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Posts Tagged ‘Regency Era’

A Lady Awakened

 (Blackshear Family #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

In Cecilia Grant’s emotionally rich and deeply passionate Regency romance debut, a deal with a rumored rogue turns a proper young woman into . . . A Lady Awakened.

Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate and beloved servants from her malevolent brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heir on the way, her future will be secured. Forsaking all she knows of propriety, Martha approaches her neighbor, a London exile with a wicked reputation, and offers a strictly business proposition: a month of illicit interludes . . . for a fee.

Theophilus Mirkwood ought to be insulted. Should be appalled. But how can he resist this siren in widow’s weeds, whose offer is simply too outrageously tempting to decline? Determined she’ll get her money’s worth, Theo endeavors to awaken this shamefully neglected beauty to the pleasures of the flesh—only to find her dead set against taking any enjoyment in the scandalous bargain. Surely she can’t resist him forever. But could a lady’s sweet surrender open their hearts to the most unexpected arrival of all . . . love?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was Cecilia’s Grant’s debut novel in 2011 and it has to be one of the most unconventional Historical Romances I have read. While the premise bears similarities to other books I have read, it is Ms Grant’s unique voice and wonderfully flawed and interesting characters that make this book exceptional.

When Martha Russell’s husband is killed in a riding accident, she knows that, as a childless widow, Seton Park will pass to her late husband’s brother, James Russell. With very little means of supporting herself, she has no option but to live as her brother’s dependent. Then her solicitor advises her that it is normal to wait sufficient time to ensure that she is not carrying her late husband’s son and heir. She knows full well she is not pregnant but it offers her a few more weeks or a month at Seton Park. She is not only concerned for the future of her tenants and servants but she has given her support to the building of a new school for the local children. This could be in jeopardy because James Russell will decide whether it is to be built or not and Martha also learns of his reputation for taking advantage of female servants. Desperate to protect both the tenants working on the estate and the females of her household, she formulates a plan…to get pregnant. All she needs is a gentleman who is willing to have sex with her once a day for a month, for which service she is willing to pay five hundred pounds regardless of whether it is a boy or girl, and fifteen hundred pounds more if she gives birth to a son. Learning of his disreputable reputation, newly arrived Theophilus Mirkwood seems like the perfect candidate.

This could end in a dozen different kinds of disaster. There’d be no guarantee of success. And how to get through it without losing all claim to principle, she couldn’t begin to imagine.
So be it. She could wait for Providence to come to these women’s aid, or she could make use of what Providence had already put in her path. “Sheridan.” She twisted to face her maid squarely. “Tell me again about Mr. Mirkwood.

Tired of his son’s spendthrift and dissolute ways, Theophilus (Theo) Mirkwood’s father has stripped him of his allowance and banished him to the country estate in Sussex in the hope that Theo can improve himself by learning some land management skills. Theo is surprised to receive a request that he call on his neighbour, the widowed Mrs Russell, but he is totally unprepared for what follows!

“I can get you funds, Mr. Mirkwood, in exchange for something from you. I need to conceive a child.”
Only by heroic will and quick use of his napkin did he prevent a mouthful of tea from spewing straight into his lap. He choked and sputtered, and groped for the fresh napkin she held out to him as his teacup met its saucer
all clumsy and percussive.

Somehow the prim, stern widow, dressed head to toe in black, intrigues him and he finds himself fantasising about what she would be like in bed. Despite her insistence that this is purely a business arrangement from which she has no wish to derive any pleasure, Theo is sure that, as an experienced lover, he will be able to seduce her. But Martha seems completely immune to all his efforts and, if he is to fulfil their bargain, he may have to rethink his strategy.

What I love about this book is the understated way in which Ms Grant builds the relationship between these two disparate people. Theo is charming, funny and good-natured with the ability to put people at ease, but he is honest enough to admit to being a spoiled, lazy wastrel because that’s all anyone had ever expected of him. Martha is the complete opposite – serious, stubborn, highly principled with a genuine desire to better the lives of her tenants and provide education for the young estate girls.

Their ‘afternoon appointments’ are awkward and totally unsexy. Martha wants Theo for one thing only…his seed and nothing else. I’m so pleased Ms Grant didn’t make Martha frigid. She has experienced pleasure (albeit at her own hand) but she refuses to compromise on her principles. Although she comes to like Theo, she can never have any emotional connection to a man she cannot respect and whose sole purpose in life is the pursuit of pleasure. I admire how Martha stays true to her principles throughout the story. Poor Theo. The one thing he really excels in is knowing how to please a woman but having Martha shrinking from his every touch has him questioning his own self-worth.

Surprisingly, Ms Grant imbues these impersonal sex scenes with considerable humour and these inner thoughts of Martha’s are my particular favourite.

Where she was molded, he was rough-hewn. Where her form curved with logic and precision, not to mention breeding parts tucked neatly away, he looked rangy, haphazard, his male parts an ill-placed afterthought. Like the last leftover bits of clay scraped together, rolled into primitive forms and stuck onto the middle of him, the stones in their rough red sack and that improbable appendage dangling to the fore.

Through their regular after-sex discussions, they get to know each other better and an unlikely friendship develops. They take walks and start to learn from and help each other. Although initially feigned to gain Martha’s approval, Theo’s interest in land management and his tenants becomes genuine and Martha encourages him to believe in his own abilities, something no one has ever done before. Martha’s reserved nature means that she finds it difficult to socialise and when Theo discovers that she has no friends, acquaintances or callers, he arranges for people to call and I loved Martha’s response when Theo asks her…

“And what worthy things did you accomplish today?”

I didn’t accomplish a thing.” Her smile deepened, sweet and bracing as a bite of lemon cake. “I had callers.”

Gradually this friendship grows into affection, admiration and finally love and I like how their sexual encounters undergo subtle changes to reflect their evolving relationship.

It seems improbable that such a morally principled woman like Martha would be willing to cheat a man out of his inheritance but, for her, it is the only way to protect her female servants, her tenants and ensure that the school is built. When she meets James Russell’s wife and children, I could feel that she is troubled over cheating these boys out of their future inheritance and has great sympathy for Mrs Russell.

The secondary characters, Mrs Weaver and her children, Mr Barrow and Mr Atkins, the curate, all add depth to the story and highlight the ways in which Theo and Martha grow and change in the course of the story. Look out for the Weaver’s devious pig who steals the show with his antics every time he makes an appearance.

I like how Ms Grant portrayed the villainous James Russell as an “unimpressive figure”. As was frequently the case with such men, it was his position and power which allowed him to prey on the women in his employ.

I thought the ending was well thought out with everything tied up in a satisfactory and believable way and allowing Martha and Theo to finally marry. As a devotee of the Epilogue, the lack of one was my only gripe, but not enough for me to give the book less than 5 stars.

I can’t end this review without reference to Ms Grant’s wonderful writing and here are a few of my favourite quotes.

“Shouldn’t you have seduced me first? Or drugged my tea, and let me wake up chained to a bed?”
She colored, and looked more disapproving yet. “This is a business arrangement. I should like to conduct it accordingly.”

★✩★

The pig heaved forward, but Theo blocked it with one boot. “May I present Mr. Mirkwood, the proprietor’s eldest son? I’m showing him round the estate today.” With surprising agility, the pig feinted left and then surged right. He just managed to get his boot in front of it again, prompting an indignant barrage of squeals and grunts to round out the general cacophony.

★✩★

 His blood hummed and tingled as though tiny benevolent hornets were racing through his body.

 ★✩★

Damnation, but she did make him feel like a king. She made him feel as though he’d always been one, muddling along just waiting for her to kiss him out of some enchantment into his birthright.


MY VERDICT: Definitely recommended and I look forward to reading the other books in the series with relish.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read July 2016

 

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

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

 

 

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My Lady, My Lord

(Twist, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1822)

Cover Blurb:

Book #1 in a new series of historical romances… with a twist.

The Bluestocking
Lady Corinna Mowbray has three passions: excellent books, intelligent conversation, and disdaining the libertine Earl of Chance.

The Rake
Lord Ian Chance has three pleasures: beautiful women, fast horses, and tormenting high-and-mighty Corinna Mowbray.

Neighbors for years, they’ve been at each other’s throats since they can remember. But when a twist of fate forces them to trade lives, how long will it be before they discover they cannot live without each other?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved this first book in Katherine Ashe’s Twist series. What a charming, creative, funny and entertaining story!

Corinna had an unconventional upbringing by Regency standards. Her father actively supported her intellectual pursuits and,instead of attending balls, she attended lectures and supported her father’s political initiatives. She travelled abroad with her aunt and uncle, returning home after her mother died to act as hostess for her father. At the age of 29 and with her bluestocking tendencies, Corinna is firmly on the shelf, but she is content hosting her own salons which attract Europe’s intellectual elite.

Ian’s late father was a gambler and a cheat whose dishonourable actions brought disgrace to the family. Needing to put as much distance between himself and the father he despised, Ian left for London where his reputation for horse racing, gambling and beautiful, unmarried women convinced society that he’d turned out just like his father. Instead he has worked hard to restore the family’s honour and fortunes.

Although childhood neighbours, Ian and Corinna have detested each other for the past twenty years. Every time their paths cross, an argument erupts with barbed insults hurled on both sides. However, one such argument has unexpected consequences which allows them to see each other in a completely new light (in more ways than one!).

While I enjoyed their cutting exchanges, I also appreciated how much pain it caused to each of them. Words and actions of the past had left wounds that have never healed and they have continued to fan the flames of their mutual contempt.

It may not appeal to Historical Romance purists but I loved the unusual “Freaky Friday” twist because the scenes where Ian and Corinna are having to live in each other’s bodies are so well written and often funny.

If Ian was obliged to eat another teacake or drink another cup of tepid swill he would vomit it all up in the middle of the Duchess of Hammershire’s drawing room. The corset bound his ribs and stomach with an iron grip. He had divested any number of women of stays, but he’d never understood before how damn uncomfortable they were to wear. How a woman ate more than a soupçon of food at a time, he hadn’t the foggiest.

Corinna refused to cry. The dratted thing would not go away, but she could not let it best her. As a person of reason and sense, she would conquer the beast. Man’s animal nature must perforce be sublimated to moral right and intellectual strength. Hadn’t the Roman moralist Seneca said something like that?
The trouble was, the more she thought about it, the larger it seemed to grow. She stared at her lap, the fine linen nightshirt tenting at her hips, and groaned in frustration.

Living in each other’s shoes also allows them to truly see each other for the first time without their judgement being coloured by animosity. Corinna has always regarded Ian as a “cretin” and a reprobate but is struck speechless when Ian’s friend, the Marquess of Drake, believing Corinna to be Ian, tells him that he is decent, honourable and a loyal friend. Corinna is also surprised to discover the careful records Ian keeps for his several estates, his successful horse breeding business and the family’s finances. He also cares deeply for his family and is liked and respected by his servants.

Ian has always been secretly impressed by Corinna’s beauty, intelligence, wit and boldness but always thought her blood ran with ice rather than hot, feminine need. He is therefore surprised to discover that she had numerous suitors over the years but has refused them all. He is left to ponder the real reason why.

Once they return to their own bodies, they are consumed with all sorts of emotions they have never felt before. Ms Ashe captured all their confusion, doubts, anguish and passion so well.

She resisted the urge to flee. Perhaps making love to him for an entire night, or at all, had not been such a good idea. She ought to have allowed her unrequited admiration to fade into sensible oblivion over months, perhaps years, without the memories of his touch to tease her. The ache inside her was unbearable.

Now deeper inside him, harder than lust or passion, an ache grew, and the power of it filled his arms, his entire body. For years he had wanted her yet told himself he didn’t, but only because he could not have her.

I was really rooting for them to confess their love for each other.

I loved Ian’s friends and do hope they each get their own stories. I also liked Ian’s younger brother, Gregory, who with Ian’s guidance, had grown into a decent young man.

Other reviewers have already mentioned the Americanisms that crept in and the incorrect forms of the address for the male characters and so I won’t labour the point. It just seems a pity that these are issues that could so easily have been remedied.

I would have liked an Epilogue because I wanted to see Ian and Corinna enjoying their hard-fought Happy Ever After but it certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.

MY VERDICT: A thoroughly entertaining and refreshingly different story.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read July 2016

 

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

My Lady, My Lord (Twist, #1) by Katharine Ashe Again, My Lord (Twist, #2) by Katharine Ashe

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(Simply Quartet, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh returns to the elegance and sensuality of Regency England as she continues the enthralling story of four remarkable women–friends and teachers at Miss Martin’s School for Girls. At the center of this spellbinding novel is Anne Jewell, a teacher haunted by a scandalous past…until she meets a man who teaches her the most important lesson of all: nothing is simple when it comes to love.…

She spies him in the deepening dusk of a Wales evening–a lone figure of breathtaking strength and masculinity, his handsome face branded by a secret pain. For single mother and teacher Anne Jewell, newly arrived with her son at a sprawling estate in Wales on the invitation of an influential friend, Sydnam Butler is a man whose sorrows–and passions–run deeper than she could have ever imagined.

As steward of a remote seaside manor, Sydnam lives a reclusive existence far from the pity and disdain of others. Yet almost from the moment Anne first appears on the cliffs, he senses in this lovely stranger a kindred soul, and between these two wary hearts, desire stirs. Unable to resist the passion that has rescued them both from loneliness, Anne and Sydnam share an afternoon of exquisite lovemaking. Now the unwed single mother and war-scarred veteran must make a decision that could forever alter their lives. For Sydnam, it is a chance to heal the pain of the past. For Anne, it is the glorious promise of a future with the man who will dare her to reveal her deepest secrets…before she can give him all her heart.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Every time I read a Mary Balogh novel, new or old, I am struck anew by how much I love her work. She has covered every conceivable subject/scenario in her long and highly successful career with empathy and a deeply insightful understanding of human nature. In Simply Love, the second in her highly acclaimed Simply Quartet she highlights the issues and prejudices surrounding a single mother and her illegitimate child in Regency England. With great understanding, Ms.Balogh immerses us in the life of Anne Jewell, her nine year old son, David, and that of Sydnam Butler, a horrifically scarred veteran of the peninsula wars.

Anne and David are invited to spend a month on the south west coast of Wales in company with members of the powerful Bedwyn family. This unconventional family, with a duke at its head, thumbs its collective nose at the restrictions under which most aristocrats are obliged to live. Kind and thoughtful all, they welcome Anne and David to share their family holiday without reservation. Whilst walking the coastal path on the first evening, Anne happens upon the dreadfully scarred Sydnam Butler, and flees from him in fright. Sydnam is employed by the duke as steward of his estate, and is attempting to carve a life out for himself away from his own overprotective and loving family; he is a man completely lacking in self-pity and understands the picture he presents on first sight.

So expertly drawn is Mary Balogh’s description of this tragic but gorgeous man, that I shed more than one tear on his behalf. Anne is appalled at her own crass behaviour and apologises to him at the first available opportunity. Friendship flowers over the course of the month long holiday further developing into affection, and finally into something more sensual. The traumatic events that led to David’s conception, and the ten years following it, have left Anne emotionally scarred. Sydnam too has scars that run far deeper than the obvious surface ones; it is therefore understandable that two people – starved of physical love and affection, and who have cocooned themselves against further hurt – will find comfort in each other.

Anne and Syndam are wonderful characters – to be honest, if I could hug each of them, I would! They feel so real; their sorrow, their hurt, their lack of confidence, even their prickliness; they belong together, and the tentative progress of their love affair is movingly beautiful. Of course, to quote Shakespeare…‘The course of true love never did run smooth’…they have a lot of soul searching to do before either of them can begin to feel really complete once more. Luckily, they have each other to help in their respective rehabilitation. Their traumatic journey is SO worth the reading or in this case the listening.

The supremely talented Rosalyn Landor gives a stupendous performance in this audiobook, bringing this tremendously poignant story with its large and varied cast of complex characters to three dimensional radiance. I loved all four books in this series but Simply Love is, in my opinion, by far the most emotionally charged. The very fact that this is such a heart-rending story makes the performing of it more difficult, but Ms. Landor handles each character with individuality, consummate skill, aplomb and downright brilliance.

I adored the audio version of Simply Love and it is not necessary to have read or listened to the first in the series, as Ms. Balogh gives us plenty of background information. However, we do meet many old favourites from other series; in my case, from books read years ago. I was surprised how vividly I remembered the characters. Such is the power of a great and memorable author.

MY VERDICT: This is highly recommended and a must read for all lovers of Historical Romance.


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

Read June 2016

 

Simply series (click on the book cover for further details):

Simply Unforgettable (Simply Quartet #1) by Mary Balogh Simply Love (Simply Quartet #2) by Mary Balogh Simply Magic (Simply Quartet #3) by Mary Balogh Simply Perfect (Simply Quartet #4) by Mary Balogh

 

This review was originally posted on the Romantic Historical Reviews

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(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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