Posts Tagged ‘Guest Reviewer’

(Rockliffe, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1776)

Cover Blurb:

Tragedy drove him into unwilling exile. Death demands his reluctant return.

In the decade between, he has answered to many names and amassed a variety of secrets.

Now the actor known to Paris as L’Inconnu must resume his real identity and become Francis Adrian Sinclair Devereux, Earl of Sarre … a man he no longer knows how to be and whose name, thanks to the malice of a friend turned enemy, remains tarnished by an old scandal.

Revenge, so long avoided, slithers temptingly from the shadows.
Grand-daughter of a wealthy wool-merchant, Caroline Maitland is not finding her Society debut either easy or enjoyable … but, to Marcus Sheringham, she is the perfect solution to his crushing mountain of debt.

Knowing she will be married for her money, Caroline never believed she would find love; but neither did she bargain for a certain charming French highwayman … and a surprising turn of events.

The stage is set, the cast assembled and the Duke of Rockliffe waits for the curtain to rise.

In the wings, Lord Sarre prepares to make his entrance.

He doesn’t expect to be greeted with applause.


Having just completed another listen/read of Stella Riley’s THE PLAYER, third in the Rockliffe series, I am, as always, left wondering what I can say that hasn’t already been said about this author’s exceptional writing skill. From the first word to the last Ms. Riley has me enthralled; whether it’s with this, her Georgian historical romance series or with her meticulously researched and fascinating Civil War series, to which I am addicted.

Ten years ago Frances Adrian Sinclair Devereux was unfairly banished by his father. With his father now deceased and his younger brother having been killed in a riding accident, Adrian (as he prefers to be known) has reluctantly returned from the continent. Tragedy and scandal sent him into exile and he has returned a closed and unreadable man; his outlook on life coloured by his family’s betrayal and lack of faith in him. The easy going and popular young man he was at age twenty-one, forever gone. Whilst in exile Adrian has discovered he has some quite exceptional and unique talents which have enabled him to make a more than adequate living. The first is a skill at card playing but the second, and by far the more important, is an ability to act which brings him great pleasure. In fact, he finds he can metamorphose into anyone he chooses on the stage or off it. He astounds audiences at the Comédie-Française with characters so diverse that they are unaware that they are being entertained by a handsome, English aristocrat in his prime.

Before his flight to France, he had led the life of a privileged aristocrat although, as a fairly serious young man, he had never taken that life for granted. Since his banishment, he has stubbornly refused to accept any financial help from his father, preferring to make his own way and learning many hard lessons along the way. Thus, on his arrival back in England, Adrian, now the Earl of Sarre, is in possession of a healthy fortune for which he owes thanks to no one but himself. His unusual talents will serve him well on his re-emergence into the upper echelons of society as, thanks to his gaming talents, he is now also a partner in a successful gentleman’s gambling club. From the moment Adrian sets foot on English soil, he slips into ‘character’ so well that his French batman/friend, Bertrand Didier, has to remind Adrian that he is constantly talking about himself in the third person. The persona he adopts for Sarre is cool and reserved, exquisitely clothed in austere, elegant, French tailoring. His only concession to individuality is his vividly decorated waistcoats; maybe they reveal a little of the man hiding beneath the myriad of characters he portrays. He is so used to acting on the stage, but also in life, that he can no longer remember how to be himself. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism; a way of avoiding further hurt, because there is no doubt that the gorgeous, tender-hearted Adrian has been deeply hurt, and I wasn’t too far into the book before I felt his bone deep sense of isolation and sadness.

The only real friend Adrian has left from those long ago, carefree days, is Nicholas Wynstanton (younger brother of the Duke of Rockliffe). However, he reckons without the help and influence the incomparable Rock wields. He answers to no man and is, as always, with just a look or gesture, in charge of every situation. The duke makes his appearance early on in the story and, with barely a word, calmly accepts Adrian’s appearance as if he has not been missing for a decade. I just adore the character of the charismatic Duke of Rockliffe; for me he will always be the star of this series. His acceptance of Sarre, without question, opens the necessary doors. There are those who would prefer to cut him if they dared, choosing to believe the old and unproven rumours, but Rockliffe, like the wise man he is, keeps his own council. Rock reappears once more near the end of the story, and again steals the show with his je ne sais quoi, perfect timing, utmost integrity and downright gorgeousness.

Marcus Sherringham, Adrian’s nemesis, and the man ultimately responsible for his banishment, is determined to carry on with his persecution of him. Sherringham, broke and desperate, has his sights set on Caroline Maitland, a young heiress making her come-out. Regardless of the fact that her relatives are common and her money comes from trade, he is determined to have her. Adrian is equally determined to throw a spanner in the works. Caroline is mostly ignored because of her lack of style and appalling dress sense. But still waters run deep and she is no fool and knows that the angelically handsome Sherringham only wants her fortune. She is not impressed by his elegant good look but instead mistrusts him and his motives.

Adrian wanting to discover what kind of young woman Sherringham has in his sights, sees only the reserved and gauche young woman the rest of society sees. He therefore does what he does best and slides into character, this time as a romantic highwayman named Claude Duval… and holds up her coach. He is enchanted by her levelheadedness and lack of fear. But later he is hoisted by his own petard when forced to jump in and out of character several times in order to protect her from Marcus Sherringham. Then the unthinkable happens – the practical and down to earth Caroline begins to fall in love with the fictitious Claude.

Caroline continues to hold Sherringham at bay after promising to think about accepting a proposal of marriage from him. Her social climbing mother is pressuring her into accepting him; she plays for time – but time is something that the desperate Marcus no longer has as his creditors close in.

Adrian has always believed that he will never love again after his first and tragic foray into the emotion ten years previously, but in spite of this finds himself becoming intrigued with the gauche but likeable Caroline. At first, his interest in her is anything but altruistic; he wants to stop her marrying Sherringham at any cost, but later having met her in his disguise as Claude, it is on her own account – and his – that he wishes to stop a match between them. With his astute actor’s eye for detail, he sees beneath the crass and vulgarly dressed exterior, created by her loving and well-meaning relatives, to the very straightforward and desirable young woman beneath.

The talented Alex Wyndham once more brings his phenomenal and versatile acting skills into play, as he gets to grip with Stella Riley’s vast and diverse cast of characters. He has the added layers of inner dialogue to contend with (which I loved) and also Adrian in his many guises. He cleverly conveys, without explanation, when Adrian has slipped between characters and, with a subtle change in intonation, the listener knows that Adrian is now Sarre or vice versa. I loved the scene where Caroline is deeply moved by an act of kindness performed spontaneously by Adrian. It moved me to tears. The scene was tenderly written and beautifully portrayed by Alex Wyndham and this was the moment she fell for him, the real Adrian… kind, thoughtful, deeply honourable and stripped of all artifice. My God, I fell for him myself! There is no doubt that Alex Wyndham has played a blinder in his brilliant portrayal of Stella Riley’s fantastic story, “The Player’.

Stella Riley is a gifted and original writer and there are few who can rival her. She writes clever, moving, poignantly sad, dramatic, witty, and laugh-out-loud-funny moments. such as when Marcus Sherringham makes his addresses to Caroline…this is hilarious. The snotty nosed Marcus is called upon to explain his pedigree to Caroline’s mother with the question ‘exactly what kind of lord are you’? His utter disgust and effrontery at her cheek is perfectly captured by the combined writing/performing talents of Ms Riley and Alex Wyndham.

MY VERDICT: I’m hoping that the author will be behind her writing desk again soon and, in due course, we will be treated to another great story from this fabulous writer. Highly recommended!




The Rockliffe series so far (click on the book covers or more details):

The Parfit Knight Volume 1 (Rockcliffe) by Stella Riley The Mésalliance Volume 2 (Rockliffe) by Stella Riley The Player by Stella Riley

**I received this audiobook free from the author in return for an honest review. **

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(Rockliffe, #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 cause the Duke to throw caution to the wind and make what his world will call a mésalliance.


I adored The Mésalliance, the second in the Rockliffe series, even more than The Parfit Knight, if that’s possible. How can Stella Riley continue to improve upon perfection? Everyone of her book of  I read, or in this case listen to, enthrals me more.

The Duke of Rockliffe, whom we met in The Parfit Knight, is doing his brotherly duty and reluctantly attending a house party with his younger sister, Nell. At this party he makes the acquaintance of Nell’s friends, twins Diana and Althea Franklin. He is also surprised to see a young woman whom he had met a few times eight years earlier. At that time Adeline Kendrick was a girl of sixteen, quite evidently gently born, but happily running wild. On investigation he is told that she is an orphan and lives with her paternal grandfather. The girl had made enough of an impression on him that he remembers her, but although the young woman he sees now is recognisable, she is also drastically changed.

A close relative of the Franklin family, Adeline has been coerced into becoming the much despised companion of her aunt, and is treated little better than a servant. She has learnt, the hard way, to hold her tongue, but occasionally, using her intelligence and quick wit, is able to deliver a well-deserved barb to her persecutors, and in the process retains her dignity and self-respect.

There is conniving and matchmaking in the air; Diana, who has always been encouraged by her mother to believe herself incomparable, is in reality a beautiful, vain, spoilt brat. With an eye to becoming a duchess, she attempts to compromise Rock into marriage, but these machinations go spectacularly wrong and instead result in his making an offer of marriage to Adeline.

I loved the central protagonists, especially Rockliffe, who is the epitome of the perfect hero. Tall, dark and handsome, he is urbane, poised and unerringly courteous, except when he is administering a suavely, softly-spoken set-down so perfectly delivered that often the recipients have no idea that they have been insulted. He has oodles of integrity and an innate, deep down kindness, which is shown time and time again as the story progresses.

Then there is Adeline, on the face of it a completely unsuitable duchess. She is no beauty, yet she has captured Rock’s attention in a way that no other woman ever has, something he is at a loss to understand. As their marriage settles down, her cool tranquillity, understated elegance, intelligence and that indefinable something I can only call sex appeal, becomes even more captivating. As she emerges as more self-assured, Rock falls more and more under her spell and finds it increasingly difficult to maintain his legendary self-control around her.

Stella Riley’s Georgian world of elegance and sumptuous fashion is magnificent and, with anything she writes, immaculately researched. Her descriptions are so exquisite and in such detail that it’s almost possible to reach out and touch:

Rock...”elegantly saturnine in silver-laced black with the Order of the Garter displayed upon his chest and diamonds winking on his fingers and in his cravat”.


Adeline…“shimmering, shot-silk gown was a triumph”……”a clever overlay of silk petals and the slyly whispering skirt….”.

Diana’s conniving sets the scene for the events that follow, rather like the collapsing of a house of cards where every action has an effect on the next. The marriage between Rockliffe and Adeline is only really the beginning as we listen in awe to Stella Riley’s intensely dramatic and emotional story ratcheting up to a terrifically explosive culmination which is so skilfully achieved that I wondered where it all came from! Emotions are so raw that, by the time we reach the end, I defy anyone not to feel deeply moved and wipe away a tear or two. In fact, I cannot think of another book that I have read with a more emotionally satisfying ending and Ms Riley has shown her deeply insightful understanding of human nature

Alex Wyndham’s acting talents and smooth, deliciously pleasing voice are particularly suited to this beautifully written, character driven story, which adapts itself so perfectly from print to audio. So sensitively does he interpret Ms. Riley’s rollercoaster ride of emotions that it is obvious that the author and her narrator are completely in-tune.

I was especially moved by his portrayal of the swoon-worthy Rockliffe, which is spot-on; as are his interpretations of the group of admirable, honourable and gorgeous friends – Amberley, Jack Ingram and Harry Caversham. Male friendships are something Stella Riley writes particularly well in all her novels and in this one I think she has surpassed even herself. Alex Wyndham not only captures and highlights the affection between these men but we are also never in any doubt as to whom we are listening to during their interactions. I can only guess how difficult this scene must have been for him to perform; not only being able to differentiate plausibly between these male characters, but also maintaining the high and prolonged drama, which he does immaculately. Mr Wyndham’s portrayal of cool-as-cucumber Rock’s gradual unravelling, as we head towards the intensely moving climax of the story, is touching to say the least. By the end, I was left feeling wrung-out but well satisfied and I wait in anticipation for the release of The Player, the next in this series.

MY VERDICT: If you’re looking for intelligent writing, a cleverly contrived plot, plenty of angst and a soul deep, spine-tingling romance, then look no further because I promise you won’t be disappointed.



Listened to March 2016

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

The Parfit Knight (Rockcliffe) (Volume 1) by Stella Riley The Mésalliance by Stella Riley The Player by Stella Riley

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(Darkest London, #1)

Genre: Historical Paranormal/Fantasy Romance (Victorian, 1881)

Cover Blurb:

Once the flames are ignited . . .

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family’s fortune decimated and forced her to wed London’s most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity . . .

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it’s selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can’t help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn’t felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.


The audio version of FIRELIGHT (Darkest London, #1) is the first Kristen Callihan novel I have encountered and I was completely enthralled from beginning to end. What a fabulous story, the like of which I have never before experienced; this genre being well outside my comfort zone of Historical Fiction or Historical Romance. I couldn’t begin to categorise FIRELIGHT – paranormal, fantasy, myth? And all combined with a deliciously sensuous romance. Had I not heeded the recommendation of a well-respected reviewer, I would have missed out on this very unusual story – it just goes to show that we should experiment or miss out on some excellent writing.

One darkly dangerous night in the depths of Victorian London, Lord Benjamin Archer saves Miranda Ellis from a pair of thugs. He little realises that the tantalising flame haired beauty is more than capable of taking care of herself. Miranda hides a strange and powerful gift and one which she needs must keep a tight rein on, but which can be called on if the need arises. The meeting leaves Archer shaken and besotted with the 19-year-old daughter of a man he despises. Indeed, Archer had been on his way to end the life of the disreputable and corrupt Hector Ellis for an unforgivable act perpetrated on himself which ended in the violent death of a loyal and true friend.

Lord Archer is an infamous and sinister recluse feared by Victorian London society. Cloaked in shadows and wearing a mask to hide his features, only adds fuel to the rumours which surround him. The reasons for the mask are unknown to all but a few of his oldest and closest friends, and said mask only adds to his sinister facade. Archer knows he should not pursue Miranda but he is unable to stop himself, wanting what he knows he cannot really have. He strikes up a bargain with Miranda’s unscrupulous father and after three years returns to claim his bride.

Although at first Miranda resists the marriage, she is eventually coerced into it by her father and finds Archer much less menacing in the flesh; a reluctant liking, respect and tentative love begins to grow. She soon comes to understand that her husband has deep and dark secrets, leaving him vulnerable and lonely despite his outwardly fearsome guise. Archer adores Miranda and soon realises that his beautiful wife is fearlessly determined and becoming fiercely protective of himself.

For the main part of the story their marriage is chaste, both afraid for reasons of their own, to consummate it. This doesn’t detract from the longing, wanting and sheer sensual sexuality which emanates from the pair when they are together. Ms. Callihan, with consummate skill, pulls the reader into their ever tightening need and it is always a case of when rather than if it will happen, and when it does…. It explodes right off the page! For my part, the fact that Miranda loves and desires a man whose face she hasn’t seen is compelling – a real and raw, unselfish love.

The background plot is set against the seedy backstreets of Victorian London, its sights and smells expertly and knowledgeably described by Kristen Callihan, and masterfully penned to reveal undreamt of evil. Men are horrifically murdered and mutilated, and the fear and horror ratchets up by degrees as the extent of Archer’s involvement is revealed to Miranda. His honourable and selfless determination to protect her and annihilate the force responsible takes centre stage, with the terrifying, apparently inevitable outcome – the destruction of himself, proving that there is no greater love. The perpetrator of the crimes I guessed – mainly through a series of elimination, but in no way did I expect the outcome or the way the final scenes would play out – utterly riveting, compulsive and imaginatively achieved.

Narrator Moira Quirk has perfectly captured the many characters introduced (which at one point I did have trouble keeping up with, although this sorted itself out as time passed) – Miranda, confident, authoritative but very feminine and Archer, with just the right amount of huskiness introduced into his voice to make him sound mysterious – the man behind the mask – but still oh-so-sexy. Ms. Quirk totally captures the scene in which Archer is unmasked to Miranda, the sensuality, sexuality and vulnerability – so moving which, in the hands of a less talented narrator, could have been ruined. Even the London street boy, cocky Jack-the-lad, appears initially threatening then later carefully protective – again the subtle nuances in Moira Quirk’s performance totally capture this.

MY VERDICT: I loved my first foray into the paranormal (if that’s what it is), listening deep into the night as I NEEDED to know the ending.





Listened to March 2015

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Genre: Historical Romance

Cover Blurb:

The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant – and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the “D of J” in scandal sheets. But sometimes the most womanizing rakehell can be irresistible, and even his most causal attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms.

Then one fateful day she receives the shocking news – the duke is lost to the world. And Maddy knows it is her destiny to help him and her only chance to find the true man behind the wicked facade.

But she never dreamed her gentle, healing touch would alter his life and her own so completely – and bind them together in need, desire…and love.


A new to me author – how could I have missed this amazing book? Luckily it came highly recommended from numerous others on a Facebook debate on favourite authors/books. I was completely blown away by the sheer magnificence of the storyline; the content is intelligent, romantic, inspiring, and darkly frightening.

Initially I downloaded the kindle version but, after reading two chapters,  I discovered that this book wasn’t going to be a light, easy read. So I decided to download the brilliant audio version with the quite remarkable narration of Nicholas Boulton, who is now a firm favourite.

It is never actually stated that the confident, brilliant, dissolute Christian, Duke of Jervaulx suffers a catastrophic stroke, but it is obvious. Too sick to fight back, he is consigned to an asylum by his manipulative power hungry family; they prefer to believe him mad in order to gain control of his estates and fortune.

Christian had previously met Maddie Timms, a prim and proper Quaker ‘friend’. He is a brilliant mathematician, as is Maddie’s father, John Timms. Together they have made a discovery, widely applauded within their own mathematical circles as brilliant and inspiring, and all of this happens immediately before Christian’s collapse. Maddie is not impressed by the man he is, but she IS impressed by his mathematical genius.

Maddie is asked to work for her cousin, a physician who has founded an asylum for the well-heeled of society. She is shocked to recognise Christian as one of the inmates and appalled at their treatment of him, refusing to believe him mad. Having seen evidence of his brilliance, she is convinced everything is still there but locked inside his head. Christian’s inability to communicate manifests itself in anger and frustration and causes his gaolers to mistreat and shackle him in a barbaric fashion.

Maddie is not afraid of this apparently mad Christian and convinces her cousin, much against his better judgement, to allow her to care for and nurse him. Her resulting befriending of Christian sets in motion a series of events which are frightening but beautiful and make for compelling reading/listening,

The slowly emerging love story between Maddie, fighting her puritanical upbringing and trying to reconcile her love for Christian and the worldly wise, cynical aloof and arrogant duke,  is occasionally frustrating, but completely believable. The circumstances of these two people, fighting together to free Christian from his ruthless family’s intentions to have him declared insane, and therefore unable to handle his own affairs, is addictive reading/listening.

Ms. Kinsale’s research and knowledge of the subjects she covers, Christian’s illness and the barbaric treatment doled out to him, mathematics, financial management, law, politics and religion as well as her extensive scholarship of the era is breathtaking.

This book would be heavy going if read, as a lot of the dialogue is inside Christian’s head but the torment and despair of the brilliant aristocrat and mathematician is captured brilliantly by Nicholas Boulton; this talented Shakespearean actor is the chosen narrator of Laura Kinsale and it is quite obvious why. His portrayal of the characters, both male and female is outstanding, so outstanding that it is difficult to believe that we are listening to one man performing all parts. But for me, his portrayal of the tortured, sick Christian is just beyond words.

MY VERDICT: I am aware that this novel has been out for some years, but if anyone who has not read FLOWERS FROM THE STORM happens to come across this review – THIS IS ONE NOT TO BE MISSED.  I am left feeling emotionally exhausted, but bereft because it is finished; definitely up there with my all-time greats. 5 sparkling, glittering stars both for content and wonderful narration.




Listened to in March 2014

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(Comrades in Arms, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

The truth behind the hero.

Officer Jack Trestain may have been one of Wellington’s most valued code-breakers but since Waterloo, he’s hung up his uniform. If only he could just as easily put aside the tortured memories he carries deep within…perhaps enchanting French artist Celeste Marmion might be the distraction he so desperately craves.
Except Celeste harbours secrets of her own and questions that she needs Jack’s help to solve! With Celeste’s every touch an exquisite temptation, how close can Jack get without revealing his darkest secret of all?


The Soldier’s Dark Secret (Comrade in Arms #1) is an inspirational read from the talented pen of one of my favourite authors. Marguerite Kaye never disappoints and I am constantly amazed by her creative, captivating and original story lines. We could never accuse her of being boring, as no two books are the same and each one is better than the last.

Jack Trestain is an ex intelligence officer, one of Wellington’s most valued code breakers, a brave one too, mentioned in dispatches and a truly honourable man with a conscience. He has a secret – a dark, dangerous secret, one that conjures up terrifying, tortuous nightmares, night after night, leaving him sleep deprived. Jack is a desperate to find peace but unable to, believing himself unworthy of love or forgiveness.

His salvation arrives in the form of an enchanting and beautiful French woman. Celeste Marmion has been commissioned by Jack’s elder brother Charlie to paint some landscapes of their ancestral grounds and gardens. She has used this opportunity to travel to England in search of some answers to a devastating secret of her own. Their first meeting is unorthodox to say the least. Unable to sleep, Jack is in the habit of swimming in the lake in the early morning – without clothing. Celeste, on an early morning reconnaissance of the grounds, spots the intriguing Jack, and to begin with simply enjoys, with an artist’s eye, the beauty of the man. Soon, however, she is aware that what she is doing could be interpreted as spying; indeed, she is also aware that she is actually enjoying the spectacle, that is until Jack turns an anguished face to the sky and Celeste sees the torment and suffering written on his face and makes an attempt to escape this deeply private moment…and fails.

The two get off to a bad start, but it doesn’t take long before they become reluctant friends, with a burning attraction developing between them. Celeste is unafraid of Jack’s black moods and, unlike his family, she stands her ground, challenging him and beginning to pick away at his defences. He is rattled by her ability to get beneath his skin, afraid to let her see his suffering, but still physically and mentally attracted to this beguiling young woman. Eventually Celeste confides, at least part of her story to Jack and it is with relief he is able to turn his mind to what he does best, unravelling secrets and breaking codes. Helping Celeste to search for the answers she has travelled to England for is something his analytical, if troubled mind, CAN do. He has a purpose again, not only will he be able to help Celeste – and he desperately wants to – but he can also discourage her from delving into his own deeply disturbing thoughts.

I love the way Ms. Kaye slowly builds the attraction between her characters – sensuously, sizzling and oh so sexy! Nothing too physical happens until well into Jack and Celeste’s story but the air is electric and when it does happen it jumps off the page.

The sheer amount of historical research that has gone into this novel is breath-taking; a fascinating but never boring history lesson (which I love) wrapped up in a beautifully sensitive love story. I have no doubt that the facts about Waterloo and the enigmatic, if egotistical Wellington, are as accurate as Marguerite Kaye’s thorough research can make them. Jack is obviously suffering from PTSD. Again I can only guess at the amount of reading Ms. Kaye did in order to make his condition as authentic as possible, without being able to tell us what it is he is suffering from, a condition undiagnosed at that time in history. The plot is intricate, clever, and interesting; the soldier really DOES have a dark secret and Celeste’s tale is fascinating and the unravelling of it all intelligently and ingeniously achieved.

Altogether we have accurate history, scintillating romance and mystery and the artwork on the cover is perfect; a dark, brooding soldier in a red military uniform, I’m not sure if the jacket is absolutely correct but quite honestly I don’t care, he looks the part and he looks like Jack.

MY VERDICT: A perfectly wonderful novel and I loved it…5 stars and highly recommended.



Read January 2015

Comrades in Arms series (click on the book cover for further details):

The Soldier's Dark Secret by Marguerite Kaye The Soldier's Rebel Lover (Comrades in Arms, #2) by Marguerite Kaye


I received a complimentary copy of  the book from the author in return for an honest review.

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Genre: Erotic Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Married young to a man hand-picked by her father, Elizabeth Petre is an ideal Victorian lady. She has borne two sons and endured sixteen years of selfless duty in a passionless marriage. Craving a man’s loving touch yet loyal to her wedding vows, Elizabeth is determined to seduce her coldly indifferent husband. She knows of only one man who can teach her the erotic secrets of love.

The bastard son of an English countess and an Arab sheik, Ramiel Devington was reared to embrace both Western culture and Eastern pleasure. Scorned by society and challenged by prim Elizabeth’s request, he undertakes her instruction in the art of sensual delight. But when the lessons become a temptation neither can resist, Elizabeth is forced to choose between obligation and a bold, forbidden passion.


I discovered Robin Schone by reading some well written reviews almost by accident, and was intrigued. Erotica is not a genre that has ever interested me but having started this novel I became fascinated. This is not a smutty, kinky, shallow tale, but rather a deeply dark, sensual love story with some very serious ‘goings on’ – this tale is not for the faint hearted.

Elizabeth Petre is a wife and mother, her husband an influential high ranking and ambitious politician. Dutiful and supportive of her husband and his aspirations, she is nevertheless dissatisfied with her loveless, passionless marriage. Living in Victorian England with its double standards, narrow minded attitudes and lack of women’s rights, Elizabeth has little hope of improving her lot in life and then, through the ton’s grapevine, she hears rumours that her husband has taken a mistress. She is desperate to seduce him back to her bed in any way she can.

Lord Ramiel Safyre is the base born son of an Arab Sheikh and an English Countess. Renowned for his bedroom talents but scorned and slighted for his race and bastardy, Ramiel is a lonely man, longing for someone to accept and want him for himself rather than his sexual prowess. Elizabeth approaches Ramiel and surprises him by asking him to tutor her in the ways of pleasing her husband in bed. This is a novelty to Ramiel, having never encountered a woman who is unselfishly anxious to pleasure a man. Privately, he wonders what it would be like to be wanted by a woman in such a way.

Ramiel agrees to Elizabeth’s request and the tutoring begins using an erotic manual, written hundreds of years previously, and known as The Perfumed Garden of the Sheikh Nefzaoui. Elizabeth has specified that she will not be unfaithful to her husband and so the tutoring is done by words alone. How this is achieved is sensually erotic, sexy and utterly captivating. This is where I thought I would feel uncomfortable, but I didn’t. Ms. Schone uses this erotic dialogue to expertly to grow the relationship between the unbelievably naive Elizabeth and the sensual but deeply honourable Ramiel. The air is sizzling and it is not long before attraction begins to grow between them.

There is no physical interaction between these two compelling characters until well into the second half of the book. In the meantime, there is a darkly dangerous background story emerging, in which Elizabeth’s very life is endangered. There is a shocking culmination, which I did not see coming and which some readers may be repulsed although I wasn’t. I feel it thoroughly describes the Victorian era, with its ridiculously draped table legs but conversely, the hypocritical, darker sexual predilections of some members of society.

I was slightly uncomfortable with the very graphic descriptions of the actual sexual acts which is rather unreasonable on my part given that it is an erotic historical romance. I did love the slow unraveling of Elizabeth and her low self-esteem as she learns to become comfortable in her own skin, with the delicious Ramiel teaching her how to be a sexy, desirable woman at last.

My only real criticism with the writing is the inclusion of American words which certainly would not have been used in Victorian England…words such as ‘gotten’, ‘fall’ and ‘block’, but worst of all ‘fanny’ which means something completely different in England! It is a pity that Ms. Schone did not employ an English reader to correct this otherwise very well written novel

MY VERDICT: I was fascinated by this unusual and earthy story and it is a pity I had to be picky. Nevertheless, 4.5* rounded up to 5* for a sensual, darkly compelling tale.





Read June 2014

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Genre: Historical Romance (18th Century – 1743)

Cover Blurb:

Jacobite Intrigue and Romance in 18th Century Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, Yuletide 1743, and Redcoat officer Robert Catto would rather be anywhere else on earth than Scotland. Seconded back from the wars in Europe to captain the city’s Town Guard, he fears his covert mission to assess the strength of the Jacobite threat will force him to confront the past he tries so hard to forget.

Christian Rankeillor, her surgeon-apothecary father and his apprentice Jamie Buchan of Balnamoon are committed supporters of the Stuart Cause. They’re hiding a Jacobite agent with a price on his head in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, a hanging offence.

Meeting as enemies, Robert and Kirsty are thrown together as allies by the mysterious death of a young prostitute and their desire to help fugitive brother and sister Geordie and Alice Smart. They’re on the run from Cosmo Liddell, bored and brutal aristocrat and coal owner.

As they pick their way through a labyrinth of intrigue, Robert and Kirsty are increasingly drawn to each other. She knows their mutual attraction can go nowhere. He know his duty demands that he must betray her.

Bringing to life a time when Scotland stood at a crossroads in her history, Gathering Storm is the first in a suite of Jacobite novels by Scottish writer Maggie Craig, author of the ground-breaking and acclaimed Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45.


I loved this magnificent, fast paced, brilliantly researched novel of 18th century Edinburgh. Full of political intrigue, conspiracy, deception, murder and even secret dissections, it’s darkly creepy and fascinating but with a touch of spine tingling romance.

This is a story about people believing themselves to be in the right of it; the Jacobites determined to win independence for Scotland, no matter the cost, committed supporters of the Stuart cause and their opponents, the soldiers and politicians of the English crown, equally resolute and tenacious.

Ms.Craig begins with a bang. I could hear the click of boots on the cobbled streets as the soldiers march through the echoey, empty, dank and dark roadway.

“Robert Catto swept out through the Bristol Port and wheeled left. Adjusting his steadying grip on the hilt of his sword, he proceeded to cover the newly-cobbled causeway behind Edinburgh University at a fast and loping stride.”…and…”Bringing his right hand up to the side of his head, he splayed his long fingers so everyone would be sure of seeing the signal to stop. As he came to a graceful halt, spinning round on the balls of his feet to face the men, the soft folds of his cloak billowed out around him.”

These opening sentences completely set the scene for what is to follow. Redcoat officer, Captain Robert Catto of the despised Town Guard, is on a mission. He has been summoned from front line duty in Europe and promoted to Captain by Duncan Forbes of Culloden, the Lord President. Culloden is a humane and honourable man whose only agenda is the peace and prosperity of his beloved Scotland. He has seconded Robert Catto to carry out a covert mission – to assess the strength of the Jacobite threat under the auspices of Captain of the Town Guard.

Much of the intrigue is centred around Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary where Christian (Kirsty) Rankeillor lives and works with her father, a much respected Professor, surgeon and apothecary. They are Jacobite sympathisers along with Professor Rankeillor’s apprentice, Jamie Buchan of Balnamoon. Robert Catto is aware that unlawful dissections are taking place in the dead of night in the Infirmary. He uses this knowledge as a cover to enter and search the premises, frightening the women of the Rankeillor household in the process. Finding evidence of a clandestine meeting, Robert suspects Christian and her father of hiding a Jacobite agent with a price on his head, and is duty bound to root out this traitor to the crown.

The story proceeds with Robert and Kirsty aware of a growing and unwanted attraction between them but on opposing sides, each determined to succeed; Kirsty to help the agent to escape and Robert to stop this happening at all costs. I love Robert’s character…honourable and charismatic, but entirely human, no chocolate box hero. Kirsty is a feisty, loyal and beautiful young woman but unusual in that she has been treated as an equal by her father and is not afraid of the dead or the dissecting of them for medical science. Their growing love for each other is apparent, but does not overshadow the serious subject, that of Scotland at a crossroads in her history – a time for action, one side wishing to throw her into civil war, the other to avoid this if at all possible.

There are many twists and turns with the death of a young prostitute, bestial behaviour by some of Edinburgh’s young and wealthy spoilt aristocrats, political intrigue and clandestine meetings. All combine to make this a thoroughly enjoyable, intriguing, and fascinating story. Maggie Craig is a historian of repute as well as a talented writer and her meticulous research and love of her homeland clearly shows. I have recently completed the first two Outlander novels and it’s difficult not to compare the two writers. The fact that Gathering Storm has been written by a Scot, who knows her subject by simply living and breathing it, is obvious. Even the language used could only have been written by someone in the habit of using and hearing this vernacular every day…loved it.

I can’t wait for the next book in this series and I’m hopeful that Maggie Craig can also persuade her publisher to employ the fabulous actor, Lesley Mackie, to narrate this powerful tale as she did with her poignant and beautiful novel, One Sweet Moment. Gathering Storm with its evocative and turbulent background set in 18th century Edinburgh, would benefit from Ms Mackie’s intuitive and talented reading of it – a dream team indeed.


Footnote: added 8 June 2015

Having just listened to the newly released audio version read by James Bryce, I loved it all over again. In the end, it was decided that a male Scottish actor would do justice to the myriad of characters in this wonderful feast of a novel. Maggie Craig’s stunning story is vividly brought to life by this talented actor, who interprets perfectly the many nuances of the Scottish language.

I was at first unsure that Mr. Bryce could do justice to the delectable Robert Catto and, if I have a criticism, it is that James Bryce does not have a youthful enough voice for Robert Catto. Nevertheless, Maggie Craig’s story is so wonderful that I lost myself in the story and forgot all about my reservations over Bryce’s portrayal of Catto. At first, the young officer comes across as an unfeeling, cynical, sarcastic man who puts duty over all else. However, by degrees his softer side and his conscience emerge and his interaction with Kirsty Rankeillor and his wee cook boy, Geordie, shows his softer side and this is expertly captured by James Bryce.

Ms.Craig’s admiration for Duncan Forbes of Culloden is evident in her portrayal of him and James Bryce’s representation of him captures this admiration. His deep, cultured voice with its Scottish intones is immediately recognisable – without the necessity for explanation – in his clandestine dealings with Captain Catto. As for the female members of Professor Rankeillor’s household – well the housekeeper is just hilarious! Bryce brings to mind a fussy, bossy little bantam hen. The depiction of the drawling, supercilious, spoilt Cosmo Liddell, one of Edinburgh’s dissolute elite, is impressive and the members of the town guard, with their mixture of accents, from the highlands to the lowlands, young and old alike, is perfection. But one of the real highlights for me was when the Professor, in a flashback, was explaining the facts of life to an eleven-year-old, motherless Kirsty… poignantly sad but sweetly funny at the same time.

MY VERDICT: I’ve said it above, but I really cannot wait for the next book in this fascinating series. 5 mega stars! Can you tell how much I loved it?





Read November 2014

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Genre: Historical Romance (Regency 1822-1824, Epilogue 1872)

Cover Blurb:

A romantic tale of young love and old Edinburgh from the pen of a consummate storyteller and acclaimed Scottish historian.

It’s 1822 and Scotland’s capital is a city of both splendour and squalor. Kate Dunbar is worked like a slave all day and preyed upon at night in the gloomy vaults that lurk under the Old Town’s South Bridge but never gives up hope of a better life for herself and her beloved young brother Andrew.

When wealthy young medical student Richard Hope walks into her life, Kate knows that his interest in her could lead them both into danger. Yet it’s not long before the two of them have fallen head-over-heels in love.

Others are watching the young lovers. Radical booksellers Peggy and Nathaniel Henderson have Kate and Andrew’s best interests at heart. Their greedy and grasping uncle doesn’t, and he soon soon starts laying his own evil plans.

Kate and Richard’s passionate and poignant romance intertwines with the richly-imagined colour and pageantry of King George IV’s historic visit to Edinburgh in 1822, and culminates in the heart-stopping drama of the Great Fire of Edinburgh of 1824.

Can their love affair have a happy ending or will fate, the evil that threatens them and the rigid rules of class and society allow them only one sweet moment of happiness?


How do I to begin to review one of the loveliest and most compellingly written books it has been my pleasure to experience?

I listened to the audio version, narrated by Lesley Mackie, who has the most melodious voice. A Scott herself, her narration is perfectly pitched and cleverly vocalised so that the listener is never in any doubt which character is talking at any given time. There is a lot of the Scottish vernacular used and this adds depth and great feeling, as well as showing the difference in class of the wonderful mix of characters. Ms Mackie differentiates expertly between male and female, rich and poor alike, and it is a very professional performance indeed.

The story begins with a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson:

“To look over the South Bridge and to see the Cowgate below, full of crying hawkers is to view one rank of society from another in the twinkling of an eye”

which pretty much sums up the difference in the class structure of the time.

The title One Sweet Moment and also the brief synopsis suggest just another love story.  I don’t mean this in any derogatory sense but, as a lover of history as well as a finely written romance, I was delighted to find that this wonderful book was so much more than was suggested; in fact, it’s depth and content is greatly underplayed.

This was my first Maggie Craig novel and it was purely by chance that I discovered it on ITunes for audio download. I thought it might be a nice book to listen to whilst out walking, but instead found myself ignoring everyone and grabbing every moment I could to devour this thoughtful and beautifully moving story. It’s written by a lady who obviously knows her stuff – the history of Scotland, Edinburgh and the people of that city.

The book (with a perfect epilogue which winds the story up in the most poignant way) spans approximately 50 years. It is the story of Kate Dunbar, a brave and defiant young woman of the lowest orders, living in abject poverty in the vaults of Edinburgh’s South Bridge with her young physically handicapped brother Andrew. Orphaned and at the mercy of their maternal Aunt and her vile husband, they accept and live in the most degrading manner, with little chance of escape from the daily, tyrannical and abusive behaviour doled out by this uncaring and evil pair.

One evening into the Pearl Fisher, the Oyster Bar kept by Kate’s Aunt and Uncle and where she is obliged to work without payment, come three young privileged medical students, one of whom is immediately attracted to Kate. Richard Hope, handsome and wealthy, is as far outside Kate’s world as it is possible to be. His family is rich and well connected but still he persists in gaining an acquaintance with her. He finds his intentions are entirely honourable and he treats Kate and the other occupants of the vaults with respect and eventually she comes to like and love him, and he her.

This is a time of radical political stirrings. It is only 70 years since the great Jacobean uprising. The people of Edinburgh are split in their views, some wishing for independence and Kate has some such friends. Richard becomes embroiled with Kate’s champions, book shop owners Nathaniel and Peggy Henderson, and finds himself looking at the poorer inhabitants of Edinburgh from a different, and more sympathetic perspective.

This is such a wonderfully meaty book, full of intrigue, romance, abuse of the worse kind and body snatching. The Edinburgh of the time, beautiful but also poverty stricken, is captured in this magical tale. Maggie Craig is a consummate story teller; her extensive research and love of her homeland and its people are obvious. Her prose flows with twists and turns and captures the imagination. I hated the villains and desperately wanted Kate and Richard to find their happy ending. As I have said previously, this tale was so much more than ‘just a love story‘. It is a must read for all HR lovers and for anyone who loves a wonderfully compelling story.

This was one of those ‘let’s buy it, it’s cheap and sounds intriguing‘ purchases but Maggie Craig is now one of my top five authors. This is a definite keeper for me.

I later went on to read Gathering Storm, which is another absolutely superb historical set in Edinburgh during the time of the Jacobean uprising – not to be missed for lovers of history.

MY VERDICT: A beautiful and compelling love story.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!





Footnote: The author has recently commented “Fair chuffed to discover that Edinburgh City Libraries have added One Sweet Moment to their literary map of books set in the City”….I’m personally not surprised, well deserved! And earlier this year I visited Edinburgh and followed her trail…a clever author/historian who can make a place and people so real.





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Genre: Historical Romance (17th century – 1666)

Cover Blurb:

It is 1666 – the year when people who take prophecy seriously believe that the world is going to end.

For Chloe Herveaux – twenty years old, half-French and practical – marriage to wild, unpredictable Alex Deveril offers escape from a home she hates. For Alex, it is a refuge of a different kind. But while the marriage remains in name only and both, for reasons of their own, agree to seek an annulment, other forces are gathering.

England is once again at war with the Dutch and Prince Rupert, now commanding the Royal Navy, suspects that sabotage is at work within the fleet. Instructed to find the arch-traitor, Alex enters a dark labyrinth of intrigue – where no life is safe and nothing is what it seems.

Chloe, meanwhile, navigates the malice and scandal of Charles 11’s licentious Court and plots a course of her own aimed at financial independence. But as the surprising facets of Mr Deveril’s personality are gradually revealed to her, the long-awaited annulment becomes a double-edged sword.

Absorbed in his search for a traitor, Alex spares little thought for his bride – until a hot June night on the Falcon Stairs when he and Chloe stand united by tragedy.

As the flames of the Great Fire sweep over London, Alex and Chloe face their ultimate test. Their world is at risk … their choices may save it.


I’m delighted to have been pointed in the direction of Stella Riley by one of her biggest fans, and now I’m going to be on a SR binge as she has a lovely long, re-published list available on kindle. Any writer who can keep me awake into the early hours is worthy of great respect. How on earth did I miss her the first time around?

Alex Deveril – who by the way is utterly gorgeous – is out on a drinking spree one night, having been rejected by the woman he believes he loves. He and Chloe Herveaux end up married in less than auspicious circumstances. In the cold light of day, Chloe is convinced that she has taken unfair advantage of Alex in her haste to escape the household of her step brother.  She reluctantly comes to the conclusion that she should have refused his drunken proposal, no matter how enticing the prospect. They discuss the matter and decide that eventually they will pursue an annulment; however, neither is in a hurry, so for the time being their marriage-in-name-only, suits both of them.

It is 1666, England is still recovering from the austere life imposed by Cromwell. Charles II is on the throne and again the Country is at war, this time with the Dutch. I know little of this period in our history but Stella Riley has now piqued my interest. She writes eloquently and with great knowledge, and her extensive research and love of her subject is obvious in the captivating and confident way in which she tells her story.

Alex Deveril is a complex character. He has been a soldier for the past 15 years yet still only 30 – imagine that? He was a boy yet he fought like a man, alongside men, and earned their respect. It is a hardly believable phenomenon that a youth, little more than a child, could achieve such distinction…yet such were the times. He can be charming when he chooses but is also reckless, unpredictable and wild, and is always up for the most outrageous escapades. A series of events outside of Alex’s control have left him bitter, cold and acerbic, at least on the outside. He has a close group of friends who, on the whole, forgive him his digressions and ignore his biting sarcasm. Alex appears unable to stop pushing those closest to him away and this includes Chloe. Despite this, she is very attracted to him and has been since their first meeting. She knows she mustn’t let this show if she is to avoid derision, but more importantly not to make him feel trapped.

Stella Riley has a tremendous talent for developing her cast of characters into loving, breathing beings. I was thoroughly entertained by the way the young and innocent Chloe had the men in Alex’s circle completely enamoured and protective of her in no time. Chloe achieves this without use of guile or affectation – just by being herself. The only man unaffected, it seems, is Alex. Ms. Riley grows the relationship between the two in very slow degrees; they become friends, and in time, confidantes.  Alex soon comes to realise that Chloe is intelligent and undemanding and so he begins to trust her and seek her council. She, very astutely, gets his measure and goes to some lengths to bring about a reconciliation between Alex and his close friend Giles, after one of the former’s particularly cutting remarks causes a rift between them. She achieves this in a risky and humorous way, reluctantly earning Alex’s respect. On another occasion, she takes steps to stop Alex doing something she is convinced he will later regret. Again, he is less annoyed than she expects him to be with her unconventional methods.

Despite the fact that Alex has many flaws of which he is well aware but unrepentant, he is highly intelligent, loyal, ingenious and discerning and also respected for his previously proven military prowess by Prince Rupert, cousin to King Charles and Commander of the Naval Fleet. Together with his friend Giles Beckworth, he is contracted to covertly search for a traitor in their midst, who is costing the British Navy ships and lives. This wonderfully meaty tale just gets better as the two, along with Matt, Alex’s trusted retainer, start their search and by a series of clever eliminations, a fair amount of deviousness, smart code breaking on Alex’s part, and some unwitting help from Chloe, finally get their man.

Stella Riley covers so much in this feast of a tale – a snapshot of the tactics and horror of death and injury on board his Majesty’s ships during wartime; the Great Fire of London, where we see through her eyes, the cramped wooden buildings in their narrow lanes, the fire eating it’s way relentlessly through London and the despair of her inhabitants as they fight fruitlessly to save their homes; then the final devastating toppling of St. Paul’s. There is also the licentious, gluttonous and fashion-obsessed court of the womanising but shrewd and enigmatic Charles II, and the despair of his wife as he flaunts his mistresses – all brought so vibrantly to life by this talented author.

For me though, the intensely beautiful love story between the delectable Alex and the endearing Chloe tops all. It’s almost non-existent to begin with but then develops so slowly, it creeps up on the reader in the most deliciously romantic way. Alex’s constant quoting that had me googling and thinking ‘oh that’s so lovely’; their camaraderie, which at times borders on the hilarious, so well did they interact and understand each other; Alex’s eventual realisation of his love and then his attempts to convince Chloe of it were sooooo!!! … words just fail me!

This was a wonderful first for me by novelist/historian, Stella Riley. I absolutely adored it and, for anyone out there who knows little about this period in our history, I cannot recommend a more entertaining or better way to learn! An unmissable Stellar 5 stars!




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(The Survivors’ Club, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Six years after being severely wounded in the Peninsular Wars as a cavalry officer, and three years after leaving Penderris Hall in Cornwall, where he had stayed with his fellow Survivors during his long road to recovery, Ben finally admits to himself that he will never be able to walk properly again or resume his old way of life. But he feels adrift. Although he is a wealthy man and owns a profitable estate, his brother has been running it for him with great efficiency and Ben cannot summon the will to oust his brother and family. The trouble is, though, he does not know what else he is going to do with his life. He decides to spend some time with his married sister in the north of England while he makes some plans and decisions.Samantha McKay is a recent widow. Her husband died after suffering for several years from battle wounds, and she is feeling drained and empty, for he would allow no one to nurse him but her and he was a demanding patient. It does not help that her sister-in-law has recently come to live with her and has very strict ideas on what is proper—and improper—for a widow to do. And the sister-in-law is fully backed by her autocratic father, who lives far away in the south of England but who nevertheless owns the house in which Samantha lives.

Ben and Samantha meet for the first time when he is out riding and jumps a hedge, narrowly missing coming down on top of her after she and her dog have left the confines of her own park, unknown to her sister-in-law. It is not an auspicious beginning to their relationship, though later they forge something of a friendship, cut short when Ben fears to embroil her in gossip and possible scandal. But her father-in-law judges her unfit to live without male supervision anyway and summons her south to live with him. Samantha chooses rather to escape to Wales, where she owns a dilapidated hovel of a cottage left her by her mother, though she has never seen it. Ben, the only one in whom she confides plans, insists upon escorting her there. And so they escape together into a new world and a new life with new discoveries and challenges and possibilities—and new temptations.


What a fabulous, classy storyteller Mary Balogh is. She never disappoints and her story lines are original, interesting and captivating. This particular series is so addictive;  six men and one woman, all affected in some devastating way by participation or connection with the Napoleonic war.

This is the third in the series and Ms. Balogh has cleverly reminded us of the involvement of the others without boring, long winded explanations. There are quite long periods between publication of each of The Survivor’s stories and she tells us just enough to remind us of the surrounding circumstances.

This is Major Sir Benedict Harper’s story. Having suffered debilitating injuries, mainly to his legs, he is determined to walk and make a life for himself outside of the Army which was his love. What to do to utilise his military skills is the question. Benedict (Ben) has mastered horse riding again and, whilst out riding on his sister’s estate, he jumps a high hedge unaware of the heavily veiled, black clothed widow sitting on the ground on the other side. Antagonistic towards each other to begin with, Ben’s innate good manners drive him to make his apologies and he discovers the lovely young woman beneath the widow’s weeds.

Ben becomes embroiled in Samantha McKay’s troubles and , after their second meeting, the rapport between them is instantaneous and develops into an attraction that escalates over the coming months. Married at 17 to a dashing Military man, Samantha ends up nursing her complaining, demanding husband after he suffers life threatening injuries in the same war. Finally widowed after 6 years of nursing, she craves freedom and ‘escape’, especially from her autocratic and aristocratic in laws. Samantha decides to make her escape to Wales where she has been willed a cottage by a maiden aunt, which, as far as she knows, could be in ruins. Anything is better than the life she is now living. Honourable Ben offers his services as her escort to the wilds of South Wales.

These two characters are utterly wonderful. Honourable, charismatic and brave, Ben’s injuries only add rather than detract from his attraction. Warm, vital, and vivacious, Samantha, a breath of fresh air to Ben, sees the man beyond the crippled legs.

Mary Balogh is a native of Wales and it shows…I know Tenby and her wonderful description of the place and people transports me to a place I love. There are no bored, aristocratic rakes or mention of Regency ballrooms. The only ball is a Christmas gathering of all the local people – mistletoe, a waltz – totally heart-warming.

Written in Ms. Balogh’s usual fluent, original writing style, I enjoyed this wonderful, witty tale so much.  A well-earned  5 stars.




(The Survivors’ Club #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

The Survivors’ Club: Six men and one woman, all wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendship forged during their recovery at Penderris Hall in Cornwall. Now, in the fourth novel of the Survivors’ Club series, Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, has left this refuge to find his own salvation—in the love of a most unsuspecting woman…

Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was devastated by his fiancée’s desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back—and everyone is eager to revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who, in a panic, runs straight into the arms of a most sensible yet enchanting young woman.

Agnes Keeping has never been in love—and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage.

When Agnes discovers that the proposal is only to avenge his former love, she’s determined to flee. But Flavian has no intention of letting his new bride go, especially now that he too has fallen so passionately and so unexpectedly in love.


This series just gets better and ONLY ENCHANTING is another winner. Mary Balogh’s years of experience show, but instead of running out of ideas, her novels just get richer, more empathetic and entrancing. How has she managed to come up with the diversity shown in this series alone? Each story is different; each character endearing, charismatic and loveable and definitely worthy of his (the men so far) happy ever after.

This is Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby’s story. Rich, bored, cynical and handsome, he is nevertheless a very unhappy and unfulfilled man. Enter plain…at least on first sight…Agnes Keeping, widowed and virtuous. She believes passion and love have no place in marriage. In spite of this, at the ball given by her friend Sophia, wife of Vincent, Lord Darleigh, a fellow survivor, she is completely captivated by Flavian after dancing with him on two occasions. Flavian, on the other hand, prepares himself to be charming but bored. Instead he finds himself enchanted by this no frills, sweet, young widow with a sense of humour and no guile.

Flavian has suffered devastating injuries in the Napoleonic wars and is rescued in the nick of time and carried off to the home of George, Duke of Stanbrook, in Cornwall. Here his terrible head injuries can heal in the company of others with horrific injuries of their own. Supporting each other through the healing process, The Survivors Club becomes the salvation for all seven members. However, they cannot save each other once they finally face the world again, forever changed to their families and loved ones. Flavian’s life threatening head wounds have healed, at least on the outside. He still suffers from memory loss, severe headaches and temper outbursts brought on by frustration at his inability to remember huge chunks hovering just out of range, tantalisingly close. He knows something devastating happened, but can’t catch it from his subconscious. It is all somehow wrapped up with his ex-fiancé Velma, who ended their betrothal on his return from the wars, to all intents and purposes a madman. Now that he is, at least on the surface, recovered, Velma would like to resume their relationship as she is recently widowed. Both her parents and his family support the match but Flavian has other ideas.

Mrs Agnes Keeping is the object of Flavian’s attention. He can’t explain to himself why he must marry her, he just knows she makes him feel safe. Eventually he wears down her misgivings and they marry by special license. Agnes is, against her better judgement, madly and deeply in love with Flavian and they enjoy a close and loving relationship until she discovers his previous relationship and feels he has married her simply to wreak revenge on his ex-fiancé Velma. Her gut reaction is to leave him but Flavian has discovered that Agnes is much more to him than ‘safe’ and does all in his power to keep her by his side.

Agnes decides to stay and her love and care slowly help Flavian to unlock the secrets of his mind. He in turn helps her to face her own demons; those same demons that insist that passion has no place in marriage.

Mary Balough has crafted another fabulous page turner from her talented pen. The other characters of the Survivors Club are in attendance, though slowly finding peace and love. I’d love to see George settle down. He is the saviour of this group of damaged human beings, offering them help and refuge, and should definitely find his own HEA. I do hope it will be Agnes’s elder sister Dora who captures George’s heart.

Again for pure entertainment value and originality, a resounding 5 stars.



The Survivors’ Club series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Proposal (The Survivors' Club #1) by Mary Balogh The Arrangement (The Survivors' Club #2) by Mary Balogh The Escape (The Survivors' Club #3) by Mary Balogh Only Enchanting (The Survivors' Club, #4) by Mary Balogh Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club, #5) by Mary Balogh Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) by Mary Balogh Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7) by Mary Balogh

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