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Posts Tagged ‘Regency Era’

the-arrangement
(The Survivors Club, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved this sweet, poignant, character-driven, marriage-of-convenience story which is written with warmth, depth and emotion.

This is the second book in the series about a group of survivors of the Napoleonic Wars, all left scarred (emotionally, physically or both) by their experiences, who form a close bond while convalescing. The Arrangement is Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh’s story.

At 23, Vincent is the youngest member of the Survivors’ Club and, as a result of an act of recklessness, he lost his sight in battle six years earlier. After returning home, he unexpectedly inherits the viscountcy, following the death of both his uncle and his uncle’s son. Being the only male member of his family, he is constantly protected and cosseted and worried over and planned for by all his well-meaning female relatives, but Vincent longs to live a more independent life. When the aforementioned females decide to select a bride for him – one who professes not to mind marrying a blind man but obviously does – it’s one step too far for Vincent and he flees with his valet and friend, Martin Frisk. After three weeks in the Lake District, he decides to go home to the more modest Covington House in Barton Combes where he grew up.

Orphaned Sophia Fry lives under sufferance with her aunt and uncle in Barton Coombes. Treated as little more than a servant, she has learnt that it is better to blend into the background rather than draw attention to herself…to become the mouse in the corner.

She was known by her relatives, when she was known as anything at all, and perhaps by their servants too, as the mouse.

However, she is not prepared to watch her scheming cousin trap Vincent into marriage, but her intervention results in Sophia being turned out of her uncle’s house. Feeling responsible for Sophia’s predicament, Vincent proposes a marriage of convenience with an arrangement that will suit them both.

“You could eventually have your cottage in the country,” he said, “with your flowers and your chickens and cats. I could eventually prove to myself that I can be master of Middlebury and of my life alone. We could have a marriage now, when we both need it, and freedom and independence and a dream come true in the future.

Having to live with his blindness and suffering from panic attacks, Vincent could so easily have been your typical tortured hero. Instead, he never wallows in self-pity, determined to live his life to the full and I love that he is kind, caring and sensitive to others’ feelings. Sophia has led a lonely life and a brief, soul-shattering romance destroyed her self-esteem but, like Vincent, she does not indulge in self-pity and secretly finds an outlet in drawing satirical caricatures of her relatives and those around them.

I love how the story focuses on the growing relationship between Vincent and Sophia. There is no great drama or big misunderstanding (a small hiccup maybe), just two people getting to know and like each other and falling in love. From their very first meeting, when Sophia saves Vincent from her cousin’s scheming, Ms. Balogh creates a real sense of rapport between them.

“…you are trapped in a life not entirely to your liking by the fact of your parents’ death, just as I am trapped in a life that is not always entirely to my liking by the fact that I lost my sight six years ago.”

I love how they help and support each other as shown in Vincent’s determination to restore Sophia’s self-esteem and Sophia’s practical efforts to help Vincent achieve the independence he seeks. I enjoyed seeing Sophia having the confidence to assert herself to win over Vincent’s family and Vincent taking an active role in running his estate and making an effort to meet his neighbours.

There are so many lovely moments in this book, but the one that really tugged at my heartstrings is the scene where Sophia and Vincent waltz together.

Candlelight was wheeling overhead. Colored gowns were a kaleidoscope of pastels about the perimeter of the ballroom. Mirrors multiplied the candlelight and the twinkling of jewels to infinity.
“Such sounds and smells,” he said. “I will never forget this moment. Sophie. I am actually waltzing.”

I enjoyed seeing the other members of the Survivors’ Club and their interactions with Vincent clearly reveal the close bond that exists between the group.

MY VERDICT: A gentle, heart-warming and beautifully written romance. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Survivors’ Club series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Proposal (The Survivors' Club #1) by Mary Balogh The Arrangement (The Survivors' Club #2) by Mary Balogh The Escape (The Survivors' Club #3) by Mary Balogh Only Enchanting (The Survivors' Club, #4) by Mary Balogh Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club, #5) by Mary Balogh Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) by Mary Balogh Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7) by Mary Balogh

 

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pride-and-prejudice-audiobook

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

 

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

 

 

 

 

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wicked-rivals

(League of Rogues, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A LORD WITH LEGENDARY CONTROL…

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

A FIERY WOMAN WHO WON’T BACK DOWN…

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

A GAME OF WITS TURNS TO A GAME OF SEDUCTION…

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

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

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

(Spindle Cove, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb:

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

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

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

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

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Read October 2016

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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persuasion-audio-book

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Goodreads Summary:

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Poems

Austen did not take herself seriously as a poet but she did write occasional, mostly comic verses to entertain family and friends. Selected and introduced by award-winning narrator Alison Larkin, the poems range from lines found on a piece of paper inside a tiny bag she gave to her niece to When Winchester Races a poem she wrote just three days before she died.

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PERSUASION, as far as I am concerned, is the best of Jane Austen novels. Her last, and written when she was close to dying, it demonstrates a maturity and deep understanding of relationships, betrayal, loyalty and love. Ms. Austen’s ability for ironic and comic observation, her knowledge of the social etiquette and customs of the period are incomparable and of course we have the bonus of knowing that she lived in these times and therefore her observations, albeit tongue in cheek, are a faithful account. Just as today there are silly, giddy, self-absorbed people, so there were in that period of history. Nothing has changed and I love her descriptions of the gossipy women and the preening and posturing of some of the gentlemen, also their shallow preoccupation regarding the wealth and looks of their peers.

The young Anne Elliot had rejected Frederick Wentworth, a Naval Officer, on the misguided advice of her friend Lady Russell, and forever regrets her decision. Captain Wentworth returns eight years later, a successful sea Captain who has acquitted himself with honour and made his fortune into the bargain and the tables have turned. Anne’s family are now on the brink of financial ruin and it is she who is not considered a suitable match for him, being penniless, and at 27, almost past marriageable age. Anne still admires and loves Captain Wentworth and, in the eight years following their separation, she has never shown any interest in other men nor been tempted to accept or encourage any proposal of marriage. She is also accepting of her fate, believing that she has thrown away her only chance of happiness with the man she loves

Wentworth is now considered an excellent match for her – if he were at all interested. However, he is still bitter at her rejection – at least to begin with. They politely circle each other being often thrown into the same social circle and Frederick slowly begins to realise that Anne is the same girl he loved and admired so much – worthy, sensible, dignified and without guile.

He overhears Anne having a discussion with a friend on the merits of fidelity and love, professing that men are more able to move on than women after a disappointment in love. ‘The letter’ – oh that letter written in response to this overheard discussion, is so beautiful and eloquent and would melt the most hardened of hearts, certainly mine anyway! Surely one of the most romantic moments in any of Ms. Austen’s wonderful novels.

Bittersweet, given that this was Ms. Austen’s last completed novel before her death at the age of only forty-one, this mature and beautifully crafted love story encapsulating a perfectly painted picture of genteel life in the nineteenth century, is nevertheless a fitting end to her career.

In this 200th anniversary edition, there are the added poems of Jane Austen. Most are light comic verses, for example I’ve A Pain In My Head, others are moving and more serious such as the one she wrote for her dear friend and neighbour four years after her death, To The Memory of Mrs. Leroy. Her last piece When Winchester Races, written in July 1817, just three days before she died, was about a furious Saint who threatens to bring rain upon his subjects for choosing to go to the races rather than honouring him. To me this epitomises Jane Austen’s character; she took life as it came and even when dying chose to be witty and entertaining instead of wallowing in self-pity.

The bonus to my enjoyment of this anniversary edition of my favourite Jane Austen novel is the performance (for she is far more than just a narrator) of the talented actress Alison Larkin. Ms. Larkin’s voice is perfectly suited to Jane Austen’s work – light, amusing, stuffy, pompous, or when called for serious and her range is phenomenal. She handles the vast cast of characters with aplomb and we are never left in any doubt as to who is talking at any given time, even in a multi character conversation. I particularly like how she handles the slightly lowered tones of some of the ‘strictly-in-confidence’ conversations especially when there’s a fair amount of genteel bitchiness going on! Alison Larkin has a lovely ‘smiley’ voice, it’s so pleasant to listen to. A terrific performance and one I wholeheartedly recommend.


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

 

**I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook for an honest review. **

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days-of-rakes-and-roses

Kindle edition – 93 pages

(Sons of Sin, #1.5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency 1816 &1826)

Cover Blurb:

Lady Lydia Rothermere has spent the past decade trying to make up for a single, youthful moment of passion. Now the image of propriety, Lydia knows her future rests on never straying outside society’s rigid rules, but hiding away the desire that runs through her is harder than she could have ever dreamed. And as she prepares for a marriage that will suit her family, but not her heart, Lydia must decide what’s more important: propriety or passion?

Simon Metcalf is a rake and adventurer. But for all his experience, nothing can compare to the kiss he stole from the captivating Lydia Rothermere ten years ago. Simon can scarcely believe he’s about to lose the one woman he’s never forgotten. The attraction between them is irresistible, yet Lydia refuses to forsake her engagement. With his heart on the line, will Simon prove that love is a risk worth taking?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Days of Rakes and Roses was originally released in July 2013 but regrettably it was not available to purchase in the UK until earlier this year. In the intervening three years, I read all the other books in the excellent Sons of Sin series. Now reading this lovely second-chance romance is just like enjoying a small but delicious dessert after the main course and I can definitely confirm that it can be read as a standalone.

I adore Simon. He truly loved Lydia but, when her father caught them in a compromising situation, he was forced to leave England or see his family destroyed. Simon knew that he could never have asked Lydia to run away with him because, as a penniless second son, he could never offer her a life worthy of her. So he had struggled to forget Lydia, drinking and whoring his way across Europe, but to no avail because:

…through all that time, nothing had erased the memory of the one woman he’d ever loved. And nothing had eased his yearning for her.

I could sympathise with Lydia’s situation. The Rothermere family has lived in the shadow of scandal for many years and Lydia has always been afraid of disappointing her father or tarnishing the family reputation. She has been in love with Simon forever but he always seemed impossibly out of reach. When she discovers that Simon feels the same way, she is willing to cast caution to the winds, but it costs her dearly. Finding Lydia in a compromising situation with Simon, her father’s retribution is swift and harsh and, from that moment on, she vows that she will be the epitome of propriety. Over the years, the passionate 17-year-old has become:

…a mature, sensible woman of twenty-seven marrying a mature, sensible man of forty-one. She was content with her decision.

So when Simon re-enters her life, Lydia is beset by all sorts of emotions. She still loves him but, for ten years, even after her father died, she had heard nothing from him, only the occasional report of his rakish exploits abroad. She’d finally accepted that he cared nothing for her and decided to move on with her life and marry Sir Grenville. I can understand her stubbornness in revealing her true feelings and trusting Simon with her heart.

I love that Simon is honest about his feelings for Lydia and prepared to fight for her even though he fears she no longer feels the same about him.

In his heart, she was his, she’d always be his. The problem was he had a strong suspicion that, while she may once have felt the same, she felt the same no longer.

Ms Campbell provides just enough conflict before these two can attain their overdue Happy Ever After.

I like how Camden, Lydia’s brother, wants her to be happy and feels she deserves better than a cold marriage with Sir Grenville and is even willing to weather any resulting scandal. I also like how he sees beyond Simon’s reputation:

Aren’t you worried that you invite a libertine into the family?”
Cam leveled an uncompromising stare on him as he lifted the decanter. “Do you mean to play my sister false?”
“Of course not.” He paused. “But how can you trust me?”
“You can’t have changed that much from the boy I grew up with.” Cam refilled both their glasses. “Anyway the best proof of Lydia’s hold on you is that you came the moment I sent for you.”

There is also a brief appearance by Sir Richard Harmsworth (A Rake’s Midnight Kiss).

MY VERDICT: Once again, Anna Campbell enchanted me with this short but captivating love story. If you haven’t read the Sons of Sin series, I can definitely recommend it to all lovers of historical romance.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read September 2016

 

The Sons of Sin series (click the covers for more details):

Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed (Sons of Sin, #1) by Anna Campbell Days of Rakes and Roses (Sons of Sin, #1.5) by Anna Campbell A Rake's Midnight Kiss (Sons of Sin, #2) by Anna Campbell What a Duke Dares (Sons of Sin, #3) by Anna Campbell A Scoundrel by Moonlight (Sons of Sin, #4) by Anna Campbell Three Proposals and a Scandal (Sons of Sin, #4.5) by Anna Campbell

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a-duke-to-remember

 (Season for Scandal, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1819)

Cover Blurb:

Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

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This is the second novel in Kelly Bowen’s latest Season of Scandal series and, although I have not read the first book, I don’t think this adversely affected my enjoyment of A Duke to Remember. It definitely made me want to read the other books in the series.

The whole idea of Chegarre & Associates, a firm who provide effective solutions to scandals involving members of the ton, struck me as being original and I love the fact that two of the three partners in the business are women who do not conform to the normal roles expected of them.

Strong, confident, perceptive and smart, Elise once served as a tracker for the British Army and is handy with both a knife and a gun, proficiencies she demonstrates later in the book. Her part-time work as an actress enables her to adopt different disguises, useful in her work for Chegarre & Associates, whether she is posing as a moustached, bespectacled doctor or an exotic, masked French countess. Elise has been playing so many roles in her job and in the theatre that she doesn’t really know who she is anymore and I think this insecurity gives her an element of vulnerability making her seem more human.

Between this job and her work as a part-time actress at the Theatre Royal, she barely recognized herself anymore at any given moment. Every day brought a new role and a new deception to play out.

I can understand Noah’s feelings towards his parents He can never forgive the two people who should have loved and cared for him, but chose to abandon him to a hellish existence because he wasn’t perfect (the official blurb is very misleading because he did not leave the glamour of London society). I admire the way he reinvented himself and found a measure of happiness as a simple farmer and never wants to return to the world he was born into.

“I do not have a responsibility to anything,” he growled. “Not to my father, not to my mother. Not to Ashland’s piles of properties and strings of titles and coffers of money.”

Noah is kind, intelligent and sensitive and I could see how much he cares for and is protective of his sister Abigail, who had always championed and defended him. Their reunion scene really tugged at my heartstrings. In contrast, his years on the streets of London have taught him how to take care of himself and that street fighter comes into his own when danger threatens Elise.

I just loved everything about the romance – the heated attraction between them; the witty dialogue (I love how they steal each other’s lines); Noah’s tendency to blush; the way my heart gave a little flip when Noah gives Elise the rose; the raw, passionate love scene; the heartbreak and the joy. Ms Bowen writes with an emotional intensity which pulled me into the story and refused to let go.

 A melding of hearts and souls – I think this quote perfectly describes the connection between Elise and Noah. I love how Elise makes Noah believe that he can be anything he wants to be and gives him the strength and courage to take up his true position in society.

She believed in him. Even knowing everything that she did, she believed in him. More than he had ever believed in himself.

I love how Noah sees the real Elise.

“I see you, Elise DeVries. No matter what clothes you might wear or what mask you might assume, I see your courageous heart and I see your beautiful mind. I see your compassion and your hope, your resilience and your strength. If you do not know who you are, know that I do.”

I found so many of the secondary characters intriguing, among them:

  • Alice’s brother Alex who is a partner in Chegarre & Associates but also owns one of the most exclusive gaming hells in London frequented by some of the most influential and infamous members of the ton. These elite gamblers not only part with their money but also their secrets. (his book, Between the Devil and the Duke, is already on my must-read list).
  • Ivory Moore, founder of Chegarre & Associates, and her husband, the Duke of Alderidge (I bought their book, Duke of My Heart as soon as I had finished reading this one), who cleverly assist in establishing Noah’s credentials as the true Duke of Ashland. I love the scene at the solicitors where Noah and the duke pretend to be old friends – by the time the scene ended, they had me believing every word!
  • The mysterious King, described as a man as dangerous and as unpredictable as a pit viper. We learn some intriguing details about him during the course of the story including his connection to Noah, all of which made me hope the Ms Bowen has a book in the pipeline for him.

Francis Ellery is a self-serving villain through and through…a liar, a cheat and a gambler with heavy debts, who will stop at nothing to steal the Ashland title and wealth.

I like the warm-hearted Mrs Pritchard, Noah’s housekeeper, and I have a soft spot for animals in romances. Noah has a dog called Square and if you are thinking that’s a strange name for a dog, then you will have to read the book to discover why he’s so called.

MY VERDICT: This is a wonderful blend of an engaging story, well-drawn characters and delicious sexual tension. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read September 2016

 

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

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

 

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