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confessions of an arranged marriage

(The Burgundy Club, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1822)

Book Blurb (Goodreads):

They couldn’t be more different—but there’s one thing they agree on…

In London after a two-year exile, Lord Blakeney plans to cut a swathe through the bedchambers of the demimonde. Marriage is not on his agenda, especially to an annoying chit like Minerva Montrose, with her superior attitude and a tendency to get into trouble. And certainly the last man Minerva wants is Blake, a careless wastrel without a thought in his handsome head.

The heat and noise of her debutante ball give Minerva a migraine. Surely a moment’s rest could do no harm… until Blake mistakes her for another lady, leaving Minerva’s guests to catch them in a very compromising position. To her horror, the scandal will force them to do the unthinkable: marry. Their mutual loathing blazes into unexpected passion but Blake remains distant, desperate to hide a shameful secret. Minerva’s never been a woman to take things lying down, and she’ll let nothing stop her from winning his trust . . . and his heart.

Kindle publication: 27th March 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you know the feeling when you read a book and love it and think of it fondly, then go back to re-read it, perhaps years later, and discover it really wasn’t that good? I was afraid I’d feel that way about Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by the late Miranda Neville. I’ve read many books by other authors since first reading it – my first by this author – and have become far more discerning in my reading habits since then. There are many books I’ve rated highly which would not now earn the rating I originally awarded them. However, I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, having read Confessions from an Arranged Marriage with my far more critical eye and expecting to be disappointed, I still loved it. I’ve read reviews on Goodreads which are mediocre to say the least, but I stand by my original, and now latest opinion, that this is a damn good read.

I originally downloaded it not knowing anything about the author or her work, only that the title appealed and it was a Kindle offer, so what could I lose? I have to say at this point, that had it been on a book shelf I would not have picked it up, because the cover is just dreadful. It doesn’t have any bearing on the story and is in no way period appropriate, so maybe an example of don’t judge a book by its cover.

I was pleased to learn that Miranda Neville was British born and bred and had originally been a journalist and editor. In my opinion, her earlier occupation showed in her intelligent writing style and correct use of the English language; there are no Americanisms or modernisms which are pet hates of mine when a story is set in historical England. This is not to say –  I hasten to add – that I consider only British authors to be intelligent as I have many favourites of all nationalities. One of my favourite books of all time was written by American author Anya Seton, and her exceptionally researched Historical Fiction/Romance novel about the true story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, set in medieval England, has been my go-to comfort read for many years. I didn’t discover that Miranda Neville was English until after I had read Confessions from an Arranged Marriage, but it answered a lot of questions for me as to why I didn’t have one single criticism apropos of my previously mentioned pet-hates. Miranda Neville has quite obviously written a story about a subject and place she knew and in a language she knew. She emigrated to America and was extremely popular with her fans, here in the UK and in the USA.

I joined the series half way through so it can obviously be read as a standalone since I had no problem following the storyline. In fact, I’m glad I read the series in the order I did because I may well have been deterred from reading Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by the hero, the Marquis of Blakeney (aka Blake), who isn’t shown as a particularly likeable character in the preceding books in the series.

I’m not going into the story too deeply because there’s a lot happening. Suffice to say that there is an extremely attractive and intelligent young heroine, Minerva, who has a rather high opinion of herself and her intellect. She aspires to become a political hostess and sees herself as ‘the power behind the throne’ of who knows? Maybe even the Prime Minister one day, with her help from behind the scenes, of course, and a politically motivated husband who will listen to her own, quite radical views on the voting systems and rights of the common people – even women – although she knows that this is a step too far for the times.

Instead, Minerva’s aspirations are dashed (or so she believes) when she is caught in a compromising situation with her nemesis Blake, heir to a dukedom. He’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and a formidable sportsman, but apparently as dim as Miranda is brilliant. She is by no means the perfect wife for him as far as his family is concerned, but as she is their neighbour and was compromised in their home by their drunken son, and they are the very epitome of the adjective honourable, she knows she has no choice but to marry Blake, a man she has always detested. And he’s stuck with a girl ten years his junior who makes him feel even more stupid than he already secretly feels.

This is such a mixture of a story; there are moments of such heart-breaking sadness which touched me deeply, but Miranda Neville was extremely witty and, as well as being terribly saddened by Blake’s predicament, there were also moments of such hilarity that I literally laughed out loud. Blake insists on calling Minerva, Minnie – quite obviously this budding, political hostess is not impressed by the immature nom de plume. As the story progresses and Minerva tries to make the best of a bad job, she begins to see the vulnerability behind the man she has married and protests less and less; at one point even missing it when something happens to stop his use of the nickname. I was also very touched by Blake’s determination to earn ‘Minnie’s’ respect.

It would be quite easy to dislike Minerva, and indeed that’s exactly what some reviewers have said, but I liked her once I’d got to the bottom of her character. I particularly like how she begins to see beyond Blake’s brittle and supposedly couldn’t-care-less, outer shell. She starts to fall for the man he really is – rather loveable actually, and one who is covering up a massive lack of inner self-esteem with an outer show of bravado. Miranda Neville grows their relationship from enemies-to-friends-to-lovers using a credible series of events which unfold as the story progresses. Blake’s dark secret has led to him being victimised and blackmailed for a large part of his life and, as his clever wife begins to follow the clues and consequently unravels her man, I felt more and more invested in their growing romance and loved how Minerva becomes as fierce as a lioness in her protectiveness towards him.

Miranda Neville has set her story in the political arena of the time, taking a subject which could bore the hell out of the reader but which instead had me fascinated by ‘rotten boroughs’ and what it all meant.  There is a point at which Minerva finds herself out of her depth and not quite as clever as she believed herself to be. She is obliged to throw herself on Blake’s mercy and he in turn, rather than enjoying her discomfort, charges in rescuing her like a knight in shining armour. Quite, quite heart-warming. His piece de resistance where he shows, perhaps not his political acumen (as his words are Minerva’s), but his integrity and mettle as a man, with not only the power of the dukedom behind him, but the support of his (by now) beloved ‘Minnie’, is just bone melting; in fact, their developing love story is believable and endearing and Miranda Neville has taken two opposites and shown that it is not only possible for there to be love under these circumstances but also that two people may love and compliment each other as long as they have a common goal.

One last point which I particularly liked and which rarely crops up in Historical Romance. The ‘wedding night’ was not a great success and Minerva wasn’t impressed with ‘the act’ and the way the experience is described is plausible. Of course, matters improve and there are, eventually, explicit scenes. Minerva is not one to do anything by halves, but I did not find this aspect cringeworthy; in fact, I liked that she grew to welcome Blake’s embraces, eventually even seducing him – much to his surprise and pleasure.

MY VERDICT:
This is a lovely story – sad, surprising, witty, funny, romantic and intelligently and sensitively written. I’m happy to say that I was not wrong, and Confessions from an Arranged Marriage will remain a favourite of mine. The author doesn’t attempt to magically sort out the underlying problem but instead finds ways of working around it. I had the great pleasure of meeting Miranda Neville on one of her visits home to the UK; we discussed this book and she was pleased to know how much I had loved it. I’m even more pleased that we met and had this discussion given that we lost this lovely lady to cancer in 2018. I count myself privileged to have met her and am saddened that she was taken from her family, friends and readers before her time.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

RSENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

The Burgundy Club series (for further details click on the book covers):

The Wild Marquis (The Burgundy Club, #1) by Miranda Neville The Dangerous Viscount (The Burgundy Club, #2) by Miranda Neville The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton (The Burgundy Club, #3) by Miranda Neville Confessions from an Arranged Marriage (The Burgundy Club, #4) by Miranda Neville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eleven Scandals

(Love by Numbers, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1823)

Cover Blurb:

She lives for passion.

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

He swears by reputation.

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

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

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

Duke of Leighton

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

Juliana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♥♥♥

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

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

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

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

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

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

(UK covers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ten Ways

(Love by Numbers, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency, 1823)

Cover Blurb:

“Lord Nicholas is a paragon of manhood. And his eyes, Dear Reader! So blue!” Pearls & Pelisses, June 1823

Since being named ‘London’s Lord to Land’ by a popular ladies’ magazine, Nicholas St John has been relentlessly pursued by every matrimony-minded female in the ton. So when an opportunity to escape fashionable society presents itself, he eagerly jumps – only to land in the path of the most determined, damnably delicious woman he’s ever met!

The daughter of a titled wastrel, Lady Isabel Townsend has too many secrets and too little money. Though she is used to taking care of herself quite handily, her father’s recent passing has left Isabel at sea and in need of outside help to protect her young brother’s birthright. The sinfully handsome, eminently eligible Lord Nicholas could be the very salvation she seeks.

But the lady must be wary and not do anything reckless and foolish . . . like falling madly, passionately in love.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I absolutely loved Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, the first book in this series, and had high expectations of Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord. I have to say that, although it was good, it did not quite live up to my expectations. But, to be fair, Nine Rules was always going to be a tough act to follow.

What can I say about Nicholas? He is just gorgeous! He is not only devastatingly handsome, intelligent, charming and super sexy but also a genuinely good man. Given how his mother’s desertion had destroyed his father and his own betrayal at the hands of a woman, I could fully understand his attitude towards love – to be avoided at all costs. He has his own rules when it comes to amorous affairs…

No mistresses. No regular assignations. And, most definitely, no wife.

But we all know that rules are meant to be broken, as Nicholas (Nick) discovers when he meets Lady Isabel Townsend. He cannot resist a lady in distress, even if she is the most intriguing, infuriating and secretive woman he has ever known. He is also drawn to her combination of strength and vulnerability.

I love how honest and forthright Nick is with Isabel and how he does everything he can to protect not only Isabel but also her ten-year-old brother, James, now Earl of Reddich, and the women of Minerva House.

“I am not perfect. I cannot promise you that I will not do things that will hurt you.” He paused, his scar a pale line against his darkened skin. “But I will do everything in my power to protect you and James and these girls.”

I also adore how Nick takes James under his wing and becomes like a surrogate father to him. The scenes between them are quite charming such as this one.

Nick turned. “Would you like me to teach you?”
The boy’s eyes lit up. “Would you mind very much?”
“Not at all.” Nick removed the strip of linen from his person and placed it around James’s neck. Turning the boy to the looking glass, he walked James through the movements until the cravat was a fair approximation of the knot Nick had created earlier.

Isabel’s life has not been easy. Her late father had always neglected his wife and children, leaving them in the country, while he went off to London to enjoy a profligate and scandalous life. I admire Isabel’s courage in rising to the difficult challenge of running the estate and her resolve to provide a safe haven for the women at Minerva House and give them a fresh start in life. She is also determined to ensure that her brother, James, receives an upbringing and education befitting his position as earl. Those around her believe that she can face any challenge but are unaware that she is just as afraid and uncertain as they are. but hides it behind an air of confidence. Seeing this vulnerability in Isabel made her more relatable.

Poor Nick! I felt so sorry for him because it is obvious how deeply he loves Isabel but she continually pushes him away.

How many times had he worked to regain her trust, to prove his worth? And how many times had Isabel rejected him?

I can understand Isabel’s initial reluctance to trust Nick. After all, her father’s irresponsible actions would hardly have convinced her that men were trustworthy, and the plight of those women who sought refuge in Minerva House would only have reinforced that opinion. But her constant refusal to trust Nick, even after he proves himself over and over again, was just so irritating. I wanted to grab her and shake her for not having faith in him. Luckily, she finally comes to her senses and it is refreshing to see the heroine forced to do some grovelling, rather than the hero.

The romance between these two is quite steamy and Ms. MacLean certainly knows how write the most sensual scenes. One that particularly comes to mind is the scene between Nick and Isabel in the statuary. A cold shower is definitely recommended after reading it!!

There is a sweet secondary romance between Lara, Isabel’s cousin, and Durukhan (Rock), Nick’s companion and friend, which plays out in the background and forms a nice contrast to the more passionate one between Nick and Isabel.

I enjoyed the scenes involving the ladies of Minerva House, particularly the one at the beginning of the book when, in male disguise, they are helping Isabel to get rid of yet another man to whom her father has promised her hand in marriage, in payment for his latest gambling debt. I grinned all the way through it.

He turned on Isabel. “What’s this, then?”
The stable master slapped her coiled horsewhip against one thigh, the thwack of the leather causing Asperton to flinch. “We do not like you raising your voice to a lady, sir.”
Isabel watched as the angled notch at his thin throat quivered. “I—I am …”

I enjoyed catching up with Gabriel and Callie (Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake) and I’m looking forward to the arrogant, rude and overbearing Duke of Leighton meeting his match in the final book of the series, Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart.

MY VERDICT: A most enjoyable story with interesting characters, a passionate and sensual romance and delightful touches of humour.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

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

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1) by Sarah MacLean Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers, #2) by Sarah MacLean Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart (Love By Numbers, #3) by Sarah MacLean

 

 

 

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The Sins of Lord Lockwood - Meredith Duran

(Rules for the Reckless, #6)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian – Scotland 1857, England 1861 and the Isle of Rawsey 1869)

Cover Blurb:

Steamy romance sizzles between a resurrected earl and his repentant bride in USA TODAY bestselling author Meredith Duran’s latest historical romance.

BACK FROM THE DEAD, AN EARL SEEKS VENGEANCE…

Liam Devaliant, Lord Lockwood, was born into a charmed life. Charismatic, powerful, and wild, he had the world at his feet—and one woman as his aim. His wedding to Anna was meant to be his greatest triumph. Instead, in a single moment, a wicked conspiracy robbed him of his future and freedom.

…BUT WILL HIS LONG-LOST COUNTESS PAY THE PRICE?

Four years later, Liam has returned from death with plans for revenge. Standing in his way, though, is his long-absent bride. Once, he adored Anna’s courage. Now it seems like a curse, for Anna refuses to fear or forget him. If she can’t win back Liam’s love, then she means at least to save his soul…no matter the cost.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Liam Devaliant, the Earl of Lockwood, Julian’s friend and Emma’s patron in DUKE OF SHADOWS, certainly sparked my interest. I was intrigued by Liam’s mysterious four-year absence from society and the obvious tension between himself and his estranged wife, Anna. Once again, I was totally riveted to every page of this dark, compelling and emotionally charged love story.

While at home on the Isle of Rawsey in Scotland, Anna, Countess of Lockwood, discovers from a newspaper headline that her husband, who abandoned her on their wedding night four years earlier, has been back in London for the last eight months but has never bothered to contact her. Furious, she heads for London.

Liam never abandoned Anna. His jealous, scheming cousin and heir, Stephen, had arranged to have Liam abducted and put on a prison ship bound for a penal colony in New South Wales. Certain that he would never survive, Stephen planned to have Liam declared dead and claim his title. After a hellish three years, with only the thought of revenge to keep him going, Liam escaped with a small band of fellow convicts and returned to England. With the help of his friends, Julian, Duke of Auburn, and Crispin Burke MP, Liam has set in motion his plans to wreak revenge on Stephen. With no direct evidence to implicate Stephen to his abduction, Liam must use devious methods to bring about Stephen’s complete financial and social ruin. Then Liam will kill him.

His wife’s unexpected arrival stirs up feelings he would much rather forget because he is no longer the man she married – that man is dead.

She was looking at him as though she knew him, when in fact the boy she’d married was dead now.

His years in the prison colony have left Liam profoundly changed but he will never tell Anna what really happened on that night – he simply couldn’t bear her pity. So, he does and says everything to convince her that he is nothing more than the uncaring fortune hunter she clearly believes him to be, but if he hopes his attitude will drive Anna away, he is seriously mistaken. As Countess of Forth, a Scottish title she holds in her own right, Anna needs a legitimate heir to the earldom which is something only her husband can give her and she has no intention of leaving.

“I am here. I am certainly staying.”
He blinked several times—seeming confused by how closely she suddenly loomed. For she was not a small woman; on her tiptoes, she was nearly eye level with him, which gave her an opportunity to deliver him a fulminating glower.

I loved the complexity of Liam’s character. The brutality and humiliation he suffered at the hands of his guards have left him profoundly scarred, both mentally and physically. Tormented by dark, harrowing memories, he is convinced that he is mad. Ms. Duran conveys his emotional turmoil with such realism that I could feel his pain, fear, anger and desperation.

Anna is independent and out-spoken but also vulnerable. After her mother’s death, her father could not cope with raising a young daughter and sent her to live with her aunts. She never had real home and the abandonment by her father, whom she loved, left her believing that anyone she loved would leave her. It isn’t difficult to understand why she readily accepted, without question, that Liam had abandoned her just as her father had, especially given the terms of their marriage.

Ms. Duran employs a series of flashback chapters which show how Liam and Anna met, their courtship and gradual falling in love. Neither one was willing to confess their true feelings, pretending that theirs was just a marriage of convenience. We see Liam as a charming, affable young man who manages to capture the heart of the independently minded Anna. These delightful flashbacks provide a poignant contrast to their current painful relationship. It is heart-breaking to know that their lives were irrevocably changed by envy and greed. I think that, without these flashbacks, it would have been impossible to appreciate the extent to which Liam was changed by his experiences and how deeply Anna was affected by Liam’s ‘abandonment’.

It is obvious that Liam and Anna are still very much in love, but Liam’s belief that he is a broken man, his feelings of shame and his thirst for revenge all seem impregnable barriers. But when Anna discovers the truth of what really happened, she becomes a veritable tigress. I love her strength, her unflinching belief in Liam and her determination to show him the man he truly is.

How was it that all the world saw Liam’s courage, his strength and his worth, save he?

He is a survivor; a man who was willing to protect his fellow prisoners regardless of the cost to himself. He promised to take care of those who escaped with him and provide them with a home and work – a promise he keeps. The loyalty and respect this rag-tag band of prisoners show Liam goes a long way to affirm his true worth.

The love scenes are sensual but they also reveal so much of Liam’s and Anna’s emotions, fears, vulnerabilities and their overwhelming desire for each other.

I like how Julian and Emma (Duke of Shadows) both play an important role in Liam and Anna’s story. Borne of their own personal experiences, they are able to offer wise counsel which is so significant in Liam’s journey to healing. But, before he can finally exorcise the past, Liam needs to exact his revenge on Stephen and I love how Ms. Duran handles this scene in a way that leaves Liam and Anna free to find their Happy Ever.

…this was life, his life, like a gift delivered unto him, which he would guard henceforth for her sake, for their family’s sake, for his own sake. This was his. “I love you,” he said into her mouth.

I know Epilogues are an anathema to some readers, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I love them. Revisiting characters, especially ones who have overcome tremendous odds to find happiness, leaves me with a feeling of contentment as I close the final page of the book.

This is the sixth book in the Rules of the Reckless series but I think it can be easily read as a standalone.  However, I would recommend reading Ms. Duran’s debut book, DUKE OF SHADOWS first, because, not only is it a fabulous book in its own right, but I believe it would enhance the reader’s enjoyment of THE SINS OF LORD LOCKWOOD.

MY VERDICT: If you enjoy a superbly written, compelling, angst-filled romance with unforgettable characters, then I can definitely recommend this book.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

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

Your Wicked Heart (Rules for the Reckless, #0.5) by Meredith Duran That Scandalous Summer (Rules for the Reckless, #1) by Meredith Duran Fool Me Twice (Rules for the Reckless, #2) by Meredith Duran Lady Be Good (Rules for the Reckless, #3) by Meredith Duran Luck Be a Lady (Rules for the Reckless, #4) by Meredith Duran A Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless, #5) by Meredith Duran The Sins of Lord Lockwood (Rules for the Reckless, #6) by Meredith Duran

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Duke of Desire

(Maiden Lane, #12)

Genre: Historical Romance (Georgian, 1742)

Cover Blurb:

A LADY OF LIGHT

Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude! Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.

A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS

Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.

CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER . . . AND DESIRE

Much to Raphael’s irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he’s drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael’s past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael’s own demons?

PUBLICATION DATE: 17th October 2017

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the final full-length book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s fabulous Maiden Lane series but there are two novellas to come – ONCE UPON A MAIDEN LANE (14th November) and ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS EVE (5th December).

From the moment he made his first appearance in Duke of Pleasure, I was intrigued by the scarred Raphael de Chartres, Duke of Dyemore, who recently returned to England to claim the dukedom, following the death of his estranged father, former leader of the evil Lords of Chaos, Mystery surrounds Raphael’s whereabouts during his years of absence and rumours abound concerning how he acquired the scar on his face. It quickly becomes clear that he is driven by a relentless determination to destroy the Lords of Chaos.

Raphael was obsessed with the Lords. He let nothing stand in the way of his revenge.

Lady Iris Jordan has been a widow for five years and although her late husband, twenty years her senior, had been a good and kind man, their three-year marriage had been a miserable one for her.

He’d never loved her, never cherished her, and never spoken to her as an equal.

She has lived with her older brother and his wife since her husband’s death but longs to be part of a family with children of her own. She has always hoped to remarry for love but is willing to settle for affection provided the gentleman enjoys the same things she does.

Throughout this series, I have admired Ms. Hoyt’s ability to pair the most improbable heroes and heroines and create the perfect couples, as she does here. Iris’s warmth, intelligence, patience, caring and quiet strength are the perfect foil for the dark, autocratic, unsmiling, stubborn Raphael.

I think Raphael is the most tormented and complex of all the heroes in this series. It is not only revenge that drives his obession to destroy the Lords of Chaos but also a deep sense of guilt. In all the years since he left England, he never tried to stop his father or eradicate the society, even knowing the evil they perpetrated. Raphael fears that, carrying his father’s blood in his veins, he will one day become a monster just like him and has vowed that the bloodline will end with him, but Iris will test this resolve. He has never met anyone as pure as Iris before and needs her to bring light into his dark world of despair, but is determined to distance himself from her rather than see Iris tainted in any way.

He’d vowed that he wouldn’t corrupt her, and he’d keep that vow no matter what it cost him.

I love how Iris refuses to allow Raphael to dictate the terms of their marriage and is resolved to try to make it a real marriage, with or without sex. Realising that he keeps all his thoughts and emotions carefully hidden, she is determined to break through his ‘frozen exterior’ and discover the real man beneath. I love how she refuses to give up on him no matter what he says or does.

When Raphael tells Iris of the traumatic events that happened all those years ago when he was twelve years old, it was so heart-wrenching knowing what he had endured and how it had left him so emotionally damaged. When Raphael fears that Iris will be repulsed by him, I love how she believes in him and convinces him that he could never be like his father.

“You are not a demon or a beast. You are my beloved husband. I know you, and you are not your father. You are good and kind and valiant. You are stubborn and intelligent and sometimes very witty. You will never hurt a child of ours, I promise.

I felt that the romance was somewhat overshadowed by the prominence of the darker elements in the book and found it difficult to feel the all-important emotional connection between Iris and Raphael. The love scenes tended to be raw and earthy and perhaps I was looking for something with a little more warmth and tenderness, although the lovely Epilogue did go a long way to appeasing me.

I liked Raphael’s brave and loyal Corsican servants who were willing to defend Iris with their lives. I also adored his Aunt Donna Pieri who had rescued Raphael from his father’s clutches and obviously loved her nephew. With various twists and turns, Ms. Hoyt kept me guessing as to the identity of Dionysus, the leader of the Lords of Chaos, and the final reveal definitely came as a surprise. 

MY VERDICT: DUKE OF DESIRE is a worthy addition to the superb Maiden Lane series. This series is a MUST read for anyone who loves unforgettable characters, compelling plots and sensual romances.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Maiden Lane series (click on the book cover for more details):

Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane, #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2) by Elizabeth Hoyt Scandalous Desires (Maiden Lane, #3) by Elizabeth Hoyt Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane, #4) by Elizabeth Hoyt Lord of Darkness (Maiden Lane, #5) by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Midnight (Maiden Lane, #6) by Elizabeth Hoyt Darling Beast (Maiden Lane, #7) by Elizabeth Hoyt Dearest Rogue (Maiden Lane, #8) by Elizabeth Hoyt Sweetest Scoundrel (Maiden Lane, #9) by Elizabeth HoytDuke of Sin (Maiden Lane, #10) by Elizabeth Hoyt Once Upon a Moonlit Night (Maiden Lane, #10.5) by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Pleasure (Maiden Lane, #11) by Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Desire (Maiden Lane, #12) by Elizabeth Hoyt Once Upon a Maiden Lane (Maiden Lane, #12.5) by Elizabeth Hoyt Once Upon a Christmas Eve (Maiden Lane, #12.6) by Elizabeth Hoyt

 

 

**I received a complimentarycopy of this book from Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. **

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Not Quite a Husband 2

(The Marsdens, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian – North-West Frontier of India and England 1897)

Cover Blurb:

Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith’s. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn’t possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won’t rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

After reading NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, I wasn’t surprised that it won the RITA Award for Best Historical Romance in 2010.  I LOVED it and was totally swept away by this intensely emotional, second-chance love story.

I understood the importance of the Prologue in revealing Bryony as a woman who feels deeply, and not the cold, unfeeling and often unlikable person she appears to be in the story. Without this glimpse of Bryony’s vulnerability, it would have been hard for me to empathise with her. I also understood how Bryony’s childhood experiences shaped the person she became; not quite two when her mother died, she knew nothing but neglect from her absentee father and desperate loneliness. That all changed with the arrival of her stepmother, Toddy, who became her friend and companion and…

…her fairy godmother who’d dispelled loneliness and breathed magic into her life.

I could only imagine how devastated Bryony was when her beloved Toddy died in childbirth but, later in the story, Toddy’s daughter, Callista, provides some idea of how it affected Bryony.

“All your emotions were so intense—your anger like daggers, your unhappiness a poisoned well. Even your love had such sharp corners and dark alleys.

Eventually, Bryony left home to focus on becoming a doctor with a cool, impersonal dedication and, by the age of 28, she has had an illustrious career, although most of society disapprove of her occupation considering it, or any employment, as inappropriate for a gentleman’s daughter.

Leo is a handsome, charming, witty and extremely popular – a veritable Adonis. He is also greatly admired as a mathematical genius, a budding playwright and an explorer. From the first moment Bryony meets Leo, she falls hopelessly in love with him and can’t believe that such a gorgeous man could be interested in a spinster like herself. What she doesn’t realise is that Leo, who lived on the neighbouring estate, has been in love with her since he was a boy of eleven, 4 years her junior, but she had never even noticed him. When she proposes to Leo, it is the happiest moment of his life but, after the marriage, it is obvious that something is terribly wrong.  Bryony becomes cold, frigid and indifferent to Leo, eventually locking him out of her bedroom. Leo has no idea what the problem is and does everything he can to please Bryony but to no avail, and when Bryony asks for an annulment, Leo agrees.

In the intervening 3 years, after working in various parts of the world, Bryony is running a clinic in the North-West Frontier region of India. The last person she expects to see in this remote part of the world is Leo. Callista has sent him to escort her back home because her father is ill. During the arduous and dangerous journey, Ms. Thomas gradually reveals their past in flashbacks woven into the fabric of story, and these finally shed light on the reason for Bryony’s dramatic change of attitude towards Leo. I felt heartbroken for Bryony discovering that the man she idolized and loved was ultimately flawed. Forgiveness is not in her nature. Toddy had become the yardstick by which she measured everyone and Bryony couldn’t accept anyone who was less than perfect.

I felt Leo’s shame and self-loathing when he finally discovers the real reason for the deterioration of their marriage; knowing that his stupid youthful decision had shattered everything between them and caused Bryony such pain and heartache. But Leo more than redeemed himself in my eyes, because of his continuing love for and his to devotion to Bryony; following her around the world to ensure that she had someone close by if she ever needed help.

Each love scene is beautifully crafted and perfectly reflects Bryony and Leo’s emotional state and I especially love the ‘tub’ scene which is deliciously erotic.

It is obvious that these two still love each other but it is only when they are facing possible death that they are finally able to talk openly and honestly for the first time and realise that they both need to face their fears head on and put their trust in each other.

 She rested her head against the bedpost and gazed at him. “Your trust gives me courage.”     He understood her perfectly. “And your courage gives me faith.”
   She smiled a little. “Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” he answered without any hesitation.
“Then trust me when I say that we will be all right.”
He trusted her. And he knew then that they would be all right, the two of them. Together.

The North-West Frontier of British India provides an unusual setting for the story, and I feel it adds an additional and fascinating layer to the story.  The difficult and dangerous journey seems almost to mirror Bryony and Leo’s turbulent relationship.

Having read the fascinating story behind the book, which Ms. Thomas features on her website, I appreciated her extensive research into the various regions traversed during their journey, the costumes, the culture, the politics and the various factions competing for control in the region. I would recommend visiting Ms. Thomas’s website (link below) before starting the book, because there are various photos including ones of the places mentioned on the journey together with a map.

http://sherrythomas.com/not-quite-a-husband.php

I absolutely love Ms. Thomas’s beautiful, emotive and evocative prose and here are just a few of my favourite quotes.

 To look upon her and know that he’d lost her through his own misdeed—love had become a thing of nails and spikes, every breath a re-impaling, every pulse a bright, sharp pain.
♥♥♥

She glowed. There was no other word for it, as if the walls around her heart had at last crumpled enough to reveal her hidden capacity for joy, for life. And what a radiant thing it was.
♥♥♥ 

“You were the moon of my existence; your moods dictated the tides of my heart.”
 ♥♥♥ 

She wanted them to grow old together, to gaze into each other’s clouded eyes and peck each other on the cheeks with lips sunken over toothless gums.
♥♥♥

The Epilogue provides one on those lovely moments when I knew that Bryony and Leo are assured of a well-deserved Happy Ever After.

On Sunday afternoons, rain or shine, Professor and Mrs. Marsden take a walk along The Backs, and treasure growing old together.

MY VERDICT: Complex, flawed characters, emotional intensity, powerful sexual chemistry and a fascinating historical backdrop all combine to make this an outstanding second chance love story. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT


The Marsdens
series (click on the book cover for more details):

Delicious by Sherry Thomas Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

 

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The Duchess Deal

(Girl Meets Duke, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules… 

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Whenever I pick up a Tessa Dare book, I know that I’m going to be enchanted by a story rich in warmth, emotion and humour; one that is romantic, sexy and full of endearing characters. THE DUCHESS DEAL, the first book in her new Girl Meets Duke series, certainly didn’t disappoint

Ash is an ill-tempered, brooding, cynical man, convinced that no woman could ever want an embittered, scarred wretch like him; something he has every reason to believe to be true, as I discovered later in the story. However, beneath his gruff exterior lies an honourable and caring man which is evident in his genuine concern for those people who work on his estate and in his need to protect and care for Emma. I love the scene where Ash puts the fear of God into Emma’s father and I totally agree with Ash’s opinion of the sanctimonious vicar – “You crusty botch of nature. You poisonous bunch-backed toad.”

So often the hero’s father is cruel or abusive and it was a refreshing to know that Ash’s father was such a wise and loving father whom Ash wanted to emulate. My heart ached for Ash when he says he would not want to see his own son or want his son to see him because he fears he could never be like his own father.

Ash’s son could never admire him the way Ash had worshipped his own father. His father had been unfailingly wise, good-natured and patient. Not ill-tempered and bitter, as Ash had become.

I adore Emma for her courage and resilience. Despite being thrown out by her father for a youthful discretion with nothing but the clothes she stood up in, she walked all the way to London in the height of winter and succeeded in building a life for herself as a seamstress to society ladies. I also admire her genuine compassion for and desire to help her friend, Davina Palmer, because she doesn’t want another young woman to face the sort of rejection she had.

Emma hadn’t landed in Miss Palmer’s delicate situation, but she, too, had been punished for the simple crime of following her heart.  The memories still pained her – and the thought of watching the same cruel fate befall another young woman? It made her quake with anger at the injustice of it all.

Emma and Ash have such wonderful chemistry and their romance is funny, poignant, romantic and sexy. I love how Emma more than holds her own against Ash and even challenges his ‘house ’ rules with ones of her own. The banter between them sparkles and I love how Emma refuses to call him Ashbury or Duke and keeps coming up with pet names which Ash hates.

“If I choose to make a darling of you, there is nothing you can do about it.”
   “Of course, there’s something I can do about it. I can have you sent to an institution for the feebleminded and insane.”
She shrugged. “If you say so, cherub.”

Ash’s habit of cursing in Shakespearean quotes was priceless and this is my favourite, aimed at the ‘hellion cat’.

“Do you hear me? Get out. ‘Thou art a boil, a plague-sore, an embossed carbuncle.’ King Lear, Act Two.”

I love how Emma gradually captures Ash’s heart with her warmth, wit and passion. She sees beyond his scars to the person he truly is behind the gruff exterior – someone funny, patient and passionate. In Emma, Ash sees a woman who doesn’t shy away from his scars; a woman who ‘touched him, kissed him, made him feel human and wanted and whole’.

I love the ballroom scene towards the end of the book where Ash makes such a memorable entrance with the words:

 “Yes, I know,” he said impatiently, turning the scarred side of the face to the room. “Faulty rocket at Waterloo. You have precisely three seconds to move past it. One. Two. Right. Now where is my wife?”

Ash’s long-suffering servants are hilarious with their mad-cap plots to throw Emma and Ash together in the hope that they will fall in love.

There is a colourful cast of secondary characters including…

  • Penelope, Nicola and Alexandra, the unusual trio of ladies who befriend Emma and Ash, and are, I’m sure, future heroines of this series.
  • Khan, Ash’s devoted butler, who isn’t afraid to give him a good rollicking…
    “You’re going to lose her. And when you do, you are losing me too. I’ve served your family for thirty years. I’m due a pension, and I’m not enabling this self-pitying codswallop any further. I wish you all happiness living alone and growing old with your twenty cats.”
  • Trevor, the young lad whom Ash meets on his nocturnal sorties around London
  • Last, but not least, Emma’s cat, Breeches

The charming Epilogue is just a delicious topping on this delightful confection.

VERDICT: Tessa Dare continues to captivate me with her heart-warming stories, endearing characters and sparkling humour and I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this series. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Girl Meets Duke series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare

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