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Hazard - Stella Riley

(Rockliffe, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian – Paris, 1770 and London, 1777 )

Cover Blurb

Hazard: a game of Chance and Luck, made riskier when Fate is rolling the dice.

For Aristide Delacroix, the first throw summons shades from his past. A man he had met, just once, over a card-table … and the lovely girl indirectly responsible for plunging his life into catastrophe.

For Lord Nicholas Wynstanton, tired of waiting for Madeleine Delacroix to make up her mind, it slyly suggests he begin a whole new game with loaded dice; while for Madeleine, it devises a terrifying lesson in missed opportunities and the uncertainty of second chances.

And for Genevieve Westin, hoping widowhood will be happier than marriage, it brings a rude awakening – leaving a single, wild gamble her only option.

A cardsharp turned businessman, a duke’s charming brother, a stubborn, razor-edged beauty and a desperate widow.

Four players in a game of Hazard … all playing for very high stakes.

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In HAZARD, the 5th book in Stella Riley’s wonderful Georgian Rockliffe series, Ms. Riley gives her readers two equally captivating romances which play out in tandem but are very different in tone. The tender romance between Aristide and Genevieve forms a nice contrast to the volatile one between Nicholas and Madeleine.

From their first meeting in The Player, the attraction between the charming, good-natured Lord Nicolas Wynstanton, the Duke of Rockliffe’s younger brother, and the stubborn, prickly Madeleine Delacroix, Aristide’s sister, has been palpable. It is obvious that Nicholas is head over heels in love with Madeleine but she pushes him away at every opportunity with her sarcasm. Although she has deep feelings for Nicholas, Madeleine sees their unequal stations in life as an insurmountable barrier, despite Nicholas’ protestations to the contrary. The situation comes to a head at the end of The Wicked Cousin when a thoroughly frustrated Nicholas issues Madeleine with an ultimatum…

…this is the last time I’ll ask. I’ve made a cake of myself over you for long enough. If you don’t want to know me, say so and I’ll walk away.’
Colour bloomed along her cheekbones. ‘That sounds like an ultimatum.’
‘It is an ultimatum.  Choose.’

Nicholas has given Madeleine the opportunity to cut him out of her life completely but she simply cannot do it. The knowledge that she is not indifferent to him makes Nicholas determined to break down the defences she has built around herself and claim her as his wife.

Madeleine’s attitude towards Nicholas annoyed me so much at times, that I was beginning to believe that perhaps Nicholas deserved someone better. However, the Prologue in Hazard gave me a real insight into both Madeline and Aristide’s characters and events in their pasts which were to affect each of them so profoundly. I saw the insecurity and vulnerability beneath Madeleine’s tough exterior and understood the reasons why…

She surrounded herself with an invisible thicket of thorns and a big ‘Keep Out’ notice for good measure.

I love how Madeleine, with no thought for her own safety, protects Nicholas when he is attacked. She is just magnificent!

 ‘Like a tigress, she was – and not a thought for her own safety.  You’ve got to admire a woman like that.’

I couldn’t help but be touched by her heart-felt words as Nicholas lies unconscious. All her defenses are down and the barriers she has erected around herself have finally fallen.

Nicholas has always been regarded as loveable and good-humoured with a dislike of dancing because of his unfortunate habit of stepping on ladies’ toes. Now we see a man who is relentless in his pursuit of the woman he loves.

It has been a bumpy ride, with lots of ups and downs, but I was delighted to see Nicholas and Madeleine finally get their hard-won Happy Ever After.

Ms. Riley creates a truly heart-warming romance between Aristide and Genevieve. Like his sister, past events have led Aristide to build emotional barriers around himself and I enjoyed seeing those barriers gradually start to crumble as he falls under his wife’s spell.

His awareness of his wife increased with every passing day and not merely when she was within touching distance.  He’d developed a habit of watching her across a room and thinking about her when she wasn’t there.

He may not be aware of it himself, but his love shines through in the patience, understanding and kindness he shows Genevieve. The scene where he buys her the little puppy is particularly telling because he realises just how devoid of kindness her life has been. Her late husband’s emotional and mental cruelty had destroyed Genevieve’s self-esteem but Aristide gradually restores her confidence in herself as a beautiful and desirable woman.

Genevieve gradually discovers that lurking behind that reserve, Aristide is a very different man …honourable, kind, patient, understanding, and someone she can trust; not to mention the other benefits!

That cool, business-like façade hides all manner of things … such as when he’s teasing or joking … and the wickedly seductive Frenchman who knows exactly where to touch me and how.

I admired Genevieve for her courage when she stands up to her odious brother, Ralph, and champions her husband…

‘Birth and title don’t make a gentleman, Ralph. Character and manners do that and Aristide has both.  Also, although you sneer at him from your aristocratic pedestal, he’s already achieved more than you will in a lifetime.  He started with nothing and made it into something.  You started with every advantage – and wasted all of them. In short, he’s worth a dozen of you

Sir George Braxton’s accusation of cheating with regard to Aristide is resolved in a satisfying way and also adds some dramatic events to the story which are integral to moving one of the romances forward. It also provides one of my favourite scenes where Aristide and the unflappable Rockliffe confront Braxton and the duke scares him (Braxton) half out of wits with just the tone of his voice.

One of the highlights for me in this series is the mutual love, loyalty and friendship between the Rockliffe circle of family and friends. I am always guaranteed some delightful scenes, memorable moments, and witty banter. Among my favourite moments are:

  • Cassie’s warm and unquestioning acceptance of Genevieve.
  • Nicholas teasing Sebastian about arriving late to Adrian’s party…

My apologies.  We were … delayed.’
‘Yes – and I can guess by what.’
Sebastian didn’t reply but the look in his eyes said something along the lines of, Shut your mouth before I put my fist in it … which only increased Nicholas’s amusement.

  • Aristide’s embarrassment and his friends’ knowing looks when they hear the story of him saving the puppy for his wife.


MY VERDICT
: Beautifully written, with memorable characters, a well-plotted story and two captivating romances, this is another wonderful addition to this addictive series. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

 

Rockliffe series so far (click on the book covers for more details):
The Parfit Knight Volume 1 (Rockcliffe) by Stella Riley The Mésalliance by Stella Riley The Player (Rockliffe, #3) by Stella Riley The Wicked Cousin Volume 4 (Rockliffe) by Stella Riley Hazard by Stella Riley

 

 

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(Rockliffe, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1762 and 1774)

Cover Blurb:

When the Marquis of Amberley’s coach is waylaid by highwaymen and his coachman shot, he is forced to take shelter at the first house he finds and is subsequently trapped there for a week by a severe snow storm.

Oakleigh Manor is the home of Rosalind Vernon who lives alone but for her devoted servants and an ill-natured parrot, cut off from the outside world by the tragic result of a childhood accident. But Rosalind is brave and bright and totally devoid of self-pity – and it is these qualities which, as the days pass and the snow continues to fall, touch Amberley’s heart.

On his return to London, the Marquis persuades Rosalind’s brother, Philip, to bring her to town for a taste of society, despite her handicap. But the course of Amberley’s courtship is far from smooth. Philip Vernon actively dislikes him; Rosalind appears to be falling under the spell of the suavely elegant Duke of Rockliffe; and worse still, Amberley is haunted by a dark and terrible secret that, if revealed, may cause him to lose Rosalind

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A perfect blend of sparkling, witty dialogue, engaging and well-written characters and wonderful romantic chemistry make this such a lovely story.

Amberley is honourable, charming, intelligent and kind-hearted with a great sense of humour…all the qualities I love in my heroes…although he is inclined to let society believe the worst of him. His mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Amberley, warns him that this is foolish:

“You are too much inclined to let the world think what it will and there are times when it is a very great bêtise.”

This is folly indeed, the consequences of which will be seen later in the story.

Since being blinded in an accident, Rosalind has lived in Oakleigh Manor for the past 12 years, with only the servants and a temperamental parrot for company. She is loved, protected and shielded from the world at large, rarely going out beyond the grounds of the house. Rosalind is such a lovely heroine, charming, funny and never wallowing in self-pity.

The romance between Rosalind and Amberley is so beautifully written and I could see how perfect they were for each other and watching Rosalind blossom under Amberley’s influence was one of the highlights of the book for me. I defy you not to fall in love with Amberley just as Rosalind does. One of my favourite scenes is where Amberley teaches Rosalind to dance and realises he has fallen in love with her.

The things he’d taken for anger and compassion provoked by her situation were neither and the simple truth was that he loved her … and because of that, everything about her touched him.

Inevitably, the course of true love does not run smoothly as past secrets, misconceptions, a malicious schemer and Rosalind’s implacable brother threaten their happiness. I feel that Ms Riley resolved the conflict in a most satisfactory way and it was so refreshing to see a heroine willing to love the hero regardless of past tragic events.

I like how the secondary characters are not just there to pad out the story but have an important role to play.

It is clear that Rosalind’s brother, Philip, loves his sister and only wants the best for her. What he fails to understand is that by wrapping her up in cotton wool, he is depriving her of the opportunity to live life to the full.

I wasn’t sure about Philip’s fiancé, Isabel, but she turned out to be quite a dark horse. Beneath her unassuming manner, she has real strength of character but is vulnerable when it comes to matters of the heart. I like how she sees Amberley’s true character and is able to influence Philip’s opinion in a quiet, subtle way. I also enjoyed seeing Philip suffering pangs of jealousy and coming to realise the depth of his feelings for Isabel. I also enjoyed seeing the friendship developing between Isabel and Rosalind.

I adore Amberley’s French mother and it is easy to see who he inherited all that charm from. She is charm personified and I love how Ms Riley captures that delightful French lilt in her voice too.

Isabel’s brother is a selfish, spineless, manipulative coward and I was pleased to see him get his just desserts although maybe not as harsh as he deserved.

I enjoyed the camaraderie and witty banter between Amberley and his friends, the Duke of Rockliffe and the Honourable Jack Ingram. It is clear to see that a close bond exists between the three of them.

Last, but not least, I LOVE Broody, the parrot. He steals every scene he appears in with his disdain for everyone except Rosalind, and his ribald language. He is just hilarious and I love the seed battle between him and Amberley.

I am really impressed with Ms Riley’s writing whether it is her wonderful descriptive flair…

Curtains of violet damask were closed across windows flanked across one side by an ebony escritoire and on the other by a delicately inlaid harpsicord. There were shelves full of books, a frame holding a half-worked tapestry and a large, gilt cage housing a brightly-coloured but decidedly sulky-looking parrot.

or her ability to convey real emotions…

Excitement rippled through her veins and set the nerves vibrating beneath her skin, producing a tiny shiver of mingled fear and delight. A part of her that had not stirred for a very long time stretched its cramped muscles and began to wake, luring her from the safe harbour of her cultivated, hard-won tranquillity and setting her adrift in the alien, almost forgotten seas of hope and doubt.

or the moments of hilarity…

Broody waited, cautious but interested and, when the second seed was flicked his way, he side-stepped it neatly and put his head on one side.
‘Bugger!’ he said. And then, hopefully, ‘Clear for action?’

MY VERDICT: ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL AND A BOOK I CAN DEFINITELY RECOMMEND!

 

REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

Read January 2016


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

The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley The Mésalliance by Stella Riley The Player by Stella Riley

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A family gathering with all those delicious Mackenzies…how could I resist!

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(Mackenzies and McBrides, #8.5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Late Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Ian Mackenzie is awakened at Kilmorgan Castle one night to find robbers stealing the priceless art collection of his oldest brother, Hart. Since Ian and Beth are the only ones in resident at Kilmorgan at the moment, Ian decides he must find the art and the culprits before the family shows up for Hart’s birthday gathering. With Inspector Fellows and Beth, he investigates, though Ian is somewhat worried by Beth’s late husband’s brother, a retired missionary, who decides to visit. Does John Ackerley hold the “cure” to Ian’s madness? And can Ian discover what has happened to Hart’s treasures, and who is targeting the Mackenzies before the enemy strikes again?

Return to Kilmorgan Castle to visit the Victorian branch of the Mackenzie family, and catch up on the brothers and friends, their children, and their lives.

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These two audiobooks were early surprise birthday presents from my dear friend, Wendy Loveridge.

Narrated by Nicholas Bolton

Genre: Historical Romance (England, early 19th century)

Cover Blurb:

The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant – and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the “D of J” in scandal sheets. But sometimes the most womanizing rakehell can be irresistible, and even his most causal attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms.

Then one fateful day she receives the shocking news – the duke is lost to the world. And Maddy knows it is her destiny to help him and her only chance to find the true man behind the wicked facade.

But she never dreamed her gentle, healing touch would alter his life and her own so completely – and bind them together in need, desire…and love.

 

Narrated by Kate Reading

(Scoundrels, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

DETERMINED LADY

Tough-minded Jessica Trent’s sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain’s reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction …

LORD OF SCOUNDRELS

Damn the minx for tempting him, kissing him … and then forcing him to salvage her reputation! Lord Dain can’t wait to put the infuriating bluestocking in her place — and in some amorous position, And if that means marriage, so be it! — though Sebastian is less than certain he can continue to remain aloof … and steel his heart to the sensuous, headstrong lady’s considerable charms.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

This was highly recommended by my friend, Wendy

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(Wicked Trilogy, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A wickedly wonderful new romance from the New York Times bestselling author of His Wicked Reputation...

Most women will give him anything he wants. She is not most women…

As a well-known barrister and the son of a duke, Ives confines his passionate impulses to discreet affairs with worldly mistresses. A twist of fate, however, has him looking for a new lover right when a fascinating woman shows up in his chambers, asking him to help save her father from the gallows. Unfortunately, he has already been asked to serve as the prosecutor in the case, but that only ensures close encounters with the rarity named Padua Belvoir. And every encounter increases his desire to tutor her in pleasure’s wicked ways…

Having always been too tall, too willful, and too smart to appeal to men, Padua Belvoir is shocked when Ives shows interest in her. Knowing his penchant for helping the wrongly accused, she had initially thought he might be her father’s best hope for salvation. Instead, he is her worst adversary—not least because every time he looks at her, she is tempted to give him anything he wants…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

Delilah Marvelle is one of my top favourite authors and I jumped at the chance of reviewing this Christmas novella.

Source: Received from the author via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

(A Happy Christmas, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

A mysterious key to an attic that cannot be found…
A ghost with good but overly ambitious intentions…
And a forgotten wager that is about to turn Miss Barrington’s life into a holiday mess.

Are you ready for the outrageously funny and Happy Christmas Series?
WARNING: THERE IS A LOT OF MAGIC AND ROMANCE IN THIS BOX.

London, England – Winter of 1860
When all the ladies of London realize that handsome and refined gentleman, the Duke of Ainsley, is formally looking for a wife, only weeks before Christmas, a mad dash to claim him begins. Miss Barrington knows her chances with the duke are incredibly good given what her close gypsy friend had once foretold, but a forgotten wager with her greatest nemesis, American millionaire, Mr. Redstone, is about to bring on complications and…chaos.

Will she claim the dashing and respectable duke once foretold by the stars? Or will she fall for Mr. Redstone and go against destiny? Only the days leading up to Christmas will tell!

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

I don’t read many contemporary romances but I absolutely love Victoria Vane’s books – whether it’s her fabulous historicals or her sexy contemporaries!

Source: An ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

(Hotel Rodeo, #1)

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Cover Blurb:

Some Odds are Meant to be Played… 

PLACE YOUR BET

The Hotel Rodeo in Las Vegas has seen better days, but managing partner Ty Morgan has come up with a way to return it to its former glory. His plan looks promising until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly Ty is working for the boss’s daughter. And Miss Monica Brandt, hot as she may be, doesn’t share his vision…

ROLL THE DICE

She left a fabulous career and a frustrated fiancé in New York to move to Vegas and save her father’s investment. But now Monica is locking horns with a sexy cowboy-turned-businessman. What does Ty think he can do that she can’t? All Monica knows is that she doesn’t dare trust him—or is it herself she doesn’t trust…

AND WIN 

The battle lines are drawn. The stakes are high. And the attraction can’t be denied—especially the more closely Ty and Monica have to work together. Some odds are just meant to be played, and with chemistry this electric, it may be time to grab life by the horns…

Expected publication date: January 19th 2016

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

This is another recommendation from my friend, Wendy Loveridge.

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(Rockliffe, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1764)

Cover Blurb:

Rosalind Vernon, robbed of her sight by childhood accident, had no idea that the cherished voice at her door belonged to a notorious rake. Marquis of Amberley had distinguished himself in gaming room and boudoir alike. Now, stranded by snowfall, he became enamored of his innocent hostess. And she, who had lived in seclusion, welcomed his lively wit and distinctive charm.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

After listening to MIDNIGHT MARRIAGE recently, narrated by the amazing Alex Wyndham, I wanted to listen to NOBLE SATYR, the story of the Duke of Roxton and his wife, Antonia. So I was delighted to receive the offer of a free download of the audiobook from author Lucinda Brant.

Source: I received a free download from the author in return for an honest review

Narrated by Alex Wyndham

(Roxton Series, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian)

Cover Blurb:

1740s France and England. Abandoned to fend for herself at the court of Versailles, Antonia turns to her distant cousin, the all-powerful Duke of Roxton, to help her escape the attentions of a lecherous nobleman. Roxton is an unlikely savior – arrogant, promiscuous, and sinister. Antonia’s unquestioning belief in him may just be his salvation, and her undoing.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

I’m way behind reading this series, having only read book 1, but I hope to catch up during 2016

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(A Lady Forsaken, #3.5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A lady seeking forgiveness for her past…

Lady Viola Haversham is determined to put her past where it belongs—behind her. To do so, she sets out to host the grandest holiday celebration Foldger’s Hall has ever seen; proving to everyone—including herself—that she has more to offer than the hardship and loss she has brought to her family.

A woman forging a new path in life…

Mrs. Ruby Jakeston is tired of others taking care of her. She is ready to show everyone that she can look after more than just herself and her new husband; she also wants to set her overprotective friend at ease, and bring her hellion sister to heel.

A girl lost and in search of a place to belong…

Lady Ellington is on the brink of losing the only home she’s ever known. The last thing she wants is to attend a grand soirée. However, when her older sister demands her presence at a country Christmas party, she is compelled to attend. With only a stablehand as her companion, she arrives at a house teeming with unfamiliar faces—and nowhere to hide.

A trio of women holding out hope for three different holiday miracles…

Christmas ever more.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

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