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Posts Tagged ‘5 Stars’

the-viscount-and-the-vixen

(The Helllions of Havisham, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian, 1882)

Cover Blurb:

Love begets madness. Viscount Locksley watched it happen to his father after his cherished wife’s death. But when his sire arranges to marry flame-haired fortune hunter Portia Gadstone, Locke is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the stunning beauty from taking advantage of the marquess. A marriage of mutual pleasure could be convenient, indeed . . . as long as inconvenient feelings don’t interfere.

Desperation forced Portia to agree to marry a madman. The arrangement will offer the protection she needs. Or so she believes until the marquess’s distractingly handsome son peruses the fine print . . .and takes his father’s place!

Now the sedate—and, more importantly, secure—union Portia planned has been tossed in favor of one simmering with wicked temptation and potential heartbreak. Because as she begins to fall for her devilishly seductive husband, her dark secrets surface and threaten to ruin them both—unless Locke is willing to risk all and open his heart to love.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

It is wonderful books like this that have made Lorraine Heath one of my top favourite authors. Her beautifully written and deeply emotional love stories keep me coming back for more.

After his mother died giving birth to him, Viscount Locksley (Locke)  watched his father, the Marquess of Marsden, slowly driven mad with grief over the loss of his beloved wife. Locke intends to marry eventually, but it will never be for love having seen first-hand the devastation such an emotion can cause. He chooses to bury himself in working alongside his men in the mines and managing the estates.

Concerned that Locke shows no signs of marrying soon and determined that his title and estates will not pass into the hands of his greedy cousin or his cousin’s son, the marquess plans to marry and acquire a “spare”. When he meets the prospective bride, Portia Gadstone, Locke is immediately suspicious of her motives and convinced she is nothing more than a social climbing, fortune hunter.  He will do anything possible to protect his father from her clutches, even marrying her himself.  In fact, she could prove the perfect wife for him.

Locke slid his gaze over to Portia Gadstone and, for the first time, clearly saw her for what she truly was. A mercenary, a title chaser, someone wanting to rise so badly above her station she would use any means necessary to accomplish her goal, including taking advantage of an aging gentleman. The sort of woman he could never grow to care for, could never love, could never give his heart to.
She was bloody perfect.

Locke is right about Portia in one respect – she will do anything to achieve her goal but not for the reasons he thinks.  Penniless, homeless and with a secret she must hide at all costs, marriage to the marquess will provide the safety and security she so desperately needs.  What she hasn’t bargained for is the Marquess of Marsden’s son thwarting her plans!  She could have charmed the elderly marquess but the handsome, virile, arrogant Locke is a very different proposition.

Ms Heath builds the romance between Locke and Portia beautifully, showing the gradual changes in their relationship. The scene where they first meet is full of barbed, witty exchanges and I enjoyed watching Portia getting a rise out of Locke in every sense of the word! Neither is looking for love but they are not averse to enjoying a physical relationship, leading to some steamy sex scenes.

I enjoyed watching Locke reluctantly accepting that his initial opinions of Portia are wrong. He sees how soft hearted she is when his father is talking about his beloved wife; she has no desire for “constant compliments, numerous baubles, and his undivided attention” like every other woman he has known; she makes him laugh and he finds that he wants to spend time with her as much out of the bedroom as in it.

I like Portia’s boldness in standing up to Locke and expressing her own views. She sees how deeply he cares for his father, his estates and his men and it is heart-warming to see how she brings light, joy and music back to the once dreary Havisham Hall.  She draws the marquess out of his reclusiveness and is the catalyst for Locke discovering so much about his mother he never knew.

It is obvious that Locke and Portia are falling in love –

Coming to know her husband filled her with a sense of satisfaction as well as a measure of dread, because she feared he had the power to shatter what remained of her fragile heart.

♥♥♥

It didn’t help matters that it always caused this odd sense of swelling in his chest that made it difficult to breathe for a few seconds whenever she flashed a smile.

but I knew any future happiness would soon be tested when Portia’s secret is finally revealed. The scene where she tells him of her deception is so heart-breaking and, although I understood Locke’s initial reaction, I very much sympathised with Portia and the choices she was forced to make. I like how Ms Heath always brings an element of social commentary to her books; in this case, the lack of women’s rights in the late Victorian era which forces Portia to take such drastic action to protect all she loves. Despite Locke’s cruel words, once he learns Portia’s full story and accepts his true feelings for her, I love how he confronts her sanctimonious father and moves heaven and earth to find her.

I especially adored the marquess who is kind, gentle and perceptive, such as when he tells Locke –

“Your mother’s beauty was all inside. Portia has a good bit in there as well. Don’t forget to look there”.

I like how he cleverly tricks Locke into marrying Portia. Perhaps he’s not as mad as everyone believes.

Although tinged with a little sadness, the Epilogue left me with a warm glow and a desire to read the forthcoming WHEN THE MARQUESS FALLS, the love story of the Marquess of Marsden and his beloved wife, Linnie.

MY VERDICT:   Another captivating and beautiful love story with characters that will touch your heart. Highly recommended!


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Hellions of Havisham series (click on the book covers for more details):

Falling Into Bed with a Duke (The Hellions of Havisham, #1) by Lorraine Heath The Earl Takes All (The Hellions of Havisham, #2) by Lorraine Heath The Viscount and the Vixen (Hellions of Havisham, #3) by Lorraine Heath When the Marquess Falls – March 14th 2017

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

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salt-hendon-collection

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian)

Collection Includes:

SALT BRIDE (Salt Hendon, #1)

When the Earl of Salt Hendon marries squire’s daughter Jane Despard, Society is aghast. But Jane and Salt share a secret past of heartache and mistrust. They are forced into a marriage neither wants; the Earl to honor a dying man’s wish; Jane to save her stepbrother from financial ruin. Beautiful inside and out, the patient and ever optimistic Jane believes love conquers all; the Earl will take some convincing. Enter Diana St. John, who has been living in a fool’s paradise believing she would be the next Countess of Salt Hendon. She will go to extreme lengths, even murder, to hold Salt’s attention. Can the newlyweds overcome past prejudices and sinister opposition to fall in love all over again?

SALT REDUX: SEQUEL TO SALT BRIDE (Salt Hendon, #2)

Jane and Salt—four years of Happily Ever After
Sir Antony Templestowe—four years of Exile
Lady Caroline—four years of Heartache
Diana St. John—four years plotting Revenge
The time has come…

How does a brother cope with life knowing his sister is a murderess? How can a nobleman have the life he has always wanted when a lurking evil consumes his thoughts and haunts his dreams? What will it take for good to triumph over evil? For readers who enjoyed Salt Bride, the story continues…

SALT ANGEL (Salt Hendon Novella)

This 20,000-word bonus novella, is a new extended version of Fairy Christmas (previously published in A Timeless Romance Anthology: Silver Bells Collection) featuring well-loved characters from the Salt books

Kitty Aldershot is orphaned and forced to live on others’ charity. Offered a home under the generous roof of her relatives, the Earl of Salt Hendon and his countess, Kitty wants for nothing, not even the affections of Mr. Tom Allenby. But when Kitty stumbles across a letter written by Lady Caroline that reveals how Mr. Allenby would be ruined should he marry the likes of Kitty, she realizes she has been fooling herself all along. Kitty’s world crumbles around her as she recognizes she will forever be alone with no prospects at all.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the second read for me of Lucinda Brant’s Salt Bride and its sequel Salt Redux. This time it’s with the added bonus of the original prologue to Salt Bride having been reinstated and the inclusion of a novella which was originally published as Fairy Christmas in an anthology and which has been newly extended for its addition to the set. The novella, light and sweet – neatly ties off the complete boxed set.

The Salt Duo was my first foray into Lucinda Brant’s gorgeously sumptuous Georgian world and I am now an addict of this author’s work and devour everything she has written, waiting with eager anticipation for her future work. I thoroughly enjoyed these stories – probably even more than I did initially – especially as I now fully appreciate the extensive research and work Ms. Brant has undertaken for each and every book in her fabulous backlist.

The added prologue, which had already been removed when I read Salt Bride (due to some controversy over its content) was not as shocking as I had expected. It tells the story of Miss Jane Despard’s miscarriage and, in my opinion, is very sensitively handled, with just the right amount of information revealed. However, having read the book with and without said prologue, I do not believe the story lacked anything by its absence. Ms. Brant very successfully drip feeds the circumstances of Jane’s miscarriage throughout Salt Bride and, on reflection, I preferred the edition without the prologue, as the gradual revelation of past events adds an extra element of mystery to the story.

Both Salt Bride and Salt Redux feature one of the most memorable female villains I have ever encountered. Lady Diana St. John, Salt’s cousin, is truly an exceptional bad-girl. Highly intelligent, but criminally insane, she operates in such a rational, self-possessed manner that her madness is hidden beneath her cloak of self-assured entitlement. She features highly in both novels and the prologue, completely stealing the show with her machinations and downright badness. The lengths to which she goes to achieve her objectives are truly mind boggling, but so expertly does Ms. Brant develop Diana’s character that she manifests as alarmingly believable. I wondered how the author would give Diana the comeuppance she justly deserves and when it came, I was not disappointed.

I loved the character of Magnus Sinclair, Earl of Salt Hendon. He’s an utterly gorgeous man who has been raised to feel completely comfortable in his own skin and fully accepts his powerful position. But he is finally knocked off his pedestal and brought down to the level of a mere mortal by the love and devotion of the serenely beautiful Jane Despard.

The first book is very much about the traumatic events leading up to their forced marriage (a premise I love in HR) and the development of their romance. It is already in its infancy when they marry, but they have some way to go and we see Salt finally becoming a more human, down-to-earth man, loving husband and future father.

The second book features Salt and Jane with a growing family but highlights Salt’s best friend and diplomat, Sir Anthony Templestowe who has recently returned from St. Petersburg where he was the darling of the Russian court. Salt’s little sister Caroline (Caro), and Anthony (Tony) have loved each other for a while, but a high-profile incident at the end of Salt Bride sent Tony into virtual exile in Russia. He now returns to help find a solution which will immobilise his diabolical sister, Diana, once and for all but also hopefully mend some fences with Caro. Anthony is a self-confessed alcoholic and I loved that Lucinda Brant tackles this very real problem in a pragmatic and practical manner, making it perfectly clear, along the way, that it can’t ever be resolved. Anthony has faced that – as alcoholics must – but, more importantly, has accepted that the fight with his addiction is an ongoing one. He is a darling man and his vulnerability just serves to make his character more real and compelling. Caroline, too, has confessions to make before they can reach their HEA and the two make an interesting and charismatic couple.

Lucinda Brant expertly gathers all her primary characters together to bring Diana down – no mean feat – and I wondered, more than once, how she managed to keep her intricate plotting and placing of characters clear in her head. There is so much going on, especially during the dramatic culmination, I had to think twice about where everyone was at any given time. Lucinda Brant doesn’t just write spine tingling romance; she always throws in an element of clever plotting and mystery too. Her ability to keep us guessing is one of the aspects of her writing that I love.

The novella is a nice addition and brings the whole series to a neat conclusion with not one but two delightful romances. Three of the characters appeared in the Salt Duo as secondary characters and the third, Prince Timur-Alexei Nikolai, makes his first appearance in the novella. Lucinda Brant has a pleasing way of including every age group in her romance. We are never too old for love and the elderly Russian Prince is an absolute sweetheart. His addition to the Fairy Christmas a delightful touch and his love story makes for a perfect ending to a terrific series.

I loved the Salt Hendon collection and if you have never read a Lucinda Brant historical romance or mystery, this is a good place to start.


Audio addition: narrated by Alex Wyndham:

It’s hard to believe that Lucinda Brant’s Salt Hendon Collection could be improved on, but with the addition of the highly talented Alex Wyndham’s performance that is exactly what has happened. This already powerful collection has been taken to a new level and I floated along on a cloud of bliss whilst listening to, and basking in, Alex Wyndham’s velvety tones.

In paragraph two above, I said after reading the eBook version:

 “on reflection, I would conclude that I preferred the edition without the prologue…………”.

I now retract that statement – at least with respect to the audio version – because Alex Wyndham’s portrayal of the disturbing and highly emotive scene where Jane Despard loses her baby is so compassionately and empathetically delivered that I fail to see how anyone listening to it could not be deeply moved. His performance and delivery added another layer to an already emotionally charged scene.

Mr. Wyndham goes on to capture every one of Ms. Brant’s host of fascinating characters and switches effortlessly between male or female, young or old with subtle intonations and nuances so the listener is never in doubt as to who he is, even during a multi character conversation.

Two personalities are deserving of a mention because of Alex Wyndham’s stupendous portrayal of them. One is the villainous Diana, so Machiavellian like in her evil and conniving, but so eye wateringly plausible that she’s just down-right scary but, at the same time, strangely fascinating. Mr. Wyndham’s performance of her comeuppance is nothing less than thrilling and, as the drama builds, Alex Wyndham delivers Lucinda Brant’s words with a slowly building suspense leaving the reader feeling emotionally drained at the culmination.

At the other end of the drama scale, we have the utterly irresistible pussy-cat, Prince Timur-Alexei Nikolai. Alex Wyndham uses a heavily accented, slightly scratchy Russian dialect to depict this kind, sweet, perfectly mannered and gentlemanly prince – a class act. One of those cuddly characters – full of wisdom – you can’t help but love.

The uber talented Alex Wyndham has delivered the Salt Hendon Collection to perfection, bringing Ms. Brant’s words into three-dimensional brilliance and offering us an insight into her opulent and fascinating Georgian world. Finally, there was an exceptionally nice touch when, right at the beginning of the book, Alex Wyndham tells us:

“For all the fans who requested the Salt books as a Brant/Wyndham audio collaboration, it’s all here”

I was especially touched by this statement because I was one of those “fans” and felt as if he was speaking directly to me. Is it any wonder that Lucinda Brant (and now Alex Wyndham) has such a loyal following, albeit well deserved, when she hears what her readers/listeners have to say and actually cares what we think?

MY VERDICT: I defy anyone not to adore this feast of a collection. Highly recommended!


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

 

**I received free copies of both the ebook and audiobook from the author in return  for an honest review. **

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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duke-of-pleasure

(Maiden Lane, #11)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1742)

Cover Blurb:

IN THE ARMS OF DANGER

Bold. Brave. Brutally handsome. Hugh Fitzroy, the Duke of Kyle, is the king’s secret weapon. Sent to defeat the notorious Lords of Chaos, he is ambushed in a London alley—and rescued by an unlikely ally: a masked stranger with the unmistakable curves of a woman.

IN THE HEAT OF DESIRE

Cocky. Clever. Courageously independent. Alf has survived on the perilous streets of St. Giles by disguising her sex. By day she is a boy, dealing in information and secrets. By night she’s the notorious Ghost of St. Giles, a masked vigilante. But as she saves Hugh from assassins, she finds herself succumbing to temptation.

ONE KISS WILL CHANGE THEIR LIVES FOREVER

When Hugh hires Alf to investigate the Lords of Chaos, her worlds collide. Once Hugh realizes that the boy and the Ghost are the same, will Alf find the courage to become the woman she needs to be—before the Lords of Chaos destroy them both?


**PUBLICATION DATE: 29th November 2016**

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the 11th book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s fabulous Maiden Lane series and it still amazes me that she can consistently enthral me with her fascinating characters, engrossing plots and sensual romances.

Ms Hoyt excels in writing unconventional heroines, none more so than Alf who first appeared in Lord of Darkness where it was revealed that this young street urchin is in fact a woman. Alf survived the dangerous streets of St Giles, where she was born and bred, by disguising herself as a boy.  Bold, tenacious and quick-witted, she had made a living as an informant. Godric St John (hero of Lord of Darkness and retired Ghost of St Giles) saw her potential and trained her to become the Ghost of St Giles. During the day, she is Alf, but at night she is the Ghost of St Giles, willing to put her life on the line to protect those weaker than herself.

At night she was the Ghost of St Giles. She protected the people of St Giles—her people, living in the big, dark woods. She ran out the monsters—the murderers and rapists and robbers. And she flew over the roofs of the city by moonlight, free and wild. During the day she was Alf, a boy. 

I was pleased to see the return of the Ghost especially as Ms Hoyt chose a woman for the role. I had this wonderful vision of Alf gracefully “darting, wheeling and spinning” whilst wielding her two swords.

Hugh is the illegitimate son of King William but had been formally acknowledged by his father and granted the title of Duke of Kyle, together with considerable land, money and an education befitting a duke. The King has now charged Hugh with destroying the Lords of Chaos, a secret club committing terrible acts of debauchery.

Hugh suffered emotionally in the past. A man of deep passions, he married Katherine with whom he was besotted, but it wasn’t long before he realised that he a had made a terrible mistake. Desperate to get away, he took a commission in the army and went abroad; his only regret was leaving his two young sons, Christopher and Peter. When news reaches him that his wife has died after falling from her horse, he resigns his commission and returns home. He has vowed never again to be swept away by passion for a woman.

…never let passion for a woman sweep away reason, self-preservation, and sense, for that way led to devastation.

I like how Hugh’s relationship with his sons is explored because it gives his character greater depth. It is obvious that he loves them but both boys are still coping with the recent loss of their mother and he doesn’t know how to reach out to them. The eldest, Christopher, hates his father for not being there for them, while the youngest, Peter, suffers from terrible nightmares. Some of the scenes where Hugh tries to comfort Peter are heart-rending to read.

In this series, Ms Hoyt always pairs the most unlikely hero and heroine but she makes the romance work beautifully. A duke and a street urchin shouldn’t work on many levels but it does, and I was rooting for Hugh and Alf to find the happiness they deserve.

I understood why Hugh fights his feelings for Alf but it is a lost cause because…

She made his heart beat fast. Freed all those wild emotions he thought he’d safely locked away when he’d left England three years ago.

and Alf’s feelings are just as potent…

She wanted him with every breath she drew, a painful longing inside her lungs, until it felt as if she’d break apart and shatter into tiny pieces of glass if she could not touch him.

The air positively sizzles when these two are together and there is a particularly erotic scene where Alf has a rather inventive way of evading capture when they are being chased by members of the Lords of Chaos!

I love the scenes between Alf and Hugh’s children. She connects with them in a way that he hasn’t been able to, but she also paves the way for Hugh to reconcile with his children. It also gives Alf something she has never had before – a family.

It was as if her heart had been a tiny seed, alone in a dark box, and Hugh and his boys had shone light on it.

Murder, kidnapping and code-breaking – there’s plenty of action, danger and mystery to keep the story moving as Hugh and Alf work to track down the Lords of Chaos.

Godric St John and his wife, Megs, make an appearance and two new characters are introduced.

  • The widowed Iris Daniels, Lady Jordan, a friend of Hugh’s who takes Alf under her wing when plans require Alf to dress as a woman for the first time.
  • The mysterious, scarred Raphael de Chartres, Duke of Dyemore

After reading the Epilogue, I can’t wait to read their story in Duke of Desire!!

MY VERDICT: Another highly recommended addition to this outstanding series.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

The Maiden Lane series so far (click 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 Hoyt Duke 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– 29th November 2016

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

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the-mesalliance

(Rockliffe Series, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1767 and 1775)

Cover Blurb:

The Duke of Rockliffe is 36 years old, head of his house, and responsible for his young sister, Nell. He is, therefore, under some pressure to choose a suitable bride. Whilst accompanying Nell to what he speedily comes to regard as the house-party from hell, he meets Adeline Kendrick – acid-tongued, no more than passably good-looking yet somehow alluring. Worse still, her relatives are quite deplorable – from a spoiled, ill-natured cousin to a sadistic, manipulative uncle. As a prospective bride, therefore, Adeline is out of the question. Until, that is, a bizarre turn of events causes the Duke to throw caution to the wind and make what his world will call a mésalliance.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the second book in Stella Riley ‘s Georgian  Rockliffe series and the hero, the Duke of Rockliffe (Rock), played a significant secondary role in The Parfit Knight. He was such a fascinating character that I was intrigued to meet the woman who would capture his heart.

Handsome, elegant, sophisticated and assured, with a wry sense of humour, Rock is a hero to set any woman’s heart aflutter. He is aware of his duty to marry and provide an heir but has postponed the inevitable, hoping to find genuine love. Having reached the age of 36, he realises the truth of the situation.

…if, in all this time, you had not found what you sought, it was probably because it did not exist.

Since being orphaned, Adeline, now 24 years old, has lived a life of drudgery with her uncle and aunt, Sir Roland and Lady Franklin. Treated with indifference and resentment by her aunt, despised by her beautiful cousin, Diana, and mistreated by her aunt’s brother, Richard Horton, Adeline built a defensive wall around herself. Gradually, she discovered ways of fighting back.

…she had swiftly progressed to the discovery that it was also possible to fight back in small ways –if one was subtle. And the result was a now flawless technique for combining apparent docility with an under-current of clever, hard to combat acidity.

Rock and Adeline first met briefly eight years earlier and I like how the Prologue offers a glimpse of their younger selves. Rock was  still unburdened by the responsibilities of being a duke and Adeline was a wild, sensitive 16 year old. It is obvious that the meeting left an impression on each of them. When they meet again at the Franklin’s ball, Rock now sees a cold-eyed woman with a barbed tongue but is still drawn to her like a moth to a flame. She has a rare quality he can only describe as allure. Of course, although Adeline is everything Rock is looking for in a prospective bride – attractive, intelligent, desirable and won’t bore him to distraction – she is totally unsuitable both in social standing and family connections. However, when Adeline’s cousin Diana’s scheme to compromise Rock into marriage is thwarted, there are unforeseen consequences as Rock and Adeline are caught in a compromising situation and Rock proposes marriage, something he doesn’t appear too upset about.

My difficulty has been that, among all the young ladies of birth, breeding and beauty, I cannot find one who wouldn’t bore me to death in a week – and that, as you know, is the one thing I can’t tolerate.   You, on the other hand, don’t bore me at all; moreover … if you will pardon the indelicacy … I find myself experiencing an increasing desire to take you to bed.’ 

Adeline welcomes the marriage of convenience as a way of escaping her dreadful relatives.

I love the scene where Rock shows his protectiveness when he makes veiled threats to Lady Franklin about treating Adeline with the respect due to her as a duchess. Desperate to win his wife’s love, he is even willing to do something he has never done before – woo a woman. He also shows patience and consideration by allowing Adeline time to adjust to her new circumstances before consummating the marriage. However, I could sense his frustration as time goes on.

It was heart-breaking to see the marriage slowly deteriorate beneath the weight of Adeline’s secrets and her unwillingness to trust and confide in Rock. While I understood Adeline’s fear of losing Rock and her desire to protect him and his family from scandal, it was frustrating watching two people who obviously love each other descend into “a chilly state of impersonal courtesy”. The scenes between Rock and Adeline are so powerfully written and Ms Riley captures all the raw emotions of anger, fear, hurt and frustration.

The scene at the Queensbury Ball, where everything finally comes to a head, is a real tour-de-force and seeing the unflappable Rock finally lose control was definitely a highlight for me!!

Ms Riley always gathers a colourful cast of secondary characters who are all essential to the story. Rock’s friends, Amberley, Harry Caversham and Jack Ingram are only too ready to provide unwanted advice and some much-needed humour; the Franklin family could be described as the family from hell, particularly the malicious, scheming Diana and sly, sadistic Richard Horton.

I enjoyed the secondary romances between Harry Caversham and Rock’s sister, Nell and Jack Ingram and Althea Franklin, the only likeable member of the family. They played out in the background and never overshadowed the main romance.

Every time I listen to Alex Wyndham narrating a book, I close my eyes and it’s as if I’m listening to a radio play performed by several performers rather than just one. Each character has a distinctive and easily identifiable voice and Alex slips between the different characters so effortlessly that I am never in doubt as to who is speaking. It must be hard for a male narrator to voice female characters realistically but Alex succeeds brilliantly.

MY VERDICT:  An intelligently and well-written story with unforgettable characters and a deeply emotional romance, brought vividly to life by Alex Wyndham’s superb narration. A must read/listen to!


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

 

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

The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley The Mésalliance by Stella Riley The Player by Stella Riley

**I received a free download of this audiobook from the author in return for an honest review**

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do-you-want-to-start-a-scandal

(Spindle Cove, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb:

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
•Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
•Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
•Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I adore Tessa Dare’s books! They are always enchanting, romantic, sexy and funny!

I love the crossover of characters from the two series. The heroine, Charlotte, is the youngest of the Highwood sisters who feature in the Spindle Cove series and the hero, Piers Brandon, Marquess of Granville, appears in the second book of the Castles Ever After series.

Clever, witty, vivacious, good-natured and forthright, Charlotte is like a breath of fresh air. Despite her mother’s ill-conceived attempts to “throw” her into the paths of eligible, titled gentleman (sometimes literally), Charlotte values her independence and has no immediate plans to marry, intending to travel with her friend before settling down. Even then, she will only marry for love.

Attending a house party being held by Sir Vernon and Lady Parkhurst, her best friend, Delia’s parents, she is aware that her mother has set her sights on Piers Brandon, Earl of Granville, as a prospective husband for her daughter. Desperate to warn him of her mother’s machinations and her own unsuitability as a prospective bride (the Prattler has dubbed her “The Desperate Debutante.”), she follows him into the library.

“Don’t be alarmed,” she said, closing the door behind her. “I’ve come to save you.”
“Save me.” His low, rich voice glided over her like fine-grain leather. “From  .  .  .  ?”
“Oh, all kinds of things. Inconvenience and mortification, chiefly. But broken bones aren’t outside the realm of possibility.”

What follows must rank as one of the most delightful and funny first meetings between a hero and heroine. Charlotte’s talk of May-December matches had me chuckling.

However, the best laid plans have a habit of going wrong and disaster strikes when they are discovered in what appears to be a compromising situation. Forced into an “understanding” with Piers, Charlotte is determined to discover the identity of the mystery couple they heard “tupping” from their hiding place in the library. That will release her from a marriage to someone who obviously doesn’t love her.

At first, Charlotte sees Piers as cold and restrained and talking to him “was rather like conversing with an ice sculpture” but his unexpected wicked charm, subtle humour and passionate kiss belie that icy exterior.  He believes there is too much darkness and deception in his past and, if Charlotte knew the truth, she wouldn’t want anything to do with him. He sees himself as ruthless, deceitful, cold-blooded and heartless. I love how Charlotte refuses to give up on him, sees someone worthy of her love, and slowly breaks down the walls around his heart.

I know what’s inside you, behind all those walls. I’ll keep chipping away until I get at it. Even if it takes years. Decades. I know you’ll be worth the effort.” She rested against his chest, burying her face into the crook of his neck. “I’m never giving up on you.”

I also enjoyed seeing Piers losing all his vaunted control around Charlotte.

Good God. What was happening to him? He was falling apart.

In addition to a romantic, tender, poignant and deliciously sexy love story, Ms Dare’s books always contain wonderful humour. There are two scenes that I thought were hilarious. The first is where Charlotte’s mother is trying to explain to her what to expect on her wedding night using edible aids! The other is the scene where Charlotte is in the perfume shop and here’s a snippet.

“I thought you might. All the young ladies do. It’s fresh and grassy, isn’t it? Lemon verbena and gardenia blossoms. But the secret is in the fixative. A touch of castoreum is what makes the summery scents take hold, rather than fade.”
“Castoreum. That’s not from whales, is it?”
“Not at all.” He chuckled. 
Charlotte laughed, too. “Oh, good. What a relief.”
“It’s from beavers.”

Colin, Minerva and Diana (Spindle Cove) make a welcome appearance as does Piers’ brother, Rafe (Castles Ever After).

The mystery surrounding the identity of the lovers in the library kept me guessing and I thought the revelation was a nice twist.

If you are lover of Epilogues, like me, Ms Dare doesn’t disappoint.

MY VERDICT: If you’re looking for a story that is romantic, sexy, funny and full of wonderful characters that steal your heart, then I can most definitely recommend this book.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Read October 2016

 

Spindle Cove series – for details of all the books click on the link below:

https://www.goodreads.com/series/58621-spindle-cove

Castles Ever After series – for details of all the books click on the link below:

https://www.goodreads.com/series/105851-castles-ever-after

 

 

 

 

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persuasion-audio-book

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Goodreads Summary:

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Poems

Austen did not take herself seriously as a poet but she did write occasional, mostly comic verses to entertain family and friends. Selected and introduced by award-winning narrator Alison Larkin, the poems range from lines found on a piece of paper inside a tiny bag she gave to her niece to When Winchester Races a poem she wrote just three days before she died.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

PERSUASION, as far as I am concerned, is the best of Jane Austen novels. Her last, and written when she was close to dying, it demonstrates a maturity and deep understanding of relationships, betrayal, loyalty and love. Ms. Austen’s ability for ironic and comic observation, her knowledge of the social etiquette and customs of the period are incomparable and of course we have the bonus of knowing that she lived in these times and therefore her observations, albeit tongue in cheek, are a faithful account. Just as today there are silly, giddy, self-absorbed people, so there were in that period of history. Nothing has changed and I love her descriptions of the gossipy women and the preening and posturing of some of the gentlemen, also their shallow preoccupation regarding the wealth and looks of their peers.

The young Anne Elliot had rejected Frederick Wentworth, a Naval Officer, on the misguided advice of her friend Lady Russell, and forever regrets her decision. Captain Wentworth returns eight years later, a successful sea Captain who has acquitted himself with honour and made his fortune into the bargain and the tables have turned. Anne’s family are now on the brink of financial ruin and it is she who is not considered a suitable match for him, being penniless, and at 27, almost past marriageable age. Anne still admires and loves Captain Wentworth and, in the eight years following their separation, she has never shown any interest in other men nor been tempted to accept or encourage any proposal of marriage. She is also accepting of her fate, believing that she has thrown away her only chance of happiness with the man she loves

Wentworth is now considered an excellent match for her – if he were at all interested. However, he is still bitter at her rejection – at least to begin with. They politely circle each other being often thrown into the same social circle and Frederick slowly begins to realise that Anne is the same girl he loved and admired so much – worthy, sensible, dignified and without guile.

He overhears Anne having a discussion with a friend on the merits of fidelity and love, professing that men are more able to move on than women after a disappointment in love. ‘The letter’ – oh that letter written in response to this overheard discussion, is so beautiful and eloquent and would melt the most hardened of hearts, certainly mine anyway! Surely one of the most romantic moments in any of Ms. Austen’s wonderful novels.

Bittersweet, given that this was Ms. Austen’s last completed novel before her death at the age of only forty-one, this mature and beautifully crafted love story encapsulating a perfectly painted picture of genteel life in the nineteenth century, is nevertheless a fitting end to her career.

In this 200th anniversary edition, there are the added poems of Jane Austen. Most are light comic verses, for example I’ve A Pain In My Head, others are moving and more serious such as the one she wrote for her dear friend and neighbour four years after her death, To The Memory of Mrs. Leroy. Her last piece When Winchester Races, written in July 1817, just three days before she died, was about a furious Saint who threatens to bring rain upon his subjects for choosing to go to the races rather than honouring him. To me this epitomises Jane Austen’s character; she took life as it came and even when dying chose to be witty and entertaining instead of wallowing in self-pity.

The bonus to my enjoyment of this anniversary edition of my favourite Jane Austen novel is the performance (for she is far more than just a narrator) of the talented actress Alison Larkin. Ms. Larkin’s voice is perfectly suited to Jane Austen’s work – light, amusing, stuffy, pompous, or when called for serious and her range is phenomenal. She handles the vast cast of characters with aplomb and we are never left in any doubt as to who is talking at any given time, even in a multi character conversation. I particularly like how she handles the slightly lowered tones of some of the ‘strictly-in-confidence’ conversations especially when there’s a fair amount of genteel bitchiness going on! Alison Larkin has a lovely ‘smiley’ voice, it’s so pleasant to listen to. A terrific performance and one I wholeheartedly recommend.


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

 

**I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook for an honest review. **

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how-to-lose-a-duke-in-ten-days

(An American Heiress in London, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

From USA Today bestselling author Laura Lee Guhrke comes the story of a bargain, a marriage of convenience…and the chance for love to last a lifetime.

They had a deal…

From the moment she met the devil-may-care Duke of Margrave, Edie knew he could change her life. And when he agreed to her outrageous proposal of a marriage of convenience, she was transformed from ruined American heiress to English duchess. Five years later, she’s delighted with their arrangement, especially since her husband is living on another continent.

But deals are made to be broken…

By marrying an heiress, Stuart was able to pay his family’s enormous debts, and Edie’s terms that he leave England forever, seemed a small price to pay. But when a brush with death impels him home, he decides it’s time for a real marriage with his luscious American bride, and he proposes a bold new bargain: ten days to win her willing kiss. But is ten days enough to win her heart?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

HOW TO LOSE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS is the second book in Laura Lee Guhrke’s American Heiress in London series but it can be read as a standalone.

Please don’t let the rather light-hearted title of this book deter you because this is a tender, poignant and romantic second chance story.

Going home to New York spells disaster for Edie because she will not only have to face the scandal she left behind but also the man responsible for her ruination. So, she approaches the impoverished Duke of Margrave and proposes a marriage of convenience with certain conditions; she will pay off all his ancestors’ debts, pay him a generous allowance, support his sponging relatives and look after his estates on condition that he goes back to Africa, the country he loves, and never returns.

“I don’t want a husband in any sense but the legal one.”

Following his father’s death, Stuart had returned from Africa to find huge debts awaiting him and the creditors knocking at his door. Although he is rather surprised by Edie’s strange bargain, he is desperate to return to Africa and so agrees. But the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. Five years later, after suffering a severe leg injury when a lioness mauls him, Stuart is forced to re-evaluate his life and decides it is time to return home and make his marriage a real one but he knows it won’t be easy.                                             

This was a new beginning, and a second chance. Not that the task ahead of him would be an easy one. He’d known then, and he knew now, that Edie had a wall around her it would not be easy to breach.

At first, Edie appears hard and inflexible towards Stuart.  With his return, she is afraid of losing the freedom and independence she has enjoyed over the past 5 years but her fears run far deeper. She has never told anyone, even her parents, about the traumatic event which left her emotionally scarred and with a deep-seated fear of intimacy.

She was like a wounded animal, he thought, looking at her. Fear and pain were in every line of her— in the taut stillness of her form and in her watchful, wary stare.

Stuart is such a wonderful hero. His injury causes him a great deal of pain but he never wallows in self-pity. He treats Edie with such patience and sensitivity and his slow but determined campaign to win her trust and her heart is just delicious. I love the scenes where Edie is massaging Stuart’s leg; they are sensual and positively sizzle with sexual tension.

Everywhere his body touched hers, he felt scorching hot. Slowly, as the seconds ticked by, she became aware of other things: the slow, deep labor of his breathing, the hard muscle of his calf beneath her fingertips, the scent of sandalwood— his soap, perhaps? Inexplicably, her body began to tingle.

Stuart is not above using additional weapons in his campaign, especially Joanna, Edie’s younger sister, who is determined to see these two reunited. It helps to have a spy in the camp!

Watching Edie gradually responding to Stuart’s gentle, considerate lovemaking and slowly emerging as a warm and passionate woman is so emotionally satisfying.

“I need you to be just the man you are, Stuart. I need to be reminded every day that I am a pretty, passionate woman, with golden freckles and lovely legs. I need you to touch me and caress me and make it like bliss. I need you to make love to me, and give me that sweet, sweet pleasure.”

MY VERDICT: A beautiful and deeply emotional second chance love story. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Read September 2016

 

An American Heiress in London series (click on the book covers for more details):

When the Marquess Met His Match (An American Heiress in London, #1) by Laura Lee Guhrke How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days (An American Heiress in London, #2) by Laura Lee Guhrke Catch a Falling Heiress (An American Heiress in London, #3) by Laura Lee Guhrke No Mistress Of Mine (An American Heiress in London, #4) by Laura Lee Guhrke

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