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Posts Tagged ‘4 Stars’

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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duke-ever-after

(Duke’s Club, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A Duke With A Scandalous Secret:
The Duke of Aston has always been the talk of the ton. Wild, passionate, and eccentric, women fall at his feet and gentlemen won’t dare to meet him on the dueling ground. But the duke has a secret. A secret that could destroy his family. While the world sees him as a prince of the realm, he knows that in truth, he’s worthless. So, when Lady Rosamund enters his life demanding he teach her the artful ways of seduction, he’s happy to oblige until he realizes she is the best woman he has ever known and therefore a woman he can never have.

A Lady Who Won’t Be Intimidated:
Lady Rosamund, only sibling of the Duke of Blackburn, is lonely. Raised in the remote glens of the Western Highlands, Rosamund has lived a sheltered life where only books and long walks have relieved her isolation. When she meets the Duke of Aston near her home, a man as delicious as the heroes she’s read about, the passion that sparks between them in undeniable. Adventurous spirit that the duke is, Rosamund knows he’s the man for her. But as she grows closer to the duke, opening her heart to him, his own heart closes.

Can she teach this tortured duke that he is worthy of love or will his past drive them apart forever?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have enjoyed all the books in Eva Devon’s Duke’s Club series and DUKE EVER AFTER is no exception. Her stories are always entertaining, emotional, romantic and sensual.

The handsome, scandalous, fun loving Duke of Aston was a loveable secondary character in the earlier books who seemed to have everything.  Now we discover that behind this jovial mask is a man burdened with a family secret which he is determined to keep at all costs. His bon vivant air, a love for life, and a desire for all things mad-capped tend to keep people at bay and his secret secure. The only person who truly knows him is his illegitimate son, Tony.

Rosamund loves her Scottish home but, since the death of their profligate father, her brother, Duncan, has become a rigid, dour man…the epitome of everything that is proper. He is no longer the laughing, teasing brother she once knew and Rosamund is discontented with her lonely, unfulfilled life and craves adventure.

As she stared out at the towering bens that were a beautiful boundary she’d only escaped through books, she couldn’t help wishing she could step foot over them once. Just once.

I love how in all the books in this series, the hero and heroine’s first meeting has been unconventional and most memorable. No ballrooms or soirees for Ms Devon. No indeed. In fact, Derek and Rosamund meet while each is swimming naked in a Scottish loch.

She then grinned a most gamine grin, her lips, due to the cold, a striking red against her pale skin. “Lovely day for a swim!”
And with that, she struck off, her feet leaving a froth of water in her wake.
Aston gaped as she swam rapidly away
.

Rosamund is kind, good humoured but also obstinate and headstrong which makes her the perfect match for Derek.  I love how she refuses to be intimidated by him and isn’t afraid to pursue the man she wants. She is the only one to see through his carefully constructed façade and is determined to uncover the real Derek beneath.

She seemed to sense the cracks in his facade and she wasn’t content to just look at them. Oh no. She wanted to know him. And to know him, she’d have to pry at those cracks and break through to the man he was underneath.

Derek has always distanced himself from everyone since childhood, but he finds he has feelings for Rosamund and is totally at sea when it comes to dealing with them. His genuine fear is that, once she knows his secret, she will see him as unworthy of her. I understood Derek’s fears given the nature of the secret he has carried all these years and the way his father succeeded in destroying Derek’s sense of self-worth. However, I was frustrated by his constant refusal to confide in Rosamund but this was tempered by her heart-warming words when he finally reveals the truth.

“From the moment I saw you in the loch, I knew you were the man for me. Not the duke. Not the privileged, titled, legitimate son of some powerful peer. You were the man I wanted. The man who saw into my soul and I saw yours.”
A tear slipped from Derek’s eye. With a groan, he pulled himself into a sitting position. “Then you’ll have me?”
She smiled. A smile so wide and true it almost hurt. “Today. Tomorrow. Every day. Until we are old and wrinkled.”

Derek’s determination to protect his mother’s memory and his overwhelming love for his son, Tony, reveals what an honourable and caring man he is.

I adore Tony with his boyish charm and such a wise head on young shoulders. I enjoyed seeing the rapport between him and Rosamund, who regards him as a younger, cheeky brother.  I like how Tony sees his father as a great duke and a great man but isn’t afraid to stand up to Derek if the occasion arises.

Duncan, Rosamund’s brother, and fellow members of the Duke’s Club cause some problems for Derek and Rosamund before everything is sorted out so they can marry, and the Epilogue promises them a long and happy ever after.

It is worth pointing out that Duncan and Imogen’s story (Wish Upon a Duke) runs concurrently with Derek and Rosamund’s.

MY VERDICT: A thoroughly entertaining romance which I can definitely recommend.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Duke’s Club series (click on the book cover for more details):

Once Upon a Duke (Duke's Club, #1) by Eva Devon Dreaming of the Duke (Duke's Club, #2) by Eva Devon Wish Upon A Duke (Duke's Club, #3) by Eva Devon All About the Duke (Duke's Club, #4) by Eva Devon Duke Ever After (Duke's Club, #5) by Eva Devon Not Quite A Duke (Duke's Club, #6) by Eva Devon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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wicked-rivals

(League of Rogues, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A LORD WITH LEGENDARY CONTROL…

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

A FIERY WOMAN WHO WON’T BACK DOWN…

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

A GAME OF WITS TURNS TO A GAME OF SEDUCTION…

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

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

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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save-the-last-dance-for-me

Kindle – 77 Pages

(Maitland Maidens, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1812)

Cover Blurb:

Mr. Benedict Grey is the only heir to a long-standing title, and he knows his duty: find a suitable girl, get married, secure the succession beyond himself. But if a gentleman could be called a wallflower, Benedict would fit the description perfectly. And for the past six years, he’s been out of Society more than he’s been in it. How will he find a woman to wed and bed when he can barely converse with the ladies of the ton?

Lady Honoria Maitland has promised her dying father that, before he breathes his last, she would find a husband to take care of her. But she wants a gentleman that loves her, not her dowry or her name. When she reunites with her old friend Benedict, she proposes a plan that will help them both: a faux courtship and betrothal. She can teach him how to woo a woman and simultaneously ease her father’s last days. But Honoria’s clever plan failed to account for Benedict’s heart…or her own. Is she strong enough to bear the loss of her father and her friend?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME, the first book in her Maitland Maidens series, is Ms Lee’s debut work which was originally published in the anthology, Sweet Summer Kisses.

Antiquarian Benedict Grey is tongue-tied and awkward at society events and only too aware that he bores everyone to death. Circumstances require him to marry and produce an heir but he know he lacks the necessary social skills to court a potential wife.

Believing he is terminally ill, Lady Honoria Maitland’s father wants his daughter settled before he dies and has sent her off for a season in London to look for a husband. Although Honoria has enough money to live independently, her father believes she needs a man to protect her and there is also her young brother to consider. After eleven years on the marriage mart, she has very little hope of finding love which is the one thing she truly wants.

Benedict and Honoria were childhood friends and when they meet again at a Christmas House Party, Honoria proposes a plan that will be mutually beneficial. She will teach him how to woo a lady while he agrees to a sham betrothal to put her father’s mind at rest. However…

“Things rarely end up the way we plan them.”

I really enjoyed this friends-to-lovers romance with its likeable hero and heroine and it was also refreshing to have a less-than-perfect hero.  Even within the confines of  70 pages, Ms Lee succeeds in giving her characters sufficient depth to make them feel real. She also conveys the relationship between Benedict and Honoria in a believable and charming way. I usually love plenty of heat in my romances but, in this book, I feel the lack of explicit love scenes fits the general mood of the story perfectly.

I like Ms Lee’s intelligent and engaging writing style and I know that she employs a British editor which definitely shows in her choice of vocabulary and lack of Americanisms, the bane of British readers like myself.

MY VERDICT: A well-written and charming short story and I will be looking out for book 2 in the Maitland Maiden series, BACK IN MY ARMS AGAIN.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

Read September 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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days-of-rakes-and-roses

Kindle edition – 93 pages

(Sons of Sin, #1.5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency 1816 &1826)

Cover Blurb:

Lady Lydia Rothermere has spent the past decade trying to make up for a single, youthful moment of passion. Now the image of propriety, Lydia knows her future rests on never straying outside society’s rigid rules, but hiding away the desire that runs through her is harder than she could have ever dreamed. And as she prepares for a marriage that will suit her family, but not her heart, Lydia must decide what’s more important: propriety or passion?

Simon Metcalf is a rake and adventurer. But for all his experience, nothing can compare to the kiss he stole from the captivating Lydia Rothermere ten years ago. Simon can scarcely believe he’s about to lose the one woman he’s never forgotten. The attraction between them is irresistible, yet Lydia refuses to forsake her engagement. With his heart on the line, will Simon prove that love is a risk worth taking?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Days of Rakes and Roses was originally released in July 2013 but regrettably it was not available to purchase in the UK until earlier this year. In the intervening three years, I read all the other books in the excellent Sons of Sin series. Now reading this lovely second-chance romance is just like enjoying a small but delicious dessert after the main course and I can definitely confirm that it can be read as a standalone.

I adore Simon. He truly loved Lydia but, when her father caught them in a compromising situation, he was forced to leave England or see his family destroyed. Simon knew that he could never have asked Lydia to run away with him because, as a penniless second son, he could never offer her a life worthy of her. So he had struggled to forget Lydia, drinking and whoring his way across Europe, but to no avail because:

…through all that time, nothing had erased the memory of the one woman he’d ever loved. And nothing had eased his yearning for her.

I could sympathise with Lydia’s situation. The Rothermere family has lived in the shadow of scandal for many years and Lydia has always been afraid of disappointing her father or tarnishing the family reputation. She has been in love with Simon forever but he always seemed impossibly out of reach. When she discovers that Simon feels the same way, she is willing to cast caution to the winds, but it costs her dearly. Finding Lydia in a compromising situation with Simon, her father’s retribution is swift and harsh and, from that moment on, she vows that she will be the epitome of propriety. Over the years, the passionate 17-year-old has become:

…a mature, sensible woman of twenty-seven marrying a mature, sensible man of forty-one. She was content with her decision.

So when Simon re-enters her life, Lydia is beset by all sorts of emotions. She still loves him but, for ten years, even after her father died, she had heard nothing from him, only the occasional report of his rakish exploits abroad. She’d finally accepted that he cared nothing for her and decided to move on with her life and marry Sir Grenville. I can understand her stubbornness in revealing her true feelings and trusting Simon with her heart.

I love that Simon is honest about his feelings for Lydia and prepared to fight for her even though he fears she no longer feels the same about him.

In his heart, she was his, she’d always be his. The problem was he had a strong suspicion that, while she may once have felt the same, she felt the same no longer.

Ms Campbell provides just enough conflict before these two can attain their overdue Happy Ever After.

I like how Camden, Lydia’s brother, wants her to be happy and feels she deserves better than a cold marriage with Sir Grenville and is even willing to weather any resulting scandal. I also like how he sees beyond Simon’s reputation:

Aren’t you worried that you invite a libertine into the family?”
Cam leveled an uncompromising stare on him as he lifted the decanter. “Do you mean to play my sister false?”
“Of course not.” He paused. “But how can you trust me?”
“You can’t have changed that much from the boy I grew up with.” Cam refilled both their glasses. “Anyway the best proof of Lydia’s hold on you is that you came the moment I sent for you.”

There is also a brief appearance by Sir Richard Harmsworth (A Rake’s Midnight Kiss).

MY VERDICT: Once again, Anna Campbell enchanted me with this short but captivating love story. If you haven’t read the Sons of Sin series, I can definitely recommend it to all lovers of historical romance.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read September 2016

 

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

Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed (Sons of Sin, #1) by Anna Campbell Days of Rakes and Roses (Sons of Sin, #1.5) by Anna Campbell A Rake's Midnight Kiss (Sons of Sin, #2) by Anna Campbell What a Duke Dares (Sons of Sin, #3) by Anna Campbell A Scoundrel by Moonlight (Sons of Sin, #4) by Anna Campbell Three Proposals and a Scandal (Sons of Sin, #4.5) by Anna Campbell

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the-duchess-hunt

(House of Trent, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

THE DUKE’S DESIRE

Simon Hawkins, Duke of Trent, is no stranger to scandal. Rumors and innuendo have darkened the House of Trent for decades, and it has fallen to Simon to restore his tattered family name. He lives by a strict code of honor, but when he is called home to investigate his mother’s disappearance, the distinguished duke will tangle with temptation. For there waits the only woman he has ever loved-and the last woman he should desire . . .

Sarah Osborne has spent her life dreaming of Simon’s touch. But dukes do not long for lady’s maids–or so Sarah believes, until a stolen kiss sparks a passion that could be her ultimate undoing. As the couple begins a forbidden romance, a cunning enemy plots to destroy the duke and everything he loves. Now, caught in a blackmailer’s web, Simon faces an agonizing choice: Sacrifice his family’s future, or break Sarah’s heart.

♥♥♥♥♥♥                                                                                                                                         

This is my first time reading Jennifer Haymore and I really enjoyed THE DUCHESS HUNT, the first book in her House of Trent series. A charming story, it features two of my favourite tropes, friends to lovers and a cross class romance.

When Simon Hawkins, the Duke of Trent, receives news from his sister, Esme, that his mother has mysteriously disappeared, he returns home to Ironwood Park to investigate, aided by his three brothers and his half-brother. Honour, integrity, decency and propriety are the principles by which Simon Hawkins has lived since becoming Duke of Trent. His parents’ scandalous behaviour has brought the House of Trent into disrepute and Simon has spent all his life trying the restore the Hawkins’ family reputation. However, these principles are tested when, after an absence of three years, he sees Sarah Osborne again.

His body came instantly alive at the sight of her, even after all this time. Even under the circumstances. Lust. Desire. Need. All of it barreled through him in a hot rush.
Damn. She was more beautiful than ever.

Sarah Osborne was eight years old when she went to live at Ironwood Park with her father, who is employed as the Duke of Trent’s gardener. After being rescued from a blackberry bush by the thirteen-year-old Simon, he takes Sarah back to the house to have her injuries attended to. Simon’s unconventional mother takes a shine to the girl and arranges for Sarah to be raised and educated with her own children. What starts as a friendship between Simon and Sarah soon develops into a strong attraction which culminates in a passionate kiss.  Shortly after, Simon leaves for London but now, after an absence of three years, he is back. Sarah knows that, as a housemaid, there can never be any future for them but…

…she was as besotted with the Duke of Trent as she’d ever been. More so, probably.

Fearing for Esme’s safety, Simon decides to take her to London with Sarah acting as her companion. As circumstances throw them ever closer together, how long will it be before Simon and Sarah succumb to the passion that burns between them ?

I sympathised with Simon, torn between his strong sense of honour and his overwhelming love for Sarah. He knows that having such feelings for someone who works for him and is under his care is morally wrong but…

His body paid no heed to his strict attempts at discipline, to his notions of honor and responsibility.
   He wanted her.
   God help him.

Even so, he respects Sarah too much to make her his mistress and I also like the fact that, when he finally does marry, he intends to remain faithful to his wife.

I like Sarah very much. She is kind, honest, loyal and compassionate and understands Simon and loves him for himself and not for his title. She is pragmatic enough to appreciate the vast gulf that lies between them and knows that one day Simon must marry. She accepts this but I love her boldness in wanting to experience making love with Simon.

 “No regrets, Your Grace. I offer you this with my eyes wide open. I know” – she took a deep breath – “our time together will be limited. But it can be for now. Just for now, we can offer each other comfort.”

I like how she truly cares about Simon’s socially awkward sister Esme and tries to help her overcome her fears.

The romance provides a satisfying blend of emotional and sexual tension. There is potential heartbreak when a blackmailer threatens to keep the lovers forever apart but, when the blackmail threat is thwarted, Simon realises that nothing matters more than the woman he loves and refuses to live without…honour and responsibility be damned.

Sarah Osborne was the only woman who moved him. Who he admired. Who could engage him, body, mind, and spirit. He loved her. And he wanted it all.

I love the rest of the Hawkins family, particularly Lukas, the apparent black sheep of the family; Sam, the hard-working, illegitimate, half-brother; quiet, studious Esme who is keeping a rather scandalous secret. I’m definitely looking forward to reading their stories. I  love the dynamics between the brothers and their bond is obvious. I also like how they show their support for Simon and Sarah.

The deeper they dug into the mire that was his mother’s disappearance, the murkier it became.

I am definitely intrigued by the mystery surrounding the duchess’s disappearance and, as there is no resolution at the end of this book, it appears that the mystery is set to continue throughout the series…definitely an added incentive to read the other books.

MY VERDICT: This was an enjoyable introduction to this series and I will definitely be reading the next book, THE ROGUE’S PROPOSAL, Lukas’s story.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read September 2016

 

House of Trent series (click on the book cover for more details):

The Duchess Hunt (House of Trent, #1) by Jennifer Haymore The Rogue's Proposal (House of Trent, #2) by Jennifer Haymore The Scoundrel's Seduction (House of Trent, #3) by Jennifer Haymore

 

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