Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Cadenza Audiobook.jpg

(Rockliffe, #6)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian – 1778)

Cover Blurb:

The performance finished in a flourish of technical brilliance and the young man rose from the harpsichord to a storm of applause.

Julian Langham was poised on the brink of a dazzling career when the lawyers lured him into making a catastrophic mistake. Now, instead of the concert platform, he has a title he doesn’t want, an estate verging on bankruptcy … and bewildering responsibilities for which he is totally unfitted.
And yet the wreckage of Julian’s life is not a completely ill wind. For Tom, Rob and Ellie it brings something that is almost a miracle … if they dare believe in it.

Meanwhile, first-cousins Arabella Brandon and Elizabeth Marsden embark on a daring escapade which will provide each of them with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The adventure will last only a few weeks, after which everything will be the way it was before. Or so they think. What neither of them expects is for it to change a number of lives … most notably, their own.

And there is an additional complication of which they are wholly unaware.
The famed omniscience of the Duke of Rockliffe.

 ♥♥♥♥♥♥

After five books in her fabulous Rockliffe series, Stella Riley is finally (and sadly) bringing the series to a close.

But what a swan song!  CADENZA has two compelling love stories at its centre. And who knew that, as well as being an historian (English Civil War – more about that later) of some considerable repute, she is also a knowledgeable and talented musician who has quite simply astounded me with her scholarship, research, and personal knowledge of the world of classical music, and in particular, the harpsichord? 

I am a huge fan of this author who is both an eloquent and creative writer, and each time we are treated to a new book there is never any danger of repetition. Cadenza is a feast for the senses and it’s a treat worth waiting for – from the first page to the last. Each book in the Rockliffe series is quite unique, apart from the ever-present, but fascinating characters who have each had their own stories told in preceding books and who are always in evidence and add something extra special as the series progresses.

Cadenza centres around the world of music with the main character, Julian Langham, being a gifted and supremely talented, harpsichordist – a virtuoso in fact. Julian’s character is unlike any other I have ever encountered in Historical Romance. Since he was old enough to reach a keyboard, he has studied and played almost to the exclusion of all else and was destined to be a musician. At the age of twenty-eight and just teetering on the brink of success in his chosen career, his world of playing and composing is brought to an abrupt halt by a disreputable firm of lawyers who con him into putting his career on hold ‘briefly’ and leaving Vienna to return to the country of his birth to take responsibility for a crumbling, debt ridden estate, and an earldom he neither wants nor even knew he was heir to, so obscure was his claim.

Having lived in the world of music for most of his life, suddenly being faced with the reality of being responsible for his predecessor’s three feral illegitimate offspring and his bewildered tenants, and with debts and problems he cannot ever hope to meet or solve, has the effect on him of being doused by a bucket of cold water, especially when he realises there is no going back. The only tiny (and it is minute) light is a badly abused harpsichord which has been left in a sadly neglected state and is in pieces in the library. At the end of each long, hard day toiling on the estate, Julian begins to painstakingly restore it. Not only is Stella Riley a musician, but she has also carefully researched – with quite remarkable understanding – the inner workings of this instrument which shows in the terminology she uses as she describes Julian slowly beginning to restore it to working order.

Julian may be gentle and slightly vague but he has an honestness, as rigid as a streak of iron, running through his backbone and, although he may not know what to do, he can’t be faulted for failing to do his best – rolling up his sleeves and working alongside his tenants – all the while slowly dying inside without his beloved music to sustain him. His obvious integrity and his determination not to increase rents, even though he desperately needs the money, earns him the respect of the locals and his tenants, not least the local doctor and his wife who befriend and help him as he flounders from one crisis to another. The children, whom he has tracked down and ensconced in the dilapidated nursery, are in turns angry and mistrustful, apart from the youngest, Ellie, who simply accepts him at face value. Tom and Rob are older, and Tom in particular – the twelve-year-old, self-elected protector of the threesome – doesn’t trust his motives. Why should Julian want them? No one has ever cared or wanted them before. Watching him win the boys’ trust, especially Tom’s, is heart-warming. Julian doesn’t employ artifice, he doesn’t know how to – he’s simply himself. In fact, it is his wholly innocent and sincere attitude in his dealings with the children which highlights the kind of man he truly is.

The doctor and his wife realise that Julian needs help, especially with the children and the running of his home, so they propose he employs a housekeeper-cum-governess and set about advertising for a suitable candidate. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Marsden, who wishes to help her family out financially, applies and, after some correspondence, in which she infers a greater age and experience than she has, is offered the position for a trial period. No-one could predict the outcome this action precipitates – a series of events, which once set into motion, escalates and forever changes Julian’s life and those of the children.

Meanwhile another drama is playing out at the home of Arabella Brandon, youngest of the four siblings at Brandon Lacey, where Arabella (Belle) has received the news that she has been jilted, after a three-year betrothal to her soldier fiancé who has not returned from the Colonial wars, instead marrying and settling in America. Her family, in particular her mother, want her to go to London for the season and she is reluctant to do so. She’s far from broken-hearted by the blow her ex-fiancé has dealt her, but, for reasons of her own, is not interested in husband hunting at present. Her closest friend, Lizzie, who happens to be her first cousin, would love a season in London but her clergyman father forbids it, even though the Duke of Rockliffe, a distant cousin of the girls’ mothers’, is happy to sponsor both of them with the aid of his Duchess. Lizzie, a dutiful daughter, realises the futility of trying to persuade her father and has instead begun the process of finding suitable employment.

Belle is the most outgoing and vivacious of the two cousins and I was drawn to her immediately. She is, of course, the one who proposes the outrageous plan which will benefit both of them – she will take up the position Lizzie has just been offered as housekeeper/governess to the children of the Earl of Chalfont and Lizzie will travel to London as the guest of the duke and duchess. The only fly in the ointment being that they must take on the guise of each other. Of course, neither girl gives much thought to the cause and effect of their actions, although to be fair it takes some persuading on Belle’s part. But, eventually realising that it will give Belle some much-needed breathing space, Lizzie agrees and at least she will get her season. After their adventure, the girls will simply return to their old lives – not quite so simple, as we discover.

All goes to plan to begin with. The girls swap clothes, prime Belle’s reluctant lady’s maid and set off together. They part ways some distance from Brandon Lacey as agreed and each travel to their respective destination. Matters start to go awry when Belle arrives at Chalfont and the doctor who meets her is surprised to see how much younger she is than her letter indicated. Even worse, Julian is horrified as she is ‘far too pretty’ and he considers sending her packing. The doctor talks him into giving her a trial period, as she has already won him over with her forthright and practical manner. Julian has had limited experience with the opposite sex and is, quite frankly, terrified of women. He initially appears rude although Belle soon realises, with some surprise, that he is simply painfully shy. The truth is that Julian is deeply affected by Belle, much to his consternation. He is the one who thinks her ‘far too pretty’, whereas most people, including the doctor, think her ‘passably pretty’. A clear case of ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. Not only is she ‘much too pretty’ but her warm, infectious laugh ‘does something to his insides’. I loved this and it is mentioned quite a few times throughout the story – he finds himself aware of her laugh and waits for it – it lifts his spirits and he is always affected in the same way. Of course, as a musician with a highly developed sense of hearing, he would notice such a thing whereas most others wouldn’t. The spark between them is definitely there, and Ms. Riley grows it slowly and sensitively until both are equally smitten with the other. Belle has grown up with three handsome brothers and is therefore not immediately taken in by Julian’s undeniable gorgeousness. But he has something rare which she’s drawn to – he’s totally unaware of his own physical appeal. He never attempts to dress up, in fact, most of the time, he’s downright scruffy, his hair overlong and untidy. She is impressed by his innate kindness, gentleness and thoughtfulness and moved by his complete disregard for what others may think of his taking in three illegitimate children and more – actually loving them.

When Belle realises the extent of his musical talent and what the lack of performing is doing to him, she is resolved to do something for him. It doesn’t take her long to learn that he will shrivel up and die emotionally if he is denied his music. She sets her mind to thinking of ways to help him with the estate. Having grown up at Brandon Lacey observing her brothers using tried and tested methods, set in motion during the English Civil War by their Great-Great-Grandfather, Gabriel, she is resolved to beg her eldest brother’s assistance. Extremely astute, Belle realises that to perform – as he must – Julian needs an estate running in the black to free him for what life intended for him. Belle is on a mission and that’s because she’s finally in love. Eventually the two share a kiss, no more, but it is sensual and loving and both realise that something monumental has occurred. Stella Riley does this so well – she can imply sensuality and sexuality without the need for explicit bedroom scenes.

As Belle is settling into Chalfont, Lizzie has a roadside catastrophe when her coach is damaged and she narrowly avoids serious injury obliging her to accept help from a passing traveller. Ralph, Earl of Sherbourne, isn’t too pleased that his journey has been interrupted by a dripping wet maiden in distress. But, being the consummate gentleman, he does what he must. In the end, with the roads impassable because of heavy rain, Lizzie is forced to spend two nights in his company. All goes well and nothing of importance happens, other than Lizzie becoming more and more intrigued by Ralph’s dark and brooding attractiveness, but he is uncommunicative, preferring to read his Greek copy of the Iliad than converse, except when he must. He does nothing that Lizzie could take the exception to. In short, he does not compromise her other than unwittingly and unwillingly having to escort her to safety. Lizzie is unaware that Ralph has a scandalous past and, without warning, it rises up to bite both of them. They are seen by two ladies travelling in the opposite direction who have stopped for refreshments at the same inn; these ladies put two and two together and come up with five. Sparks fly, especially as one of them quite evidently knows him well.

Stella Riley has set herself quite a task, Ralph Sherbourne is not a character I thought to be redeemable. In Hazard he treated his half-sister, Genevieve, quite abominably. However, we learn that there is so much more to him than meets the eye and the circumstances surrounding the reasons why society shunned him are revealed, although only in confidence to Rockliffe who consequently has a new respect for him. Plus, against the odds, Lizzie likes him and refuses to believe badly of him. It is this unadulterated acceptance of him which surprises and sees him start to thaw from the austere, unapproachable man he has always been. I sensed his deep, black loneliness, keenly. I felt deeply sorry for him, especially when we see him with the Rockliffe ‘gang’ and he secretly envies the camaraderie they share, something he has never experienced. From detesting him in Hazard, I now wanted him to be happy and it seems that vicarage bred Lizzie could be the one so this was quite a turnabout. Ms. Riley couldn’t make everyone love him – that would have been totally implausible, but she’s done an excellent job in at least beginning his redemption with the help of Lizzie. He is understandably bitter – no one has ever believed in him, especially without knowing the facts of his duel and the reasons for it, which when revealed are quite shocking. I certainly didn’t see it coming. There is one particular scene, which again I can’t go into, but which had me rooting for Lizzie and Ralph as she nails her colours to the mast – superb! Ms. Riley at her best.

By now the fat is in the fire for both girls – their subterfuge has been discovered – how could it not? Rock is omniscient and never misses a trick. Once they are unmasked, there is so much to be sorted out to avoid irreversible damage to the reputations of both girls. I won’t go into how, where or what, as this is such a complex story and so deliciously different. And you, dear reader, need to absorb and enjoy! Let’s just say that, as usual Rock is a ‘rock’. His humour, dry wit and urbanity steal the show (I know I say this in every review, but it’s so true and Ms Riley didn’t name this series Rockliffe for nothing).

I promised earlier to mention the Brandon Lacey connection. Fans of Stella Riley will most probably have read her English Civil War series. If not – please do – you will not be disappointed. I myself have only just completed Garland of Straw in which Gabriel and Venetia Brandon are the hero and heroine of that amazing story and are the Great-Great-Grandparents of the current younger generation and I absolutely adored it. My point is, however, that Gabriel was almost bankrupt himself and, using his common sense, set in motion a method of farming which was highly successful and has by the time of Cadenza been used for generations. Belle persuades her brother, Max, to help Julian. I found the connection fascinating and, if I hadn’t read Garland, would probably have just skirted over it. And, by the way, having just mentioned Belle’s eldest brother Max… oh my! Please, please, Ms. Riley, having given us a taste of this gorgeous man – we need more!

Two compelling romances – although my favourite was Julian and Belle, only because they are a couple like no other. And just wait until you see Julian in musical action. I can say no more, other than, gone is the awkward, self-deprecating man and I can honestly guarantee that your heart will melt.

I believe the author intends to develop the Brandon connection (there are three unmarried brothers). I do hope so because I’m not ready to say goodbye to Rock and co.

I would imagine that Cadenza has been Alex Wyndham’s biggest challenge to date in so far as Ms. Riley’s books are concerned. The slow and intense emotional build-up in The Mésalliance and the complexities of Adrian’s character in The Player, both of which are particular favourites of mine, held that distinction for level of difficulty and performance brilliance until now, because Cadenza has also been awarded a special place in my heart; it has both intense emotional build-up and complexity on so many different levels.

Alex Wyndham has performed Stella Riley’s large cast of characters, accumulated over the six books in the series, to perfection. Keeping track would have taxed a less talented performer. He, however, makes it appear effortless.  I wondered how he would deal with the many facets of Julian Langham’s character – not that I doubted, of course – I just wondered and waited… with anticipation, and I was not disappointed. This is one book that is definitely improved by its conversion into audible, but only because of this actor’s consummate skill. The musical content in particular is brought to vibrant vivacity by him and I wondered as I listened – enthralled – how many readers may have missed the brilliance of the author’s writing if their preference is reading and not listening. Her wit and talent is also superbly highlighted; Arabella’s pert and cheeky, lady’s maid, Sherbourne’s valet, with his outrageous remarks and innuendoes, who quite obviously knows how far he can push his apparently formidable employer, and the incomparable Sebastian Audley, whose cat calls and cheeky remarks, which are so much a part of his character created in The Wicked Cousin, are interspersed throughout the latter part of the story. Clever Mr. Wyndham for so perfectly interpreting the author’s intentions for her characters and her eloquent and witty narrative.

I have reviewed Alex Wyndham’s narrating performances on many occasions and am always struck anew by his talent –  and he only gets better. His portrayal of Julian – a man who has so many different and complex traits, is sublime, all of which traits completely steal the show – no pun intended. The books in this series all flow perfectly without any repetition in plot, the only common denominator being the ‘gang’ who have come to mean so much to us, and whose voices and characterisation are all perfectly replicated throughout each book by this extremely talented performer, without any deviation from the original.

MY VERDICT: Another amazing story in this memorable series and one I shall listen to over and over and never tire of. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

The Parfit Knight (Rockliffe, #1) by Stella Riley The Mésalliance by Stella Riley The Player by Stella Riley The Wicked Cousin (Rockcliffe, #4) by Stella Riley Hazard by Stella Riley Cadenza by Stella Riley

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My Once and Future Duke.jpg

(The Wagers of Sin, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance  (Regency 1807 & !819)

Book Blurb (Amazon):

What happens at the infamous Vega Club…

Sophie Campbell is determined to be mistress of her own fate. Surviving on her skill at cards, she never risks what she can’t afford to lose. Yet when the Duke of Ware proposes a scandalous wager that’s too extravagant to refuse, she can’t resist. If she wins, she’ll get five thousand pounds, enough to secure her independence forever.

Stays at the Vega Club…

Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware, tells himself he’s at the Vega Club merely to save his reckless brother from losing everything, but he knows it’s a lie. He can’t keep his eyes off Sophie, and to get her he breaks his ironclad rule against gambling. If he wins, he wants her—for a week.

Until now.

A week with Jack could ruin what’s left of Sophie’s reputation. It might even cost her, her heart. But when it comes to love, all bets are off . . .

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Recently, I have been thinking about the authors whose books first encouraged my love of Historical Romance. Regrettably some of these authors, such as Caroline Linden, seem to have fallen by the wayside as new authors came along to capture my interest. MY ONCE AND FUTURE DUKE, the first book in her new The Wagers of Sin series, provided the perfect opportunity to rediscover this talented author.

Orphaned at the age of twelve, when both her beloved parents died of consumption, Sophie Graham was left under the guardianship of her grandfather, Viscount Makepeace. Having disowned Sophie’s father when he ran off and married a French opera singer, Makepeace wanted nothing to do with his granddaughter, a sentiment Sophie fully reciprocated. Anxious to be rid of his unwanted burden, her grandfather enrolled Sophie in Miss Upton’s Academy For Young Ladies, agreeing to pay her tuition fees until her eighteenth birthday – then she would be on her own.

I loved Sophie’s courage and resilience in the face of such life changing events. She does not wallow in self-pity and knows that the only person she can rely on is herself. She could have accepted a position at the academy teaching mathematics but I admired her determination to pursue her Grand Plan in the wider world and to forge a better life for herself.

It was a simple plan, really. Once she had secured her independence, she would be mistress of her own fate and able to chart her own course.

A legacy from her late employer and a small amount of personal savings enable Sophie to travel to London, posing as the widowed Sophie Campbell. Having learned several card games from her father and dicing from the stable boys at the academy, gambling is the one skill Sophie can use to gain the necessary funds to achieve her ultimate goal of marrying a respectable gentleman who could give her the security and family she longs for.

…everything had been proceeding according to that plan . . . until Jack.

At the age of twenty-four, Jack Lindeville’s carefree lifestyle ended abruptly when his father, the Duke of Ware, died after a boating accident. Jack was neither ready nor prepared to assume the heavy burden of responsibilities that came with the dukedom. During the past seven years, Jack has devoted his life to fulfilling his duties, earning him a reputation for being dour and aloof.

I had a lot of sympathy for Jack who, as a young man, had expected to have many more years of freedom before being weighed down with ducal responsibilities, which also included looking after the widow and daughter of his father’s best friend, who had also died in the accident. I hated his mother who constantly showed a preference for her younger son, Philip, making excuses for his excesses while constantly drumming into Jack the need be above reproach in all things, and even resorting to emotional blackmail if he did not do as she wished.

Jack has worked too hard over the years to continue settling his brother’s gambling debts. He has agreed to pay Philip’s latest debt on the condition that he refrains from gambling for a month, and learns to moderate his gambling. However, whilst at the Vega Club to settle said debt, Jack is furious to see his brother there, but his attention is captured by the woman in crimson with whom Philip is gambling. He has not had such a powerful reaction to a woman in years and it leads to him doing something he vowed he would never do — gamble.

Worst of all, he was breaking his own vow to avoid gambling—at hazard, the game designed to beggar a man as speedily as possible. But there was something about this woman that provoked and entranced him beyond all reason.

Ms. Linden writes a tender and sensual romance and I enjoyed the time Jack and Sophie spend alone together at Alwyn House. Although it is only a few days, their relationship blossoms in a natural way that never seems rushed. Alwyn House has always been Jack’s retreat from his relentless duties – a place where he can relax and be himself. I could feel Sophie’s attitude towards Jack softening as they spend time together and she discovers that, beneath that cold, haughty exterior, Jack is a charming, warm-hearted man with a dry sense of humour and a willingness to laugh at himself.

…when he smiled and let down his guard. That flicker of humor and humanity turned him from a cold, haughty duke into an irresistibly attractive man.

Sophie is clever and funny and nothing like the scheming charlatan he had thought her to be. She is clever and funny and the first woman who has ever made him feel like a man, not simply a duke.

As the days pass, it is obvious they have both fallen hopelessly in love and can no longer deny their desire for each other.

His expression was fierce, his eyes burning. “I want to make love to you, Sophie, so badly I can hardly bear it.”
His heart was hammering; she could feel it beneath her palms. Her blood was running just as hot, and she looked him right in the eyes and said, “Yes. Yes.”

But their idyll has to come to an end and, although I knew that their happy ending was never in doubt, there were enough impediments to overcome to keep me turning the pages. My only complaint is the unnecessary drama towards the end and Sophie’s reaction which seems out of character, but this is only minor point and didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the story.

I was touched by the scene in the attics at Alwyn House where Sophie is surrounded by decades of Jack’s family history, something she had never had in her own life but secretly craves. So I was delighted when she discovers that she does have a genuinely kind relative who is keen to get to know her.

I liked Miss Eliza Cross and Lady Georgiana Lucas, Sophie’s best friends and future heroines. I was also intrigued by Nicholas Dashwood, the enigmatic owner of the Vega Club, and I’m hoping he might get his own book one day.

The Epilogue is not only charming but also provides a teaser for An Earl Like You (Eliza’s story), the second book in the series.

MY VERDICT: I’m so glad to have rediscovered Ms. Linden’s books and I can definitely recommend MY ONCE AND FUTURE DUKE.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 The Wagers of Sin series (click on the book covers for more details):

My Once and Future Duke (The Wagers of Sin, #1) by Caroline Linden An Earl Like You (The Wagers of Sin, #2) by Caroline Linden When the Marquess Was Mine (The Wagers of Sin, #3) by Caroline Linden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Guilty Pleasures.jpg

(Guilty #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Late Regency – 1830)

Book Blurb (Amazon):

One of Daphne Wade’s guilty pleasures is to watch the Duke of Tremore as he works, shirtless, on the excavation site of his ducal estate. Anthony Courtland is by far the most exciting and handsome man she has ever known, and she dreams of one day being able to speak with him without getting tongue tied.

Anthony, meanwhile, only sees Daphne as a hard worker on his excavation team. He considers her a plain young lady and says so in a careless remark to a friend, unaware that Daphne is outside the library door, her heart shattering to pieces. So Daphne decides she will not be so silly any longer. She begins to be tutored in the social graces, forcing Anthony to see the beauty who has been right in front of his eyes.

Kindle Publication: 8th July 2008 

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This book had the honour of being the recipient of the Romantic Times Award for Best European Historical Romance of 2004. It was also the first book I read by Laura Lee Guhrke and it established her as a firm favourite of mine and, over the years, I have read and loved many of her books.

I adore Daphne because it is easier to relate to someone who is plain, wears spectacles and, by the standards of the time, is firmly on the shelf at the age of twenty-four. She had an unconventional upbringing, having lived and worked abroad all her life assisting her father Sir Henry Wade, one of the foremost Roman antiquarians in the world, on his excavations. After her father dies suddenly, she is left all alone, unwanted by her mother’s family in England, and virtually penniless. Her decision to travel to England and take her father’s place shows real courage and I also love her response when Anthony questions her suitability for the position.

“I am the daughter of Sir Henry Wade, and he was the best. I was trained by him, and now that he is gone, there is no one more qualified for this post than I. “

Anthony is arrogant inconsiderate, selfish and, in typical ducal fashion, expects to be obeyed without question, and whenever he wants anything particularly difficult or unreasonable done, he can be persuasively charming. His cynical attitude to love and marriage does not sit well with his sister, Viola, but Anthony is adamant that he intends to marry someone who will make no emotional demands on him

I did admire him for the sympathetic way he treats his estate workers who are unable to pay their rent, and for his determination that the museum should be for everyone, not just the wealthy.

It wasn’t hard to believe that a quiet, shy young woman like Daphne, who had spent all her life around excavations, without any social interactions, would develop an infatuation for someone like Anthony. I really felt her heartbreak when she hears his derogatory comments, but I admired the way she refuses to wallow in self-pity. She has always tried to please other people, first her father and then Anthony, but now she is determined to decide her own future and enjoy life, with encouragement from Anthony’s sister, Viola, who has offered to introduce Daphne into society.

Expecting everyone to cow-tow to his every command, I enjoyed seeing Anthony’s outraged reaction when Daphne tells him she is resigning and his usual coolness and self-possession totally deserts him. And I love the way she stands up to him and is not afraid to speak her mind.

“You may be a duke, but you are not the sun around which the world revolves. In fact, you are quite the opposite, for you are the most selfish man I have I have ever known.”

Now Anthony must find a way to persuade Daphne to stay long enough to finish his project. It was fun watching the various bargains Anthony contrives to gain extra time from Daphne – verbal duels, midnight dances, kisses – and the camaraderie that develops between them as they dance, flirt and laugh together seems so believable. Their witty repartee was enjoyable too.

“Contrary to certain reports, I have been known to be kind on occasion.” Laugh lines appeared at the corners of his eyes, though he did not smile. “But I confess I am not being kind just now.”
“Yes, I know, and it is not going to work.”
He tried to look innocent. “What is not going to work?”
“This blatant attempt to trick me into staying with charm and—and other such tactics.”
“I know you are far too intelligent to be fooled by charm or trickery, Miss Wade. Can we not just say I am using the only weapon I have?”
“”Persuasion?”
“Temptation. If I can tempt you with the fruits of my garden of Eden, you might stay.”

I applaud Ms. Guhrke for not transforming Daphne into some ravishing beauty. She remains the same person she always was, but Anthony begins to see the real Daphne beneath the drab clothes, tight bun and spectacles  – a woman who is intelligent, funny, tender-hearted and passionate.

It is clear that the circumstances surrounding Anthony’s father’s death and having to shoulder the burden of ducal duties at such a tender age have had a profound effect on him, and have clearly shaped him into the man he has become. Having seen first-hand the tragic consequences of love, he has always been master of his emotions, never letting his heart rule his head until Daphne comes into his life. I love how he uses the language of flowers to court her, his determination not to give up and how he finally opens up his heart to Daphne.

There is such a charmimg ending which left me with a lovely warm glow.

“What does a duchess do, exactly?”
He took a step toward her. “Love the duke. Love him with all the passion she hides within her, love him each and every day of her life.”

MY VERDICT:  I still love this book as much as I did the first time of reading it. A delightful, entertaining and romantic love story which I can highly recommend.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

Guilty Pleasures (Guilty, #1) by Laura Lee Guhrke His Every Kiss (Guilty, #2) by Laura Lee Guhrke The Marriage Bed (Guilty, #3) by Laura Lee Guhrke She's No Princess (Guilty, #4) by Laura Lee Guhrke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

beyond scandal and desire

(Sins for All Seasons, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian – London 1840 and 1871)

Book Blurb:

At birth, Mick Trewlove, the illegitimate son of a duke, was handed over to a commoner. Despite his lowly upbringing, Mick has become a successful businessman, but all his wealth hasn’t satisfied his need for revenge against the man who still won’t acknowledge him. What else can Mick do but destroy the duke’s legitimate son—and woo the heir’s betrothed into his own unloving arms . . .

Orphaned and sheltered, Lady Aslyn Hastings longs for a bit of adventure. With her intended often preoccupied, Aslyn finds herself drawn to a darkly handsome entrepreneur who seems to understand her so well. Surely a lady of her station should avoid Mick Trewlove. If only he weren’t so irresistible . . .

As secrets are about to be exposed, Mick must decide if his plan for vengeance is worth risking what his heart truly desires.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the first book in Lorraine Heath’s new Sins for All Seasons series and she weaves an emotional, captivating and sensual love story with a totally unexpected twist at the end.

There’d never been anything gentle in his life. Everything he’d experienced had been hard, harsh and challenging.

Raised in poverty in the Rookeries, Mick had clawed his way up to become wealthy, successful, self-assured and powerful. He is stubbornly obsessed with wreaking revenge on his father, the Duke of Hedley, for his refusal to acknowledge Mick as his illegitimate son; a father who tossed him away like a piece of garbage. Mick has no qualms about ruthlessly using his father’s legitimate son, the Earl of Kipwick, and his ward, Lady Aslyn Hastings, in his revengeful plans.

As first, Mick seems hard and ruthless but I soon saw a very different side to him. He cares deeply for his family and knows that he owes his ‘mother’, Ettie Trewlove, a debt he can never repay and does everything he can to make her life comfortable. They may not be related by blood, but he loves all his siblings and would die for each of his brothers without hesitation. He is protective towards his sisters but also willing to fulfil their wishes, whether it be shopping for a parasol for one sister or buying a tavern for the other. I admire his genuine altruistic desire to improve the lives of those in the poorest areas of London by providing homes, and shops that will provide jobs.

Aslyn has been the Duke of Hedley’s ward since her parents died in a railway accident when she was a girl. Beautiful and dignified, she has led a confined and sheltered life, always being the perfect lady, only too aware that her life has been planned out for her as Kip’s wife and a future duchess. But, deep down, she longs for independence and excitement.

Aslyn longed for more: the independence afforded those who weren’t expected to make a suitable match, the carefree moments enjoyed by those not shackled by duty, the excitement offered within the shadows of the night.

I love how Ms, Heath really takes the time to develop the relationship between Mick and Aslyn. The initial meetings engineered by Mick and their secret assignations allow them to talk and get to know each other in a way that feels real and natural. I could see how they compliment each other and felt that they are truly meant to be together.

I enjoyed seeing Mick’s plans begin to unravel as the seducer becomes the seduced…

His purpose was to draw her in while keeping himself at a distance. Instead, she’d managed to entice him into a maelstrom of emotions and sensations, needs and desires, that were foreign to him.

I love his protectiveness, his kindness and the fact that he actually talks to Aslyn and encourages her to be herself. He finds himself longing for her smiles, her laughter, the lilt of her voice and just enjoying being with her. One of the most poignant moments is when he says…

“Never in my life have I longed to be legitimate more so than I do at this very moment.”

Aslyn has never met a man like Mick. He instils in her a desire to break free of the pampered and stifling existence she has led and makes her aware of herself as a woman with needs that go beyond the strict rules of society.

What was it about the man that had such wicked thoughts bursting forth as though they were perfectly normal?

Her feelings for Mick also make her question her relationship with Kip and their suitability, because he has never made her feel alive as she does when she’s with Mick. I love how she never looks down on Mick or his family and regards him as extraordinary for having achieved such success, despite the stigma of his birth. I really respect Aslyn for her courage, determination, compassion and her willingness to stand up for injustice.

I knew that their idyll could not last because Aslyn would eventually learn of Mick’s scheme, and when she does I could feel her anger, her sense of betrayal and her heartbreak, knowing that he would seek to destroy those she loved. When the mystery surrounding Mick’s birth is finally revealed, the twist is one I never expected. I can’t say more other than it is truly heartbreaking and it changes everything that Mick believed to be true. But his actions reveal what an honourable and compassionate man he is, even though it means giving up the woman he loves. When all seems lost, it is Aslyn who finds a solution and ensures their Happy Ever After.

All his life he’d been searching for acceptance, and here it was in the form of a woman with a tilted-up nose and crooked smile.

I like how Ms. Heath highlighted the practice of baby farming in the late Victorian era, a practice that often meant death for the unfortunate illegitimate or unwanted babies handed over to such women.

We meet Mick’s intriguing siblings, each with their own stories to tell in future books, and I was delighted to see Dr. Graves (the hero of The Last Wicked Scoundrel, the final book in Ms, Heath’s Scoundrels of St. James series) in a cameo appearance. There is also a heart-warming Epilogue which left me with a smile on my face.

MY VERDICT: An excellent start to her new series and Ms. Heath delivers everything I look for in historical romance. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Sins for All Seasons series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

Beyond Scandal and Desire (Sins for All Seasons, #1) by Lorraine Heath When a Duke Loves a Woman (Sins for All Seasons, #2) by Lorraine Heath The Scoundrel in Her Bed (Sins for All Seasons, #3) by Lorraine Heath – 26 February 2019

 

 

Read Full Post »

Eleven Scandals

(Love by Numbers, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1823)

Cover Blurb:

She lives for passion.

Bold, impulsive, and a magnet for trouble, Juliana Fiori is no simpering English miss. She refuses to play by society’s rules: she speaks her mind, cares nothing for the approval of the ton, and can throw a punch with remarkable accuracy. Her scandalous nature makes her a favorite subject of London’s most practiced gossips . . . and precisely the kind of woman The Duke of Leighton wants far, far away from him.

He swears by reputation.

Scandal is the last thing Simon Pearson has room for in his well-ordered world. The Duke of Disdain is too focused on keeping his title untainted and his secrets unknown. But when he discovers Juliana hiding in his carriage late one evening—risking everything he holds dear—he swears to teach the reckless beauty a lesson in propriety. She has other plans, however; she wants two weeks to prove that even an unflappable duke is not above passion.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

After being slightly disappointed by Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, I really loved this final book in the Love by Numbers series. The ‘opposites attract’ storyline is one of my favourites and Sarah MacLean pulls it off brilliantly by pairing the fiery Juliana with the oh-so-proper Duke of Leighton.

This is Simon Pearson, the 11th Duke of Leighton, and, like his forebears before him, he has led an exemplary life – his reputation untarnished. Cold, arrogant and domineering, his aloofness and contempt for those he considers beneath him has earned him the title, Duke of Disdain.

Duke of Leighton

This is Juliana Fiori, the daughter of an Italian merchant and a disgraced English marchioness. Beautiful, bold, unconventional and passionate, Juliana refuses to bow to the dictates of London society. Both her exploits and her scandalous family have become fodder for the gossipmongers.

Juliana

I must admit that after reading Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, it was hard to like the unfeeling, haughty Duke of Leighton, but gradually I came to understand why he believed that honour and duty came before anything else. All the previous ten generations of dukes had been raised with one rule – ‘Let nothing besmirch the name’ – and he saw it as his duty to live an unblemished life. Being raised by a cold, unloving mother had only further reinforced these beliefs and shaped him into the man he had become.

And there it was, in the cool, unmoving tenor of his mother’s words. Get it done. The demand . . . the expectation that a man like Simon would do whatever it took to ensure the safety and honor of his name.

It made Simon a far more sympathetic character and one I was rooting for.

I could see the vulnerability that lurks beneath Juliana’s boldness. While she gives the impression that she cares nothing for society’s censure, secretly she longs to be accepted. My heart went out to her because, no matter how hard she tries, she can never escape the legacy of her mother’s scandal and society’s expectations that Juliana is destined to be just like her.

Your mother’s daughter. The words were a blow she could never escape. No matter how hard she tried.

With a family scandal involving his younger sister Georgiana looming, Simon decides that marriage to a lady of impeccable character will overshadow the scandal.  But Juliana has turned Simon’s orderly world upside down and, although he knows she is totally unsuitable, he can’t seem to resist her. While I enjoyed the sizzling chemistry between Simon and Juliana, I also enjoyed seeing them discover the real person behind the facade that they each present to society. Simon sees that Juliana is not only mesmerisingly beautiful but also charming, intelligent, quick-witted and committed to those she loves. He also realises that she is as much a victim of circumstances as he is. Juliana discovers that, lurking beneath that the arrogant, oh-so-proper Simon is a charming, teasing, passionate man. Even though I was often frustrated by his misguided determination to resist the inevitable, I enjoyed watching Simon finally come to realise what he truly wants.

…you taught me that everything I believed, everything I thought I wanted, everything I had spent my life espousing—all of it . . . it is wrong. I want your version of life . . . vivid and emotional and messy and wonderful and filled with happiness.

It was heart-warming to see how determined Simon is to love, protect and support his niece so that she would never have to experience the same pain that Juliana had. He also realises how much he had failed his sister when she needed him the most.

I did enjoy Juliana’s amusing habit of using the wrong words:

“He called me a pie!” she announced, defensively.
There was a pause. “Wait. That’s not right.”
“A tart?”
“Yes! That’s it!”

♥♥♥

 “I am not an invalid, Simon, I still have use of all my extremes.”
“You do indeed—particularly your extreme ability to try my patience—I believe, however, that you mean extremities.”

Gabriel and Nick St. John and their respective wives, Callie and Isabel, characters from the previous books, are on hand to help or, in some cases, hinder Juliana and Simon’s journey to their Happy Ever After. I particularly enjoyed the rather volatile scenes between Simon and Gabriel!

MY VERDICT: This was a perfect end to an excellent series which I can definitely recommend.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

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

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

(UK covers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Lady Joy and the Earl

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1815)

Book Blurb:

They have loved each other since childhood, but life has not been kind to either of them. James Highcliffe’s arranged marriage had been everything but loving, and Lady Joy’s late husband believed a woman’s spirit was meant to be broken. Therefore, convincing Lady Jocelyn Lathrop to abandon her freedom and consider marriage to him after twenty plus years apart may be more than the Earl of Hough can manage. Only the spirit of Christmas can bring these two together when secrets mean to keep them apart.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was both a heart-breaking and heart-warming second chance love story, made all the more satisfying by the Christmas setting.

I really felt so desperately sad for the young James and Jocelyn (Joy, as he calls her) and how their hopes and dreams of a life together were destroyed by their respective fathers. Neither arranged marriage was a happy one and, now they are both widowed, James is determined to marry Joy, the woman he has never stopped loving. However, he discovers that Joy is no longer the vibrant, happy girl he remembers. Instead, he finds a sad, bitter, resentful woman who seems to blame him for her unhappiness.

The abuse that Joy suffered at her husband’s hands was truly heartrending and she still bears the physical and emotional scars. Since her husband’s demise, under unusual circumstances, she has been determined to control her own life, building defences around herself, and never letting anyone close. Her sons have become her world and her love for them and her need to protect them is paramount. She also has secrets which she has never revealed, even to her own family.

Joy’s feelings of bitterness and anger towards James are understandable because, for all these years, she believed that he had simply married someone else, leaving her broken-hearted. It is only when she learns the true nature of his marriage does Joy realise how much James had suffered too, in a different way.

James treats Joy with such patience and kindness, and I love his determination to restore her love of life, even though he faces an uphill struggle. When Joy’s secrets are finally revealed, James is there for her and it is heartening to see how supportive Joy and James’ families are.

I like the fact that Ms. Jeffers does not have Joy suddenly recovering from the years of abusive marriage. It will take time to dispel those terrible memories but, with James’ love, she can gradually replace them with joyful ones. The final scenes, at the end of the book, convey the love they share so beautifully and left me with a warm glow, knowing that their future held the happiness that had so long been denied to them.

MY VERDICT: An emotional, poignant and heart-warming Christmas novella – just perfect for curling up with on a dark, winter’s evening.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

**In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author with no strings attached. It is my personal choice to write this review and these are my honest thoughts about the book.** 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

The Laird's Christmas Kiss

(The Lairds Most Likely, #2)

 Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – 1818)

Book Blurb:

Down with love! 

Ever since she was fifteen, shy wallflower Elspeth Douglas has pined in vain for the attentions of dashing Brody Girvan, Laird of Invermackie. But the rakish Highlander doesn’t even know she’s alive. Now she’s twenty, she realizes that she’ll never be happy until she stops loving her brother’s handsome friend. When family and friends gather at Achnasheen Castle for Christmas, she intends to show the world that’s she’s all grown up and grown out of silly crushes on gorgeous Scotsmen. So take that, my gallant laddie!

Girls just want to have fun… 

Except it turns out that Brody isn’t singing from the same Christmas carol sheet. Elspeth decides she’s not interested in him anymore, just as he decides he’s very interested indeed. In fact, now he looks more closely, his friend Hamish’s sister is pretty and funny and forthright – and just the lassie to share his Highland estate. Convincing his little wren of his romantic intentions is difficult enough, even before she undergoes a makeover and becomes the belle of Achnasheen. For once in his life, dissolute Brody is burdened with honorable intentions, while the lady he pursues is set on flirtation with no strings attached.

Deck the halls with mistletoe! 

With interfering friends and a crate of imported mistletoe thrown into the mix, the stage is set for a house party rife with secrets, clandestine kisses, misunderstandings, heartache, scandal, and love triumphant.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have read and enjoyed several of Anna Campbell’s Christmas stories and this delightful novella was no exception.

For the past year, Brody has been unhappy; his hedonistic lifestyle had begun to pall and he is feeling aimless and lost when he arrives at Achnasheen Castle for Christmas. I love how, for the first time, he actually sees Elspeth. To her family she is a ‘wee mouse’, but to Brody she is intelligent, interesting and pure of heart and he is perceptive enough to notice her beauty and charm. I love how his actions reveal an honourable man when he steps up to offer marriage because he believes he has compromised Elspeth’s reputation.

Elspeth may appear dull and mousy but when she makes up her mind to do something, nothing  deters her. I saw this in her determination to forget her childish infatuation for Brody and enjoyed seeing a more mature and confident Elspeth emerging. It was satisfying to see her turn the tables on Brody by indulging in a no strings attached flirtation with him and discover what it felt like to be pursued by a rake, when she held all the cards.

Poor Brody has his work cut out convincing Elspeth that his love is sincere, given his past reputation. His friends, Elspeth’s brother, Hamish, and her cousin, Diarmid, certainly don’t help matters because they don’t seem to regard him as a worthy suitor for Elspeth.

I enjoyed seeing Brody and Elspeth discovering things about each other but also about themselves during the course of the story. They are such a likeable couple and I was rooting for them. There maybe trials and tribulations but the spirit of Christmas prevails and love wins through in the end.

“Oh, Brody, you make me so happy. This morning, I thought I’d never be happy again.”
He stared into her face, recognizing her as his destiny. “I’ll do my best to make ye happy for the rest of your life.”
Her lips curled in a smile that expressed a universe of joy. For the first time, he genuinely believed that she did love him.
“I’d love that.
“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
“So?”
She laughed, and the warm sound rippled down his backbone and settled in his heart. “Of course I’ll marry you, Brody.”

I love Marina for the way in which she supports and encourages Elspeth, unlike her mother who is more interested is gaining influence as a political hostess than her daughter’s happiness. I hate how she denigrates Elspeth at every opportunity.

Having met Fergus and Marina in this novella, I definitely want to read their story in The Laird’s Willful Lass, the first book in the series. I am also looking forward to seeing Hamish and Diarmid brought to their knees by love and sincerely hope that Brody and Elspeth get the chance to gloat!

MY VERDICT: A real holiday treat from one of my favourite authors.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Lairds Most Likely series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

 The Laird's Willful Lass (The Lairds Most Likely, #1) by Anna Campbell The Laird’s Christmas Kiss (The Lairds Most Likely, #2) by Anna Campbell

 

**In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of this novella as a gift from the author. It is my personal choice to write this review and these are my honest thoughts about the story.** 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

strumpetstea.wordpress.com/

sometimes classy, always tawdry

Chicks,Rogues and Scandals

We Love, We Live and We Read. . . .

Mimi Matthews

Romance · Literature · History

kraftireader

sharing my love of reading, crafting, recipes, music and shopping bargains

Flippin' Pages Book Reviews

from two ladies who love to read

Coffee & Wine Book Blog

"Coffee and wine bookend my days..."

Boonies123

Historical Romance Reviews

Delilah Marvelle Loves Her Readers

Sign up for the New Release Alert

Caz's Reading Room

Fiction of a historical nature and anything else that takes my fancy

The Reading Wench

Historical Romance Reviews

Sonya's Stuff

Mostly Books

doingsomereading

Now, what to read next...???

La Deetda Reads

Book Reviews, Thoughts and Recipes

And Then She Kissed Him

Regency romance redrawn with Author Cora Lee

Romantic Historical Reviews

Where History Meets Passion

Booktalk with Eileen: Journaling a Journey -- Learning the Art of Crafting a Novel

Sharing the experience of living a thousand lives and creating new ones

Every Woman Dreams...

Regina Jeffers, Author

%d bloggers like this: