIDNIGHT BY COURTNEY MILAN

Source: Bought from Amazon Kindle

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Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Official Blurb

When John Mason discovers that his fiancée’s father has embezzled thousands of pounds from their mutual business, he’s furious. When his betrothed, Miss Mary Chartley, flees, taking the money and all the evidence with her, he’s outraged. He plans to bring the woman he once loved to account–and he’ll shed no tears when he does.

But when he finds Mary, she’s not living a life of luxury. Instead, she’s serving as a companion in exchange for a pittance. The more he attempts to untangle the truth, the more he remembers why he first loved Mary…and how much he wishes he could do so again.

What Happened at Midnight was previously published in the anthology Midnight Scandals.

★✩★✩★✩★

LOST IN A ROYAL KISS BY VANESSA KELLY

Source: Bought from Amazon Kindle

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(Renegade Royals #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian)

Official Blurb

In this thrilling introduction to her Renegade Royals series, Vanessa Kelly transports readers to the court of King George III—where a London street urchin unwittingly plays Cupid, ushering in a new era—and ultimately a new kind of royal…

With her widowed mother working long hours as governess to the royal children, Linnet St. Clare must look after her siblings and run the household. Now she must add to her worries the fate of Dominic, a poor orphan who has inspired the wrath of the king himself. Clearly Linnet has no time to consider her own desires—much less notice the attentions of a certain handsome, powerful magistrate…

Sir Anthony Tait is at a loss for how to capture Linnet’s interest. If only she would be still long enough for courting. Outright seduction seems the only answer. But will his kisses be enough to persuade her—or might Anthony have something to learn from young Dominic about matters of the heart? And in saving the boy’s future, might Anthony and Linnet at last create their own?

★✩★✩★✩★

NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED BY SARAH MACLEAN

Source: Bought from Amazon Kindle

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(The Rules of Scoundrels #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Official Blurb

A rogue ruined . . .

He is the Killer Duke, accused of murdering Mara Lowe on the eve of her wedding. With no memory of that fateful night, Temple has reigned over the darkest of London’s corners for twelve years, wealthy and powerful, but beyond redemption. Until one night, Mara resurfaces, offering the one thing he’s dreamed of . . . absolution.

A lady returned . . .

Mara planned never to return to the world from which she’d run, but when her brother falls deep into debt at Temple’s exclusive casino, she has no choice but to offer Temple a trade that ends in her returning to society and proving to the world what only she knows . . . that he is no killer.

A scandal revealed . . .

It’s a fine trade, until Temple realizes that the lady—and her past—are more than they seem. It will take every bit of his strength to resist the pull of this mysterious, maddening woman who seems willing to risk everything for honor . . . and to keep from putting himself on the line for love.

★✩★✩★✩★

VIKING FIRE BY ANDREA R. COOPER

Source: Received from the author in return for an honest review

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Genre: Historical Romance (Viking – 9th century)

Official Blurb

856 CE, Ireland is a land of myth, magic, and blood. Viking raiders have fought the Irish for over half a century. Rival Irish clans promise only betrayal and carnage.

Kaireen, daughter of Laird Liannon, is suddenly forced into an arranged marriage with her sworn enemy, a Viking. She refuses to submit. With no mention of love, only land and the protection of her clan, she endeavors to get her betrothed banished from her country. Will love find its way around her stubborn heart?

Bram, the Viking, finds himself without future or inheritance as a younger son in his family. A marriage to the Laird’s daughter would grant him land if he swears fidelity and if his men will fight along with the Liannons against any foe—Irish or Viking. However, the Laird’s feisty daughter only holds animosity for him and his kind. Is marriage worth the battle scars of such a relentless opponent?

With the blame for a rival laird’s death treacherously set against the Liannons, Kaireen and Bram must find a way to lay aside their differences as an unforeseen darkness sends death snapping at their heels.

★✩★✩★✩★

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(Fiery Tales #3)

Genre: Erotic Historical Romance (17th century)

Official Blurb

Inspired by the tale of Cinderella, Lila DiPasqua weaves a steamy historical romance that offers a glass slipper, a dangerous deception, and an impoverished beauty determined to find her handsome prince…and make him pay.

Born into wealth, Sabine Laurent and her twin sister lived a life of luxury, their father’s prestigious theater frequented by royalty and aristocracy alike. And Sabine dreamed of her own prince charming—the devastatingly handsome Jules de Moutier.

That was before the loss of her sister and her family’s fall from grace—a disaster Sabine blames on the Moutier family. Now, with her father’s death, she’s inherited his sizable debt and the responsibility of caring for his spoiled long-time mistress and her two wastrel daughters. But with the help of Sabine’s eccentric friends—the balance of her father’s acting troupe—she plans to get very close to her old infatuation, seduce the rake—and make away with a fortune.

Resisting Jules’s skillful mouth and tantalizing touch is not as easy as Sabine supposed. And soon she must decide whether her desire for vengeance is greater than her desire for her one and only prince…
★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★

**5 Smouldering Stars**

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I loved A MIDNIGHT DANCE!  What a fiery, passionate cocktail from the doyenne of lush sensuality, Lila DiPasqua.

I like Sabine…intelligent, brave and fiercely loyal to her remaining family and her little group of theatrical friends.  I really felt her grief and pain for all she had lost…

Each day she went through the motions of living, unable to mourn her sister. Simply surviving, more dead than alive. She’d forgotten how to feel. She didn’t even want to.

I enjoyed seeing her outwit Jules who underestimated the resourcefulness and cunning of his ‘silver-eyed forest fairy” on more than one occasion.

Jules is desperate to restore his family honour, reclaim his life and take revenge on those responsible for stealing his birth right. You can sense the anger and bitterness he feels having to resort to privateering when he was once a respected officer in the King’s navy. I like how Ms DiPasqua develops Jules’s character from an arrogant noble who cares little for the lower classes and their suffering to a man who understands their grievances. He also has to come to terms with the hard truth about his father.

The chemistry between these two positively sizzles and I love Sabine’s attempts to convince Jules that she is experienced…

In as sultry a whisper as she could muster, she said, “I am well worth your time when I am . . . fully inspired.”

I like how Ms DiPasqua reveals how much alike Sabine and Jules are…both have lost a part of themselves because of the tragedy that had befallen their families and, through their mutual love, they help each other rediscover their true selves.

What can I say about the love scenes? HOLY SMOKE! HOT! HOT! HOT!  I felt sure my iPad was going to melt! But the scenes are not just about titillation, they also reveal so much of Sabine and Jules’s conflicting emotions and vulnerabilities:

A soft alarming emotion whispered through her. A voice told her this felt right. Panicked, she suddenly needed— wanted— the physical pain to distract and distance herself from the intimacy, from the tender feelings welling inside her.

The little fraud had awakened not only his body, with the stunning passion that burned between them— but also his spirit. She’d actually drawn out his former self, dissolving his anger and bitterness with her wit, her smiles.

The secondary characters add vibrancy and depth to the story. I love Sabine’s eccentric theatrical friends and the scene at the inn, where they put their theatrical skills to good use, was funny; her cousins, Gerard and Robert, whose concern for Sabine is so touching; Robert, Jules’s second-in-command, who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

“M-May I be frank again, my lord?”
“Well, of course, Raymond,” he responded tightly. “There seems to be no stopping you tonight.”

The story is full of action, drama and intrigue with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing and a truly diabolical villain.

Filled with fascinating characters, sizzling love scenes, plot twists and a passionate romance, A MIDNIGHT DANCE is Lila DiPasqua at her best.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SIZZLING

Read November 2013

Fiery Tales series to date (click cover for more information):

Awakened by a Kiss (Fiery Tales, #1) The Princess in His Bed (Fiery Tales, #2) A Midnight Dance (Fiery Tales, #3) Undone (Fiery Tales, #4) The Duke's Match Girl - A Fiery Tale Novella (Fiery Tales, #4.5) -expected 1 December 2013

 

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This month I’ve decided to feature the story of two courageous ladies who dared to defy the conventions of their time. They are the LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN – Lady Eleanor Charlotte Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1759-1831).

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They both came from aristocratic families in Ireland and met when Sarah enrolled at Miss Parke’s boarding school in Kilkenny in 1768. Despite the age difference, Eleanor was 29 and Sarah 13, they became great friends. They may have felt a certain affinity because both had unhappy family lives.

For several years after they left school, they still wrote to each other regularly. However, life at home was becoming intolerable for both of them. Lady Sarah, the youngest daughter of the Earl of Ormonde of Kilkenny Castle, was being forced by her family to enter a convent, partly for financial reasons and partly to restore the family relationship with the Catholic Church, after her brother converted to Protestantism.  Twelve miles away in Woodstock, orphaned Sarah was in the care of her father’s cousin, Lady Betty Fownes and, unfortunately, the object of the unwanted attentions of Betty’s husband, Sir William. Betty’s health was failing fast and Sarah was only too aware that Sir William had plans to make her the second Lady Fownes in due course.

Secret letters passed between Kilkenny Castle and Woodstock and, in 1778, they decided to run away to England. Their first attempt failed but, finally, they were able to leave Ireland in 1778, taking housemaid Mary Caryll with them. After landing in West Wales, they decided to journey north and eventually arrived in the Vale of Llangollen. They were so captivated by the area that, in 1780, they bought a small house called Pen-y-Maes just outside the town of Llangollen. They renamed the house Plas Newydd (‘New Mansion’) and lived there for the next 50 years, rarely spending a night away from home.

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Plas Newydd – the half-timbering was added by a later owner, General John Yorke

Devoting their time to studying literature and languages, it wasn’t long before their rather unorthodox but civilised lifestyle came to the notice of various notable people. Visitors included Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington and Josiah Wedgwood. Queen Charlotte expressed a wish to see their home and succeeded in persuading the King to grant the ladies a pension.

The ladies also set about improving and extending the house, inserting old stained glass panels in the windows and filling the library with finely bound books and curiosities of all kinds, even a lock of Mary Queen of Scots’ hair. Over the years, they developed a passion for old, carved wood whether it was from medieval churches or broken-up Elizabethan and Jacobean furniture.  The staircase was lined with it and the front porch incorporated carvings of the four evangelists, Latin inscriptions, 17th century bedposts and lions donated by the Duke of Wellington!

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The Staircase

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The Front Porch

Elaborate gardens were also created …

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They engaged serving staff and a gardener, but the running costs of the house led them into a large amount of debt. They were often forced to exist on funds provided by generous friends.

Eleanor died in 1829 and Sarah died two years later and both are buried, together with their faithful housekeeper, Mary Caryll, in Saint Collen’s Church in Llangollen.

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The final resting place of the Ladies of Llangollen and their
housekeeper, Mary Caryll in Saint Collen’s churchyard

Of course, there has always been speculation about their relationship…that it was more than just a close friendship. It is unlikely that we will ever know the truth but, to my mind, it doesn’t really matter. I simply admire them for having the courage to live life on their own terms.

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TWICE THE TEMPTATION BY BEVERLEY KENDALL

Source: iBook won on Ms Kendall’s Release Party

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(The Temptresses #1)

Genre : Historical Romance (Victorian)

Official Blurb

Gentlemen of the ton…prepare to be tempted

Temptation is as old as Adam and Eve. Unfortunately, succumbing to it is as natural as breathing to the gentlemen in the haut ton. For prospective brides bent on fidelity, three of the ton’s most ravishing beauties will help determine the faithful from the philanderers. What they hadn’t counted on was emotional entanglements…

A Temptress in Love

Catherine Rutherford has been smitten with the sinfully handsome American, Lucas Beaumont, since their introduction the year before. And he appears just as enamored of her, for following his return to London he launches a seductive campaign to ensnare her heart and capture her hand in marriage. Never has Catherine been so confident in the outcome of a courtship…that is until she discovers her would-be groom proposed marriage to her sister first.

Although she and her twin share the same face, Catherine refuses to share a man’s affections much less be any woman’s substitute. So with the aid of her twin and two friends, she challenges the man she loves to the ultimate test of fidelity. Posing as her heartbroken sister–who is truly anything but–Catherine seeks his solace from an “unhappy marriage” and begins a tempestuous game of seduction where the true proof of his love lies in his ability to resist her charms.

The Temptresses series is connected to the Elusive Lords series.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★


THE DUCHESS HUNT BY JENNIFER HAYMORE

Source: Bought from Amazon Kindle

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(House of Trent #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Official Blurb

THE DUKE’S DESIRE

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

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

★✩★✩★✩★✩★


THE ROGUE’S PROPOSAL BY JENNIFER HAYMORE

Source: Bought from Amazon Kindle

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(House of Trent #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Official Blurb

Lord Lukas Hawkins, the rakish second son of the House of Trent, has never found a wager he couldn’t win or a woman he couldn’t seduce—until his search for his missing mother leads him to a mysterious encounter with a beautiful stranger.

Luke’s mother has been missing for months, and while his honorable older brother Simon, Duke of Trent, leads the official investigation from London, Luke sets out on a somewhat seedier path. Sources have told him his mother was last seen with a scoundrel named Roger Morton, but their association isn’t clear. Was she kidnapped or did she go willingly?

While searching for Morton, Luke meets Emma Anderson, a secretive beauty with her own reasons for hunting Morton. At first Luke laughs at the idea of allowing a woman to join him in his search, but soon Emma’s insights into Morton—like the woman herself—prove impossible to resist.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

CHARMING THE PRINCE BY TERESA MEDEIROS

Source: Ms Medeiros offered a free iBook download for UK residents

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(Fairy Tales #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (14th Century)

Official Blurb

He never lost a battle until he met the one woman who might succeed in…Charming the Prince.

Dear Reader,

My enemies know me as Lord Bannor the Bold, Pride of the English and Terror of the French. Never in my life have I backed down from any challenge or betrayed so much as a hint of fear—until the war ended and I found myself a reluctant papa to a dozen unruly children.

Realizing that I couldn’t lop their little heads off or throw them in the dungeon, I sent my steward out to find them a mother and me a bride—an attractive, meek, maternal creature too plain to tempt me to get her with child. You can imagine my horror when he returned with Lady Willow of Bedlington, a spirited beauty who made me think of nothing else!

With her cloud of dark curls and the sparkle of passion in her eyes, Willow was everything I’d sworn to resist. I never dreamed she would join forces with those mischievous imps of mine to teach this cynical warrior just how sweet surrender can be.

Bannor the Bold,
Lord of Elsinore

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

OUTLANDER BY DIANA GABALDON

Source: Bought from Amazon Kindle

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(Outlander #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Scotland, 1743)

Official Blurb

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

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Don’t miss this opportunity to get a free copy of Victoria Vane’s awesome THE SHEIK RETOLD!

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(Kellington #2)

Genre: Erotic Historical Romance (Regency)

Official Blurb

A duke’s daughter isn’t supposed to court scandal in Regency England. She isn’t supposed to involve herself in controversial causes. And she most especially isn’t supposed to expect love in a ton marriage. But Lady Elizabeth isn’t just any duke’s daughter. She’s a Kellington. And her expectations are somewhat higher than most people’s.

Marcus Redmond, the Marquess of Riverton, has been in love with his best friend’s sister for years. When Lizzie’s reputation is damaged, he offers her marriage, hoping she will come to care for him. But can the upright, staid Riverton make a love match with the impulsive, passionate Lizzie – especially when there are those who are determined to come between them?

NEVER MISS A CHANCE is a sizzling romance with a touch of humor. It’s the second book in the Kellington series about the Duke of Lynwood and his four siblings. The series started with NEVER A MISTRESS, NO LONGER A MAID.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★

**4.5 Delightfully Entertaining Stars**

I loved this book and I’m really hooked on the Kellington series! Ms Driscoll blends all the right ingredients…a good helping of fascinating family dynamics; a generous measure of appealing characters, a good dash of delicious hotness and a soupcon of intrigue!

Lizzie is everything I adore in my heroines…intelligent, strong-willed, and capable and who could fail to like a heroine with such wit…

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m supposed to meet Rosalind.   I promise we’ll speak only of ribbons, balls and embroidery.   Unless you think even those subjects too controversial, then we’ll simply sit and become the empty-headed chits so clearly preferred by nincompoop men.”

I admire her stand against the equalities in society and determination to effect change by publishing her treatise on women’s rights. I love how she refuses to be intimidated by her brothers, even the overbearing head of the family, the Duke of Lynwood. I did think she was naïve in believing her actions would not earn her the disapproval and censure of the ton but, I did relish the verbal thrashing she gives the waspish-tongued Lady Gwendolyn Bossert in one scene. I also respected her for not wanting Marcus’ political career to suffer because of her reputation.

I felt so sorry for Marcus being saddled with such a dreadful family…a cold, calculating mother and two spoiled, self-absorbed sisters. He can see the sharp contrast between his family and the obvious love the Kellington siblings share.

Who would have thought that Marcus could have such red hot passions simmering just below that staid, predictable and dignified surface? He has loved Lizzie for a long time but, as the sister of his best friend, she is definitely off limits. So the poor guy has to suppress all these erotic thoughts which seem to fill his mind at the most inappropriate moments…

It was most certainly not the thing to have erotic thoughts about a friend’s sister, while supposedly engaged in conversation with the man about her welfare.

When Lizzie decides to discover if the very proper Marcus is capable of passion, she unleashes a sleeping tiger and a scene involving a rather wild interlude on the Duke of Lynwood’s desk… all conducted with her brothers just the other side of the door!  

Although this book is categorised as erotic, I did not find it overly so and have rated it HOT.

What I love about this series is the wonderful sense of family. You know that, despite their bickering, when trouble brews the Kellingtons will make a united stand.

Once again, Ms Driscoll assembles a vivid cast of secondary characters.  I love the banter between the Kellington brothers, Liam, Arthur and Hal, and even the two harpies, as I call Marcus’ sisters, provide some funny moments with their bitchy remarks…

“Get out!” hissed Charlotte.
“Don’t take that tone with me,” said Edith, looking even more frightful than usual.   “I’m hardly the help.”
“I don’t care if you’re the King.   No one disturbs me from my rest.   I value my beauty sleep.   Something you wouldn’t understand
.”

It was nice to meet up with Ned and Jane again (Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid) and their adorable daughter, Vi.

The mysterious Tara Rennard, who finds herself the object of Lord Arthur Kellington’s attentions, and the mystery of what is hidden in the lake provide an intriguing set up for the next book, Never Wager Against Love.

This is a delightful, entertaining romance and I’m really looking forward to spending more time with the Kellington siblings!

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read November 2013

The Kellington series (click cover for more information):

Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid (Kellington, #1) Never Miss a Chance (Kellington, #2) Never Wager Against Love (Kellington, #3) Never Run From Love (Kellington, #4) Never Deny Your Heart (Kellington, #5) Never Turn Away (Kellington, #6)

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