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Genre: Erotic Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Married young to a man hand-picked by her father, Elizabeth Petre is an ideal Victorian lady. She has borne two sons and endured sixteen years of selfless duty in a passionless marriage. Craving a man’s loving touch yet loyal to her wedding vows, Elizabeth is determined to seduce her coldly indifferent husband. She knows of only one man who can teach her the erotic secrets of love.

The bastard son of an English countess and an Arab sheik, Ramiel Devington was reared to embrace both Western culture and Eastern pleasure. Scorned by society and challenged by prim Elizabeth’s request, he undertakes her instruction in the art of sensual delight. But when the lessons become a temptation neither can resist, Elizabeth is forced to choose between obligation and a bold, forbidden passion.

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I discovered Robin Schone by reading some well written reviews almost by accident, and was intrigued. Erotica is not a genre that has ever interested me but having started this novel I became fascinated. This is not a smutty, kinky, shallow tale, but rather a deeply dark, sensual love story with some very serious ‘goings on’ – this tale is not for the faint hearted.

Elizabeth Petre is a wife and mother, her husband an influential high ranking and ambitious politician. Dutiful and supportive of her husband and his aspirations, she is nevertheless dissatisfied with her loveless, passionless marriage. Living in Victorian England with its double standards, narrow minded attitudes and lack of women’s rights, Elizabeth has little hope of improving her lot in life and then, through the ton’s grapevine, she hears rumours that her husband has taken a mistress. She is desperate to seduce him back to her bed in any way she can.

Lord Ramiel Safyre is the base born son of an Arab Sheikh and an English Countess. Renowned for his bedroom talents but scorned and slighted for his race and bastardy, Ramiel is a lonely man, longing for someone to accept and want him for himself rather than his sexual prowess. Elizabeth approaches Ramiel and surprises him by asking him to tutor her in the ways of pleasing her husband in bed. This is a novelty to Ramiel, having never encountered a woman who is unselfishly anxious to pleasure a man. Privately, he wonders what it would be like to be wanted by a woman in such a way.

Ramiel agrees to Elizabeth’s request and the tutoring begins using an erotic manual, written hundreds of years previously, and known as The Perfumed Garden of the Sheikh Nefzaoui. Elizabeth has specified that she will not be unfaithful to her husband and so the tutoring is done by words alone. How this is achieved is sensually erotic, sexy and utterly captivating. This is where I thought I would feel uncomfortable, but I didn’t. Ms. Schone uses this erotic dialogue to expertly to grow the relationship between the unbelievably naive Elizabeth and the sensual but deeply honourable Ramiel. The air is sizzling and it is not long before attraction begins to grow between them.

There is no physical interaction between these two compelling characters until well into the second half of the book. In the meantime, there is a darkly dangerous background story emerging, in which Elizabeth’s very life is endangered. There is a shocking culmination, which I did not see coming and which some readers may be repulsed although I wasn’t. I feel it thoroughly describes the Victorian era, with its ridiculously draped table legs but conversely, the hypocritical, darker sexual predilections of some members of society.

I was slightly uncomfortable with the very graphic descriptions of the actual sexual acts which is rather unreasonable on my part given that it is an erotic historical romance. I did love the slow unraveling of Elizabeth and her low self-esteem as she learns to become comfortable in her own skin, with the delicious Ramiel teaching her how to be a sexy, desirable woman at last.

My only real criticism with the writing is the inclusion of American words which certainly would not have been used in Victorian England…words such as ‘gotten’, ‘fall’ and ‘block’, but worst of all ‘fanny’ which means something completely different in England! It is a pity that Ms. Schone did not employ an English reader to correct this otherwise very well written novel

MY VERDICT: I was fascinated by this unusual and earthy story and it is a pity I had to be picky. Nevertheless, 4.5* rounded up to 5* for a sensual, darkly compelling tale.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SIZZLING

 

Read June 2014

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Genre: Historical Romance (18th Century – 1743)

Cover Blurb:

Jacobite Intrigue and Romance in 18th Century Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, Yuletide 1743, and Redcoat officer Robert Catto would rather be anywhere else on earth than Scotland. Seconded back from the wars in Europe to captain the city’s Town Guard, he fears his covert mission to assess the strength of the Jacobite threat will force him to confront the past he tries so hard to forget.

Christian Rankeillor, her surgeon-apothecary father and his apprentice Jamie Buchan of Balnamoon are committed supporters of the Stuart Cause. They’re hiding a Jacobite agent with a price on his head in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, a hanging offence.

Meeting as enemies, Robert and Kirsty are thrown together as allies by the mysterious death of a young prostitute and their desire to help fugitive brother and sister Geordie and Alice Smart. They’re on the run from Cosmo Liddell, bored and brutal aristocrat and coal owner.

As they pick their way through a labyrinth of intrigue, Robert and Kirsty are increasingly drawn to each other. She knows their mutual attraction can go nowhere. He know his duty demands that he must betray her.

Bringing to life a time when Scotland stood at a crossroads in her history, Gathering Storm is the first in a suite of Jacobite novels by Scottish writer Maggie Craig, author of the ground-breaking and acclaimed Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45.

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I loved this magnificent, fast paced, brilliantly researched novel of 18th century Edinburgh. Full of political intrigue, conspiracy, deception, murder and even secret dissections, it’s darkly creepy and fascinating but with a touch of spine tingling romance.

This is a story about people believing themselves to be in the right of it; the Jacobites determined to win independence for Scotland, no matter the cost, committed supporters of the Stuart cause and their opponents, the soldiers and politicians of the English crown, equally resolute and tenacious.

Ms.Craig begins with a bang. I could hear the click of boots on the cobbled streets as the soldiers march through the echoey, empty, dank and dark roadway.

“Robert Catto swept out through the Bristol Port and wheeled left. Adjusting his steadying grip on the hilt of his sword, he proceeded to cover the newly-cobbled causeway behind Edinburgh University at a fast and loping stride.”…and…”Bringing his right hand up to the side of his head, he splayed his long fingers so everyone would be sure of seeing the signal to stop. As he came to a graceful halt, spinning round on the balls of his feet to face the men, the soft folds of his cloak billowed out around him.”

These opening sentences completely set the scene for what is to follow. Redcoat officer, Captain Robert Catto of the despised Town Guard, is on a mission. He has been summoned from front line duty in Europe and promoted to Captain by Duncan Forbes of Culloden, the Lord President. Culloden is a humane and honourable man whose only agenda is the peace and prosperity of his beloved Scotland. He has seconded Robert Catto to carry out a covert mission – to assess the strength of the Jacobite threat under the auspices of Captain of the Town Guard.

Much of the intrigue is centred around Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary where Christian (Kirsty) Rankeillor lives and works with her father, a much respected Professor, surgeon and apothecary. They are Jacobite sympathisers along with Professor Rankeillor’s apprentice, Jamie Buchan of Balnamoon. Robert Catto is aware that unlawful dissections are taking place in the dead of night in the Infirmary. He uses this knowledge as a cover to enter and search the premises, frightening the women of the Rankeillor household in the process. Finding evidence of a clandestine meeting, Robert suspects Christian and her father of hiding a Jacobite agent with a price on his head, and is duty bound to root out this traitor to the crown.

The story proceeds with Robert and Kirsty aware of a growing and unwanted attraction between them but on opposing sides, each determined to succeed; Kirsty to help the agent to escape and Robert to stop this happening at all costs. I love Robert’s character…honourable and charismatic, but entirely human, no chocolate box hero. Kirsty is a feisty, loyal and beautiful young woman but unusual in that she has been treated as an equal by her father and is not afraid of the dead or the dissecting of them for medical science. Their growing love for each other is apparent, but does not overshadow the serious subject, that of Scotland at a crossroads in her history – a time for action, one side wishing to throw her into civil war, the other to avoid this if at all possible.

There are many twists and turns with the death of a young prostitute, bestial behaviour by some of Edinburgh’s young and wealthy spoilt aristocrats, political intrigue and clandestine meetings. All combine to make this a thoroughly enjoyable, intriguing, and fascinating story. Maggie Craig is a historian of repute as well as a talented writer and her meticulous research and love of her homeland clearly shows. I have recently completed the first two Outlander novels and it’s difficult not to compare the two writers. The fact that Gathering Storm has been written by a Scot, who knows her subject by simply living and breathing it, is obvious. Even the language used could only have been written by someone in the habit of using and hearing this vernacular every day…loved it.

I can’t wait for the next book in this series and I’m hopeful that Maggie Craig can also persuade her publisher to employ the fabulous actor, Lesley Mackie, to narrate this powerful tale as she did with her poignant and beautiful novel, One Sweet Moment. Gathering Storm with its evocative and turbulent background set in 18th century Edinburgh, would benefit from Ms Mackie’s intuitive and talented reading of it – a dream team indeed.

 

Footnote: added 8 June 2015

Having just listened to the newly released audio version read by James Bryce, I loved it all over again. In the end, it was decided that a male Scottish actor would do justice to the myriad of characters in this wonderful feast of a novel. Maggie Craig’s stunning story is vividly brought to life by this talented actor, who interprets perfectly the many nuances of the Scottish language.

I was at first unsure that Mr. Bryce could do justice to the delectable Robert Catto and, if I have a criticism, it is that James Bryce does not have a youthful enough voice for Robert Catto. Nevertheless, Maggie Craig’s story is so wonderful that I lost myself in the story and forgot all about my reservations over Bryce’s portrayal of Catto. At first, the young officer comes across as an unfeeling, cynical, sarcastic man who puts duty over all else. However, by degrees his softer side and his conscience emerge and his interaction with Kirsty Rankeillor and his wee cook boy, Geordie, shows his softer side and this is expertly captured by James Bryce.

Ms.Craig’s admiration for Duncan Forbes of Culloden is evident in her portrayal of him and James Bryce’s representation of him captures this admiration. His deep, cultured voice with its Scottish intones is immediately recognisable – without the necessity for explanation – in his clandestine dealings with Captain Catto. As for the female members of Professor Rankeillor’s household – well the housekeeper is just hilarious! Bryce brings to mind a fussy, bossy little bantam hen. The depiction of the drawling, supercilious, spoilt Cosmo Liddell, one of Edinburgh’s dissolute elite, is impressive and the members of the town guard, with their mixture of accents, from the highlands to the lowlands, young and old alike, is perfection. But one of the real highlights for me was when the Professor, in a flashback, was explaining the facts of life to an eleven-year-old, motherless Kirsty… poignantly sad but sweetly funny at the same time.

MY VERDICT: I’ve said it above, but I really cannot wait for the next book in this fascinating series. 5 mega stars! Can you tell how much I loved it?

 

REVIEW RATING:  STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Read November 2014

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(The Survivors’ Club, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Six years after being severely wounded in the Peninsular Wars as a cavalry officer, and three years after leaving Penderris Hall in Cornwall, where he had stayed with his fellow Survivors during his long road to recovery, Ben finally admits to himself that he will never be able to walk properly again or resume his old way of life. But he feels adrift. Although he is a wealthy man and owns a profitable estate, his brother has been running it for him with great efficiency and Ben cannot summon the will to oust his brother and family. The trouble is, though, he does not know what else he is going to do with his life. He decides to spend some time with his married sister in the north of England while he makes some plans and decisions.Samantha McKay is a recent widow. Her husband died after suffering for several years from battle wounds, and she is feeling drained and empty, for he would allow no one to nurse him but her and he was a demanding patient. It does not help that her sister-in-law has recently come to live with her and has very strict ideas on what is proper—and improper—for a widow to do. And the sister-in-law is fully backed by her autocratic father, who lives far away in the south of England but who nevertheless owns the house in which Samantha lives.

Ben and Samantha meet for the first time when he is out riding and jumps a hedge, narrowly missing coming down on top of her after she and her dog have left the confines of her own park, unknown to her sister-in-law. It is not an auspicious beginning to their relationship, though later they forge something of a friendship, cut short when Ben fears to embroil her in gossip and possible scandal. But her father-in-law judges her unfit to live without male supervision anyway and summons her south to live with him. Samantha chooses rather to escape to Wales, where she owns a dilapidated hovel of a cottage left her by her mother, though she has never seen it. Ben, the only one in whom she confides plans, insists upon escorting her there. And so they escape together into a new world and a new life with new discoveries and challenges and possibilities—and new temptations.

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What a fabulous, classy storyteller Mary Balogh is. She never disappoints and her story lines are original, interesting and captivating. This particular series is so addictive;  six men and one woman, all affected in some devastating way by participation or connection with the Napoleonic war.

This is the third in the series and Ms. Balogh has cleverly reminded us of the involvement of the others without boring, long winded explanations. There are quite long periods between publication of each of The Survivor’s stories and she tells us just enough to remind us of the surrounding circumstances.

This is Major Sir Benedict Harper’s story. Having suffered debilitating injuries, mainly to his legs, he is determined to walk and make a life for himself outside of the Army which was his love. What to do to utilise his military skills is the question. Benedict (Ben) has mastered horse riding again and, whilst out riding on his sister’s estate, he jumps a high hedge unaware of the heavily veiled, black clothed widow sitting on the ground on the other side. Antagonistic towards each other to begin with, Ben’s innate good manners drive him to make his apologies and he discovers the lovely young woman beneath the widow’s weeds.

Ben becomes embroiled in Samantha McKay’s troubles and , after their second meeting, the rapport between them is instantaneous and develops into an attraction that escalates over the coming months. Married at 17 to a dashing Military man, Samantha ends up nursing her complaining, demanding husband after he suffers life threatening injuries in the same war. Finally widowed after 6 years of nursing, she craves freedom and ‘escape’, especially from her autocratic and aristocratic in laws. Samantha decides to make her escape to Wales where she has been willed a cottage by a maiden aunt, which, as far as she knows, could be in ruins. Anything is better than the life she is now living. Honourable Ben offers his services as her escort to the wilds of South Wales.

These two characters are utterly wonderful. Honourable, charismatic and brave, Ben’s injuries only add rather than detract from his attraction. Warm, vital, and vivacious, Samantha, a breath of fresh air to Ben, sees the man beyond the crippled legs.

Mary Balogh is a native of Wales and it shows…I know Tenby and her wonderful description of the place and people transports me to a place I love. There are no bored, aristocratic rakes or mention of Regency ballrooms. The only ball is a Christmas gathering of all the local people – mistletoe, a waltz – totally heart-warming.

Written in Ms. Balogh’s usual fluent, original writing style, I enjoyed this wonderful, witty tale so much.  A well-earned  5 stars.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

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(The Survivors’ Club #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

The Survivors’ Club: Six men and one woman, all wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendship forged during their recovery at Penderris Hall in Cornwall. Now, in the fourth novel of the Survivors’ Club series, Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, has left this refuge to find his own salvation—in the love of a most unsuspecting woman…

Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was devastated by his fiancée’s desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back—and everyone is eager to revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who, in a panic, runs straight into the arms of a most sensible yet enchanting young woman.

Agnes Keeping has never been in love—and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage.

When Agnes discovers that the proposal is only to avenge his former love, she’s determined to flee. But Flavian has no intention of letting his new bride go, especially now that he too has fallen so passionately and so unexpectedly in love.

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This series just gets better and ONLY ENCHANTING is another winner. Mary Balogh’s years of experience show, but instead of running out of ideas, her novels just get richer, more empathetic and entrancing. How has she managed to come up with the diversity shown in this series alone? Each story is different; each character endearing, charismatic and loveable and definitely worthy of his (the men so far) happy ever after.

This is Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby’s story. Rich, bored, cynical and handsome, he is nevertheless a very unhappy and unfulfilled man. Enter plain…at least on first sight…Agnes Keeping, widowed and virtuous. She believes passion and love have no place in marriage. In spite of this, at the ball given by her friend Sophia, wife of Vincent, Lord Darleigh, a fellow survivor, she is completely captivated by Flavian after dancing with him on two occasions. Flavian, on the other hand, prepares himself to be charming but bored. Instead he finds himself enchanted by this no frills, sweet, young widow with a sense of humour and no guile.

Flavian has suffered devastating injuries in the Napoleonic wars and is rescued in the nick of time and carried off to the home of George, Duke of Stanbrook, in Cornwall. Here his terrible head injuries can heal in the company of others with horrific injuries of their own. Supporting each other through the healing process, The Survivors Club becomes the salvation for all seven members. However, they cannot save each other once they finally face the world again, forever changed to their families and loved ones. Flavian’s life threatening head wounds have healed, at least on the outside. He still suffers from memory loss, severe headaches and temper outbursts brought on by frustration at his inability to remember huge chunks hovering just out of range, tantalisingly close. He knows something devastating happened, but can’t catch it from his subconscious. It is all somehow wrapped up with his ex-fiancé Velma, who ended their betrothal on his return from the wars, to all intents and purposes a madman. Now that he is, at least on the surface, recovered, Velma would like to resume their relationship as she is recently widowed. Both her parents and his family support the match but Flavian has other ideas.

Mrs Agnes Keeping is the object of Flavian’s attention. He can’t explain to himself why he must marry her, he just knows she makes him feel safe. Eventually he wears down her misgivings and they marry by special license. Agnes is, against her better judgement, madly and deeply in love with Flavian and they enjoy a close and loving relationship until she discovers his previous relationship and feels he has married her simply to wreak revenge on his ex-fiancé Velma. Her gut reaction is to leave him but Flavian has discovered that Agnes is much more to him than ‘safe’ and does all in his power to keep her by his side.

Agnes decides to stay and her love and care slowly help Flavian to unlock the secrets of his mind. He in turn helps her to face her own demons; those same demons that insist that passion has no place in marriage.

Mary Balough has crafted another fabulous page turner from her talented pen. The other characters of the Survivors Club are in attendance, though slowly finding peace and love. I’d love to see George settle down. He is the saviour of this group of damaged human beings, offering them help and refuge, and should definitely find his own HEA. I do hope it will be Agnes’s elder sister Dora who captures George’s heart.

Again for pure entertainment value and originality, a resounding 5 stars.

REVIEW RATING: 5 /5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


The Survivors’ Club series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Proposal (The Survivors' Club #1) by Mary Balogh The Arrangement (The Survivors' Club #2) by Mary Balogh The Escape (The Survivors' Club #3) by Mary Balogh Only Enchanting (The Survivors' Club, #4) by Mary Balogh Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club, #5) by Mary Balogh Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) by Mary Balogh Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7) by Mary Balogh

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I have reviewed both the book and audio versions.

(Scoundrels, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

DETERMINED LADY

Tough-minded Jessica Trent’s sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain’s reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction …

LORD OF SCOUNDRELS

Damn the minx for tempting him, kissing him … and then forcing him to salvage her reputation! Lord Dain can’t wait to put the infuriating bluestocking in her place — and in some amorous position, And if that means marriage, so be it! — though Sebastian is less than certain he can continue to remain aloof … and steel his heart to the sensuous, headstrong lady’s considerable charms.

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The prologue told me what a fabulous read this book would be, the best opening I have ever read and it just got better. Poignant, witty, funny, romantic but with a deep sadness running through that pulled at my heart strings.

Sebastian Ballister, the Marquess of Dain is a large, dark, angry man to the outside world. On the inside he is a small, ungainly, ugly child with a large ‘Usignolo’ nose; unwanted and unloved he is sent away by his autocratic, unloving Father to Eton at the age of 8. His Italian Mother from whom he has inherited his dark and unusual looks has apparently deserted him and his Father hates him because of her. The small ugly boy learns to fight the hard way, he is bullied and beaten by his fellow pupils and the only way he can win is to best them in all things. Not only does he earn their respect but becomes their leader and this sets the scene for the rest of his life.

As he grows to manhood he thumbs his large nose at his Father and the rest of the world until a chance meeting with Jessica Trent in an antique shop in Paris turns his dissipated world upside down; and the first evidence that he may have a heart instead of a block of ice becomes apparent. At first, he only recognises this as lust as Jessica is not his usual style; she in turn is deeply attracted to him. Until then she has always been independently single and happy to be so.

Jessica Trent has come to Paris with her unconventional grandmother Genevieve, who encourages her towards Dain. The visit to Paris has been arranged so that Jessica can extricate her dozy brother from the big, bad Dain, whose circle of friends Bertie has managed to inveigle his way into. Completely gullible and easily led, he idolises and follows Dain – being too slow witted and thick skinned to realise he is being fleeced, ruined and ridiculed by ‘Beelzebub’….the popular nickname Dain is known by….and his crowd of equally dissipated friends.

The meeting in the antique shop is extremely amusing. The spark between Dain and Jess is immediate; they fence intellectually…he is impressed by her knowledge, beauty and repartee and she with the big handsome darkness and intelligence of him. Dain has only ever consorted with whores and this is a new experience for him. Beautiful, intelligent, desirable AND a lady, Jessica has Dain completely at a loss and what follows is the slow crumbling of his strongly fortified defences.

As well as a beautiful love story, it is also a very moving tale of a deeply tormented small boy who grows into manhood showing the world the worst side of him; the small, frightened boy is still there but deeply hidden. He wants his peers to view him as big bad and dangerous and they do. Jessica Trent perceptively sees beyond that facade and deep into his soul. She is the angel, albeit feisty and managing, who will be his salvation. To her, he is a beautiful, big handsome man, not the clumsy, loathsome brute he believes himself to be… unlovable, unwanted and heart wrenchingly vulnerable.

This book has been around for a number of years and it has been my good fortune to have found it…better late than never. I completely understand why it has topped the ‘All About Romance’ top 100 on and off since its release. I cannot do this wonderful, moving story justice in a review. Ms. Chase has penned a darkly perceptive, beautiful love story. Even the plot, which centres around a Russian Icon, is original and interesting and, in itself, is all tied up with Vain’s vulnerability.

The growing of Vain into the man he becomes, with the understanding and help of Jessica, is cleverly achieved. There are just a few small ‘American’ slips which I am willing to overlook in view of the quality and entertainment value of the writing.

A wonderful page turner and I have now downloaded the audio version on recommendation so that I can enjoy it all over again! This was my first Loretta Chase and will certainly not be my last. 5 well deserved stars. Thanks to Carol and Caz for helping me find this treasure.

AUDIO VERSION

I must add further to my complete and utter appreciation of this wonderful book…this time the audio version, narrated expertly and entertainingly by Kate Reading. I stand by everything I have previously said, but can now add what an absolutely wonderful audio version this is. The hurt and vulnerability hiding deep within the outwardly large, arrogant and supposedly beastly Dain has been brought to life by Kate Reading’s sensitive emphasis of it in an empathetic and deeply moving fashion. In fact, it is so tangible that it actually brought tears to my eyes. The instant attraction between a bewildered and immediately infatuated Dain, and the attractive, clever, determined and independent Jessica is sexy and addictive.

Ms. Reading captures every single character in the most flawless manner. Even the wild Dominic’s childish, foul mouthed and impish tones are pitched exactly like a small, confused but naughty child. There is never any doubt who is talking, even when in a group situation. Her male and female tones are perfection…Dain’s deeply arrogant drawl; Jessica’s, pert confidence and faultless tone of voice, no matter what her emotion at the time. Oh and Dain’s delicious Italian murmurings….sighs!

Can you tell I absolutely LOVED it! One of the very best I have ever read and listened to. A must read and if you can listen you are in for a magnificent treat. This is one I shall keep for ever and trot out whenever I need to lift my spirits. I know there are a few who don’t like this novel but I just don’t get it!

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STELLAR STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Scoundrels series (click on the book cover for more information):

The Lion's Daughter (Scoundrels, #1) by Loretta Chase Captives of the Night (Scoundrels, #2) by Loretta Chase Lord of Scoundrels (Scoundrels, #3) by Loretta Chase The Mad Earl's Bride (Scoundrels, #3.5) by Loretta Chase The Last Hellion (Scoundrels, #4) by Loretta Chase

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(Castles Ever After #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Your presence is requested at romantic Twill Castle for the wedding of Miss Clio Whitmore and . . . and . . . ?

After eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She’s inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.

Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother—even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.

So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride’s cold feet?

● He starts with flowers. A wedding can’t have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.

● He lets her know she’ll make a beautiful, desirable bride—and tries not to picture her as his.

● He doesn’t kiss her.

● If he kisses her, he definitely doesn’t kiss her again.

● When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.

● And no matter what—he doesn’t fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.

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I LOVE Tessa Dare’s books! They are romantic, sexy, funny and full of wonderful characters that always capture my heart. I was totally captivated by SAY YES TO THE MARQUESS from start to finish.

LORD RAFE BRANDON

Rafe Brandon was a black sheep. A hotheaded rebel. The Devil’s Own. He was known throughout England for being quick, crude, strong, dangerous.

I love that, beneath that tough exterior, Rafe hides a tender, vulnerable heart . As a boy, he longed to be the sort of son his father could love. He wanted to be studious and level-headed like his older brother, Piers. Someone his father could be proud of. But Rafe was big and rough and, by nature, impulsive and unruly, preferring outdoor pursuits to studying. Finally, things came to a head with his father and he was banished from the house. He is forced to make a life for himself and prizefighting gives him that chance and provides the discipline he has always lacked.

MISS CLIO WHITMORE

“I quietly declared my own independence. I am the sovereign nation of Clio now. And there will be no terms of surrender.”

I love this determination she has to grasp her independence and live her own life and inheriting Twill Castle means she doesn’t need the security of marriage anymore. She has learnt a lot about herself during the past eight years and knows her own capabilities. I love the idea of her opening a brewery and her wide spectrum of reading during the lonely eight years has provided her with the necessary knowledge. Unlike so many heroines, she is curvaceous and I hated her mother for so cruelly trying to mould Clio into something she isn’t.

Clio and Rafe had such wonderful chemistry and watching their romance unfold was an absolute delight. It was funny, poignant, romantic and sensual and here are just a few of my favourite moments.

“And for every crusading knight who won a tournament for his lady in this castle, I promise you— there were a hundred men who spent a solid decade scratching themselves and having pissing contests from the ramparts.”

“I’m a faithful, drooling little thing you want to keep alive, so Piers can come home and pat me on the head. Toss me a biscuit, perhaps.”

The image erupted in his mind’s eye, as unbidden as it vivid. Clio. Breathless. Naked. Under him. Stripped of all good manners and inhibitions. Begging him to learn her every secret shade of pink. Rafe blinked hard. Then he took that mental image and filed it away under pleasant sounding Impossibilities. Right between “flying carriage” and “beer fountain”.

They kissed and kissed, as the rain fell around them. It was so absurdly romantic, Clio thought her heart would burst.

We’re going to drape her in silks. Drown her in flowers and fancy cakes, until she’s giddy with bridal excitement.

In that moment, Clio looked inside her heart. It was the clearest glimpse she’d ever had. She saw the entirety of her future. Their future . The castle, the brewery . Children. Christmases and Easters and summer rain.

“Clio, you are . . .” Sensual, alluring, voluptuous. “Beautiful.”

As always, Ms Dare delighted me with a lively cast of secondary characters. There is “Sir Coxcomb and Lady Featherbrain” alias Daphne, Clio’s snobbish, overbearing sister and her husband, the preening, obnoxious prig, Sir Teddy Cambourne; smart, quirky Phoebe, Clio’s youngest sister, who sometimes says the most outrageous things; Bruno Aberforth Montague, Esquire alias Bruiser, Rafe’s trainer, who kept me thoroughly entertained with his capers; Piers, Rafe’s brother, who was certainly a surprise and definitely worthy of his own book. Last but not least, Ellingworth, the squattest,oldest, ugliest bulldog ever, who had me cheering when this happened…

“Oh.” She clapped a hand to her mouth. “Oh, dear.” Evidently she wasn’t the only one who’d mistaken Daphne for statuary.
Ellingworth was urinating on her foot.

Once again, Tessa Dare enchanted me with her beautiful writing, her heart-warming stories, her endearing characters and her brilliant humour.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read December 2014


Castles Ever After series so far (click on the cover for more details):

Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1) by Tessa Dare Say Yes to the Marquess (Castles Ever After, #2) by Tessa Dare

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(The Westruthers, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

Can an Indecent Proposal

Eight years ago, a tall, handsome stranger entered Lady Alexandra’s bedchamber and consummated a marriage of the utmost necessity. The Marquis of Steyne had agreed to wed and bed Lord Brute’s admittedly lovely daughter to pay off his mother’s gambling debts. But once the deed was done, Steyne’s lawfully-wedded wife vanished into the night…

Lead to Everlasting Love?

Years later, Steyne has nearly forgotten about his runaway bride. But when he suddenly finds himself in need of an heir, he has no choice but to track her down. Living happily in a small village under an assumed name, Alexandra is surprised to see her husband—and to feel such a strong attraction to him. But she is downright shocked when he asks her to bear him a son. How can they possibly repeat the heated encounter of their ill-fated wedding night…without falling hopelessly in love?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Throughout this series, I have been intrigued by the cold, cynical Xavier. Such an enigmatic character and the surprise ending of The Greatest Lover Ever held lots of promise for his book but I was really disappointed.

I was fascinated by the destructive relationship between Xavier and his mother. Nerissa’s machinations are central to the story and it was interesting to see Xavier’s ambivalent attitude towards her. Despite everything, he had always felt the need to protect her.

Try as he might, he could not entirely eradicate the last vestige of chivalrous instinct where Nerissa was concerned.

I liked Lizzie. She had sufficient backbone to run away from her brutal father and make a new life for herself in Little Thurston. Her sunny disposition and caring nature were a perfect counter to Xavier’s darkness.

My main problem was that the romance between Xavier and Lizzie just didn’t work for me. I felt there was a lack of any deep emotional connection between them.  Given the malignant influence of his vicious, narcissistic mother, I could understand why emotionally Xavier was such an “impenetrable fortress” but I didn’t like the way he blew hot and cold towards Lizzie, seducing her one minute then being autocratic and distant the next. I  couldn’t believe that, in no time at all, Lizzie was falling in love with him. There was no building of any relationship between them to convince me because, before their eight year separation, the only time they spent together was their wedding night when Xavier was so impersonal and detached.  The romantic element in their relationship seemed sadly missing…no tender or truly romantic moments. Yes, there were some steamy love scenes but, to me, they lacked that element of intimacy that I look for.

There were some interesting plot twists but I felt the climax verged too much towards the melodramatic.

On a positive note, I loved the secondary characters, especially Xavier’s cousin, Viscount Lydgate and Lizzie’s friend, Clare Beauchamp and perhaps there is romance in the air for these two in the next book.  The other Westruther cousins and their wives and characters from Ministry of Marriage series make a welcome appearance. This helped boost my rating from 3 stars to 3.5 stars.

I loved the first two books in this series and I hope that, in Viscount Lydgate’s book, Ms Brooke will recapture some of the magic that made those books so enjoyable.

REVIEW RATING: 3.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read December 2014
The Westruthers series so far (click on the book cover for more details):

London's Last True Scoundrel (The Westruthers, #1) by Christina Brooke The Greatest Lover Ever (The Westruthers, #2) by Christina Brooke The Wickedest Lord Alive (The Westruthers, #3) by Christina Brooke

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(A Lady Forsaken, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A Lady Shunned by All…

Lady Viola Oberbrook only wanted to forget the ill-fated early morning duel that took the lives of two young, wealthy, promising men of the ton and sent her fleeing for her father’s country estate. Eight years later, she has her life in order: a fulfilling business, a few trusted friends, and no plans to return to London society. What she doesn’t expect is to come face to face with her past.

A Lord Betrayed by One…

Brock Spencer, Earl of Haversham, only wants vengeance. Recently returned from his military service to the King, his plans include repairing his family estate, finding a bride, and destroying the girl responsible for the untimely death of his twin brothers. What he doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with the only woman who should never be part of his future.

An Impossible Match, Destined to Be…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was my first book by Christina McKnight and, although I found certain aspects disappointing, overall I enjoyed this emotive story of tragedy, revenge, betrayal, love and redemption.

I liked Ms McKnight’s use of the Prologue to show the 17 year old Viola as a foolish, shallow, selfish young girl. Moving forward eight years, this forms a sharp contrast to the hard-working and caring woman she has become.  Everything she does reveals just how much she has changed. She values simplicity over extravagance; she fears that should her true identity become known, it could disrupt her life and affect those who depend on her; she supports a children’s orphanage and the scene in the orphanage shows so clearly her care and compassion.

I really felt for Viola especially when she is writing the letter to Brock… pouring her heart out.

She wrote of regrets – not only of her girlhood mistakes, the tragedy of her first season, but also all she knew that would never be hers. The words flowed across the page, filled with sorrow, sadness, and sacrifice.

Brock feels overwhelming guilt and grief because he failed in his obligations to his family. He chose to join the military instead of staying to support his father in his time of grief and take care of his half-brothers who were foolhardy and reckless. He had also let his best friend, Harold, down.

…his friend had been left with a man who’d continually and without mercy crushed Harold’s will. His friend had needed him, but Brock had been too concerned with his own troubles to be bothered. He’d not only run from troubles at home, he’d abandoned his best friend when he’d needed him the most.

When Brock first meets Viola at Foldger’s Foals, he is not aware of her true identity and is attracted to Lady Posey Hale, the woman he believes her to be. So when he discovers her true identity, I liked the conflict within him.

The sweet girl his foal seemed to adore was indeed the cold-hearted wretch responsible for his family’s demise. How could they be one and the same?

I enjoyed the gradual pace of the romance between Viola and Brock to the point where they are able to put their pasts behind them but then I felt cheated because, the next minute, I was reading the Epilogue! I wanted to spend time with them, watching their love grow and blossom but this was a case of “telling” me rather than “showing” me.

The last month had passed in a haze of euphoria and disbelief. The euphoria was the love she saw in Brock’s eyes every time he looked at her.

I wanted to see what happened during that month. I wanted some of those lovely tender, romantic moments that make you sigh and believe that the hero and heroine are truly in love. There was some consolation in the delightful Epilogue.

I liked Viola’s best friend, Ruby and Brock’s best friend, Harold.  They are both loyal  but not afraid to voice their opinions when needed. I also enjoyed the banter between Brock and Harold. I have to mention Abby, the little orphan girl, who steals every scene she’s in.

Despite my disappointment with the romance side, this book still has a lot to commend it and I definitely want to read Ruby and Harold’s story in FORGOTTEN NO MORE.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

Read December 2014

A Lady Forsaken series (click on book cover for more details):

Shunned No More (A Lady Forsaken #1) by Christina McKnight Forgotten No More (A Lady Forsaken #2) by Christina McKnight Scorned Ever More (A Lady Forsaken, #3) by Christina McKnight – 15 March 2015

 

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

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