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Archive for April, 2015

“I like holding it at the base.”

It’s too long for you,” he insisted, “which is why you pull your swing just before you hit the ball—”

“I like a long bat,” Lillian argued, even as he adjusted her hands on the willow handle. “The longer the better, as a matter of fact.”

A distant snicker from one of the stable boys caught her attention, and she glanced at him suspiciously before turning to face Westcliff. His face was expressionless, but there was a glitter of laughter in his eyes.

“Why is that amusing?” she asked.

“I have no idea,” Westcliff said blandly, and turned her toward the pitcher again.”

(Lillian Bowman and Marcus, Lord Westcliff)

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Source: Purchased from Amazon Marketplace

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Miss Charity Duncan has no illusions when she agrees to the marriage proposal of Lord Anthony Earheart. The arrogant aristocrat makes it painfully clear what he wants from her. Will Charity agree to be the wife he needs to enrage the father he hates? Of course. Will Charity then depart from his life in return for the money she and her family desperately need? Of course. Is Earheart as heartless as he is handsome and as remorseless as he is rich? Of course.

It is only when Charity enters into this mockery of a marriage that she discovers that things are not as simple as they seemed at first. For when the libertine lord takes her in his arms, it is not only their contract that threatens to be broken, but her heart as well….

This is quite an old Mary Balogh book published in 1997 and I had to send to the USA for it.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

Genre: Contemporary Murder Mystery

Cover Blurb:

It’s never too late for revenge …

Fifteen years ago Natalie found her sister lying dead in a lily pond. Now she’s written a book based on the murder. In every interview she gives, she talks about the diary her sister kept, which lists her lovers under code names.

Natalie’s intention is to lure the murderer into the open but, as she’s about to find out, you can’t pick and choose which secrets are revealed – and which ones stay hidden.

Because when the first of her sister’s ex-lovers is killed, it doesn’t take Natalie long to realise she’s not the only one out for revenge.

So who will catch the murderer first? And who will end up being caught?

Nemesis is a murder mystery with a little bit of romance and humour.

I do read the occasional murder mystery and the author lives in Wales too.

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(The Spies of Mayfair, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

King George sends his private investigator, an Irishman, Kieran Flynn, Lord Montsimon, on a mission, the reason for which is unclear. Is it a plot against the Crown? Or something entirely unrelated? Flynn’s inquiries lead him to the widow, Lady Althea Brookwood. Known amongst the ton as a rake, Flynn is rarely turned down by a lady, and when Althea refuses not just him but many other men, he becomes intrigued. After her neighbor, Sir Harold Crowthorne informs Althea that he means to take her country property, Owltree Cottage, by fair means or foul, she must search for help. The first man she turns to is promptly murdered and the second lies to her. That leaves Flynn, Lord Montsimon, a man she has been studiously avoiding. But Montsimon is decidedly unhelpful, and more than a little mysterious. Her only option is to seduce him. Althea has little confidence that she will succeed, especially as before her husband was killed in a duel, he often told her she was quite hopeless at intimacy. When a spy is murdered, Flynn wonders just what Althea knows and what her involvement might be with the man the king wants Flynn to investigate.

♥♥♥♥

This is the third book in The Spies of Mayfair series. Once again, Maggi Andersen pens an entertaining romance set against a background of intrigue.

Flynn

Flynn was born and raised at Greystones Manor, the family home in County Wicklow, Ireland. After his mother ran off with her lover, he was left in the care of his father, a drunkard with a violent temper. He understood why she had left his father but not why his mother had left him behind. He was condemned to a miserable childhood without parental love, only relieved when he was sent away to be educated in Dublin. As soon as he was old enough, Flynn turned his back on his father and Ireland and left for England. He soon gained a reputation as a rake but is also employed as a highly valued spy for the King George IV.

Flynn is surprised when the beautiful, widowed Lady Brookwood refuses his advances. Women usually fall at his feet, so he is intrigued by her. When he discovers that the lady is in danger, it stirs protective instincts he has never felt for any woman before and emotions he has always kept under control.

Althea

Althea was married at seventeen, a marriage arranged by her father. She wanted to make the marriage work, only to be met with nothing but callous treatment from her husband. She takes no pleasure in his lovemaking and, when he accuses her of being cold and unresponsive in bed, she comes to believe that the fault lies with her. After her husband is killed in a duel, she enjoys her freedom and has no wish to remarry or take a lover. She has no intention of being subject to another man’s will ever again.

So Althea is determined to resist Lord Montsimon, however handsome and charming he may be. However, when he is adamant that she is in danger and insists on protecting her, she begins to see that he is much more than his rakish exterior suggests

Every time Flynn spoke, I could hear that soft Irish burr in my head. Add to that his easy charm, his sense of humour and his willingness to take in a stray, “not at all handsome” dog called Spot and how could I not adore him?  When he and Althea are forced to share a bedroom (all very innocent), he has rather a unique way of dampening his ardour…

…he began to recite the lines of Coleridge’s The Ancient Mariner under his breath.

I liked Althea as well. I understood her desire to be independent and admired her determination to solve her own problems. However, once she is aware that the danger is real, Althea is sensible enough to appreciate having Flynn around.

A vision of Montsimon replaced her anguished thoughts, his compelling grey eyes, his elegant features, and the confident set of his shoulders. She was suddenly terribly pleased to have him as her friend.

I liked how the romantic relationship between Flynn and Althea grew slowly, from their initial, verbal skirmishes…

“Are you deaf? Put me down!” She struggled to free herself.
“Can’t I’m afraid. At your present snail’s pace, my lady, we would be lucky to reach the carriage by breakfast.

….to the genuine friendship that developed between them and falling in love seemed a natural progression as they come to like and trust each other.

There are some amusing moments when Althea and Flynn have to pose as husband and wife and Flynn’s rakish tendencies come to fore.

“You can’t go about the house like that! Don’t you have a nightshirt?”
He tucked his arms beneath his head. “Don’t use ’em.”
You might have made an exception,” she said crossly while inspecting his wide chest.
“Now it’s your turn,” he invited with a lazy, seductive grin.
She put her hands on her hips. “You are not going to watch me.”
“I rather thought I would. There’s a dearth of entertainment in the country. Even the newspapers are old.”

I cheered for Althea when she decides to consummate their relationship and finally dispels all her fears of intimacy.

The letter from Flynn’s mother was so poignant but it helped him lay the ghosts of his past to rest and it was such a lovely touch that his mother should provide the solution to the remaining obstacle in his path to marrying Althea.

I thought the mystery aspect was rather weak but it was secondary to the charming romance anyway. I did enjoy seeing previous heroes Guy, Baron Fortescue ( A Baron in Her Bed) and John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn ( Taming a Gentleman Spy), Flynn’s former associates and friends, who provide extra muscle when it comes to tackling the villains.

I like how real historical figures and events are woven into the story giving an insight into the personal and political machinations surrounding King George IV’s reign.

My verdict: A delightfully entertaining story.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read April 2015

The Spies of Mayfair series (click on the book cover for more details):

A Baron in Her Bed (The Spies of Mayfair) by Maggi Andersen Taming a Gentleman Spy by Maggi Andersen What a Rake Wants by Maggi Andersen

 

I would like to thank the author, Maggi Andersen, for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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(School of Gallantry, #7)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

History just got sexy as hell…

Long before becoming the flamboyant courtesan known to men as Madame de Maitenon, Thérèse Angelique Bouchard, dreamed of becoming an actress capable of commanding not only the stage but all of Paris. Until she meets an extraordinary aristocratic gentleman who sweeps her into his arms and the danger of his life, while offering her the sort of wealth she never imagined. What starts off as a seductive alliance, ends in her giving him the one thing she, as a mere bourgeoisie, cannot afford to give: her love.

After the murder of his older brothers, Gérard Antoine Tolbert, becomes the last heir to the powerful dukedom of Andelot, leaving him to fight for not only his life, but the allegiance he holds for the crown. During the final rise of the French Revolution that whispers of the violent change about to shake the entire country, Gérard meets an aspiring actress who entices him into wanting more out of not only himself but life. In trying to protect her from their overly passionate alliance and those that want him dead, he must decide what matters most: his life or his heart.

WARNING: This book contains strong language and sexual content that respectable people may deem offensive to their good character.

 

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Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Now published together for the first time: Loretta Chase’s beloved novellas Lord Lovedon’s Duel from the Royal Bridesmaids anthology and The Jilting of Lord Rothwick from the Royal Weddings anthology…

In Lord Lovedon’s Duel, Chloe Sharp is prepared to protect her family’s name, even to the death. When she hears the handsome Earl of Lovedon say her sister’s royal marriage is a match made in money, she challenges him to a duel—for love and honor.

When the Marquess of Rothwick learns his fiancée, Barbara Findley, has broken off their engagement in The Jilting of Lord Rothwick, he rides out of London immediately to seek her out… and to win her back.

It also includes a sneak peak from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes coming in January 2016

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Source: Complimentary copy received from the author in return for an honest review

(The Heart of a Duke, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Lady Imogen Moore hasn’t had an easy time of it since she made her Come Out three Seasons ago. With her betrothed, a powerful duke breaking it off to wed her sister, she’s become the tons favorite piece of gossip. Never again wanting to experience the pain of a broken heart, she’s resolved to make a match with a polite, respectable gentleman. The last thing she wants is another reckless rogue.

Lord Alex Edgerton has a problem. His brother, tired of Alex’s carousing has charged him with chaperoning their remaining, unwed sister about ton events. Shopping? No, thank you. Attending the theatre? He’d rather be at Forbidden Pleasures with a scantily clad beauty upon his lap. The task of chaperone becomes even more of a bother when his sister drags along her dearest friend, Lady Imogen to social functions. The last thing he wants in his life is a young, innocent English miss.

Except, as Alex and Imogen are thrown together, passions flare and Alex comes to find he not only wants Imogen in his bed, but also in his heart. Yet now he must convince Imogen to risk all, on the heart of a rogue.

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Source: Giveaway prize

(Loring-Abbott Series, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Elinor Abbott was only 14 years old when she and her father left England for America. Six years later, with war at their doorstep, she is forced to return to her land of birth and a life amongst the aristocracy she abhors. A return to England also means facing the man who brutally attacked her as an adolescent. Viscount Easton came to the United States at the behest of His Majesty’s Army, for his last assignment. He was sent home early due to an injury and must face his new destiny as the heir to an earldom. An unexpected encounter with the unrefined beauty links Easton and Elinor together in society, and he must decide whether to save Elinor’s reputation or hold on to bachelorhood. Can Elinor navigate the perils of coming out in aristocratic England and still retain her sense of identity? Can Easton help her overcome her aversion to men or will her past keep her from facing her future?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Source: Giveaway prize

(The Marriage Game, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Haunted by her past, Lady Caroline Martindale fled England for the solace of her godmother’s palazzo in Venice. But if Caro was hoping to escape the charms of marriage-minded men, she’s come to the wrong place. And she’ll resort to extreme measures to spurn the advances of a dangerously determined Venetian marquis…

Though most of his friends have married off, Gervais, Earl of Huntley, remains bent on eluding the parson’s mousetrap. But his convictions begin to falter when he arrives in Venice and meets his match in the alluring Lady Caro. What began as a hastily concocted lie to save her from the marquis may become a chance for them both to relinquish their fear – and embrace what they can no longer deny…

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Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(A.R. CRIMSON ALSO WRITES AS RENEE BERNARD)

Genre: “This Modern Penny Dreadful has it all!”

Cover Blurb:

This is a Scorching Tale and Not for the Seeker of Mild Romance!!

Captain Lucien DeVair, known as the Sea Devil, was the most feared pirate of his age but also the most desired by every wench in his path. Unfortunately after bedding a jealous sorceress, he and his ship and crew are cursed to forever sail without making landfall. After over three centuries, Lucien is more than ready to see an end to his punishment and to taste the delights of a willing woman.

When spoiled sorority girl, Shana Turner, takes a tumble off the deck of a cruise ship and lands on a garbage drift, it’s fairly clear that fate has taken her down a peg or two. But when she is rescued by an insane albeit sexy man who thinks he’s the Sea Devil sailing around the Caribbean on a vintage ship manned by zombies…It’s a twist this blonde bombshell just didn’t plan on.

Lucien quickly comes to believe that this new modern version of a witch may prove to be his way out of the curse. It’s a sexual race to the finish because while Shana enjoys the delicious way he tries to convince her to break the spell that keeps him at sea, his patience is bound to wear thin. It’s a fantasy that can turn into a nightmare but for now, she likes having the Sea Devil in hand. (And on top, and from behind, and in the rigging…)

**
HOT romance and humor collide for a wild ride! This Modern Penny Dreadful has it all! Pirates, Sorority Girls, Zombies and the surprising erotic games to be found aboard a cursed ship trapped in the Bermuda Triangle when all hope is lost. Seriously fun and deliberately crafted to be an entertaining read like no other–A.R. Crimson defies description and delivers a tale you’ll never forget!

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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(Jaded Gentlemen, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

After the darkness of a dungeon in India, artist Josiah Hastings dreamt of returning to a world lush with color—only to discover that years of imprisonment left his eyesight weak and failing. So when the fiery beauty of Miss Eleanor Beckett appears in his vision amidst the bleak grays of a London winter, he knows he’s found his muse and one last chance at a masterpiece.

Once a spoiled and exultant girl, Eleanor is struggling to survive in a city where men prey upon her. Saving her from assault and ruin, Josiah will pay her a fortune to sit for a painting. To restore her life, Eleanor must risk her reputation modeling for an artist without a chaperone—and try not to lose her heart to a man with dark secrets and unseen enemies…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the fourth book in the Jaded Gentlemen series and, as always, Ms Bernard captivated me with her authentic story, intriguing characters, witty dialogue and sensual romance.

Josiah Hastings has one wish before his eyesight finally fails – to paint a masterpiece that will bring him immortality – but he has found “nothing to stir his soul” and give him the impetus to paint. He has become guarded and reclusive and his pride prevents him from admitting that his eyesight is failing even to his closest friends, the fellow Jaded. Only Dr. Rowan West manages to wheedle the truth out of him but, as a physician, he is sworn to secrecy. When Josiah rescues Miss Eleanor Beckett from being kidnapped and worse, he knows he has found his muse.

In a world of fog and fleeting shadows that haunted his vision, she was color. A living, breathing pillar of all his senses longed for – a muse of beauty that defied science and logic.

Orphaned and penniless, Eleanor Beckett is forced to take a job as a seamstress in Madame Claremont’s dress shop. She suffers the harsh conditions and long hours because the work is at least considered respectable for someone in her position. Respectability is the one thing she values above all else. However, events threaten that very respectability when she is rescued from a would-be kidnapping and assault by Josiah Hastings – a painter who offers her a huge amount of money if she will sit for a painting. It means a life she once knew…one of security and comfort…too tempting to refuse but Eleanor will have the last word.

“I’m not taking off my…” She swallowed hard, unsure of how a person delicately addressed the subject of nudity with such a man. “I won’t pose without…”
“I’ll not ask you to remove a thing against your will.” His brown eyes blazed hotter than the embers of a fire. “And if that is you last objection, I take it that your answer is…”
“Yes.”
God help me. Yes.

I felt that Ms Bernard’s portrayal of Josiah’s impending blindness was realistic. I could see the grey and black clouds that swirled across his vision and I could feel his anger and humiliation each time he stumbles or falls. He is a complex man, trying to come to terms with the reality of his situation but still clinging to the last vestiges of his pride.

“It’s pride. I’m too proud and it’s a sin, but I want to stand as an equal in the eyes of the Jaded for as long as I can. I don’t want pit. I just want to be myself and paint and enjoy what’s left to me. I walk about London each afternoon and I am my own man, Rowan.”

I love how the main focus of the book is on the developing relationship between Josiah and Eleanor. Watching the prim and proper Eleanor letting go of her inhibitions was delightful.

“I have but one question, Mr Hastings.”
He warily opened one eye. “And what is that?”
“As to etiquette – how soon can a person reasonably request you do that again?”
It was his turn to laugh before he kissed her, a gentle, reverent gesture that reignited and renewed the bonds between them. “Give me a few minutes to rest my eyes and I’ll see if I can’t demonstrate a satisfactory answer, Miss Beckett.”

I sometimes wanted to knock some sense into Josiah for keeping the truth about his blindness from Eleanor for so long because he doesn’t want to be a burden to her. This causes some misunderstandings between them but, of course, love will always find a way.

He loved her. She loved him. Where was the problem? The path looked crystal clear.

The love scenes are highly sensual but written with tenderness and humour as well. My only criticisms are that the occasional purple prose creeps in and one of the scenes came as a total surprise and seemed very out of character.

Ms Bernard gathers together some memorable secondary characters.

~~ despicable Madame Claremont who is well and truly humiliated by Josiah.
~~ Mrs Clay, the owner of The Grove guest house where Eleanor rooms, who is like “ a large, benevolent fairy godmother”.
~~ deaf, mute Tally, Mrs Clay’s “adopted son” who is a real sweetheart.
~~ Josiah’s loyal, elderly servants, the creaky-boned Mr Escher and his gruff wife who, according to Josiah, is “…as sweet as a kitten when you get to know her.”

The other Jaded Gentlemen make an appearance as they complete plans to flush out their enemy, the Jackal, but the mystery very much takes a back seat to the romance in this book. There are some dramatic events towards the end of the book and the Jaded discover that the Jackal may not be their only enemy.

My verdict: Captivating, romantic, witty and lusciously sensual!

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read April 2015

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

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

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(Wicked Wagers, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

To live happily ever after…

Henry St. Giles, the Earl of Cravenswood, longs to find his soul mate. Now that his two best friends, both reformed rakes, are happily married, the need becomes an obsession. When they challenge him to find a wife by the end of the season or marry his neighbor, the innocently alluring Lady Amy Shipton, he can’t believe his luck. He wins, either way. But in a darkened garden, a case of mistaken identity, a drunken kiss, and a dropped emerald earring, leads Henry on a Cinderella hunt. He knows the woman he held in his arms could be the one he’s searched for all his life. He just has to find her.

Lady Amy Shipton is determined to marry for love instead of sharing her husband like her mother did. So why did she let her handsome neighbor and romantic fantasy, known as the Sinful Saint for his bedroom prowess, seduce her in his garden? And what can she do when in the middle of their passionate encounter; he whispers another woman’s name. Now Henry is hunting the owner of the earring Amy left behind, and she’s determined to retrieve it before her identity is revealed. She’s not about to give her father the ammunition he desperately wants in order to force her down the aisle.

♥♥♥♥

This is the final book in the Wicked Wagers series and I was really looking forward to the pairing of two of my favourite secondary characters from the previous books, Henry and Amy. Sadly, the romance didn’t work for me and I was left disappointed.

What I did like:

Both Henry and Amy were very likeable characters.

Henry is a contradiction because, although a rake, he is honourable and kind, dubbed “the archangel of their group” by his friends. It was also refreshing to have a hero who believes in love and longs to find his soul mate as both his friends have. He feels the grief over his older brother’s death and the weight of his responsibilities as Earl of Cravenswood, a role that should never have been his, fall heavy on his shoulders.

Amy is not only beautiful and intelligent but also kind-hearted. She has been in love with her neighbour, Henry, since she was fifteen but he has failed to notice that she has grown into a beautiful and desirable young woman during the intervening years. Amy grew up knowing that her father loved his “other family”(his mistress and illegitimate children) more than her mother and herself. She does not want a marriage like her parents and will only marry for love. She knows her father wants to marry her off as quickly as possible so he can spend more time with his “other family”.

There are some memorable scenes such as the amusing one where Amy is looking for her missing earring in Henry’s garden and to allay his suspicions she says she is looking for her escaped guinea pig “Tinkles”. It was easy to conjure up a wonderful picture of Henry crawling around the rose bush getting scratched by thorns looking for the imaginary “Tinkles”!

The other scene that particularly comes to mind is where Amy is searching Henry’s room for her missing earring and has to hide under the bed when he unexpectedly enters the room. Suffice to say, she sees more than see bargained for!

I also like how Amy and her father are finally reconciled when he seeks her forgiveness and offers some fatherly words of advice.

What I didn’t like:

I didn’t like the way in which the presence of Henry’s ex long-time mistress, Millicent, pervaded the story and was used to cause the conflict between Henry and Amy. It totally soured their romance for me. One minute Henry is bemoaning the fact that he misses Millicent and the next he’s all randy over Amy. The fact that Amy looks so much like Millicent didn’t sit well with me either. The final straw was when Amy discovers that Henry still has a painting of Millicent on his study wall 18 months after she left him for another protector. His excuse that he’d forgotten it was there was just so unbelievable to me. At that point, I could totally share Amy’s doubts that Henry truly loves her. Another reviewer wrote that she felt Henry and Amy deserved a much better story and I have to agree.

This book has garnered many good reviews but it just didn’t work for me and I think readers will have to make their own minds up.

REVIEW RATING: 3/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read March 2015

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

To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield (Wicked Wagers, #1) by Bronwen Evans To Wager the Marquis of Wolverstone (Wicked Wagers, #2) by Bronwen Evans To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood (Wicked Wagers, #3) by Bronwen Evans

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