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Proud Mary

(Roxton Family Saga, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1777)

Cover Blurb:

The Roxtons are back! Romance. Drama. Intrigue. Family secrets. There’s never a dull moment for the 18th Century’s first family…

Widowed and destitute, Lady Mary Cavendish is left with only her pride. Daughter of an earl and great-granddaughter to a Stuart King, family expectation and obligation demands she remarry. But not just any man will do; her husband must rank among the nobility. Falling in love with her handsome and enigmatic neighbor is out of the question. As always, Mary will do her duty and ignore her heart.

Country squire Christopher Bryce has secretly loved his neighbor Mary for many years. Yet, he is resigned to the cruel reality they are not social equals and thus can never share a future together. Never mind that his scandalous past and a heartbreaking secret make him thoroughly unworthy of such a proud beauty.

Then into their lives steps a ghost from Mary’s past, whose outrageous behavior has Mary questioning her worldview, and Christopher acting upon his feelings, and for all to see. The mismatched couple begin to wonder if in fact love can prevail—that a happily ever after might just be possible if only they dare to follow their hearts.

Mary and Christopher’s story can be read as a standalone and fans of the series will delight in being reacquainted with the fascinating, always surprising and never ordinary members of the Roxton family.

Fifth book in the highly acclaimed ROXTON FAMILY SAGA
152,000 words, about 600 standard pages (not including bonus material)
Non-explicit, mild sensuality

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I recently read a review of a Lucinda Brant novel which said that reading her books is like eating chocolates…you just can’t stop at one. That’s it in a nutshell for me because I love every book she has ever written and wait with eager anticipation for a new addition to her list, in this case PROUD MARY, book five in her acclaimed and addictive Roxton Family Saga.

Ms. Brant’s holistic approach is quite unique. Her books are wonderfully romantic but her stories are also very family orientated, a style which really appeals to me, and which I feel reflects life. Once that first flush of all-consuming, instalust/romantic love has waned then there must be something solid to build a life and family upon, and I like how she reflects that in this series. I’m also a sucker for a good epilogue and, with such a long, continuing saga, we have been privy to an epic one! With the Roxton family, Lucinda Brant has created a wonderfully complex Georgian aristocratic family whose story develops over a period of more than thirty years. The love and support they feel for each other is evident in every book throughout the series. Her remarkable talent for creating living, breathing people, who we remember vividly and with great affection, is where I feel Ms. Brant excels over so many others writing in this genre. I can think of only one other favourite author who has achieved this in an ongoing saga, with characters I adore and remember vividly.

Each book could be read and enjoyed individually but, quite honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. This series is such a feast and so much of the pleasure of reading it comes from following her fascinating characters – experiencing their mistakes, loves, their growing families and their progress and maturing in later life. I also admire her skill in making her readers feel as though we are all members of the intriguing and loveable Roxton family.

In Proud Mary, it is the turn of the utterly gorgeous, Squire Christopher Bryce and Lady Mary Cavendish to find love and happiness within the Roxton clan. Having originally met eight years earlier, it was love-at-first-sight for Christopher but an over-bearing, unloving mother who had denigrated and bullied her all her life, a father who deserted her and marriage to the odious, sycophantic and obsequious, Sir Gerald Cavendish, have left Mary with a sad case of lack-of-self-esteem. It’s therefore difficult for her to believe that a man such as Christopher could find her attractive. Although secretly very attracted to him – who wouldn’t be? – she would never have considered showing it. So, the two have just worshipped each other from afar for eight years, even after Mary is widowed. The three components for love and a life together – the right person, the right place, the right time -were not initially aligned, but with the sudden appearance of a mysterious ‘ghost’ comes the catalyst for that alignment and the flame of Christopher’s and Mary’s secret love is finally ignited and is all the better for the waiting.

Ms. Brant is known for her subtlety in her ‘bedroom scenes’ but, in Proud Mary, she allows us a little more than a glimpse of the beautifully sensual connection between two people who deserve to find love. However, the course of true love seems unlikely to run smoothly because, although Christopher is a wealthy and innovative businessman and the much-respected local Squire, albeit with a few shocking secrets yet to be revealed, he is also Mary’s social inferior, as she is the daughter of an earl and the cousin of a duke. In addition, under Sir Gerald’s will, Christopher has been appointed to the lowly position of steward of the estate and lands held in trust for Sir Gerald’s underage heir, Jack Cavendish. He spends a couple of days per fortnight at the estate, which has been almost bankrupted by Sir Gerald’s excesses. Mary and her ten-year-old daughter, Teddy (Theodora) live on the estate under strict economies as Christopher works to increase and repair its fortunes. For spiteful reasons, Sir Gerald has also stipulated that Teddy becomes his steward’s ward, in effect denying Lady Mary any real control over her daughter, and he has also decreed that Teddy may not visit her Roxton relatives. This, however, has made little difference in Teddy’s world as she adores her ‘Uncle Bryce’ and likes to be nowhere better than in her corner of the Cotswolds and preferably with him.

Enter Antonia, arriving like a whirlwind as usual and making her presence known. She is the common thread that runs throughout the Roxton series and I just adore her character. In the first book of the series, Noble Satyr, Antonia is an intelligent but precocious seventeen-year-old, setting her cap at the dissolute Duke of Roxton, twenty years her senior, and her success in that quest is apparent in the ensuing books in the series. Over a period of thirty years, she has loved, lost, suffered and loved again and is still an incredibly beautiful, vivacious, fifty-year-old who is beloved by all and who loves fiercely in return. At some point in the series, pretty much every family member has sought her wise council and, as she puts her mind to resolving Mary and Christopher’s conundrum, we see her in all her splendid glory.

I do marvel at Ms. Brant’s clever and devious mind, because an apparently throwaway remark made a few books earlier in the series will suddenly take on great significance. I’ve had more than one light bulb moment when a character I vaguely remember suddenly becomes important. Christopher’s Aunt Kate is one such character and, if I hadn’t read the previous books, her significance would have been lost to me. I have wondered on more than one occasion how the author keeps everything straight in her mind – the intricate plotting and the intertwining lives of her characters. I think this is one reason why re-reading (or re-listening with the talented Alex Wyndham) her books is even more enjoyable because there is always something I’ve missed. Her books are great ‘keepers’ and much loved additions to my book shelves.

I must mention darling little Teddy, Lady Mary’s daughter, one of the stars of Proud Mary. She is such a beautifully developed and compelling little character who steals the show on more than one occasion. She has been encouraged by her mother and her beloved ‘Uncle Bryce’ to be a free spirit. She is never happier than when climbing trees or roaming the glorious Cotswolds hills and dales with Christopher’s dog, and Ms. Brant’s earlier career as a teacher in a girls’ school is very apparent in the intuitive way she brings Teddy’s character to life. There are some amusing moments when, in the way of a child who has heard or seen something they aren’t meant to, she unwittingly drops her guilelessly stored ‘bomb’ into a conversation with adults, causing havoc and often throwing those around her into uproar or helpless laughter while naively tucking into her dinner, completely unaware of the impact her innocent comments have made.

Lucinda Brant’s research is phenomenal, with nothing left to guess work, even down to the Blue Coat school Christopher attended as a boy which is only briefly mentioned but which Ms. Brant has researched extensively. I live in the Cotswolds where this story is set and now look at it with new eyes after reading Proud Mary. Perhaps I previously took it all for granted, but I can certainly confirm that Ms. Brant has perfectly captured the beauty and essence of this gorgeous area of the British Isles. As always, the sumptuous fashions and furnishings of the Georgian period are described in exquisite detail, bringing the opulence of this captivating period in British history to sparkling life. Ms. Brant’s Pinterest Boards contain all her research and they are works of art in themselves.

MY VERDICT: I shall be very sad when Lucinda Brant brings this series to a close and I know that time is looming. But I reassure myself with the fact that it’s all on my kindle, book shelves and audio library to reach for whenever I need a-love-and-fuzzy-feeling fix! I am so looking forward to SATYR’S SON which is a very apt title to bring this superb series full circle. 


RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS 

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE


Roxton Family Saga – series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

 Midnight Marriage (Roxton Series #2) by Lucinda Brant Autumn Duchess (Roxton Series #3) by Lucinda Brant Eternally Yours Roxton Letters Volume One A Companion To The Roxton Family Saga Books 1–3 by Lucinda Brant Dair Devil (Roxton Series #4) by Lucinda Brant Noble Satyr (Roxton Series #1) by Lucinda BrantProud Mary A Georgian Historical Romance (Roxton Family Saga Book 5) by Lucinda Brant

 

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

 

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Her Enemy at the Altar

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

An unexpected end to the Wincanton–Stuart feud…?

Scandal broke last night when Lady Constance Stuart was discovered in the arms of Aaron Wincanton, the son of her family’s greatest enemy! But now we can reveal an even more shocking development. Our sources say a special license was obtained and the two were married before sunrise!

It’s been confirmed that Aaron has stolen his new bride away to the country to begin their unexpected marriage. We’ll be watching closely to see exactly what happens when a gentleman invites his enemy into his bed…

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I really enjoyed this enemies-to-lovers story by new-to-me author, Virginia Heath. It combines an engaging and well-written story, interesting characters and an emotionally satisfying romance.

The Stuarts and Wincantons have been mortal enemies for the past three hundred years and Lady Constance (Connie) Stuart has every reason to loathe Aaron Wincanton with a vengeance. After he scathingly nicknamed her Ginger Amazonian during her come out six years ago, Connie endured hurtful and humiliating jokes about her unruly red hair, tall, unimpressive figure and long legs. In her second year, she decided that, if she is going to be compared to a mythical warrior, she will act like one. A haughty air and a razor-sharp tongue become her chosen weapons of defence; even her dresses are a statement of defiance.

They were no longer merely gowns; now each dress was a statement of defiance. She might well be an ugly wallflower, but that did not mean that she had to be a shrinking violet.

Having always been self-conscious of the bump on my nose, I found it was easy to relate to Connie and sympathise with her insecurities and understand how much she was hurt and humiliated by the constant cruel barbs. I so admired her courage in facing her tormentors with defiance.

Connie is now engaged to the Marquis of Deal and, although it is an arranged marriage, she hopes to find a measure of happiness, until she discovers his true motives. Feeling hurt and dejected, she finds comfort in the unlikely arms of Aaron Wincanton but, when they are caught in a compromising situation, Connie finds herself married to her sworn enemy.

To everyone, Aaron appears a charming, flirtatious rogue, but this is a mask he wears because the war had left an indelible mark on him. He had seen too much death to remain the carefree young man he once was.

The new Aaron Wincanton found no joy in balls or parties, nor did he find it in intimate gatherings or quiet solitary contemplation either. He did not deserve to feel joy any more. Most of the time he felt burdened. The rest of the time, if he was lucky, he just felt numb.

He has personal demons to fight, ones that conjure up terrifying, tortuous nightmares, night and day, convincing him that he is slowly going mad. He is a desperate to find peace but unable to, believing himself unworthy of love or forgiveness.

Aaron is shocked to find that the Wincanton estate has been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by his father’s mismanagement. All his father’s decisions have been motivated by one thing only – revenge against the Stuarts – without thought for the consequences. All Aaron wants to do is put an end to the pointless and costly feud and restore the family fortunes by marrying a wealthy heiress. But his plans go awry when he is caught in a compromising situation with Lady Constance Wincanton and his strong sense of honour compels him to marry her.

Everything about this marriage was wrong. At best they were strangers, at worst sworn enemies.

I appreciated how Ms. Heath takes the time to build the romantic relationship between Connie and Aaron. At first, there are a lot of angry words spoken but gradually, they begin to discover more about each other

Connie has always thought of Aaron as confident and charming- as though he tiptoed through life largely unscathed – but realises that he has hidden depths and feels things as deeply as she does. While Connie was feeling sorry for herself, she never realised the sacrifices Aaron made by marrying her.

While society regards Connie as a social oddity, Aaron sees her as striking, intelligent and witty and finds he enjoys her company. Recognising that she has many conflicting and contrasting elements to her personality, I like how Aaron compares her to a rainbow…

At one end of the spectrum she was indomitable, sharp-tongued and aloof. He had been on the receiving end of that with alarming frequency and they had only been together for such a short time. But then she was kind-hearted. Finally, buried beneath all of that, was a seam of vulnerability that she worked hard to hide—but he knew that it was there.

Connie’s kindness, gentleness and compassion shines through in her care for Aaron’s dying father, and her desire to do everything she can to comfort Aaron and convince him that he has no reason to feel any guilt for his actions during the war.

I adore Aaron for realising the extent of Connie’s grief and sadness at the loss of her family and for arranging a secret meeting with her mother and brother.

His throat felt tight with emotion. For the first time he truly saw all of her grief and sadness at the loss of her family until she had realised that they had come to see her, then the relief and desperation on her lovely face had moved him and he was glad that he had been able to do this one tiny thing for her.

Whether it is standing up to Aaron’s irascible father or Aaron himself, Connie is definitely a force to be reckoned with!

“Perhaps I did not make myself clear. When I said that I wanted to help I meant that I am going to help you, whether you like it or not. I am not some ornamental woman and I will not let you treat me like one.”

The sexual tension builds up deliciously so that their falling in love feels genuine and when they finally make love, it just seems right. Ms. Heath writes such lovely, romantic scenes and I love this one where just a touch of a hand conveys so much. Sometimes, I find it far more romantic than an overtly explicit scene.

When his eyes slowly drifted down to her lips and lingered there, Connie’s heart began to race. His palm was still cupping her cheek, making her skin prickle with an awareness that was both quite alien and intoxicating at the same time.

I also like how Ms Heath includes lovely touches of humour, and this is one of my favourites because it conjured up such a comical picture in my mind!

The door edged open slowly to reveal him standing there with the handkerchief of surrender in one hand while the other hand held a bucket over his head like a helmet. He surveyed the room with exaggerated wariness before he gingerly stepped inside, still holding his bucket armour about his head and looking, much to her utter consternation, quite delightful. ‘I come in peace, Connie. Put down your weapons.’

The Earl of Redbridge, Connie’s father, is a truly despicable man.  Not only does he threaten to put Connie and her mother out on the streets if she (Connie) refuses to marry Aaron, but he selfishly pursues his feud with Aaron’s father to the detriment of his daughter’s happiness.  A thoroughly dislikeable character whom I’m pleased to say gets everything he deserves.

I was disappointed in the lack of an Epilogue because I love seeing the hero and heroine enjoying their well-deserved Happy Ever After.

MY VERDICT: This was a lovely introduction to Ms. Heath’s books and I will definitely be reading more.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happily Bedded Bliss

(The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bedding Proposal comes a seductive new novel about the most devilishly dangerous men in London…

When Lady Esme Byron happens upon a gorgeous naked man sleeping beside a secluded country lake, she can’t resist the impulse to sketch him. But when her highly improper drawing is mistakenly revealed at a party, she finds her once-pristine reputation in tatters.

Gabriel, Lord Northcote, may be a notorious rakehell, but he is still stunned to find himself accused of despoiling a duke’s sister—especially since he’s never set eyes on her. When Esme’s six irate brothers demand a hurried trip down the aisle, he has no choice but to comply. He thinks he can forget about his inconvenient bride but Esme Byron is no ordinary woman and Gabriel is about to learn just how unforgettable she can be.

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I really enjoyed this second book in Tracy Anne Warren’s Rakes of Cavendish Square series, which features one of my favourite tropes where two strangers end up being compromised and are forced to marry under less than auspicious circumstances.

Lady Esme Byron is the youngest of the Byron siblings and her family have always supported her unconventional lifestyle, allowing her the freedom to pursue her love of drawing and painting as well as her penchant for rescuing and caring for sick and wounded animals. She also chooses not to eat meat.

All her siblings, bar one, are happily married and they want the same for Esme but she has no intention of marrying for a long time yet. However, one impulsive act is about to change everything. While out one day, she comes across a mysterious, naked man asleep by her neighbour’s lake and simply has to draw him, never imagining that her drawing will become the source of a public scandal.

The sketchbook flew out of Esme’s grasp, pages fluttering wide before the book spun and skidded to a halt on the floor.

She bent quickly to retrieve it, but Lettice Waxhaven’s loud gasp let her know it was already too late. Everyone else was turning and looking too. Breath froze in her chest, her thoughts tumbling wildly one over the other as she tried to think exactly how to explain the page with the gloriously bare, unforgettably gorgeous male specimen lying open for all to see.

Now her fate is sealed – marriage to a stranger.

The subject of her drawing is Gabriel Lansdowne, Viscount Northcote, an inveterate rake infamous for his debauched lifestyle and scandalous erotic art collection. He is at a total loss when six angry Byron brothers, including his next-door neighbours, Leo and Lawrence Byron, invade his house and threaten him. Having no idea what they are talking about, he proceeds to antagonise them even more but, eventually he convinces them that he has never actually met their sister, but unfortunately the die is cast and he has no choice but to marry Esme.

I love how the focus of the story is on Gabriel and Esme’s developing relationship. No distracting mystery to solve, just two people on a journey of discovery about themselves and each other and ultimately falling in love. During their honeymoon at Gabriel’s house in Cornwall, they enjoy each other’s company and their compatibility extends to the bedroom too. Esme had few expectations for the marriage but…

…day by day she fell deeper under his spell, enjoying more than his touch, but his company as well. His clever mind and his sharp wit. His unexpectedly generous nature and his willingness to share—everything, that is, but almost nothing about his past or his family, whereas he knew practically everything about her own.

Gabriel has never known the love and loyalty of a family like Esme’s. Knowing details of how he was abandoned, abused and betrayed by the people who should have loved and protected him made it easy to understand how those experiences shaped the man he became…a cynical man who is afraid of love.

Love was weakness and he would drive its nascent tendrils from his soul before it had a chance to dig in and take root.

So, when an old friend observes that he is in love with his wife, Gabriel realises that he is coming to care for Esme but fears becoming emotionally involved because he knows from experience it can only lead to heartbreak. So, he panics and, after leaving Esme at Ten Elms, his estate in Derbyshire, he heads for London.

He needed space, a bit of separation between them, so he could get his emotions under proper control again. This thing between them—whatever it might be—was dangerous and had to be stopped.

Although, at first, justifiably angry and hurt, I love Esme’s determination to get her husband back. She knows that Gabriel is a good man who hides his true self beneath a cynical façade.  She sees it in the kindness he shows his servants and his acceptance of her menagerie of animals and she feels it in his kisses and touches. She knows that he is capable of love but she must earn his trust first and I like how she compares Gabriel to one of her wounded animals.

She had worked with enough wounded animals in her time to know that you couldn’t smother and push them too fast to accept you or they would remain wary of even the most tender care. Gentle, consistent handling and affection were the keys to their hearts. She just prayed they would prove the keys to Gabriel’s heart as well.

Just as a HEA seems within their grasp, there is another obstacle to overcome. At this point, I wanted to shake some sense into Gabriel  when the fool believes Esme would betray him with another man, but I love how Esme stands up for herself and matters come to head, forcing Gabriel to finally admit his love for her.

I love the scene where a bold Esme sends Gabriel’s despicable uncle packing and gives his servant spies their marching orders. There is also a very poignant and emotional scene where Esme gives Gabriel a gift of a rare Cornish silver pocket watch which has special significance for him.

I enjoyed the humorous interactions between Gabriel and the Byron brothers, especially Leo and Lawrence.

MY VERDICT: Although not quite as good as the previous book, this is still a delightful, witty, entertaining and romantic story. 

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Rakes of Cavendish Square series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Bedding Proposal (The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #1) by Tracy Anne Warren Happily Bedded Bliss (The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #2) by Tracy Anne Warren Bedchamber Games (The Rakes of Cavendish Square #3) by Tracy Anne Warren



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The Bedding Proposal

(The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author Tracy Anne Warren, the first of a new trilogy about the most dashingly dangerous men in London.

Pay a call to the most seductive address in London and meet the Rakes of Cavendish Square…

Lord Leo Byron is bored with the aristocratic company he keeps; he needs a distraction, preferably in the form of a beautiful new female companion. So when he sets eyes on fascinating and scandalous divorcée Lady Thalia Lennox, he’s determined to make her intimate acquaintance. But the spirited woman seems to have no intention of accepting his advances no matter how much he chases—or how hard he falls…

Once a darling of Society, Thalia Lennox now lives on its fringes. The cruel lies that gave her a notoriously wild reputation have also left her with a broken heart and led to a solemn vow to swear off men. Still, Leo Byron’s bold overtures are deliciously tempting, and, for the first time, she finds herself wondering whether it just might be worth the risk to let the attractive rake into her life—and her bed…

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Tracy Anne Warren is an author whose books I have wanted to read for some time and her new series, The Rakes of Cavendish Square, seemed like the perfect opportunity. I certainly wasn’t disappointed after reading THE BEDDING PROPOSAL, the first book in the series, which I loved.

Lord Leopold (Leo) Byron is the fifth son of a duke and, although he has studied law like his twin brother, Lawrence, he prefers living the life of a gentleman, while Lawrence became a barrister. Sound investments have provided sufficient monies to fund Leo’s lifestyle but, at the age of 25, his life has no real purpose other than the pursuit of pleasure.

“You’re five-and-twenty now. You could do with some purposeful direction.”
“The only direction I need is to be pointed toward a fresh glass of wine,” Leo said, tossing back the last of his champagne. “That and a proper bit of entertainment.”

A new mistress could be on the agenda but Leo wants someone unique; a woman who other men would go to any lengths to possess. So, when he sets eyes on the infamous Lady Thalia Lennox, he is determined to make her his mistress despite Lawrence’s warnings.

“…she uses men like toys and discards them once they’re broken, to say nothing of the fact that she’s several years your senior.”
Leo couldn’t repress a slowly forming grin as he turned to his twin. “Just look at her. She can’t be that much older, even if she has been married and divorced. As for her using me like a toy, I look forward to being played with. Anywhere. Anytime.”

Lady Thalia Lennox was the darling of the Ton until six years ago when her husband divorced her after a much-publicised affair. Left homeless and penniless, a small legacy from her maternal grandmother, consisting of a furnished town house and sufficient money to maintain it, meant she could live in a decent part of London. Since the divorce, she has been a social outcast, living on the periphery of polite society, and rumours abound of numerous affairs but the reality is very different.

No, she was quite alone and quite lonely.
Ironic, she mused, considering the constant parade of lovers she supposedly entertained—at least according to the gossip mavens and scandal pages that still liked to prattle on about her. Given their reports of her behavior, one would imagine her town house door scarcely ever closed for all the men going in and out—or perhaps it was only her bedroom door that was always in need of oil for the hinges.

Feeling lonely and with the only two friends who stuck by her after the divorce away at their husbands’ country estates, she accepts an invitation to a party. There, she meets the outrageous and arrogant Lord Leopold Byron who seems unable to take no for an answer.

Initially, Leo is annoyingly persistent in his pursuit of Thalia but I could understand his belief that she would welcome his overtures given her reputation. Thalia is her own woman, independent and self-sufficient and has no intention of yielding to him because…

For as charming and persuasive as Leopold Byron might be, she had no illusions about the fact that he considered her a prize to be won.

I enjoyed the battle of wills, the banter and the fact that Thalia is just as stubborn as Leo is. She successfully thwarts him at every turn and I love the prank she plays on him (the scene is so funny) although it doesn’t turn out exactly as she planned. Leo discovers that Thalia is brave, resourceful and clever and realises that he wants to know all about this beautiful, mysterious woman. He begins to doubt everything he believed about her when they first met.

What a puzzle she was. A beautiful, mysterious conundrum that demanded to be solved. The longer he knew her, the less about her he really understood.

Thalia’s story is so heart-breaking and I empathised with her feelings of hurt and betrayal. No wonder she had trust issues; Everyone, even her relatives, accepted her husband’s side of the story without question and she was never allowed to tell her side until Leo asks the question no one else had ever asked – “Tell me the truth. Your truth.” – and believes her. I love that this was the catalyst for Leo and Thalia to finally make love because it felt right. The love scene is beautifully done…tender, romantic and sensual.

A tear slid from the corner of her eye, but it was a tear of happiness.
Of healing.
As if this were her first time all over again and he the only lover she had ever known.
And would ever know again.

I couldn’t help but fall in love with Leo, especially when he gives Thalia the Meissen box, knowing how much it means to her, and replaces her great-grandmother’s pearls which her husband had sold. It warmed my heart to see Leo’s growing feelings for Thalia and how her outward beauty reflects an inner beauty. His love for and devotion to her is so heart-warming.

I enjoyed the banter between Leo and his twin brother, Lawrence, and meeting the other members of the Byron family. I also loved the way all the family members accepted Thalia (not surprising as they were scandal prone themselves).

But the Byrons had been all gentle smiles and shared commiseration. None of them had questioned her presence. Not one had treated her with anything but respect.

If I have one niggle, it’s that the main obstacle to Leo and Thalia’s HEA is resolved rather too conveniently but this wasn’t enough to prevent me from giving it 5 stars.

MY VERDICT: A well-written, emotionally satisfying, character driven love story. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Rakes of Cavendish Square series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Bedding Proposal (The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #1) by Tracy Anne Warren Happily Bedded Bliss (The Rakes of Cavendish Square, #2) by Tracy Anne Warren Bedchamber Games (The Rakes of Cavendish Square #3) by Tracy Anne Warren

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Publication date: 30th March 2017

Proud Mary

(Roxton Family Saga, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1777)

Cover Blurb:

The Roxtons are back! Romance. Drama. Intrigue. Family secrets. There’s never a dull moment for the 18th Century’s first family…

Widowed and destitute, Lady Mary Cavendish is left with only her pride. Daughter of an earl and great-granddaughter to a Stuart King, family expectation and obligation demands she remarry. But not just any man will do; her husband must rank among the nobility. Falling in love with her handsome and enigmatic neighbor is out of the question. As always, Mary will do her duty and ignore her heart.

Country squire Christopher Bryce has secretly loved his neighbor Mary for many years. Yet, he is resigned to the cruel reality they are not social equals and thus can never share a future together. Never mind that his scandalous past and a heartbreaking secret make him thoroughly unworthy of such a proud beauty.

Then into their lives steps a ghost from Mary’s past, whose outrageous behavior has Mary questioning her worldview, and Christopher acting upon his feelings, and for all to see. The mismatched couple begin to wonder if in fact love can prevail—that a happily ever after might just be possible if only they dare to follow their hearts.

Mary and Christopher’s story can be read as a standalone and fans of the series will delight in being reacquainted with the fascinating, always surprising and never ordinary members of the Roxton family.

Fifth book in the highly acclaimed ROXTON FAMILY SAGA
152,000 words, about 600 standard pages (not including bonus material)
Non-explicit, mild sensuality

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This is the 5th book in Lucinda Brant’s superb Roxton Family Saga series and, once again, I was totally captivated by Christopher and Mary’s tender and beautiful love story. While this book can be read as a standalone, I know reading the previous books in the series will not only enhance your enjoyment of PROUD MARY,  but they are all wonderful books in their own right and shouldn’t be missed.

I always lose myself in one of Ms. Brant’s books, because she writes such intelligent and intricately layered stories with finely-drawn characters, and always makes me feel as if I am stepping back in time and experiencing life  through her characters’ eyes.

I invariably fall in love with her heroes and Christopher is no exception. Apart from being handsome and sexy, he is also kind, generous, sincere and fair. You see this in the benevolent way he treats his tenants and workers; the way he compliments Mary on her skill at embroidery and as an artist, something no one else has ever done; the positive way he treats Teddy while her father was dismissive because she wasn’t a boy.

When the eighteen-year-old Christopher discovers the truth surrounding his birth, I could understand the anger and sense of betrayal he feels towards the two people he loved and trusted.  He sees himself as ‘a bastard, the ill-begotten fruit of an illicit affair between two adulterers.’  His answer is to run away, something that youngsters with problems still do today. I couldn’t condemn him for his choice of employment whilst abroad. Alone and destitute, he uses the only assets he has. He knows that while his position is perfectly respectable in Italian society, it would be deemed scandalous by English society. It is no surprise that, once he returns home and assumes his position as Squire Christopher Bryce, he wants to keep his family secret and scandalous past well hidden.

Mary is such a sympathetic character. No wonder she is so docile and lacking in confidence given her rigid upbringing; a childhood spent with an overbearing mother who constantly drummed into her the correct social rules; a mother who still dominates her life. Then, marriage to the odious, self-centred Sir Gerald not only compounded her insecurities, but also left her believing she is emotionally and physically cold and incapable of enjoying intimacy.

Mary is a wonderful mother and her love for Teddy shines through, and I admire her determination to give her daughter a very different childhood to her own.

…if climbing trees and riding astride and being outdoors all day made Teddy happy, then she, as her mother, would do her best to see that she could do those things

As with all Ms. Brant’s books, the romance is beautifully written; tender, romantic and sensual, without being overtly explicit. I love how Christopher and Mary each let down their guards and confide in each other about their pasts and how Mary is willing to accept Christopher’s past and sees only the man he is now.

 “I truly do not mind about your past; it is who I see before me that matters.”

The unexpected return of someone, thought long dead, provides a definite obstacle to the romance or, perhaps not!

It is heart-warming to see Mary’s new-found confidence, happiness and contentment knowing that she is truly loved.

She looked confident and content, and it radiated. He smiled to himself as he sipped his tea, at the small part he had played in her new-found self-assurance and happiness.

One of my favourite scenes is where Mary finally stands up to her appalling mother and I was positively whooping when Julian, as head of the family, gives Lady Fitzstuart an ultimatum!

I applaud Ms. Brant for not making the issue of their differing social status conveniently disappear like a puff of smoke, but she deals with it in a realistic way. Mary is aware that she will no longer be accepted by certain elements of society, but she and Christopher are content to live in the depths of Gloucestershire, and, as their marriage is accepted and supported by the Roxton family, that is all that matters.

I adore the tomboyish Teddy and how she loves Uncle Bryce as much as her true uncles. There is one very poignant scene where she gives Christopher’s Aunt Kate, who is virtually blind, a personally embroidered pocket for her handkerchief.

I hated Sir Gerald for so cruelly using his daughter as a means of gaining revenge on the Duke of Roxton (Julian).

Poor Julian is often misunderstood and so I was pleased that Christopher immediately sees him as a good and honest man, one he would willingly trust with his life. I love the unlikely friendship that develops between the two men, but perhaps it is not so surprising as Mary observes…

…both were sticklers for exactness and truthfulness, both were honorable and honest, and both could be frustratingly pedantic at times.

I enjoyed all the secondary threads running through the story, the twists and surprises and the welcome appearance of familiar members of the Roxton family, especially Antonia, who seems to steal every scene she graces.

To my delight, there is also a charming Epilogue and is it possible that Teddy and Jack might get a book in the future? I do hope so.

MY VERDICT: Another superb book to add to an equally superb series. If you have not yet read this series, then you have many hours of wonderful storytelling to look forward to. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


REVIEW RATING:  STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE


Roxton Family Saga
– series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

 Midnight Marriage (Roxton Series #2) by Lucinda Brant Autumn Duchess (Roxton Series #3) by Lucinda Brant Eternally Yours Roxton Letters Volume One A Companion To The Roxton Family Saga Books 1–3 by Lucinda Brant Dair Devil (Roxton Series #4) by Lucinda Brant Noble Satyr (Roxton Series #1) by Lucinda BrantProud Mary A Georgian Historical Romance (Roxton Family Saga Book 5) by Lucinda Brant

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

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A Splendid Defiance - audio

Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction (English Civil War, 1644-1646)

Cover Blurb:

Justin Ambrose, dashing cavalier and close companion to Prince Rupert, was bored with life in the Royalist garrison in Banbury, until he met the sister of a local merchant. Famous for his romantic conquests, Justin had never before let a woman touch his heart.

But Abby was no ordinary woman. She was beautiful and she was brave. She was also young and terrified of her brother, a religious fanatic and self-sworn enemy of all Royalists.

When the rebel army unleashed its might on the castle, Justin fought tirelessly to break the siege. But even his closest friends did not know what tormented him. And Abby, as she sat with the rebel commanders at her brother’s table, dreamed of a man she could not, must not love…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

It’s fair to say that I’m a huge fan of Stella Riley. She can do no wrong in my eyes and I’m running out of superlatives to adequately describe or do justice to her writing. Nevertheless, I will try my best to initiate new readers/listeners and show what an absolute treat they have in store with this superbly performed version of A SPLENDID DEFIANCE.

If you are an historical fiction or historical romance fan, then you must read or listen to Stella Riley’s work, and a good place to start is A Splendid Defiance. It was this story and another of the author’s books, The Marigold Chain, that initially piqued my interest in this turbulent period in England’s history. Both books are superbly researched, standalone stories and each is eminently enjoyable. I couldn’t imagine improving on my enjoyment of the original print version of A Splendid Defiance but, by employing the superbly talented actor, Alex Wyndham, to narrate her powerful story, Ms. Riley has done just that. Mr. Wyndham brings her exciting, historically accurate, wonderfully romantic, feast of a book to multi-dimensional life.

Captain Justin Ambrose has been banished following an ill-advised comment he made about one of the King’s favourites, which unfortunately reached that officer’s ears. Justin is now moodily kicking his heels at the Royalist controlled garrison of Banbury Castle in Oxfordshire, apparently indefinitely. A career soldier of considerable experience, he has earned a formidable reputation and naturally feels resentful at being stuck in the Puritan backwater of Banbury. His generally acerbic and sarcastic tongue is even more prominent as the prolonged inactivity begins to take its toll on his temper.

Abigail Radford (Abby) is a young, sweet and innocent seventeen-year-old when this story begins. She lives and works, along with her mother, younger brother, Sam, and sister-in-law, Rachel, in the home and drapery shop of her elder brother, Jonas. But this is no happy household, for Jonas is an autocratic, over-bearing bully of a man, whose hatred of the Cavaliers at the castle is topped only by his religious fanaticism.

Justin is a man of integrity, honesty and honour and a Royalist to the core. Completely dedicated to his King and cause, there is no room in his life for love and marriage. In his first encounter with Abby – during which he saves her from being ravished by a couple of his subordinates – he doesn’t even see her as more than a terrified girl. It takes several more encounters before he even remembers her and then only fleetingly. It takes several more unplanned meetings before he notices that, beneath the extreme plain clothing and, unflattering white cap, there is a rather sweet and attractive young woman. Any possible developing of interest on Justin’s part – for Abby is already clumsy and tongue-tied in his presence – is further delayed by the arrival of a large Roundhead contingent, the senior officers of which take up residence at the home of Jonas, being the most prominent Banbury citizen and the first siege of the castle begins.

I admire the way Stella Riley grows her love stories in all her novels, but particularly in this one, where it is understated and plausible and entirely in keeping with unfolding events. The historical aspect of the story is all important; Banbury castle was a strategic holding and central to the Royalist cause. Three hundred and fifty men held Banbury castle against almost impossible odds, nearly starving in the process.

After the first siege is over, the Parliamentarians ousted, and on the run after Royalist re-enforcements arrive, the Garrison can breathe again and life returns to some semblance of order. Ms. Riley then continues to develop the interaction and slowly growing attraction between Justin and Abigail, throwing them together in various situations which further advances their apparently ill-fated friendship. For how can two people on opposing sides of a civil war ever have a chance at mutual happiness?

Justin is a multi-layered character with many deep, dark secrets; even his closest friends know little about him, other than he has a well-deserved reputation with the ladies. He is such a believable character, especially when you find yourself getting cross with him because he’s given Abby an undeserved tongue lashing, upsetting her to the point that it feels as if he’s kicked a puppy. But then, conversely, you find yourself going all gooey over him when he’s being particularly charming – and my goodness, he can certainly turn it on when he chooses!  Then it’s clear to see what a terrific job Stella Riley has done in bringing us the very memorable Captain Justin Ambrose because he’s gorgeous – seriously flawed -but still gorgeous, and we love and castigate him in turns.

Abby’s character grows over the course of the story from a timid Puritan to an attractive young woman with a lot more oomph than she had to begin with. Justin sets out initially – not entirely altruistically – to help her stand up to and defy his nemesis, the odious Jonas. In the end, however, he is hoist with his own petard as he finds himself drawn more and more to her quiet, unassuming and undemanding presence. Eventually, Justin realises that she is the only person in his life who has ever cared for him or gives a damn what happens to him, and refreshingly requiring nothing from him in return. Their eventual acceptance of the love between them is heart-warmingly tender and all the better for the waiting. As is the norm with Stella Riley, she doesn’t need to resort to explicit love scenes. Instead, sensuality and tenderness is the order of the day, and I was left with a warm glow as she found a way to bring these two lovely characters together against all of the odds.

As usual, Alex Wyndham’s performance is stupendous. There are few performers who could tackle such a varied and wide cast of characters and fool the listener into feeling as if they are listening to a rather superior radio play, rather than one man’s narrative of a story. Obviously, as this is a story set in war time, it is top heavy with a large cast of men who are often in a multi-character conversation. This holds no difficulty for Mr. Wyndham who switches between a variety of accents, tones and timbres, giving each character a distinct interpretation. Artistically, his performance is faultless, and there is really nothing I could criticise in his portrayal of Stella Riley’s fabulous cast of characters, male or female. While listening to his performance, I discovered that Alex Wyndham has another interesting addition to his repertoire…a very pleasing, rich baritone singing voice. Rarely have I experienced a voice actor/narrator able to perform in this way and certainly none so well.

MY VERDICT: I cannot recommend this audio book highly enough because it has everything that I look for in an historical romance; living, breathing people and so well does Stella Riley blend her fictitious and non-fictitious characters, that it is impossible to see the seams; atmospheric, superbly researched historical content and spine tingling romance. A SPLENDID DEFIANCE is a Stellar 5 stars for both content and narration and another winner for this phenomenal writer/narrator team. 


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Devil in Spring

(The Ravenels, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

An eccentric wallflower…

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake…

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught-by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot…

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy-and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Like every other Lisa Kleypas fan, I was so excited when I discovered that the hero of this book is Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, the son of one of her most beloved couples, Sebastian and Evie from DEVIL IN WINTER. My expectations were obviously high and I’m happy to say that, apart from a couple of niggles, I loved it.

The Prologue was just delightful and it was wonderful seeing Sebastian and Evie still so in love even after 30 years of marriage and Sebastian has lost none of his devilment.

“The rest of the world can wait,” Sebastian said firmly. “I’m going to debauch you for the ten thousandth time, Evie – and for once, I want you to pay attention.”

“Yes, sir,” she said demurely, and looped her arms around her husband’s neck as he carried her to their bedroom.

Gabriel has clearly inherited traits from both his parents; handsome, witty, astute, charming and worldly like his father and kind, understanding and compassionate like his mother. As heir to a dukedom, he takes his responsibilities seriously, having assumed management of many of the family’s business interests at a young age.   He is well aware of the expectations of others and carries the constant burden of having to maintain the perfect image. However, there is another side to him…his darker sexual appetites which his married mistress is more than happy to fulfil.

For the past two years, Nola had fully indulged Gabriel’s every desire, their encounters unhindered by morals or inhibitions. She always knew when to push the limits farther, coming up with new tricks to spark his interest and satisfy his complex desires

One of my niggles is that Ms. Kleypas never explores this aspect of Gabriel’s character in any real depth and, to me, it seemed like a contrived way of making Gabriel seem less than perfect.

By having Pandora suffering from ADHD, Ms. Kleypas has created a delightfully quirky, adorable heroine who is impulsive, spirited, creative and ambitious. A conventional life has no appeal at all for her and marriage is not on the cards. Pandora plans to support herself and live independently by becoming a business woman and marketing her new board game. I love her habit of making up words, such as calling the elaborate wooden curls and twists carved into the back of the settee, in which she gets her dress caught, swirladingles.

Pandora and Gabriel seem the most unlikely couple but Ms. Kleypas makes the romance work so beautifully. It is such a captivating blend of witty banter, heated kisses and tender, sensual love scenes. I love how Ms Kleypas imbues their romance with lovely touches of humour and this is one of my favourites exchanges:

“Are you thinking about the Queen?” he heard Pandora ask eventually, while the engorged length of his shaft throbbed vehemently between them. “Because if you are, it’s not working.”   

Gabriel’s lips twitched at the helpful observation. He replied with his eyes still closed. “With you sitting on me in that sweet little nightdress, it wouldn’t matter if the Queen were standing in this room with a contingent of guards in full uniform.”

I also love it when Gabriel is whispering all the things he wants to do to Pandora but he’s whispering into her bad ear and she can’t hear him!

I loved meeting Sebastian and Evie’s other children and Ms. Kleypas portrays the loving relationship between the family so well. I was especially intrigued by Gabriel’s caustic older, widowed sister, Phoebe, and do hope she gets a Happy Ever After. Dr.  Garrett Gibson and detective Ethan Ransome, who were both in Marrying Winterborne, make an appearance. I also loved seeing my favourite Wallflower hero, Westcliff, in a cameo role.

My other niggle concerned the dramatic event in the last quarter of the book. It seemed totally unrelated to the rest of the story and more like a plot device to highlight a possible future hero and heroine. However, my niggles in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the book.

MY VERDICT: Enchanting, romantic, sexy and funny – a winning combination.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels, #1) by Lisa Kleypas Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2) by Lisa Kleypas Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3) by Lisa Kleypas

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