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THE DRESSMAKERS SERIES BOOK 1

From the Design Book of Marcelline Noirot:
The allure of the perfect gown should be twofold:
ladies would die to wear it . . .
and gentlemen would kill to remove it

Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London’s rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in the ton, the Duke of Clevedon’s intended bride? Winning the future duchess’s patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her sisters. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are . . . not.

The prize seems well worth the risk–but this time Marcelline’s met her match. Clevedon can design a seduction as irresistible as her dresses; and what begins as a flicker of desire between two of the most passionately stubborn charmers in London soon ignites into a delicious inferno . . . and a blazing scandal.

And now both their futures hang by an exquisite thread of silk …

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When I pick up a Loretta Chase book, I am always assured of an outstanding historical romance. This book is a perfect blend of engaging story, fascinating characters, witty dialogue and sizzling passion.

In Marcelline and Clevedon, Ms. Chase has created two vibrant and unforgettable characters.

Marcelline is one of those strong heroines that Ms. Chase excels in creating. She is clever, confident and has worked tirelessly to promote the reputation of the Maison Noirot. Her passion for what she does is unmistakable:

What had begun as drudgery – a trade learned in childhood purely for survival – had become Marcelline’s life and her love. She was not only Maison Noirot’s designer but it’s soul.

However, Marcelline is not above using devious traits inherited from her Dreadful Delucey family in her efforts to become the foremost modiste in London. But, as she reveals to Clevedon, her motives are not totally mercenary because the welfare of her family is just as important to her:

“This is how I feed and clothe and house and educate my daughter. This is how I provide for my sisters.”

I think she also cares about her customers. She may manipulate them and want their money but as Clevedon points out, she gives totally of herself to make them better than they think they can be. In many ways, she lacks scruples but, in her dealings with her customers, she is completely honest.

I loved watching Clevedon slowly grow into the mantle of hero. When Marcelline accuses him of frittering his life away, he feels shame and is forced to take good look at himself for the first time. When he starts to take an interest in Marcelline’s business, he discovers a real purpose to his life. He also realises how talented and honourable Marcelline is in her business dealings. I also love how he cares for Marcelline when she is seasick on the return journey to London; how he risks his life to save her daughter, Lucie; how he comes to the aid of the sisters when disaster strikes the Maison Noirot, regardless of society’s censure.

The chemistry between Marcelline and Clevedon is fantastic! From their first meeting, I could feel the emotionally charged atmosphere between them and it is obvious that, whatever obstacles stand in their way, they are meant to be together. Ms. Chase is brilliant at conveying the sexual tension in the scenes between Marcelline and Clevedon with smart and witty dialogue and wonderfully descriptive writing:

She moved his hands away, hers lightly brushing his. Glove against glove, that was all. Yet she felt the shock of contact as though skin had touched skin, and the sensation traveled the length of her body.

Ms. Chase keeps the tension building and with all this passion bubbling under the surface, it is obvious that, when they finally surrender to it, their love scene will be explosive! The author certainly doesn’t disappoint, capturing all the urgency and emotion in their lovemaking:

He gave in to it, too, in a mad, hungry kiss, while his hands moved greedily over her, wanting and wanting, endlessly wanting.

I like how Ms. Chase doesn’t make all the problems they will have to face in their future together disappear but still manages to end on an optimistic note. The epilogue is just the icing on the cake.

Ms. Chase provides enough detail with regard the secondary characters to make them interesting in their own right. Marcelline’s sisters, Sophia and Leonie, bring their own talents to the running of the Maison Noirot and I can’t wait to read their stories. I loved the warm-hearted Lady Clara and was so glad when she told Clevedon that she deserved to be loved, truly loved – mind, body and soul. I hope she gets her own story with a hero worthy of her. Finally, I have to mention Marcelline’s daughter, Lucie (or Erroll as she prefers to be called). She is a miniature version of her mother with all her manipulative wiles but I couldn’t help but adore her, especially the way in which she wraps Clevedon around her little finger.

VERDICT: SUPERB, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

RATING: ★★★★★

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SCHOOL OF GALLANTRY BOOK 1

REAL PLEASURE CAN’T BE TAKEN…

Granddaughter of a renowned courtesan, Maybelle de Maitenon has no interest in her grandmother’s school in London where gentlemen receive instruction—in the art of seduction. Her only desire in life is to remain independent, free from men and the shackles of marriage. But when Maybelle lays eyes on Edmund Worthington, the Duke of Rutherford, at a soirée, and hears of his scandalous reputation, she decides he’s the perfect person for her to have a tryst with no strings attached…

IT MUST BE GIVEN…

Unbridled passion has again muddied Edmund Worthington’s family name. After his very public dalliance with the strikingly beautiful and sensual Maybelle, his mother insists he marry her. But much to the duke’s surprise, Maybelle scoffs at his proposal. Never has he encountered such a brazen—and maddeningly irresistible—woman. But when Maybelle’s grandmother falls ill, forcing Maybelle to take over the operation of the school, Edmund devises a plan to make her his. He enrols in the school, where no one other than Maybelle must give him expert lessons in carnal pleasure…

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What a deliciously saucy book this was!  It was refreshingly different, uproariously funny, wickedly sexy, and peopled with a wonderful array of richly drawn characters. I didn’t even mind that the plot veered towards the implausible at times because overall it was a fun read.

Here are some of my favourite moments ~

Maybelle has decided to ensure her independence by losing her virginity and
thereby making herself unmarriageable. All she has to do now is find the
right man!  I love her reaction when she first sees Edmund…

Maybelle’s heart skipped as her eyes unwittingly followed him. Now there was a chariot worth riding into hell on.

I SECOND THAT!

Having compromised Maybelle, Edmund’s honour requires that he offer her
marriage but the independent minded lady is certainly not impressed by
his ducal arrogance or his attempts to persuade her using other wiles…

That good-for-nothing bastard. He couldn’t get her to flip up her skirts in his parlour or be his pot-flesh wife, so he went and used the only thing he did have. His title. Well, she might not have a title, or a reputation for that matter but she would ultimately win this battle. Not him.

LET BATTLE BEGIN!

Maybelle is forced to take on the role of headmistress of the School of
Gallantry when her grandmother is taken ill. For her first lesson she
will be addressing bedside manners and has asked the students to bring
their nightshirts along and she must comment on each one. The first
nightshirt selected belongs to Lord Hawksford (he has a bad reputation
even by her grandmother’s standards!). It’s in somewhat of a
disreputable state…

”Lord Hawksworth, the only pleasant  aspect of your nightshirt is the way it is scented. It is wrinkled, disturbingly tattered, and has unidentifiable stains. How do you think a  lady will respond when she  sees you in this? “
Hawksford smirked. “Unfortunately, love, I am unable to keep up with all the demands. As  for the stains, I think they speak for themselves.”

DON’T YOU JUST LOVE AN UTTER ROGUE!

Maybelle then moves on to a subject close to a man’s heart. SEX!
I’d  love to share a moment but this scene is deliciously wicked, so no
spoilers. If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book!

SPOILSPORT!!

Things between Maybelle and Edmund definitely heat up…

”Do what you will,” she whispered. “I am certain I will enjoy every moment of it.”
He growled down at her as his other hand came up. His hold on the front of
her gown tightened and, in one swift motion, he ripped the front of her
bodice and kept ripping his way down until he had enough room for it to
slip off her arms and waist and onto the floor. Maybelle stood only in a petticoat, chemise, corset, stockings, and of course, her slippers.
A shiver shot through her as the cool air around her flecked goose
bumps across the exposed skin of her arms. She could feel herself
growing wet, anticipating more.

SATISFACTION GUARANTEED!!

Unfortunately, the course of true love doesn’t exactly run smoothly with misunderstandings all round…

“How about I equip you with a new face!” Edmund snapped up his right hand
and smashed his fist into Hawksford’s face, sending Hawksford stumbling
back into the waiter who stood by the decanter.

The fight continues and some minutes later…

“Cease this nonsense! Cease this at once!” Maybelle rushed toward Edmund and Hawksford as they continued to thrash blow after blow at each other’s’
heads, chins, guts, and God knows what else. “Edmund! Hawksford! Enough!”

WELL SAID MAYBELLE! MEN CAN BE SUCH IDIOTS

Thank goodness, the Happy Ending is on the horizon…

He drew back his hand and cleared his voice in a theatrical manner. “Miss
Maitenon, granddaughter of Madame de Maitenon, better known as the
headmistress of the School of Gallantry, at least for the time being,
will you give me the honor of becoming my wife, my duchess, my one true
love?”
She sighed as if it were the best ever given in the history of
England’s courtship. “Yes, Edmund. Yes.” She reached up and traced a
loving finger alongside his face.



VERDICT:  ORIGINAL, FUNNY AND DELICIOUSLY SEXY

RATING: ★★★★½

Note

There are four further books in this series. Book 2, LORD OF PLEASURE, is available now; the expected date of publication of Book 3, LADY OF PLEASURE, is 1st March 2013; no publication details or titles are currently available for Books 4 and 5.

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Abigail Donovan has a lot of stuff she should be doing. Namely writing her next novel. A bestselling author who is still recovering from a near Pulitzer Prize win and the heady success that follows Oprah’stamp of approval, she is stuck at Chapter Five and losing confidence daily. But when her publicist signs her up for a Twitter account, she’s intrigued. What’s all the fuss?

Taken under the wing of one of her Twitter followers, “MarkBaynard”, a quick witted, quick-typing professor on sabbatical, Abby finds it easy to put words out into the world 140 characters at a time. And once she gets a handle on tweets, retweets, direct messages, hashtags, and trends, she starts to feel unblocked in writing and in life. After all, why should she be spending hours in her apartment staring at her TweetDeck and fretting about her stalled career when Mark is out there traveling the world and living?

Or is he?
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I was rather apprehensive when one of my favourite historical romance authors, Teresa Medeiros, announced that she was writing a contemporary novel, GOODNIGHT TWEETHEART, and not only that, but the hero and heroine communicate with each other entirely through Twitter. But to my surprise, I discovered a heart-warming romance tinged with a little sadness; an absolute gem!

Four years ago, Abby Donovan was riding high, the author of a best-selling first novel which had come close to winning the Pulitzer Prize. Now writing her second novel, she can’t seem to get past Chapter 5. Her confidence slowly ebbing away, the last thing she wants is for her publicist to sign her up for a Twitter account in the hope of raising Abby’s public profile.

Curiosity prompts her to type her first tweets and she quickly receives a response from one Mark Baynard, an English Literature professor on sabbatical leave and traveling around Europe. She’s quickly drawn into a quick fire exchange with Mark with whom she feels very much at ease. Her life takes on new meaning and soon they are flirting and sharing cyberspace dates. Abby is ready to move on to the next stage of their relationship, meeting Mark in person. But what will her reaction be when Mark is forced to reveal the truth about himself?

I must confess that I have never used Twitter in my life and so I was a bit worried that my lack of knowledge might spoil my enjoyment of the book. No problem because, like Abby, I learnt all I needed to know about Twitter from Mark’s tweets!

The tweeting seems so spontaneous and Ms Medeiros does an amazing job of bringing Abby and Mark to life through their exchanges. I never would have believed that a cyberspace date could feel so romantic! I love all the references to classic TV series, movies and books and, in particular, the way they start each session with Mark asking, What are you wearing? One of my favourite replies is:

Abby_Donovan: Coffee-stained sweats and the hat Audrey Hepburn wore to the races in MY FAIR LADY. You?
MarkBaynard: Cary Grant’s tuxedo from INDISCREET and the rubber Ronald Reagan mask Patrick Swayze wore in POINT BLANK.

It‘s a lovely touch as well when Mark always says Goodnight Tweetheart at the end of each session.

I also adore Abby’s friend, Margo, who’s glamorous but down to earth and witty. She has some really funny lines and this is one of my favorites:

Abbey frowned. “Is it possible to have sex in a hundred and forty characters or less?”
Margo rolled her eyes. “If you’d dated some of the men I have, you’d know it’s possible to have sex in one hundred forty seconds or less.”

GOODNIGHT TWEETHEART proves that love will always find a way.

VERDICT: CHARMING, TENDER, FUNNY AND REFRESHINGLY DIFFERENT

RATING: ★★★★★

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TURNER BROTHERS SERIES BOOK 1.5

A perpetual wallflower destined for spinsterhood, Lady Elaine Warren is resigned to her position in society. So when Evan Carlton, the powerful, popular Earl of Westfeld, singles her out upon his return to England, she knows what it means. Her former tormenter is up to his old tricks, and she’s his intended victim. This time, though, the earl is going to discover that wallflowers can fight back.

Evan has come to regret his cruel, callow past. At first, he only wants to make up for past wrongs. But when Elaine throws his initial apology in his face, he finds himself wanting more. And this time, what torments him might be love…

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AMAZING – that’s the first word that came to mind after I’d finished reading Unlocked. Even within the constraints of the novella, Ms Milan‘s story is original, deeply emotional and profoundly moving. I have certainly never come across the theme of bullying in a historical romance before. I am sure that Ms Milan must have done a lot of research to convey with such realism not only the emotional effects of verbal abuse but also the motivations of the abuser as well.

I loved Evan because Ms Milan made me truly believe that he had matured from the selfish swine who thought nothing of ruining a girl’s prospects simply because it would make him popular and make others laugh into a man who showed genuine remorse for his actions. He proved over and over again through both his words and his actions that he would do anything to win Elaine’s trust, friendship and ultimately her love.

He would have ridden to hell and back for the look on Elaine’s face – that brilliant, incandescent happiness, one that could not be smothered.
He felt the joy so keenly it almost hurt.

I found it was so easy to relate to Elaine and feel how much she was hurt and humiliated by the constant cruel barbs. I so admired her courage in facing her tormentors with defiance and how fiercely she protected her mother. Sometimes Elaine’s strength fails her and the tears flow but it only makes her more human. I sighed at that wonderful scene when she finally comes into her own.

This was who she could be. For years she’d had one purpose at gatherings like this: to make everyone look away from her.
Tonight she wanted them to look at her

I loved this novella so much that I immediately purchased all the other books in this series!

VERDICT: SIMPLY WONDERFUL

RATING: STELLAR ★★★★★

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TURNER  BROTHERS SERIES BOOK 2

Her only hope for survival…

Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he’s known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check…until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he’s waited for all his life.

Is to ruin the man she loves…

But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to be free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark’s enemies make her an offer she can’t refuse: seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she’s sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs …and the love she knows is impossible.

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There are so many outstanding reviews of Unclaimed that it’s very difficult to think of something truly original to say. So I’m adopting the old adage – ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.

This perfectly sums up my feelings about the book and Courtney Milan is definitely one of the foremost writers of Historical Romance today.

I can’t wait to read Smite’s story in Unraveled. Such an intriguing character!

VERDICT : A FABULOUS BOOK

RATING: STELLAR ★★★★★

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