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(Secret Brides, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

How to Stop a Wedding

Young, widowed, and penniless, Lily Andrews, the Countess of Merrill,has strong opinions on marriage. When she spots a certain engagement announcement in The Times, she decides to take action. She will not allow another hapless girl to fall prey to a man—particularly the scoundrel who broke her heart five years ago. Anonymously she writes and distributes a pamphlet entitled “Secrets of a Wedding Night,” knowing it will find its way into his intended’s innocent hands…

How to Seduce a Widow

Devon Morgan, the Marquis of Colton, desires a good wife and mother to his son—someone completely unlike Lily Andrews, the heartless beauty who led him on a merry chase five years ago only to reject him. When Devon’s new fiancée cries off after reading a certain scandalous pamphlet, he vows to track down the author and make her pay. But when he learns it’s his former fiancée Lily, he issues a challenge: write a retraction or prepare to be seduced—to find out how wonderful a wedding night can be…
♥♥♥♥♥♥

SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT, the first book in Valerie Bowman’s Secret Brides series, is a delightful tale of secrets, seduction and second chances, written with warmth, wit and style.

The things I love about this book:

Sexy, confident, strong, compassionate but stubborn hero ~

Society sees Devon as a gambler, a drinker and a rake. The reality is very different. Using his skill with numbers, Devon has accumulated a large fortune at the gaming tables and invested it wisely. Now he gambles in the squalor of the Rookery for one reason only…. to restore a family heirloom which was a symbol of his ancestry. Having once been deserted by the woman he loved in favour of an older, richer man, Devon now hides his true financial situation. The woman he marries must love him for himself and not his money. His love for his illegitimate son, Justin, and his rescue of an adorable puppy reveal a kinder and softer side to Devon. When Lily needs a knight in shining armour, he comes to her aid.

Resilient, protective, loyal and equally stubborn heroine ~

Left in financial straits after her father dies, Lily is determined to keep her “ragtag little household” together. Nothing is more important than her sister’s happiness and I can understand why Lily is overprotective. She wants Anne to have the freedom she didn’t enjoy whilst under the control of firstly her father and then her elderly husband. I can also understand her reluctance to trust Devon with her heart. To all appearances, he is a carbon copy of her father who drank and then gambled away everything. I love the fact that she is scared of spiders…something so many of us ladies share. It gives her a very human edge.

Delicious sexual tension and steamy passion ~

I enjoyed all the varied nuances of Devon and Lily’s romance.

The feelings of hurt and anger reflected in their barbed remarks to each other…

“I see in addition to your renowned gambling and rakishness, you’ve also turned to the bottle. Are you trying for all the seven sins?”
His voice was calm. “And I see in addition to your renowned flirtations and fickleness, your skills as a hostess leave much to be desired.”

The strong attraction that still simmers below the surface…

He was a drug. That’s what he was. Like opium. A maddening, unhealthy pleasure that left her senses reeling.

Blast it. He was already plagued with indecent thoughts. This entire seduction plot would be much easier if he weren’t driven half mad just looking at her.

The seduction …

She moaned when his warm lips finally touched hers. The contact was almost unbearable. It was the softest, smoothest, least aggressive kiss he’d ever given her. It demanded nothing from her and made her feel more than all the other kisses combined.

The lies…

“Damn it, Lily. Will you listen you me? I never intended to profit from it. You must belive me.”
She clenched her fists at her sides. “Believe you? A liar? A gambler? A man who prizes money above all else? What sort of fool do you take me for?.”

A lasting love

Tears flowed down Lily’s cheek. She smiled through them. “I love you, Devon. I always have.”

An engaging cast of secondary characters ~

I adore Lily’s loyal servants – Evans, the butler who had the habit of falling asleep at the most inopportune moments and Mary, the lady’s maid with an unfortunate memory problem. I love the way in which Lily’s sister, Anne matures during the course of the story:

Oh, Anne, when did you become so wise?”
Anne smiled a knowing smile. “When you weren’t looking, dear sister.”

I also enjoyed the interactions between Devon and his friend, Jordan Holloway, Earl of Ashbourne and Devon’s jealousy of Lily’s friend, Viscount Medford.

Overall, this was a charming fast-paced story filled with humour and passion and a very impressive debut novel from Ms Bowman. I will definitely be reading the other books I have in this series.

REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read March 2014

The Secret Brides series (click on cover for more details):

Secrets of a Wedding Night (Secret Brides, #1) A Secret Proposal (Secret Brides, #1.5) Secrets of a Runaway Bride (Secret Brides, #2) A Secret Affair (Secret Brides #2.5) Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage (Secret Brides, #3) It Happened Under The Mistletoe (Secret Brides, #3.5)

 

 

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(Ugly Ducklings #3.5)

Genre: Regency Historical Romance

Official Blurb 

The beautiful Miss Amelia Snow is not accustomed to being snubbed by the gentlemen of the ton. But when her mother dies unexpectedly, forcing Amelia to take employment as companion to a wealthy cit’s daughter, she quickly learns to play down her looks or risk losing her position. When her employers, the Smithsons, decide to throw a country house party, she is determined to fade into the background. But how can she when the Smithson’s guest of honor is Lord Quentin Fortescue, the childhood friend who stole her heart?

Younger son, Lord Quentin Fortescue, is far more interested in his host’s cotton mills in the north than he is in courting the man’s dim-witted daughter. But it’s the girl’s companion who makes him look twice. Years ago, Miss Amelia Snowe rejected his proposal without a backward glance. Quentin has molded himself into just the sort of man she’d have wanted back then, but is Amelia still the smug beauty who broke his heart? And can either of them risk their newfound positions to indulge the fiery attraction that burns between them?

★✩★✩★✩★

THE PERKS OF BEING A BEAUTY is a sweet and heartwarming story of redemption, forgiveness and second chances.

When I finished reading How to Entice an Earl, I was surprised that Manda Collins obviously intended to redeem the Ugly Ducklings’ arch nemesis, Amelia Snow. Amelia had been so despicable, I doubted Ms Collins could make me see her as a sympathetic heroine. Well, not only did I like and sympathise with Amelia but I truly wanted her to have her Happy Ever After!

All Amelia’s actions reveal a very different person…someone who has the courage to openly admit to Quentin the extent of her cruel, conniving behaviour. I could see her determination to be a better person in the way she cares about and guides Harriet and champions the cause of the mistreated maid, Mary.

I adore Quentin! I thought his initial reaction to seeing Amelia humbled was a very human one. Amelia had refused his proposal of marriage in favour of someone more important than a second son and so he enjoyed seeing her brought down a peg or two. Then he begins to see just how much effort she had made to atone for her sins and can’t help but admire her. He also comes to understand how much her behaviour was the result of her mother’s ambitions and why Amelia was so desperate to please her mother even at the expense of her own happiness. These revelations only serve to make Amelia more sympathetic and likeable.

Thrown together for the scavenger hunt, I enjoyed watching Amelia and Quentin regain that easy friendship they had once shared and the rekindling of their love seems such a natural progression.

I love the waltz scene where everyone thinks Quentin and Amelia are talking about horticulture but Quentin is talking about something quite different altogether!!

I also like the inclusion of two characters from Ms Collins’ new Wicked Widows series but blink and you might miss them!

This novella is a such a charming ending to the Ugly Ducklings series. I’m certainly looking forward to Manda Collins’ new series and already have WHY DUKES SAY I DO downloaded on my Kindle.

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read August 2013

Ugly Ducklings series (click on book covers for more details):

How to Dance with a Duke (Ugly Ducklings, #1)How to Romance a Rake (Ugly Ducklings #2)How to Entice an Earl (Ugly Ducklings, #3)The Perks of Being a Beauty (Ugly Ducklings, #3.5)

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DANGEROUS ROGUES #1

Setting: London, England 1846

In the captivating first installment of the Dangerous Rogues series, a seductive earl encounters an old flame and passion burns brighter—and more dangerously—than ever before…

When Love Is At Stake

Leo Harrow, Earl of Barrington, is a regular subject of the scandal rags. Once an unrepentant pleasure seeker, he knows that young ladies are warned to look the other way when he enters a room. But when he comes face to face with a woman from his past—the one that got away—he will do anything to keep the rumors about him at bay. Or risk losing her forever…

All Bets Are Off

Genevieve Camden is no stranger to Leo’s seductive ways. Years ago she was fooled into believing that he cared about her…and now that he’s back on the ballroom floor, he appears to be making amends. But this time Genny knows better: A scoundrel never changes his stripes—not even one as charming and handsome as Leo. Unless maybe he’s been in love with her all along…?

★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩

Tiffany Clare is a new-to-me author and I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book. What a delicious treat it turned out to be!  The combination of endearing hero and heroine, sparkling dialogue, fascinating secondary characters and some sizzling hot love scenes made this an extremely enjoyable read.

Four years ago Leo met Genny, the woman who ‘meant more to him than he could ever fathom’ but being young and stupid, he walked away from her at his father’s bidding. Four years ago, Genny fell in love with Leo but he simply walked away leaving her hurt and angry.

Meeting again, Leo sees it as a second chance to prove himself worthy of her love. As far as Genny’s concerned it’s once bitten, twice shy.  She has no intention of succumbing to his seductive ways ever again!

I couldn’t help but like Leo and Genny. He’s the handsome, charming,  sexy, witty, protective rogue and she’s the apparently prim and proper chaperone who gradually reveals her true self; fun loving, tenacious, self-sufficient and strong-willed. They made the perfect couple. I enjoyed the delicious push-pull between them and their rapier-sharp repartee. Leo’s definitely hard to resist with his wickedly seductive words and actions.

The heat of his breath fanned over the shell of her ear. “Perhaps I wish to hear your memories of our wickedly delightful nights together. I have missed you more than you can imagine all these years.”

I was pleased that Genny didn’t capitulate too soon and Leo has to work hard to convince her of his sincerity. When the two finally get together, there are some sizzling hot love scenes, particularly the one in the maze! But my favourite scene takes place in Leo’s greenhouse. There’s not even a kiss but there is something so beautifully romantic about the whole scene. It’s somewhere very special to Leo:

“It’s my private place. I don’t want people who don’t appreciate this as much as I do tramping through here, breaking flowers, and wearing down paths.”

and the fact that he wants to share it with Genny creates a real moment of emotional connection between them.

When Leo reveals details of the wager with Tristan, it causes a rift with Genny but, luckily, Ms Clare doesn’t drag this out and it was quickly resolved without lots of angst and soul-searching.

There is a wonderful array of fascinating secondary characters, all just begging for their own stories; the infamous Jezebel, Dowager Countess of Fallon, the enigmatic Hayden, Duke of Alsborough, the affable Tristan, Marquess of Castleigh and the not-as-naive-as-she-appears Lady Charlotte.

I loved the snippets of gossip from The Mayfair Chronicle which precede each chapter. They reminded me so much of Lady Whistledown’s observations from Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels.

This is a delightful, entertaining romance and I’m really looking forward to reading the other books to come in this series.

How I imagine Leo ~

How I imagine Genny ~

RATING: ★★★★

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read January 2013

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Setting: North Yorkshire, 1825

Will a chance meeting on Christmas Eve…

Alicia Sinclair, Countess of Kinvarra, cannot believe that fate has been so cruel as to strand her on the snowy Yorkshire moors with her estranged husband as her only hope of rescue. During their rare encounters, the arrogant earl and his countess act like hostile strangers. Now that Alicia has fallen into Kinvarra’s power, will he seek revenge for her desertion? Or does the dark, passionate man she once adored have entirely different plans for his headstrong wife?

…deliver a second chance at love?

Sebastian Sinclair, Earl of Kinvarra, has spent ten wretched years regretting the mistakes he made with his young bride, but after long separation, the barriers between them are insurmountable. Until an unexpected encounter one stormy night makes him wonder if the barriers of mistrust and thwarted desire are so insurmountable after all. When winter weather traps Sebastian and his proud, lovely wife in an isolated inn, could the earl and his headstrong countess have a Christmas miracle in store?

Expanded version of “Upon a Midnight Clear” from the anthology Mammoth Book of Regency Romance.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★✩★

This novella may be short in terms of page count but this poignant and heart-warming second-chance-at-love tale kept me totally engaged until the final page.

It had the emotional and passionate intensity I’ve come to expect from Anna Campbell, all in a small, enticing package. She captures Sebastian and Alicia’s feelings of pain, hurt, regret, forgiveness, hope, and love so perfectly.

Somehow the story never seemed rushed and I really felt I understood Sebastian and Alicia and why their marriage had failed. Youth, immaturity and pride had prevented them from bringing their problems into the open and so they separated acrimoniously.  Ten years on, both are older and wiser and I loved watching them finally able to discuss things openly and rediscover their love for each other.

The Winter Wife – A Christmas Novella is perfect for curling up with on a dark winter’s evening and recapturing a little of that Christmas magic.

RATING:  ★★★★½

SENSUAL RATING: HOT

Read December 2012

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ABANDONED AT THE ALTAR SERIES BOOK 1

The duke may have returned, but she has no intention of falling back into his arms…

Abandoned at the altar…

Lady Beatrix Danbury had always known she would marry William Mallory. She’d loved him forever, and she’d never doubted he loved her, too. But when she made him choose between their life together or his lifelong dream, Will chose the latter…and left two weeks before their wedding.

Return of the duke…

Will has no illusions that Beatrix would welcome him back with open arms, but six years did not dim his love or desire for her. The only problem is, she’s about to marry someone else. Someone safe and predictable…the complete opposite of Will. But can he stop the wedding of the season and win Beatrix back, or is it just too late?

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WEDDING OF THE SEASON, the first book in Laura Lee Guhrke’s ‘Abandoned at the Altar’ series,  is a charming ‘second chance on love’ story.

I love the early Edwardian setting for this book. It’s a time of far-reaching social and economic changes when the role of women in society is evolving and the balance of power is moving away from the landed aristocracy to the nouveau riche industrialists. Ms Guhrke captures this changing world perfectly and having the story set in the picturesque village of Babbacombe, South Devon, rather than the hurly-burly of London, is so refreshing.

Six years ago, Trix and Will had conflicting dreams that drove them apart. Will wanted adventure and travel and not the life he was born to:

“Yes, there was my whole life laid out before me before I was even out of short pants. Can you blame me when a life I’d only dreamed of opened up?”

while Trix wanted security and stability:

“I want marriage and a home of my own. That precious excavation site of yours didn’t even include a house. I wanted children. Just where was I supposed to have them? In a tent?”

Neither was willing to compromise on their dreams, and when they meet again, this conflict still proves to be a stumbling block.

At first, Will’s determination to go to Egypt seems selfish and irresponsible.  But in reality he realises the British aristocracy is in decline and, in order to keep his estate solvent,  he needs to either earn money or marry into money.  So he invests his inheritance in finding Tutankhamen’s tomb knowing success will bring a secured income for life. He considers this preferable to leading a life of pointless duties and silly social rituals. Even though it’s risky, I can’t help but admire his forward thinking.

He’s honest in admitting he’s never stopped loving Trix and in his determination to win her back – “I want to win you back. I want you in my arms, in my bed, in my life.” Even if he doesn’t succeed this time, he’s determined to keep coming back in the hope of changing her mind.

Trix’s reluctance to venture beyond the realm of duty and tradition can be laid squarely at her father’s door. Her mother ran away to Paris when Trix was very young, and her father became became overprotective in an effort to ensure she never left him. After her father’s death, she does show a little more independence but only after encouragement from her scandalous cousin, Julia, Baroness Yardley.

She’s determined not to let Will back into her life. After all he broke her heart and left her with only shattered dreams. In her new fiancé, Aidan, Trix sees someone who is the total opposite of Will, dependable and considerate and able to provide her with the kind of stable life she wants. It may be a passionless marriage, but she’s more than willing to accept a marriage based on affection, mutual respect and shared aspirations for their future.

I love the whole idea of Will persuading Trix to go on a series of adventures with him, just as they did when they were children, in order to regain her trust. These childhood reminiscences really provide a wonderful background to the story and add depth to the characters. These adventures certainly heighten the sexual tension between the two.  I love the scene where Will suddenly turns up at Pixy Cove, where Trix is drawing, and starts to strip to go bathing and Trix can’t stop staring at his body!

His shoulders and chest were wide, tanned by the hot Egyptian sun and shaped by years of hard excavation into a bronze wall of muscle and sinew. His chest tapered down to an absolutely flat stomach, and his trousers were slung low on his lean hips, revealing the deep indent of his navel and the shadowy hint of dark hair below it. Her gaze dropped another notch, she gave a choked sound and hastily forced her gaze back up, but only managed to get as far as the flat brown disks of his nipples.

I know there are varying opinions about the ending but it really worked for me. Of course, the happy-ever-after is never in any doubt but I loved the wonderful will they/won’t they moment and finally closed the book with a satisfied sigh.

If you are looking for a charming love story with a more unusual setting, then look no further than WEDDING OF THE SEASON.

RATING: ★★★★½

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