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(Scoundrels of St. James, #5)

Genre:  Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lorraine Heath brings us the eagerly awaited final story in the Scoundrels of St. James series.

William Graves is the last of Feagan’s scoundrels. A onetime grave robber turned royal physician, he has devoted his life to saving others—because he knows there is no way to save himself. Especially not around a lady like Winnie. Though undeserving of her touch, he cannot resist. His passion cannot be tamed…even in the face of certain danger.

Winnie, the Duchess of Avendale, never knew peace until her brutal husband died. With William she’s discovered burning desire—and the healing power of love. But now, confronted by the past she thought she’d left behind, Winnie must face her fears…or risk losing the one man who can fulfill all her dreams.

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I loved this conclusion to one of my all-time favourite series. The Scoundrels of St. James  series (obviously inspired by Dickens’s Oliver Twist) tells the story of five child thieves Lucian, Jack, Frannie, James and William, all members of Feagan’s merry little band of ne’er-do-wells. Their lives are irrevocably changed when it is discovered that Lucian is the lost heir to the Earl of Claybourne.  William was a constant presence throughout the other books and I am so pleased that he finally gets his own happy ending in this novella.

In the first book, In Bed with the Devil, Winnie is the dearest friend of Lady Catherine Mabry, the heroine of that book. She is married to the Duke of Avendale, a brute of a man who abuses his wife both physically and sexually. When Catherine discovers Winnie after a particularly severe beating, she fears for Winnie’s life and sends for William. He not only nurses Winnie back to health but also provides sanctuary in his home for her and her son, Whit. Shortly afterwards, the Duke of Avendale dies in a fire at his estate leaving Winnie free from his tyranny and free to explore her growing feelings for William.

William is drawn to Winnie but keeps a respectful distance because he believes he doesn’t deserve someone like her. He knows he has kept a terrible secret from her and fears that, if she discovers the truth, it will destroy any feelings she has for him. But when past deeds come back to haunt him, William must risk everything to protect the woman he loves.

William is such a wonderful hero. He has risen above his humble origins to become a renowned doctor but, he can never quite forget his past and the guilt he feels over his mother’s death. He has tried to make amends by helping others.  I love how he treats Winnie with such tenderness and sensitivity. He sees her vulnerability but also her hidden strength.   He makes her feel safe and protected and treats her with respect. I love how, with William’s support, Winnie gains in strength and confidence, facing her fears head on. She is no longer the timid, fearful woman she once was but a force to be reckoned with.

Those who have read In Bed with the Devil will know the terrible secret William and the others are hiding but I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read that book. Suffice to say that things are not always as they seem and past events can often come back to haunt you. I enjoyed seeing the other scoundrels whose loyalty to each other still remains strong.

 Memorable moments

She was the kindest person he’d ever known. In his youth he had longed for one kind touch, one sweet caress that would ease all the hurts. He imagined she would be a balm to his harsh soul.

 He didn’t need to save the world to atone for the sins of his youth. He merely needed to save a portion of it. He’d only needed to save her.

She relished his nearness, his holding her . She’d never been held simply for the pleasure of being held. There was comfort in it, an easing of loneliness without words.

She saw a woman who stood a bit taller, had no fears, was confident regarding the path she was on. A woman who was loved.

She lightened his days, eased his burdens, brought joy to his nights.

This is was a wonderful end to a fabulous series. Now I can look forward to reading the stories of the next generation in Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James.

 

REVIEW RATING:  4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read May 2014

Scoundrels of St. James series (click the book covers for more information):

In Bed With the Devil (Scoundrels of St. James, #1) by Lorraine Heath Between the Devil and Desire (Scoundrels of St. James, #2) by Lorraine Heath Surrender to the Devil (Scoundrels of St. James, #3) by Lorraine Heath Midnight Pleasures With a Scoundrel (Scoundrels of St. James, #4) by Lorraine Heath The Last Wicked Scoundrel (Scoundrels of St. James, #5) by Lorraine Heath

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(Mad Passion, #2.5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb

In this all-new novella from the award-winning author of Lady in Red and The Dark Lady, comes a story of fatal plots, seductive spies, and irresistible passions…

Duchess Clare Ederly is lucky to be alive. Having outlived her violent, abusive husband, she decides to put her significant inheritance to good use helping other battered women by opening a refuge for those seeking to escape. But not everyone is pleased with her work. Someone wants to see her sanctuary torn down—at any cost. Her only hope of protecting her home and tenants is a former spy, whose skill at tracking deadly men is matched only by his dangerous charm…

The Earl of Wyndham has done his part for Queen and country; he has had his fill of plotting and politics and simply wants to retire to the pleasant life of his club. But Duchess Clare’s razor-sharp wit and fierce determination awaken new purpose and admiration in him. To protect her, he will once again delve into the treacherous world of espionage. To win her love, he will do almost anything…

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**4.5 Absolutely Delightful Stars**

I LOVED this novella! It is a captivating and heart-warming story and made a lovely interlude between the darkness and intensity of the other books in this series. It brings together two secondary characters from the previous books –  Lord Byron Cartwright, the Earl of Wyndham (friend to Lord Ian Blake, the hero of the first book, The Dark Lady) and Clare, Duchess of Duncliffe (stepmother to Mary, the heroine of the second book, Lady in Red).

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Byron is a wonderful hero. There is something so adorable about him, with his easy charm and his propensity for quoting Shakespeare. He has experienced the horrors of war but hasn’t let it taint his view of life. His optimism is contagious.

“I am saying that there are things more wondrous in this world, more full of magic than we could ever imagine. And I, for one, despite the terrible things I have seen or perhaps because of them, choose to believe in them.”

He is an uncomplicated person and his dreams are simple…a quiet life, a wife who loves him and children.

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As a young woman of only seventeen, Clare married the Duke of Duncliffe with expectations of happiness, only to discover that her husband was cruel and abusive.

…her gaze bore that haunted mark of one who had seen hell and lived to tell the tale.

Now twenty-five and a widow, she devotes her time to helping other abused women. Her life is her work and she has long since given up any hope of love. Understandably, she is wary of men.

Ms Claremont’s writing perfectly conveys the mood of this enchanting romance. Here are a few of my favourite moments.

How could he do that? With two words? How could he somehow wrap her up in the safety of his voice and presence?

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Right now, she was in hiding, for goodness ’ sake. And the man leading her to God knew where kept spouting Shakespeare and making inappropriate remarks.

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The soft brush of Lord Wyndham’s lips sent Clare reeling. In all her life, she’d never been kissed. Not like this. Not this kind of kiss that every girl imagined and cherished in her heart.

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This was the stuff of knights and their ladies, of Abelard and Eloise, of Darcy and Elizabeth, of Jane and Rochester, of every romance she’d ever read. How she’d longed for it.

The mystery element never overshadows the romance and, although you don’t have to be a great detective to guess the identity of the person threatening Clare, I was so captivated by the characters that it didn’t really matter.

This novella may be short in terms of page count but Ms Claremont’s delightful and heart-warming tale captured my heart.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read April 2014

 

The Mad Passions series (click on the book cover for further details):

The Dark Lady (Mad Passions, #1) Lady in Red (Mad Passions, #2) A Lady Undone (Mad Passions, #2.5) The Dark Affair (Mad Passions, #3)

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(Mad Passions, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb

The Victorian era was full of majestic beauty and scandalous secrets—a time when corsets were the least of a woman’s restrictions, and men could kill or be killed in the name of honor…

Lady Mary Darrel should be the envy of London. Instead, all society believes her dead. For Mary holds a secret so dangerous, her father chose to keep her locked away…and have a grave made for her near her mother’s. Driven to the edge of desperation, Mary manages to escape the asylum, only to find that her fate yet again rests in the hands of a man…

Edward Barrons, Duke of Fairleigh, longs for some way to escape the torment of his father’s crimes. In Mary’s warrior spirit and haunted gaze—which so mirrors his own—he finally sees his path to redemption. He will stop at nothing to keep her safe, even as she seeks revenge. But will the passion they discover in each other be enough to save them from their demons?

(Although this is the second book in the series, it can be read as a standalone)

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**5 Spellbinding Stars**

I was totally gripped by this intense, angsty and dramatic story.  Once again, Máire Claremont explores the darker side of Victorian London with graphic realism. 

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Mary left such a deep impression on me in The Dark Lady. She had selflessly protected her friend, Eva, from the worst of the horrors of the asylum and, when the two of them escaped, Mary’s fate was left in the balance.  I was desperate to know what happened to her.

Condemned to the asylum by her own father, Mary suffered unspeakable abuse during those three years incarcerated in that hellish place. But, somehow, she retained the strength and will to survive and make her escape, determined never to return.

Edward has demons of his own to conquer. He has never been able to escape the guilt he feels because he did nothing to save a young woman from his evil father’s clutches. He is desperately looking for some sort of purpose to his life and his greatest fear is becoming just like his father.

Sharing Edward and Mary’s story is a powerful and emotional journey.  Ms Claremont writes with such depth that I shared every moment of that journey until they finally discover that only their love can truly set them free.

Her very presence held him with a force that knocked the air out of his lungs.

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She stood in the same  spot for several moments, gasping. His very presence had changed how her body felt. She no longer felt battered or afraid. She felt strong and alive. How had he done that?

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“No matter what you do, no matter what you say, I shall always be in awe of your perfect vulnerability, your perfect imperfect soul.”

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“I am still among the ashes. I have not yet flown.”

He lowered his head toward her in careful, slow stages. “But you will.”

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Tears stung Mary’s eyes and she eased toward his naked body, burrowing close. As he curved his arm about her, tucking her to his chest, she did feel safe. Safer than she had felt in her lifetime.

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“Together then. We shall be whole.”

“Yes,” she said with an assurance it never could be gainsaid. “You are my other half as I am yours.”

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I love Edward’s friend, Viscount Powers…so sarcastic, dark and enigmatic and so full of pain. I just know his story is going to be just as compelling and I can’t wait to delve into The Dark Affair.

Ms Claremont doesn’t shy away from scenes that are often harrowing and brutal but I was riveted to the pages desperate to know what happened.

If you enjoy a dark, intense romance with an original and suspenseful plot and unforgettable characters, then you will definitely enjoy LADY IN RED.

REVIEW RATING:  5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read April 2014

 

The Mad Passions series (click on the book cover for more details):

The Dark Lady (Mad Passions, #1) Lady in Red (Mad Passions, #2) A Lady Undone (Mad Passions, #2.5) The Dark Affair (Mad Passions, #3)

 

 

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Genre: Regency Historical Romance

Official Blurb 

THE LETTER is a story of a betrayal that wasn’t. Even so, it still tore two lovers apart for eleven years. Michael Jeffres, Earl of Daventry, found his betrothed, the woman who meant as much to him as the air he breathed, in bed with his cousin on the eve of their wedding.

Diana, the daughter of a marquess, remembers nothing of that night. All she knows is she was forced to marry Michael’s cousin, Leo, and then spent the next eleven years in hell.

When the two lovers are brought back together by a letter from Leo a year after his death, they must struggle through all the lies and secrets before they can find a love that far surpasses that of their youth.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

**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.** 

THIS BOOK WAS JUST AMAZING… SO HEARTBREAKING YET SO UPLIFTING!

I found myself totally engrossed in the story and just could not  put it down. It was so compelling and so rewarding. I found myself experiencing so many emotions…revulsion, hatred, sorrow, hope, laughter and joy. This story touched me deeply on so many levels.

From the very first page when Michael reads his cousin’s letter, I hated Leo Standish. To put it bluntly he was an evil, manipulative, sadistic bastard! Even from the grave his malignant presence is all pervasive. Kudos to Ms Owens for creating one of the most repugnant villains ever. It made me all the more determined to read on and see his evil presence ultimately banished forever by the power of love!

To read about what Diana suffered at Leo’s hands was so heartrending but, despite everything, she still retained a core of inner strength. She was stronger than she thought…she survived. Not only did she survive but she also raised her son Jamie to be a fine boy. But she bears the scars of Leo’s horrific abuse, both physically and emotionally. She is a shadow of the beautiful, spirited, laughing girl she used to be. She no longer trusts any man and cannot bear to be touched by one. I understand the anger she feels towards Michael and her resistance in accepting his offer of help. She feels his betrayal deeply and fears the cold, powerful, determined man she sees now may be just like Leo. But she realises that Michael is nothing like Leo and, although it is a slow process, she comes to trust him and see the man she fell in love with all those years ago.

Michael is racked with guilt because he feels responsible for what happened to Diana. He had promised to protect and cherish her but he had simply walked away leaving her to Leo’s tender mercies. At first, he simply wants to help her…provide adequate food and somewhere to live… but soon it becomes more than that. He wants to see that spark she once had…he wants to see her smile again. When he is with Diana and Jamie he feels a sense of contentment, a feeling he does not want to examine too closely.

Following Diana’s journey to “finding her wings” again is, at times. heart-breaking:

Resentment and hurt, feelings she had long thought dealt with, hit her with the force of a fierce storm whose screaming winds toppled hundred-year-old trees. She hugged her knees, pressed her face against them and helplessly sobbed for the first time in years. And as she wept, she let the pain of Michael’s betrayal and Leo’s brutalities consume her. She cried until she had no tears left and when she was done, the heaviness in her heart eased a bit.

and, at times, heart-warming:

Michael picked up another slice and handed it to her. She stared at the bread in her hand, her heart beating furiously in her chest.
“Go on,” Michael said.
“Do it, Mama,” Jamie urged.
She looked at Michael once more to make sure she didn’t see any trickery in his eyes and then threw her bread. A tiny burst of laughter escaped and she slapped her hand over her mouth. Jamie giggled and Michael gave her a smile of approval. A sliver of the fear that had held her captive for eleven long years fell away. 

but so rewarding.

I totally fell in love with Michael. I love all the things he does to make Diana happy…the way he teases her and makes her laugh. Most of all I love the crazy letters he sends her about the imaginary cats after she runs away.

The scene, where she finally shows Michael the scars she has kept hidden from him, is so moving and so incredibly beautiful.

“This is what I see when I look at you.”
He held the up the rose. “Perfection, Diana. I see perfection.”

There is a fascinating assortment of secondary characters who add richness to the story :

* Michael’s French born, meddling mother, Lady Suzanne Daventry who insists on regaling her son with details of the “fun” she had with his father, something Michael definitely does not want to hear about!

* Michael’s valet Hansen who is always being threatened with dismissal. The repartee between these two is just so funny. Here is one of my favourite exchanges…

So it is my fault I am bleeding like a butchered pig?” Michael grabbed the mirror and glared into it, but couldn’t see anything past Hansen’s hand and the cloth. “Move your paw, man, and let me see.”
“Dogs and cats have paws, your lordship. I am human, thus I have a hand.”
“You are being impertinent. I have half a mind to dismiss you with no reference. What have you to say to that?”
“If your temper doesn’t improve soon, my lord, I have half a mind to quit, no reference necessary”.

* Jamie is such an adorable child and the scenes between Michael and him are poignant, charming and funny

* I must not forget one other important character…


Peggy , the three legged cat

I could wax lyrical about this book for hours but I simply want to say thank you to Sandra Owens for giving me the privilege of reading this fabulous book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5/5 stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read August 2013

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