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the-arrangement
(The Survivors Club, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved this sweet, poignant, character-driven, marriage-of-convenience story which is written with warmth, depth and emotion.

This is the second book in the series about a group of survivors of the Napoleonic Wars, all left scarred (emotionally, physically or both) by their experiences, who form a close bond while convalescing. The Arrangement is Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh’s story.

At 23, Vincent is the youngest member of the Survivors’ Club and, as a result of an act of recklessness, he lost his sight in battle six years earlier. After returning home, he unexpectedly inherits the viscountcy, following the death of both his uncle and his uncle’s son. Being the only male member of his family, he is constantly protected and cosseted and worried over and planned for by all his well-meaning female relatives, but Vincent longs to live a more independent life. When the aforementioned females decide to select a bride for him – one who professes not to mind marrying a blind man but obviously does – it’s one step too far for Vincent and he flees with his valet and friend, Martin Frisk. After three weeks in the Lake District, he decides to go home to the more modest Covington House in Barton Combes where he grew up.

Orphaned Sophia Fry lives under sufferance with her aunt and uncle in Barton Coombes. Treated as little more than a servant, she has learnt that it is better to blend into the background rather than draw attention to herself…to become the mouse in the corner.

She was known by her relatives, when she was known as anything at all, and perhaps by their servants too, as the mouse.

However, she is not prepared to watch her scheming cousin trap Vincent into marriage, but her intervention results in Sophia being turned out of her uncle’s house. Feeling responsible for Sophia’s predicament, Vincent proposes a marriage of convenience with an arrangement that will suit them both.

“You could eventually have your cottage in the country,” he said, “with your flowers and your chickens and cats. I could eventually prove to myself that I can be master of Middlebury and of my life alone. We could have a marriage now, when we both need it, and freedom and independence and a dream come true in the future.

Having to live with his blindness and suffering from panic attacks, Vincent could so easily have been your typical tortured hero. Instead, he never wallows in self-pity, determined to live his life to the full and I love that he is kind, caring and sensitive to others’ feelings. Sophia has led a lonely life and a brief, soul-shattering romance destroyed her self-esteem but, like Vincent, she does not indulge in self-pity and secretly finds an outlet in drawing satirical caricatures of her relatives and those around them.

I love how the story focuses on the growing relationship between Vincent and Sophia. There is no great drama or big misunderstanding (a small hiccup maybe), just two people getting to know and like each other and falling in love. From their very first meeting, when Sophia saves Vincent from her cousin’s scheming, Ms. Balogh creates a real sense of rapport between them.

“…you are trapped in a life not entirely to your liking by the fact of your parents’ death, just as I am trapped in a life that is not always entirely to my liking by the fact that I lost my sight six years ago.”

I love how they help and support each other as shown in Vincent’s determination to restore Sophia’s self-esteem and Sophia’s practical efforts to help Vincent achieve the independence he seeks. I enjoyed seeing Sophia having the confidence to assert herself to win over Vincent’s family and Vincent taking an active role in running his estate and making an effort to meet his neighbours.

There are so many lovely moments in this book, but the one that really tugged at my heartstrings is the scene where Sophia and Vincent waltz together.

Candlelight was wheeling overhead. Colored gowns were a kaleidoscope of pastels about the perimeter of the ballroom. Mirrors multiplied the candlelight and the twinkling of jewels to infinity.
“Such sounds and smells,” he said. “I will never forget this moment. Sophie. I am actually waltzing.”

I enjoyed seeing the other members of the Survivors’ Club and their interactions with Vincent clearly reveal the close bond that exists between the group.

MY VERDICT: A gentle, heart-warming and beautifully written romance. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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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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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(Simply Quartet, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh returns to the elegance and sensuality of Regency England as she continues the enthralling story of four remarkable women–friends and teachers at Miss Martin’s School for Girls. At the center of this spellbinding novel is Anne Jewell, a teacher haunted by a scandalous past…until she meets a man who teaches her the most important lesson of all: nothing is simple when it comes to love.…

She spies him in the deepening dusk of a Wales evening–a lone figure of breathtaking strength and masculinity, his handsome face branded by a secret pain. For single mother and teacher Anne Jewell, newly arrived with her son at a sprawling estate in Wales on the invitation of an influential friend, Sydnam Butler is a man whose sorrows–and passions–run deeper than she could have ever imagined.

As steward of a remote seaside manor, Sydnam lives a reclusive existence far from the pity and disdain of others. Yet almost from the moment Anne first appears on the cliffs, he senses in this lovely stranger a kindred soul, and between these two wary hearts, desire stirs. Unable to resist the passion that has rescued them both from loneliness, Anne and Sydnam share an afternoon of exquisite lovemaking. Now the unwed single mother and war-scarred veteran must make a decision that could forever alter their lives. For Sydnam, it is a chance to heal the pain of the past. For Anne, it is the glorious promise of a future with the man who will dare her to reveal her deepest secrets…before she can give him all her heart.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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, the second in her highly acclaimed Simply Quartet 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 Sydnam Butler, a horrifically scarred veteran of the peninsula wars.

Anne and David are invited to spend a month on the south west coast of Wales in company with members of the powerful Bedwyn family. This unconventional family, with a duke at its head, thumbs its collective nose at the restrictions under which most aristocrats are obliged to live. Kind and thoughtful all, they welcome Anne and David to share their family holiday without reservation. Whilst walking the coastal path on the first evening, Anne happens upon the dreadfully scarred Sydnam Butler, and flees from him in fright. Sydnam is employed by the duke as steward of his estate, and is attempting to carve a life out for himself away from his own overprotective and loving family; he is a man completely lacking in self-pity and understands the picture he presents on first sight.

So expertly drawn is Mary Balogh’s description of this tragic but gorgeous man, that I shed more than one tear on his behalf. Anne is appalled at her own crass behaviour and apologises to him at the first available opportunity. Friendship flowers over the course of the month long holiday further developing into affection, and finally into something more sensual. The traumatic events that led to David’s conception, and the ten years following it, have left Anne emotionally scarred. Sydnam too has scars that run far deeper than the obvious surface ones; it is therefore understandable that two people – starved of physical love and affection, and who have cocooned themselves against further hurt – will find comfort in each other.

Anne and Syndam are wonderful characters – to be honest, if I could hug each of them, I would! They feel so real; their sorrow, their hurt, their lack of confidence, even their prickliness; they belong together, and the tentative progress of their love affair is movingly beautiful. Of course, to quote Shakespeare…‘The course of true love never did run smooth’…they have a lot of soul searching to do before either of them can begin to feel really complete once more. Luckily, they have each other to help in their respective rehabilitation. Their traumatic journey is SO worth the reading or in this case the listening.

The supremely talented Rosalyn Landor gives a stupendous performance in this audiobook, bringing this tremendously poignant story with its large and varied cast of complex characters to three dimensional radiance. I loved all four books in this series but Simply Love is, in my opinion, by far the most emotionally charged. The very fact that this is such a heart-rending story makes the performing of it more difficult, but Ms. Landor handles each character with individuality, consummate skill, aplomb and downright brilliance.

I adored the audio version of Simply Love and it is not necessary to have read or listened to the first in the series, as Ms. Balogh gives us plenty of background information. However, we do meet many old favourites from other series; in my case, from books read years ago. I was surprised how vividly I remembered the characters. Such is the power of a great and memorable author.

MY VERDICT: This is highly recommended and a must read for all lovers of Historical Romance.


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read June 2016

 

Simply series (click on the book cover for further details):

Simply Unforgettable (Simply Quartet #1) by Mary Balogh Simply Love (Simply Quartet #2) by Mary Balogh Simply Magic (Simply Quartet #3) by Mary Balogh Simply Perfect (Simply Quartet #4) by Mary Balogh

 

This review was originally posted on the Romantic Historical Reviews

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(The Survivors’ Club, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

In Mary Balogh’s engaging and seductive new novel of drama and romance, a woman comfortable in her solitude allows temptation to free her heart, when a daring war hero shows her how truly extraordinary she is.

THE PROPOSAL

Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.

Hugo never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous–if beautiful–aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier whose bravery earned him a title; a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. He doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen’s guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?

The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo’s devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Mary Balogh weaves an intelligent and touching story of two people from different social classes who find love. It’s an emotionally satisfying, character-driven romance written with her insightful glimpses into the human heart.

This is the first book in the series about a group of survivors of the Napoleonic Wars, all left scarred (emotionally, physically or both) by their experiences, who form a close bond while convalescing. THE PROPOSAL tells Hugo Emes, Lord Trentham’s story.

Hugo inherited his father’s vast business and trading empire and is vastly wealthy but proud of his middle class roots. He is brusque and plain spoken, and frowning seems to be his perpetual expression. He likes to spend time at his country home where he can enjoy peace and privacy and share the company of his adored half-sister, Constance. Hugo also carries a heavy burden of guilt, blaming himself for the deaths of his three hundred men lost in battle. There is something endearing about Hugo because despite his fierce and dour appearance, I knew he was kind and caring as it is so evident in his love for Constance and his desire to see her happy.

Gwen is the perfect lady…beautiful, elegant, poised and charming. Since the tragic death of her husband, she has been happy to remain a widow, content in providing help and support to her family and friends. I loved her cheerfulness and sense of humour and the fact that she never lets her physical handicap define who she is. I admired her strength during the difficult times in her marriage and the way she cared for and supported her “sick” husband. She also carries a heavy sense of guilt over his death, believing that had she acted differently, he may not have died.

The romance between Hugo and Gwen developed slowly which I really liked. It allowed time for mutual trust to grow until they were able to confide their deepest secrets to each other. It allowed them both to realise they shouldn’t feel guilt over their past actions. Both of them both grow and change as they fall in love but it is Hugo who undergoes the most significant but subtle changes; doing things he’d never done before…

He winked at her. Winked. He could not remember ever winking before in his life.

things he found himself enjoying…

He had never had a teasing relationship with any woman— or any sort of relationship, for that matter. It was all new and strange to him. And wonderful.

I love how Gwen is accepted wholeheartedly by Hugo’s family and the scenes played out against the background of the anniversary celebrations are some of my favourites – full of fun, laughter and lovely family moments.

We are introduced to the others members of The Survivors’ Club and I know I will be reading their books too.

MY VERDICT: A wonderful classic Regency romance. Highly recommended!

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Read March 2016


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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Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(The Heart of a Duke, #7)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

She’s longing to be loved:
Lady Cara Falcot has only served one purpose to her loathsome father—to increase his power through a marriage to the future Duke of Billingsley. As such, she’s built protective walls about her heart, and presents an icy facade to the world around her. Journeying home from her finishing school for the Christmas holidays, Cara’s carriage is stranded during a winter storm. She’s forced to tarry at a ramshackle inn, where she immediately antagonizes another patron—William.

He’s avoiding his duty in favor of one last adventure:
William Hargrove, the Marquess of Grafton has wanted only one thing in life—to avoid the future match his parents would have him make to a cold, duke’s daughter. He’s returning home from a blissful eight years of traveling the world to see to his responsibilities. But when a winter storm interrupts his trip and lands him at a falling-down inn, he’s forced to share company with a commanding Lady Cara who initially reminds him exactly of the woman he so desperately wants to avoid.

A Christmas snowstorm ushers in the spirit of the season:
At the holiday time, these two people who despise each other due to first perceptions are offered renewed beginnings and fresh starts. As this gruff stranger breaks down the walls she’s built about herself, Cara has to determine whether she can truly open her heart to trusting that any man is capable of good and that she herself is capable of love. And William has to set aside all previous thoughts he’s carried of the polished ladies like Cara, to be the man to show her that love.

*** Please note, this is an approximately 48,000 word novella.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(The Survivors’ Club, #1)

Cover Blurb:

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

In Mary Balogh’s engaging and seductive new novel of drama and romance, a woman comfortable in her solitude allows temptation to free her heart, when a daring war hero shows her how truly extraordinary she is.

THE PROPOSAL

Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.

Hugo never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous–if beautiful–aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier whose bravery earned him a title; a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. He doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen’s guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?

The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo’s devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

Source: Complimentary copy received from the author in return for an honest review

(Accidental Heirs, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Late Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

When a scheming marquess’ daughter offers her one hundred pounds to publicly kiss a nobleman, a desperate Jessamin Wright agrees. She believes the money will save her failing bookstore and finally free her from her father’s debts. But when Jess bursts into an aristocratic party and shocks the entire ton, she never expects to enjoy the outrageous embrace she shares with a grim viscount.

Lucius Crawford, Viscount Grimsby, has never met, or kissed, anyone like the beautiful suffragette who unsettles him with a single touch. He has always strived for control and avoided passion at all costs. Lucius is determined to protect his title and restore the estate he’s unexpectedly inherited, but Jess’ appearance in his life poses a threat to his plans and his heart. After a country house party brings them together once more, neither can resist temptation, and both find that one scandalous kiss just isn’t enough.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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I’m thrilled to welcome New York Times Bestselling Author MARY BALOGH to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

Thank you, Carol.

~~~~~~

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

Mary:
I was born in Swansea, an industrial port city in South Wales, toward the end of World War II. The city had been almost flattened by heavy bombing and there were very few material possessions. We had ration books, but even using those was not easy as there were terrible shortages of everything in the stores. It all seemed quite normal to us children. The bombed buildings were our playgrounds, our imaginations our greatest asset. Those toys we had we prized and looked after. Looking back I can see that it must have been a miserable, precarious time of deprivation and insecurity for our parents. But I had the happiest childhood any child could ask for. It never really occurred to me that we were living on the very edge of poverty.


Me with my mother, father and older sister, Moira

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

Mary:
Mainly easy-going.

 

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

Mary:
I eat mostly fruits and vegetables, so a bit of both, I suppose.


R&R:
What is your most treasured possession?

Mary:
I don’t think I have one. I am not much attached to physical things. A possession I value greatly is a ring I wear almost constantly. I was doing a reading to a library group of about a dozen people about ten years ago. At the end a Native American lady showed me some of the silver rings she makes, including the one she was wearing. She asked me if I would wear it as a token of friendship. It reminded me a great deal of my engagement ring minus the diamond—I could (and can) no longer wear it as somehow it was too small even though I have not gained much weight. She took the ring off her own finger and put it on mine next to my wedding ring and it fit perfectly. I was very touched and thanked and hugged her, but did not get her name and probably would not recognize her again if I saw her. But I have never forgotten her gesture of friendship and still wear her ring every day.


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

Mary:
It would have to be the Swansea area of Wales, where I grew up. It must be one of the most beautiful places in the world, close to the sea as it is. And there is the Welsh culture and heritage, which I miss after almost 50 years of living in Canada.

 

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

Mary:
I’m not sure about MOST embarrassing (we tend to block those out), but an embarrassing moment happened a few days ago. We were at the 70th birthday party of my husband’s closest friend. The house was crowded with people, and my husband must have mentioned my books. His friend’s five sisters all wanted books. My husband went home and brought back a large bag of books and I found myself in the midst of a book-signing session. If I could have melted into the furniture, I would gladly have done it.

~~~~~~


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

It has been my pleasure, Carol.

 

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

Website

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

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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.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

♥♥♥♥♥♥

(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.

REVIEW RATING: 5 /5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


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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Now, what to read next...???

La Deetda Reads

Book Reviews, Thoughts and Recipes

And Then She Kissed Him

Regency romance redrawn with Author Cora Lee

Romantic Historical Reviews

Where History Meets Passion

Romance Writer and Lover of Books...Vikki Vaught

Historical Romance Reviews and much more

The Write Thought

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Cara's Book Boudoir

Historical Romance Reviews and much more

LovesHistorical Book Reviews

Mother. Blogger. Southern Belle. Makeup geek. Avid reader. Books are my addiction. Highlanders are my passion.

The Bookish and The Romantic

Historical Romance Reviews and much more

Susana's Parlour

For Readers & Authors of Historical Romance

bookworm2bookworm's Blog

A place for romance lovers!

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