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Archive for December, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I am taking a longer break from blogging this year as I am spending the next few days with my lovely friend, Wendy Loveridge, and the Christmas Holidays with my husband and son.

The blog will be up and running again on 2nd January 2017.

I’d like to thank everyone for their continued support of Rakes and Rascals and I hope you all enjoy the festivities and I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!

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pride-and-prejudice-audiobook

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 Most Jane Austen fans will have read all her work and probably have their favourite amongst them. Almost certainly, one of the greatest favourites will be Pride and Prejudice and one of the reasons for this, I suspect, is the popularity of the 1995 BBC adaptation. There is no doubt that Colin Firth fixed a delicious wet and brooding Mr. Darcy in our minds (although Andrew Davies certainly took some liberties here because Mr. Darcy did NOT come face to face with Lizzie dripping wet!). Then there’s Adrian Lukis, aka Mr. Wickham, the naughty but loveable rogue with a twinkle in his eye, whose character most of us have a secret bad-boy soft spot for.

It’s years since I read Pride and Prejudice but I recently watched the BBC adaptation again (for about the tenth time in the past twenty years). Soon afterwards, I was lucky enough to receive the audio version performed by Alison Larkin, and all I can say is WOW! This one-woman show is simply outstanding and I’m so glad I was able to watch and listen within a short period of time, enabling me to make a fair comparison. For pure spine tingling romance (with no important bits missed out), humour, wit, satyr and astute dialogue, the Alison Larkin audio version wins hands down.

There is no point in reviewing the book in detail… a) because of the above and… b) because it’s the most well-known of this author’s work and has already been reviewed hundreds of times. I will, however, mention some of the characters, but that’s mainly in relation to the narrator’s performance of them.

For instance, Alison Larkin’s execution of the oily, obsequious Mr Collins is sheer genius. Hilariously funny but excruciatingly cringeworthy, it had me chuckling like a loon! He actually has a much larger part in the book but much of the brilliant mordacious dialogue was lost in the screen adaptation.

The venom, jealousy and downright meanness of Mr. Bingley’s sister, Caroline, is so well executed that I clearly felt her antipathy towards Lizzie and her hypocritical, lets-be-friends attitude to Jane.

The difference between the two elder Bennet sisters is well done too; Jane, gullible and believing the best of everyone – even the vitriolic Caroline – and all the while keeping her own emotions well hidden. It was clear to me why Mr. Darcy thought her feelings were not engaged in respect to his great friend, Bingley, which, of course, was the beginning of the big misunderstanding.

Then there’s bright, vivacious Lizzie whose character I have always loved. She sees people and their actions with eyes wide open, and is brought to sparkling life by this talented performer.

Even after reading/listening /watching Pride & Prejudice on numerous occasions and knowing what the contents of the letter contained, I still felt the deep emotion as Alison Larkin movingly reads – in her Darcy voice – that man’s explanation of his actions regarding Jane and Bingley, and his very justified (as it turns out) treatment of Wickham.

There is a fair amount of inner dialogue throughout, which is clearly and concisely conveyed. A good example is Lizzie’s crumbling prejudices and her changing attitude to Darcy, mostly conveyed through her inner musings. Her interest in him grows by degrees as she sees and learns more about the man and her feelings change, first to reluctant liking, then admiration and finally to bone-melting love. It takes an extraordinary performing talent to differentiate between verbal dialogue and inner dialogue without a need for explanation and Alison Larkin has that talent in spades.

When the five sisters are together and in conversation, she conveys with subtle nuances and tone exactly who we are listening to. Amusing and witty, we could be sitting at the dining table with them, listening to their gossip and being asked to “pass the potatoes”. Finally, with regard to individual characters, one of the stars of the show is, in my opinion, the outrageously silly, Mrs Bennett. She has lost the love and respect of her indolent husband in the early years of their marriage and consoles herself with one-upmanship over her female neighbours, especially in her quest to see her five daughters well married. There is a certain bitter sweetness to her character because, although she means well, she goes about it in such a ridiculous manner that she only earns her husband’s further derision and embarrasses her two eldest daughters. This is one of the areas where Alison Larkin’s outstanding talent shines because she artfully conveys the sadness beneath the silliness in a way that it’s possible for the listener to feel sorry for Mrs Bennett whilst still wishing she would just shut-up!

It’s hard to believe that Jane Austen wrote her books two hundred years ago, and therefore we are seeing Regency life through the eyes of someone who actually lived it. She was a satirist and an extremely tongue-in-cheek observer of people and her funny, witty and insightful outlook on life is only really captured in the complete unabridged version of the book. Add into the mix the extraordinary voice and talent of Alison Larkin and we have a recipe for success. If she’d been here to choose, I reckon that Ms. Austen would have selected Ms. Larkin to perform her wonderful stories. For anyone out there who has only ever watched the (even shorter) films or the abridged BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, read the book or even listened to another audio version, I urge you to experience this superior rendition. I promise that you will not be disappointed.

The three Regency songs added to the end give us a taste of what it would have been like to be actually in attendance and listening in the drawing room while genteel young ladies entertained us and their regency audiences. Alison Larkin has a pleasing singing voice to add to her many talents and I very much enjoyed this addition and we are also treated to her comedic talents as she cheekily propositions Mr. Darcy in between songs. I must say – as it always strikes me when listening to this narrator – that she has a ‘smiley’ voice and always sounds as though she is enjoying herself immensely, which is quite infectious and always makes me smile.

MY VERDICT: There is a reason why Alison Larkin has been selected for the ambassadorship of Jane Austen’s work and, after you have listened to her, it will become abundantly clear why. Highly recommended.  


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

 

**I received a free copy of this audio book in return for an honest review. ** 

 

 

 

 

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wicked-rivals

(League of Rogues, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A LORD WITH LEGENDARY CONTROL…

Merciless and powerful, Ashton Lennox is a wealthy man because he puts business before everything else, especially love. As a member of the infamous League of Rogues, he’s no stranger to scandal. His bedroom conquests are as legendary as his fortune. As he searches for a way to bring down an old enemy bent on destroying the lives of his friends, the last thing he needs is a Scottish widow getting in his way.

A FIERY WOMAN WHO WON’T BACK DOWN…

The daughter of a Scottish lord with a dark and treacherous past, Rosalind Melbourne has spent years distancing from her past. After escaping her tyrannical father and marrying an aging English lord, she has become a powerful widow with a business empire at her command. Her business dealings are everything to her, leaving her no time for love. Especially not with her business rival Ashton, a man with a scandalous reputation as striking as his blue eyes.

A GAME OF WITS TURNS TO A GAME OF SEDUCTION…

Ashton is fascinated by the strong-willed, intelligent and sensual lady who, up until now, had outsmarted him at every turn. Rosalind wishes she could deny she is falling for the brooding, handsome baron. How can she possibly trust him when doing so could cost her what she values most—her freedom? When Ashton discovers Rosalind might hold the key to saving the League of Rogues, he knows he will do anything to woo his wicked lass. As their pasts return to haunt them and dark forces rise to keep them from exposing a deadly spymaster, their game of love turns to a game of survival…

Warning: This book includes a brooding baron who’s wild in bed, a crafty Scottish lass who never knows when to quit, a wicked game of strip chess, and a merry band of rogues whose first instinct is to run when they hear wedding bells ring.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the fourth book in Lauren Smith’s wonderfully entertaining League of Rogues series. Three of the rogues have succumbed to the parson’s noose and now the same fate awaits Ashton. Meanwhile their adversary, Hugo Waverly, continues to plot his revenge against the League members.

Ashton Lennox has always put his family first and has done everything to care for and protect them.  When his father died in scandalous circumstances, leaving the family socially and financially ruined, young Ashton returned home and worked hard to rebuild both the family’s wealth and social standing in society.

I admire Ashton for his devotion to his family, particularly as they have never fully appreciated everything he has done, especially his mother. Her reaction was to tell him that his need for money and power made him just like his father. Her cutting words left him hurt and angry and his relationship with his mother has been one of icy coldness from then on and he rarely goes home.

Apart from his family, the League is the most important thing in his life. As the oldest member, he feels a duty to protect the other members and is the most cool-headed of them. Ms Smith always writes the camaraderie between these men so well. Despite the witty banter, the close bond that exists is evident to see and, when danger threatens, they will always be there for each other.

When it comes to running his business, Ashton is ruthless, controlling and determined. That is how he has built up his wealth.

He had learned how to make men do his bidding with a cool stare and an imperious tone.

But, for the past several months, a certain Lady Rosalind Melbourne has been outmanoeuvring him on several of his deals. He also suspects that Hugo Waverly is using Rosalind’s companies for some nefarious reason. To find out, he needs to get control of the company’s books and records and so he buys up Rosalind’s debts and arranges for the banks to stop her credit, thus controlling her and her business. However, unaware of the real reason for Ashton’s actions, Rosalind is furious and determined to face him.

Anger and panic rippled through her, dueling for dominance. That damned bloody Englishman. She wanted to strangle him, but the truth of her situation was dire. He had full control over her and was toying with her the way a cat would a mouse. Something had to be done.

Rosalind grew up with an abusive father and three brothers. Her brothers did their best to protect her from their father’s brutality, but, after one particularly bad beating, she runs away from home. After stumbling into a tavern, she meets the elderly but kind Lord Melbourne who immediately marries her. He teaches her about business strategies and banking and instills in her the confidence and knowledge she needs to successfully run Melbourne, Shelly and Company which she inherits after his death. She is now in control of her own life and enjoys the mental challenges of running the companies. She has no desire to remarry and lose the freedom to choose her own destiny and I could understand why she is so furious with Ashton. She fears losing everything she has strived for and revealing the vulnerability which lies beneath her tough business-like exterior

…two reluctant hearts starved for love and yet afraid to grasp at it.

At first, Ashton is unwilling to trust Rosalind. She is far too cunning and just as ruthless as he is. Rosalind sees Ashton only as a cold, calculating business man but this does not stop the attraction that simmers between them. I like how their time spent together at Ashton’s estate allows them to view each other in a very different light; to see the real person they hide from the world.

Rosalind is surprised by Ashton’s kindness in opening his home to simple farm folk when their homes are burnt down and by her discovery that he can be sweet and playful.

This side of him caught her off guard. Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined the cool, collected man to be so… playful.

I love how, once he discovers the abuse Rosalind suffered, Ashton wants to protect, care for and spoil Rosalind and give her the happiness she deserves. He also finds he enjoys being with an intelligent, free-thinking woman with whom he can enjoy interesting conversations. He had always thought he wanted to marry a woman who was sweet and would bow to his judgement but perhaps…

It would be quite a stimulating experience to be married to Rosalind and share his life with her. They could ride, plan business decisions, even take long walks in a pleasant silence together.

Look out for the game of “strip” chess when Rosalind gambles not only her future but her clothes too!!

There is a point where a Happy Ever After seems imminent but, of course, Ashton’s deception raises its ugly head and Rosalind understandably feels betrayed. To complicate matters further, Rosalind’s burly brothers decide to “rescue” her from Ashton’s clutches but, of course, everything comes right in the end.

Hugo Waverly continues to plot his revenge with the help of spies and it was shocking to discover just how close to the League these spies are. For the first time, the League have evidence to expose Waverly but circumstances force them to make a difficult choice.

There are many intriguing secondary characters, among them is League member Charles and I think I have an inkling of the identity of his heroine (there again, my guesses have been known to be way off the mark). The Jonathan/Audrey (Cedric’s hellion sister) and the possible Brock (Rosalind’s brother) and Joanna (Ashton’s sister) pairings should prove entertaining.  Charles’s servant, Tom Linley, has always been an enigma for me but even more so now, given the disclosures in this book.


MY VERDICT: After I’ve finished a book in this series, I always find myself eagerly waiting for the next one. If you enjoy great characters
and the right blend of romance, humour and action, then I can recommend this entertaining series.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

League of Rogues series so far (click on the book cover for more details):

Wicked Designs (The League of Rogues, #1) by Lauren Smith His Wicked Seduction (The League of Rogues, #2) by Lauren Smith Her Wicked Proposal (The League of Rogues, #3) by Lauren Smith Wicked Rivals (The League of Rogues, #4) by Lauren Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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george-wickham

It has taken a while for broadband to reach Regency England. Yet, with a fair wind, full sail and a just a little bit of steam, Mr George Wickham finally finds himself in possession of the means with which to make the acquaintance of the good folk of the 21st century!

It is my pleasure to meet the readers of the good Mistress Cork’s almanac of literature.

I understand that, somehow, this unremarkable old soldier has enjoyed some level of infamy over the decades but it is not for me to delve into such matters. Instead, in keeping with the salon hosted by the estimable Mistress Cork, I should like to take you on a literary journey.

Novels, it has been said, are the root of much evil, of fanciful women and dissolute men, of youngsters lost to bacon-brained wanderings that squander their education on the witterings of authors who have known little of the world. I, however, do not subscribe to such thoughts.

Now, I know better than anyone that there’s many an untruth told in novels, but let us not dwell on such matters. In recent weeks, I was asked by a most charming lady what my favourite book was in boyhood. Did I, she wondered, prefer the outdoor life to the printed page? Was I ever one to pick up a tome, or might I be more likely found dipping for tadpoles or galloping through the grounds of Pemberley on the finest steed in the stables?

She was surprised to read that I was a keen reader.

Nay, voracious.

What then, did I read?

Myths.

Bring me myths, and I was happy; tell me of Hercules, of Zeus, of Jason, and let me roam the land and tell my own tales. With my friend and brother, the erstwhile Darcy, the paddocks became Olympia, the rose garden transformed into Hesperides and The kitchens, full of heat and steam and racket, were our Tartarus. The hallways of Pemberley became the labyrinth and through it we would stalk after whichever poor domestic we had selected to be our minotaur, two carefree boys lost in our own world of make-believe.

And what of Mount Olympus?

What of that place where the gods might sit, might know all that there was to know?

My good friend Darcy never scaled Mount Olympus, but I did regularly. It was better known as the older Mr Darcy’s study, where one might happen upon the finest brandy a lad could hope to find. Indeed, after a nip of that, any boy might believe himself a god.

Now, to enter the Temple of Aphrodite, one had a good few years more to wait. Indeed, I had left boyhood far behind by that halcyon day. It is not a memory for a page such as this, however, one dedicated to the pleasures of boyhood, so I will draw a tactful, gossamer veil over that day. After all, Aphrodite is only my dearest Lydia now, there is no other goddess tempting me into her temple.

And so, dear reader, I bid you adieu. Perhaps you might take a moment to dip back into the myths yourself, and recall those tales of wonder and magic. Never forget, however, that the brandy tastes better atop Olympus.

 

 

George Wickham’s papers are transcribed at Austen Variations   by Catherine Curzon, a royal historian who writes on all matters 18th century at www.madamegilflurt.com. Her work has been featured on HistoryExtra.com, the official website of BBC History Magazine  and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austens Regency World. She has provided additional research for An Evening with Jane Austen at the V&A and spoken at venues including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, Lichfield Guildhall and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.

Her books, Life in the Georgian Court, and The Crown Spire, are available now.

She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life: www.madamegilflurt.com

Mr Wickham’s Memoirs: http://austenvariations.com/author/catherine-curzon/

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