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Posts Tagged ‘4 Stars’

Duke of Desire

(Maiden Lane, #12)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1742)

Cover Blurb:

A LADY OF LIGHT

Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude! Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.

A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS

Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.

CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER . . . AND DESIRE

Much to Raphael’s irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he’s drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael’s past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael’s own demons?

PUBLICATION DATE: 17th October 2017

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This is the final full-length book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s fabulous Maiden Lane series but there are two novellas to come – ONCE UPON A MAIDEN LANE (14th November) and ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS EVE (5th December).

From the moment he made his first appearance in Duke of Pleasure, I was intrigued by the scarred Raphael de Chartres, Duke of Dyemore, who recently returned to England to claim the dukedom, following the death of his estranged father, former leader of the evil Lords of Chaos, Mystery surrounds Raphael’s whereabouts during his years of absence and rumours abound concerning how he acquired the scar on his face. It quickly becomes clear that he is driven by a relentless determination to destroy the Lords of Chaos.

Raphael was obsessed with the Lords. He let nothing stand in the way of his revenge.

Lady Iris Jordan has been a widow for five years and although her late husband, twenty years her senior, had been a good and kind man, their three-year marriage had been a miserable one for her.

He’d never loved her, never cherished her, and never spoken to her as an equal.

She has lived with her older brother and his wife since her husband’s death but longs to be part of a family with children of her own. She has always hoped to remarry for love but is willing to settle for affection provided the gentleman enjoys the same things she does.

Throughout this series, I have admired Ms. Hoyt’s ability to pair the most improbable heroes and heroines and create the perfect couples, as she does here. Iris’s warmth, intelligence, patience, caring and quiet strength are the perfect foil for the dark, autocratic, unsmiling, stubborn Raphael.

I think Raphael is the most tormented and complex of all the heroes in this series. It is not only revenge that drives his obession to destroy the Lords of Chaos but also a deep sense of guilt. In all the years since he left England, he never tried to stop his father or eradicate the society, even knowing the evil they perpetrated. Raphael fears that, carrying his father’s blood in his veins, he will one day become a monster just like him and has vowed that the bloodline will end with him, but Iris will test this resolve. He has never met anyone as pure as Iris before and needs her to bring light into his dark world of despair, but is determined to distance himself from her rather than see Iris tainted in any way.

He’d vowed that he wouldn’t corrupt her, and he’d keep that vow no matter what it cost him.

I love how Iris refuses to allow Raphael to dictate the terms of their marriage and is resolved to try to make it a real marriage, with or without sex. Realising that he keeps all his thoughts and emotions carefully hidden, she is determined to break through his ‘frozen exterior’ and discover the real man beneath. I love how she refuses to give up on him no matter what he says or does.

When Raphael tells Iris of the traumatic events that happened all those years ago when he was twelve years old, it was so heart-wrenching knowing what he had endured and how it had left him so emotionally damaged. When Raphael fears that Iris will be repulsed by him, I love how she believes in him and convinces him that he could never be like his father.

“You are not a demon or a beast. You are my beloved husband. I know you, and you are not your father. You are good and kind and valiant. You are stubborn and intelligent and sometimes very witty. You will never hurt a child of ours, I promise.

I felt that the romance was somewhat overshadowed by the prominence of the darker elements in the book and found it difficult to feel the all-important emotional connection between Iris and Raphael. The love scenes tended to be raw and earthy and perhaps I was looking for something with a little more warmth and tenderness, although the lovely Epilogue did go a long way to appeasing me.

I liked Raphael’s brave and loyal Corsican servants who were willing to defend Iris with their lives. I also adored his Aunt Donna Pieri who had rescued Raphael from his father’s clutches and obviously loved her nephew. With various twists and turns, Ms. Hoyt kept me guessing as to the identity of Dionysus, the leader of the Lords of Chaos, and the final reveal definitely came as a surprise. 

MY VERDICT: DUKE OF DESIRE is a worthy addition to the superb Maiden Lane series. This series is a MUST read for anyone who loves unforgettable characters, compelling plots and sensual romances.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Maiden Lane series (click on the book cover for more details):

Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane, #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2) by Elizabeth Hoyt Scandalous Desires (Maiden Lane, #3) by Elizabeth Hoyt Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane, #4) by Elizabeth Hoyt Lord of Darkness (Maiden Lane, #5) by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Midnight (Maiden Lane, #6) by Elizabeth Hoyt Darling Beast (Maiden Lane, #7) by Elizabeth Hoyt Dearest Rogue (Maiden Lane, #8) by Elizabeth Hoyt Sweetest Scoundrel (Maiden Lane, #9) by Elizabeth HoytDuke of Sin (Maiden Lane, #10) by Elizabeth Hoyt Once Upon a Moonlit Night (Maiden Lane, #10.5) by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Pleasure (Maiden Lane, #11) by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Desire (Maiden Lane, #12) by Elizabeth Hoyt Once Upon a Maiden Lane (Maiden Lane, #12.5) by Elizabeth Hoyt Once Upon a Christmas Eve (Maiden Lane, #12.6) by Elizabeth Hoyt

 

 

**I received a complimentarycopy of this book from Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. **

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An Affair With a Notorious Heiress

(Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian – London 1872)

Cover Blurb:

The son of a duke and an infamous mother, Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton, fought his way to respectability. Now, the most eligible bachelor in London, marriage-shy Rexton will take only a wife with an impeccable reputation, good breeding, and a penchant for staying out of the gossip sheets. But when he strikes a deal to be seen “courting” a sweet young debutante whose notorious older sister has blemished her chances for marriage, Rexton is unexpectedly drawn to the highly inappropriate, calamitous Tillie, Lady Landsdowne herself.

After a scandalous incident that sent shockwaves throughout society and disgraced her, Tillie refuses to cower in the face of the ton. Instead, she will hold her head high as she serves as chaperone for her younger sister, but Tillie is convinced Rexton’s courtship is shrouded with secrets—ones she vows to uncover. However, doing so requires getting dangerously close to the devilishly handsome and forbidden marquess…

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This is the 4th book in Ms. Heath’s Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series and, while I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel it had the same emotional intensity which I found so satisfying in the other books in the series.

As heir to the Duke of Greystone, Alistair Mabry, Marquess of Rexton (Rex) enjoys a life of wealth and privilege but, at an early age, he learned that respect didn’t come automatically, it had to be earned. He loves both his parents but, at school, he had been subjected to bullying and insults because of his mother’s scandalous past, but with physical maturity came the ability to fight back and he gradually earned the respect of his fellow pupils. He is determined that his own children will never suffer the same way he did and when he finally chooses a wife, she will be someone ‘with an impeccable reputation, good breeding, and a penchant for staying out of the gossip sheets’.

American heiress, Mathilda (Tillie) Paget, Countess of Landsdowne, caused a scandal when she was caught kissing a footman, leaving her husband no choice but to divorce her. Further scandal ensued when the divorce courts agreed, at Landsdowne’s request, to strip her of her title, but she had the audacity to appeal to a higher court and won her case.  Appalled by her behaviour, society has shunned her, friends have abandoned her, and she has become the target for gossip and disdain. Only her sister, Gina, has remained loyal to her. Tillie is determined to protect Gina and ensure her sister does not make the same mistake she did.

She wanted to help Gina find the right man to wed. She wanted nothing more than she wanted her sister’s happiness.

After seeing, Gina settled, Tillie has every intention of returning to America and making a new life for herself.

The sisters’ uncle, Garrett Hammersely, is aware that Tillie’s notoriety is having an adverse effect on Gina’s chances of finding a titled suitor and persuades Rex to feign and interest in Gina. Mr Hammersley hopes that, as Rex is the most sought-after bachelor in London and well respected by his peers, his attentions will pique the interest of other suitable gentlemen. If he succeeds, Rex will acquire the stud services of Hammersley’s prize Arabian stallion. It’s an agreement he simply can’t refuse. Rex and Tillie, who is acting as Gina’s chaperone, are frequently thrown into each other’s company and soon an undeniable attraction flares between them.

Unaware of the arrangement between Rex and her uncle, Tillie feels guilty because Rex is courting her sister and she would never jeopardise Gina’s happiness. Even when she discovers the true situation, she is wary of ever trusting a man again, which I could understand given her husband’s infidelities. Tillie is just the sort of woman Rex has sworn to avoid but he is fascinated and intrigued by her.

Rex comes to appreciate how difficult it must be for Tillie to chaperone her sister, leaving herself open to society’s censure and wants to protect her from the unkindness of others. I loved him for wanting to do things that bring Tillie joy, especially in the scene where he takes her to a secret destination and she is expecting something nefarious, only to find something magical.

I loved Tillie’s unconditional love for her sister and her determination that Gina would have the happiness she never did. I also admired her for having the strength, courage and determination to fight in any way possible to escape her unhappy marriage, knowing full well the personal cost to herself.

She’d sacrificed her reputation, her standing, her place in Society for a chance to be free of Landsdowne. She’d forced a life of solitude, an absence of friends, onto herself.

Landsdowne’s mother and sister always made it clear that they didn’t consider Tillie good enough for him and treated her atrociously. So, I loved seeing Rex’s sister Grace, the Duchess of Lovingdon, spike the sister’s guns, when she tries to have Tillie and her sister removed from The Royal Tea Palace.

“Come along,” the duchess said to Tillie and Gina.

 Lady Blanford had the audacity to step in front of them. “Mr. Wadsworth, I must insist you prevent this rabble from entering.”

“Come now, Countess,” the duchess said, her voice tight but controlled, “do you really think he is going to adhere to your wishes when doing so will mean that my party immediately leaves to never return? And let’s not forget Lady Landsdowne’s pistol. Scars can be a symbol of courage but I’m not certain that would hold true in your case. Now step aside and do not make a further fuss or you will find yourself being the one escorted out.”

What makes Ms. Heath’s books so special for me is her ability to write beautiful and emotionally moving love stories, but the romance between Rex and Tillie didn’t elicit the same strong emotions that I felt when reading the other books in this series. For me, there were no moments when I thought my heart might break or tears streamed down my face.

I liked Gina who is much wiser than anyone appreciates and I’m looking forward to following her own journey to a Happy Ever After in Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses. I loved how Rex’s family and friends offered their unconditional support for Tillie and it was wonderful to see Rex’s parents, Frannie and Sterling and know that their love is as strong as ever despite the obstacles they face. Their story is told in Surrender to the Devil, the third book in the original Scoundrels of St. James series.

I like how Ms. Heath highlights the unfairness of Victorian society where a divorced wife would be ostracised while her unfaithful husband could carry on as before without any repercussions.

As with all the books in this series, Ms. Heath ends with a lovely Epilogue.

MY VERDICT: This may not be my favourite book in this series but there were still many things I enjoyed about it.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series (click on the book covers for more details):

When the Duke Was Wicked (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #1) by Lorraine Heath Once More, My Darling Rogue (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #2) by Lorraine Heath The Duke and the Lady in Red (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #3) by Lorraine Heath An Affair with a Notorious Heiress (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4) by Lorraine Heath Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4.5) by Lorraine Heath

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Traitor in Her Arms

(The Scarlet Chronicles #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (French Revolution – Paris during The Reign of Terror)

Cover Blurb:

Two morally compromised souls wage a battle of wits—and seduction—against the backdrop of the French Revolution in this thrilling romance from bestselling author Shana Galen.

After her late husband leaves her in debt to some dangerous people, Lady Gabrielle McCullough is forced to become a thief. In the intervening years, her skills have not gone unnoticed. After being recruited by the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious do-gooder spiriting aristocrats out of revolutionary France, Gabrielle crosses the Channel for the most daring mission of her life. Accompanying her is the Earl of Sedgwick, a thief in his own right and an enticingly masculine presence. The man is not to be trusted—nor is Gabrielle’s body when he’s near.

Ramsey Barnes would not say he is an honorable man. His whole life has been based on a lie; why change now? Although it pains him to deceive the tantalizing Gabrielle, he’s working toward an altogether different objective: unmasking the Scarlet Pimpernel. If Ramsey fails, his blackmailer will ruin him. But when Ramsey’s confronted with the carnage of the Reign of Terror, he seeks refuge in Gabrielle’s heated embrace. Now he faces a terrible choice: betray the woman who’s stolen his heart—or risk losing everything.

Publication Date: 22 August 2017

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I really enjoyed this first book in Shana Galen’s new The Scarlett Chronicles series. Set during the French Revolution, it combines a well-written, action-packed story, with intriguing, flawed characters and a passionate romance. I have always loved the idea that the Scarlet Pimpernel actually existed and the fact that Ms. Galen uses that premise in this new series, only enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

Gabrielle
Gabrielle is not a thief by choice but by necessity. Her late husband was a heavy gambler and left large gambling debts and his creditors are hounding her for payment. If he doesn’t receive payment, one particularly unsavoury creditor has threated to exact payment in another way. It is either stealing or end up in a brothel!

Her expertise as a thief has been noticed by the Scarlet Pimpernel who wants her to travel to Paris to rescue the wife and daughter of the compte de Tonnerre, a close friend of the King. I love Gabrielle’s courage and compassion in agreeing to do it.

How could she refuse this desperate man? How could she allow a woman to be murdered and her child orphaned in a cold, harsh prison?

Ramsey
Ramsey has a secret which, if revealed, would cost him his life and bring suffering to those he loves. Unfortunately, a certain Madame Fouchet has incriminating documents which she is using to blackmail him into doing her bidding. He hates being under her control but has no choice because he will do whatever it takes to protect his family and those who depend on him. His latest assignment is to discover the identity of the Scarlett Pimpernel.

There had once been an undeniable attraction between Gabrielle and Ramsey and, after they shared a passionate interlude together, Ramsey was on the verge of asking her to marry him. However, when he failed to declare his intentions, Gabrielle married his best friend, George. Now, events are about to throw them together again which only serves to reignite and intensify that attraction.

When Ramsey discovers both he and Gabrielle are both going to Paris, he persuades her that she needs his help but intends to use her to uncover the Scarlet Pimpernel’s identity. I enjoyed seeing Ramsey’s struggle with his conflicting emotions. He has never thought of himself as loyal, noble or honourable but he is. Time and again, he could leave Gabrielle but he can’t because she means too much to him.

At some point, protecting her had become more important than protecting himself.

Some reviewers have criticised the book for its lack of romance, but I can’t imagine anything more romantic than a man willing to give his life for the woman he loves.

By his own admission, Gabrielle should not trust Ramsey, but his actions are continually at odds with his words. He is always there to protect her when she needs him, and shows compassion for people in a Paris prison whom he has never met. I like how she realises that she had no right to pass judgement on Ramsey for stealing and lying, when she has been guilty of the same thing herself, and his motives were far nobler than her own.

Who was she to judge? And hadn’t his motives been much nobler than hers? She had only wanted to save herself. He had an entire family, an entire estate, to think of.

The sexual tension between these two is palpable…

He rose hastily, fists clenched and jaw tight, and she realized he was angry. “Neither are you. You practically attack me when we come in here, and when I resist, you stand naked before me.” He paced, speaking quick, clipped English. “And then when I capitulate, you tell me no. What the hell is this?”

…and the danger only intensifies their desire for each other culminating in some highly charged love scenes.

I like how Ms. Galen includes moments of humour in the story which help to provide a welcome counter-balance to the darker elements of the story. My favourite scene is where Ramsey becomes somewhat distracted by Gabrielle’s disguise.

“I thought it might make movement easier in case we need to leave quickly.”
You’re wearing breeches. He almost said it again before he realized he’d already pointed that out.
“Don’t you agree?” she asked.
“I . . .” You’re wearing breeches. He finally looked up. She was wearing a man’s shirt and coat as well. “Where are your…?” He gestured helplessly at her shirt.

The plot has plenty of suspense, action and danger, and there were times when I was literally holding my breath, wondering what would happen next. I felt Ms. Galen resolved the issue of Ramsey’s ‘secret’ in a believable way.

Ms. Galen brought the chilling horrors of the Reign of Terror vividly to life and I could feel the blood lust of the crowd as the tumbrels rolled past and share the despair and hopelessness of the poor prisoners.

Certain members of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s League are introduced including Alexandra Martin (Alex), Gabrielle and Ramsey’s contact in Paris, who plays an important role in the story and really impressed me as a very smart and brave woman, worthy of her own story.

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Gabrielle couldn’t help but wonder to whom the Pimpernel’s note was addressed – my sentiments exactly!

MY VERDICT: If you are looking for a fast-paced adventure combined with a passionate romance, then you will enjoy TRAITOR IN HER ARMS.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Scarlet Chronicles series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

Traitor in Her Arms (The Scarlet Chronicles, #1) by Shana Galen

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. **

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Obsession Wears Opals

(Jaded Gentlemen, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Darius Thorne has learned to use his wit and intelligence to strategize a better life for himself. He is the White Knight amidst the small secret circle of gentlemen known only as The Jaded. The handsome scholar shields his heart by keeping a studied distance from the world…until he rescues a beautiful woman.

Isabel Netherton isn’t merely a damsel in distress. A highborn lady of quality unwilling to be a pawn, she is defiantly escaping an abusive husband. But under Darius’s protection she discovers an unexpected champion–a man who teaches her the power of true desire and what it means to be treated like a queen.

However, the law of the land supports her husband’s cruel claim. It will take all of Darius’s cunning to keep one step ahead of their enemies and protect Isabel. In a deadly game of chess, Darius must defeat the Black Knight and sacrifice himself for his Ivory Queen or forfeit all.

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This is the fifth book in Renee Bernard’s highly addictive Jaded Gentleman series.

Darius Thorne is the second son of a dockworker and a fishmonger’s daughter whose drunkard of a father regularly beat his wife and children. Believing he is cursed to become just like his father, Darius pursues an entirely different life, totally immersing himself in scholarly pursuits. He has never let anyone get too close because he’s always been afraid that ‘blood will tell’ and he will hurt someone. His resolve is to be tested when he discovers a half-frozen woman lying in his garden, who obviously needs his help and protection.

After a whirlwind courtship, Lady Isabel, daughter of the Marquis of Penleigh, had fallen in love with the handsome Earl of Netherton. He swept her off her feet with his tender and romantic gestures and her wedding day is filled with thoughts of their future happiness. Those thoughts are soon dispelled on her wedding night when she discovers her husband’s true depraved and sadistic nature. With no-one to help her and fearing for her life, she seizes the opportunity to escape on her beloved horse, Samson, with no money and only the clothes she is wearing. Riding until her horse becomes lame, she collapses from exhaustion, to be rescued by a man who offers her both his help and protection.

I totally fell for the shy, bespectacled, thoughtful, intelligent, scholarly Darius. I love how he cares for Isabel without knowing anything about her, not even her name. He recognises the signs of abuse and, seeing her wedding ring, knows exactly who is responsible and vows to protect her from harm.

Every fiber of his being felt protective of her, unwilling to think too far ahead of his improvised plan to simply provide her a haven until she’d recovered and a better solution could be found.

I really felt all Isabel’s pain and humiliation and understood why, however foolhardy it might seem, escape was her only option. The law provided little or no protection for a married woman and she was at the mercy of her husband, and his threats to have her committed to an asylum or worse were only too real. I like how Ms. Bernard highlights the plight of women during that time and it makes me realise just how lucky we are today.

Although a stranger, Darius’ sincerity and kindness make Isabel feel safe for the first time in months and instinctively she knows that she can trust him.

He’d said he’d not hurt her for all the world and it made no sense in the world she’d experienced to believe him. But there she was, sitting in front of his fire with her bare feet tucked into his lap, half frozen and miserable— and inexplicably feeling safe for the first time in months.

Gradually in the compassionate care of Darius and his housekeeper, Mrs MacFadden, Isabel’s physical and emotions scars heal but she is still lives in fear of her husband finding her. I love how Darius uses the game of chess to convince Isabel that she can be strong and command power, just like the White Queen on his chess board. I enjoyed the fanciful stories they both create around chess pieces as Darius teaches Isabel the intricacies of the game, but also the sense of the growing attraction between them.

“And you?” he asked, still holding her hand across the board. His gaze was steady, the green in his eyes deepening as the contact between them lingered.
M-me?” Isabel tried to regain her mental footing and ignore the sweet fire curling up inside of her.

If there were ever two people who were meant to be together, it is these two. They complement each other in so many ways but there seems an insurmountable obstacle in their way… Isabel’s husband. I love how Darius uses his intellectual prowess and puzzle solving skills to outmanoeuvre Netherton and achieve Isabel’s freedom. However, his plan takes him into dark underbelly of London and he is sickened by the vile things he discovers about Netherton. I love how Isabel helps to dispel his despair in a rather unusual way.

Darius has never allowed himself to fall in love fearing that he could turn out to be a monster just like his father and he would never subject Isabel to such a fate. He also believes that, as a lady of quality, she will be repelled by his humble origins. I love how Isabel makes him realise that his origins do not matter to her; she fell in love with the gentle, caring and intelligent man he is, and he could never be like his father.

I adore Darius’ housekeeper, Ms MacFadden, who is ‘like a kitten that spits and hisses but has no claws’, to quote Darius. In public, she and Darius’ driver and houseman, Hamish, are constantly at each other’s throats, but secretly they are carrying on a clandestine affair which Darius swears is like watching ‘the courtship of porcupines.’

The other members of the Jaded Gentleman make an appearance and I always enjoy seeing the close bond between them, forged during their imprisonment in India.  I also like the genuine friendship that develops between Isabel and Caroline Blackwell, Ashe’s unconventional, American wife (Seduction Wears Sapphires).

The mystery surrounding the identity of their nemesis, the Jackal, and the exact nature of the sacred treasure is very much overshadowed by the romance in this book. I’m sure all will be revealed when I read Desire Wears Diamonds, the final book in the series.

MY VERDICT: Ms. Bernard pens an entertaining, romantic and sensual love story.  With only one more book to go, I will be sorry to say goodbye to the Jaded Gentlemen.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

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

 

 

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If the Rogue Fits

(Must Love Rogues, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A Misunderstood Shrew:

Lady Margaret is infamous throughout London as the most volatile and shrewish of all young ladies. After four years on the market, with a vast fortune, her determination to remain unwed is legendary. Having a decidedly plain face, Margaret has learned that men only want her for her money, and the unkindness of those around her has led her to protect her heart with a cutting tongue and willingness to shove silly young men into orchestra pits. When she meets the Earl of Carlyle, the beautiful and seductive lord, who makes her body yearn for his touch, seems like he might be different than the rest. But when Margaret finds out the earl has been less than honest in his pursuit for her hand, will she ever be able to forgive him and find a way to love?

A Lord Who Has No Wish to Tame Her:

William Deveraux, Earl of Carlyle, is in desperate need of funds. His father, a ruinous gambler, has driven the earldom, it’s estate, and his tenants, into destitution. There’s only one thing for William to do. Wed and wed well. Undaunted that the only available lady with a sufficient fortune at present is Margaret the Mad, he’s determined to win her by any means. . . Even by deceit. But when Margaret discovers his lies, he finds he’s fallen for the plain yet oh so witty woman who is his savior in many ways. Will he ever be able to win her heart and convince her that she is the most wonderful woman in the world? Or will her years of being treated foully by society, ensure Margaret never lets him into her heart?

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This is the second book in Eva Devon’s Must Love Rogues series which features one of my favourite tropes – a marriage of convenience.

Margaret knew that it had not been a fortuitous beginning when her father had first looked upon her countenance, frowned and declared that she was ugly.

Margaret grew up knowing that, in her father’s eyes, she has nothing to commend her. All her parents’ affection and attention is reserved for Isabella, her beautiful, younger sister to whom she is constantly compared and found lacking. There is no love lost between Margaret and Isabella because their father is adamant that Isabella cannot marry until Margaret does, something the younger sister resents. In addition, her disastrous first season and plain looks have made her an outcast among the other young ladies. So, Margaret leads a restricted and lonely life, hiding her wounded heart behind a mask of disdain and a biting tongue.

After four years on the marriage mart, she has received any number of proposals but knows that her suitors do not see her as a person with her own thoughts and feelings, only her ‘jaw-dropping fortune’.  Most of all, she hates their lies – the false compliments that have the power to hurt. Her sharp tongue and ill-temper soon deter would be suitors, earning her the unflattering nickname Margaret the Mad or Margaret the Red Fury. Long ago, she had decided that being on the shelf was far preferable to being married to someone just like her father. Instead, she finds pleasure in reading, studying history and riding, with dreams of being independent and traveling.

William’s father was selfish, unkind and a compulsive gambler who never showed any love for his son. William’s grandfather was a man of honour who always did the right thing and he had been more like a father to William than his own father ever was. Seeking freedom and adventure like his grandfather before him, William left home at nineteen and spent much of the next ten years travelling the globe.

However, he has always known that one day he would have to return to take up his responsibilities. He promised his grandfather to do everything in his power to restore the fortunes of the family estate but when William returns, it is to find that his father has totally bankrupted the earldom. The family home is in a terrible state of disrepair; the mill which provides bread for his tenants needs fixing and the tenants’ cottages are also in desperate need of repairs. Without the necessary funds, he will have no alternative but to start selling off land which has been in his family for nearly eight hundred years. Desperate to keep his promise to his grandfather, there is only one solution…he needs a wealthy wife.

At first, William’s interest in Meg (as he insists on calling her, much to Margaret’s annoyance) is purely mercenary but he soon sees a strong, bold and intelligent woman; one far more interesting than any other woman he has met and rather likes the idea of being married to such an indomitable woman. Having seen how her father and others around her have tried to crush her spirit, he believes that by marrying her, he can give Margaret the independence she has never known. I like how William is genuine in his desire to rescue her from her father’s influence. The scene where he proposes to Margaret is one of my favourites. The back and forth between them is delightful, and I love the sting in the tail for the unsuspecting, overconfident William!

Oh, yes. This was going to be a marvelous union and from the way she was responding to the sensual foray, it would be no time before she agreed to marry him.
She pulled back ever so slightly and smiled softly.
He smiled back. This was the moment. She was going to agree.
Meg’s eyes flashed and she drove her foot down atop his.
He yelped and hopped onto one booted foot.
She backed away and brushed her hands. “You should have recalled Mr. Rutherford.”
“We weren’t dancing,” he wheezed as he struggled to catch his breath.
“Kissing. Dancing.” She shrugged her shoulders. “What does it matter? It’s all the same.” “Like men,” he added, the pain jolting right up his leg.
She gave a terse nod. “Now take yourself and your proposal and hie off, my lord.”

For her part, Margaret finds William very different to her other suitors, who were so easily deterred by her sharp tongue; not so William, with his forthrightness, idiotic sense of humour and total disregard for convention. I love how Margaret is totally bewildered by his behaviour but is clever enough to realise that there could be advantages to marrying William. For the first time, she would be taking her life into her own hands and would no longer be at the beck and call of her father. Some wise advice from her trusted maid, Travers, provides a plan for ensuring her independence and fulfilling her dream of travelling. Having decided on her course of action, I love how she boldly takes matters into her own hands.

He opened the door slowly and peered in through the crack.
A glimpse of fiery red hair met his perusal.
“You’d best come in, Carlyle,” she clipped. “So we can get on with business.”
His jaw dropped.

When William hears Margaret’s conditions for marrying him, I sympathised with his difficult dilemma and understood why he chose to deceive her. He does it for the most honourable of reasons but hates himself for lying to Margaret. I felt Margaret’s deep hurt at discovering William’s duplicity and, although she can understand why he did it, she can never forgive him for lying to her. It seems that an irreparable wedge has been driven between them.

I love how the story is very character-driven and concentrates on the developing relationship between these two. At first, Margaret feels angry and is determined to keep her distance from William but, gradually, she comes to like and admire him. Beneath the arrogant exterior, she sees a man who cares passionately.

…he cared about his tenants. He cared about his servants. He cared about the history of his family. He cared.

She also discovers how cruel and uncaring William’s father was and can relate to the pain of always wishing for a father’s love but never having it. She can’t hate him and comes to realise that William may need her love and care as much as his neglected house does. William soon comes to realise that he wants Margaret for herself and not just for her money and is determined to change her mind about him. Their desire to restore the estate brings them closer together but, when William realises he has fallen in love with Margaret, he knows that she could never love him until she sees her own self-worth and that her beauty radiates from inside.  I love William’s act of selflessness when he offers Margaret the freedom to travel and discover her true self but my heart ached for him.

Margaret’s triumph at her sister’s engagement ball and how she comes into her own is wonderful to see. I also applauded when William is so cutting towards Isabella and her fiancé who have previously caused Margaret such pain.

Ms. Devon throws in a bit of a twist towards the end which makes Margaret realise that she believed all her father’s cruel words; believed that she was ugly and that no one could ever love her. She has been afraid to admit her love for William for fear of being hurt but not any longer…

“You’re going abroad,” he protested. “You’re going to see the world. You’re going to make an informed decision.”
“I have all the information I need,” she scoffed. “You love me…and I love you.”

William’s friend Lord Garret Hart and his wife, Harriet (The Rogue and I) are on hand to provide wise council and moral support, while John Forthryte, Garret’s scheming, bastard half-brother, plays the unlikely role of ‘a strange and marvellous matchmaker’ to steal Margaret’s words. I loathed Margaret’s father with a vengeance but loved Margaret’s maid, Travers, who was more friend than a servant and provided one of my favourite quotes:

“My dear, men do have their uses and a man like that?” Travers smiled and suddenly looked like a girl of sixteen contemplating meeting a lover at the back garden gate. “I’d use him six ways from Sunday. Twice on a Saturday.”

MY VERDICT: I always enjoy Eva Devon’s books because they are entertaining, romantic and sexy with engaging characters and sparkling dialogue. Recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


Must Love Rogues
series do date (click on the book covers for more details):

The Rogue and I (Must Love Rogues, #1) by Eva Devon If the Rogue Fits (Must Love Rogues, #2) by Eva Devon Duke Goes Rogue (Must Love Rogues, #3) by Eva Devon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Her Enemy at the Altar

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

An unexpected end to the Wincanton–Stuart feud…?

Scandal broke last night when Lady Constance Stuart was discovered in the arms of Aaron Wincanton, the son of her family’s greatest enemy! But now we can reveal an even more shocking development. Our sources say a special license was obtained and the two were married before sunrise!

It’s been confirmed that Aaron has stolen his new bride away to the country to begin their unexpected marriage. We’ll be watching closely to see exactly what happens when a gentleman invites his enemy into his bed…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I really enjoyed this enemies-to-lovers story by new-to-me author, Virginia Heath. It combines an engaging and well-written story, interesting characters and an emotionally satisfying romance.

The Stuarts and Wincantons have been mortal enemies for the past three hundred years and Lady Constance (Connie) Stuart has every reason to loathe Aaron Wincanton with a vengeance. After he scathingly nicknamed her Ginger Amazonian during her come out six years ago, Connie endured hurtful and humiliating jokes about her unruly red hair, tall, unimpressive figure and long legs. In her second year, she decided that, if she is going to be compared to a mythical warrior, she will act like one. A haughty air and a razor-sharp tongue become her chosen weapons of defence; even her dresses are a statement of defiance.

They were no longer merely gowns; now each dress was a statement of defiance. She might well be an ugly wallflower, but that did not mean that she had to be a shrinking violet.

Having always been self-conscious of the bump on my nose, I found it was easy to relate to Connie and sympathise with her insecurities and understand how much she was hurt and humiliated by the constant cruel barbs. I so admired her courage in facing her tormentors with defiance.

Connie is now engaged to the Marquis of Deal and, although it is an arranged marriage, she hopes to find a measure of happiness, until she discovers his true motives. Feeling hurt and dejected, she finds comfort in the unlikely arms of Aaron Wincanton but, when they are caught in a compromising situation, Connie finds herself married to her sworn enemy.

To everyone, Aaron appears a charming, flirtatious rogue, but this is a mask he wears because the war had left an indelible mark on him. He had seen too much death to remain the carefree young man he once was.

The new Aaron Wincanton found no joy in balls or parties, nor did he find it in intimate gatherings or quiet solitary contemplation either. He did not deserve to feel joy any more. Most of the time he felt burdened. The rest of the time, if he was lucky, he just felt numb.

He has personal demons to fight, ones that conjure up terrifying, tortuous nightmares, night and day, convincing him that he is slowly going mad. He is a desperate to find peace but unable to, believing himself unworthy of love or forgiveness.

Aaron is shocked to find that the Wincanton estate has been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by his father’s mismanagement. All his father’s decisions have been motivated by one thing only – revenge against the Stuarts – without thought for the consequences. All Aaron wants to do is put an end to the pointless and costly feud and restore the family fortunes by marrying a wealthy heiress. But his plans go awry when he is caught in a compromising situation with Lady Constance Wincanton and his strong sense of honour compels him to marry her.

Everything about this marriage was wrong. At best they were strangers, at worst sworn enemies.

I appreciated how Ms. Heath takes the time to build the romantic relationship between Connie and Aaron. At first, there are a lot of angry words spoken but gradually, they begin to discover more about each other

Connie has always thought of Aaron as confident and charming- as though he tiptoed through life largely unscathed – but realises that he has hidden depths and feels things as deeply as she does. While Connie was feeling sorry for herself, she never realised the sacrifices Aaron made by marrying her.

While society regards Connie as a social oddity, Aaron sees her as striking, intelligent and witty and finds he enjoys her company. Recognising that she has many conflicting and contrasting elements to her personality, I like how Aaron compares her to a rainbow…

At one end of the spectrum she was indomitable, sharp-tongued and aloof. He had been on the receiving end of that with alarming frequency and they had only been together for such a short time. But then she was kind-hearted. Finally, buried beneath all of that, was a seam of vulnerability that she worked hard to hide—but he knew that it was there.

Connie’s kindness, gentleness and compassion shines through in her care for Aaron’s dying father, and her desire to do everything she can to comfort Aaron and convince him that he has no reason to feel any guilt for his actions during the war.

I adore Aaron for realising the extent of Connie’s grief and sadness at the loss of her family and for arranging a secret meeting with her mother and brother.

His throat felt tight with emotion. For the first time he truly saw all of her grief and sadness at the loss of her family until she had realised that they had come to see her, then the relief and desperation on her lovely face had moved him and he was glad that he had been able to do this one tiny thing for her.

Whether it is standing up to Aaron’s irascible father or Aaron himself, Connie is definitely a force to be reckoned with!

“Perhaps I did not make myself clear. When I said that I wanted to help I meant that I am going to help you, whether you like it or not. I am not some ornamental woman and I will not let you treat me like one.”

The sexual tension builds up deliciously so that their falling in love feels genuine and when they finally make love, it just seems right. Ms. Heath writes such lovely, romantic scenes and I love this one where just a touch of a hand conveys so much. Sometimes, I find it far more romantic than an overtly explicit scene.

When his eyes slowly drifted down to her lips and lingered there, Connie’s heart began to race. His palm was still cupping her cheek, making her skin prickle with an awareness that was both quite alien and intoxicating at the same time.

I also like how Ms Heath includes lovely touches of humour, and this is one of my favourites because it conjured up such a comical picture in my mind!

The door edged open slowly to reveal him standing there with the handkerchief of surrender in one hand while the other hand held a bucket over his head like a helmet. He surveyed the room with exaggerated wariness before he gingerly stepped inside, still holding his bucket armour about his head and looking, much to her utter consternation, quite delightful. ‘I come in peace, Connie. Put down your weapons.’

The Earl of Redbridge, Connie’s father, is a truly despicable man.  Not only does he threaten to put Connie and her mother out on the streets if she (Connie) refuses to marry Aaron, but he selfishly pursues his feud with Aaron’s father to the detriment of his daughter’s happiness.  A thoroughly dislikeable character whom I’m pleased to say gets everything he deserves.

I was disappointed in the lack of an Epilogue because I love seeing the hero and heroine enjoying their well-deserved Happy Ever After.

MY VERDICT: This was a lovely introduction to Ms. Heath’s books and I will definitely be reading more.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happily Bedded Bliss

(The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bedding Proposal comes a seductive new novel about the most devilishly dangerous men in London…

When Lady Esme Byron happens upon a gorgeous naked man sleeping beside a secluded country lake, she can’t resist the impulse to sketch him. But when her highly improper drawing is mistakenly revealed at a party, she finds her once-pristine reputation in tatters.

Gabriel, Lord Northcote, may be a notorious rakehell, but he is still stunned to find himself accused of despoiling a duke’s sister—especially since he’s never set eyes on her. When Esme’s six irate brothers demand a hurried trip down the aisle, he has no choice but to comply. He thinks he can forget about his inconvenient bride but Esme Byron is no ordinary woman and Gabriel is about to learn just how unforgettable she can be.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I really enjoyed this second book in Tracy Anne Warren’s Rakes of Cavendish Square series, which features one of my favourite tropes where two strangers end up being compromised and are forced to marry under less than auspicious circumstances.

Lady Esme Byron is the youngest of the Byron siblings and her family have always supported her unconventional lifestyle, allowing her the freedom to pursue her love of drawing and painting as well as her penchant for rescuing and caring for sick and wounded animals. She also chooses not to eat meat.

All her siblings, bar one, are happily married and they want the same for Esme but she has no intention of marrying for a long time yet. However, one impulsive act is about to change everything. While out one day, she comes across a mysterious, naked man asleep by her neighbour’s lake and simply has to draw him, never imagining that her drawing will become the source of a public scandal.

The sketchbook flew out of Esme’s grasp, pages fluttering wide before the book spun and skidded to a halt on the floor.

She bent quickly to retrieve it, but Lettice Waxhaven’s loud gasp let her know it was already too late. Everyone else was turning and looking too. Breath froze in her chest, her thoughts tumbling wildly one over the other as she tried to think exactly how to explain the page with the gloriously bare, unforgettably gorgeous male specimen lying open for all to see.

Now her fate is sealed – marriage to a stranger.

The subject of her drawing is Gabriel Lansdowne, Viscount Northcote, an inveterate rake infamous for his debauched lifestyle and scandalous erotic art collection. He is at a total loss when six angry Byron brothers, including his next-door neighbours, Leo and Lawrence Byron, invade his house and threaten him. Having no idea what they are talking about, he proceeds to antagonise them even more but, eventually he convinces them that he has never actually met their sister, but unfortunately the die is cast and he has no choice but to marry Esme.

I love how the focus of the story is on Gabriel and Esme’s developing relationship. No distracting mystery to solve, just two people on a journey of discovery about themselves and each other and ultimately falling in love. During their honeymoon at Gabriel’s house in Cornwall, they enjoy each other’s company and their compatibility extends to the bedroom too. Esme had few expectations for the marriage but…

…day by day she fell deeper under his spell, enjoying more than his touch, but his company as well. His clever mind and his sharp wit. His unexpectedly generous nature and his willingness to share—everything, that is, but almost nothing about his past or his family, whereas he knew practically everything about her own.

Gabriel has never known the love and loyalty of a family like Esme’s. Knowing details of how he was abandoned, abused and betrayed by the people who should have loved and protected him made it easy to understand how those experiences shaped the man he became…a cynical man who is afraid of love.

Love was weakness and he would drive its nascent tendrils from his soul before it had a chance to dig in and take root.

So, when an old friend observes that he is in love with his wife, Gabriel realises that he is coming to care for Esme but fears becoming emotionally involved because he knows from experience it can only lead to heartbreak. So, he panics and, after leaving Esme at Ten Elms, his estate in Derbyshire, he heads for London.

He needed space, a bit of separation between them, so he could get his emotions under proper control again. This thing between them—whatever it might be—was dangerous and had to be stopped.

Although, at first, justifiably angry and hurt, I love Esme’s determination to get her husband back. She knows that Gabriel is a good man who hides his true self beneath a cynical façade.  She sees it in the kindness he shows his servants and his acceptance of her menagerie of animals and she feels it in his kisses and touches. She knows that he is capable of love but she must earn his trust first and I like how she compares Gabriel to one of her wounded animals.

She had worked with enough wounded animals in her time to know that you couldn’t smother and push them too fast to accept you or they would remain wary of even the most tender care. Gentle, consistent handling and affection were the keys to their hearts. She just prayed they would prove the keys to Gabriel’s heart as well.

Just as a HEA seems within their grasp, there is another obstacle to overcome. At this point, I wanted to shake some sense into Gabriel  when the fool believes Esme would betray him with another man, but I love how Esme stands up for herself and matters come to head, forcing Gabriel to finally admit his love for her.

I love the scene where a bold Esme sends Gabriel’s despicable uncle packing and gives his servant spies their marching orders. There is also a very poignant and emotional scene where Esme gives Gabriel a gift of a rare Cornish silver pocket watch which has special significance for him.

I enjoyed the humorous interactions between Gabriel and the Byron brothers, especially Leo and Lawrence.

MY VERDICT: Although not quite as good as the previous book, this is still a delightful, witty, entertaining and romantic story. 

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Rakes of Cavendish Square series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Bedding Proposal (The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #1) by Tracy Anne Warren Happily Bedded Bliss (The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #2) by Tracy Anne Warren Bedchamber Games (The Rakes of Cavendish Square #3) by Tracy Anne Warren



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