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(Highland Pleasures #5.5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Official Blurb 

A WOMAN OF BREEDING MEETS A MAN OF NO STANDING…

To redeem her family’s disgraced name, Lady Louisa Scranton has decided to acquire a proper husband. He needs to be a man of fortune and highly respectable in order to restore both her family’s lost wealth and reputation. She enters the Marriage Mart with all flags flying, determined to find the right bachelor.

But Louisa’s hopes are dashed when the Bishop of Hargate drops dead at her feet—and she is shockingly accused of murder! Soon, Louisa’s so-called friends begin shunning her, because the company of a suspected killer is never desirable in polite society.

The problem comes to the ears of Detective Inspector Lloyd Fellows, by-blow of the decadent Scottish Mackenzie family and an inspector for Scotland Yard. He has shared two passionate kisses with Lady Louisa–and vows to clear her name. For not only does he know she’s innocent, he recognizes he’s falling for the lovely lady.

Fellows is Louisa’s only hope of restoring her family’s honor—and it is he alone who intrigues Louisa in a way that may be even more scandalous than murder…

* Includes a preview of the upcoming novel, “THE WICKED DEEDS OF DANIEL MACKENZIE”

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

There are some series that are totally addictive and Jennifer Ashley’s HIGHLAND PLEASURES is one of them. The Mackenzies have completely woven their way into my heart and I am always eagerly waiting for the next book!

Ms Ashley certainly captured my interest with the intriguing developments between Inspector Lloyd Fellows (the Mackenzies’ illegitimate half-brother) and Lady Louisa Scranton (younger sister of Isabella, Mac Mackenzie’s wife) in the previous books. They had shared two passionate kisses and something definitely sparked between them. But it seemed that spark was never to be ignited.

After her father died, disgraced and penniless, Louisa is determined to find a suitable husband to help restore her family’s reputation. As much as Lloyd Fellows might stir her blood like no other man, his illegitimate birth and working-class background make him totally unsuitable. Lloyd Fellows’ dreams may be haunted by the beautiful Lady Louisa Scranton but he knows that a man of his humble background could never aspire to such a lady of breeding.

It takes a dramatic turn of events to finally bring these two together again, when Louisa becomes the main suspect in a murder case and Lloyd is called in to investigate.

Lloyd has always been the ruthlessly dedicated policeman…never a man to show his emotions. So I enjoyed seeing his obvious love and concern for his mother which reveals a much softer and caring side to him. His overwhelming need to protect Louisa is pretty awesome…even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his own job.

It is easy to sympathise with Louisa’s feelings of bewilderment…her whole world has been turned upside down. She knows she’s innocent but even former friends are quick to shun her and believe the worst. But, she is braver than she thinks, particularly when it comes to trapping the real murderer.

The romance between them is tender, poignant and passionate. I was amused by the scene when Lloyd is initially questioning Louisa about the events surrounding the murder. On the surface, he is the cool, calm, professional policeman but, all the time, he is having difficulty keeping his hands off her! The sexual tension is heightened by a sense of the forbidden and, when they finally succumb to their feelings, look out for a pretty steamy scene in Lloyd’s office!

Of course, the whole Mackenzie clan makes an appearance and I just love seeing a further glimpse into their lives beyond their own books. When Mac says to Louisa –“Remember, Louisa, we are always here to catch you.” – it seems to embody everything I love about the Mackenzies…that unbreakable family bond. I have to admit that I just adore Daniel Mackenzie…funny, charming, smart, perceptive and not above trying his hand at a little matchmaking.

I enjoyed how the murder mystery unfolded and there were just enough red herrings to keep the plot moving, and the identity of the murderer quite a surprise.

Jennifer Ashley has yet to disappoint with this series and THE UNTAMED MACKENZIE is another worthy addition. Now I’m eager to read Daniel’s story and luckily there’s not long to wait until 1 October.

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read September

Highland Pleasures series to date (click on the covers for further details):

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #1) Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage (Highland Pleasures, #2) The Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Highland Pleasures, #3) The Duke's Perfect Wife (Highland Pleasures, #4) A Mackenzie Family Christmas  The Perfect Gift (Highland Pleasures, #4.5) The Seduction of Elliot McBride (Highland Pleasures, #5) The Untamed Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #5.5) The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #6)-1 October 2013

 

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(Smythe-Smith Quartet #2)

Genre: Historical Romance

Official Blurb 

Anne Wynter’s job as governess to three highborn young ladies can be a challenge – in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he’s the first man who has truly tempted her, and it’s getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel made a terrible mistake in his youth and Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger, but that’s not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family’s annual musicale, he vows to pursue her. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending…

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

A NIGHT LIKE THIS is the second book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet series and, although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book JUST LIKE HEAVEN, it still combines all the elements that make Julia Quinn an absolute favourite of mine. I always know that I’m going to be drawn into her captivating world full of wonderful, loveable, quirky characters.

I completely fell for Daniel’s charm and wicked sense of humour. He’s someone who has learned from his past mistakes and takes his responsibilities seriously. I couldn’t help but adore a man who genuinely loves his family and obviously adores his Pleinsworth cousins.

It was good to be home. Even with the cacophony.
Especially with the cacophony. Nothing said “home” to a Smythe-Smith male like badly played music.

I love how the moment Daniel sets eyes on Anne, he is totally besotted and willing to do anything to be near her, even play the protagonist in his cousin Harriet’s impromptu play! What follows is a laugh-out-loud scene which showcases Ms Quinn’s sparkling, witty dialogue:

“Ah, yes,” Daniel said. “Yes, of course. Sadly, I do know a bit about facial disfigurement at present.”
“At least you won’t need any makeup,” Elizabeth said.
Daniel was thanking God for small favors, but then Harriet said, “Well, except for the wart.”

Warning! Do not mention the …

Anne is a delightful heroine. Charming, intelligent and kind, she’s understanding but firm with her charges. She never takes anything for granted but appreciates the stability, position and self-respect she has working as a governess for the Pleinsworths. As the secrets she keeps so closely guarded are finally revealed, the story takes on a more dramatic tone than usually found in Ms Quinn’s books. When her past finally catches up with her, she’s no wimpy miss but refuses to submit without a fight.

If Anne was going to be saved, she would have to do it herself.
“It is time to be your own heroine,” she whispered.

I enjoyed watching the relationship between Daniel and Anne unfold; hearing their thoughts and feeling their emotions:

the initial attraction… 

Time stopped. It simply stopped. It was the most maudlin and clichéd way of describing it, but those few seconds when her face was lifted toward his … they stretched and pulled, melting into eternity.

♥♥

Anne’s lips parted. His skin was warm, and now hers was hot where he touched her. Something strange and vaguely familiar bubbled within her, and with a prickle of shock she realized it was excitement.

the yearning… 

“I want the kiss,” he said huskily, “and then I want more. I want things you cannot even know about.”
They stood in silence, eyes locked.
“But most of all,” he whispered, “I want to kiss you.”
And then, in a voice so soft it was barely more than breath, she said, “I want it, too.”

the final surrender… 

“Oh, Daniel …”
His lips found her ear again, and his voice was hot and husky on her skin. “Before the night is through, I’m going to make you scream.”
She had just enough sense left to say, “No. You can’t.”
He lifted her against him, with just enough roughness that her feet left the ground and she had no choice but to wrap her legs around his. “I assure you, I can.”

There is always a strong sense of family which I love about Ms Quinn’s books. The friendly bickering between the Pleinsworth sisters, Harriet, Elizabeth and Frances always made me smile.

I was intrigued by Daniel’s friend, Hugh Prentice and I was hoping he would have his own book. So I’m a happy bunny because Ms Quinn’s next book, THE SUM OF ALL KISSES (29 October 2013) features Hugh as the hero and Sarah, the eldest of Pleinsworth sisters, as the heroine. I am definitely looking forward to the next performance by the Smythe-Smith Quartet.

The villain of the piece is suitably menacing, if just a little bit over the top, but I liked the dramatic climax in which Daniel proves to be the perfect “knight in shining armour” and Anne proves that women aren’t just decorative.

I don’t think Ms Quinn has ever surpassed her brilliant Bridgerton series but A NIGHT LIKE THIS is a delightful story full of romance, charm and humour.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read June 2013

The Smythe-Smith Quartet series (click on book cover for more details)

Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith Quartet #1) A Night Like This (Smythe-Smith Quartet #2) The Sum of All Kisses (Smythe-Smith Quartet, #3)

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Unraveled

TURNER SERIES #4

Smite Turner is renowned for his single-minded devotion to his duty as a magistrate. But behind his relentless focus lies not only a determination to do what is right, but the haunting secrets of his past—secrets that he is determined to hide, even if it means keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Until the day an irresistible woman shows up as a witness in his courtroom…

Miranda Darling isn’t in trouble…yet. But she’s close enough that when Turner threatens her with imprisonment if she puts one foot wrong, she knows she should run in the other direction. And yet no matter how forbidding the man seems on the outside, she can’t bring herself to leave. Instead, when he tries to push her away, she pushes right back—straight through his famous self-control, and into the heart of the passion that he has long hidden away…

★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩

I can’t believe that I only discovered Courtney Milan last year, but I’m so glad I did. It’s no wonder she’s become one of my favourite authors. Her stories are original and beautifully crafted, her characters are unique and compelling and her writing is so emotional, evocative and sensual.

There was just enough of Smite in the previous books to intrigue me and I’ve been anticipating reading Unraveled ever since.

The hero, emotionally scarred by past childhood events, is common enough in the world of Historical Romance but Ms Milan succeeds in creating one of most fascinating heroes I’ve ever come across. She gradually developed Smite’s character through his actions, his interactions with others and the insight into his thoughts and feelings. I loved Smite with his flaws and idiosyncrasies (especially his ‘Sentimentality Quota’). I was so pleased that he stayed true to his character throughout. He could never truly be free of those terrible childhood experiences because they are part of who he is; they are what spurred him to become a magistrate. He even regards his nightmares in a positive light:

They were more like a call to arms. They were a reminder of what had transpired. Of what it meant for him to do his job, to listen to those who came before him. Of what might happen if he turned a blind eye.

I like Miranda because she’s a realist and does what she has to survive in the slums of Bristol. I don’t have a problem with her decision to become Smite’s mistress. She’s attracted to him and it means an apprenticeship for Robbie and future security for herself. She’s also strong, witty, determined and independent and just the perfect heroine for Smite. She really cares about him and is willing to accept him flaws and all.

I was so happy to see Smite finally reconciled with Ash and settle his grievances with Richard Dalrymple. The scene with Ash was so, so heart-rending but finally they were both able to reveal what was truly in their hearts.

The mystery element of the story had lots of twists and turns. I didn’t guess the identity of the Patron and I liked the way Ms Milan painted that character in shades of grey rather than black and white.  The final confrontation scene in the docks certainly held some surprises.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

“Ghost. Do listen. In event that I need a squirrel brought to justice, I will go to you first. Until then…” He adopted his harshest tone. “Behave in my absence, or you will pay the consequences when I return.”

She reached to touch his cheek, and he grabbed her hand.
“I said, I’m perfectly well.”

But he wasn’t. A flutter of…of something passed through him. Something barely recognizable.

Her pulse beat, and an unexpected thrill ran through her at the sight of him. The sensation spilled through her body in little shocks, like a harpist strumming out an arpeggio against her ribs.

She was… God, there were no words for her. She warmed up his dark room.

There was nothing easy about Turner. He’d fashioned himself into one hard edge. He was all blade and no handle. If she held him close, she’d risk being cut.

“…The truth is simply this: you can find a better man than I. God knows you wouldn’t have to look very hard. But I don’t believe you can find one who loves you more.”

VERDICT: SIMPLY PERFECT AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

RATING:  A STELLAR ★★★★★

SENSUALITY RATING:  HOT

Read December 2012

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HIGHLAND PLEASURES #4.5

Setting: Scotland, 1884

The Mackenzies gather for a clan Christmas and New Year’s in Scotland. In the chaos of preparations for the celebration–the first of Hart and Eleanor’s married life–one of Ian’s Ming bowls gets broken, and the family scrambles to save the day. Daniel busily runs a betting ring for everything from the time Eleanor’s baby will arrive to whether Mac’s former-pugilist valet can win a boxing match to who will be the first of the many guests to be caught under the mistletoe. Ian begins a new obsession, and Beth fears the loss of one of his precious bowls has made him withdraw once more into his private world.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★

ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS!

I didn’t know how much I’d missed those sexy Mackenzies and what a treat to have them all gathered together with their wives and offspring.  There’s so much going on in this story but Jennifer Ashley seems to balance all the different threads so perfectly.

At the heart of the book is the power of family and love and it’s wonderful to watch their overwhelming support of each other in times of trouble.

I love all the Mackenzie brothers but Ian stole the show for me. He simply melted my heart with his words to Beth…

“You broke the bowl, and it is gone. But you are here and whole. Nothing else matters.”

and I loved how he supported Hart when Eleanor was in labour.

Daniel is growing up fast and judging by Mac’s words, he’s going to rival any of the older Mackenzies

“He’s quick-witted, resourceful, inventive, and as stubbornly obsessive as any of us. Very dangerous.”

Then there’s the intriguing situation between Inspector Lloyd Fellows (the Mackenzies’ illegimate half-brother) and Lady Louisa Scranton (Isabella’s younger sister) and the heartbroken Sinclair McBride (Ainsley’s brother). I can’t wait for their stories!

If you’re looking for a last minute present, this is the perfect gift for any lover of Historical Romance at it’s best.

VERDICT:  Full of warmth, laughter, fun, sadness, surprises, drama and romance!

RATING: ★★★★★

SENSUAL RATING:  HOT

Read December 2012

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FRIDAY HARBOR SERIES BOOK 2

Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiance Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy’s bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life. Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy’s parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to “romance” Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life–even after being broken–can be made into something new and beautiful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I absolutely loved this book! Once I started reading, I just couldn’t put it down. It has everything I have come to expect from my favourite author; everything that makes her star shine bright amongst the constellation of other romance writers.

Ms Kleypas has that innate ability to draw me right into her stories with her lyrical and imaginative writing. Her vivid images appeal to the senses on every level:

The clouds lowered, smothering the vestigial layer of daylight. In the distance a thunderhead sent rain to the ocean in showers that moved like gauze veils over the windows.

 

Carefully she extracted each muffin and set it on the plate. The scent of hot berries, white sugar, buttery streusel, rose in a melting-sweet updraft.

Sam Nolan’s combination of geekiness, laid-back sexiness and easy charm is quite a potent mixture, making him totally irresistible. I’m not even going to mention the amazing body, lean and long, muscle stacked on muscle. His fear of any long-term committed relationship is understandable given the emotional wasteland he grew up in with his alcoholic parents.

It wasn’t a family. It looked like one on the outside but it was no more a family that the carcasses hanging in a meat larder are a herd of cows.”

I love how completely honest he is with Lucy about the type of relationship he offers and particularly when he tells her about Kevin asking him to take Lucy out as a favour. But he’s a man of contradictions because his love for and commitment to Holly is obvious. The scenes they share are so heart-warming and show Sam in a very different light. I adore the way he calls her ‘gingersnap’.

I like Lucy and, although I have never been in her situation, I can certainly empathize with her. I’m sure I’d be angry, hurt and questioning myself, after such a breakup, just as she does.

The worst part about having been deceived the way she had been was it made you lose faith in yourself. When your judgement was that wrong about something, you could never be fully certain of anything ever again.

I enjoyed watching her picking up the threads and moving on with her life.

I love how Ms Kleypas captures all the subtle nuances of the growing relationship between Sam and Lucy. They talk to each other about their work and share intimate personal detail, all creating the necessary bond between them to carry their relationship to the next level. I really felt their uncertainty and mixed emotions as they begin to realise what started out as a no-strings-attached physical relationship has blossomed into something they are afraid to acknowledge, particularly Sam. I really love the scene where he finally takes that leap of faith and realises, if he lets go of the invisible chains that bind him to the past, he can have the one thing he truly wants – Lucy.

He could love her madly, joyfully, without limit.”

I enjoyed the scenes between Sam, Mark and Holly. The banter between the three of them is delightful and creates a warm family atmosphere. I love Lucy’s friends, Justine and Zoë. Everyone should have friends like these in times of trouble! Oh, and not to forget Renfield. He’s just adorable!

 

The story is peppered with lovely touches of humour and it’s hard to pick a favourite but I love this conversation between Lucy and Sam.

”Do you need to…calm down? She asked delicately.
Sam shook his head, rueful amusement flickering in his eyes. “Let’s just assume this is my default mode during showertime. Don’t worry – I still won’t make any moves on you.”
“I’m not worried. I just don’t want you to drop me.”
Sexual arousal doesn’t rob me of physical strength,” he informed her. “Brainpower, yes. But I don’t need that to help you shower.”

Ms Kleypas doesn’t disappoint with the heart-warming happy ending and the Epilogue is just the icing on a scrumptious cake. It’s a delightful book which left me with a lovely glow and the magical elements seemed to enhance the almost whimsical quality of the story.

I’m looking forward to Dream Lake because Alex Nolan has reached rock bottom in Rainshadow Road and he is definitely in need of some tender loving care.

VERDICT: SUPERB, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

RATING: ★★★★★

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FRIDAY HARBOR SERIES BOOK 1

ONE LITTLE GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY
One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE
The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

SOMETIMES, IT TAKES A LITTLE MAGIC…
Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

…TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE
Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sometimes the most ordinary-looking things have magic in them…you just have to look hard enough.

This book left me with such a lovely warm glow! From the moment I started reading it, I was drawn right into the lives of Mark, Maggie, Holly and the other Nolan brothers. It is a simple story but written with such emotional depth. They seemed like real people, experiencing all the joys, fears, frustrations and heartache that life brings and, as Maggie says, those ordinary moments that, looking back, seem somehow magical.

.

The beautiful setting of Friday Harbor really enhances the atmosphere of the book and there are some memorable funny scenes. Cooking the turkey in the Nolan household is not to be missed!!

VERDICT: A TRULY HEARTWARMING STORY
RATING: ★★★★★

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