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Posts Tagged ‘4½ Stars’

Genre: Historical Romance (Medieval – 11th Century)

Cover Blurb:

A shared secret from their past could destroy their future…

Northumbria, 1077. In the years following William the Conqueror’s harrying of the North, Lady Alfreya of Tyrswick returns to her family home after seven years in exile. But instead of returning victorious as her dead father had promised, she returns defeated by Baron Sebastian de la Croix, the Norman who rules her lands.

To save her gravely ill brother’s life, Alfreya offers herself hostage to her enemy. As Alfreya gets to know her new husband, she finds he’s not the monster she feared, and their marriage of convenience soon becomes a bond of passion. But Sebastian is a man with a secret—one that could destroy him.

As a series of brutal murders haunt their nights, the man who betrayed Alfreya’s father returns claiming to be her betrothed. He has learned Sebastian’s secret and will use it to further his own ambition—using Sebastian’s own family—which will destroy Sebastian and mark him a traitor, and plunge an unprepared England into war with the Scots…

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Set during the years following the Norman Conquest, Warrior’s Surrender isn’t my usual reading fare but I thoroughly enjoyed this masterful blend of action, romance and intrigue.

I like how the events of the Prologue are to have far-reaching consequences later in the story.

While Sebastian is everything I would expect of a conquering Norman lord…powerful, proud, strong and courageous, he is also just and compassionate. These qualities have earned him not only the loyalty of his own men but also the respect of the people of Tyrswick.

Bold, strong-willed and passionate, Frey is the perfect heroine for Sebastian. She commands her men with the temperament and strength of a warrior but I also saw a softer side in her obvious love for her young brother Brice and her concern for her men’s safety.

I enjoyed watching the romance developing between Sebastian and Frey. The initial mistrust and antagonism seem realistic given the circumstances but there is a real sense of the attraction simmering between them. I like how Ms Carter allows us to see Sebastian’s compassion and tenderness and I especially love the scene where he gives Frey’s brother a kitten. It was easy to understand why Frey falls in love with him. It was refreshing to see them openly admit their love for each other…a love that remains strong.

There is plenty of action and even a touch of the supernatural which adds an interesting layer to the story. Ms Carter gathers together an interesting cast of secondary characters but the one who really stands out is the villainous, cunning and truly diabolical Drefan …a formidable enemy indeed.

Ms Carter’s extensive historical research is evident in the details that are subtly interwoven throughout the story. They brought this turbulent period vividly to life for me.

My Verdict: A compelling tale of honour, passion, love and betrayal. Definitely recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read June 2015

**My sincere thanks to Elizabeth Ellen Carter for sending me with a copy of this book in return for a honest review.**

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(Fiery Tales, #4)

Genre: Erotic Historical Romance (17th century – set during the reign Louis XIV’s Reign)

Cover Blurb:

Inspired by the tale of Rapunzel, Lila DiPasqua offers a new steamy, emotionally charged historical romance in the acclaimed Fiery Tales Series . . . Rescuing this beauty from the ‘tower’ is only the beginning . . .

Maintaining her ruse as a commoner, and trusting no one has kept Angelica safe. But a chance encounter with a handsome stranger lands her right where danger lies. Now, this sinfully handsome man with arresting blue eyes and a polished manner thinks he’s saved her life, when in fact he’s placed her in great peril. She’s intent on keeping him and everyone else at arm’s length. Yet, the smoldering attraction between them is difficult to deny. And impossible to ignore . . .

As commander of a number of privateer ships, Simon Boulenger dresses and speaks like an aristocrat, and has obtained wealth. But he is still not a noble. Or an officer in the King’s Navy. His lifelong dream to elevate himself from his station of birth and attain a respectable place in society is dead. Worse, he’s ensnared in a deadly scheme, and must get out. But how is he to stay focused on his dangerous mission when the mysterious beauty has him utterly intrigued? He can’t afford the distraction any more than he can resist the carnal hunger she stirs. Simon soon discovers that she’s not only a passionate soul mate, but a woman born into privilege. A woman he can never have. But they’re in too deep. Their hearts are at risk . . . as well as their lives.

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As with all the Lila DiPasqua books I have read, UNDONE is filled with compelling characters, sizzling love scenes, suspense and a passionate romance.

Simon is the sort of tormented hero I love. He is full of self-condemnation having realised that, in blindly pursuing his own driving ambitions to rise above his lowly origins, he had closed his eyes to what was happening to his own people…. ‘the destruction and devastation’. His life is a mess and he feels tainted by his association with the corrupt Superintendent of Finances, Fouquet.

Everything he’d done for his country and king, everything he’d worked for was now tainted. In blood.

Simon is an honourable man, willing to sacrifice his dream in order to save his men and bring Fouquet to account for his actions. His compassion shows in his condemnation of slavery and the way he has provided a home and work for so many desperate people.

He’d brought many families to Marguerite, at first only the crewmen’s families, then later, anyone who was in dire straits. He gave them employ in the fields. He gave us an opportunity to survive rather than to die in France.”

He is also just and fair when judging complaints brought before him. I love how cleverly he resolves the charge brought against Angelica by Père Crotteau.

Anglica is gentle and compassionate but also strong and courageous. It is that inner strength that enabled her to escape her loathsome step-father’s clutches ten years ago and find sanctuary within the walls of a convent.

She still bears deep emotional scars and a belief that no man could ever want someone like her. She has never been able to share her dark, shameful secret with anyone, even her close friend, Gabrielle. I love how Angelica demonstrates not only her compassion but also her bravery when she confronts the schoolmaster she sees brutally beating a young boy.

Instinctively, she swung around and struck him with an open palm across his face. “Don’t touch me! I am not one of these helpless children you enjoy mistreating.”

The sexual tension between these two is definitely explosive. Angelica finds Simon exciting and his mere touch stirs her senses while Simon is drawn to Angelica’s beauty, decency and bravery but their journey to a happy ever after is strewn with obstacles, not least their own closely guarded secrets. It was rewarding to watch Simon gradually demolish the walls Angelica has built around herself with his compassion, acceptance and understanding, inspiring her to take risks and find happiness and how Angelica makes Simon see the noble man he truly is.

“…you have sought to gain nobility, but you are noble. You don’t want to be ordinary, but you never have been. You wish to be exalted, but in the eyes of so many, you are.”

Be warned! The love scenes are very graphic and the language explicit and, if I have one complaint, it’s that they seem rather repetitive in content.

I really like Robert d’Arles, the nobleman who saved Simon from the streets and has always treated him like a son. He is an honourable man, willing to offer Angelica the protection of his name. I couldn’t help but feel heart-broken for Simon and Angelica when circumstances conspire to keep them apart but neither of them is willing to betray Robert. His word to Simon really touched my heart.

“You were my only family…You have made me proud…Raising you into the man you are today has given me a sense of purpose and fulfilment in my life…Simon…there is no limit to what a man can achieve except the limits he places on himself…

Fouquet is a formidable enemy but his downfall rests with his sheer arrogance in underestimating the young King Louis.

Although I love the Regency era, the setting of 17th century France was refreshingly different. Ms DiPasqua brings to life all decadence and political intrigue of the Royal court and the inclusion of real-life figures like Fouquet and Louis XIV adds an extra level of authenticity to the story.

The Epilogue gathers everyone together on Marguerite island for a charming Happy Ever After.

My Verdict: If you enjoy a compelling story, fascinating characters and a lushly erotic romance, then I can definitely recommend UNDONE.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SIZZLING

Read June 2015

Fiery Tales series to date   (Click on the covers for more details):

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)

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(Hot Cowboy Nights, #3)

Genre: Contemporary Western Romance

Cover Blurb:

TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT, COWBOY…

A Weary warrior… After eight years as a Marine sniper, war-scarred Reid Everett is back in his native Wyoming. He knows and loves this rugged land, so working for wildlife services to reduce the booming wolf population suits him to a T.

A Caring crusader… Wildlife biologist Haley Cooper is desperate to make a difference. Leaving the world of academia behind, she accepts a position as a wolf advocate to protect the animals she loves.

Raw attraction… Their jobs set them on a collision course, but chemistry sparks like wildfire between Reid and Haley. They’ll have to brave some rough territory if they hope to reconcile their polarizing views with a passion that won’t be denied.

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Whether she is writing Historical Romances or Contemporary Romances, I know that Victoria Vane will never disappoint. As with all her stories, SHARP SHOOTIN’ COWBOY is compelling, emotionally charged, sensual and well-researched.

Reid –

Ms Vane creates irresistible heroes and Reid Everett is no exception. He’s honourable, patriotic, handsome, smart, and positively oozes sex-appeal. Although a man of strong beliefs, I like that he was willing to listen to others’ opinions. I found it refreshing to find a hero who wants responsibility, commitment, marriage and a family. Reid is tender, sensitive and passionate but never controlling. He doesn’t want to change Haley….he just wants her to meet him halfway. I don’t agree with hunting animals but I respected Reid’s arguments concerning wolf management and understood the concerns of the ranchers whose livelihood is threatened.

Haley –

Haley’s painful past has helped shape the person she is. Her Marine father deserted her mother when he discovered she was pregnant with Haley and I can understand her initial dislike of Reid when she discovers he is a Marine. Haley was dealt a double blow when her mother up and left her in the care of her grandparents. She has never fully recovered from her mother’s abandonment and it has left her with real trust issues and a guarded heart. She also has strong beliefs which I respected but, unlike Reid, she rigidly refuses to consider any opinions other than her own. It was this intransigence that I found really frustrating for a good proportion of the book.

The romance spans seven years and, each time their paths cross, their mutual attraction is as strong as ever but there are always obstacles that push them apart again. I loved Reid’s determination to win Haley and my attitude definitely softened towards Haley when she reveals the reasons why she could never be a vegan…“I was seduced to the dark side by a four cheese pizza and a pint of Moose Tracks”.

I saw real growth in Haley’s character when she admits to being naive and foolish she has been and realises how much she has been controlled and manipulated by Jeffrey. Her willingness to consider views other than her own was also a giant leap forward.

I think Ms Vane does a brilliant job in creating a well thought out and believable ending in which Reid and Haley can have their HEA but still remain true to themselves. Of course, the Epilogue topped off everything perfectly.

I enjoyed the thought-provoking issues Ms Vane brings to this book and the way she presents the issues surrounding the reintroduction of the wolves in an unbiased way. As with all Ms Vane’s books, her extensive research is impeccable.

My Verdict: If you enjoy Contemporary Western Romance with a compelling story, complex characters and steamy passion, then I can definitely recommend this book.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read June 2015

Hot Cowboy Nights series so far (click on cover for more details):

Slow Hand (Hot Cowboy Nights, #1) by Victoria Vane Rough Rider (Hot Cowboy Nights, #2) by Victoria Vane Sharp Shooter (Hot Cowboy Nights, #3) by Victoria Vane

** This review is based on an eARC I received from the author via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. **

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(Sons of Sin, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Anything can happen in the moonlight . . .

Justice. That’s all Nell Trim wants-for her sister and for the countless other young women the Marquess of Leath has ruined with his wildly seductive ways. Now she has a bold plan to take him down . . . as long as she can resist the scoundrel’s temptations herself.

From the moment Nell meets James Fairbrother, the air positively sizzles. Yet for all his size and power, there’s something amazingly tender in his touch. Could he really be such a depraved rogue? The only way to find out is to beat the devil at his own game . . . one tempting kiss at a time.

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Another captivating story from the incomparable Anna Campbell.

How I imagine James Fairbrother, Marquess of Leath
James Fairbrother 8

James has long been a powerful and ambitious figure in the political arena and the ultimate goal of Prime Minister seems within his reach.  Now revelations of his late Uncle Neville’s crimes and his sister Sophie’s ill-timed elopement with a penniless younger son have left the Fairbrother name synonymous with scandal and his political hopes in jeopardy. He is advised to retreat to his country estate, Alloway Chase,  until the gossip has eventually blown over.  What he doesn’t expect is that his mother has employed a companion, a certain Miss Trim, whom he neither likes nor trusts but whose very presence elicits all sorts of inappropriate thoughts.

How I imagine Eleanor Trim

Eleanor made a solemn promise to her dying step-sister, Dorothy,  that she would seek revenge on the Marquess of Leath, the blackguard who seduced Dorothy and then callously abandoned her when she was with child. Eleanor must find the diary he kept, detailing his seductions of other innocent young women, and publicly expose his villainy. Using forged references, she manages to obtain a position at Alloway Chase as companion to the marquess’s mother The position offers plenty of opportunity for her to search for the incriminating diary. What she doesn’t expect is the sudden appearance of the marquess himself or the unwanted attraction she feels towards him.

The real highlight of this book for me was watching the growing relationship between James and Eleanor. I loved the initial back-and-forth verbal sparring between them and the strong undeniable attraction. It’s an attraction that doesn’t sit well with either of them. James doesn’t like or trust her and Eleanor refuses to admit that she finds the man who ruined her half-sister attractive. However, James is not at all as she imagined and everything she learns about him belies his reputation as a despoiler of innocent young women.  When James’s secretary is injured, he reluctantly agrees to his mother’s suggestion that Eleanor should assume the role temporarily making it impossible for them to avoid each other. Eleanor is forced to learn to ride to accompany James on visits to the estate and their repartee is delightful.

He stepped back. “How do you feel?”
She looked unsure. “Like I’m sitting on a volcano that’s about to erupt.”
 He snickered. “Old Snowflake is pushing twenty, Miss Trim. It he erupts, it will be a mind-numbingly speedy stroll.”

The time spent together also reinforces Eleanor’s belief that James is not a villain. He shows he really cares for Eleanor when he obtains her father’s war records for her and respects her decision when she refuses to become his mistress. There is no coercion and, when Eleanor changes her mind, it is her own decision.

Eleanor Trim was about to become a marquess’s mistress. And she couldn’t summon a shred of regret. Instead, that fluttery, new sensation under her ribs felt like happiness.

I was surprised by the lengthy love scene but in a good way . It lacked the slightly erotic feel that I have come to expect from Anna Campbell but, in terms of the characters, I think it worked beautifully. I enjoyed the feeling of playfulness, the tenderness and the deep emotional connection between James and Eleanor.

By the time her hair flowed around her, Leath breathed in gusts. His hands touched her delicately, as if the slightest fumble might shatter her.
   Then nothing.
   Slowly, reluctantly, she opened her eyes. Leath stared at her as though she was a star fallen from heaven to light his way.
  “It’s glorious.” her heart expanded at the awe in his voice.
“You’re glorious.”

I wasn’t happy with Eleanor’s actions when she finds the letters from the young women. It seemed inconceivable to me that, after everything that had happened between them and everything she knew in her heart, she would readily believe the worst of James without even giving him the chance to explain. It felt like a terrible act of betrayal and I don’t think she did enough grovelling for all the anguish she caused the poor man!

However, I did understand her reasons for not accepting James’s marriage proposal. She knew that if she married James he would lose everything he had worked for and she wouldn’t let that happen. However, James realised that he had dedicated his life to fulfilling his father’s dreams, not his own…that managing his estate and sharing his life with the woman he loved were far more fulfilling than any political career.

Jonas and Sidonie (Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed) and Richard and Genevieve (A Rake’s Midnight Kiss) and Camden and Penelope (What a Duke Dares) all make welcome appearances. James has always been a loner and so I loved that Cam, Richard and Jonas offer him genuine friendship and also provide him with valuable allies in his dramatic confrontation with the villainous Greengrass.

I can always rely on Ms Campbell to satisfy my desire for a heart-warming Epilogue. Perhaps I’ll let Penelope Rothermere, Duchess of Sedgemoor, have the final word.

“Of course. We could all see that you were head over heels and that once you’d sorted out your differences, you’d be perfect for each other.”

MY VERDICT: Another wonderful addition to this delightful series. Definitely recommended.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


The Sons of Sin series so far (click the covers for more details)
:

Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed (Sons of Sin, #1) by Anna Campbell A Rake's Midnight Kiss (Sons of Sin, #2) by Anna Campbell What a Duke Dares (Sons of Sin, #3) by Anna Campbell A Scoundrel by Moonlight (Sons of Sin, #4) by Anna Campbell

My sincere thanks to Anna Campbell for sending me a complimentary copy of this book  in return for an honest review

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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.

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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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(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…

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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, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Let the Wicked Wagers Begin…

Lady Caitlin Southall’s temper has finally got the better of her. She’s challenged Harlow Telford, the Duke of Dangerfield, the most notorious rake in all of England, to a wager. She wants her house back. The one her destitute father lost to Dangerfield in a card game. But if she doesn’t win their bet, she not only loses her home, she loses her dignity and pride and damn it all, maybe her heart… For the handsome Duke has decreed, when he wins, she must spend the night in his bed.

Harlow Telford is amused by his hellion neighbor, Caitlin, or Cate to her friends, who seem to encompass everyone on earth except him. When she bursts into one of his private gatherings, he mistakes her for the entertainment. Her slap across his face sets him straight and raises the absurd desire to seduce the unconventional beauty into his bed. When she issues her daft challenge to win back her father’s pile of rubble, the terms are set. And he’ll do anything to win—except fall in love…

♥♥♥♥

This was my first book by Bronwen Evans and I really enjoyed it. It was longer than the average novella and I felt this allowed for effective characterisation and a well-paced story.

Harlow turned out to be quite a surprise. He appears to be a typical rake, only concerned for his own pleasures but, deep down, he is a man who really cares about his mother and half-brother, Jeremy. I could understand his desire for revenge against the man who brought ruination to his mother and his desire to secure Jeremy’s birth right. His honourable actions towards Caitlin were not at all what I expected. It was clear that he would not have gambled with her father had he known that Mansfield Manor was in trust for Caitlin but it created a real dilemma for him. He felt obligated to keep his promise to Jeremy but he also needed to secure Caitlin’s future by marrying her.

I enjoyed seeing the growth in Harlow’s character. Getting to know Caitlin makes him take a good look at his life…a meaningless life in which he has achieved very little. He is afraid that by opening up to Caitlin and sharing his life with her, she will find him sadly lacking and, for the first time, he wants more.

Tonight had been a revelation. Caitlin stirred more than his lust. He wanted her respect. He wanted to be… more. More for her. He suddenly found himself in the unenviable position of wanting a woman to be proud of him. He wanted her to look at him with pride, rather than simply seeing him as a title and a means to a life of wealth and ease.

Looks can be deceptive. Outwardly Caitlin may look delicate but she has a will of iron, shown in her determination not to lose Mansfield Manor. It takes boldness and daring to put the mighty Duke of Dangerfield firmly in his place.

“I’m Lady Caitlin Southall,” she called over her shoulder and, filled with satisfaction at seeing his mouth drop open, she kicked Ace of Spades and tore off at a gallop— spraying His Grace with clods of earth.
The string of curses behind her made her laugh out loud. Bumping into the duke or, rather, leaving Dangerfield in a shower of dirt, made her day.

I like how she refuses to compromise over what she truly wants from life… a partner in marriage, a man who truly loves her and understands the meaning of commitment. Despite the fact that Harlow represents everything that she despises, arrogant and overbearing, she can’t help but be attracted to him. He challenges her and treats her as an equal and, for the first time in her life, she no longer feels lonely. Her life is full of fun and happiness.

The romance…the battle of wills, the witty banter, the wagers (particularly the cake baking one), the heated, passionate encounters…is immensely enjoyable.

I was intrigued by Harlow’s friends and fellow rakehells, the arrogant Lord Marcus Danvers, Marquis of Wolverstone and the rather more honourable Lord Henry St. Giles, Earl of Cravenswood and look forward to reading their stories.

My only criticism is about the ending. While I understand the necessity for Jeremy to feel genuine remorse for his actions, the events do seem overly dramatic and somewhat contrived. However, this was a relatively small point and didn’t really spoil my overall enjoyment of the story.

Favourite Romantic Quote:

“I need a woman who completes me. Who fills my soul with song, and who can bring me to my knees in adoration with one simple smile.”

Overall, romantic, witty and entertaining.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read March 2015

Wicked Wagers series (click on the book cover 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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