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If the Rogue Fits

(Must Love Rogues, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A Misunderstood Shrew:

Lady Margaret is infamous throughout London as the most volatile and shrewish of all young ladies. After four years on the market, with a vast fortune, her determination to remain unwed is legendary. Having a decidedly plain face, Margaret has learned that men only want her for her money, and the unkindness of those around her has led her to protect her heart with a cutting tongue and willingness to shove silly young men into orchestra pits. When she meets the Earl of Carlyle, the beautiful and seductive lord, who makes her body yearn for his touch, seems like he might be different than the rest. But when Margaret finds out the earl has been less than honest in his pursuit for her hand, will she ever be able to forgive him and find a way to love?

A Lord Who Has No Wish to Tame Her:

William Deveraux, Earl of Carlyle, is in desperate need of funds. His father, a ruinous gambler, has driven the earldom, it’s estate, and his tenants, into destitution. There’s only one thing for William to do. Wed and wed well. Undaunted that the only available lady with a sufficient fortune at present is Margaret the Mad, he’s determined to win her by any means. . . Even by deceit. But when Margaret discovers his lies, he finds he’s fallen for the plain yet oh so witty woman who is his savior in many ways. Will he ever be able to win her heart and convince her that she is the most wonderful woman in the world? Or will her years of being treated foully by society, ensure Margaret never lets him into her heart?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the second book in Eva Devon’s Must Love Rogues series which features one of my favourite tropes – a marriage of convenience.

Margaret knew that it had not been a fortuitous beginning when her father had first looked upon her countenance, frowned and declared that she was ugly.

Margaret grew up knowing that, in her father’s eyes, she has nothing to commend her. All her parents’ affection and attention is reserved for Isabella, her beautiful, younger sister to whom she is constantly compared and found lacking. There is no love lost between Margaret and Isabella because their father is adamant that Isabella cannot marry until Margaret does, something the younger sister resents. In addition, her disastrous first season and plain looks have made her an outcast among the other young ladies. So, Margaret leads a restricted and lonely life, hiding her wounded heart behind a mask of disdain and a biting tongue.

After four years on the marriage mart, she has received any number of proposals but knows that her suitors do not see her as a person with her own thoughts and feelings, only her ‘jaw-dropping fortune’.  Most of all, she hates their lies – the false compliments that have the power to hurt. Her sharp tongue and ill-temper soon deter would be suitors, earning her the unflattering nickname Margaret the Mad or Margaret the Red Fury. Long ago, she had decided that being on the shelf was far preferable to being married to someone just like her father. Instead, she finds pleasure in reading, studying history and riding, with dreams of being independent and traveling.

William’s father was selfish, unkind and a compulsive gambler who never showed any love for his son. William’s grandfather was a man of honour who always did the right thing and he had been more like a father to William than his own father ever was. Seeking freedom and adventure like his grandfather before him, William left home at nineteen and spent much of the next ten years travelling the globe.

However, he has always known that one day he would have to return to take up his responsibilities. He promised his grandfather to do everything in his power to restore the fortunes of the family estate but when William returns, it is to find that his father has totally bankrupted the earldom. The family home is in a terrible state of disrepair; the mill which provides bread for his tenants needs fixing and the tenants’ cottages are also in desperate need of repairs. Without the necessary funds, he will have no alternative but to start selling off land which has been in his family for nearly eight hundred years. Desperate to keep his promise to his grandfather, there is only one solution…he needs a wealthy wife.

At first, William’s interest in Meg (as he insists on calling her, much to Margaret’s annoyance) is purely mercenary but he soon sees a strong, bold and intelligent woman; one far more interesting than any other woman he has met and rather likes the idea of being married to such an indomitable woman. Having seen how her father and others around her have tried to crush her spirit, he believes that by marrying her, he can give Margaret the independence she has never known. I like how William is genuine in his desire to rescue her from her father’s influence. The scene where he proposes to Margaret is one of my favourites. The back and forth between them is delightful, and I love the sting in the tail for the unsuspecting, overconfident William!

Oh, yes. This was going to be a marvelous union and from the way she was responding to the sensual foray, it would be no time before she agreed to marry him.
She pulled back ever so slightly and smiled softly.
He smiled back. This was the moment. She was going to agree.
Meg’s eyes flashed and she drove her foot down atop his.
He yelped and hopped onto one booted foot.
She backed away and brushed her hands. “You should have recalled Mr. Rutherford.”
“We weren’t dancing,” he wheezed as he struggled to catch his breath.
“Kissing. Dancing.” She shrugged her shoulders. “What does it matter? It’s all the same.” “Like men,” he added, the pain jolting right up his leg.
She gave a terse nod. “Now take yourself and your proposal and hie off, my lord.”

For her part, Margaret finds William very different to her other suitors, who were so easily deterred by her sharp tongue; not so William, with his forthrightness, idiotic sense of humour and total disregard for convention. I love how Margaret is totally bewildered by his behaviour but is clever enough to realise that there could be advantages to marrying William. For the first time, she would be taking her life into her own hands and would no longer be at the beck and call of her father. Some wise advice from her trusted maid, Travers, provides a plan for ensuring her independence and fulfilling her dream of travelling. Having decided on her course of action, I love how she boldly takes matters into her own hands.

He opened the door slowly and peered in through the crack.
A glimpse of fiery red hair met his perusal.
“You’d best come in, Carlyle,” she clipped. “So we can get on with business.”
His jaw dropped.

When William hears Margaret’s conditions for marrying him, I sympathised with his difficult dilemma and understood why he chose to deceive her. He does it for the most honourable of reasons but hates himself for lying to Margaret. I felt Margaret’s deep hurt at discovering William’s duplicity and, although she can understand why he did it, she can never forgive him for lying to her. It seems that an irreparable wedge has been driven between them.

I love how the story is very character-driven and concentrates on the developing relationship between these two. At first, Margaret feels angry and is determined to keep her distance from William but, gradually, she comes to like and admire him. Beneath the arrogant exterior, she sees a man who cares passionately.

…he cared about his tenants. He cared about his servants. He cared about the history of his family. He cared.

She also discovers how cruel and uncaring William’s father was and can relate to the pain of always wishing for a father’s love but never having it. She can’t hate him and comes to realise that William may need her love and care as much as his neglected house does. William soon comes to realise that he wants Margaret for herself and not just for her money and is determined to change her mind about him. Their desire to restore the estate brings them closer together but, when William realises he has fallen in love with Margaret, he knows that she could never love him until she sees her own self-worth and that her beauty radiates from inside.  I love William’s act of selflessness when he offers Margaret the freedom to travel and discover her true self but my heart ached for him.

Margaret’s triumph at her sister’s engagement ball and how she comes into her own is wonderful to see. I also applauded when William is so cutting towards Isabella and her fiancé who have previously caused Margaret such pain.

Ms. Devon throws in a bit of a twist towards the end which makes Margaret realise that she believed alll her fathe’s cruel word; believed that she was ugly and that no one could ever love her. She has been afraid to admit her love for William for fear of being hurt but not any longer…

“You’re going abroad,” he protested. “You’re going to see the world. You’re going to make an informed decision.”
“I have all the information I need,” she scoffed. “You love me…and I love you.”

William’s friend Lord Garret Hart and his wife, Harriet (The Rogue and I) are on hand to provide wise council and moral support, while John Forthryte, Garret’s scheming, bastard half-brother, plays the unlikely role of ‘a strange and marvellous matchmaker’ to steal Margaret’s words. I loathed Margaret’s father with a vengeance but loved Margaret’s maid, Travers, who was more friend than a servant and provided one of my favourite quotes:

“My dear, men do have their uses and a man like that?” Travers smiled and suddenly looked like a girl of sixteen contemplating meeting a lover at the back garden gate. “I’d use him six ways from Sunday. Twice on a Saturday.”

MY VERDICT: I always enjoy Eva Devon’s books because they are entertaining, romantic and sexy with engaging characters and sparkling dialogue. Recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


Must Love Rogues
series do date (click on the book covers for more details):

The Rogue and I (Must Love Rogues, #1) by Eva Devon If the Rogue Fits (Must Love Rogues, #2) by Eva Devon Duke Goes Rogue (Must Love Rogues, #3) by Eva Devon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To Steal a Heart

(Secrets and Spies, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1815)

Cover Blurb:

Forced to do the bidding of a corrupt government minister, Marianne de Bonnard agrees to plant incriminating evidence in the offices of France’s most notorious spymaster. Under cover of night, the tightrope-walking thief puts her skills to good use—until her aerial stunt is foiled when her target appears in the window and, with consummate poise, helps Marianne off the wire and into his lair. The tremors that run through her body are not just from fear; there’s an unwanted frisson of desire there, too. But is it because of her elegant, wickedly handsome host . . . or his proposition?

Nicolas Valette has had plans for his graceful trespasser since he witnessed her unique skills at the Cirque Olympique. Sinuous as a cat, Marianne is perfect for his next mission, but she refuses his generous offer for fear of disobeying her family’s tormenter. When their mutual enemy auctions off her virginity to the highest bidder, Nicolas leaps at the chance to purchase her cooperation. Keeping her will be like trying to tame a wild animal, but what’s life without a little risk? Besides, Nicolas and Marianne both want the same thing: revenge—and, perhaps, something else that’s equally delicious.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved this impressive 2016 debut novel from K. C. Bateman. Set in France just before the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, it combines a well-written, action-packed story, intriguing characters and a sensual romance.

Following the death of his younger brother, Nicolas carries a deep sense of guilt for having survived when his brother didn’t, and his life no longer has any real meaning. The danger, intrigue and excitement inherent in the world of spying and his desire for revenge against Napoleon, whom he holds responsible for his brother’s death, are what keep him going, earning him a reputation for being bold, arrogant and uncompromising. Handsome, virile and seductive, there are any number of beautiful women only too eager to share his bed, but he has long ago built an impenetrable wall around his heart and his emotions are never engaged.

He always enjoyed their company, but he’d never wanted more from them than a few nights’ entertainment. He had absolutely no difficulty keeping his emotions separate from his physical needs.

Ever since her parents’ death in a fire, Marianne has worked at the Cirque Olympique as a tight-rope walker and knife thrower and as a spy for her corrupt and loathsome cousin and guardian, Jean-Jacques Duval.  She is resourceful, intelligent and stubborn but has an Achilles heel – her younger sister, Sophie. Having suffered Duval’s perverted attentions, she is willing do anything to protect Sophie from him.

She felt him (Nicolas) smile against her skin. “Whore for her?”
   A wave of shame rolled over her as she forced herself to admit the unpalatable truth. To save Sophie? Yes. She’d suffer any indignity. She closed her eyes in despair. “Yes.”

Ms. Bateman blends the romance and suspense perfectly and I love the back-and-forth verbal sparring between Nicolas and Marianne and one of the most memorable early scenes is where Nicolas buys Marianne and Sophie in a brothel auction arranged by Duval and then has to pretend to relieve Marianne of her virginity.

He sat up slowly so as not to startle her and held his hands up in surrender. “I’m at your mercy, mademoiselle. Please say you’re going to have your wicked way with me.”
   She scowled, unimpressed with his attempt at humor.
   He sighed. “I suppose we’ll have to go with the backup plan then.”

The backup plan turns out to be hilariously reminiscent of the famous Meg Ryan scene in “When Harry Met Sally”!

I enjoyed the interplay of danger and sexual tension and seeing how their relationship changes and how they grow and evolve both as individuals and as a couple.

At first, Nicolas sees Marianne as merely an integral part of the mission and would willingly sacrifice her in his search for revenge. However, during the gruelling course of training for the mission, she is a constant distraction with her rebellious nature and sheer determination and gradually the dynamic between the two of them changes.

Something had changed between them, some indefinable twist to the dynamic that was both unnerving and exciting. He liked her. Respected her. Wanted her. They were no longer master and apprentice; instead of opponents, they were suddenly a team.

After his brother’s death, Nicolas didn’t really care whether he lived or died but now he finds himself beginning to care about life again all because of Marianne who has slowly broken down his defences and stolen his heart.

Marianne is an intriguing combination of strength and vulnerability. I love how she isn’t afraid to stand up to Nicolas and refuses to give in when the going gets tough.  She has to rely on her own skills, resourcefulness and inner strength.  Emotionally, Duval’s abuse left her feeling tainted and believing that she would never be able to respond to any man again, so her response to Nicolas is unexpected.

She’d thought herself immune, irrevocably tainted by Duval’s abuse. It was highly disconcerting to discover she might have been wrong. One look from Valette, and her blood heated to a slow boil.

I was frustrated by the decision Nicolas makes towards the end of the book, but I admired the way Ms. Bateman kept him true to  character. I think it was the only way he could put the past behind him. Besides, Marianne is a woman quite able to take care of herself.

Duval is a suitably odious and slimy toad while I was definitely intrigued my Raven, the mysterious smuggler. I shall look forward with interest to A RAVEN’S HEART, in which he is paired with Nicolas’ younger sister, Heloise.

Ms. Bateman has obviously undertaken a lot of research to create a real sense of the period and I particularly like how she uses a little artistic license to incorporate Louis-Charles (the “Lost Dauphin”) into the plot.

I was disappointed there was no Epilogue, which made the ending seem rather abrupt. I’m therefore hoping that I may see more of Nicolas and Marianne in the next book.

MY VERDICT: An very impressive debut novel which I can definitely recommend.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Secrets and Spies (click on the book covers for more details):

To Steal a Heart (Secrets and Spies, #1) by K.C. Bateman A Raven's Heart (Secrets & Spies, #2) by K.C. Bateman A Counterfeit Heart (Secrets & Spies, #3) by K.C. Bateman

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Mr Ridley

(The Whipping Society Saga, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1830)

Cover Blurb:

HE’S ALL BONES AND SHE’S ALL SUNSHINE.
Meet Mr. Ridley.

BOOK 1 of 3, one man and one woman bent on one passion of making the other writhe.

LONDON, ENGLAND – 1830
Criminals fear the iron fist of justice he delivers. Scotland Yard will do anything to get their hands on his mind. Whilst women? They crawl in the hope of becoming his. But only one woman is about to hold his body and his mind hostage.

Jemdanee Lillian Watkins is a botanical savant from India who ends up getting arrested for a crime she didn’t commit. Only one man believes her: Mr. Ridley. Drawn to him and the rope he knots in her presence, she realizes this overly regimented dark hero hides nothing but his passion.

Themes include wit, humor, BDSM, mystery, and romance. Lots of it!

Author’s Note:  Unlike most historical romances where the hero & heroine’s attraction and love for each other stops at a mere one book, this full length book is the beginning of many (Full length book episodes!) following the highly charged, erotic saga of a couple through the rise and fall and storms of their relationship. Every book is tied up in own way.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I love Delilah Marvelle’s books. She’s always willing to push the boundaries of conventional romance, as she does in her new, The Whipping Society Saga. As mentioned in the cover blurb and Ms. Marvelle’s note, the story unfolds over three books. Usually, I prefer books to be complete in themselves with a definite ‘Happy Ever After’ but, once I started reading Mr. Ridley, the story was so compelling and the characters so intriguing that I just can’t wait to read the next instalment!

Ridley’s life has been steeped in darkness ever since the night of his father’s gruesome murder 20 years earlier, shadowed memories of which still haunt him. Working as a private inspector with Scotland Yard, he comes face to face with violent crime and its aftermath which only serves to intensify that darkness in his soul. Gaining some justice for those victims who no longer have a voice is what drives him to work tirelessly, reliant on a potentially lethal cocktail of drugs to keep him going. He is gruff, serious, controlled, never smiles and has little time for women until a certain Jemdanee Lillian Watkins enters his dark world, accused of a murder he knows her to be innocent of.

Ms. Marvelle has created a fascinating and tormented hero in Ridley. As the story unfolds, some of the many layers surrounding this complex man are peeled away and it’s easy to understand how Ridley could have become so damaged – so flawed and suicidal at times. However, I’m sure there are many more secrets to be revealed in the later books, making this saga so very addictive.

The illegitimate daughter of an Indian mother and a British father, Jemdanee was eight when her mother disappeared, forcing her to survive alone on the streets of Calcutta. When she’s spotted by Dr Peter Watkins, he takes her in and becomes her guardian. His financial help enabled her to study and become an expert in medicinal biology.  On a trip to London, she is separated from Peter and finds herself arrested on a charge of murder. Only one man believes in her innocence – the unnerving Mr. Ridley, who needs her botanical expertise to solve the crime.

I love Jemdanee because, despite her painful past, she has chosen to embrace life with a smile and to bring happiness to those around her.  Although her actions sometimes reflect her youth, her mind is sharp and her life experiences in Calcutta have given her a maturity beyond her years.

I enjoyed watching the relationship developing between Ridley and Jemdanee. At first, Jemdanee only sees the morbidly serious, sarcastic side of Ridley, but soon realises that he is noble, generous and kind; willing to risk his life to protect others. She also sees what a lonely existence he leads and I love how she offers him true, unconditional friendship. Ridley has never met anyone like Jemdanee, so full of smiles and compassion. She is the only woman who has been able to compete with him on an intellectual level, something he definitely needs. He is attracted to her but doesn’t want to be, fearing what might happen if he ever lets himself fully embrace his true nature, but Jemdanee refuses to let him hide from the attraction between them.

The verbal thrust and parry between them provides some delightfully humorous moments like these:

“Let us be clear in this, little Kumar, lest the money I am giving you and the elaborate prison escape I conducted was not enough to translate your situation. You need me more than your plants will ever need the sun. Don’t disrespect that.”
“So says the man who needs me to solve this crime. Given what I did in that carriage with a mere dappling, I believe my talents are far, far greater than anyone you have ever met. I am a botanical savant and if I were conceited –and fortunately, I am not –I would demand you bow.”

♥♥♥

“I suggest a hookah. It makes less of a mess.”
He stretched, cracking his neck. “Oh, yes. I can imagine myself on the streets of London now. Bumping into passing citizens while asking them to excuse the size of my hookah.”
A bubble of a laugh escaped her. Her eyes brightened as her lips curled.
His chest tightened at the glorious beauty of that sound.

♥♥♥

She leaned far back.
Ridley jerked her back toward himself. “Ey. I need you to hold still.”
“Your stamen.”
“My what?”
She scrunched her nose, realizing she had used a botanical term for his lower half. “Your reproductive organ. You keep wagging it in my face.”
He rolled his eyes. “Pardon the wagging, but every man has one. Or did your plants never tell you that?”

I admire Jemdanee for standing up to Ridley particularly in the scene where she lectures him on the dangers of chewing coca leaves and resorts to a rather painful method of forcing him to spit them out.

There is great chemistry and sexual tension between these two and Ms. Marvelle creates one of the most erotic scenes I have read, without either of them touching or even being in the same room!

I like Dr Peter Watkins, Jemdanee’s guardian, because he isn’t afraid to tell Ridley some home truths towards the end of the book and I think his words have a profound effect on Ridley and the decision he ultimately makes.

…he now knew what his path was. There was no changing it. 
She had set it.
The real Ridley was coming for her.


Ms. Marvelle’s books are so well researched and I always discover things I never knew such as the existence of Scotland Yard at the time.  I like the way in which Ms. Marvelle incorporates real historical people into the story – Vidocq, the man regarded as the father of modern criminology, and Mrs Theresa ‘Elizabeth’ Berkley, a dominatrix who owned a high-class flagellation brothel, on whom Ridley’s former wife, Elizabeth, is based.

MY VERDICT: I can definitely recommend this first book in what promises to be an addictive saga.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


The Whipping Society
 Saga (click on the book covers for more details):

Mr. Ridley by Delilah Marvelle The Devil is French by Delilah Marvelle Reborn by Delilah Marvelle

 

** I received a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review**

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Duke of My Heart

(Season for Scandal, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb:

Scandal can be handled…

Captain Maximus Harcourt, the unconventional tenth Duke of Alderidge, can deal with tropical storms, raging seas, and the fiercest of pirates. But he’s returned home from his latest voyage to find a naked earl—quite inconveniently deceased—tied to his missing sister’s bed. And he has only one place to turn. Now he’s at the mercy of the captivating Miss Ivory Moore of Chegarre & Associates, known throughout London for smoothing over the most dire of scandals.

Miss Moore treats the crisis as though it were no more serious than a cup of spilt tea on an expensive rug. As though this sort of thing happened on the job every day. Max has never in all his life met a woman with such nerve. Her dark eyes are too wide, her mouth is too full, her cheekbones too sharp. Yet together, she’s somehow…flawless. It’s just like his love for her, imperfect, unexpected—yet absolutely true.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved A Duke to Remember, the second book in Kelly Bowen’s Season for Scandal series, and knew I wanted to read the rest of the series. Ivory Moore and her husband, Maximus Harcourt, Duke of Alderidge, were important secondary characters in that book and Duke of My Heart is the story of how they met and fell in love.

Ivory Moore has a secret past that only a few trusted associates are privy to. Using only her wits and resourcefulness, she has forged a new, independent life as owner of Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. Ivory prides herself on being very good at her job, provided she is in full charge of whatever needs to be done. However, a certain Duke of Alderidge seems determined to make her latest job difficult, with his heavy-handed manner.

The duke swung around to face her again, those ice-grey eyes impaling her as if she were somehow responsible for this debacle.

Maximus (Max) Harcourt is a captain first and a duke second. With two older brothers, his parents had always made it plain that he wasn’t needed and must make his own way in life, ensuring he brought no hint of scandal to the family name. Going to sea at the age of thirteen, he built a life for himself, one he is unwilling to give up. Since inheriting the title on the death his brothers a decade ago, he has spent most of his time captaining his fleet of trade ships, leaving his estate in the competent hands of his stewards, secretaries and solicitors. However, having returned home for a short visit, he does not expect to find his sister missing without trace, a dead earl’s body tied to her bed and a strange woman giving him orders!

He’d never in all his life met a woman with such nerve.

Max is used to commanding his men and being obeyed without question but the cool, calm and collected Ivory is not one to be daunted by this overbearing man. They are bound to clash and clash they do in a scene full of spirited dialogue.

The duke’s expression was positively glacial. “I give the orders here, Miss Moore, not you. Don’t presume that I will ever follow your lead.”
Irritation surged. “Take a look around you, Your Grace. Do you see a crew of sailors anxiously awaiting your direction?” She put emphasis on the last two words. “This is not your world. This is mine.”
“Get out of my house,” the duke said, his voice as sharp as cut glass. “Now.”

Of course, Max is forced to back down because he realises this is a problem he is not qualified to solve and must put his faith in Ivory Moore’s methods. Naturally, any reader of historical romance will know that behind these heated exchanges is an equally heated attraction between the hero and heroine.

Good heavens. She hadn’t had this sort of visceral reaction to a man in a very, very long time, and she wasn’t pleased. Desire was a distraction, and distractions were perilous.

No man with a pulse and eyes in his head would overlook her. She evoked images of dark nights and secret desires—

As they work together to solve the mysterious disappearance of Max’s sister, they come to know each other better. Max appreciates that Ivory is intelligent, clever, practical, logical, resourceful and fearless. Ivory is aware that Max can be hard-headed, arrogant, stubborn and controlling, but she has also seen his gentleness, kindness and deep love and concern for his sister. She senses that he is a man she could trust with her secrets.

They are so consumed with thoughts of each other that Ivory becomes distracted from the job she is supposed to be doing and misses an important clue, and Max feels guilty for pursuing his own selfish pleasures, when he should be doing everything he can to make sure his sister is safe.

I love how Ms. Bowen builds the sexual tension between these two with heated kisses, longing and unfulfilled desire creating a delicious feeling of anticipation. I love the scene in Max’s cabin where they share their innermost thoughts and secrets which creates a wonderful sense of trust and intimacy between them.

She had entrusted him with a gift. A piece of her past. A piece of who she was. That single gift was the most valuable thing any woman had ever given him. Ever.

Later in the story when they finally make love, it just feels right. The love scene is beautifully done – tender, romantic and sensual, but also revealing the raw desire they feel for each other.

I admire Ivory for the sacrifice she is willing to make for Max and his family, but I could also sense how vulnerable and alone she feels…

It was this that she hated. This bleak feeling of exposed vulnerability that reduced her to a thirteen-year-old girl who had learned hard lessons about how one survived when one started with nothing.

I love Max for being her knight-errant…

“You shouldn’t have to be fine, Ivory. You should be free. Protected from things that you survived once and that you shouldn’t have to survive again.” He brushed his lips across her forehead. “I want to do that for you.”

and for being willing to make his own sacrifice for the woman he loves…

“I am willing to try to be a duke. And the brother that Beatrice deserves. But I can’t do that if I don’t have somewhere I belong. And I belong with you.”

Some of the secondary characters, like part-time actress, Elise DeVries, and her brother, Alex, owner of London’s most exclusive gaming hell, are familiar from reading A Duke to Remember, as is the dangerously unpredictable King. However, having read book 2 first, King’s actions in that book gave me a different opinion of him and I believe that perhaps redemption is possible and I hope Ms. Bowen is considering writing his story. I was also intrigued by the roguish smuggler, Captain Black, who I feel is also deserving of his own book.

The mystery element provided some intriguing twists and turns and I never felt my interest waning. It wasn’t until near the end that I figured out the villain’s identity and was happy to see him get a fitting punishment thanks to Captain Black.

MY VERDICT: A captivating story, multi-layered characters and a passionate love story make this a book one I can definitely recommend.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 Season for Scandal series (click on the book covers for more details):

Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1) by Kelly Bowen A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2) by Kelly Bowen Between the Devil and the Duke (Season for Scandal, #3) by Kelly Bowen

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Her Enemy at the Altar

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

An unexpected end to the Wincanton–Stuart feud…?

Scandal broke last night when Lady Constance Stuart was discovered in the arms of Aaron Wincanton, the son of her family’s greatest enemy! But now we can reveal an even more shocking development. Our sources say a special license was obtained and the two were married before sunrise!

It’s been confirmed that Aaron has stolen his new bride away to the country to begin their unexpected marriage. We’ll be watching closely to see exactly what happens when a gentleman invites his enemy into his bed…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I really enjoyed this enemies-to-lovers story by new-to-me author, Virginia Heath. It combines an engaging and well-written story, interesting characters and an emotionally satisfying romance.

The Stuarts and Wincantons have been mortal enemies for the past three hundred years and Lady Constance (Connie) Stuart has every reason to loathe Aaron Wincanton with a vengeance. After he scathingly nicknamed her Ginger Amazonian during her come out six years ago, Connie endured hurtful and humiliating jokes about her unruly red hair, tall, unimpressive figure and long legs. In her second year, she decided that, if she is going to be compared to a mythical warrior, she will act like one. A haughty air and a razor-sharp tongue become her chosen weapons of defence; even her dresses are a statement of defiance.

They were no longer merely gowns; now each dress was a statement of defiance. She might well be an ugly wallflower, but that did not mean that she had to be a shrinking violet.

Having always been self-conscious of the bump on my nose, I found it was easy to relate to Connie and sympathise with her insecurities and understand how much she was hurt and humiliated by the constant cruel barbs. I so admired her courage in facing her tormentors with defiance.

Connie is now engaged to the Marquis of Deal and, although it is an arranged marriage, she hopes to find a measure of happiness, until she discovers his true motives. Feeling hurt and dejected, she finds comfort in the unlikely arms of Aaron Wincanton but, when they are caught in a compromising situation, Connie finds herself married to her sworn enemy.

To everyone, Aaron appears a charming, flirtatious rogue, but this is a mask he wears because the war had left an indelible mark on him. He had seen too much death to remain the carefree young man he once was.

The new Aaron Wincanton found no joy in balls or parties, nor did he find it in intimate gatherings or quiet solitary contemplation either. He did not deserve to feel joy any more. Most of the time he felt burdened. The rest of the time, if he was lucky, he just felt numb.

He has personal demons to fight, ones that conjure up terrifying, tortuous nightmares, night and day, convincing him that he is slowly going mad. He is a desperate to find peace but unable to, believing himself unworthy of love or forgiveness.

Aaron is shocked to find that the Wincanton estate has been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by his father’s mismanagement. All his father’s decisions have been motivated by one thing only – revenge against the Stuarts – without thought for the consequences. All Aaron wants to do is put an end to the pointless and costly feud and restore the family fortunes by marrying a wealthy heiress. But his plans go awry when he is caught in a compromising situation with Lady Constance Wincanton and his strong sense of honour compels him to marry her.

Everything about this marriage was wrong. At best they were strangers, at worst sworn enemies.

I appreciated how Ms. Heath takes the time to build the romantic relationship between Connie and Aaron. At first, there are a lot of angry words spoken but gradually, they begin to discover more about each other

Connie has always thought of Aaron as confident and charming- as though he tiptoed through life largely unscathed – but realises that he has hidden depths and feels things as deeply as she does. While Connie was feeling sorry for herself, she never realised the sacrifices Aaron made by marrying her.

While society regards Connie as a social oddity, Aaron sees her as striking, intelligent and witty and finds he enjoys her company. Recognising that she has many conflicting and contrasting elements to her personality, I like how Aaron compares her to a rainbow…

At one end of the spectrum she was indomitable, sharp-tongued and aloof. He had been on the receiving end of that with alarming frequency and they had only been together for such a short time. But then she was kind-hearted. Finally, buried beneath all of that, was a seam of vulnerability that she worked hard to hide—but he knew that it was there.

Connie’s kindness, gentleness and compassion shines through in her care for Aaron’s dying father, and her desire to do everything she can to comfort Aaron and convince him that he has no reason to feel any guilt for his actions during the war.

I adore Aaron for realising the extent of Connie’s grief and sadness at the loss of her family and for arranging a secret meeting with her mother and brother.

His throat felt tight with emotion. For the first time he truly saw all of her grief and sadness at the loss of her family until she had realised that they had come to see her, then the relief and desperation on her lovely face had moved him and he was glad that he had been able to do this one tiny thing for her.

Whether it is standing up to Aaron’s irascible father or Aaron himself, Connie is definitely a force to be reckoned with!

“Perhaps I did not make myself clear. When I said that I wanted to help I meant that I am going to help you, whether you like it or not. I am not some ornamental woman and I will not let you treat me like one.”

The sexual tension builds up deliciously so that their falling in love feels genuine and when they finally make love, it just seems right. Ms. Heath writes such lovely, romantic scenes and I love this one where just a touch of a hand conveys so much. Sometimes, I find it far more romantic than an overtly explicit scene.

When his eyes slowly drifted down to her lips and lingered there, Connie’s heart began to race. His palm was still cupping her cheek, making her skin prickle with an awareness that was both quite alien and intoxicating at the same time.

I also like how Ms Heath includes lovely touches of humour, and this is one of my favourites because it conjured up such a comical picture in my mind!

The door edged open slowly to reveal him standing there with the handkerchief of surrender in one hand while the other hand held a bucket over his head like a helmet. He surveyed the room with exaggerated wariness before he gingerly stepped inside, still holding his bucket armour about his head and looking, much to her utter consternation, quite delightful. ‘I come in peace, Connie. Put down your weapons.’

The Earl of Redbridge, Connie’s father, is a truly despicable man.  Not only does he threaten to put Connie and her mother out on the streets if she (Connie) refuses to marry Aaron, but he selfishly pursues his feud with Aaron’s father to the detriment of his daughter’s happiness.  A thoroughly dislikeable character whom I’m pleased to say gets everything he deserves.

I was disappointed in the lack of an Epilogue because I love seeing the hero and heroine enjoying their well-deserved Happy Ever After.

MY VERDICT: This was a lovely introduction to Ms. Heath’s books and I will definitely be reading more.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review**

 

 

 

 

 

 

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