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Posts Tagged ‘Regency Era’

duke-ever-after

(Duke’s Club, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A Duke With A Scandalous Secret:
The Duke of Aston has always been the talk of the ton. Wild, passionate, and eccentric, women fall at his feet and gentlemen won’t dare to meet him on the dueling ground. But the duke has a secret. A secret that could destroy his family. While the world sees him as a prince of the realm, he knows that in truth, he’s worthless. So, when Lady Rosamund enters his life demanding he teach her the artful ways of seduction, he’s happy to oblige until he realizes she is the best woman he has ever known and therefore a woman he can never have.

A Lady Who Won’t Be Intimidated:
Lady Rosamund, only sibling of the Duke of Blackburn, is lonely. Raised in the remote glens of the Western Highlands, Rosamund has lived a sheltered life where only books and long walks have relieved her isolation. When she meets the Duke of Aston near her home, a man as delicious as the heroes she’s read about, the passion that sparks between them in undeniable. Adventurous spirit that the duke is, Rosamund knows he’s the man for her. But as she grows closer to the duke, opening her heart to him, his own heart closes.

Can she teach this tortured duke that he is worthy of love or will his past drive them apart forever?

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I have enjoyed all the books in Eva Devon’s Duke’s Club series and DUKE EVER AFTER is no exception. Her stories are always entertaining, emotional, romantic and sensual.

The handsome, scandalous, fun loving Duke of Aston was a loveable secondary character in the earlier books who seemed to have everything.  Now we discover that behind this jovial mask is a man burdened with a family secret which he is determined to keep at all costs. His bon vivant air, a love for life, and a desire for all things mad-capped tend to keep people at bay and his secret secure. The only person who truly knows him is his illegitimate son, Tony.

Rosamund loves her Scottish home but, since the death of their profligate father, her brother, Duncan, has become a rigid, dour man…the epitome of everything that is proper. He is no longer the laughing, teasing brother she once knew and Rosamund is discontented with her lonely, unfulfilled life and craves adventure.

As she stared out at the towering bens that were a beautiful boundary she’d only escaped through books, she couldn’t help wishing she could step foot over them once. Just once.

I love how in all the books in this series, the hero and heroine’s first meeting has been unconventional and most memorable. No ballrooms or soirees for Ms Devon. No indeed. In fact, Derek and Rosamund meet while each is swimming naked in a Scottish loch.

She then grinned a most gamine grin, her lips, due to the cold, a striking red against her pale skin. “Lovely day for a swim!”
And with that, she struck off, her feet leaving a froth of water in her wake.
Aston gaped as she swam rapidly away
.

Rosamund is kind, good humoured but also obstinate and headstrong which makes her the perfect match for Derek.  I love how she refuses to be intimidated by him and isn’t afraid to pursue the man she wants. She is the only one to see through his carefully constructed façade and is determined to uncover the real Derek beneath.

She seemed to sense the cracks in his facade and she wasn’t content to just look at them. Oh no. She wanted to know him. And to know him, she’d have to pry at those cracks and break through to the man he was underneath.

Derek has always distanced himself from everyone since childhood, but he finds he has feelings for Rosamund and is totally at sea when it comes to dealing with them. His genuine fear is that, once she knows his secret, she will see him as unworthy of her. I understood Derek’s fears given the nature of the secret he has carried all these years and the way his father succeeded in destroying Derek’s sense of self-worth. However, I was frustrated by his constant refusal to confide in Rosamund but this was tempered by her heart-warming words when he finally reveals the truth.

“From the moment I saw you in the loch, I knew you were the man for me. Not the duke. Not the privileged, titled, legitimate son of some powerful peer. You were the man I wanted. The man who saw into my soul and I saw yours.”
A tear slipped from Derek’s eye. With a groan, he pulled himself into a sitting position. “Then you’ll have me?”
She smiled. A smile so wide and true it almost hurt. “Today. Tomorrow. Every day. Until we are old and wrinkled.”

Derek’s determination to protect his mother’s memory and his overwhelming love for his son, Tony, reveals what an honourable and caring man he is.

I adore Tony with his boyish charm and such a wise head on young shoulders. I enjoyed seeing the rapport between him and Rosamund, who regards him as a younger, cheeky brother.  I like how Tony sees his father as a great duke and a great man but isn’t afraid to stand up to Derek if the occasion arises.

Duncan, Rosamund’s brother, and fellow members of the Duke’s Club cause some problems for Derek and Rosamund before everything is sorted out so they can marry, and the Epilogue promises them a long and happy ever after.

It is worth pointing out that Duncan and Imogen’s story (Wish Upon a Duke) runs concurrently with Derek and Rosamund’s.

MY VERDICT: A thoroughly entertaining romance which I can definitely recommend.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Duke’s Club series (click on the book cover for more details):

Once Upon a Duke (Duke's Club, #1) by Eva Devon Dreaming of the Duke (Duke's Club, #2) by Eva Devon Wish Upon A Duke (Duke's Club, #3) by Eva Devon All About the Duke (Duke's Club, #4) by Eva Devon Duke Ever After (Duke's Club, #5) by Eva Devon Not Quite A Duke (Duke's Club, #6) by Eva Devon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the-harlot-and-the-sheikh

(Hot Arabian Nights, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A defiant woman in a desert king’s world!

After inheriting a broken kingdom, Prince Rafiq made a vow to restore its pride by winning a prestigious horse race. To ensure success, he hires an English expert. But even notoriously controlled Rafiq is shocked when his new employee is introduced as Miss Stephanie Darvill!

Stephanie is determined to leave her shameful past and broken dreams behind she will prove to Rafiq she deserves his trust! But this hard-hearted desert sheikh calls to Stephanie in the most primal of ways Dare she give in to her wildest desires?

(Released on January 17th 2017 in the USA)

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Once again, Ms. Kaye transported me to the exotic setting of Arabia for this third book in her Hot Arabian Nights series.

Rafiq al-Antarah, Prince of Bharym
blog-post-rafiq-al-antarah-prince-of-bharym

The sixteen-year-old Rafiq watched his father make a reckless wager on the prestigious Sabr endurance horse race, losing not only his legendary Arabian thoroughbreds, but also the honour of the family name and the national pride of his people. The next six years saw his father’s gradual terminal decline mirrored by a decline in the kingdom’s fortunes and, on inheriting the throne, Rafiq vowed to restore the family name and Bharym’s pride and honour. However, despite all the changes, improvements and renovations he introduced…

Nothing mattered save the restoration of the Sabr, the tangible symbol of Bharym’s pride and honour.

Determined to make good on his vow, Rafiq entered a bargain which was to have a tragic consequence, one which ultimately strengthened his resolve to win the Sabr race. However, when he starts losing his precious Arabian racehorses to a mysterious illness, Rafiq is desperate to find a cure and sends for Robert Darvill, renowned veterinary surgeon attached to the Seventh Hussars. What Rafiq is not expecting is a ‘petite female glowering up at him, her big brown eyes defiantly challenging’ who says she is Robert Darvill’s daughter, Stephanie.


Stephanie Darvill
blog-post-stephanie-darvill

Stephanie worked with her father from an early age, learning all about horses, their ailments and treatments. For the past year, she has been working at one of England’s largest stud farms near Newmarket racecourse, but a disastrous affair with an army officer causes a scandal destroying her reputation. With the army expected to go into battle against Napoleon, her father cannot leave his regiment and suggests that Stephanie go to Arabia in his place. Knowing how much pain she has caused her parents, Stephanie sees it as an opportunity of putting the past behind her and taking charge of her own life and a sceptical Prince Rafiq is not going to deter her.

“I am not my father, but I am here with his blessing, I am an excellent veterinarian, and I promise you I will do my utmost to help you. So why don’t you forget that I’m a woman and permit me to attend to your sick horses?”

I enjoyed the steady development of the romance. There is a definite spark of attraction and, as they talk and work together, their relationship soon develops into a physical one and I like that Stephanie is willing to explore the passion between them despite her previous unsatisfactory experience. I find Ms. Kaye’s love scenes are so well-written – full of emotion, tenderness and passion.

His mouth slanted over hers, shaping hers, and he kissed her again. She had never been kissed in this way, with such gentleness generating such blazing heat inside her, with tongue and lips, lips and tongue, so she could not tell what was one kiss and what was another.

I like Stephanie’s boldness and it this very quality that first impresses Rafiq. Women usually fawn over him and he is not used to being questioned and challenged as Stephanie does. Surrounded by people who only tell him what he wants to hear rather than the truth, he also finds Stephanie’s honesty refreshing.

‘Every day you surprise me.’ ‘By being insubordinate and disrespectful and…’ ‘With your refreshing honesty. And your novel slant on the world. 

Rafiq is a man of integrity and I love how he respects Stephanie and values her abilities and is not judgemental when she tells him about her past and, in fact, he does not blame her at all; his anger is reserved for the man who seduced her.

“The man lied and cheated to steal your innocence. He deserves to be whipped. There can be no excuses for what he did, Stephanie. You are not at fault.”

I like how Stephanie forces Rafiq to confront his past and realise he was not wholly responsible for what happened. It allows him to put the past to rest and realise that he has emerged a stronger, better man – honourable and caring. Similarly, because of the scandal, Stephanie gained the freedom to travel to Bharym and prove to herself that her father’s faith in her was not misplaced.

I love Ms Kaye’s evocative writing which appeals to all the senses and brings to life the sights, sounds and smells of the exotic Arabian setting. Reading the Historical Note at the end of the book made me appreciate the depth of Ms. Kaye’s research.

Although this is part of a series, the books are only vaguely connected and can easily be read as standalones.

MY VERDICT:  An emotive, romantic and sensual love story with the appeal of an exotic setting. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Hot Arabian Nights series to date (click on the book covers for details)

The Widow and the Sheikh (Hot Arabian Nights #1) by Marguerite Kaye Sheikh's Mail-Order Bride (Hot Arabian Nights #2) by Marguerite Kaye The Harlot and the Sheikh (Hot Arabian Nights #3) by Marguerite Kaye Claiming His Desert Princess (Hot Arabian Nights #4) by Marguerite Kaye


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

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a-gentleman-undone
(Blackshear Family, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A seductive beauty turns the tables on a gentleman gaming for the guiltiest of pleasures in this rich and sensual Regency romance from beloved newcomer Cecilia Grant.
 
Lydia Slaughter understands the games men play—both in and out of the bedroom. Not afraid to bend the rules to suit her needs, she fleeces Will Blackshear outright. The Waterloo hero had his own daring agenda for the gaming tables of London’s gentlemen’s clubs. But now he antes up for a wager of wits and desire with Lydia, the streetwise temptress who keeps him at arm’s length.

A kept woman in desperate straits, Lydia has a sharp mind and a head for numbers. She gambles on the sly, hoping to win enough to claim her independence. An alliance with Will at the tables may be a winning proposition for them both. But the arrangement involves dicey odds with rising stakes, sweetened with unspoken promise of fleshly delights. And any sleight of hand could find their hearts betting on something neither can afford to risk: love.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

After reading A Lady Awakened, I knew I had found an author who wasn’t afraid to push the recognised boundaries of Historical Romance with her daring, unique stories and unconventional, flawed characters. I found A Gentleman Undone just as original and engrossing.

I admire Ms. Grant for her unflinching and gritty characterisation of Lydia, whose very flaws make her such a complex, unconventional and fascinating heroine. I admit that it is difficult to like the bold, ruthless, cold-hearted, sexually aggressive woman we see at the beginning of the book; a woman who has no time for tenderness or emotion.

Tenderness was a rat whose neck she wrung with her own hands before hurling it over the hedge to rot with feelings.

I love how Ms. Grant shows the subtle changes in Lydia, as fractures begin to appear in the walls she has built around herself, and I saw a softer Lydia emerging. For me, one moment in particular illustrates the change in Lydia more than any other. It is when she gives Mrs Talbot the money which will secure not only that lady’s financial security but also a place of her own. In doing this, Lydia is willing to relinquish her own chance of financial security and her response to Mrs Talbot’s reaction is a far cry from the woman devoid of all feelings.

It was wonderful, one of the most wonderful things Lydia had ever seen. Her foolish heart felt like a teacup into which someone had forgot to stop pouring.

The key to understanding Lydia lies in her past and, as her darkest secrets are revealed, I saw a vulnerable woman desperate to expunge the guilt she feels over her parents’ death. She had tried to destroy herself layer by layer but when that failed, she found the will, the strength and the ruthlessness to survive.

Out of the ashes of catastrophic misfortune she’d reinvented herself as something formidable, honed and tempered by each disaster she weathered.

Will has his own demons, having returned from the Napoleonic Wars burdened with a deep sense guilt over the death of Talbot, one of his men. Plagued by black moods, he sometimes feels that he has lost the ability to enjoy himself.

Let them come, the sorrow and anger and bleakness and oh, the tireless self-recrimination that swirled up from the pit of his stomach like plumes of coal dust. He was nothing if not accustomed to their company.

He resists his sister’s attempts to draw him back into the family circle, in the hope of restoring him to the carefree brother she once knew.

Although he believes otherwise, Will is essentially a good and honourable man as shown in his determination to ensure that Talbot’s wife and child are financially secure and independent of the relations she currently lives with. He is patient and understanding and protective of those he cares for, even though his willingness to be Lydia’s knight in shining armour does not exactly provoke the right response!

“I’m not some bedraggled kitten for you to rescue from a ditch.”

I love how Will comforts Lydia when she has nightmares and wants to discover the real Lydia behind the belligerent stranger he has come to care for. I love how he defends Lydia and the choices she was forced to make and is willing to suffer estrangement from his family rather than abandon her.  I also like his reference to the double standards of society.

“I cannot seem to find my place any longer in a society where to keep a woman in sin is a more respectable path than to give her my hand and my name.”

Ms Grant took me on an emotional roller-coaster of a journey. Their romance is passionate with lots of sizzling sexual tension. At times, the sex scenes are raw, earthy and explicit but reflect Lydia’s belief that she is unworthy of tenderness and that rough, impersonal sex is a way of making her forget the guilt she feels over the death of her parents…a way of punishing herself.

The fact that Lydia continues to consort with Edward, her protector, at the same time as her relationship with Will is developing might be unacceptable to some readers. However, I saw it as realistic because Will could not afford to keep Lydia as his mistress and, if she was no longer under Edward’s protection with no way to support herself, she would most likely find herself back in a brothel.

Will and Lydia have to fight every step of the way for their Happy Ever After but I felt that their love would endure.

Happiness still felt, at odd moments, like something with which she oughtn’t to be trusted. A delicate and costly music box put into the hands of a maladroit child. Yet happiness felt, too, like a prize she and Will had fought for and seized. An edifice they’d built with their own bare hands out of the scrap heap of mistake and misadventure.

I like how Martha, Will’s sister, and her husband, Mirkwood, (A Lady Awakened) are sympathetic towards Lydia and Will because Martha knows from her own experience that people in desperate circumstances do what they must and she also married a “black sheep” whom her family disapproved of.

I was quite fascinated by the card-playing aspects of the book, probably because I played vingt et un (or twenty one as we called it) in my much younger days.

Once again, I loved Ms. Grant’s beautiful, evocative writing.

She would lay waste to him tonight. To herself as well. She would hurl herself against him like a wave breaking over a rock. She would claw her way to oblivion as many times as she must, until no fragment of human feeling remained.

♥♥♥

Here after all was their condition, perched on their separate wind-whipped summits, in view of each other, but too distant to reach.

♥♥♥

He was a man, for Heaven’s sake. Men liked bedsport wherever they could get it. Why the devil should his plain statement of the fact make her insides race and wheel about like a frantic flock of swallows? 


MY VERDICT: Another outstanding book from Cecilia Grant. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Blackshear Family series (click on the book covers for more details):

A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong (Blackshear Family, #0.5) by Cecilia Grant A Lady Awakened (Blackshear Family, #1) by Cecilia Grant A Gentleman Undone (Blackshear Family, #2) by Cecilia Grant A Woman Entangled (Blackshear Family, #3) by Cecilia Grant

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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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pride-and-prejudice-audiobook

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 Most Jane Austen fans will have read all her work and probably have their favourite amongst them. Almost certainly, one of the greatest favourites will be Pride and Prejudice and one of the reasons for this, I suspect, is the popularity of the 1995 BBC adaptation. There is no doubt that Colin Firth fixed a delicious wet and brooding Mr. Darcy in our minds (although Andrew Davies certainly took some liberties here because Mr. Darcy did NOT come face to face with Lizzie dripping wet!). Then there’s Adrian Lukis, aka Mr. Wickham, the naughty but loveable rogue with a twinkle in his eye, whose character most of us have a secret bad-boy soft spot for.

It’s years since I read Pride and Prejudice but I recently watched the BBC adaptation again (for about the tenth time in the past twenty years). Soon afterwards, I was lucky enough to receive the audio version performed by Alison Larkin, and all I can say is WOW! This one-woman show is simply outstanding and I’m so glad I was able to watch and listen within a short period of time, enabling me to make a fair comparison. For pure spine tingling romance (with no important bits missed out), humour, wit, satyr and astute dialogue, the Alison Larkin audio version wins hands down.

There is no point in reviewing the book in detail… a) because of the above and… b) because it’s the most well-known of this author’s work and has already been reviewed hundreds of times. I will, however, mention some of the characters, but that’s mainly in relation to the narrator’s performance of them.

For instance, Alison Larkin’s execution of the oily, obsequious Mr Collins is sheer genius. Hilariously funny but excruciatingly cringeworthy, it had me chuckling like a loon! He actually has a much larger part in the book but much of the brilliant mordacious dialogue was lost in the screen adaptation.

The venom, jealousy and downright meanness of Mr. Bingley’s sister, Caroline, is so well executed that I clearly felt her antipathy towards Lizzie and her hypocritical, lets-be-friends attitude to Jane.

The difference between the two elder Bennet sisters is well done too; Jane, gullible and believing the best of everyone – even the vitriolic Caroline – and all the while keeping her own emotions well hidden. It was clear to me why Mr. Darcy thought her feelings were not engaged in respect to his great friend, Bingley, which, of course, was the beginning of the big misunderstanding.

Then there’s bright, vivacious Lizzie whose character I have always loved. She sees people and their actions with eyes wide open, and is brought to sparkling life by this talented performer.

Even after reading/listening /watching Pride & Prejudice on numerous occasions and knowing what the contents of the letter contained, I still felt the deep emotion as Alison Larkin movingly reads – in her Darcy voice – that man’s explanation of his actions regarding Jane and Bingley, and his very justified (as it turns out) treatment of Wickham.

There is a fair amount of inner dialogue throughout, which is clearly and concisely conveyed. A good example is Lizzie’s crumbling prejudices and her changing attitude to Darcy, mostly conveyed through her inner musings. Her interest in him grows by degrees as she sees and learns more about the man and her feelings change, first to reluctant liking, then admiration and finally to bone-melting love. It takes an extraordinary performing talent to differentiate between verbal dialogue and inner dialogue without a need for explanation and Alison Larkin has that talent in spades.

When the five sisters are together and in conversation, she conveys with subtle nuances and tone exactly who we are listening to. Amusing and witty, we could be sitting at the dining table with them, listening to their gossip and being asked to “pass the potatoes”. Finally, with regard to individual characters, one of the stars of the show is, in my opinion, the outrageously silly, Mrs Bennett. She has lost the love and respect of her indolent husband in the early years of their marriage and consoles herself with one-upmanship over her female neighbours, especially in her quest to see her five daughters well married. There is a certain bitter sweetness to her character because, although she means well, she goes about it in such a ridiculous manner that she only earns her husband’s further derision and embarrasses her two eldest daughters. This is one of the areas where Alison Larkin’s outstanding talent shines because she artfully conveys the sadness beneath the silliness in a way that it’s possible for the listener to feel sorry for Mrs Bennett whilst still wishing she would just shut-up!

It’s hard to believe that Jane Austen wrote her books two hundred years ago, and therefore we are seeing Regency life through the eyes of someone who actually lived it. She was a satirist and an extremely tongue-in-cheek observer of people and her funny, witty and insightful outlook on life is only really captured in the complete unabridged version of the book. Add into the mix the extraordinary voice and talent of Alison Larkin and we have a recipe for success. If she’d been here to choose, I reckon that Ms. Austen would have selected Ms. Larkin to perform her wonderful stories. For anyone out there who has only ever watched the (even shorter) films or the abridged BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, read the book or even listened to another audio version, I urge you to experience this superior rendition. I promise that you will not be disappointed.

The three Regency songs added to the end give us a taste of what it would have been like to be actually in attendance and listening in the drawing room while genteel young ladies entertained us and their regency audiences. Alison Larkin has a pleasing singing voice to add to her many talents and I very much enjoyed this addition and we are also treated to her comedic talents as she cheekily propositions Mr. Darcy in between songs. I must say – as it always strikes me when listening to this narrator – that she has a ‘smiley’ voice and always sounds as though she is enjoying herself immensely, which is quite infectious and always makes me smile.

MY VERDICT: There is a reason why Alison Larkin has been selected for the ambassadorship of Jane Austen’s work and, after you have listened to her, it will become abundantly clear why. Highly recommended.  


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

 

**I received a free copy of this audio book in return for an honest review. ** 

 

 

 

 

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wicked-rivals

(League of Rogues, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A LORD WITH LEGENDARY CONTROL…

Merciless and powerful, Ashton Lennox is a wealthy man because he puts business before everything else, especially love. As a member of the infamous League of Rogues, he’s no stranger to scandal. His bedroom conquests are as legendary as his fortune. As he searches for a way to bring down an old enemy bent on destroying the lives of his friends, the last thing he needs is a Scottish widow getting in his way.

A FIERY WOMAN WHO WON’T BACK DOWN…

The daughter of a Scottish lord with a dark and treacherous past, Rosalind Melbourne has spent years distancing from her past. After escaping her tyrannical father and marrying an aging English lord, she has become a powerful widow with a business empire at her command. Her business dealings are everything to her, leaving her no time for love. Especially not with her business rival Ashton, a man with a scandalous reputation as striking as his blue eyes.

A GAME OF WITS TURNS TO A GAME OF SEDUCTION…

Ashton is fascinated by the strong-willed, intelligent and sensual lady who, up until now, had outsmarted him at every turn. Rosalind wishes she could deny she is falling for the brooding, handsome baron. How can she possibly trust him when doing so could cost her what she values most—her freedom? When Ashton discovers Rosalind might hold the key to saving the League of Rogues, he knows he will do anything to woo his wicked lass. As their pasts return to haunt them and dark forces rise to keep them from exposing a deadly spymaster, their game of love turns to a game of survival…

Warning: This book includes a brooding baron who’s wild in bed, a crafty Scottish lass who never knows when to quit, a wicked game of strip chess, and a merry band of rogues whose first instinct is to run when they hear wedding bells ring.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the fourth book in Lauren Smith’s wonderfully entertaining League of Rogues series. Three of the rogues have succumbed to the parson’s noose and now the same fate awaits Ashton. Meanwhile their adversary, Hugo Waverly, continues to plot his revenge against the League members.

Ashton Lennox has always put his family first and has done everything to care for and protect them.  When his father died in scandalous circumstances, leaving the family socially and financially ruined, young Ashton returned home and worked hard to rebuild both the family’s wealth and social standing in society.

I admire Ashton for his devotion to his family, particularly as they have never fully appreciated everything he has done, especially his mother. Her reaction was to tell him that his need for money and power made him just like his father. Her cutting words left him hurt and angry and his relationship with his mother has been one of icy coldness from then on and he rarely goes home.

Apart from his family, the League is the most important thing in his life. As the oldest member, he feels a duty to protect the other members and is the most cool-headed of them. Ms Smith always writes the camaraderie between these men so well. Despite the witty banter, the close bond that exists is evident to see and, when danger threatens, they will always be there for each other.

When it comes to running his business, Ashton is ruthless, controlling and determined. That is how he has built up his wealth.

He had learned how to make men do his bidding with a cool stare and an imperious tone.

But, for the past several months, a certain Lady Rosalind Melbourne has been outmanoeuvring him on several of his deals. He also suspects that Hugo Waverly is using Rosalind’s companies for some nefarious reason. To find out, he needs to get control of the company’s books and records and so he buys up Rosalind’s debts and arranges for the banks to stop her credit, thus controlling her and her business. However, unaware of the real reason for Ashton’s actions, Rosalind is furious and determined to face him.

Anger and panic rippled through her, dueling for dominance. That damned bloody Englishman. She wanted to strangle him, but the truth of her situation was dire. He had full control over her and was toying with her the way a cat would a mouse. Something had to be done.

Rosalind grew up with an abusive father and three brothers. Her brothers did their best to protect her from their father’s brutality, but, after one particularly bad beating, she runs away from home. After stumbling into a tavern, she meets the elderly but kind Lord Melbourne who immediately marries her. He teaches her about business strategies and banking and instills in her the confidence and knowledge she needs to successfully run Melbourne, Shelly and Company which she inherits after his death. She is now in control of her own life and enjoys the mental challenges of running the companies. She has no desire to remarry and lose the freedom to choose her own destiny and I could understand why she is so furious with Ashton. She fears losing everything she has strived for and revealing the vulnerability which lies beneath her tough business-like exterior

…two reluctant hearts starved for love and yet afraid to grasp at it.

At first, Ashton is unwilling to trust Rosalind. She is far too cunning and just as ruthless as he is. Rosalind sees Ashton only as a cold, calculating business man but this does not stop the attraction that simmers between them. I like how their time spent together at Ashton’s estate allows them to view each other in a very different light; to see the real person they hide from the world.

Rosalind is surprised by Ashton’s kindness in opening his home to simple farm folk when their homes are burnt down and by her discovery that he can be sweet and playful.

This side of him caught her off guard. Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined the cool, collected man to be so… playful.

I love how, once he discovers the abuse Rosalind suffered, Ashton wants to protect, care for and spoil Rosalind and give her the happiness she deserves. He also finds he enjoys being with an intelligent, free-thinking woman with whom he can enjoy interesting conversations. He had always thought he wanted to marry a woman who was sweet and would bow to his judgement but perhaps…

It would be quite a stimulating experience to be married to Rosalind and share his life with her. They could ride, plan business decisions, even take long walks in a pleasant silence together.

Look out for the game of “strip” chess when Rosalind gambles not only her future but her clothes too!!

There is a point where a Happy Ever After seems imminent but, of course, Ashton’s deception raises its ugly head and Rosalind understandably feels betrayed. To complicate matters further, Rosalind’s burly brothers decide to “rescue” her from Ashton’s clutches but, of course, everything comes right in the end.

Hugo Waverly continues to plot his revenge with the help of spies and it was shocking to discover just how close to the League these spies are. For the first time, the League have evidence to expose Waverly but circumstances force them to make a difficult choice.

There are many intriguing secondary characters, among them is League member Charles and I think I have an inkling of the identity of his heroine (there again, my guesses have been known to be way off the mark). The Jonathan/Audrey (Cedric’s hellion sister) and the possible Brock (Rosalind’s brother) and Joanna (Ashton’s sister) pairings should prove entertaining.  Charles’s servant, Tom Linley, has always been an enigma for me but even more so now, given the disclosures in this book.


MY VERDICT: After I’ve finished a book in this series, I always find myself eagerly waiting for the next one. If you enjoy great characters
and the right blend of romance, humour and action, then I can recommend this entertaining series.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

League of Rogues series so far (click on the book cover for more details):

Wicked Designs (The League of Rogues, #1) by Lauren Smith His Wicked Seduction (The League of Rogues, #2) by Lauren Smith Her Wicked Proposal (The League of Rogues, #3) by Lauren Smith Wicked Rivals (The League of Rogues, #4) by Lauren Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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do-you-want-to-start-a-scandal

(Spindle Cove, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb:

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
•Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
•Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
•Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I adore Tessa Dare’s books! They are always enchanting, romantic, sexy and funny!

I love the crossover of characters from the two series. The heroine, Charlotte, is the youngest of the Highwood sisters who feature in the Spindle Cove series and the hero, Piers Brandon, Marquess of Granville, appears in the second book of the Castles Ever After series.

Clever, witty, vivacious, good-natured and forthright, Charlotte is like a breath of fresh air. Despite her mother’s ill-conceived attempts to “throw” her into the paths of eligible, titled gentleman (sometimes literally), Charlotte values her independence and has no immediate plans to marry, intending to travel with her friend before settling down. Even then, she will only marry for love.

Attending a house party being held by Sir Vernon and Lady Parkhurst, her best friend, Delia’s parents, she is aware that her mother has set her sights on Piers Brandon, Earl of Granville, as a prospective husband for her daughter. Desperate to warn him of her mother’s machinations and her own unsuitability as a prospective bride (the Prattler has dubbed her “The Desperate Debutante.”), she follows him into the library.

“Don’t be alarmed,” she said, closing the door behind her. “I’ve come to save you.”
“Save me.” His low, rich voice glided over her like fine-grain leather. “From  .  .  .  ?”
“Oh, all kinds of things. Inconvenience and mortification, chiefly. But broken bones aren’t outside the realm of possibility.”

What follows must rank as one of the most delightful and funny first meetings between a hero and heroine. Charlotte’s talk of May-December matches had me chuckling.

However, the best laid plans have a habit of going wrong and disaster strikes when they are discovered in what appears to be a compromising situation. Forced into an “understanding” with Piers, Charlotte is determined to discover the identity of the mystery couple they heard “tupping” from their hiding place in the library. That will release her from a marriage to someone who obviously doesn’t love her.

At first, Charlotte sees Piers as cold and restrained and talking to him “was rather like conversing with an ice sculpture” but his unexpected wicked charm, subtle humour and passionate kiss belie that icy exterior.  He believes there is too much darkness and deception in his past and, if Charlotte knew the truth, she wouldn’t want anything to do with him. He sees himself as ruthless, deceitful, cold-blooded and heartless. I love how Charlotte refuses to give up on him, sees someone worthy of her love, and slowly breaks down the walls around his heart.

I know what’s inside you, behind all those walls. I’ll keep chipping away until I get at it. Even if it takes years. Decades. I know you’ll be worth the effort.” She rested against his chest, burying her face into the crook of his neck. “I’m never giving up on you.”

I also enjoyed seeing Piers losing all his vaunted control around Charlotte.

Good God. What was happening to him? He was falling apart.

In addition to a romantic, tender, poignant and deliciously sexy love story, Ms Dare’s books always contain wonderful humour. There are two scenes that I thought were hilarious. The first is where Charlotte’s mother is trying to explain to her what to expect on her wedding night using edible aids! The other is the scene where Charlotte is in the perfume shop and here’s a snippet.

“I thought you might. All the young ladies do. It’s fresh and grassy, isn’t it? Lemon verbena and gardenia blossoms. But the secret is in the fixative. A touch of castoreum is what makes the summery scents take hold, rather than fade.”
“Castoreum. That’s not from whales, is it?”
“Not at all.” He chuckled. 
Charlotte laughed, too. “Oh, good. What a relief.”
“It’s from beavers.”

Colin, Minerva and Diana (Spindle Cove) make a welcome appearance as does Piers’ brother, Rafe (Castles Ever After).

The mystery surrounding the identity of the lovers in the library kept me guessing and I thought the revelation was a nice twist.

If you are lover of Epilogues, like me, Ms Dare doesn’t disappoint.

MY VERDICT: If you’re looking for a story that is romantic, sexy, funny and full of wonderful characters that steal your heart, then I can most definitely recommend this book.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Read October 2016

 

Spindle Cove series – for details of all the books click on the link below:

https://www.goodreads.com/series/58621-spindle-cove

Castles Ever After series – for details of all the books click on the link below:

https://www.goodreads.com/series/105851-castles-ever-after

 

 

 

 

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