Posts Tagged ‘Regency Era’

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Amazon):

She couldn’t forget
Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nicholas is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nicholas escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nicholas never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.

He wouldn’t forgive
After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.

As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?


I have loved every one of Mimi Matthews’ books I have read, and GENTLEMAN JIM is no exception. She skillfully blends an exciting story of mystery, revenge and intrigue with an emotionally charged second-chance love story.

The way that Ms. Matthews conveys the inseparable bond between the young Maggie and Nicholas in the Prologue is so beautifully done. I loved Nicholas’ gentle teasing:

“…I never do what?”
“Stare at my bosom.”
Heat rose in his cheeks. He looked at her a moment, dumbstruck, before giving her a crooked smile. “What bosom?”

and Maggie’s fiery temper:

“The blackguard!” Maggie’s low voice trembled with fury. “The confounded coward!…”

It was heart-breaking to see Maggie and Nicholas torn apart by Fred’s evil machinations, but it compelled me to read on, desperate to know what happened to them.

Ten years have passed, and I was sad to notice the change in Maggie. A bout of influenza and two periods of mourning for her father and aunt have left her in a fragile state of health. As executor of her father’s will, I hated how much control Fred exerted over Maggie’s life and how she had no choice but to marry him if she wished to retain her beloved home, Beasley Park. Despite everything, Maggie’s spirit has never been broken and this is clearly seen later on in the story.

…what she lacked in physical stamina, she more than made up for in spirit. In heart.

John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare, the Earl of Allendale’s grandson, has recently returned to England after spending many years on the continent. His whole bearing proclaims him as someone of wealth and privilege since birth. He is known for his coldness – a man who ‘never lets his emotions get the better of his reason’. His grandfather is eager for him to find a wife to secure the survival of the family line.

When Maggie goes to London to stay with her friend, Jane Trumble, she discovers that Fred is to fight a duel with Viscount St. Clare. Fearful of what would happen to Beasley Park should Fred be killed, Maggie goes to see St. Clare in the hope of stopping the duel. She is shocked to see that he bears an uncanny resemblance to her beloved Nicholas!

I knew in my heart of hearts that St.Clare and Nicholas Seaton must be one and the same person, but Ms. Matthews certainly kept me in suspense. How on earth could an illegitimate, lowly groom become a well-educated and much travelled viscount? Even Maggie has her doubts at first, but the clues are there – the eyes, the smile, the way he says her name, and the one thing that ultimately proclaims, beyond a shadow of a doubt, his true identity.

“Great God, I knew it.” Her eyes found his, a glimmer of triumph shining in their liquid sapphire depths. “It really is you.”

The romance is so beautifully written, and I could feel the depth of their love for each other – both willing to give up on their dreams to be together. I think this is definitely the most sensual book Ms. Matthews has written, and she succeeds in making a single kiss or a look far more effective than any number of tedious sex scenes.

Their happiness is threatened by Fred who is always scheming to drive them apart, and Cousin Lionel and his mother who are spreading rumours to cast doubt on St. Clare’s legitimacy. I’m delighted to say that they all get their just deserts.

At first, I disliked Clare’s grandfather. It seemed that all he cared about was securing the family title, and St. Clare meant nothing to him other than a means to an end. However, his actions later in the story reveal how much he truly cares for his grandson. I liked Maggie’s friend, Jane Trumble, and her maid, Bessie, who showed such loyalty. Jane’s Aunt Harriet, their supposed chaperone, made me smile with her habit of falling asleep the minute she sits down and her inability to hear anything without her ear trumpet!

Although deceased, Gentleman Jim has a strong presence in the book and the mystery surrounding his true identity and his relevance to the characters and events in the story was intriguing.

The icing on the cake was a truly charming Epilogue.

Another wonderful book by one of my favourite authors. Highly recommended.

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(The Devils of Dover #3.5)

Genre: Historical Romance

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

Can he trust her with his darkest secret?

Ruthless. Dangerous. Known simply as King. No one knows his true name or where he came from. And when he learns that the man who betrayed him has returned to London, King has only one goal: vengeance. But first, he must seek out an unlikely ally to aide him in his pursuit…

Adeline Archambault is as mysterious as she is beautiful. Exiled after the French Revolution, she’s determined to reclaim her birthright and deliver the justice that is owed her. King’s offer to help her, in exchange for her assistance, is a bargain she can’t refuse. But will this deal with a devil lead to a future she never dared hope for?


Ever since reading Kelly Bowen’s excellent Season for Scandal series, I have been anxiously awaiting the enigmatic King’s story. I was, therefore, somewhat disappointed to discover it was a novella but, despite the obvious constraints, Ms. Bowen succeeded in creating a deeply emotional story that kept me engrossed from start to finish.

With a past shrouded in mystery and a reputation for being dangerous, ruthless, cunning, and unpredictable, King has risen to the top of London’s underworld, but is just as comfortable in the upper echelons of London society. His sartorial elegance, genuine knowledge of art and antiques, love of playing the piano, and obvious concern for the young boys in his employ all seem so at odds with his formidable reputation.

I knew that King must have had a dark past, but I never guessed just how dark and heartbreaking it really was. To be so cruelly abandoned to a living hell by those who should have loved, protected and believed in him, I could appreciate just how much King’s past had shaped him into a man he has become – ‘A merciless man who does whatever awful things are necessary to keep surviving.’ He has buried those terrible memories in the deepest recesses of his mind but is forced to confront them head on when someone from his past reappears.

Adeline’s parents, the Comte and Comtesse de Chadonnet, lost everything during the French Revolution and the family was forced to flee. Tragically, after returning to Paris ten years later to reclaim their birthright, her parents were murdered and the culprit never caught. Forced to fend for herself, Adeline is determined to obtain the justice for others that she was unable to get for her parents. When no one else is willing or able to help, clients employ Adeline to recover stolen family fortunes and treasures and bring the culprits to justice whenever possible.

I really admire Adeline’s strength and courage in the face of adversity and her desire to help those who have lost everything. Yes, it’s a way of making a living, but she sees her clients as people first and genuinely cares about them.

Adeline is the perfect heroine for King because they are alike in many ways – both have known the loneliness of surviving in a world where both honour and trust were in short supply. From their first meeting, the attraction between them is palpable and Ms. Bowen creates a sexual tension that positively sizzles. I enjoyed seeing King, who has always been in total control of his emotions and his actions, become completely unravelled by Adeline and vulnerable in a way he never has been before.

I love how they truly ‘see’ and understand each other as no one else ever has. King sees Adeline as honourable, beautiful and clever, while Adeline sees beyond King’s ruthless, cunning and callous façade to a man who protects those he cares for. The scene where he sends Adeline away, believing that she deserves a man as honourable as she, is truly heart-breaking.

It takes some wise words from his close friend, Noah, to make him realise that he has to let go of the past and embrace the future.

“Yet all of those moments are gone. You can remember them or forget them, like them or hate them, but you cannot change them. Only the moments to come can be changed.”

The final chapter was just perfect and so romantic. It was heart-warming to see two people, who are perfectly in tune with each other, finally find the happiness they truly deserve.

Although this novella is part of The Devils of Dover series, King has his origins in Ms. Bowen’s Season for Scandal series. I would highly recommend reading this series not only because it’s excellent, but also because it provides background to King’s character, and insight into his past relationships with Elise Ellery & Noah Ellery, the Duke of Ashland, and Ivory Harcourt, Duchess of Alderidge, the main secondary characters in this novella.

King’s story was so worth the wait and more than exceeded my expectations. Highly recommended.

Originally posted on Goodreads

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Genre: Historical Romance

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

An Uncommon Beauty…
Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland — a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…
Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.

Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her — and her heart — in more danger than ever?


I always look forward to reading one of Mimi Matthews’ books because I’m assured of an engaging and tender romance that is elegantly written with characters that capture your heart. THE WORK OF ART has a Regency setting rather than her usual Victorian one, but Ms. Matthews’ research is equally impeccable.

Since returning from the Peninsula War three years ago, Arthur Heywood has been in constant pain from a serious leg wound, forcing him to walk with a stick, and his right hand also sustained severe injury. Riding and shooting were an important part of who he had once been and he’s finding it hard to come to terms with the limitations imposed by his injuries. In recurring nightmarish dreams, Arthur constantly relives the harrowing events that followed his last battle. He has given up all hope of ever enjoying any sort of normal life again, and lives a reclusive existence at his country estate in Somerset. When his father sends him to London to contract some business on his behalf with financier Edgar Townsend, Arthur has every intention of returning to Somerset as soon as the business is concluded – that is until he meets Townsend’s niece, Phyllida (Philly) Satterthwaite, a young lady desperately in need of someone to rescue her from an untenable situation.

Phyllida Satterthwaite had once enjoyed a contented life living with her grandfather in rural Devon. She loved nothing more than going on rambles with her motley assortment of rescued dogs. Her circumstances change after her grandfather dies and she goes to live in London with her Uncle Edgar, the only living heir to her grandfather’s estate. Although unhappy, she is determined to make the best of her situation. Her uncle has promised to finance a season for her so that she might find herself a suitable husband but, when she discovers that he has already literally sold her to the menacing Duke of Moreland, she turns to the only person she feels she can confide in, Arthur Heywood.

I have a soft spot for damaged heroes like Arthur. He has been scarred both physically and mentally by his wartime experiences and has lost all sense of self-worth, believing that his loss of physical prowess now defines who he is. At heart, he is honourable, kind, thoughtful and steadfast, qualities that come to the fore in his determination to help Philly and keep her safe. Philly is such a lovely heroine. Her kindness, gentleness and compassion are balm to Arthur’s troubled spirit and, when they first meet, I love how she is so attuned to his difficulties and helps him in an unobtrusive way.

The ‘marriage of convenience’ is a favourite of mine and Arthur and Philly are such an engaging couple. I love how their initial bond of friendship, based on mutual liking, respect and trust, develops into a tentative attraction, which gradually blossoms into love. How refreshing to see them actually discuss any problems and misunderstandings before they became insurmountable.

It was so heart-warming to see the changes Philly brings to Arthur’s life. With her gentle encouragement, he takes daily walks, slowly regaining some of his physical strength and his sense of hope. Heywood House had been a place of gloom, but Philly had made it feel like a real home. I loved Arthur’s determination to protect Philly and, in doing so, he becomes a true hero.

It was undeniably Arthur. But it wasn’t her Arthur. It wasn’t the husband who kissed her and called her his sweetheart. No. This was a different man. A dangerous man. This was Captain Arthur Heywood. This was the soldier who had crushed a man’s throat with one bare hand.

Among the secondary characters there’s Philly’s devious and avaricious Uncle Edgar; her cold-hearted aunt, Mrs Vale; her horrid cousins, Elizabeth and Abigail; the cold and menacing Duke of Moreland; the conniving Mrs Eliot, and not forgetting Philly’s sundry canines.

The mystery of who is threatening Philly added an intriguing layer to story, and the culprit’s identity was certainly a surprise I didn’t see coming.

A lovely, heart-warming and beautifully written romance with just a touch of mystery. Highly recommended.

Originally posted on Goodreads

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(Difficult Dukes #2)

Genre: Historical Romance

Cover Blurb (Goodreads):

Cassandra Pomfret holds strong opinions she isn’t shy about voicing. But her extremely plain speaking has caused an uproar, and her exasperated father, hoping a husband will rein her in, has ruled that her beloved sister can’t marry until Cassandra does.

Now, thanks to a certain wild-living nobleman, the last shreds of Cassandra’s reputation are about to disintegrate, taking her sister’s future and her family’s good name along with them.

The Duke of Ashmont’s looks make women swoon. His character flaws are beyond counting. He’s lost a perfectly good bride through his own carelessness. He nearly killed one of his two best friends. Still, troublemaker that he is, he knows that damaging a lady’s good name isn’t sporting.

The only way to right the wrong is to marry her…and hope she doesn’t smother him in his sleep on their wedding night.


The second book in Loretta Chase’s Difficult Dukes series has been a long time coming, but I’m delighted to say it was well worth the wait. It combines all the elements I love so much about Ms. Chase’s books – an entertaining story filled with fascinating characters, sparking wit, laugh-out-loud moments and a captivating romance.

I admit to having doubts that Ms. Chase could make Ashmont not only likeable, but also deserving of the heroine’s love. I’m pleased to say that my reservations proved groundless, because she does a splendid job. In A Duke in Shining Armor, Ashmont displayed none of the qualities of a true romantic hero. He may be handsome, rich and possessed of natural charm, but these attributes are far outweighed by his flaws. He’s an immature, irresponsible, reckless libertine who is forever causing mayhem with his silly pranks. If that wasn’t enough, he let his would-be bride slip through his fingers and nearly killed his best friend in a duel.

Cassandra is intelligent, strong-willed, impulsive and confident – a woman who fully embraces her individuality. As a member of the Andromeda Club, a ladies’ charity, she is fully aware of the poverty that exists and the injustices inflicted on those less fortunate than herself. I like how she doesn’t just play lip service to her charity work but is actively involved in it. She has strong political views and is not afraid to voice them in public, much to her father’s vexation. Hoping that a husband might curb Cassandra’s behaviour, he stipulates that her younger sister, Hyacinth, cannot marry until Cassandra herself weds. Despite everything, she clearly loves her family very much, but cannot deny her true self. Her father isn’t tyrannical but simply someone who loves his family and fears that his daughter’s behaviour will reflect badly on the whole family.

Ashmont is the last person Cassandra would ever consider marrying. As a young girl, she had fallen hopelessly in love with him and imagined that he would grow up to be somebody fine and noble, only to have her dreams crumble to dust. However, a carriage accident and scandal will change the course of both their lives.

Ashmont is totally captivated by Cassandra; he admires all the attributes other men find unattractive – her plain speaking, her intelligence, her confidence, and her impulsiveness. He’s knows that his looks and charm won’t carry any sway with Cassandra and he must gain her trust and respect. He knows it will be a Herculean task but he’s determined to do it. I enjoyed watching Ashmont gradually becoming the man Cassandra hoped he would be. He stops drinking and takes time to find out what’s important to Cassandra, and in doing so, comes to appreciate the constraints placed on women by society, and the plight of the poor, things he had previously been oblivious to. He comes to realise just how pointless his life has been until now.

Given her past disappointment, Cassandra finds it hard to trust or respect Ashmont because she’s certain he will break her heart all over again. But time and again, she is surprised by his actions, such as the obvious thought and care he’d taken in choosing the gift for Keeffe, or diffusing the situation with the rent collector, using restraint rather than his customary fists.

The chemistry between these two is positively delicious and their witty banter an absolute delight. Of course, the path to true love never runs smoothly and obstacles come in the form of Ashmont’s rival, Mr. Titus Owsley, (or as Ashmont refers to him, ‘Mr. Tight-Arse Oh-So-Holy’), and the vindictive Lady Bartham who sets out to destroy their new found happiness. Unlike so many other heroines, Cassandra is sensible enough to tell her parents the truth of the situation, and I love the scene where her mother, Lady deGriffe, thwarts Lady Bartham’s insidious scheming.

The story is rich in Ms. Chase’s trademark wit and humour and these are just a few of my favourites moments – the ‘umbrella fight’ which conjured up the most wonderful images in my mind, the letters between them after Keeffe’s accident, and Cassandra’s letter to Ashmont detailing ten events that had happened since he ‘staggered’ into her life. I also like how Ms. Chase always brings an element of social commentary to her books, The secondary characters all add depth to the story and I particularly liked Keeffe, Cassandra’s groom, who is more than just a servant, and Sommers, Ashmont’s valet, who is prone to weeping at the state of master’s attire.

I am looking forward to reading Alice & Blackwood’s story in the final book in the series, and also hoping that the obvious history between Ripley’s Aunt Julia and Ashmont’s Uncle Frederick will finally be revealed.


Originally posted on Goodreads

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(Wagers of Sin #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

When you gamble at love . . .

When Hugh Deveraux discovers his newly inherited earldom is bankrupt, he sets about rebuilding the family fortune—in the gaming hells of London. But the most daring wager he takes isn’t at cards. A wealthy tradesman makes a tantalizing offer: marry the man’s spinster daughter and Hugh’s debts will be paid and his fortune made. The only catch is that she must never know about their agreement.

You risk losing your heart . . .

Heiress Eliza Cross has given up hope of marriage until she meets the impossibly handsome Earl of Hastings, her father’s new business partner. The earl is everything a gentleman should be, and is boldly attentive to her. It doesn’t take long for Eliza to lose her heart and marry him.

But when Eliza discovers that there is more to the man she loves—and to her marriage—her trust is shattered. And it will take all of Hugh’s power to prove that now his words of love are real.


This is the second book in Caroline Linden’s Wagers of Sin series and she succeeds in giving the popular ‘marriage of convenience’ trope a refreshingly different twist in this intelligently written and wonderfully romantic story.

On becoming Earl of Hastings, Hugh Devereaux was shocked to discover that his beloved father had frittered away the family’s entire fortune, leaving Hugh with a bankrupt estate, huge debts and no money for his sisters’ dowries or his mother’s widow’s jointure. How could he tell them that the man they all adored had left them virtually penniless? He simply couldn’t cause even more distress to his already grieving family and resolved to deal with matters himself. Only one option was open to him – marry an heiress, but not just yet. During the past few years, his luck at the card tables has enabled Hugh to pay off the most pressing debts and keep the family afloat but now, with his sister, Edith’s, imminent engagement, he needs to provide her with a dowry. So when Edward Cross approaches him with a solution to all his financial problems, Hugh cannot refuse. In return, he must court and marry Cross’s daughter, but she must never know of their agreement.

Edward Cross is one of the wealthiest men in England, having made his fortune speculating in shares. Ever since his wife died in childbirth, Elizabeth (Eliza), his only daughter, has become the centre of his universe and he is determined that she will acquire all the accomplishments befitting a lady. His ultimate goal is for her to marry an aristocrat and he is prepared to do anything to achieve it. Rather plain and shy, Eliza would rather remain single than marry a man who values her dowry more than herself, and is quite content looking after her father, playing with her dog, Willy, and tending her garden. However, when she meets and gets to know her father’s new business partner, the handsome and charming Hugh Deveraux, Earl of Hastings, she is soon hopelessly in love. To her delight, he seems to genuinely like her, and when he asks to court her and then proposes, she willingly accepts, totally unaware of the agreement made between Hugh and her father.

I couldn’t help but sympathise with Hugh who is caught between a rock and a hard place. He is an honourable man who cares deeply for his family and is determined to protect them from the harsh truth about his father. The only way he can achieve this is by deceiving a young woman who he knows will get hurt if she discovers the truth.

Eliza is such a lovely heroine – so warm-hearted, honest, generous and selfless, with a surprisingly droll sense of humour, and nothing like her manipulative father. I liked how she found such joy in simple pleasures and the scenes with Willy were charming and funny too. However, there is nothing weak about her because she has a core of steel when needed.

She would hold up her head and be strong, and not let any slight cow her. She was a countess now, Hugh’s countess—incredible thought—and she must rise to the demands of her position.

Watching Eliza win over Hugh’s mother and sisters with her warmth, kindness and understanding was so heartwarming.

I loved how the relationship evolved between Hugh and Eliza, particularly on Hugh’s part. He may have been blackmailed into marrying Eliza but he has every intention of being a kind and faithful husband, which only strengthened my opinion that he is honourable man. I love how each day he comes to appreciate Eliza more and more, discovering things about her that he had never anticipated.

He liked simply talking to her, which he had not expected. Eliza was a wonderful listener, caring and thoughtful, with clever ideas and a knack for making him laugh even when he didn’t mean to.

They are so perfect together both emotionally and sexually, and it’s obvious that Hugh is falling head over heels in love with his wife, but the fear of Eliza discovering the truth is constantly weighing on his mind. He knows that he should tell her but not only does he not want to lose her, he also knows how hurt she would be to learn of her father’s machinations.

He didn’t want to hurt his wife, and he damned sure didn’t want to risk losing her. Not when he thought he might be falling in love with her. So he added one more facet to the bargain he’d made with the devil: keep the truth from Eliza at all costs, for her sake and for his own.

I knew it was only a question of time before Eliza discovered Hugh’s duplicity and the scene where she confronts him is so heartbreaking that it was hard to believe that they could ever be reconciled. But when the reconciliation does come, it really touches the heart.

He tipped up her chin until her gaze met his. “I want you for you, my love. If you no longer want me -“
“I do,” she said, blinking back tears.

Eliza’s dearest friends, Sophie and Georgiana, are on hand to offer her moral support and advice when she most needs it.

I couldn’t really hate Edward Cross because he loved his daughter and, however misguided his actions were, he only wanted to do what he thought would make her happy. He hoped Hugh would see what a treasure she was and he did. I was pleased to see hints of a reconciliation between father and daughter in the Epilogue.

I loved this book and Caroline Linden proves yet again why she is one of the foremost Historical Romance authors. Highly recommended.

Originally posted on Goodreads

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A Fallen Lady.jpg

(Ladies of Scandal, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1820)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

Six years ago, to the outrage of her family and the delight of London gossips, Lady Helen Dehaven refused to marry the man to whom she was betrothed. Even more shockingly, her refusal came on the heels of her scandalous behavior: she and her betrothed were caught in a most compromising position. Leaving her reputation in tatters and her motivations a mystery, Helen withdrew to a simple life in a little village among friends, where her secrets remained hers alone.

For reasons of his own, Stephen Hampton, Lord Summerdale, is determined to learn the truth behind the tangled tale of Helen’s ruin. There is nothing he abhors so much as scandal – nothing he prizes so well as discretion – and so he is shocked to find, when he tracks Helen down, that he cannot help but admire her. Against all expectations, he finds himself forgiving her scandalous history in favor of only being near her.

But the bitter past will not relinquish Helen’s heart so easily. How can she trust a man so steeped in the culture of high society, who conceals so much? And how can he, so devoted to the appearance of propriety, ever love a fallen lady?


This was such a beautifully written and deeply emotional love story and it has definitely made me want to read more of Elizabeth Kingston’s books.

The traumatic events of six years ago left Lady Helen Dehaven ruined in the eyes of society. It also led to an estrangement between herself and her brother, Alex, Earl of Whitemarsh, when he rejected her explanation of what happened as ‘wild, incomprehensible tales.’

Forced to flee her brother’s home, she has built a new life for herself in the rural Herefordshire village of Bartle-on-the-Glen and the rent from the Dower House, inherited from her grandmother, provides enough income to live on. Helen has a small circle of devoted friends and has earned the loyalty and respect of all those around her. But her quiet, unobtrusive life is about to be shattered by the arrival of a stranger.

I admire Helen for her courage and determination in the face of such adversity but she remains haunted by the ghosts of the past. She still feels deeply hurt by her brother’s treatment of her and I couldn’t help but be moved by her yearning for something she believes she can never have…an ordinary life.

Stephen Hampton, the younger son of the Earl of Summerdale, has a gift for discovering other people’s secrets, and his reputation for the upmost discretion has garnered him some influential friends and a position of relative power. Following the death of his elder brother from influenza two years ago and his father’s recently, Stephen is now the earl. In his position, he could easily use his skills for his own benefit, but he has ‘grown to hate tawdry secrets and intrigue’ and wants to get as far away from London as possible. An opportunity arises when the Earl of Whitemarsh, encouraged by his new wife, asks Stephen to approach his sister with a view to seeking a reconciliation, and discovering the truth of what happened six years ago. As Stephen’s Manor House is not far from Bartle-in-the Glen, he accepts.

Stephen is a man who has never really belonged anywhere and it was heart-breaking to see how his own family subjected him to ridicule and scorn. I had a real sense of the depth of loneliness he feels.

The initial meeting between Helen and Stephen does not seem very auspicious but, as they get to know each other, Helen is won over by Stephen’s friendly and easy going manner, and Stephen realises that, with Helen and her friends, he has found somewhere he truly feels he belongs.

For the first time he could remember, he belonged. He was not shut out here.

I like how Ms. Kingston develops their relationship gradually, which not only heightens the sexual tension, but also reveals what a wonderful hero Stephen is – tender, patient, amusing and protective. At the same time, it was heart-rending to see Helen struggle with her deep-seated fears.

It was a monster from the deep, dedicated to pulling her down into the depths and smothering her.

Stephen’s reputation has always been spotless and it is testament to the strength of his love for Helen that he is willing to sacrifice everything by marrying her. So, I was really frustrated by her lack of trust in him.

There are some very emotional twists and turns before they reach their Happy Ever After, which made me enjoy the delightful Epilogue even more.

I loved seeing the close bond of friendship between Helen, Marie-Anne, a woman entirely at ease with her own scandalous reputation, and Maggie, Helen’s small but fierce Irish servant.

Having lived in Herefordshire for several years, I had to grit my teeth every time Bartle-on-the-Glen was mentioned. There are glens in Scotland but not in this particular English county!

MY VERDICT: Elizabeth Kingston weaves such a compelling and intensely emotional love story with complex characters that I truly cared about. Highly recommended.




Ladies of Scandal series (click on cover for more details):

A Fallen Lady (Ladies of Scandal, #1) by Elizabeth Kingston House of Cads (Ladies of Scandal, #2) by Elizabeth Kingston


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The Rake

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

A man’s past doesn’t have to map his fate, especially when a woman holds the key to his destiny in this timeless novel by New York Times bestselling author and legend in historical romance Mary Jo Putney.

Disinherited and disgraced, Reginald Davenport’s prospects cried for a dire end. But fate has given him one last chance at redemption–by taking his rightful place as the heir of Strickland, his lost ancestral estate. Davenport knows his way around women, yet nothing prepares him for his shocking encounter with Lady Alys Weston.

Masquerading as a man in order to obtain a position as estate manager of Strickland, Alys fled a world filled with mistrust and betrayal. She was finished with men–until Strickland’s restored owner awakens a passion she thought she would never feel. A passion that will doom or save them both…if only they can overcome their pasts…

(Note: This book was originally published in 1989 as The Rake the Reformer and then revised and republished as The Rake in 1998)


I read that THE RAKE is regarded as one of the most popular, most beloved historical romances ever written and I can now understand why, because I loved this book and it will definitely find a place among my all-time favourites.

At the age of thirty-seven, Reggie is the archetypal rake – his life having been spent in a continual round of womanising, gambling and hard drinking. But, as details of past events in his life are revealed, I appreciated how much these have shaped his current lifestyle. I like the fact that he does not blame his present circumstances on anyone but himself; he chose the path he took and admits to making unwise decisions. (I could not help thinking how different Reggie’s life might have been had he inherited Strickland all those years ago, and not been denied his birth right by his unfeeling uncle.)

Unlike so many other hard-drinking rakes who regularly grace the pages of Historical Romances, Reggie is an alcoholic, although he has yet to recognise the fact. It is only when he starts to suffer memory losses, which are becoming more frequent and longer in duration, does he accept that his current way of life is slowly killing him. Blaming his excessive drinking, Reggie believes that he can control the habit but…

…somehow his resolution always dissolved once he swallowed his first drink.

Ms. Putney handles Reggie’s alcoholism with compassion and sensitivity, but does not gloss over the harsh reality of his struggles to stop drinking. There is one particular scene where a horrified Alys finds Reggie drinking in the library and he runs out into the night as though the demons of hell are at his heels. It is one of the most heart-rending scenes I have ever read and the moment when Alys finds him is so moving.

He stretched out his hand. She took it, her fingers far warmer than his, her clasp light and sure. Linking his fingers with hers, he brought their joined hands to his chest, against the beat of his heart. The tide of hope was running stronger now.

I like how Ms. Putney does not fall into the trap of having Reggie redeemed by the love of a good woman. He wants to overcome his alcoholism for himself alone.

He hadn’t gotten sober for Allie’s sake, or to live up to his parents’ hopes, or for anyone else. He had done it for himself.

Having a soft spot for unconventional heroines, how could I not love a heroine who is a magnificent Amazon (Reggie’s description) with mismatched eyes and has managed to hide the fact that A E Weston, who has been the highly successful steward at Strickland for four years, is not a man but a woman. The reforms she has undertaken at Strickland have made the estate prosperous and earned her the respect of all those around her. She has also created a loving family home for her three wards.

Alys may be strong and independent but deep down she is beset by insecurities. Something in her past made her flee her former life and has left her believing she is unattractive and no man would ever want her.

I enjoyed the steady development of the relationship between Reggie and Alys, and it is Ms Putney’s ability to convey the emotional connection between them that makes this unlikely pairing work so beautifully. There is an initial attraction but, more importantly, a genuine friendship is forged based on their mutual liking, respect and trust. The love scenes are not overly explicit but rather tender, sensual and romantic.

 “I am beginning to believe that you are not at all the wicked care-for-nobody that your reputation claims.”

Just like Alys, I discovered that beneath the sarcastic, rakish exterior, Reggie is intelligent, charming, fair-minded, honest and witty. He also shows a remarkable knowledge of farming and is willing to ‘muck in’ with the sheep-dipping, earning him the respect and acceptance of the estate workers. It made me see that this is the real Reggie and I was rooting for him to overcome his addiction.

Reggie admires Alys’ ability, honesty and generosity of heart, and her wit is as sharp as his own. He treats her as an equal and is always willing to listen to her ideas. Not having been a member of a loving family for so many years, it was heart-warming to see him enjoying the family dynamics between Alys and her wards and he even starts wondering what it would be like to have children of his own.

I love how Alys is a true friend to Reggie and is always there to support him whenever he needs it.,

If she could not even try to help, she was unworthy to be anyone’s friend.

When Alys reveals her secrets to Reggie, I thought his actions revealed how noble and unselfish he is. I also like the scene where Alys convinces a reluctant Reggie that they are meant to be together.

There is an interesting cast of secondary characters including:

  • Richard, Earl of Wargrave – genuinely wants to help his cousin, Reggie, and I was was so happy to see the friendship that developed between them.
  • Meredith (Merry) Spencer – Alys’ eldest ward, who is delightful and wise beyond her years.
  • Junius Harper- the priggish, self-righteous vicar
  • The Honourable Julian Markham – Reggie’s young friend who falls for Meredith.
  • Mac Cooper – Reggie’s valet, groom, butler and footman

Amid the darker elements of the story, there is also humour such as the confrontation between Reggie and Junius Harper, which almost ends in a brawl; the hilarious scene where Reggie cleverly manipulates Lord Markham into allowing his son to marry Merry and agree to Julian’s plan for the management of his estate; the various antics of Attila, Alys’ cat, and the long-suffering Nemesis, Reggie’s dog.

I loved the charming Epilogue where the various characters react to the news of Reggie and Alys’ marriage and I will let Reggie have the final word…

“And, my beloved, you have performed the miracle of your reforming career in changing me from a care-for-nobody rakehell into a faithful, adoring husband.”

MY VERDICT: What more can I say other than this is a must read!





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A Duke in the Night

(The Devils of Dover, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

Duke. Scoundrel. Titan of business. August Faulkner is a man of many talents, not the least of which is enticing women into his bedchamber. He’s known-and reviled-for buying and selling companies, accumulating scads of money, and breaking hearts. It’s a reputation he wears like a badge of honor, and one he intends to keep.

Clara Hayward, the headmistress of the Haverhall School for Young Ladies, on the other hand, is above reproach. Yet when she’s reunited with August all she can think of is the way she felt in his arms as they danced a scandalous waltz ten long years ago. Even though her head knows that he is only back in her life to take over her family’s business, her heart can’t help but open to the very duke who could destroy it for good


Since reading and loving her Seasons for Scandal series, Kelly Bowen has joined my list of auto-read authors and I have been looking forward to A DUKE IN THE NIGHT, the first book in her new The Devils of Dover series. Once again, she captivated me with an innovative story, interesting characters and a sensual romance.

As a debutante ten years ago, Clara Hayward had all the attributes that should have had numerous suitors falling at her feet – beauty, poise and family wealth. But she had one fatal flaw – her extensive education. No husband wanted a wife whose intelligence and education was superior to his own. This gave Clara the freedom to pursue her ambition of becoming a teacher and, for many years, she has been headmistress of the most expensive and prestigious finishing school in London – Haverhall School for Young Ladies, which she inherited from her mother. Secretly, Clara runs exclusive summer school programmes at Avondale in Dover, leased from the Earl of Rivers, for those young women who have ambitions beyond society’s expectations and the courage to defy convention.

However, after their parents died two years ago, Clara, her younger sister, Rose, and her brother, Harland, now Baron Strathmore, were shocked to discover that their father had left large debts. They had all done whatever they could to keep their heads above water but with Strathmore Shipping, the family business, in jeopardy, Clara takes the decision to sell her beloved school, but is still determined to continue with her summer schools.

Kelly Bowen always writes great heroines and Clara is no exception. She is intelligent, strong and confident – a woman who fully embraces her individuality and has the courage of her own convictions. She is a natural teacher and I admire her progressive and unique teaching methods. I love how she nurtures her students and offers them practical experience in their chosen fields even though it might only be for a short time.

August Faulkner was never destined to be the Duke of Holloway. At the age of fifteen, he was fending for himself on the dangerous streets of London after his inveterate gambler of a father was thrown into debtors’ prison, where August’s younger sister, Anne, had lived too. His driving force was to pay off his father’s debts, have his family released and restore their fortunes and their family reputation.

Over the next fifteen years, through hard work, determination and a keen business mind, August had clawed his way up to become a wealthy and successful self-made man. In his business of buying up failing companies and turning them around into profitable concerns, he had a reputation for being ruthless and determined. Even his unexpected rise to the peerage five years ago has done nothing to curb his ambitions, other than working anonymously through intermediaries to make his purchases.

I understood how those years of struggle and deprivation had shaped August into the man he has become. He is determined to safeguard both himself and his sister from ever having to endure such hardship again, and no amount of money is ever going to be enough.

August understood survival. He had done and continued to do what he needed to so that he would never have to go back. Back to a time when hunger and cold had been enemies.

It is obvious how much he loves his sister and will do anything to make her happy, but stubbornly fails to see that Anne has ambitions of her own beyond just the material things in life.

It’s improbable that, after only one dance together ten years ago, August and Clara would have been so affected that they had never forgotten each other. But Ms. Bowen develops such a tangible chemistry between the two that I never once felt that they were not meant to be together. August sees what a fascinating and extraordinary woman Clara is and respects and admires her. Clara constantly challenges his opinions and I love that he is willing to listen and question his own motives and ambitions as he has never done before.

The truth of the matter was that he didn’t recognize himself any longer. Every vow he’d made to himself, every driving ambition he’d pursued with a single-minded determination sat uncomfortably on his skin now. His old self didn’t seem to fit quite right.

With all the pent-up longing and desire, it is inevitable that they will eventually succumb to their feelings for each other and it’s refreshing to see the heroine taking the lead and seducing the hero.

His heart might have stopped momentarily before it resumed, thundering in his ears with the same rhythm that was pulsing through the rest of him. The sound obliterated everything around him, his eyes riveted on her fingers, which were now trailing over the slope of her left breast, coming to circle her dark nipple, hard and pebbled under her touch. She was watching him watching her, and he had never been as aroused as he was then.

It is patently obvious that they love each other but I knew that Clara would eventually find out that August had bought Haverhall and his proposals for it. I could feel her pain and heartbreak, believing that she had meant nothing to him and was simply a means to an end. It is only through her sister Rose’s intervention that Clara discovers just how wrong she is about August and how much he loves her. For once, I did not even miss an Epilogue because the ending was so beautifully done, and August’s gift to Clara and its significance just bought tears to my eyes.

“You asked me once when enough is enough. You are my enough. You are my everything.”

I really admired August’s sister, Anne, who might have become a beautiful and poised lady but the time spent in debtors’ prison had given her a core of pure steel. A potential romance between Anne and her brother’s man of business, Duncan Down, is hinted at and I hope to see more of them in later books.

Clara’s siblings are both intriguing; Rose is a gifted artist who has been hurt in the past and Hartland, although a baron, is also a practising doctor and obviously has a few secrets. I am definitely looking forward to reading their stories.

Ms. Bowen manages to imbue the story with some delightful humour such as the scene where August is spying on Clara and her pupils from behind a wall, only to be discovered by Lady Tabitha (Tabby) and Lady Theodosia (Theo), the Earl of Rivers’ sisters, who obviously know exactly what he is doing!

“He might have been an apothecary,” Lady Theo suggested to her sister. “Collecting plants and herbs and whatnot.”
“True. Or a biologist,” Tabby mused. “Looking for crickets.”
“Or fossils.”
“Or perhaps examining animal leavings.”

or the scene in the studio where August enters without knocking to discover…I won’t spoil it for you!

MY VERDICT: A great start to what promises to be an excellent series. Definitely recommended.




The Devils of Dover series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

A Duke in the Night (The Devils of Dover, #1) by Kelly Bowen Last Night with the Earl (The Devils of Dover, #2) by Kelly Bowen A Rogue by Night (The Devils of Dover, #3) by Kelly Bowen

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Yours Until Dawn

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1806)

Cover Blurb: 

Gabriel Fairchild’s valor during battle earns him the reputation of hero, but costs him both his sight and his hope for the future. Abandoned by the fiancée he adored, the man who once walked like a prince among London’s elite secludes himself in his family’s mansion, cursing his way through dark days and darker nights.

Prim nurse Samantha Wickersham arrives at Fairchild Park to find her new charge behaving more like a beast than a man. Determined to do her duty, she engages the arrogant earl in a battle of both wit and wills. Although he claims she doesn’t possess an ounce of womanly softness, she can feel his heart racing at her slightest touch. As Samantha begins to let the light back into Gabriel’s life and his heart, they both discover that some secrets — and some pleasures — are best explored in the dark …

First published in July 2004


This review was originally posted back in September 2012 shortly after Rakes and Rascals first went live and it’s possible that many of you who have followed the blog since may not have seen the review or read this book.


I first read YOURS UNTIL DAWN several years ago and it has remained one of my all time favourite historical romances. Warm, funny, heartrending, tender and sensual, re-reading it is one of my guilty pleasures.

Gabriel definitely fulfills my penchant for tormented, brooding heroes. He is a man without hope living in a dark and lonely world where the trappings of civilized behaviour no longer matter. He hides his vulnerability behind a show of arrogance and biting retorts such as his reply when Samantha tells him she’s there to help him adjust to his new circumstances:

“What if I don’t want to adjust? What if I just want to be left the bloody hell alone so I can rot in peace.”

Ms Medeiros provides a real insight into the problems of being blind, things which I had never appreciated before. When Gabriel suddenly wakes up, he has no way of knowing whether it is day or night and when Samantha takes him to task for not using a knife and fork, he explains that they are difficult to manage because if he can’t feel the food, he can’t find it. All things a sighted person takes for granted.

The battle of wills between Samantha and Gabriel provides for some sharp and really funny dialogue. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Good morning, my lord,” Samantha said smoothly, sliding into a chair well out of his reach. “You’ll have to forgive Mr. Beckwith. He obviously had some pressing duties.”
Scowling, Gabriel settled back in his chair, “Let’s hope they include forging some letters of reference and packing his bags. Then the two of you can return to London together.”

“So tell me Miss Wickersham, as my new nurse, which duty would you like to assume first? Would you like to feed me?”
Eyeing the wolfish white flash of teeth as they tore another hunk of meat off the chop, Samantha said, “Given your…um…unbridled enthusiasm for your victuals, I’d be a little worried about getting my fingers that close to your mouth.”

I love Samantha because she is just what Gabriel needs to jolt him out of his apathy. At first, Beckwith, Mrs Philpot and the other servants refuse to disobey their master’s orders but Samantha has no such qualms. She re-arranges the furniture to make it easier for Gabriel to navigate through the house and throws open the windows. She only falters once when Gabriel comes up with another scheme to rid himself of her by constantly ringing a bell day and night and having her do all sorts of mundane things such as fluffing his pillow. I love Gabriel’s reaction when she finally says she’s had enough of his ridiculous demands and is resigning:

“Miss Wickersham, get back here this instant! That’s an order!”
” I quit,” she tossed back over her shoulder, savage glee coursing through her veins. “I’m not obliged to take your orders anymore!” Ignoring his spluttering, Samantha marched out the door slamming it behind her with grim satisfaction.

I like the way Ms Medeiros slowly develops the relationship between Samantha and Gabriel which makes it more realistic. My favourite scene is the one in the ballroom because it is both romantic and sensual. I could really feel the passion between them:

Suddenly she was the beggar at the feast – a feast of the senses her body had been denied for so long. She wanted to gorge herself on him, sate her every craving with the fulsome delight of his kiss.

Ms Medeiros paints such memorable and vivid pictures but it is the little details which seem to linger in my mind: Beckwith and Mrs Philpot trying to push Samantha out of the French windows before the approaching Gabriel enters the room; Gabriel’s indelicate table manners; Samantha running a fingertip along the scar on Gabriel’s face; Gabriel lounging in bed wearing only a rumpled cravat; the game of blind man’s bluff; the ultimate in romantic epilogues.

The secondary characters all add depth to the story and I have to mention Sam, the little terrier, who captured my heart with his antics. This book has a really surprise twist which I certainly didn’t see coming when I first read it. On subsequent readings, I found clues were there but I had simply been too engrossed in the story to interpret them correctly.

MY VERDICT: A wonderful love story with unforgettable characters, YOURS UNTIL DAWN is pure magic; a treat that no lover of historical romance should miss!




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Black Sheep Audio

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb (Goodreads):

With her high-spirited intelligence and good looks, Abigail Wendover was a most sought-after young woman. But of all her high-placed suitors, there was none Abigail could love. Abigail was kept busy when her pretty and naive niece Fanny falls head over heels in love with Stacy Calverleigh, a good-looking town-beau of shocking reputation and an acknowledged seductor. She was determined to prevent her high-spirited niece from being gulled into a clandestine marriage with handsome Stacy, a plausible fortune-hunter. The arrival to Bath of Stacy’s uncle seemed to indicate an ally, but Miles Calverleigh is the black sheep of the family.

Miles Calverleigh had no regard for the polite conventions of Regency society. His cynicism, his morals, his manners appalled Abigail. But he turns out to be her most important ally in keeping her niece out of trouble. He also turned out to be the most provoking creature Abigail had ever met – with a disconcerting ability to throw her into giggles at quite the wrong moment. Yet she was irresistibly drawn to his knowing smile. But how could she persuade her wealthy, respectable family to accept this unconventional, unsuitable man?

First published in 1966


Witty and laugh-out-loud funny – Black Sheep is priceless. Having read all of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances in my youth, I’m now revisiting, where possible, some of my favourites in audio version. A talented narrator/actor adds a lot to a well-written story, especially when it is peppered with eccentric and out-of-the ordinary characters. This is one such story and I’d forgotten how much I loved it. Definitely a comfort read/listen, if one needs a pick-me-up.

This has to be one of Georgette Heyer’s best novels. Abigail Wendover is a sparkling, witty young woman with an outrageous sense of the ridiculous. Never having experienced lasting love, she believes herself to be immune and firmly ‘on the shelf’, and has become a prop for her nervous, hypochondriac elder sister, and de facto ‘mother’ to orphaned niece Fanny, on whom the story hinges.

Fanny is 17 years old, beautiful but romantic and unworldly – perfect pickings for an older, handsome, glib-tongued man-about-town who is on the hunt for an heiress, in this case Mr. Stacy Calverleigh. Abby is absolutely determined that her niece will not fall foul of such a man.

The first couple of chapters are perfectly captured by accomplished actress Barbara Leigh-Hunt who flawlessly characterises the neurotic Selina, witty Abby, and slightly silly, but sweet Fanny. The fun really begins, however, when the incomparable Miles Calverleigh enters the fray. Abby confronts Mr. Calverleigh after hearing him addressed as such, not realising that there are two – uncle and nephew. What follows must be one of the most comical and entertaining dialogues between two characters that I’ve ever read/heard! Mr. Calverleigh senior is carelessly dressed and sadly lacking in tonnish manners, but so enigmatic and laid back that it is impossible to rile him, no matter how hard she tries. It becomes apparent, after a witty, lengthy exchange, where they are hilariously talking at cross purposes, what Miles is being berated for; but not having had any intercourse with his nephew for twenty or so years, he has no wish to now. He does, however, drag out the conversation for the fun of it, and because of the instant attraction he feels between himself and Abby. This attraction is obvious, although Ms. Heyer doesn’t say so, she simply conveys it by clever words and innuendo.

The ingenious way Miles contrives to separate the would-be lovers, without appearing to be interested in his nephew’s actions, is brilliantly executed and obviously done to please Abby. Unlike most other novels of Ms. Heyer’s, Miles declares his love quite early on in the story but the obstacles of his early disreputable life, which led to him being banished to India in the first place, and other familial circumstances of Abby’s, appear to be insurmountable. Although aware of his tarnished youth and less than salubrious reputation, Abby could not care less and realises that she loves this funny, apparently capricious but honourable man. However, she cannot see any way they could ever have a Happy Ever After. But Miles has other ideas!

I loved this funny, romantic tale and, in my opinion, Miles is one of Heyer’s most endearing heroes and is definitely up there with Hugo (The Unknown Ajax) for his wit and humour. He’s an engaging character and proof positive that a man does not have to be handsome, rich or dressed to perfection to engage a lady’s heart.

Barbara Leigh-Hunt is an actress of some repute and, if I have any reservations about her reading of Black Sheep, it is because her rather unforgettable voice conjures up other forceful characters she has portrayed. She has, however, captured the fun and wit of this extraordinarily charming tale almost to perfection.

MY VERDICT: I loved it and Highly challenge you, dear reader/listener, not to adore Miles as much as I did.






















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