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Posts Tagged ‘Regency Era’


(Love by Numbers, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1813 and 1823)

Cover Blurb:

A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen’s club.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried – and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she’s vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she’s been missing.

But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss – to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St John, the Marquess of Ralston – charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.
If she’s not careful, she’ll break the most important rule of all – the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love . . .

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I’m not sure why I have waited so long to read Sarah MacLean’s debut novel because friends have constantly recommended it to me. Well, I’ve finally read it and I absolutely LOVED it! Ms MacLean brings something refreshing to the much used “rake falls for wallflower” trope and I was impressed by her writing and the way she brings her characters to life and makes me really care about them.

I adore Lady Calpurnia “Callie” Hartwell because she is someone I can relate to. Instead of drop dead gorgeous like so many heroines, she is a plain, slightly plump, lace-cap-wearing, 28-year-old spinster with a pristine reputation and the same insecurities I’m sure many of us can share. She is also such a lovable person…intelligent, kind-hearted and funny. My heart went out to Callie when she realises just how boring, staid and uninteresting her life has become and I desperately wanted her to do all those things on her list; to become bold and adventurous and experience life to the full. She deserves it.

Gabriel is charming, devastatingly handsome and one of the most notorious rakes in London but he also has a strong sense of family. It is evident in his love for his twin brother Nicholas and his determination that his illegitimate half-sister Juliana should be accepted by society. I could also understand how the scandalous and painful events of his past have coloured his views on love.

Gabriel and Callie are such a wonderful couple with great chemistry and I loved every moment spent with them – their sparkling dialogue; their first kiss which has an unexpected effect on Gabriel; the amusing whisky drinking episode in the tavern which leaves Callie slightly tiddly; the fencing match resulting in some heated moments; the gambling with the ultimate forfeit; the duel that doesn’t quite go to plan.

They are both on a journey of self-discovery. Gabriel believes himself incapable of love but Callie slowly but surely steals his heart.

“I love you. I love your extravagant name and your beautiful face and your brilliant mind and your ridiculous list and your taste for adventure, which I imagine is very likely going to be the actual cause of my death.”

Callie has always believed she is plain but I love Gabriel for showing her that she is beautiful in all the ways that count.

“Hear me well. I cannot begin to list all the things about you that are beautiful—a man could lose himself in your eyes; in your lovely, full lips; in your silken hair; in your soft, luscious curves; in your creamy, perfect skin and the way you blush and turn it the color of an exquisite, ripe peach. And that’s without considering your warmth, your intelligence, your humor, and the way I am utterly drawn to you when you enter a room.”

Among the secondary characters, I was particularly intrigued by Nicholas, Gabriel’s twin brother, an antiquity expert, and Juliana, their illegitimate half-sister, who is a real firebrand and I’m keen to read their stories.

MY VERDICT: This is an utterly delightful novel and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Highly recommended!


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read July 2016


Love by Numbers series (click on the book covers for more details):

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1) by Sarah MacLean Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers, #2) by Sarah MacLean Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart (Love By Numbers, #3) by Sarah MacLean

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(Lords of Anarchy, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

LOVE IS ALWAYS A WILD RIDE.

A writer for the Ladies Gazette, Miss Ophelia Dauntry’s passion is her pen. So when she sees a fellow writer kidnapped before her eyes—and the trail of evidence leads to the Lords of Anarchy—Ophelia vows to find her friend and take down the notorious London driving club in her column. But before she can argue her case, she needs the inside scoop from its newest leader: Piers Hamilton, the Duke of Trent.

Headstrong, handsome Trent joined the Lords of Anarchy after a decade in the British Army. He’s made it his business to tame the misbehavior within the driving club—and the infuriatingly attractive Ophelia is only getting in his way. The deeper she digs into the case, the more she puts her own life at risk. Can Trent convince Ophelia to trust him to seek justice…and find protection, and passion, in his arms?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

GOOD DUKES WEAR BLACK is the final book the Lords of Anarchy series and, once again, Manda Collins writes an engaging mix of romance and mystery.

Trent is definitely a hero to fall in love with…strong, honourable and kind. His determination to restore the reputation of the infamous Lords of Anarchy club and help Ophelia find her friend is admirable too. I love how protective he is towards Ophelia when he tends her injuries; how he recognises her quiet loveliness when others don’t; how he expresses faith in her ability to fulfill her duties as duchess when she has doubts; how he encourages her to be open and honest with him; how he respects her enough to wait until their wedding night.

Ophelia is a likeable heroine…independent and stubborn. She doggedly refuses to agree to a passionless marriage even though her mother is determined to marry her off to her best friend’s dull son. She is also loyal and caring as seen in her deep concern for her friend, and her determined efforts to find Maggie. I like that she is wise enough to seek the duke’s help and take her two friends along when she goes to visit the orphanage, unlike some heroines who foolishly run headlong into danger. I also love her boldness and ingenuity when she finds herself in the villain’s clutches.

I enjoyed the slow build-up of the romance between Trent and Ophelia, played out against the unraveling of the mystery surrounding Ophelia’s friend’s disappearance. I also like that a genuine friendship exists alongside the growing physical attraction. It gives their relationship more depth. Trent is certainly every lady’s dream lover but I also enjoyed Ophelia’s boldness in the bedroom.

There is some delightful wit and humour in the story too. I love how Trent’s friends, Freddy and Mainwaring, are constantly ribbing him and, this is one of my favourite exchanges.

I think you’ll make a splendid father when the time comes,” Mainwaring said, turning his quizzing glass from Freddy to Trent. “Quite masterful. But sensitive too.”
“Yes,” Freddy agreed. “Like the sort of father one wouldn’t be afraid to tell about a tipple into his brandy.”

“Or a kiss behind the rosebushes,” Mainwaring added.

“Or losing the cricket match for the whole team.” Freddy agreed.

“You are both quite mad,” Trent said, shaking his head at them. “You know this do you not?”

I also enjoyed the scene where Trent adopts a display of ducal arrogance, complete with quizzing glass, when he questions Doctor Gideon.

I adore Ophelia’s father for standing up for her and loving her just the way she is. Ophelia accepts that her mother loves her but that love seems conditional on Ophelia being compliant to her mother’s wishes.

There are a number of red herrings and the mystery kept me guessing right up to the point where the villain is revealed…a nasty piece of work he is too.

MY VERDICT: A satisfying end to what has been an enjoyable series.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read June 2016

 

Lords of Anarchy series (click on the book cover for more details):

A Good Rake is Hard to Find (Lords of Anarchy, #1) by Manda Collins Good Earl Gone Bad (Lords of Anarchy, #2) by Manda Collins Good Dukes Wear Black (Lords of Anarchy, #3) by Manda Collins

 

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

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Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Two forbidden relationships…one house party to remember!

THE OFFICER’S TEMPTATION by Marguerite Kaye

Colonel Fergus Kennedy must make a suitable match at the Midsummer Ball. But when this officer encounters sultry acrobat Katerina Vengarov, he finds himself torn between duty…and heart-stopping, irresistible passion!

THE DEBUTANTE’S AWAKENING by Bronwyn Scott

Kael Gage is the last person at the Midsummer Ball Miss Zara Titus should speak to—and anything more is definitely off-limits! But the notorious rake seems determined to awaken this innocent debutante’s every desire…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Marguerite Kaye is one of my favourite authors whose books never disappoint while Bronwyn Scott is a new-to-me author, but I enjoyed her engaging writing style and definitely intend reading more of her books.

Both stories are set against the backdrop of the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore’s Midsummer Party. It is well known that this is a matchmaking event where the hosts orchestrate the most illustrious marriages. Guests attending understand the rules and are expected to marry according to the duke’s dictates. The marriages come with powerful sweeteners…

The Duke could make a man’s career. He could establish a woman in a life of wealth and comfort, position her to become one of London’s leading hostesses.

However, two guests are about to flout the rules.

 

REVIEW OF THE OFFICER’S TEMPTATION BY MARGUERITE KAYE

After recovering from an injury sustained at the Battle of Waterloo, Colonel Fergus Kennedy is anxious to resume active service. Instead, he finds himself stuck behind a desk at the War Office engaged in boring and tedious administrative duties, with all his requests for a transfer to active service turned down. Wellington’s vague promises that as soon as the right appointment came along it would be Fergus’s have come to nothing. So he is overjoyed when Wellington offers him a prime diplomatic position in Egypt but it comes with a condition. Fergus must be married and Wellington has the perfect bride in mind…the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore’s niece, Lady Verity Fairholme. Although Fergus hates being so manipulated, he hates the boredom of his current job even more. However, discouraged by Lady Verity’s icy demeanour, he finds himself drawn to the fascinating acrobat, Katerina Vengarov, and is less and less inclined to bend to Wellington’s will.

The Duke of Brockmore has hired famous Russian brother and sister acrobatic act, The Flying Vengarovs, to entertain his guests. Katerina and her brother, Alexandr, are proud of their heritage and are considered the aristocrats of the acrobatic world, but to polite society they are regarded as little more than gypsies. They lead a lonely, itinerant life and, while her brother is happy to find comfort in the arms of different women along the way, Katerina longs for something more meaningful and lasting. She has avoided men for the past two years after being badly hurt and humiliated by a man she believed loved her. However, when she meets Fergus Kennedy, he seems different to all the other men she has met.

Even within the limitations of a novella, I feel that Ms Kaye develops a believable romance between Fergus and Katerina. From the moment they first meet (quite an unusual meeting and I could certainly understand why Fergus was intrigued by her), the way they talk and share confidences seems so natural and I could feel a real affinity between them.

There are some lovely moments which create a real sense of intimacy. My favourite is the scene where Fergus discovers Katerina asleep in the centre of the maze which leads to their first kiss.

Both have a taste for danger, Fergus as a fighting soldier and Katerina as an acrobat, and I like how Ms Kaye draws a comparison that in each of their worlds…

…every decision mattered, that every move could mean the difference between life and death. The difference between balancing on the rope and falling.

Katerina comes to trust Fergus enough to tell him about her past affaire and I love how he thinks no less of her for what happened. He sees her as a survivor and a brave woman. In turn, Katerina opens Fergus’s eyes to the fact that Wellington needs him more than he needs Wellington, encouraging Fergus to “fly free” and take control of his own destiny. I love how Fergus refuses to back down in his confrontation with Wellington.

Getting to his feet, Wellington shook his hand reluctantly. ‘This is madness, Kennedy. What the devil are you going to do without my patronage?’
‘Stand on my own two feet,’ Fergus said. ‘You never know, I might even learn to fly.’

There are a few moments when a Happy Ending seems in the balance but love will always find a way and I thought the story had a delightful ending.

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

REVIEW OF THE DEBUTANTE’S AWAKENING BY BRONWYN SCOTT

After Viscount Haymore breaks off their long-standing betrothal, Zara Titus finds that her ideas of who she is and what she wants from life change. She has survived all the speculation and relishes her new found freedom. Now she is determined to take control of her future and experience some of life’s pleasures. Her mother, Vicountess Aberforth, sees attending the Duke and Duchesse’s Midsummer Ball as essential to prove to society that her daughter was not jilted; that in fact it had been a mutual decision. Perhaps the perfect opportunity to find another husband too, but Zara has very different ideas. So when she notices a man boldly watching her from across the room and the Duke of Brockmore informs her that he is someone no lady should associate with, her interest is immediately piqued.

Kael Gage is the impoverished grandson of an earl with no prospects and only his good looks and a small horse breeding farm in Sussex to commend him. Since the age of eighteen, he’s learnt that the fine debutantes of the ton might flirt with a man like him, but they’d never marry him. Living on the fringes of society, he has a reputation for fraternising with, seducing and bedding opera singers, actresses and ladies of the demi-monde. An indiscretion with the wrong lady has forced him to flee London to escape her angry brother, and he has gratefully accepted a friend’s invitation to be his guest at the Midsummer Ball. The ball suddenly becomes more interesting than he anticipated when a striking lady, he has been eyeing across the room, initiates a subtle flirtation with a flick of her fan.Kael is drawn to Zara’s beauty and spirit and can’t resist the lure of awakening her sexually while Zara finds Kael outrageous and exciting but is still held back by the dictates of convention.

His touch roused her, the audacity of his words excited her, and yet she could not simply embrace that excitement with abandon. There would be consequences. Was she ready for them?

However, she finds it hard to resist Kael’s seductive ways…

‘I think such plain speaking excites you. I think I excite you.’ His eyes lingered on the mouth he’d traced, his words a whispered murmured before his mouth covered hers. ‘And you, Zara, excite me.’

At first, it a purely physical relationship with some steamy interludes as Kael introduces Zara to the pleasures of the flesh, but gradually it becomes more. I enjoyed watching the relationship grow and change. I love the scene where they go skinny dipping and have a mudslinging match because I feel it is the point at which there are subtle changes in their relationship. They open up to each other and discover that they have much in common. Both have suffered the pain of rejection and both hide their vulnerability behind a façade of confidence.

The course of true love never runs smoothly and Kael and Zara have to face various obstacles before they finally find true happiness. I love how Kael is willing risk baring his soul to convince Zara that he loves her and wants to marry her.

You make me want to be different, not just a man who loves and leaves, but a man who can invest in a relationship in all ways.’ He hadn’t been that man for a long time, if ever. ‘When I’m with you, I feel like I’m worth something. I want to feel that always, so I’m asking you to marry me, Zara Titus. To be my lady for ever, publicly, not just in the night.’

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I enjoyed how the two stories are cleverly intertwined with the same characters appearing in both and the same events being seen from different perspectives. Some of the secondary characters are intriguing enough to deserve their own stories; the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore, obviously still very much in love after so many years despite the heart-break of being childless (I love their Epilogue); the mysterious and flamboyant Sir Timothy Farthingale and Lady Verity Fairholme who hides a kind heart beneath her icy exterior.

 

MY VERDICT: Two well-written, entertaining and romantic stories which are perfect reading for a summer’s evening.

 

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

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(Dashing Widows, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

All rakes are the same! Except when they’re not…

Spirited Helena, Countess of Crewe, knows all about profligate rakes; she was married to one for nine years and still bears the scars. Now this Dashing Widow plans a life of glorious freedom where she does just what she wishes – and nobody will ever hurt her again. So what is she to do when that handsome scoundrel Lord West sets out to make her his wife? Say no, of course. Which is fine, until West focuses all his sensual skills on changing her mind. And West’s sensual skills are renowned far and wide as utterly irresistible…

Passionate persuasion!

Vernon Grange, Lord West, has long been estranged from his headstrong first love, Helena Nash, but he’s always regretted that he didn’t step in to prevent her disastrous marriage. Now Helena is free, and this time, come hell or high water, West won’t let her escape him again. His weapon of choice is seduction, and in this particular game, he’s an acknowledged master. Now that he and Helena are under one roof at the year’s most glamorous house party, he intends to counter her every argument with breathtaking pleasure. Could it be that Lady Crewe’s dashing days are numbered?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

“…why don’t we all leave our old, sad days behind? Why don’t we all become dashing widows?”

Anna Campbell’s charming Dashing Widows series features three, young, widowed friends – Caroline, Lady Beaumont, Fenella, Lady Deerham and Helena, Countess of Crewe – who decide they need a little adventure in their lives and this is Helena’s story.

I like how the novella is divided into three parts – The Challenge, Letters and The Wooing – each representing a stage in the developing romance between Helena and West.


The Challenge

To persuade Helena that he truly loves her and that he is nothing like her late degenerate rake of a husband – this is the challenge facing West. Not an easy task since he is the last person Helena would ever consider marrying!

Long ago she’d placed Vernon Grange in a box marked “hazardous.” And that was where she wanted him to stay.

As young sweethearts, Helena had imagined herself in love with West, until he went off to Oxford and promptly forgot her.

On a trip to visit his friend Silas, Helena’s brother, West brings an old school chum, Lord Crewe, whom Helena falls for and marries. But she soon discovers that her husband is a self-centred, deceitful rake and her nine miserable years of marriage leave her emotionally scarred. Helena blames her years of unhappiness on West for introducing her to Lord Crewe.

Helen sees West as another philandering rake just like her late husband.

I have lot of sympathy for Helena. West was her first love and it hurt when he went away without any explanation. I think she unfairly blamed him for all the years of unhappiness because she was unwilling to admit that she had been foolish and naive enough to be taken in by a blackguard’s wiles.

To be fair to West, at eighteen, he knew he was too young to commit to Helena and needed time to see the world and when he finally realised that Helena was the woman for him, it was too late. He has regretted it ever since, especially knowing just what Helena’s life with Crewe was like.

Before he can put his plans to win Helena over into action, he is sent on a diplomatic mission to Russia.


Letters

I LOVE the letters that West and Helena exchange while he is in Russia. They are hilariously funny! Here  are a couple of snippets:

…I also wish you were here because I find myself missing you and all your prickles. I’ll think of you as my dear little hedgehog. There, does that not melt your heart?
Tomorrow the ambassador presents me to his Imperial Majesty, the Tsar. I’m sure you’ll want to hear about that, so I hope you won’t tear up the letter the moment arrives.

With my dearest wishes.
West

My lord,
Kindly desist from writing to me. As I consign any correspondence from you to the drawing room fire, all you’re doing is supplying me with exotic kindling. Your activities are of no interest and I’d prefer that we returned to being polite strangers. That relationship has served us well since we both grew up. At least I grew up. Nothing I’ve seen indicates that you have.

Not yours.
Helena, Lady Crewe


The Wooing

Having returned from Russia, West and Helena are thrown together when they both attend Silas’s wedding to Caroline. It’s the perfect opportunity for West to woo Helena in earnest and I love the to and fro between them.

By God, she was a delight. Despite his maneuvering, she wasn’t near defeated. The dance would go on, and if he didn’t concentrate on every step, he’d stumble in a heap.

I adore West. He cares so much for Helena and wants to cherish and protect her and would give his right arm to see her experience real happiness, something she hasn’t known for such a long time. There is a very emotional scene where Helena reveals much about the physical side of her marriage and West’s reactions and words make her realise how much she has misjudged him; he is not at all like her husband. She decides that, although she has no intention of marrying, she wants to experience the sexual pleasure denied to her during her marriage and West is more than willing to oblige. At first, she’s afraid but comes to the realisation that she’s safe with hum. I loved seeing a bolder, more confident Helena testing her wiles on West and I enjoyed their delightful repartee. Ms Campbell always writes love scenes that are both emotional and sensual.

Helena’s continued refusal to consider marriage puts their happy ever after in jeopardy and it takes a life threatening situation to make her see how much West means to her.

But only now, when she battled alone against this enemy, did she understand that she might lose him.
Suddenly that seemed the worst blow fate could deal her. Crueler by far than an unhappy marriage. How precious he was. How precious he’d always been.

Just when I thought everything in the garden was rosy, Ms Campbell puts another stumbling block in their path but, as with all good romances, everything is resolved in a most satisfactory way with the added pleasure of reading a very enjoyable Epilogue.

I was pleased to see that there are to be further books in this series.

MY VERDICT: An absolutely delightful novella and definitely my favourite in the series so far.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read May 2016


Dashing Widows series so far (click on 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
Winning Lord West (Dashing Widows #3) by Anna Campbell

 

**My sincere thanks to Anna Campbell for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.**

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(Jewels of the Ton, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Her Mysterious Past is the Best Revenge…
Fallon, the Marchioness of Mystery, is a celebrated courtesan with her finger on the pulse of high society. She’s adored by men, hated by their wives. No one knows anything about her past, and she plans to keep it that way.

Only He Can Offer Her a Dazzling Future…
Warrick Fitzhugh will do anything to protect his compatriots in the Foreign Office, including seduce Fallon, who he thinks can lead him to the deadliest crime lord in London.

He knows he’s putting his life on the line…
To Warrick’s shock, Fallon is not who he thinks she is, and the secrets she’s keeping are exactly what makes her his heart’s desire.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

The second book in Shana Galen’s Jewels of the Ton series is a fast-paced and entertaining blend of intrigue, action and a sensual romance.

This is Fallon, a beautiful, much sought after courtesan. Rumours abound about her true identity, so much so that she is dubbed the Marchioness of Mystery.

This is Warrick Fitzhugh, ex-spy for the Home Office, determined to track down the traitor who is threatening the lives of his fellow Diamonds in the Rough, spies who had provided the information Wellington had needed to win at Waterloo.

and when their worlds collide…danger, intrigue and a passion neither expects are bound to follow!

I love Fallon because, despite her diminutive stature, she is a formidable lady, more than able to take care of herself in a sticky situation. She’s a strong minded and independent woman but also vulnerable because of fears that her true identity may one day be discovered. Born in the slums of London, the daughter of a pickpocket and a whore, she knows should this become known the life she has built for herself will be destroyed.

She did not take any of this for granted. It could all be taken away from her with the snap of a finger if anyone ever found out who she really was.

Warrick is the third son of the Earl of Winthorpe but his father had disowned him when he chose to become a spy. His father also blames him for the death of his younger son, Edward, who followed Warrick into the military. I admire Warrick for being a man of principle and seeing that the job he was doing was far more important than his father’s opinion of him.

Warrick couldn’t regret his decision to become a spy, even if it meant his father was ashamed of him. Some things were more important than the Earl of Winthorpe’s approval, though his father doubtlessly disagreed.

I also understand his desire to reconcile with his father and be part of a family again.

Warrick didn’t emerge unscathed from the war. He experiences terrifyingly realistic flashbacks to the battlefield and Ms Galen’s descriptions are so vivid that I felt as if I was there with Warrick experiencing all his feelings of guilt and revulsion.

As they are both strong-minded and stubborn, you know sparks will fly when they first meet and I love the scene where Fallon unexpectedly discovers Warrick in her bed. Of course, he knows all her secrets and is confident that he can use the threat of disclosure to force her to help him. What he doesn’t expect is to be completely outmanoeuvred!

She put a hand on her hip. “And I suppose if I do not give you what you want then you will reveal my secret.”
“It’s called blackmail, and yes, that is generally how it works. Now that we both know the rules…” “Oh, I make the rules, Mr. Fitzhugh.” She sidled closer to the bed. “After all, we are in my bedchamber.”
“I…” He trailed off when she dropped her shawl on the floor beside the bed and, lifting her skirts, crawled onto her satin coverlet.”
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Courtesan rule number one,” she whispered, crawling toward him. “Don’t talk.”
His arms dropped from behind his head and he sat forward, looking rather alarmed.

I love a story where the hero is the besotted one and the heroine is the reluctant one. Warrick is determined to marry Fallon but she feels unworthy of him. At heart, she knows she is living a lie and will always be a street rat.…too soiled, too undeserving…but Warrick sees who she truly is and helps her recognise her self-worth.

“When I look at you, I see a woman who is beautiful, brave, and resourceful. I see a woman who’s not afraid to fight. I see a woman who has more strength and resilience than ten of her so-called betters.

In turn, Fallon is the anchor Warrick needs to help him forget the horrors of war.

There is plenty of exciting action as Warrick and Fallon follow the trail which they hope will lead to the identity of the traitor. This forces them to work together thus creating delicious sexual tension culminating in some steamy love scenes.

My one criticism is that I found the ending very abrupt. It was obviously a case of setting up Lily’s story but I wanted to see more of Warrick and Fallon together. That said, I am looking forward to reading Lily’s book, Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend.

MY VERDICT: If you are looking for an entertaining romance with intrigue and action, then you will definitely enjoy this.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read April 2016


Jewels of the Ton series (click on the book covers for more details):

When You Give a Duke a Diamond (Jewels of the Ton, #1) by Shana Galen If You Give a Rake a Ruby (Jewels of the Ton, #2) by Shana Galen Sapphires Are an Earl's Best Friend (Jewels of the Ton, #3) by Shana Galen

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(The Dukes’ Club, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A Lady Who Vows Never to Wed:

Lady Allegra Portmund knows the cost of marriage. After the death of her dearest and only sister, Allegra swears she will never suffer the same fate. She will not become a possession shaped and destroyed by a husband. So, when her parents insist she marry the man of their choosing, there is only one thing for Allegra to do. Run. But when she runs, determined to be free, she meets the Duke of Roth, a singular man who sees her unique and vital spirit. Now that her heart is awakened to the most dangerous longings for love, how will she resist the temptation to break her vow?

A Duke Ruled by Honor:

Nicholas Andrew Edward Forth, Duke of Roth, values family above everything else. Despite his wild reputation, having lost both of his parents when he was a child, his most secret wish is to have a family again. When he meets a young lady in disguise, Nicholas quickly realizes that she is unlike any woman he’s ever met and is also the only woman for him. But when he discovers how quickly she has abandoned her own family, he doubts whether she is the exceptional woman he believed her to be. Now, that he knows the truth about Allegra’s past, will his own sense of honor destroy his only chance at happiness?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the third book in Eva Devon’s entertaining The Dukes’ Club series and, once again, I enjoyed her engaging writing, lively characterisation and great dialogue.

Growing up, Lady Allegra Penthurst and her older sister, Juliana, are fully aware of Society’s expectations that they should marry well. They become accomplished in singing, dancing and playing the piano. However, they are somewhat unconventional because…

they also raced horses, read too many books, and had decided views on slavery and the rights of man.

Allegra is initially jealous when Juliana marries but, as she watches her once spirited sister slowly crushed beneath the conventionality of marriage to a man who considers a woman’s role to be bearing children and running a household, Allegra resolves that marriage is not for her. It’s a decision only strengthened when her sister dies in childbirth while her husband is at his club. She vows then that she will never succumb to her sister’s fate. Three years later, when her parents insist she marry or be forced to spend the rest of her days at the secluded family estate in the far north of England, she takes the only course of action open to her and runs away. Disguising herself as a young lad, she finds employment as a stable boy on the Duke of Roth’s estate in the Devonshire countryside. But under the ever watchful eyes of the duke, how long will it be before her secret in uncovered?

I could understand how seeing what happened to her sister would colour Allegra’s views on marriage and instill in her a desire to be herself and live unfettered by Society’s expectations. She is intelligent, bold and stubborn with a love of horses and talking politics but her parents are self-serving, not caring at all for their daughter’s wishes, only what advantages a good marriage could confer on them.

Nicholas Forth, The Duke of Roth, only wishes his loving parents were still alive. He had lost them both in a terrible carriage accident when he was just a boy. They were his anchor in a world of uncertainty and, since their death, he has always felt adrift and alone. He has built an impenetrable wall around himself, never letting anyone touch him emotionally. He longs for the security he felt as a boy and has even contemplated marriage but has no desire for a typical ton marriage; he wants the sort of love his parents had shared. However, his life is about to take an unexpected turn when he meets the rather perplexing new stable boy.

Of course, Nicholas sees right through Allegra’s disguise but chooses to have a little fun first before admitting he knows the truth. This leads to some amusing situations which had me smiling.

“Alfred?” he said.
“Your Grace?” came her muffled reply, nearly bent halfway into the chest.
“What the Devil are you doing?” he drawled.
An impatient and audible sigh came from the trunk. “Looking for your smalls.”
“I don’t wear them.”

I enjoyed the steady development of the romance. At first, Allegra finds Nicholas arrogant, but fascinating and compelling but gradually she discovers he is kind, honourable and protective of those he cares for. Nicholas is totally disarmed by Allegra and finds he likes her and I enjoyed seeing the walls Nicholas has erected gradually crumbling as he falls under her spell. When they finally make love, it just seems right and I love Allegra’s boldness.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to transpire. He had no idea why, but he’d assumed she would be nervous and need him to ease her fears. Instead, she was beckoning him to bed.
He loved it. God, how he loved it.

Of course, Allegra’s actions have consequences. When Nicholas discovers that she ran away without telling her parents, he is furious and says some pretty hurtful things. In his eyes, what she did to her parents is unforgivable but, of course, his view is coloured by the loss of his own loving parents.

“I would give anything, anything for one more moment with my parents. Anything for a touch, a glimpse, a word. And you have thrown your parents away.”

It takes his friend, the Duke of Aston, to make Nicholas realise just how wrong his judgement of Allegra is and I love his confrontation with her self-serving father and his determination to protect her. I have to admit that I  became frustrated by Allegra’s constant fears of losing her independence after marrying Nicholas, but he understands her so well and I love everything he does to allay those fears. It was satisfying to see Allegra come to realise what truly matters.

She had thought it so important that she have the trappings of freedom. But here, in this room, watched by hundreds of Londoners, her hands in Nicholas’, she knew that the world and its laws matter not a wit. The only things that mattered were their love for each other and their mutual respect.

As with the other books, there is a colourful cast of secondary characters to aide Allegra and Nicholas on their journey to a happy ever after. I absolutely adore the notorious and vain Duke of Aston and the repartee between him and Nicholas is so funny. The heroines from the previous books, Kathryn, Cordelia and Imogen make a welcome appearance when Nicholas thinks Allegra needs intelligent, independent, female friends to help her navigate the strange waters of the ton.

I like how Ms Devon introduces real historical figures into the story. Nicholas likens Allegra to Aphra Behn, a 17th century British playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer, and Allegra converses with Mrs Wollstonecraft in Hatchards bookshop and again later in the story.

Those readers who, like me, have a fondness for a charming Epilogue won’t be disappointed.

MY VERDICT: Another enjoyable addition to this delightful series!

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read April 2016

 

The Dukes’ Clubs series (click on the book covers for more details):

Once Upon a Duke (Duke's Club, #1) by Eva Devon Dreaming of the Duke (Duke's Club, #2) by Eva Devon Wish Upon A Duke (The Dukes' Club, #3) by Eva Devon Wish Upon A Duke (The Dukes' Club, #3) by Eva Devon Duke Ever After (Dukes' Club Book 5) by Eva Devon

 

** My thanks to Eva Devon for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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(Hot Arabian Nights, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – Arabia, 1815)

Cover Blurb:

Rescued by the sheikh!

Abandoned in the desert, Julia Trevelyan finds herself at the mercy of Azhar, an imposing yet impossibly handsome Arabian merchant. Determined not to be intimidated by her rescuer—or their sizzling attraction! —she asks for his help…

But Prince Azhar is in fact the rightful heir to the Qaryma throne, returned from exile to take back his inheritance! He knows a dalliance with the enticing English adventuress is out of the question, yet he can’t deny the temptation to claim both his throne…and Julia!

♥♥♥♥♥♥

In this, her first book of her new Hot Arabian Nights series, Marguerite Kaye combines an emotive, romantic and passionate love story with the appeal of an exotic setting.

 

Sheikh al-Farid, Crown Prince Azhar of Qaryma

The last ten years had changed him for ever, shaped him into the man he was now, living the life he wanted to live.

Azhar has always accepted his position as heir to the Kingdom of Qaryma but, before having to eventually take on that role, he wants a taste of freedom…to live his own life for a while. This brought him into direct conflict with his father who wanted to control every aspect of Azhar’s life. At the age of twenty-one, realising that his father will never change his mind, he leaves Qaryma for good. In the intervening 10 years of exile, Azhar has built a successful business empire as an international trader, a job he really loves. However, he is compelled to return to Qaryma when his father dies, declaring Azhar to be his heir. He only intends to stay for a month before abdicating in favour of his brother, Kamal, and returning to running his business. A month should allow him time to ascertain the current state of the kingdom and ensure that Kamal will be a capable ruler. However, Azhar finds he must make some soul-searching decisions.

Azhar is everything a hero should be… honourable with a strong sense of duty. It is these very qualities that cause him such a dilemma when he makes some disturbing discoveries and must choose between freedom or duty. Despite his desire never to return to Qaryma, it is easy to see that he cares deeply for the kingdom and its people and wants them to have:

…only the king they deserved, a king who wanted to reign, and who was fit to reign.


Julia Trevelyan


Papa and Daniel both assumed my time theirs, their wishes mine. It never occurred to either of them that I might have wishes of my own.

Julia’s life has always been controlled either by her father or her late husband, Daniel. She describes her father as a “benevolent autocrat”, a man who was kind and caring but totally selfish. Her husband, an ambitious scientist, believed himself superior to her in every way and never valued her opinions. Even on his deathbed, he made her promise to finish his book, a comprehensive guide to rare and exotic species, and have it published and even persuade the president of the Horticultural Society of London to grant Daniel membership. Once she has fulfilled this promise, she intends to enjoy her new found freedom.

Julia is an intelligent woman, a botanist and an artist, whose abilities were never acknowledged by her father or her husband. I don’t blame her wanting to grab her freedom with both hands and live the life she wants. I also admire her courage (venturing into the desert might seem improbable but, in a recent interview, Ms Kaye made mention of four such pioneering women) and the fortitude she shows after discovering she has been drugged and robbed.

‘No point in imagining the worst,’ she told herself firmly. ‘Time to take stock, not give way to a fit of the vapours.’

The spark of attraction between Azhar and Julia is there from the beginning but I like how their relationship is able to develop before anything physical happens. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. Azhar is able to discuss issues with Julia because he finds her judgement sound and she is honest with him regardless of the consequences. The fact that Azhar finds Julia attractive gives her a confidence she has never had before and a desire to explore her own sexuality, something denied to her by her husband.

In the hot desert nights Azhar and Julia are bound to succumb to their feelings and Ms Kaye writes  vivid, sensual and passionate love scenes but also full of tenderness too.

Her eyes fixed on his, she lifted the tunic over her head and dropped it to the floor. Her arms fluttered up to cover her breasts, but she stilled them, standing proudly naked under his gaze. ‘Julia,’ was all he could manage. His whole body ached with desire. He could not resist touching her. Taking her long braid of hair in his hands, he undid the ribbon and began to untangle it, running his fingers through the fiery river of red, letting it ripple out over her shoulders, down her back, over the creamy mounds of her breasts.

Oh and I will certainly never look at ice cubes in the same way again!!

Julia knows that whatever choice Azhar makes, she can never be part of his life and their parting is inevitable. The scenes where I was privy to their thoughts were so emotional that I felt my heart would break for them even though I knew that somehow they would be together. The ending is romantic but I like that Azhar is realistic enough to admit that it won’t be easy for them.

Ms Kaye’s vivid imagery creates a real sense of mood and atmosphere. I could see the changing colours of the desert sky:

Julia watched, fascinated, as the vivid orange and gold-streaked sky gave way to a pale, soft night-blue, as if the sun, on its rapid descent to the horizon, dragged a stage backdrop behind it. The sparse puffy clouds segued from dark grey to pewter then white as the sky darkened to indigo and the stars made their appearance, a blanket of silvery jewels hung so low in the sky that she felt she could almost touch them.

…taste the dark, bittersweet coffee; smell the heady scents of the desert; feel the sway of the camel.

Whether it is her reference to the Horticultural Society of London, the flora of Arabia or the dress, customs and politics, Ms Kaye’s meticulous historical research is evident throughout the story.

MY VERDICT: If you enjoy a well-written, passionate love story, compelling characters, wonderful imagery and fascinating history, then I can definitely recommend this book.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read March 2016

 

Hot Arabian Nights series to date (click on the book covers for details)
The Widow and the Sheikh (Hot Arabian Nights #1) by Marguerite Kaye

2. The Sheik’s Mail Order Bride – August 2016
3. and 4. Titles and dates to be announced

 

**My sincere thanks to Marguerite Kaye for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review**

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