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Posts Tagged ‘Kerrigan Byrne’

kerrigan-byrne-interview-author-picture

I’m delighted to welcome International Bestselling Author KERRIGAN BYRNE to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

I’m delighted to finally be here! You are a lovely, patient person and I very much appreciate you.

~~~~~~~

 

R&R:
Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?

Kerrigan:
I was born in Utah, and have lived in every state in the west except Oregon.  I was in 13 schools before High School, when my mother moved us back to the Salt Lake Area.  I never really felt like I “Grew up” in any one place, but I did meet a great deal of different folks, and I learned how to adjust and fit in almost anywhere.

 

R&R:
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?

Kerrigan:

I’m very easy going!  I like to say I’m very slow to anger, but there are a few things that irritate me almost instantly and that’s extreme discourtesy, the disrespect of women or children, and eating my leftovers out of the fridge.

 

R&R:
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?

Kerrigan:
Savoury. Hands down. I have a love affair with anything salty. Even my family knows if they’re looking for the salt shaker in my house, it’s in front of me.  However, I’ll order a dessert once in a while.

 

R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Kerrigan:
I’d have to say my real life, honest to goodness Tiffany lamp.  It’s peacock themed and it’s my favourite light to write by!

 

R&R:
If you were able to afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Kerrigan:
HANDS DOWN a Scottish castle!  If I could retreat to the moors and watch the Highland ocean every night from the battlements, I’d be a happy soul for the rest of my life.

 

R&R:
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Kerrigan:
Oh, Geez. There are so many to choose from. I think it was when my symphony was playing at Carnegie Hall in New York, and I tripped up the stairs to the stage, almost breaking my viola.  I had to sit and play after that, needless to say it wasn’t my best performance!

~~~~~~~

 

Thank you for taking time out to be here today and sharing these interesting facts about yourself, Kerrigan.

Thank you so much for having me!  And thank you again for being so wonderful. I hope you enjoy THE DUKE.

 

If you would like to find out more about Kerrigan and her books, here are the links:

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

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Wendy and I have discussed how we should go about producing our ‘best of’ list for 2016 and settled on ten but we have each bent the rules a little by including some series. Not all the books selected were actually published during 2016.


CAROL’S SELECTION (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)

Rockliffe series by Stella Riley

I was introduced to Stella Riley’s books by my friend and guest reviewer, Wendy Loveridge, and Stella has fast become one of my top favourite authors. I read the first three books in the Georgian set Rockliffe series (a fourth is a work in progress) during 2016 but it was impossible to choose just one book in the series for my list because I loved them all.

The Parfit Knight (Rockliffe, #1)
the-parfit-knight-list
This is a captivating romance between an honourable, kind-hearted rake, the Marquis of Amberley and a lovely, courageous, blind young woman, Rosalind

The romance between Rosalind and Amberley is so beautifully written and I could see how perfect they are for each other and watching Rosalind blossom under Amberley’s influence was one of the highlights of the book for me. I defy you not to fall in love with Amberley just as Rosalind does. One of my favourite scenes is where Amberley teaches Rosalind to dance and realises he has fallen in love with her. Inevitably, the course of true love does not run smoothly as past secrets, misconceptions, a malicious schemer and Rosalind’s implacable brother threaten their happiness. I feel that Ms. Riley resolved the conflict in a most satisfactory way and it was so refreshing to see a heroine willing to love the hero regardless of past tragic events. I am really impressed with Ms. Riley’s writing whether it is her wonderful descriptive flair, her ability to convey real emotion or the moments of humour.

This is the book that set me on the road to being a huge Stella Riley fan.

The Mésalliance (Rockliffe, #2) – Audiobook
the-mesalliance-audio
This lovely and deeply emotional romance tells the story of a marriage of convenience between the handsome, elegant, sophisticated Duke of Rockliffe (Rock) and the totally unsuitable, acid-tongued Adeline Kendrick.

Rock’s desire to win Adeline’s love, his protectiveness, patience and consideration, all make him such a gorgeous hero. These two are perfect for each other which makes it all the more heart-breaking to see their marriage slowly deteriorate beneath the weight of Adeline’s secrets and her unwillingness to trust and confide in Rock. The scenes between Rock and Adeline are so powerfully written and Ms. Riley captures all the raw emotions of anger, fear, hurt and frustration. The scene where everything finally comes to a head was a real tour-de-force and seeing the normally unflappable Rock completely lose his control is definitely the highlight of the book for me.

Narration: I felt as if I was listening to a radio play performed by several actors instead of just one person because Alex Wyndham gives each character such a distinctive and easily identifiable voice and listening to his superb performance definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the book.

Ms Riley weaves an intricate and compelling story which Alex Wyndham brings superbly to life.

The Player (Rockliffe, #3) – Audiobook
the-player-audio
After reading The Mésalliance, I was especially intrigued by the actor known as ‘L’Inconnu’, whom Rockliffe recognises at the Comédie Française. Ms. Riley subtly hints that a nasty scandal forced this man to flee England eight years earlier and I knew then that this mystery man was destined to have his own book. In The Player, the identity of ‘L’Inconnu’ is revealed as Francis Adrian Sinclair Devereux, Earl of Sarre.

Ms. Riley excels in writing the most gorgeous heroes and Adrian is no exception. I also love the fact that he is such a wonderfully complex character. I understood his feelings of anger and hurt towards the family who basically disowned him, and over the years, he has played so many different roles that he no longer knows who he really is. The romance is sweet and heart-warming and their gradual falling in love seems so natural. They complement each other perfectly; Caroline helps Adrian discover the man he was meant to be, while Adrian sees Caroline’s inner strength and beauty. Their declarations of love are positively heart-melting.

Narration: Just reading this book is an absolute pleasure, but listening to the audiobook narrated by the sublimely talented Alex Wyndham takes that enjoyment to another level entirely. He brings Ms. Riley’s wonderful story vividly to life and captures all the details and personalities of each individual character perfectly.

Stella Riley’s brilliant storytelling combined with Alex Wyndham’s superb narration is sheer magic!

The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie
the-perfect-rake
This is my first book by Anne Gracie and I will certainly be dipping into more of her books, based on how much I loved it. It’s romantic, funny and full of characters who totally captured my heart. There are some darker moments, but they never overshadow the lovely, heart-warming feeling I had after finishing it.

Oh, Gideon is such a wonderful hero. Wickedly charming, amiable and flirtatious, he hides a vulnerable heart beneath his frivolous rakishness and it was refreshing to see Gideon falling hopelessly in love first and being open and honest about his feelings for Prudence. Reading about the abuse Prudence and her four sisters suffered at the hands of their grandfather, a bitter, hate-filled old man, is chilling and discovering the extent of his cruelty towards Prudence is truly heart-rending. I love the humour which runs throughout the story and acts as a counterpoint to the darker moments.

A lovely gem of a book!

A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant
a-lady-awakened
This was Cecilia’s Grant’s debut novel in 2011 and, while the premise bears similarities to other books I have read, it is Ms Grant’s unique voice and wonderfully flawed and interesting characters that make this book exceptional.

What I love about this book is the understated way in which Ms. Grant builds the relationship between these two complete opposites. Theo is charming, funny and good-natured while Martha is serious, stubborn, and highly principled. Their ‘afternoon appointments’ are awkward and totally unsexy but, as an unlikely friendship slowly turns into affection, admiration and finally love, Ms. Grant cleverly shows their evolving relationship through subtle changes in their sexual encounters. I also like how the secondary characters add depth to the story and highlight the ways in which Theo and Martha grow and change during of the story.

I’m currently reading, A Gentleman Undone, the second book in this series, and it is just as original and engrossing.

The Hunter by Kerrigan Byrne
the-hunter
I love an author who is willing to push the established boundaries of historical romance and Kerrigan Bryne does this in her Victorian Rebels series with her dark, gritty, compelling stories and dangerous, tormented anti-heroes. Although I read both The Highwayman and The Hunter during the year and loved both books, there is just something that drew me to Christopher Argent, the cold, ruthless assassin in The Hunter.

I started this book with doubts that Ms. Byrne could make me sympathetic towards a stone-hearted killer like Christopher but, from the moment I finished reading the powerful and gut-wrenching Prologue, my heart ached for the young Christopher. No-one could endure everything he did and retain any shred of humanity. Meeting Millie has him confused and unable to understand what is happening to him because, until now, he has cut himself off from all human emotions. Watching him struggle with his newly discovered feelings was so compelling.  I like how Ms. Byrne doesn’t try to redeem Christopher, because nothing could ever erase his past deeds, but rather offers him a chance to be a better man and use his skills as a force for good.

If you enjoy reading something compelling and intense with a suspenseful plot, fascinating characters and a darkly emotional romance, then I can highly recommend The Hunter.

The Earl Takes All by Lorraine Heath
the-earl-takes-all
I have been a huge Lorraine Heath for many years and she never disappoints and once again, she enchanted me with this beautifully written and deeply emotional love story. It takes an exceptional writer to make such a challenging and potentially unpopular plot line work and, although I know some readers might disagree, I think she does it brilliantly. For me, the success of this book hinged on Ms Heath’s ability to make me see Edward as a worthy hero and Julia’s words to her daughter seemed to echo my thoughts precisely.

“Do you know what I think, Allie? I think the weasel— who is supposed to be the villain of our tale— may just turn out to be the hero.”  (the weasel reference makes sense when you read the book)

Slowly but surely, Ms. Heath reveals Edward to be an honourable, responsible, compassionate and caring man. Seeing him so gentle and tender with his little niece just melted my heart. The moment Julia discovers Edward’s deception is all the more heart-breaking because the changes Julia has seen in her ‘husband’ since his return makes her falling more deeply in love with him. Ms. Heath writes with such emotional intensity that I felt her pain and, at this point, I couldn’t see any way that their relationship could ever be salvaged but Ms. Heath gradually brings them back together again. There is still one apparently insurmountable obstacle to overcome, but I found that Ms. Heath’s note at the end of the book, in which she highlights her research into this aspect, not only provided some interesting historical background but also a believable path to Edward and Julia’s Happy Ever After.

A complex, captivating and beautiful love story that I can highly recommend.

Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas
marrying-winterborne
After being somewhat disappointed by Cold-Hearted Rake, I loved this book! It reminds me in so many ways of Lisa Kleypas’ wonderful Wallflowers and Hathaways series.

Helen is so much like Evie in The Devil in Winter. At first, she appears sweet and shy but soon reveals an inner strength and I love how she is more than a match for Rhys in her own quiet, determined way.  Ms. Kleypas writes some of the dreamiest self-made heroes in Historical Romance and I’m adding Rhys Winterborne to that illustrious list. I love how, from the moment he meets Helen, this big, arrogant, ruthless Welshman is totally crazy about her and complete putty in her hands. He is surprisingly romantic and I love the way he treats Helen with total adoration, woos her and shows such tenderness and caring. I enjoyed all the smaller details we discover, like Helen’s love of orchids and Rhys’s love of peppermint creams and, living in Wales, I adore the Welsh endearments Rhys uses like “Cariad” and “Bychan” and, being English, I appreciated the glossary provided in the Author’s Note. There is a wonderful cast of secondary characters who enrich the story and are all deserving of their own stories.

Ms Kleypas seems to have recaptured her old magic with this captivating, romantic and passionate love story.

The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas
the-luckiest-lady-in-london
My first book by Sherry Thomas, this is beautifully written with layered, complex characters and real emotional pull.

The passion between these two fairly leaps off the page and I love the witty and often risqué banter which only serves to heighten the sexual tension and Ms. Thomas is brilliant at creating the most erotic moments without sex ever taking place.  The emotional journey Felix and Louisa travel and the difficulties they overcome kept me turning the pages but Felix is the one who undergoes the most significant changes. His fear of emotional involvement and losing control lead him to act like a complete jackass towards Louisa, understandably earning her distrust. Knowing he loves her, Felix is desperate to win her back and I love the epiphany moment when he realises that the entire aim of his adult life has been about getting what he wants, exactly the way he wants it, but now he must put Louisa’s needs before his own. But of all the things Felix does, it is an unselfish act of kindness that reveals the true Felix both to Louisa and the reader.

I will certainly be reading more books by Sherry Thomas.

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
nine-rules-to-break-when-romancing-a-rake
I’m not sure why I waited so long to read Sarah MacLean’s debut novel because friends have constantly recommended it to me. Well, I’ve finally read it and I absolutely loved it! Ms. MacLean brings something refreshing to the much used “rake falls for wallflower” trope and I was impressed by her writing and the way she brought her characters to life and made me really care about them.

I adore Lady Calpurnia “Callie” Hartwell because she is someone I could relate to. Instead of drop dead gorgeous like so many heroines, she is a plain, slightly plump, lace-cap-wearing, 28-year-old spinster with a pristine reputation and the same insecurities I’m sure many of us share. She is also such a lovable person…intelligent, kind-hearted and funny. Gabriel is charming, devastatingly handsome and one of the most notorious rakes in London, but he also has a strong sense of family. Gabriel and Callie are such a wonderful couple with great chemistry and I loved every moment spent with them. They are both on a journey of self-discovery. Gabriel believes himself incapable of love but Callie slowly but surely steals his heart while Callie has always believed herself to be plain but Gabriel shows her that she is beautiful in all the ways that count.

This is an utterly delightful novel and the rest of the series is firmly on my reading list for 2017.

My Lady, My Lord by Katharine Ashe
my-lady-my-lord
I love this first book in Katharine Ashe’s Twist series. What a charming, creative, funny and entertaining story!

It may not appeal to Historical Romance purists but I love the unusual “Freaky Friday” twist because the scenes where Ian and Corinna are having to live in each other’s bodies are so well written and often funny. It also allows them to truly see each other for the first time without their judgement being coloured by mutual animosity. Once they return to their own bodies, they are consumed with all sorts of emotions they have never felt before and Ms. Ashe captures all their emotions so well that I could feel their confusion, doubts, anguish and passion. I was really rooting for them to confess their love for each other.

A thoroughly entertaining and refreshingly different story.

Roxton Series by Lucinda Brant

Lucinda Brant is another author recommended by Wendy and has since joined the ranks of my top favourite authors. Once again, it was impossible to choose just one book, but I have not included the second book, Midnight Marriage, because I read that during 2015.

Noble Satyr (Roxton Series, #1) Audiobook
Noble Satyr
Noble Satyr is a charming, passionate and compelling May/December love story.

I love the Georgian setting with all its elegance, opulence and decadence and I felt just as if I was stepping back in time to a world of powdered wigs, panniers, quizzing glasses, and sedan chairs. I thought the romance between Roxton and Antonia was so well-written because the pairing of the dissolute Roxton with the much younger, innocent Antonia could have been the recipe for disaster but Ms Brant pulls it off brilliantly. Antonia may be young and virginal but, having lived in the licentious court of Louis XV, she is certainly not naïve in the ways of the world and has no illusions about Roxton. Bored with the world of excess around him, it is easy to see why Roxton would be enchanted by Antonia’s intelligence, openness and spirited nature.

Narration: Alex Wyndham is superb in his narration of the story with each character instantly recognizable – male or female, old or young, noble or servant. He portrays Roxton perfectly from his quietly spoken air of authority to the subtle softer tones as he falls in love with Antonia. Alex also conveys Antonia’s naïve exuberance for life so well and her French accent is delightful.

Autumn Duchess (Roxton Series, #3) – Audiobook
autumn-duchess-audio
The third book in this series is a lovely, poignant second chance love story.

I was totally captivated by Antonia and Jonathan’s love story and enjoyed the older woman/younger man aspect. I absolutely love Jonathon who, having lost his beloved wife in childbirth many years before, understands Antonia’s grief better than anyone and is the perfect person to reawaken her to the joys of living. I love his dogged pursuit of her regardless of the consequences and his acceptance that “Monseigneur” will always have a place in Antonia’s heart.  The inner conversations he has between his Business Brain, Heart, Stomach and Vital Organ are so funny! I felt for Antonia’s son, Julian, who wants so desperately to help his mother overcome her grief but doesn’t know how and his actions often seem cruel, unfeeling and misguided.

Narration: Once again, Alex Wynham’s narration was superb and his rich, smooth voice was perfect for the deliciously gorgeous Jonathon and his narration of the passionate, romantic scenes made my toes curl.

A beautiful and deeply emotional love story superbly narrated by Alex Wyndham – it doesn’t get any better than this!

Dair Devil (Roxton  Series, #4) – Audiobook
Dair Devil
Dair Devil is another beautifully crafted, deliciously romantic love story.

I totally fell in love with Dair and Rory and watching their romance gradually unfold was a delight… unashamedly romantic but with just enough hurdles confronting the couple to maintain an element of tension. Rory sees through Dair’s devil-may-care façade to the vulnerable man beneath, whose childhood experiences, especially the reason for his fear of water, are truly heart-breaking. Dair sees past Rory’s disability to the wonderful woman she is and realises how much she has changed his view on life.

Narration:  It is impossible to think of superlatives to describe Alex Wyndham’s performance that have not already been said. He literally breathes life into Ms. Brant’s characters making listening to her books such a wonderful experience.

Another winner from the magical team of Lucinda Brant and Alex Wyndham.


WENDY’S SELECTION (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)

So here goes – my creme de la creme list of 2016.


Rockliffe series by Stella Riley

I have had an absolute binge on Stella Riley’s books and audio books last year. Having only discovered this hugely talented British author within the past two years, I cannot get enough of her writing. Ms. Riley had an extremely prolific year, with the eagerly anticipated addition to her Civil War series being published in May, plus no less than four audio books being recorded and released too. Sheer bliss – especially as the audio books are performed by the supremely talented, Alex Wyndham. So, I’ll kick off my list with Stella’s series/books:

The Parfit Knight (Rockliffe, #1) – Audiobook
the-parfit-knight-spotlight-cover
All Stella Riley’s main characters are out of the ordinary and her unique talent for developing believable friendships and camaraderie between her male protagonists is one of her great strengths. In The Parfit Knight, we meet the first of the ‘friends’, Dominic, the Marquis of Amberley. He is an honourable and likeable man with a propensity for levity which is captured perfectly by Alex Wyndham, who has the knack of injecting a smile into his voice.  Rosalind Vernon was tragically blinded in childhood but is completely devoid of self-pity; she is also utterly beautiful and without guile, attributes which completely captivate Dominic. The two meet having been thrown together by unforeseen circumstances and the attraction between them is instant. Ms. Riley has clearly shown her own empathy in the way she has developed Rosalind’s character, demonstrating an understanding of the dilemmas experienced by someone living with blindness. And then there’s the parrot – Broody! Hilarious! I’ll say no more on that subject except that I defy anyone not to be amused. In this story, we also meet the incomparable Duke of Rockliffe, for whom the series is named, and who makes regular appearances. It’s no secret that I love his character!

The Mésalliance (Rockliffe, #2) – Audiobook
the-mesalliance-audio
The Duke of Rockliffe’s story, a super duper angsty tale where the gorgeous ‘Rock’ meets his lady and because of her, completely loses his legendary cool in an eventual public confrontation that had me on the edge of my seat. Here I must add that Alex Wyndham gives an amazing performance as he deals with Rock’s increasing agitation and loss of control   in what is an intensely moving scene, and all of this in a myriad of different characters’ voices.

The Player (Rockliffe,#3) – Audiobook
the-player-audio
My favourite of this tremendous series so far – but only by a whisker. My reason – it’s such a clever and original story with the intriguingly secretive and complex character of Frances Adrian Sinclair Devereux at its centre. The story is so well crafted and developed that I wondered where such a uniquely brilliant idea came from. And, of course, the gorgeous Rock is back in his usual cool, debonair, omniscient guise after his brief departure from it in the previous book. I must admit to a conflict over which of these two characters I love the most. It mostly depends on which book I’m listening to at the time – but probably Rock as he figures prominently in all three.


Civil War Series by Stella Riley


The Black Madonna (Roundheads and Cavaliers, #1)
the-black-madonna
I read and loved this terrific first book in the series. which ha at its centre the most intriguing and unusual male character I think I’ve ever met in a book. I read it to get some background information on the characters before I read and reviewed:

Lords of Misrule (Roundheads and Cavaliers, #4)
lords-of-misrule-2
Stella Riley’s long awaited and highly anticipated fourth book in the same series. It has a brooding, disillusioned hero, questioning his own actions and the war he has been involved in for so long. Colonel Eden Maxwell has sworn never to love again (in book one he is badly hurt) but he reckons without determined, independent widow, Lydia Neville. I adored it from start to finish.

This series has everything I love – thoroughly and accurately researched historical content (which the layman has no problem understanding), subtly developed, spine tingling romance and flawed but likeable/loveable characters. What I particularly like about this author’s telling of the Civil War, which divided our country, is that she sets out both sides of the conflict in a completely unbiased manner. Her heroes and heroines come from both sides of the divide, showing us how families became splintered because of their beliefs and loyalties and, more importantly, how they resolved those differences.

And finally, just before the year closed, we got a gorgeous extra Christmas present from Stella Riley – the stand-alone:

A Splendid Defiance
a-splendid-defiance-audio
This was released in audio, and all I can say is – WOW! It tells the story of the holding of the Royalist Banbury castle during the English Civil War against almost impossible odds. The fictitious characters are blended so expertly with actual historic characters that one cannot see the seams. I shall listen again before I review but already know that this is off the scale as far as grading goes for both content and narration. A Splendid Defiance is quite possibly my favourite ‘listen’ of 2016 and, if not, it’s certainly on a par with one other listed below for the sheer listening pleasure that it brought me.


Salt Hendon Collection: A Georgian Historical Romance Boxed Set and audio
by Lucinda Brant
salt-hendon-collection
Lucinda Brant has also had a tremendous year, with three new publications. I’m going to cheat here so that I can squeeze another favourite in (the boxed set and boxed audio set will count as one). Ms. Brant also employs the talents of the incomparable Mr. Wyndham so, whereas I have always loved her writing since discovering her, I now love her writing and figuratively speaking, her chosen narrator too!

I read the Salt Hendon Boxed Set when Ms. Brant re-published it in June 2016 with the addition of the prologue and novella and loved it all over again after previously reading Salt Bride and Salt Redux individually. Then, when later in the year, Alex Wyndham recorded it at the request of the author and her fans, we had the pleasure of almost 24 hours of listening bliss as he lead us through the machinations of the evil Diana versus the beautifully portrayed love story of Salt and Jane. With all  this, and Lucinda Brant’s exquisitely researched and detailed descriptions of life in Georgian England, we were truly spoilt. The Salt Hendon boxed set is one of my two top reads/listens of the year and I was hard put to take my ear-buds out.

Dair Devil (Roxton Series #4) by Lucinda Brant
dair-devil-kindle
This series is just superb. Each book gives us a surprise. one area in which Lucinda Brant excels. I did not see this jaw-dropper coming and its delivery by the tiny tornado, Antonia, whom we have all come to love, is perfection. And, of course, Alex Wyndham’s performance is so powerful that we forget we are actually listening to a man rather than a very female, pocket sized French firebrand!  This story has a redeemed ‘bad boy’ who was never really bad in the first place, but that’s what Ms. Brant does so expertly; she leads us up the garden path and leaves us with our mouths gaping and wondering why we hadn’t picked up on it. The burgeoning and apparently impossible romance between Dair and physically disabled, Rory, is touchingly beautiful. There’s more of this fascinating Georgian family to come with Dair’s sister, Mary, hopefully in the spring of this year.

I had the pleasure of meeting the iconic, Lorraine Heath in the autumn of last year at HRR and, as she is one of my favourite Historical Romance authors, it was a huge fan-girl moment. I quickly realised, on getting to know her better, how it is that she unerringly writes such empathetic and poignant tear-jerkers each and every time; it’s because she is, quite simply, a warm and caring person and it shines through in her writing. Having had the benefit of spending time with her, I decided to read her entire latest series again – my two favourites of that series follow:

The Earl Takes All (The Hellions of Havisham, #2) by Lorraine Heath
the-earl-takes-all
This was a very tricky premise and I wondered how Lorraine Heath would handle it in a way that her readers would believe in it – obviously she does, hence my 5* grading. It is an absorbing story with loads of angst and emotion. I loved it and think that Ms. Heath pulled off a real coup with her very original storyline and outcome. Her stories are never boring which is one of the reasons her books are so popular but she always integrates issues (health and otherwise) which we experience in the present day.

The Viscount and the Vixen (The Hellions of Havisham, #3) by Lorraine Heath
the-viscount-and-the-vixen
What a terrific ending to the series and I just had to include it in my favourites, especially when I read where the inspiration came from. Suddenly everything made sense – a real penny-dropping moment! The Marquess of Marsden was based on Miss Havisham of Great Expectations fame. But the ‘mad marquess’ wasn’t really mad at all, it was just how he wanted to be seen. When lucidity was called for he was amazingly sane, as readers of this novel will have seen from his devious machinations! Fabulous, Ms. Heath! I just loved your series – every tender, tear jerking moment of it.


A Gentleman’s Position
(Society of Gentleman #3) by K.J. Charles
a-gentlemans-position
K.J. Charles was a new-to-me author in 2016 and a departure from my normal comfort reads. Still historical romance, but this time m/m, not something I’ve ever considered reading and, until recently, didn’t even know existed. But I’m so glad I found this author because I loved her entire Society of Gentlemen series and, in particular, A Gentleman’s Position. This is such a clever, cunning story and it takes place in a time when gentlemen could be executed for their predilections. But it’s about so much more than that, and the way the author develops the plot and brings it all to a satisfactory, shocking and plausible conclusion is skilful indeed. The romance between her characters is tender and believable and the historical content, in-depth, accurate and fascinating.

Another author I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with at the HRR in Spokane last Autumn was the superstar of Historical Romance, Mary Balogh. She is a lovely, quite fascinating lady and spending time with her and discussing her books and characters was a real eye opener into the way she thinks – a wonderful experience for me. Ms. Balogh doesn’t rely on complicated plots to sell her books, rather her strengths are subtler and lie in her many years of writing and obvious life experience, which always comes across in her writing and character development.  I am never disappointed and look forward with eager anticipation to everything she writes.

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1) by Mary Balogh
someone-to-love

In her usual understated manner, Ms. Balogh had me hooked from the first paragraph of her new series which begins with the story of Anna Snow, an orphaned girl who is traced by the lawyer of the family she did not know existed. She arrives at her late father’s will reading to discover that she is his ONLY legitimate child and her discovery has disinherited her three half siblings and their mother, whom he married bigamously. I loved this premise and the way the story is told is entirely believable. The love story between Anna and Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby is gentle and moving, with hidden depths to the hero which we discover as the story unfolds. We learn that Avery is no pushover and I found his very unusual, out of the ordinary character, to be quite captivating.


Simply Love
(Simply Quartet #2) – Audiobook – by Mary Balogh
slmply-love
Every time I read a Mary Balogh novel, new or old, I am struck anew by how much I love her work. She has covered every conceivable subject/ scenario in her long and highly successful career with empathy and a deeply insightful understanding of human nature. In Simply Love, she highlights the issues and prejudices surrounding a single mother and her illegitimate child in Regency England. With great understanding, Ms. Balogh immerses us in the life of Anne Jewell, her nine- year- old son, David, and that of Sydenham Butler, a horrifically scarred veteran of the peninsula wars. Mary Balogh tells their love story in an entirely plausible and empathetic manner not making an easy read of it or skirting over the problems they face and we see them experiencing.

Just recently some of Ms. Balogh’s books have been released on the UK audible market and most of them have been recorded by the supremely talented, Rosalyn Landor. I can’t praise her performance highly enough in the telling of this beautiful story which always, no matter how many times I read or listen, brings a catch to my throat and a tingling down my spine. As I said, I love everything this author writes but, if I must choose an absolute favourite, then Simply Love is the one.

The Autumn Throne (Eleanor of Aquitaine #3) by Elizabeth Chadwick
the-autumn-throne

One of my greatest reading pleasures has always been historical fiction and, in particular, books about the Plantagenets, my favourite historic family. There are no historical fiction writers that I enjoy more than Elizabeth Chadwick and The Autumn Throne, the third and final book in her fascinating Eleanor of Aquitaine series, is quite simply superb. Ms. Chadwick’s knowledge and scholarship of the period is mind-boggling. All her books are eloquently written with exceptional attention to detail, but this series in particular really struck a chord with me and I finished it with a thirst to learn even more about this fascinating character, if indeed, there is anything left to learn after Ms. Chadwick’s extensive research.
 

What were your own personal favourites for 2016?

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The Hunter

(Victorian Rebels, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

They’re rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards—dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the proper Victorian-era ladies who love them, a hint of danger only makes their hearts beat faster…

A scandalous proposal.

As one of London’s most elite hunters, Christopher Argent never misses his mark and always gets his man. But when his latest target turns out to be a woman—the popular, and stunningly beautiful, actress Millie LeCour—it turns his whole world upside-down. Overwhelmed by the heat that simmers between them, Christopher can’t complete his mission. On the contrary, he’ll do anything to save Millie’s life—even if it means risking his own…

A dangerous passion…

When she learns what Christopher was hired to do, Millie is torn between the fear in her heart and the fire in her soul. Putting herself in this dangerous man’s arms may be her only path to safety—but giving in to her desire may be the deadliest mistake she’s ever made. With both of their lives in jeopardy, Millie and Christopher must learn to trust the real feelings they’re hiding—to find the true love they’re looking for…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

After reading The Highwayman, the first book in Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series last year, I knew I had found an author who was willing to push the established boundaries of historical romance with her dark, gritty, compelling stories and dangerous, tormented anti-heroes. The Hunter certainly didn’t disappoint.

 We were introduced to the mysterious Christopher Argent, in The Highwayman as Dorian Blackwell’s business associate and a cold, ruthless assassin who kills for money without either emotion or remorse. He has accumulated so much wealth that he has no need to accept any more contracts, but killing is all he knows and he’s an expert at what he does. His latest target is Millicent (Millie) LeCour, a popular actress, but when he sees her on stage he is affected in a way he has never experienced before.

It happened again. That curious little jolt in the cavern of his ribs. It was the same when she’d smiled at him from the stage. A startle of sensation. A current of awareness that singed along the nerves beneath his skin with warmth and maybe a touch of pleasure.

Christopher is still determined to fulfil the contract, but ultimately he cannot bring himself to take Millie’s life. Instead, he offers her a bargain – he will protect Millie and her son, Jakub, for one night in her bed. It is a bargain that is to change his life irrevocably.

Millie is a beautiful, talented and popular actress who thrives on the adoration of her audience but she has secrets which force her to keep everyone, other than her son, at arm’s length. Thoughts of marriage or even taking a lover are out the question because her secrets could endanger both her own and her son’s life. Jakub is the most important person in her life and she will do anything to protect him, even make a pact with the devil himself…no matter that the devil comes in the form of a man who has made a number of attempts on her life. She has no reason to trust Christopher Argent and every reason to fear him but…

Millie acknowledged that, in the instance, she didn’t need a white knight, but a shadow that could traverse the darkness with cunning and speed of that lethal viper.

 I went into this book with doubts that Ms Byrne could make me sympathetic towards a stone-hearted killer like Christopher Argent but, from the moment I’d finished reading the powerful and gut-wrenching Prologue, my heart ached for the young Christopher. No-one could endure everything he did and retain any shred of humanity.

It (killing) was all he knew. All he was good at.  And never in his life had he questioned his place, never looked back into the abyss of the past. Never thought of that pathetic, powerless boy he’d once been.
Or of that night he’d lost his soul.

Meeting Millie has him confused and unable to understand what’s happening to him because, until now, he has cut himself off from all human emotions. Watching him struggle with his newly discovered feelings is so compelling and one of my favourite scenes is where Dorian describes to him what love feels like. I love how we see small glimpses that show Christopher still has a shred of humanity in him; his overwhelming need to protect Millie and her son and how gentle he is with Jakub. The scene where Christopher sings the same lullaby to Jakub that his mother used to sing to him was so poignant.

I love Millie’s warmth, strength, intelligence, courage and her overwhelming love for her son. Her life hasn’t been easy but she had the determination and passion to achieve her ambition of becoming an actress.  This makes her a worthy match for Christopher. She may fear him but that doesn’t stop her threatening him, as she does when he tries to wake her at what she considers to be an ungodly hour.

“And if you wake me before nine in the morning again, I’ll pâté your liver and have it with my breakfast. Now get out.”

 Millie feels compassion for Christopher when she discovers everything he suffered as a young boy; it helps her understand him more and what horrors made him into the heartless killer he became. She also realises that he must break the chains of the past before he can tread a different path in life. I like how Ms Byrne doesn’t try to redeem Christopher because nothing can ever erase his past deeds. Intrinsically, she doesn’t change who he is but offers him in the words of Inspector Morley…

“A different life. A better path. The chance to be a force for good. To be a better man.”

The love scenes are steamy, intense and often explicit but I think they perfectly reflect Christopher’s changing emotional state. I especially love the scene where Christopher believes he is making love to Millie in a dream…a dream that always turns into a nightmare but this time it doesn’t. It is such an emotional scene revealing Christopher’s fears and vulnerability when it comes to Millie.

I loved Jakub, Millie’s son, who is such an intelligent and inquisitive child. There are some delightful scenes between Jakub and Christopher including this one when Jakub announces…

“I like you, Mr. Argent,” he announced. “I like that you don’t lie to me because I’m not yet a man. You can go on kissing my mother if you want, so long as you don’t ruin her.”

Dorian and Farah (The Highwayman) play an important role in the story and I enjoyed seeing them still very much in love. I also enjoyed the scenes between Dorian and Christopher which provide some light-hearted moments.  It is wonderful to see a genuine friendship forming between these two.

I found the mystery plot engrossing but there are some realistically brutal and violent parts which may not be to everyone’s taste. One of the villains commits crimes that are particularly heinous and there are some twists and turns before the identity of the person who wants Millie killed and the fate of the missing boys are revealed.

 Although there is no Epilogue (but perhaps we will see more of Christopher and Millie in the next book), I did love the ending with some heart-felt, romantic words from Christopher and a little drollery from Millie and Welton, the butler.

 MY VERDICT: If you are in the mood for something compelling and intense with a suspenseful plot, fascinating characters and a darkly emotional romance, I can definitely recommend The Hunter.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Read August 2016

 

Victorian Rebels series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

The Highwayman (Victorian Rebels, #1) by Kerrigan Byrne The Hunter (Victorian Rebels, #2) by Kerrigan Byrne The Highlander (Victorian Rebels, #3) by Kerrigan Byrne The Duke (Victorian Rebels, #4) by Kerrigan Byrne

 

**I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for a honest review.”

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(Victorian Rebel, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian – Scottish Highlands  1855, London 1872)

Cover Blurb:

They’re rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards—dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the women who love them, a hint of danger only makes the heart beat faster…

STEALING BEAUTY
Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…

COURTING DESIRE
But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I LOVED this dark, compelling debut novel from Kerrigan Byrne, and was completely swept away by the emotional impact of the powerful and beautiful love story.

I was drawn into the story from the moment I started reading Chapter 1. Watching the friendship, the inseparable bond and the innocent young love that developed between the young orphans, Dougan Mackenzie and Farah Leigh, his “Fairy”, was so touching. To protect Farah, Dougan is forced to kill a man which leads to their dramatic separation. This was so heart-breaking and I was compelled to read on, desperate to know what happened to them.

Moving forward 17 years, Farah has been living as Mrs Mackenzie, Dougan’s widow, for the past 10 years, following his death in Newgate prison. She has carved out a decent life for herself working as a clerk in Scotland Yard but is still haunted by memories of the boy she had loved all those years ago. Called upon to take notes for an interrogation being undertaken by her employer, Sir Carlton Morley, Farah comes face to face with the notorious criminal mastermind, Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More. Despite his reputation, she finds herself strangely affected by this cold, ruthless man but has no idea how closely her life will be entwined with his.

Dorian Blackwell and Dougan had forged a strong brother-like bond while in Newgate prison where they suffered terrible abuse at the hands of their brutal jailers. All the pent up anger and his promise to the dying Dougan to wreak revenge on those responsible are the things that drove him to build his feared criminal empire. Now rich, powerful and ruthless, he is merciless in exacting swift and deadly revenge against those responsible for the terrible things they suffered. Scarred both inside and out by years of horrific abuse, Dorian can no longer bear people touching him. When he meets Dougan’s “Fairy”, he must fulfil his promise to keep her safe and ensure she claims her rightful inheritance, even though it means kidnapping her and persuading her that marriage to him is her only option. Perhaps Farah is the one person to see beyond the coldness and ruthlessness and awaken the gentle, vulnerable heart beneath.

If you like your heroes scarred, dark, tormented and filled with self-loathing, then you will love Dorian. I like how he never makes any excuse for who he is and what he has done and learning of the type of abuse he suffered was heart-rending. It made his feelings of self-loathing understandable.

Farah is the light to Dorian’s darkness. She is not only beautiful but also gentle and kind-hearted , and this is clearly seen in her genuine efforts to help her prostitute friend Gemma escape her abusive pimp. I loved that she never deserted Dougan when he was in prison, bringing him food every day and how his stories about her brought comfort to the other prisoners. She maybe gentle but can be tough when the need arises.

Their romance is earthy and passionate with lots of sizzling sexual tension and dark, edgy love scenes which may not be to everyone’s taste. I thought they fitted perfectly with Dorian’s aversion to touch and his deeply conflicting feelings of raw lust and reverence for the sweet, innocent Farah.

It isn’t hard to figure out the big secret Dorien has been hiding because the clues are clearly signposted. I did enjoy the fact that the reader was privy to something the heroine was not.

I loved the ex-prisoners who Dorien has given jobs to; Murdoch, “with his sad eyes and misunderstood heart”; Frank, “who was lost anywhere but the kitchens”, and poor Tallow, “who trembled more than he talked”. They were all so well-drawn. There is also the elusive and mysterious Christopher Argent, a silent and lethal killer, whose story is told in the next book, THE HUNTER.

The book isn’t perfect and does have its flaws.  I thought that Dorian overcame his aversion to touch far too quickly, and I felt that the storyline involving the threat to Farah’s safety should have been explored in more depth before the final climax, which seemed to come completely out the blue. Despite these criticisms, the book still deserves 5 Stars for the heart-stopping romance alone and, of course, I do love a heart-warming Epilogue.

I have to mention Ms Byrne’s wonderful writing…so emotive and evocative. As my words alone can’t do it justice, I hope these few quotes will.

If only he hadn’t so many wounds. Some that no stitch could reach deep enough to repair and so they remained open and bleeding, festering until they poisoned the body with their putrid filth.

~~~

In this quiet, unfettered moment, she knew him, truly saw him for what he was.. Abused, wounded boy. An empty heart full of promise, and a soul of shadows in need of sunlight.

~~~

His skin burned and his heart ached. He wanted. He needed. He craved.

~~~

All she knew was that she came alive beneath Dorian Blackwell’s inscrutable gaze. He watched her with an intensity she’d never before seen, and she wanted to fill his insatiable mind with images he’d not likely forget.

~~~

Farah counted the admittedly obscene amount of desserts. Perhaps they should have left out the cocoa sponge cake, or the little cream-and-fruit-stuffed cornucopias with chocolate sauce. She absolutely couldn’t have chosen between the almond cakes with the sherry reduction or the coriander Shrewsbury puffs or … the treacle and vanilla crème brûlée. Oh, dear, perhaps she and Walters had gotten a little carried away this afternoon.


MY VERDICT: A MUST READ!

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read February 2016


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

The Highwayman (Victorian Rebels #1) by Kerrigan Byrne The Hunter (Victorian Rebels, #2) by Kerrigan Byrne The Highlander (Victorian Rebels, #3) by Kerrigan Byrne

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Kerrigan Byrne is a new-to-me-author but I have read some excellent reviews of this book.

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(Victorian Rebel, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

They’re rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards—dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the women who love them, a hint of danger only makes the heart beat faster…

STEALING BEAUTY
Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…

COURTING DESIRE
But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have recently become a huge Monica Burns’s fan.

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(The Reckless Rockwoods, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

WARNING: Book contains a proud Highlander unwilling to surrender his heart a second time, and a half-Scottish heroine who, like most Rockwoods, is up to the challenge of making her man realize she’s The Highlander’s Woman.

Julian MacTavish’s honor made him guard a friend’s secret. But his lies to keep that vow make it difficult to prove his faithfulness as a husband. When a terrible inferno scars Patience’s body and mind, she becomes a recluse, widening the divide between them. But it’s her lack of trust, not her disfigurement, which sends Julian home alone to Scotland convinced he’s lost her forever.

Forgiveness in the face of death comes easily to Patience MacTavish, but the thought of being a burden to her husband does not. When a twist of fate takes Julian’s sight from him, Patience returns home hoping to make amends for not having faith in him. Pity is the last thing Julian wants from anyone, especially his wife, and it’s his turn to question her sincerity. Now, Patience must convince her husband that she’s come home for no other reason than love, even if it means arranging a highlander’s seduction.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Anna Campbell is one of my favourite authors and I’m looking forward to reading this first book in her new Dashing Widows series.

Source: Received from the author in return for an honest review

(Dashing Widows, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

For this reckless widow, love is the most dangerous game of all.

Caroline, Lady Beaumont, arrives in London seeking excitement after ten dreary years of marriage and an even drearier year of mourning. That means conquering society, dancing like there’s no tomorrow, and taking a lover to provide passion without promises. Promises, in this dashing widow’s dictionary, equal prison. So what is an adventurous lady to do when she loses her heart to a notorious rake who, for the first time in his life, wants forever?

Devilish Silas Nash, Viscount Stone is in love at last—with a beautiful, headstrong widow bent on playing the field. Worse, she’s enlisted his help to set her up with his disreputable best friend. No red-blooded man takes such a challenge lying down, and Silas schemes to seduce his darling into his arms, warm, willing and besotted. But will his passionate plots come undone against a woman determined to act the mistress, but never the wife?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have some of the books in the Windham series but, as I am a stickler for reading a series in order, I needed to buy these two Prequel Novellas to read first.

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(Windham, #0.05)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

The first novella to be published by New York Times bestselling author Grace Burrowes features the foundation story for her bestselling series. This is the tender story of love tested and won, and how Percy Windham, the dashing and brilliant man who was never supposed to become the Duke of Moreland, wooed the amazing lady who became his beloved Duchess.

Percival Windham is a second son, and a cavalry officer acclaimed and respected by his men. He is immensely attractive and distracts himself with the women who seem to throw themselves at him at every turn, until at a country house party, he meets beautiful, retiring Esther Himmelfarb. Esther’s wealthier relations are taking shameless advantage of her dependence on them, and only Percy seems to see the striking intelligence beneath her modest demeanor. Percy sees her as the perfect companion and she finds in him the man of her dreams.

(Windham, #0.06)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Percival and Esther Windham had to beat the odds and face down gossip when their brief courtship resulted in marriage. Five years later, they have four children in their nursery, a ducal estate to care for, ailing family members needing care, and more trouble on the horizon than even a strong marriage might endure.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have wanted to read Meredith Duran for sometime and was delighted to win a paperback copy of this book as a Giveaway Prize.

Source: A Giveaway Prize

(Rules for the Reckless, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

The third searing novel in the Rules for the Reckless series by Meredith Duran, the USA Today bestselling author of sexy and evocative Regency romances in the tradition of Sarah MacLean.

Catching the Lady Red-Handed

Born to a family of infamous criminals, Lilah Marshall has left behind her past and made herself into the perfect lady. Working as a hostess at Eveleigh’s, London’s premier auction house, she leads a life full of art, culture, and virtue. All her dreams are within reach—until a gorgeous and enigmatic viscount catches her in the act of one last, very reluctant theft.

Chasing One Red-Hot Passion

Christian “Kit” Stratton, Viscount Palmer, is society’s most dashing war hero. But Kit’s easy smiles hide a dark secret: he is haunted by a madman’s vow to destroy anyone he loves. When his hunt for the enemy leads to Everleigh’s Auction Rooms, he compels Lilah to help him. But one tempting touch may be their undoing—for what Kit needs threatens all Lilah holds dear, and losing her may destroy Kit.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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