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Posts Tagged ‘Regency Era’

A Raven's Heart

(Secrets and Spies, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian)

Cover Blurb:

August 1815. The war with France is officially over, Napoleon’s an exile on St Helena, but Europe is still a very dangerous place to be.

Kidnapped and held for ransom at nineteen, ducal heir William Ravenwood knows the only person he can rely on is himself. Now part of a spy ring that includes his friends Nicolas and Richard Hampden, he’s the smuggler known as The Raven, a ruthless agent who specializes in rescuing hostages and prisoners of war from captivity.

Raven longs to discover the fate of his colleague, Christopher ‘Kit’ Carlisle, who’s been missing, presumed dead, for over two years. He’s also equally determined to stay away from the one thing he knows is dangerous to his health – the bane of his life, his best friends’ infuriating and provocative little sister, Heloise.

Heloise is a brilliant code breaker, one of the English government’s most valuable assets. She’s also loved Raven for years, but considering that he rejected her at sixteen, before her face was scarred rescuing her brother from an icy river, she’s certain he doesn’t want her now, despite his outrageous flirting.

But when Heloise decodes a message that proves Kit is alive and a prisoner in Spain, Raven realizes she’s in grave danger. With French agents determined to silence her, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe – even if that means taking her to Spain with him as an unwilling hostage.

As they face French deserters and Spanish freedom fighters, Raven and Heloise try to ignore the simmering attraction that’s been building between them for eight long years. The differences between them are striking but they’ve always had a strange underlying bond. Heloise might be scarred outwardly, but Raven’s wounds are all on the inside. He knows he’s not worthy of her love—a shadowed Hades pining for sun-kissed Persephone—but he’s not above showing her passion for the short time they’re together.

A master at decoding complex messages, Heloise finds Raven frustratingly hard to read, but as their lives hang in the balance she’s determined to unravel his secrets and unlock his dark, elusive heart…

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I loved TO STEAL A HEART, Ms. Bateman’s debut novel, and the first book in her Secrets and Spies series. I was hoping that A RAVEN’S HEART would be just as good, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. 

Six years ago, nineteen-year-old William de L’Isle, Viscount Ravenwood (Raven), was kidnapped and held for ransom. A proud and stubborn man, his grandfather, the Duke of Avondale, refused to pay the kidnappers, hoping to thwart their plans by hiring Bow Street Runners to find his grandson.  Meanwhile, William endured eight weeks in captivity, facing beatings and potential death every day. Finally, he managed to escape by killing one of the guards, but the experience left him a changed man. He has never forgiven his grandfather, refusing to have anything to do with him and rejecting the titles due to him following his father’s death.  Instead, he joined Lord Castlereagh’s spy network, working alongside his childhood friends and fellow spies, Richard and Nicolas Hampden. Ruthless, deadly and efficient, it is a job he excels at, killing without guilt or remorse.

Heloise Hampden, Richard and Nicolas’s younger sister, has always had a rebellious streak, hating the restrictions placed on women by society and longing for freedom and adventure. When her face is scarred trying to save her brother from drowning, thus curtailing her marriage prospects, her life becomes one of scholarly pursuits. Her skill at code-breaking brings her to the attention of Lord Castlereagh and she relishes the opportunity of serving her country decoding French messages. When a fellow code-breaker is murdered, and an attempt is made on Heloise’s life, Castlereagh assigns Raven to protect her.

However, Raven and Heloise (or Hellcat as he calls her) grew up on neighbouring estates and, as her brothers’ friend, he was a frequent visitor to the Hampdens. There has always been a strong spark of attraction between them that neither would acknowledge. They managed to conceal their true feelings by exchanging barbed insults, but the mutual attraction shows no sign of abating.

Hellcat Hampden had been the subject of his guilty daydreams for years. What had started out as adolescent musings had matured into fevered erotic fantasies that showed absolutely no sign of abating.

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She was fluent in five different languages, but in Raven’s presence she could barely string a coherent sentence together.

Heloise decodes a letter suggesting that Raven’s friend, Kit Carlisle, who has been missing for two years, is alive and an exchange of prisoners is possible. This exchange is to take place in a small Spanish village just over the French border and Raven is determined to rescue his friend, but he must also protect Heloise and there is only one way to do that – take her with him.

Raven is one of those gorgeous, cynical, arrogant, tormented heroes that I can’t resist, while Heloise is my sort of heroine – intelligent, headstrong, stubborn and unconventional, although she does have one sinful extravagance which Raven certainly approves of!

These two have an amazing chemistry and I enjoyed their entertaining and witty repartee.

He chinked the rim of his own glass against hers and downed the contents.“Bottoms up.” 

With a mental shrug Heloise did the same. Her throat caught fire. Tears sprang to her eyes. When she could catch her breath she croaked out, “Good Lord! That’s vile.” Raven grinned and took her empty glass. “Good girl. Now, as you rightly said, I have to ‘go captain.’ Is there anything else you require?” 

“Only your absence,” she managed. 

He backed out the door with a mocking flourish. “Your humble servant.”

He took two more glasses from a servant. “Here, drink this.”

 She accepted it without thinking. A drunken reveler jostled her arm and a cold wash of champagne splashed onto her chest and trickled down between her breasts. “Oh, bugger-and-arse!” she muttered.

 “That’s what I love about you, Hellcat. Always so ladylike. Just when I despair that the impulsive hellion I grew up with has vanished, you say something like that and the world rights itself again.” 

She growled at him. Actually growled. 

“You shouldn’t do that, either,” he admonished gently. “It makes little wrinkles in your nose.”

Every scene just sizzles with sexual tension and their feelings of frustration, longing, fear, regret and desire are palpable. Ms. Bateman creates a delicious sense of anticipation and when they finally make love, it just feels right. The love scene is beautifully done – tender, romantic, sensual and laced with moments of humour. There is just the right balance between the action and romance and the dangers Raven and Heloise face along the journey only serve to heighten the sexual tension.

Raven believes that because he embraced his darker emotions, he is unworthy of someone as good as Heloise. When he tells Heloise of everything he endured during his imprisonment, it gave me a real understanding of the deep emotional impact it had on him and how he was changed by the experience. Only Heloise can cut through the anger and bitterness to convince him that he is loyal, brave and fearless; willing to do whatever it takes to protect those he loves and cares about. Heloise is his anchor and keeps him grounded.

I like how Raven doesn’t see Heloise’s scar as ugly but as proof that she is a survivor and I love his words to her.

“You’re like the moon. IT has craters and scars and shadows. But only an idiot would deny that it is beautiful.”

The scene between Raven and his grandfather is an emotional one. Raven comes to realise that his grandfather is only human and made mistakes just as he himself has. He now sees rejecting his father’s titles as an insult to his parents’ memory and to everything he could be.

Ms. Bateman has obviously undertaken a lot of research to create a real sense of the period and I love how she weaves fascinating historical details, mythology and real people into the story. I particularly like how her expert knowledge of antiques comes into play  where she refers to the ancient Japanese art of Kinstukuroi, cleverly revealing how much Raven cares for Heloise.

MY VERDICT: A well-written and engaging story with fascinating characters, adventure, danger, sizzling sexual tension and witty repartee. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

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

 

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley for the purposes of an honest review**

 

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Mistletoe and the Major

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1815)

Cover Blurb:

 Previously published in the anthology Under the Kissing Bough. 

The Major is home from the wars at last… 

Edmund Sherritt, Major Lord Canforth, has devoted eight tumultuous years to fighting Napoleon. Finally, Europe is at peace, and he can retire to his estates and the lovely wife he hasn’t seen since their brief, unhappy honeymoon. The innocent girl he loved from the first moment he saw her, but who shied away from him on their wedding night.

The beautiful woman who greets him at Otway Hall on Christmas Eve is no longer the sweet ingénue he remembers. This new and exciting version of his beloved countess is strong, outspoken, and independent, and she’s willing to stand up for what she wants. The question is—does she want the husband who returns to her arms more as a stranger than a spouse?

Now the real battle begins. 

Felicity, Lady Canforth, has had eight long years to regret that she sent her husband from a cold marriage bed to face brutal combat, danger and hardship. The only child of elderly parents, Felicity came to marriage innocent and ignorant, and unable to conceal her shock at the sensual power of the earl’s caresses. Before she found the nerve to offer Canforth a more generous welcome, he was called away to war. The Major left behind a countess who was a bride, not a wife; a woman unsure of her husband’s feelings, and too timid to confess how fervently she desires the man she wed.

Fate has granted an older, wiser Felicity a second chance to win her husband’s heart. Now nothing will stop her from claiming victory over the famous war hero. This Christmas, she’ll deploy every ounce of courage, purpose and passion to seize the life and love she’s longed for, ever since Canforth left to serve his country. Whatever it costs, whatever it takes, she’ll lure the dashing Major back into her bed, where she means to show him he’s the only man she wants as her lover—and her love.

After years of yearning and separation, will a Christmas miracle heal the wounds of the past and offer the earl and his bride a future bright with love? 

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I started my Christmas reading early this year with a lovely, heart-warming second-chance short story from Anna Campbell.

It was love at first sight for Edmund and Felicity (Flick), but they had only been married for two weeks when Edmund received orders to join his regiment. In their short, awkward time together, they had never felt at ease enough with each other to openly discuss their true feelings and were still little more than strangers when Edmund left. After eight long years, Edmund is finally able to return home and is determined to build a real marriage.

Even within the constraints of a short story, Ms. Campbell can still pack a real emotional punch. She made me feel Edmund and Flick’s initial feelings of uncertainty, regret and fear after their long separation. The years running the estate have given Flick a degree of confidence lacking in her younger self. The only child of elderly parents, she was shy and inexperienced when she married and regrets not having been braver and more responsive to her husband’s lovemaking. I like how she is determined to seize this second chance.

Edmund has his own fears. War has changed him, and he is uncertain of the welcome he will receive from Flick, but she sees that he is still the same kind, considerate man she remembers. I like the scene involving the ‘burnt letters’, when Flick’s misunderstanding of the situation leads them to finally talk openly about their feelings for each other and confess their love.

MY VERDICT: A delightful start to my Christmas reading.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the author for the purposes of an honest review. **

 

 

 

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Angel Comes to Devil's Keep

(Twins’ Trilogy, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb:

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart—and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

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I have regularly followed her blog with its fascinating and informative posts but ANGEL COMES TO THE DEVIL’S KEEP is the first book I have read by Regina Jeffers and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I like Hunt for wanting to do more than just being the heir apparent to the Duke of Devilfoard. He takes real pride in the secretive work he does for the Home Office which gives him an additional purpose in life and an element of independence too.

It was not much, this bit of public duty he performed, but Hunt took a certain pride in doing more than being the Duke of Devilfoard’s heir apparent–more than being the Devil’s cub.

His father is pushing him to marry Lord Sandahl’s daughter, Lady Mathild, but while fully aware of his responsibilities to the dukedom, Hunt refuses to marry some green girl straight from the schoolroom; he wants a woman who will love him wholeheartedly and share his passion for life, learning and adventure.

I like Angel who is intelligent, independent, outspoken and with a real zest for life – a perfect match for Hunt. She doesn’t suffer fools lightly, as gentlemen of the ton, intent on pursuing her for her beauty and large dowry alone, soon discover.  Despite her distaste for ‘a bland lifestyle wrapped in formality’, her determination to succeed in society for her father’s sake shows her love and concern for him.

The image of her father’s worried brow and the knowledge of his declining health drove her response. She must succeed in London’s Society for her father to know peace. 

I was rather cautious about the amnesia plot line, but Ms. Jeffers uses it effectively. Hunt’s memory loss and Angel’s ignorance of his true identity allows their attraction to flourish, unfettered by any preconceptions or prejudices, as they spend time with the Wendts while Hunt recovers. It also reveals Angel’s caring and compassionate nature. She risks her own life to rescue a stranger and refuses to desert him, and believing him to be either a gentleman farmer or a man of business, she even considers asking her father to offer him a position.

When Hunt’s brother, Harry, and his friend, Lord Remmington, find him and he discovers his real identity, it’s natural that he feels angry, hurt and disappointed, believing that the woman who had stolen his heart connived to take advantage of  him. I was pleased that Ms. Jeffers did not prolong this misunderstanding and Harry and Lord Remmington soon convince Hunt that he is wrong about Angel and she only had his interests at heart.

Despite Hunt’s marriage proposal, Angel is practical enough to know that she could never be the sort of duchess his position requires. My heart ached for them when they are forced to accept that they can never be together.

He wanted to be this woman’s everything–to turn the sun back four and twenty hours and reclaim the anticipation of knowing her intimately. To be her first. Her last. It was a lovely fantasy, one upon which reality would too soon intrude.

“There will be more than enough time to relive each moment of the past few days. A whole lifetime to know your ideal match does exist. He will simply belong to another.”

There are many trials and tribulations before their Happy Ever After seems assured, including poisoning, murder, intrigue, long-hidden family secrets and a rival for Angel’s affections in the form of Hunt’s best friend, Lord Remmington. I like how it is Hunt’s father who gives him a ‘good kick up the backside’, figuratively speaking.

I thought Ms. Jeffers portrayed Hunt’s reactions to his amnesia in a realistic way. I sensed his fears and uncertainties and how vulnerable he feels.

…he had yet to recognize one servant or family portrait or even the house’s furnishings. He remained a first time guest in his childhood home. The tightness in his chest had nothing to do with his injury and everything to do with his vulnerability.

I also liked how she doesn’t have Hunt miraculously regaining his complete memory, but certain things trigger a particular memory.

The plotline called for a large number of secondary characters and, at times, I found it difficult to keep a track of everyone and the various family relationships. I was intrigued by Lord Remmington whose story is told in book 2, The Earl Claims His Comfort. I liked Angel’s father, a congenial man, but not when it comes to protecting his family.

Ms. Jeffers’s tightly woven mystery certainly kept me guessing, with plenty of red herrings, some unexpected twists and turns and the revelation of long-hidden family secrets. The unmasking of the true villain certainly came as a big surprise.

MY VERDICT: An extremely enjoyable story with appealing characters, suspense, intrigue and a heart-warming romance.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Twins’ Trilogy so far (click on the book cover for more details):

Angel Comes to the Devil's Keep by Regina Jeffers The Earl Claims His Comfort by Regina Jeffers

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the author for the purposes of an honest review. **

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Duchess Deal

(Girl Meets Duke, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules… 

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Whenever I pick up a Tessa Dare book, I know that I’m going to be enchanted by a story rich in warmth, emotion and humour; one that is romantic, sexy and full of endearing characters. THE DUCHESS DEAL, the first book in her new Girl Meets Duke series, certainly didn’t disappoint

Ash is an ill-tempered, brooding, cynical man, convinced that no woman could ever want an embittered, scarred wretch like him; something he has every reason to believe to be true, as I discovered later in the story. However, beneath his gruff exterior lies an honourable and caring man which is evident in his genuine concern for those people who work on his estate and in his need to protect and care for Emma. I love the scene where Ash puts the fear of God into Emma’s father and I totally agree with Ash’s opinion of the sanctimonious vicar – “You crusty botch of nature. You poisonous bunch-backed toad.”

So often the hero’s father is cruel or abusive and it was a refreshing to know that Ash’s father was such wise and loving father whom Ash wanted to emulate. My heart ached for Ash when he says he would not want to see his own son or want his son to see him because he fears he could never be like his own father.

Ash’s son could never admire him the way Ash had worshipped his own father. His father had been unfailingly wise, good-natured and patient. Not ill-tempered and bitter, as Ash had become.

I adore Emma for her courage and resilience. Despite being thrown out by her father for a youthful discretion, with nothing but the clothes she stood up in, she walked all the way to London in the height of winter and succeeded in building a life for herself as a seamstress to society ladies. I also admire her genuine compassion for and desire to help her friend, Davina Palmer, because she doesn’t want another young woman to face the sort of rejection she had.

Emma hadn’t landed in Miss Palmer’s delicate situation, but she, too, had been punished for the simple crime of following her heart.  The memories still pained her – and the thought of watching the same cruel fate befall another young woman? It made her quake with anger at the injustice of it all.

Emma and Ash have such wonderful chemistry and their romance is funny, poignant, romantic and sexy. I love how Emma more than holds her own against Ash and even challenges his ‘house ’ rules with ones of her own. The banter between them sparkles and I love how Emma refuses to call him Ashbury or Duke and keeps coming up with pet names which Ash hates.

“If I choose to make a darling of you, there is nothing you can do about it.”
   “Of course, there’s something I can do about it. I can have you sent to an institution for the feebleminded and insane.”
She shrugged. “If you say so, cherub.”

Ash’s habit of cursing in Shakespearean quotes was priceless and this is my favourite, aimed at the ‘hellion cat’.

“Do you hear me? Get out. ‘Thou art a boil, a plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle.’ King Lear, Act Two.”

I love how Emma gradually captures Ash’s heart with her warmth, wit and passion. She sees beyond his scars to the person he truly is behind the gruff exterior – someone funny, patient and passionate. In Emma, Ash sees a woman who doesn’t shy away from his scars; a woman who ‘touched him, kissed him, made him feel human and wanted and whole’.

I love the ballroom scene towards the end of the book where Ash makes such a memorable entrance with the words:

 “Yes, I know,” he said impatiently, turning the scarred side of the face to the room. “Faulty rocket at Waterloo. You have precisely three seconds to move past it. One. Two. Right. Now where is my wife?”

Ash’s long-suffering servants are hilarious with their mad-cap plots to throw Emma and Ash together in the hope that they will fall in love.

There is a colourful cast of secondary characters including…

  • Penelope, Nicola and Alexandra, the unusual trio of ladies who befriend Emma and Ash, and are, I’m sure, future heroines of this series.
  • Khan, Ash’s devoted butler, who isn’t afraid to give him a good rollicking…
    “You’re going to lose her. And when you do, you are losing me too. I’ve served your family for thirty years. I’m due a pension, and I’m not enabling this self-pitying codswallop any further. I wish you all happiness living alone and growing old with your twenty cats.”
  • Trevor, the young lad whom Ash meets on his nocturnal sorties around London
  • Last, but not least, Emma’s cat, Breeches

The charming Epilogue is just a delicious topping on this delightful confection.

VERDICT: Tessa Dare continues to captivate me with her heart-warming stories, endearing characters and sparkling humour and I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this series. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Girl Meets Duke series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare

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More Than a Mistress

(Mistress Trilogy, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

An arrogant duke does the unthinkable-he falls in love with his mistress.

She raced onto the green, desperate to stop a duel. In the melee, Jocelyn Dudley, Duke of Tresham, was shot. To his astonishment, Tresham found himself hiring the servant as his nurse. Jane Ingleby was far too bold for her own good. Her blue eyes were the sort a man could drown in-were it not for her impudence. She questioned his every move, breached his secrets, touched his soul. When he offered to set her up in his London town house, love was the last thing on his mind….

Jane tried to pretend it was strictly business, an arrangement she was forced to accept in order to conceal a dangerous secret. Surely there was nothing more perilous than being the lover of such a man. Yet as she got past his devilish facade and saw the noble heart within, she knew the greatest jeopardy of all, a passion that drove her to risk everything on one perfect month with the improper gentleman who thought love was for fools.

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I loved this book! Mary Balogh captivated me from the start with this unusual, intelligently written, emotional and sensual love story. 

When we first meet Jocelyn, he is arrogant, cynical, bad-tempered and domineering and revels in his rakish reputation even when it is undeserved. He treats lesser individuals with disdain including his long-suffering servants.

Joselyn jerked impatiently on the bell rope beside his bed and vented his irritability on his vale, who had not brought his shaving water up.
  ‘I thought you would wish to rest this morning, your grace, ‘he said.
‘You thought! Do I pay you to think, Barnard?’
‘No, your grace,’ his man replied with long-suffering meekness.

Despite the desperate situation she finds herself in, Jane is a strong-willed, clever and independent woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, their verbal sparring providing some delightful dialogue. I love how Jane refuses to be intimidated by Joselyn, even at his most toplofty, and it brought a smile to my face when Jocelyn’s brother, Ferdinand, receives a scolding from Jane regarding the duel, prompting the following observation from Jocelyn…

‘She comes equipped with a mind, you see, Ferdinand,’ Jocelyn explained with studied boredom, ‘with a double-edged tongue attached.’

I love how Ms. Balogh develops the relationship between Jocelyn and Jane and I could feel their attraction and the growing sexual tension as they spend time together during Jocelyn’s convalescence. When Jane discovers Jocelyn playing the piano one night, she sees a sensitive and artistic side he has kept hidden from the world. I felt a subtle change in their relationship when Jocelyn confides in Jane that his father had considered his artistic talent effeminate and had been determined to beat it out of him, and Jocelyn discovers that Jane has a beautiful singing voice. It creates an intimate moment between them leading to their first kiss.

As the end of Jocelyn’s convalescence draws near, Jane does not want to leave any more than Jocelyn wants her to leave. Jocelyn’s solution is to ask her to be his mistress in his typical autocratic way.

‘I am offering you a proposition, a business one, if you wish. You need a home and a source of income beyond what you already have. You need some security and someone to take your mind off your loan state, I daresay. You are a woman with sexual needs, after all, and you are sexually drawn to me. And I need a mistress…’

I like how Jane still gets the last word by stipulating that there would be a contract drawn up between them.

I love how Jane describes the house that Jocelyn provides for her as sleaze and fluff and sets about making the house a home.  The time they spend in Jane’s ‘den’ is my favourite part of the book. Jocelyn sees the den as a haven where they can be themselves; where he can do all those things that he longed to do as a boy. I loved the charming picture Ms. Balogh creates of Jane embroidering and Jocelyn playing the piano and painting in companionable silence. Jocelyn confides his innermost secrets to Jane and I could understand how they had shaped him into the man he became and tainted his life.  Jane sees behind the mask to a vulnerable man in need of friendship, acceptance and love.

I could feel how deeply in love they were but Jane still harbours a secret but, before she can tell Jocelyn the truth, he discovers her real identity. I could understand his anger and sense of betrayal; he had trusted her enough to confide his innermost most self and she had shared nothing of herself but most of all…

She had taken everything from him, even the love of which he had though himself no longer capable.
He hated her for fooling him into hoping that after all life was worth living.

My one criticism is that I found the ending rather confusing, as though something was missing. When I discovered that the editor had suggested that certain scenes be deleted to provide a more effective ending, I bought a copy of Now a Bride, in which Mary Balogh has provided readers with the three missing scenes. I understand the element of surprise the editor was aiming for but, having read the deleted scenes, personally I feel that the book would have benefited from the emotional punch of The Proposal scene where Jocelyn finally expresses his feelings for Jane.

I liked Jocelyn’s sister, Angeline, a veritable whirlwind of chatter, with terrible dress sense and an even worse taste in bonnets and his carefree, charming younger brother, Ferdinand, with his penchant for wagers. I also enjoyed the banter between Jocelyn and his circle of friends.

MY VERDICT: As always, Mary Balogh delivers a beautifully written, emotionally satisfying, character driven romance. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Mistress Trilogy (click on the book covers for more details):

More Than a Mistress (Mistress Trilogy #1) by Mary Balogh No Man's Mistress (Mistress Trilogy #2) by Mary Balogh The Secret Mistress (Mistress Trilogy #3) by Mary Balogh

Now a Bride (Mistress Trilogy #2.5) by Mary Balogh – Contains never-before-published scenes from More than a Mistress and No Man’s Mistress — plus Mary Balogh’s new epilogue for the series.

 

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Pursuing Lord Pascal

(Dashing Widows, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Golden Days… 

Famous for her agricultural innovations, Amy, Lady Mowbray has never had a romantical thought in her life. Well, apart from her short-lived crush on London’s handsomest man, Lord Pascal, when she was a brainless 14-year-old. She even chose her late husband because he owned the best herd of beef cattle in England!

But fate steps in and waltzes this practical widow out of her rustic retreat into the glamour of the London season. When Pascal pursues her, all her adolescent fantasies come true. And those fantasies turn disturbingly adult when grown-up desire enters the equation. Amy plunges headlong into a reckless affair that promises pleasure beyond her wildest dreams – until she discovers that this glittering world hides damaging secrets and painful revelations set to break a country girl’s tender heart.

All that glitters… 

Gervaise Dacre, Lord Pascal needs to marry money to rescue his estate, devastated after a violent storm. He’s never much liked his reputation as London’s handsomest man, but it certainly comes in handy when the time arrives to seek a rich bride. Unfortunately, the current crop of debutantes bores him silly, and he finds himself praying for a sensible woman with a generous dowry.

When he meets Dashing Widow Amy Mowbray, it seems all his prayers have been answered. But his mercenary quest becomes dangerously complicated when he finds himself in thrall to the lovely widow. Soon he’s much more interested in passion than in pounds, shillings and pence. What happens if Amy discovers the sordid truth behind his whirlwind courtship? And if she does, will she see beyond his original, selfish motives to the ardent love that lies unspoken in his sinful heart?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Anna Campbell continues her delightful Dashing Widows series with three more young, widowed friends – Amy, Lady Mowbray, Sally Cowan, Countess of Norwood and Morwenna Nash – who decide they need a little adventure in their lonely lives and this is Amy’s story.

Ever since she was a girl, Amy had been interested in the scientific farming, publishing her first article on animal husbandry when she was not much more than sixteen.  At the age of eighteen, her prime reason for choosing to marry her neighbour, Sir Wilfred Mowbray, forty years her senior, was the chance to be involved in his farming experiments. Although her husband’s infrequent attentions were not onerous, there was never any passion in her marriage and Amy thought of him as more of a friend and mentor than a husband. Since her husband’s death five years ago, Amy has been content to run the estate and continue writing her articles on new farming methods. She had never considered herself beautiful or been in love, but as a graceless fourteen-year-old, Amy had suffered an adolescent crush on Lord Pascal, considered the handsomest man in London.

When the story opens, Amy is in Leicestershire at the home of her brother, Silas and his wife, Caroline (The Seduction of Lord Stone), for the christening of their fourth child. It is there that a reluctant Amy, her sister-in-law, Morwenna, and Morwenna’s friend, Sally, decide to follow in the footsteps of the original Dashing Widows and head off to London.

“Then I hereby declare the return of the Dashing Widows. Watch out, London. We’re on our way.”

While attending a ball one evening, Amy finds herself face to face with none other than the man of her adolescent fantasies, Lord Pascal. When he shows a definite interest in her, Amy, aware of his reputation, is distrustful and wants to get to know him first before making any rash decisions and therefore insists that he courts her.

A storm has left Gervaise’s estate in ruins and he needs cash urgently for repairs. Hence, he is in London to find a wealthy wife. At a ball one evening, he despairs of ever finding an alternative to the pretty, empty headed heiresses he is forced to dance with; that is until he spots a certain lady across the ballroom.

How could he concentrate on half-baked girls when that luscious banquet of a woman wandered into sight?

He discovers the beguiling lady is widowed Lady Amy Mowbray who is not only wealthy but also intelligent and funny, attributes he finds very appealing. He is determined to pursue her but Amy isn’t about to fall at his feet and, for once in his life, Gervaise will have to work hard if he wants to win this lady’s heart.

Amy and Gervaise are such likeable characters and watching their romance unfold was delightful. I cheered Amy for not having her head turned by his handsome face and obvious charm, and wanting a proper courtship to get to know him better before risking her reputation. For a man who is used to having any woman he wants, this is a new and intriguing experience for Gervaise.

I like how the courtship not only heightens the sexual tension but also acts as a catalyst for a growing sense of trust and intimacy between them; enough to share things they have never shared with anyone else. Gervaise reveals the pain of his bleak and loveless childhood and Amy starts to see the real man beneath the handsome face. Amy reveals intimate details of her marriage and Gervaise realises that Amy has never known desire or passion in her marriage, something he is determined she will experience in his arms.

I love a story where the hero pursues a reluctant heroine, but there were times when I felt sorry for Gervaise. At the age of thirty, he has finally met a woman he really cares for who doesn’t seem to want him. But “faint heart never won fair lady” and he is willing to do anything to please Amy and I especially love the thoughtful but unusual gift he gives her.

Despite her apprehensions, Amy is not immune to Gervaise. She sees how caring and considerate he is and how cherished he makes her feel and I cheered her on when she decides that she wants a taste of the passion she has always been denied. Ms. Campbell always succeeds in writing love scenes that emotional, tender and sensual.

“I want to please you.”
“You do.” He ran his hand down her arm, delighting in her silky skin, and laced his fingers with hers. “You will.”
Her fingers twined around his with a swift trust that made his heart somersault. Pascal leaned in and placed his lips on hers, leashing his ravenous passion.
   She responded with the sweetness so essential to her nature. Under his gentle exploration, she sighed, and the tension gradually seeped from her body. Taking exquisite care, he began to touch her, finding the places that made her tremble.

However, some overheard gossip seems set to destroy their new-found happiness but Amy is mature enough to listen to what Gervaise has to say and consider everything she has learnt about him, before making a decision. Bravo to Ms. Campbell. How refreshing to find a heroine who doesn’t storm out as so many other heroines would have done.

I enjoyed the witty dialogue between Gervaise and Amy:

“I can’t think when you kiss me.”
  He liked the sound of that even better. He smiled smugly. “Then clearly kisses must be allowed.” She cast him a repressive glance.
“Clearly they mustn’t.” He closed his eyes and groaned.
“You’re going to kill me.”
“That would be a pity when you’re so spectacular to look at. Every lady in London will weep at your funeral.”

and the lovely touches of humour too:

 “Who knows?” Morwenna sent Amy a sly glance. “Perhaps you’ll find Lord Pascal more entertaining than a field full of fat Herefords.” 
“He’s definitely prettier than a Hereford,” Sally said.
“Sally, you have no idea how beautiful a fine cow can be,” Amy said with perfect sincerity.
Morwenna threw up her hands. “Amy, you’re utterly hopeless.”

We learn some interesting facts about the other Dashing Widows, Sally and Morwenna, which provide intriguing teasers for their own books. I am also curious to know what mischief Sally’s niece, Meg, is up to.

This novella can be read as a standalone but it would be a pity to miss the other novellas in this series.

MY VERDICT: Another charming novella to add to this delightfully entertaining series which I can definitely recommend.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Dashing Widows series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Seduction of Lord Stone (Dashing Widows, #1) by Anna Campbell Tempting Mr. Townsend (Dashing Widows, #2) by Anna Campbell Tempting Mr. Townsend (Dashing Widows, #2) by Anna Campbell Pursuing Lord Pascal (Dashing Widows, #4) by Anna Campbell Charming Sir Charles (Dashing Widows, #5) by Anna Campbell Catching Captain Nash (Dashing Widows, #6) by Anna Campbell

 

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

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Someone to Love

(Westcott, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had…

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

SOMEONE TO LOVE, the first book in Mary Balogh’s new eight book Westcott series, is a charming, character-driven romance, written with her usual warmth, humour and emotion.

Anna is such an engaging heroine. I love the quiet, inner strength she demonstrates when first meeting her family and the calm, dignified way in which handles herself despite the hostile reactions. My heart ached for Anna because her dearest wish has always been to discover her rightful family and become a part of it, only to find that they hate her.

It’s understandable that she decides to stay and explore her new life as Lady Anastasia Wescott but I also admire her determination not to lose a sense of who she really is.

I must remain, I have decided, and learn who Lady Anastasia Wescott is and what her life would be if she had not been turned into Anna Snow at the age of four and left there at the orphanage. I must decide how much of her I can become without losing Anna Snow in the process. It may be conceited of me, but I am rather fond of Anna Snow.
(from a letter to Miss Ford, the matron of the orphanage.)

I like how she stands up for herself, refusing to let the ladies of the family manage her life or shape her into a perfectly polished lady.

I love her kindness and generosity which is evident in the way she provides employment to some of the orphans and her determination to share her fortune with her half-siblings.

Avery is certainly not your typical hero. Instead of tall, dark, handsome and muscular, he is short, slim and graceful (I pictured him with a Fred Astaire like physic) with beautiful angelic looks. His gold-handled quizzing glass at the ready, he appears the epitome of a bored, languid, haughty aristocrat.

…the Duke of Netherby rarely made the effort to do what was inessential or what was not conducive to his personal comfort.

However, he exudes an unexplainable aura of power and danger, commanding attention whenever he enters a room and the story of how he acquired such incredible self-possession adds an intriguing layer to Avery’s character.

I love how Ms. Balogh builds their relationship, gradually moving from attraction to friendship to a genuine loving relationship…one I believed in. When Avery first sees Anna, she’s quite unappealing in her drab clothes and severe hairstyle, but there is something about her that intrigues him. Most people are intimidated when they first meet him but Anna stands her ground and Avery admires her quiet dignity. He frequently utters the most absurd things but Anna is the only one who has ever had the audacity to call him absurd. At first, Anna doesn’t know what to think of Avery; she is both attracted and repelled by him, but the more time they spend together, she realises that there is more to Avery than he allows the world to see. Watching these two finding common ground, falling in love and marrying was such a joy. Ms. Balogh enhanced my pleasure with witty dialogue and a sensual, emotional and tender love scene.

The scenes when they visit and spend time with Anna’s grandparents after their marriage reveal so much about Avery. He is more at home in the country and I loved seeing a relaxed Avery who treats Anna’s grandparents with such warmth and respect.

I like how Ms. Balogh realistically highlights the difficulties facing the couple as they adjust to married life, after the glow of the honeymoon period has worn off. Both Avery and Anna want to recapture the wonder of those three weeks but Avery realises that he has to reveal his real self to Anna despite his fears and insecurities.

You will not remain on the surface of my life, will you, Anna Archer? You will not be content to bring me comfort and delight, though there has not been much of either, has there, since we returned to London. Is it because this question has needed asking and answering? Is it because you will not be content until you have seen to the very core of me? And perhaps because I will not be content until I have allowed you there?”

This scene is moving and beautifully written and seeing Avery so vulnerable really touched my heart. Both discover that they have always been searching for the same thing – someone to love – and have found that someone in each other.

“My duchess.”
“My love.”
Dreamy blue eyes gazed down into hers for a moment. “My love?”
“My love,” she repeated. “Of course. Did you not know? Oh, Avery, did you not know?”

♥♥♥

“You can be and may be and already are, Anna. My someone to love. My everything.”

As this is the first book in the series, there are a lot of family members introduced in quick succession and it was a difficult to keep a track of who is who (see note 1). The good thing is that many of these wonderful secondary characters will get their own books and therefore I’m not complaining.

MY VERDICT: This is a fabulous start to the new series. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Note 1 – The published version of the book has a family tree at the front.

 

Westcott series to date (click on the book covers for more details):

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1) by Mary Balogh Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2) by Mary Balogh Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh

 

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. **

 

 

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