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Posts Tagged ‘4 Stars’

Lady Joy and the Earl

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1815)

Book Blurb:

They have loved each other since childhood, but life has not been kind to either of them. James Highcliffe’s arranged marriage had been everything but loving, and Lady Joy’s late husband believed a woman’s spirit was meant to be broken. Therefore, convincing Lady Jocelyn Lathrop to abandon her freedom and consider marriage to him after twenty plus years apart may be more than the Earl of Hough can manage. Only the spirit of Christmas can bring these two together when secrets mean to keep them apart.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was both a heart-breaking and heart-warming second chance love story, made all the more satisfying by the Christmas setting.

I really felt so desperately sad for the young James and Jocelyn (Joy, as he calls her) and how their hopes and dreams of a life together were destroyed by their respective fathers. Neither arranged marriage was a happy one and, now they are both widowed, James is determined to marry Joy, the woman he has never stopped loving. However, he discovers that Joy is no longer the vibrant, happy girl he remembers. Instead, he finds a sad, bitter, resentful woman who seems to blame him for her unhappiness.

The abuse that Joy suffered at her husband’s hands was truly heartrending and she still bears the physical and emotional scars. Since her husband’s demise, under unusual circumstances, she has been determined to control her own life, building defences around herself, and never letting anyone close. Her sons have become her world and her love for them and her need to protect them is paramount. She also has secrets which she has never revealed, even to her own family.

Joy’s feelings of bitterness and anger towards James are understandable because, for all these years, she believed that he had simply married someone else, leaving her broken-hearted. It is only when she learns the true nature of his marriage does Joy realise how much James had suffered too, in a different way.

James treats Joy with such patience and kindness, and I love his determination to restore her love of life, even though he faces an uphill struggle. When Joy’s secrets are finally revealed, James is there for her and it is heartening to see how supportive Joy and James’ families are.

I like the fact that Ms. Jeffers does not have Joy suddenly recovering from the years of abusive marriage. It will take time to dispel those terrible memories but, with James’ love, she can gradually replace them with joyful ones. The final scenes, at the end of the book, convey the love they share so beautifully and left me with a warm glow, knowing that their future held the happiness that had so long been denied to them.

MY VERDICT: An emotional, poignant and heart-warming Christmas novella – just perfect for curling up with on a dark, winter’s evening.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

**In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author with no strings attached. It is my personal choice to write this review and these are my honest thoughts about the book.** 

 

 

 

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The Laird's Christmas Kiss

(The Lairds Most Likely, #2)

 Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – 1818)

Book Blurb:

Down with love! 

Ever since she was fifteen, shy wallflower Elspeth Douglas has pined in vain for the attentions of dashing Brody Girvan, Laird of Invermackie. But the rakish Highlander doesn’t even know she’s alive. Now she’s twenty, she realizes that she’ll never be happy until she stops loving her brother’s handsome friend. When family and friends gather at Achnasheen Castle for Christmas, she intends to show the world that’s she’s all grown up and grown out of silly crushes on gorgeous Scotsmen. So take that, my gallant laddie!

Girls just want to have fun… 

Except it turns out that Brody isn’t singing from the same Christmas carol sheet. Elspeth decides she’s not interested in him anymore, just as he decides he’s very interested indeed. In fact, now he looks more closely, his friend Hamish’s sister is pretty and funny and forthright – and just the lassie to share his Highland estate. Convincing his little wren of his romantic intentions is difficult enough, even before she undergoes a makeover and becomes the belle of Achnasheen. For once in his life, dissolute Brody is burdened with honorable intentions, while the lady he pursues is set on flirtation with no strings attached.

Deck the halls with mistletoe! 

With interfering friends and a crate of imported mistletoe thrown into the mix, the stage is set for a house party rife with secrets, clandestine kisses, misunderstandings, heartache, scandal, and love triumphant.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have read and enjoyed several of Anna Campbell’s Christmas stories and this delightful novella was no exception.

For the past year, Brody has been unhappy; his hedonistic lifestyle had begun to pall and he is feeling aimless and lost when he arrives at Achnasheen Castle for Christmas. I love how, for the first time, he actually sees Elspeth. To her family she is a ‘wee mouse’, but to Brody she is intelligent, interesting and pure of heart and he is perceptive enough to notice her beauty and charm. I love how his actions reveal an honourable man when he steps up to offer marriage because he believes he has compromised Elspeth’s reputation.

Elspeth may appear dull and mousy but when she makes up her mind to do something, nothing  deters her. I saw this in her determination to forget her childish infatuation for Brody and enjoyed seeing a more mature and confident Elspeth emerging. It was satisfying to see her turn the tables on Brody by indulging in a no strings attached flirtation with him and discover what it felt like to be pursued by a rake, when she held all the cards.

Poor Brody has his work cut out convincing Elspeth that his love is sincere, given his past reputation. His friends, Elspeth’s brother, Hamish, and her cousin, Diarmid, certainly don’t help matters because they don’t seem to regard him as a worthy suitor for Elspeth.

I enjoyed seeing Brody and Elspeth discovering things about each other but also about themselves during the course of the story. They are such a likeable couple and I was rooting for them. There maybe trials and tribulations but the spirit of Christmas prevails and love wins through in the end.

“Oh, Brody, you make me so happy. This morning, I thought I’d never be happy again.”
He stared into her face, recognizing her as his destiny. “I’ll do my best to make ye happy for the rest of your life.”
Her lips curled in a smile that expressed a universe of joy. For the first time, he genuinely believed that she did love him.
“I’d love that.
“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
“So?”
She laughed, and the warm sound rippled down his backbone and settled in his heart. “Of course I’ll marry you, Brody.”

I love Marina for the way in which she supports and encourages Elspeth, unlike her mother who is more interested is gaining influence as a political hostess than her daughter’s happiness. I hate how she denigrates Elspeth at every opportunity.

Having met Fergus and Marina in this novella, I definitely want to read their story in The Laird’s Willful Lass, the first book in the series. I am also looking forward to seeing Hamish and Diarmid brought to their knees by love and sincerely hope that Brody and Elspeth get the chance to gloat!

MY VERDICT: A real holiday treat from one of my favourite authors.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Lairds Most Likely series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

 The Laird's Willful Lass (The Lairds Most Likely, #1) by Anna Campbell The Laird’s Christmas Kiss (The Lairds Most Likely, #2) by Anna Campbell

 

**In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of this novella as a gift from the author. It is my personal choice to write this review and these are my honest thoughts about the story.** 

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Ten Ways

(Love by Numbers, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1823)

Cover Blurb:

“Lord Nicholas is a paragon of manhood. And his eyes, Dear Reader! So blue!” Pearls & Pelisses, June 1823

Since being named ‘London’s Lord to Land’ by a popular ladies’ magazine, Nicholas St John has been relentlessly pursued by every matrimony-minded female in the ton. So when an opportunity to escape fashionable society presents itself, he eagerly jumps – only to land in the path of the most determined, damnably delicious woman he’s ever met!

The daughter of a titled wastrel, Lady Isabel Townsend has too many secrets and too little money. Though she is used to taking care of herself quite handily, her father’s recent passing has left Isabel at sea and in need of outside help to protect her young brother’s birthright. The sinfully handsome, eminently eligible Lord Nicholas could be the very salvation she seeks.

But the lady must be wary and not do anything reckless and foolish . . . like falling madly, passionately in love.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I absolutely loved Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, the first book in this series, and had high expectations of Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord. I have to say that, although it was good, it did not quite live up to my expectations. But, to be fair, Nine Rules was always going to be a tough act to follow.

What can I say about Nicholas? He is just gorgeous! He is not only devastatingly handsome, intelligent, charming and super sexy but also a genuinely good man. Given how his mother’s desertion had destroyed his father and his own betrayal at the hands of a woman, I could fully understand his attitude towards love – to be avoided at all costs. He has his own rules when it comes to amorous affairs…

No mistresses. No regular assignations. And, most definitely, no wife.

But we all know that rules are meant to be broken, as Nicholas (Nick) discovers when he meets Lady Isabel Townsend. He cannot resist a lady in distress, even if she is the most intriguing, infuriating and secretive woman he has ever known. He is also drawn to her combination of strength and vulnerability.

I love how honest and forthright Nick is with Isabel and how he does everything he can to protect not only Isabel but also her ten-year-old brother, James, now Earl of Reddich, and the women of Minerva House.

“I am not perfect. I cannot promise you that I will not do things that will hurt you.” He paused, his scar a pale line against his darkened skin. “But I will do everything in my power to protect you and James and these girls.”

I also adore how Nick takes James under his wing and becomes like a surrogate father to him. The scenes between them are quite charming such as this one.

Nick turned. “Would you like me to teach you?”
The boy’s eyes lit up. “Would you mind very much?”
“Not at all.” Nick removed the strip of linen from his person and placed it around James’s neck. Turning the boy to the looking glass, he walked James through the movements until the cravat was a fair approximation of the knot Nick had created earlier.

Isabel’s life has not been easy. Her late father had always neglected his wife and children, leaving them in the country, while he went off to London to enjoy a profligate and scandalous life. I admire Isabel’s courage in rising to the difficult challenge of running the estate and her resolve to provide a safe haven for the women at Minerva House and give them a fresh start in life. She is also determined to ensure that her brother, James, receives an upbringing and education befitting his position as earl. Those around her believe that she can face any challenge but are unaware that she is just as afraid and uncertain as they are. but hides it behind an air of confidence. Seeing this vulnerability in Isabel made her more relatable.

Poor Nick! I felt so sorry for him because it is obvious how deeply he loves Isabel but she continually pushes him away.

How many times had he worked to regain her trust, to prove his worth? And how many times had Isabel rejected him?

I can understand Isabel’s initial reluctance to trust Nick. After all, her father’s irresponsible actions would hardly have convinced her that men were trustworthy, and the plight of those women who sought refuge in Minerva House would only have reinforced that opinion. But her constant refusal to trust Nick, even after he proves himself over and over again, was just so irritating. I wanted to grab her and shake her for not having faith in him. Luckily, she finally comes to her senses and it is refreshing to see the heroine forced to do some grovelling, rather than the hero.

The romance between these two is quite steamy and Ms. MacLean certainly knows how write the most sensual scenes. One that particularly comes to mind is the scene between Nick and Isabel in the statuary. A cold shower is definitely recommended after reading it!!

There is a sweet secondary romance between Lara, Isabel’s cousin, and Durukhan (Rock), Nick’s companion and friend, which plays out in the background and forms a nice contrast to the more passionate one between Nick and Isabel.

I enjoyed the scenes involving the ladies of Minerva House, particularly the one at the beginning of the book when, in male disguise, they are helping Isabel to get rid of yet another man to whom her father has promised her hand in marriage, in payment for his latest gambling debt. I grinned all the way through it.

He turned on Isabel. “What’s this, then?”
The stable master slapped her coiled horsewhip against one thigh, the thwack of the leather causing Asperton to flinch. “We do not like you raising your voice to a lady, sir.”
Isabel watched as the angled notch at his thin throat quivered. “I—I am …”

I enjoyed catching up with Gabriel and Callie (Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake) and I’m looking forward to the arrogant, rude and overbearing Duke of Leighton meeting his match in the final book of the series, Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart.

MY VERDICT: A most enjoyable story with interesting characters, a passionate and sensual romance and delightful touches of humour.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Love by Numbers series (click on the book covers for more details):

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1) by Sarah MacLean Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers, #2) by Sarah MacLean Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart (Love By Numbers, #3) by Sarah MacLean

 

 

 

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The Governess Game UK
(UK cover)

(Girl Meets Duke, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

He’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson

The accidental governess

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart . . . without risking her own.

The infamous rake

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

♥♥♥♥♥

When I pick up a Tessa Dare book, I have no expectations of it being historically accurate but I simply love her well-written, romantic, sexy and funny stories. 

This is the second book in her Girl Meets Duke series and, while I really enjoyed it, for me, it was not quite as good as The Duchess Deal.

Alex, the daughter of an American sea-captain and a Filipino Metiza, had an unconventional upbringing. Raised by her father, after her mother died, she spent 10 years on her father’s ship sailing the globe. When tragedy strikes and her father goes down with his ship in a storm, Alex travels to England where distant relatives are willing to pay for her schooling but want nothing to do with her and she finds herself all alone in the world. Even her schoolmates are cruel to her but she soon comes to realise that she has an advantage over them because…

I was indebted to no one, I answered to no one, and I needn’t meet anyone’s expectations of what a young lady should or shouldn’t be. My life was my own. I could follow any dream, if I was prepared to work hard for it

Alex is the sort of unorthodox heroine that Ms. Dare excels in writing. Smart, independent, stubborn, resilient and tenacious, she has been making a living setting clocks to Greenwich Mean Time in the homes of wealthy customers. She is also a budding astronomer with a plan to discover new comets and then sell them to aristocrats.

Being an orphan herself, Alex understands just what Rosamund and Daisy need and gradually gains their trust. I love how she finds unorthodox, imaginative and highly successful ways of teaching them.

Piracy?” Rosamund sounded skeptical but intrigued. “

“These are your new lessons.” Alexandra wrote five topics on the board. “Log keeping. Plunder. Navigation. The Pirate’s Code.” She ended the list. “And needlework.”

“Needlework?” Daisy made a face. “Why would a pirate need serviettes?”

No, I don’t think piracy will find a place on the modern school curriculum!

Following the death of his cousin, Anthony, Chase is now the sole heir to his uncle’s Belvoir dukedom – a role he never wanted and believes himself unworthy of. He blames himself for what happened to Anthony and not only feels the pain of losing someone he cared about but is also burdened with feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Chase is so affected by what happened that he has built an impenetrable wall around himself and now lives by one rule – no emotional attachments. His belief that he will fail anyone he cares for and that he is unworthy of love runs deep. He has earned a reputation as a rake because his self-loathing has driven him into the arms of numerous women where, for a short time, he feels something other than worthless. His lovers are well aware that physical pleasure is all he offers. I did not quite buy into the ‘I’m not deserving of love’ scenario because his reasons were somewhat tenuous, but I was willing to overlook my reservations because Chase is charming, sexy, self-deprecating and wickedly funny, a combination that is hard to resist.

Despite his no emotional attachment rule, it is obvious that he loves his wards, Rosamund and Daisy, and actions often speak louder than any words…

“…you’re also a man who holds a little girl’s hand and eulogizes her doll every morning. A duke’s heir who builds cozy window seats and bookshelves by hand for his orphaned wards.”

Rosamund and Daisy were definitely one of the highlights of the book for me. They are bold, clever and resourceful and their antics are hilarious,  especially the eulogy scenes with poor Millicent, Daisy’s doll, succumbing to a series of horrible diseases, but there is also a serious side because it is Daisy’s way of coming to terms with the death and loss she has suffered in her short life. At heart, they are just young girls who are looking for love, a home and security and I like how Ms. Dare often combines both comedy with more serious issues.

The story is laced with Tessa Dare’s trademark humour and here are a few of my favourite moments.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an engagement this evening. The women of London can’t pleasure themselves, you know. I mean, they can pleasure themselves. But on occasion they generously let me have a go at it.” (Chase)

♥♥

Cold. That was the first decipherable sensation.

And after cold, wet.

A deluge of water had sloshed over them both. He slicked his hair back with both hands and looked up. He spied Rosamund and Daisy hanging over the window sash far above. Each girl held an empty bucket in her hands.

.”Ever so sorry!” Rosamund called down. “We needed to bail out the bilgewater.” “Too many rats,” Daisy added, hand cupped around her mouth. “There’s plague aboard.”  (Rosamund and Daisy repelling an unwelcome boarder!)

♥♥

If you hurt her, in even the slightest way, I will eviscerate you.” “Understood.” “I mean it, Reynaud. In fact, gutting would be too good for you. I will subject you to my cat.”

“Your cat?” Chase laughed. “To mewl at me, I suppose.”

“Trust me. We’re not speaking of the average cat.”

Alexandra spoke up. “I can attest to this.”

“I’ll strip you bare, tie your hands behind your back, smear salmon on your manly bits, and lock the two of you in a wardrobe. Once he’s clawed your ballocks to shreds, I’ll crush whatever remains of you to a bloody, formless pulp.” (Ash threatens Chase with the “hellion cat”)

♥♥

As always, Ms. Dare assembles an interesting cast of secondary characters including…

  • Alex’s friends – Lady Penelope Campion, an incurable romantic with a menagerie of wounded animals; Nicola Teague with her little caddy of hand tools and her baking skills; Emma, Duchess of Ashbury (The Duchess Deal), the most understanding of her friends
  • Duke of Ashbury (Ash) (The Duchess Deal) who proves to be very protective of Alex and a real thorn in Chase’s side. Look out for the hilarious fight between these two!
  • John Barrow, Chase’s half-brother, solicitor and trusted friend

Love them or hate them and I’m in the former camp, there is an added bonus of a charming Epilogue.

Penelope’s story, The Wallflower Wager,  is next in the series and I think Ms. Dare has already hinted at who her hero might be.

MY VERDICT: Endearing characters, a sensual, heart-warming romance, lively banter and laugh-out-loud moments make this a most enjoyable read. 


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Girl Meets Duke series so far (click on the book covers for more details):
The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Autumn Bride

(Chance Sisters, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – 1805 and 1816)

Cover Blurb

Governess Abigail Chantry will do anything to save her sister and two dearest friends from destitution, even if it means breaking into an empty mansion in the hope of finding something to sell. Instead of treasures, though, she finds the owner, Lady Beatrice Davenham, bedridden and neglected. Appalled, Abby rousts Lady Beatrice’s predatory servants and—with Lady Beatrice’s eager cooperation—the four young ladies become her “nieces,” neatly eliminating the threat of disaster for all concerned!

It’s the perfect situation, until Lady Beatrice’s dashing and arrogant nephew, Max, Lord Davenham, returns from the Orient—and discovers an impostor running his household…

A romantic entanglement was never the plan for these stubborn, passionate opponents—but falling in love may be as inevitable as the falling of autumn leaves…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Having previously read and loved THE PERFECT RAKE, I had high expectations of this book, the first in Anne Gracie’s Chance Sisters series. However, while there were aspects of the book I really loved, there were others I found disappointing.

I really liked Abigail. She is such a warm and caring person and you see that in her love for her younger sister, Jane, as well as her willingness to take in Damaris and Daisy. I also admired her courage and resourcefulness in rescuing Jane from the brothel and Lady Beatrice from the clutches of her dishonest and neglectful servants.

Max is an honourable man who is determined to work to pay off his late uncle’s debts and restore the family fortunes, and he also reveals a caring nature in his genuine love and concern for his Aunt Beatrice. While I liked Max, I did find him a rather lacklustre hero, possibly because he was overshadowed by more vibrant and memorable characters like Lady Beatrice and Freddy Monkton-Coombes.

I loved seeing the unbreakable bond that develops between the four girls and the loving relationship that grows between them and Lady Beatrice, who is definitely one of the highlights of the book. She’s such a colourful and larger than life figure who is outspoken and delights in flaunting the stuffy rules of society, even claiming the Chance sisters as her ‘nieces’. I love the scene where she regales Lady Beddington with the scandalous story of her fictitious half-sister, Griselda, her nieces’ mother, much to Max’s annoyance. I adored Max’s best friend, Freddy Monkton-Combes, who brought some lovely humour to the story with his talk of ‘muffins’ (and I don’t mean the edible kind).

While I appreciated that this was the first book in a new series and setting up the bond between the ‘sisters’ and establishing their relationship with Lady Beatrice were important elements of the story, I did not feel that it allowed enough time to fully develop the romance between Abby and Max. For me, there was no steady development of their relationship and I did not sense the deep emotional connection between them. However, some of my criticisms were softened by the charming Epilogue.

The touch of mystery surrounding Jane’s abduction added an interesting layer to the story but I felt that the opportunity to introduce a dramatic resolution to the plot line was sadly missed. Everything is neatly resolved off page with Max and Daisy relating details of what happened to the others. A clear case of telling rather than showing.

MY VERDICT: Despite my reservations, overall I enjoyed THE AUTUMN BRIDE and will definitely be reading the other books in the series to see Jane, Damaris and Daisy get their Happy Ever Afters.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


Chance Sisters series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Autumn Bride (Chance Sisters, #1) by Anne Gracie The Winter Bride (Chance Sisters, #2) by Anne Gracie The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters, #3) by Anne Gracie The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters, #4) by Anne Gracie

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Scandal at the Midsummer Ball

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

One Christmas house party leads to two Regency love affairs! 

A Governess for Christmas by Marguerite Kaye 

At the glittering Brockmore house party, former army major Drummond MacIntosh meets governess in disgrace Joanna Forsythe, who’s desperate to clear her name. Both are eager to put their pasts behind them, but their scandalous affair will make for a very different future…

Dancing with the Duke’s Heir by Bronwyn Scott 

As heir to a dukedom, Vale Penrith does not want a wife, and certainly not one like Lady Viola Hawthorne. So why does London’s Shocking Beauty tempt him beyond reason? Dare seduction the best way to bring her to surrender?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Last year, I read and very much enjoyed Scandal at the Midsummer Ball, the previous collaboration between Marguerite Kaye and Bronwyn Scott. Once again, the country estate of the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore, forms the backdrop for both stories. The couple is holding their prestigious Christmas house party culminating in the Christmas Ball on Twelfth Night. Unlike their Midsummer House Party, this is not a matchmaking event, but it seems that cupid’s arrow can strike the most improbable couples at any time.


REVIEW OF A GOVERNESS FOR CHRISTMAS BY MARGUERITE KAYE

Three and a half years ago, army major, Drummond MacIntosh, was cashiered from the army for refusing to follow a direct order. Shunned by society, he has been forced to lead a purposeless existence until the Duke of Wellington approaches Drummond to say that he wants him to serve as his aide. This would give Drummond the opportunity to forge a new life, but first he must attend the Brockmore Christmas festivities and impress his hosts enough to earn their patronage. It is well-known that the Duke and Duchess have great influence over society… where the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore lead, all of society follows. Their support would be instrumental in repairing his damaged reputation and smoothing his way back into society.

Joanna Forsythe was employed as governess to the eldest daughter of Lady Christina Robertson until wrongly accused of theft and dismissed on the spot.  Lady Robertson did not inform the authorities in view of Joanna’s previously unsullied reputation. However, with her reputation now in tatters, no respectable school will employ her, and she is forced to take a post which provides only bed and board and where she is treated as little more than a drudge when she isn’t teaching. Knowing that the Duchess of Brockmore is a close friend of Lady Christina’s, when Joanna receives an invitation to the house party, she believes that the real thief will confess, thereby establishing Joanna’s innocence and restoring her reputation. Instead, Lady Christina tries to buy her off with financial recompense for the loss of her reputation and the offer of a new position.

Often it is difficult for an author to create characters with any real depth and a believable romance within the constraints of a novella, but I feel that Ms. Kaye does this admirably.

When Drummond and Joanna first meet, they talk and share confidences, discovering   that they are each looking for a fresh start, and I felt a genuine affinity between them which made the budding romance believable. Drummond is a man of principle and I admire him for choosing to follow his conscience, knowing full the consequences of his actions. I love Joanna’s selflessness in her determination that Drummond should not jeopardise his opportunities for her sake.

They share some passionate interludes but there seems no future for them because neither can afford to have any further scandal attached to their name. Ms. Kaye conveys their longing for something they cannot have so well, and I really wanted them to find a way to be together. It takes some soul-searching before a Happy Ever After is within their grasp, although they are fully aware that their life won’t be all plain sailing, but I felt as Drummond does…

“I can’t help but feeling absolutely sure that together we can do anything we want.”


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

REVIEW OF DANCING WITH THE DUKE’S HEIR BY BROWEN SCOTT

Following the death of his father and older brother four years ago, Vale Penrith, the Duke of Brockmore’s nephew, had become the duke’s sole heir. It is a position he didn’t want and one he feels ill-fitted for.

He was a politician by conscience when the occasion demanded it, an anthropologist by choice. He was not a duke.

He has shut himself off from the world since losing his father and brother, preferring to spend his days in his library – reading, researching or writing. However, Vale has no choice but to accompany his mother to his uncle and aunt’s annual Christmas house party and knowing his uncle’s notorious reputation for matchmaking at such events, he is sure that the duke has already selected a suitable lady for him. Vale certainly has no immediate plans to marry but, when he does, it will be to a lady of his own choice.

Independently minded Lady Viola Hawthorne has no desire to marry, a state she considers nothing more than enslavement to the whims of a man. She dreams of travelling the Continent and studying music in Vienna, where she believes a woman can enjoy greater freedoms. To achieve her dreams, she has indulged in the most scandalous behaviour, earning her the title ‘London’s Shocking Beauty’, thereby discouraging ny would-be suitors. However, Viola’s parents refuse to give up hope of their daughter finding a husband, and their hopes are raised when an invitation to attend the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore’s Christmas house party arrives. Having already had three seasons with no husband in sight, Viola knows that, if she can sustain her outrageous behaviour for one more season, she will be officially ‘on the shelf’ and able to pursue her dreams.

This was the last year she had to maintain her reputation. After this Season, she’d be a candidate for the shelf—out three Seasons and no husband in sight. She could get on with her dreams.

I like Vale and could sympathise with his feelings of loss, sorrow and guilt following the tragic death of his father and brother. He had been thrown into a role that he neither expected nor wanted and felt inadequate to fulfil, and he has dealt with it by closing himself off from everyone. There is a particularly poignant scene where his uncle hugs him which conveys Vale’s emotional vulnerability.

“My boy, it is good to see you,” he said simply before wrapping him in his arms. For just a minute, he wasn’t the heir, but simply a beloved nephew and this man was not the mighty Brockmore, a powerful duke, but his uncle, his father’s older brother, a living link to the man he’d lost. And Vale savoured it.

Generally, I love unconventional, outspoken heroines, but I just didn’t like Viola.  While I understood her desire to be independent and pursue her dreams, her outrageous behaviour – the casual sex, drinking, smoking and playing billiards alone in the company of several men – seemed totally unrealistic. She behaved more like a member of the demimonde than a duke’s daughter!

I know opposites attract but the idea of Vale falling for someone like Viola stretched credulity a little too far for me. It is only towards the end of the story that Viola shows some redeeming qualities, but this felt too contrived and didn’t really convince me that these two were meant for each other.

REVIEW RATING: 3/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


General Thoughts

Once again, there is a lovely Epilogue, courtesy of the Marcus and Alicia, the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore and I hope, at some point, they will have their own story. I would love to know how they met and fell in love, especially as Marcus tells Vale he had proposed to Alicia twice and she had refused him each time. I also like how Marcus really cares for his nephew and only wants to help him rediscover a zest for living again.

MY VERDICT: Marguerite Kaye always delivers a well-written and emotionally satisfying love story. Although I found Bronwyn Scott’s story disappointing, I very much enjoyed the one in SCANDAL AT THE MIDSUMMER and will certainly be reading more of her books.

 

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the authors in return for an honest review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mistletoe and the Major

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1815)

Cover Blurb:

 Previously published in the anthology Under the Kissing Bough. 

The Major is home from the wars at last… 

Edmund Sherritt, Major Lord Canforth, has devoted eight tumultuous years to fighting Napoleon. Finally, Europe is at peace, and he can retire to his estates and the lovely wife he hasn’t seen since their brief, unhappy honeymoon. The innocent girl he loved from the first moment he saw her, but who shied away from him on their wedding night.

The beautiful woman who greets him at Otway Hall on Christmas Eve is no longer the sweet ingénue he remembers. This new and exciting version of his beloved countess is strong, outspoken, and independent, and she’s willing to stand up for what she wants. The question is—does she want the husband who returns to her arms more as a stranger than a spouse?

Now the real battle begins. 

Felicity, Lady Canforth, has had eight long years to regret that she sent her husband from a cold marriage bed to face brutal combat, danger and hardship. The only child of elderly parents, Felicity came to marriage innocent and ignorant, and unable to conceal her shock at the sensual power of the earl’s caresses. Before she found the nerve to offer Canforth a more generous welcome, he was called away to war. The Major left behind a countess who was a bride, not a wife; a woman unsure of her husband’s feelings, and too timid to confess how fervently she desires the man she wed.

Fate has granted an older, wiser Felicity a second chance to win her husband’s heart. Now nothing will stop her from claiming victory over the famous war hero. This Christmas, she’ll deploy every ounce of courage, purpose and passion to seize the life and love she’s longed for, ever since Canforth left to serve his country. Whatever it costs, whatever it takes, she’ll lure the dashing Major back into her bed, where she means to show him he’s the only man she wants as her lover—and her love.

After years of yearning and separation, will a Christmas miracle heal the wounds of the past and offer the earl and his bride a future bright with love? 

❄❄❄❄❄


I started my Christmas reading early this year with a lovely, heart-warming second-chance short story from Anna Campbell.

It was love at first sight for Edmund and Felicity (Flick), but they had only been married for two weeks when Edmund received orders to join his regiment. In their short, awkward time together, they had never felt at ease enough with each other to openly discuss their true feelings and were still little more than strangers when Edmund left. After eight long years, Edmund is finally able to return home and is determined to build a real marriage.

Even within the constraints of a short story, Ms. Campbell can still pack a real emotional punch. She made me feel Edmund and Flick’s initial feelings of uncertainty, regret and fear after their long separation. The years running the estate have given Flick a degree of confidence lacking in her younger self. The only child of elderly parents, she was shy and inexperienced when she married and regrets not having been braver and more responsive to her husband’s lovemaking. I like how she is determined to seize this second chance.

Edmund has his own fears. War has changed him, and he is uncertain of the welcome he will receive from Flick, but she sees that he is still the same kind, considerate man she remembers. I like the scene involving the ‘burnt letters’, when Flick’s misunderstanding of the situation leads them to finally talk openly about their feelings for each other and confess their love.

MY VERDICT: A delightful start to my Christmas reading.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the author for the purposes of an honest review. **

 

 

 

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