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Posts Tagged ‘Sensuality-Warm’

A Momentary Marriage

(Montclair-de Vere #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

James de Vere has always insisted on being perfectly pragmatic and rational in all things. It seemed the only way to deal with his overdramatic, greedy family. When he falls ill and no doctor in London can diagnose him, he returns home to Grace Hill in search of a physician who can—or to set his affairs in order.

Arriving at the doctor’s home, he’s surprised to encounter the doctor’s daughter Laura, a young woman he last saw when he was warning her off an attachment with his cousin Graeme. Alas, the doctor is recently deceased and Laura is closing up the estate, which must be sold off, leaving her penniless. At this, James has an inspiration: why not marry the damsel in distress? If his last hope for a cure is gone, at least he’ll have some companionship in his final days, and she’ll inherit his fortune instead of his grasping relatives, leaving her a wealthy widow with plenty of prospects.

Laura is far from swept off her feet, but she’s as pragmatic as James, so she accepts his unusual proposal. But as the two of them brave the onslaught of shocked and suspicious family members, they find themselves growing closer. They vowed, “until death do us part”…but now both are longing for their marriage to be more than momentary in this evocative romance, perfect for fans of Sabrina Jeffries and Mary Balogh


♥♥♥♥♥♥

It has been some years since I last read a book by Candace Camp and I had forgotten what a superb writer she is. Not only is A Momentary Marriage a perfect blend of humour, wit, suspense and romance, but I was also intrigued by the original working of one of my favourite tropes – the marriage of convenience.

James is a cold, cynical and practical man who regards love as a maudlin sentimentality for understandable reasons revealed later in the story. He has little time for his money-grasping relatives and the tight control he exercises over the family finances is a source of bitter resentment and anger among the family members. His affection only extends to his cousin Graeme and his faithful dog Demosthenes (Dem).

James appears stoical about his impending death but there are moments revealing his vulnerability that were really heart-breaking – the way he still clings to a glimmer of hope that Dr. Hinsdale might be able to help, and when Laura tells him about her father…

She could not help but remember when she told him her was father was not there and for a brief moment his face had been unguarded – and utterly hopeless.

Laura is beautiful, sensible, kind and has real strength of character. Despite her dislike of James, she is realistic enough to appreciate that marriage to him offers her a home and a secure future.

She would have liked to throw his offer back in his face , just to thwart him. But she was all too aware of the hard, lonely future that awaited her and, admittedly, too pragmatic to let annoyance rule her.

I love how she is not afraid to speak her mind and stands up to both James and his family. Her kindness and compassion shines through in her genuine determination to take care of James and do whatever she can to ease his pain and fears.

I knew that James could not possibly die. After all, this is a romance and we readers demand a happy ending. But Ms. Camp depicts his suffering so vividly that there were times when I was certain he could not survive.

He’d hardly heard what the  estate manager had told him, distracted by the slant of light coming through the window and the way it sent an arrow of pain into his eyes and straight through his brain.

Laura’s discovery that someone is trying to poison James and his slow road to recovery moves the story in a different direction. Now they have to come to terms with the fact that their marriage is no longer the temporary one they both believed it to be, and also discover the identity of the person who wants James dead.

The romance is tender, poignant, sensual and laced with witty banter that provides some lighter moments. Ms. Camp builds their relationship slowly, showing their feelings for each other gradually changing and allowing the romance to flourish in a natural way.

The thing was…he enjoyed waking up with her in his arms. He’d liked turning over in the night and feeling her beside him.

Laura stared, shocked by the way her body had reacted to his touch, his smile. For the moment she had wanted to lean down and kiss him, to feel his arms around her again, his heat pouring through her.

James comes to admire Laura’s intelligence and wit, as well as enjoying her company and he knows that she is someone he can trust. I love how fiercely protective he is when his brother-in-law, Salstone, insults her. Laura knows James can be cynical, pragmatic and controlling but she has also seen another James behind the cool façade he presents to the world. A man who can be gentle and kind. A man who loves his dog. A man who makes her laugh with his dry, witty sense of humour.

I enjoyed seeing the genuine friendship between Laura and Abigail, Graeme’s wife and was amused by James’ jealousy when he misconstrued the reason for Laura’s visits to Abigail’s. I love the scene where he discovers the real reason! I like how, later in the story, Laura is instrumental in making James see that he has always kept him emotionally closed off from his family and it was heartening to see him heed Laura’s words and take tentative steps towards a reconciliation with them.

The mystery of who is trying to kill both James and Laura was intriguing enough to keep me guessing right up until the culprit’s identity is revealed in a dramatic, surprise revelation.

This is the second book in the Montclair-de Vere series and, although I have not read the first book, A Perfect Gentleman, it did not in any way affect my enjoyment of A Momentary Marriage. I have already sent for a copy of A Perfect Gentleman as I am keen to read Graeme and Abigail’s story.

MY VERDICT: For those looking for a well-crafted, witty, heart-warming romance, with a refreshingly different premise, likeable characters and an interesting mystery, I can definitely recommend A Momentary Marriage.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Montclair – de Vere series (click on the book covers for more details):

 A Perfect Gentleman by Candace Camp A Momentary Marriage by Candace Camp

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The Governess Game UK
(UK cover)

(Girl Meets Duke, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

He’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson

The accidental governess

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart . . . without risking her own.

The infamous rake

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

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When I pick up a Tessa Dare book, I have no expectations of it being historically accurate but I simply love her well-written, romantic, sexy and funny stories. 

This is the second book in her Girl Meets Duke series and, while I really enjoyed it, for me, it was not quite as good as The Duchess Deal.

Alex, the daughter of an American sea-captain and a Filipino Metiza, had an unconventional upbringing. Raised by her father, after her mother died, she spent 10 years on her father’s ship sailing the globe. When tragedy strikes and her father goes down with his ship in a storm, Alex travels to England where distant relatives are willing to pay for her schooling but want nothing to do with her and she finds herself all alone in the world. Even her schoolmates are cruel to her but she soon comes to realise that she has an advantage over them because…

I was indebted to no one, I answered to no one, and I needn’t meet anyone’s expectations of what a young lady should or shouldn’t be. My life was my own. I could follow any dream, if I was prepared to work hard for it

Alex is the sort of unorthodox heroine that Ms. Dare excels in writing. Smart, independent, stubborn, resilient and tenacious, she has been making a living setting clocks to Greenwich Mean Time in the homes of wealthy customers. She is also a budding astronomer with a plan to discover new comets and then sell them to aristocrats.

Being an orphan herself, Alex understands just what Rosamund and Daisy need and gradually gains their trust. I love how she finds unorthodox, imaginative and highly successful ways of teaching them.

Piracy?” Rosamund sounded skeptical but intrigued. “

“These are your new lessons.” Alexandra wrote five topics on the board. “Log keeping. Plunder. Navigation. The Pirate’s Code.” She ended the list. “And needlework.”

“Needlework?” Daisy made a face. “Why would a pirate need serviettes?”

No, I don’t think piracy will find a place on the modern school curriculum!

Following the death of his cousin, Anthony, Chase is now the sole heir to his uncle’s Belvoir dukedom – a role he never wanted and believes himself unworthy of. He blames himself for what happened to Anthony and not only feels the pain of losing someone he cared about but is also burdened with feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Chase is so affected by what happened that he has built an impenetrable wall around himself and now lives by one rule – no emotional attachments. His belief that he will fail anyone he cares for and that he is unworthy of love runs deep. He has earned a reputation as a rake because his self-loathing has driven him into the arms of numerous women where, for a short time, he feels something other than worthless. His lovers are well aware that physical pleasure is all he offers. I did not quite buy into the ‘I’m not deserving of love’ scenario because his reasons were somewhat tenuous, but I was willing to overlook my reservations because Chase is charming, sexy, self-deprecating and wickedly funny, a combination that is hard to resist.

Despite his no emotional attachment rule, it is obvious that he loves his wards, Rosamund and Daisy, and actions often speak louder than any words…

“…you’re also a man who holds a little girl’s hand and eulogizes her doll every morning. A duke’s heir who builds cozy window seats and bookshelves by hand for his orphaned wards.”

Rosamund and Daisy were definitely one of the highlights of the book for me. They are bold, clever and resourceful and their antics are hilarious,  especially the eulogy scenes with poor Millicent, Daisy’s doll, succumbing to a series of horrible diseases, but there is also a serious side because it is Daisy’s way of coming to terms with the death and loss she has suffered in her short life. At heart, they are just young girls who are looking for love, a home and security and I like how Ms. Dare often combines both comedy with more serious issues.

The story is laced with Tessa Dare’s trademark humour and here are a few of my favourite moments.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an engagement this evening. The women of London can’t pleasure themselves, you know. I mean, they can pleasure themselves. But on occasion they generously let me have a go at it.” (Chase)

♥♥

Cold. That was the first decipherable sensation.

And after cold, wet.

A deluge of water had sloshed over them both. He slicked his hair back with both hands and looked up. He spied Rosamund and Daisy hanging over the window sash far above. Each girl held an empty bucket in her hands.

.”Ever so sorry!” Rosamund called down. “We needed to bail out the bilgewater.” “Too many rats,” Daisy added, hand cupped around her mouth. “There’s plague aboard.”  (Rosamund and Daisy repelling an unwelcome boarder!)

♥♥

If you hurt her, in even the slightest way, I will eviscerate you.” “Understood.” “I mean it, Reynaud. In fact, gutting would be too good for you. I will subject you to my cat.”

“Your cat?” Chase laughed. “To mewl at me, I suppose.”

“Trust me. We’re not speaking of the average cat.”

Alexandra spoke up. “I can attest to this.”

“I’ll strip you bare, tie your hands behind your back, smear salmon on your manly bits, and lock the two of you in a wardrobe. Once he’s clawed your ballocks to shreds, I’ll crush whatever remains of you to a bloody, formless pulp.” (Ash threatens Chase with the “hellion cat”)

♥♥

As always, Ms. Dare assembles an interesting cast of secondary characters including…

  • Alex’s friends – Lady Penelope Campion, an incurable romantic with a menagerie of wounded animals; Nicola Teague with her little caddy of hand tools and her baking skills; Emma, Duchess of Ashbury (The Duchess Deal), the most understanding of her friends
  • Duke of Ashbury (Ash) (The Duchess Deal) who proves to be very protective of Alex and a real thorn in Chase’s side. Look out for the hilarious fight between these two!
  • John Barrow, Chase’s half-brother, solicitor and trusted friend

Love them or hate them and I’m in the former camp, there is an added bonus of a charming Epilogue.

Penelope’s story, The Wallflower Wager,  is next in the series and I think Ms. Dare has already hinted at who her hero might be.

MY VERDICT: Endearing characters, a sensual, heart-warming romance, lively banter and laugh-out-loud moments make this a most enjoyable read. 


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Girl Meets Duke series so far (click on the book covers for more details):
The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

**I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Winter Bride

(Chance Sisters, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – 1816)

Cover Blurb

Award-winning author Anne Gracie delivers the second in her enticing new series about four young women facing a life of destitution—until a daring act changes their fortune and turns them each into a beautiful bride…

Damaris Chance’s unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway—and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun.

When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him—as long as it’s in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride.

Will Damaris’s secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?

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After being somewhat disappointed by THE AUTUMN BRIDE, I LOVED this book. Beautifully written, emotional, romantic and funny, it was a total delight from beginning to end.

I absolutely adored Freddy. In The Autumn Bride, he is seemed nothing more than a handsome, charming, entertaining, frivolous rake who has no interest in marriage and avoids ‘muffins’ – eligible young ladies who are constantly trying to trick him into marriage – like the plague. However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Freddy’s carefree lifestyle is a carefully cultivated façade to hide the guilt he feels over his brother’s death and the hurt caused by his parents’ indifference and insults. He is an honourable man who proves to be a loyal friend to Max, a valued and shrewd business partner to Flynn and a man who inspires the love and loyalty of his servants.

I truly felt for Damaris whose mother died when she was twelve, leaving her to be brought up by her missionary father who only believed in duty and obedience not love. He instilled in Damaris a belief that she had inherited her mother’s wanton nature. Forced to flee China after her father is murdered and his mission burnt, she manages to escape to England. What happened during that journey is her terrible secret; one which has convinced her that she will never marry and one which she has never shared with anyone. I could not help but be moved by her longing for a life she knew she could never have.

Did they think she didn’t want to be loved, didn’t want to have someone whose business—no, whose pleasure it would be to take care of her, protect her? And who would let her take care of him and love him in return?

Ms. Gracie builds the relationship between Freddy and Damaris slowly making the romance both believable and emotionally satisfying. As they come to know and understand each other, during the pretend betrothal, their tentative attraction gradually blossoms into love.

London society sees Freddy as nothing more than the ‘frivolous fellow with not a serious thought in his head’ but Damaris sees beyond that façade to the kind, charming, clever, loyal, thoughtful, funny man who deserves to be loved. Damaris has captured Freddy’s heart with her beauty, serenity, stubbornness, courage, understanding and laughter.

I love the scene where Damaris shows real courage when she defends Freddy and gives his parents a good tongue-lashing, refusing to be intimidated by them.

“The entire time I’ve been here all you’ve done is make cutting remarks about him to me—and I’m his betrothed. I’ve heard nothing but criticism, disparagement and negativity. I cannot credit it. You are his mother and you, his father. He is your son—your only son.” Her eyes prickled with angry, frustrated tears. “What kind of parents are you? You lost one son, but you threw the other away.”

When Damaris reveals her secret to Freddy, I love his reaction…

“You did the only thing you could. No one would blame you. I certainly wouldn’t.”

and his willingness to risk his life to slay dragons for her.

The love scene in the cottage is so beautifully written, full of warmth, humour and passion. I love the lengths Freddy is willing to go to allay Damaris’ fears, especially his own paticular interpretation of certain Biblical stories!

He picked up her hand and kissed it. “Enough of that, insatiable creature. I’m explaining something to you and it’s very important. God’s plan.”
“Oh. Yes?” she said vaguely.
“Yes. The pleasure men and women receive from lying together. Without the pleasure, it would happen far less frequently, and then where would we be? Would we be so happy about going forth and multiplying, as we’re told to do in the Bible?”
She stretched languorously and didn’t answer.
He went on. “Stop distracting me and listen. No, we wouldn’t. So the pleasure is all part of God’s plan and it is your sacred duty to enjoy it to the best of your ability. The future of the human race depends on it.”

There is a colourful cast of secondary characters including:

  • the indomitable Lady Bea of whom Freddy says – God, but the old lady was a tricky piece. He felt like he’d gone three rounds in a verbal boxing ring. 
  • Mrs Jenkins, Damaris’s employer, who is always warning her about ‘headin’ down the Road to Roon’ 
  • Captain Patrick Flynn, a lapsed Irish Catholic, with a penchant for bright colours and earrings and a desire to marry a fine young English lady. 
  • The experimental Chinese swimming pigs (to know more, I’m afraid you will have to read the book)

 Max and Abby (The Autumn Bride) and Jane and Daisy are also there to provide aid and support to Freddy and Damaris, and those who like a delightful Epilogue will not be disappointed.

 MY VERDICT: A charming, heart-warming romance with characters who will steal your heart. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

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

The Autumn Bride (Chance Sisters, #1) by Anne Gracie The Winter Bride (Chance Sisters, #2) by Anne Gracie The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters, #3) by Anne Gracie The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters, #4) by Anne Gracie

 

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The Autumn Bride

(Chance Sisters, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – 1805 and 1816)

Cover Blurb

Governess Abigail Chantry will do anything to save her sister and two dearest friends from destitution, even if it means breaking into an empty mansion in the hope of finding something to sell. Instead of treasures, though, she finds the owner, Lady Beatrice Davenham, bedridden and neglected. Appalled, Abby rousts Lady Beatrice’s predatory servants and—with Lady Beatrice’s eager cooperation—the four young ladies become her “nieces,” neatly eliminating the threat of disaster for all concerned!

It’s the perfect situation, until Lady Beatrice’s dashing and arrogant nephew, Max, Lord Davenham, returns from the Orient—and discovers an impostor running his household…

A romantic entanglement was never the plan for these stubborn, passionate opponents—but falling in love may be as inevitable as the falling of autumn leaves…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Having previously read and loved THE PERFECT RAKE, I had high expectations of this book, the first in Anne Gracie’s Chance Sisters series. However, while there were aspects of the book I really loved, there were others I found disappointing.

I really liked Abigail. She is such a warm and caring person and you see that in her love for her younger sister, Jane, as well as her willingness to take in Damaris and Daisy. I also admired her courage and resourcefulness in rescuing Jane from the brothel and Lady Beatrice from the clutches of her dishonest and neglectful servants.

Max is an honourable man who is determined to work to pay off his late uncle’s debts and restore the family fortunes, and he also reveals a caring nature in his genuine love and concern for his Aunt Beatrice. While I liked Max, I did find him a rather lacklustre hero, possibly because he was overshadowed by more vibrant and memorable characters like Lady Beatrice and Freddy Monkton-Coombes.

I loved seeing the unbreakable bond that develops between the four girls and the loving relationship that grows between them and Lady Beatrice, who is definitely one of the highlights of the book. She’s such a colourful and larger than life figure who is outspoken and delights in flaunting the stuffy rules of society, even claiming the Chance sisters as her ‘nieces’. I love the scene where she regales Lady Beddington with the scandalous story of her fictitious half-sister, Griselda, her nieces’ mother, much to Max’s annoyance. I adored Max’s best friend, Freddy Monkton-Combes, who brought some lovely humour to the story with his talk of ‘muffins’ (and I don’t mean the edible kind).

While I appreciated that this was the first book in a new series and setting up the bond between the ‘sisters’ and establishing their relationship with Lady Beatrice were important elements of the story, I did not feel that it allowed enough time to fully develop the romance between Abby and Max. For me, there was no steady development of their relationship and I did not sense the deep emotional connection between them. However, some of my criticisms were softened by the charming Epilogue.

The touch of mystery surrounding Jane’s abduction added an interesting layer to the story but I felt that the opportunity to introduce a dramatic resolution to the plot line was sadly missed. Everything is neatly resolved off page with Max and Daisy relating details of what happened to the others. A clear case of telling rather than showing.

MY VERDICT: Despite my reservations, overall I enjoyed THE AUTUMN BRIDE and will definitely be reading the other books in the series to see Jane, Damaris and Daisy get their Happy Ever Afters.


REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


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

The Autumn Bride (Chance Sisters, #1) by Anne Gracie The Winter Bride (Chance Sisters, #2) by Anne Gracie The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters, #3) by Anne Gracie The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters, #4) by Anne Gracie

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(UK cover)

(Scandal and Scoundrel, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (late Regency – 1834 and 1836)

Cover Blurb:

The one woman he will never forget…
Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only one problem—he already has one.

The one man she will never forgive…
After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a single goal—to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement…which requires her to spend the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow cannot resist.

A love that neither can deny…
The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their broken past, he can give her forever, making every day The Day of the Duchess.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I absolutely loved this book and was totally swept away by the beautiful, compelling, intensely emotional and deeply romantic, second chance love story – a story that really touches the heart.

For the past two years and seven months, Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has searched the world for his estranged wife, Seraphina, without success. There has never been a single moment in all that time when he has not regretted everything he said and did that caused her to leave.

Would there ever be a time when he stopped thinking of her? Ever a date that did not remind him of her? Of the time that had stretched like an eternity since she’d left?

He longs to find her. To win her back. To start afresh.

It is the last day of the Parliamentary session and, as soon as he leaves the House, he intends to continue his search, because no matter how long it takes, he will find her. Then, there she is standing boldly before the assembled lords announcing…

“I am Seraphina Bevingstoke, Duchess of Haven. And I require a divorce.”

Seraphina is no longer the frightened, broken girl who fled, but a strong woman with a purpose. She has forged a new life for herself but, to secure that future, she requires a divorce from her husband.

Malcolm has no intention of granting Seraphina a divorce but needs time in which to woo her back. On the spur of the moment, he comes up with a mad plan – he will agree to a divorce as long as Seraphina agrees to spend six weeks at his country estate, Highley, to find him a replacement for her. Seraphina is reluctant but, if this is the only way to obtain her divorce, so be it. After all, she will not be alone. She has reinforcements in the form of her formidable sisters, who hate Malcolm as much as she does!

This book had such a profound emotional impact on me. I lived every moment of Mal and Sera’s heart-rending story – the regret, the anger, the guilt, the pain and the shattered dreams. It was hard to imagine that they would ever find each other again. This is why I love second-chance stories because, however difficult the journey, I know that there will be a happy-ever-after and it will be all the more rewarding.

I like how Ms. MacLean uses flashback chapters in the early part of the book, gradually revealing the events that led up to their marriage falling apart. She makes Mal and Sera seem very human. I think we have all made mistakes in our lives which we later come to regret. So, it was easy to relate to Mal and Sera, however misguided their decisions, which were to have terrible consequences. Despite everything that happened, I could feel their deep yearning for each other.

I know that many reviewers had already formed a very negative opinion of Mal from events that occurred at the beginning of A Rogue Not Taken, the first book in the series. I think that not having read that book myself was an advantage because it allowed me to judge Mal more objectively. He had seen first-hand his parents’ disastrous marriage (his own mother had trapped his father into marriage) and I could understand him lashing out at Sera, believing that she had never cared for him, only his title. That does not mean I can excuse his words and actions but I felt Mal’s pain, remorse and shame, knowing that he had been so blinded by his feelings of betrayal and anger that he had shattered everything between them. Mal redeemed himself in my eyes because of his willingness to admit his mistakes, his enduring love for Sera and his determination to fight for her, even though he fears she no longer feels the same about him.

He had left her because he’d thought she cared for his dukedom more than she cared for him.
By the time he’d discovered that it mattered not a bit why she’d landed him – only that she’d landed him at all – she’d been gone.

It was heart-breaking to see Sera so alone and broken when she left. All she ever wanted was Mal, not his title but, unwisely, she listened to her mother’s advice. Now, she is like a Phoenix risen from the ashes – stronger, wiser and determined to live her own independent life. She soon realises that, despite everything that had happened between them, she has never stopped loving Mal but is afraid that she will never be enough for him.

I love the scene in the underwater ballroom (yes, there really is one at Whitley Park in Surrey) where Mal draws a parallel between himself and Sera and the story of the Pleiades, as a way of conveying his own feelings for Sera. It was so romantic and I felt so much sympathy for Mal. The love scene that follows carries all the years of longing and is beautifully written that it bought tears to my eyes, because Sera is too afraid to believe there is a future for them.

The scene in the little garden when Sera sees the stone angel, dedicated to their daughter, is so moving and, for the first time, they are able to speak openly and honestly about the past and mourn their loss together.

I love Mal for recognising that he needed to give Sera the freedom to choose and his grand gesture is just so sigh-worthy…

“Yes, love. I’m through chasing you. I shall have to be happy with finding you in the stars, at night.” He paused, and she gasped, realizing what he was about to do. “There will never be another for me. But it is not my choice that matters; it is yours.

and the Epilogue left me with a lovely warm glow, seeing Mal and Sera deliriously happy after so much heartache.

I adore the Talbot sisters (aka the Soiled Sisters) who care nothing for Society’s censure.  Outrageous, forthright, loyal, dramatic and convivial, they bring some welcome humour to the story. I love the scene where they are all piled into a carriage, accompanying Sera to Highley. The dialogue between them is so funny. Another hilarious scene, involving the sisters, is the lawn bowls in which they team up with Mal’s prospective brides. I was intrigued by the interactions between Sesily, Sera’s unmarried sister, and Caleb Calhoun, Sera’s American friend, and I believe they will be getting their own book in due course. That promises to be an interesting pairing.

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: WARM


Scandal and Scoundrel
series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Rogue Not Taken (Scandal & Scoundrel, #1) by Sarah MacLean A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel, #2) by Sarah MacLean The Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrel, #3) by Sarah MacLean

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8EF392F2-6ACA-435D-8B1A-CAF5F93263F7

(Season for Scandal, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – London, 1820)

Cover Blurb

Their love was always in the cards.
He should have thrown her out. But when club owner Alexander Lavoie catches a mysterious blonde counting cards at his vingt-et-un table, he’s more intrigued than angry. He has to see more of this beauty—in his club, in his office, in his bed. But first he’ll have to devise a proposition she can’t turn down.

Gossip said he was an assassin.
Common sense told her to stay away. But Angelique Archer was desperate, and Lavoie’s club offered a surefire way to make quick money—until she got caught. Instead of throwing her out though, the devil offers her a deal: come work for him. Refusing him means facing starvation, but with a man so sinfully handsome and fiercely protective, keeping things professional might prove impossible.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Kelly Bowen really impressed me with the first two books in her Season for Scandal series. I love her original, engaging and deeply romantic stories, her smart heroines and sexy heroes. This is the third book in the Season for Scandal and definitely my favourite.

I liked Alex in the previous two books but I never anticipated that he would be such a wonderful hero. I found the combination of his roguish charm, intelligence, sex appeal and wit irresistible.

He left her where she stood and retrieved a long, flat box from the back of his office. He returned to place the unwieldy package across the top of his desk.
“What is that?” she asked warily.
“A gown.”
“For me?” Intelligence
“Yes. I’ve discovered the color doesn’t complement my complexion. And the skirts show too much of my ankle. The ladies might riot.”

He is fiercely protective and honourable but his reputation as a dangerous man is well founded when it comes to defending those he loves.

Angelique has such strength of character and I admire her devotion and loyalty to her family, even though I felt her eldest brother, Gerald, was undeserving of it. To conform with society’s expectations, she has hidden her mathematical prowess and I really loved seeing her trounce that obnoxious, bosom-ogling Baron Daventon at vintage-et-un!

“The electricity between them was not to be believed. It was so tangible you could feel it in the air. I knew something was going to come of it.” – a quote about Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the ‘To Have and to Hold from the film’s publicist Mickey Seltzer.

This quote perfectly describes how I felt about the chemistry between Alex and Angelique because the air positively sizzles with sexual tension whenever these two are together and the romance is both tender and sensual.

I love the fact that Alex is not only attracted by Angelique’s beauty, but also by her extraordinary intelligence. His reaction when she discusses possible gaming strategies, after he offers her a job in the club at the vingt-et-un table, is priceless. Alex is a man who has never given his heart to a woman and watching him falling deeply in love with Angelique was delightful. Angelique does not trust Alex at first, and I could understand her reasons given her past experience with her former fiancé and Alex’s rumoured reputation as an assassin and spy. However, she cannot help finding him both fascinating and exciting and, as she comes to know him, discovers that he is both a gentleman and honourable.

Their relationship is one I could believe in because that are so well matched in intelligence, wit and passion. They are able to confide their inner most thoughts to each other and, for Alex, who has always been so aloof, it brings a feeling of contentment he has never known before.

He’d revealed more about himself to her than to anyone. Which seemed natural and right, because she had done the same. And instead of the regret and disquiet that he had expected with such exposure, he felt…content

With Alex’s encouragement, I enjoyed seeing Angelique gain in self-confidence and realise that, regardless of her past, she can be whoever she wants to be.

Angelique felt her pulse roaring in her ears, felt the breath slowly being squeezed from her lungs.She had come this far. She would not hide anymore. She needed to step out onto the floor.
“Because this is me.” She gazed around the office. This is what I’m good at. Numbers. Books.

The mystery – a tale of revenge, blackmail and murder – surrounding the missing fortune and who is trying to destroy Angelique’s family and why, was intriguing enough to keep me guessing right up until the culprit’s identity is revealed.  Ivory Moore, her husband, the Duke of Alderidge, the enigmatic King and Gilda, all characters from the previous books, make a welcome return to provide invaluable assistance to Alex in his efforts to solve the mystery. Like so many other reviewers, I do hope King gets his own book.

MY VERDICT: If you love an engrossing story, excellent characterisation and a captivating, sensual romance, then I can definitely recommend this book.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Season of Scandal series (click on the book covers for more details):

Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1) by Kelly Bowen A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2) by Kelly Bowen Between the Devil and the Duke (Season for Scandal, #3) by Kelly Bowen The Lady in Red (Season for Scandal, #3.5) by Kelly Bowen

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Someone to Hold
(Westcott, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

A reversal of fortune befalls a young woman in the latest Westcott novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kiss and Someone to Love.

Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family – sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…

With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.

An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

SOMEONE TO HOLD, the second book in Mary Balogh’s Westcott series, is a beautifully written and emotional story of self-discovery and finding love.

In SOMEONE TO LOVE (book 1), Camille appears downright dislikeable, especially in her hatred towards her half-sister Anna, but such is Ms. Balogh’s skill as a writer that I not only came to like Camille but also sympathise with her.

As a girl, Camille desperately wanted her father’s love, but the Earl of Riverdale was a selfish man and only ever loved one person – himself. It broke my heart to think of the seven-year-old Camille painstakingly embroidering her father’s initials and ‘I love you, Papa’ on a handkerchief, only to find it crumpled on his desk and covered in ink stains, where he had used it to clean his pen. She dedicated herself to becoming the perfect lady in the hope that, at least, he might be proud of her. I think the pain of her father’s rejection had a profound emotional impact on Camille because, in her search for perfection, she has become the prim and proper, haughty Lady Camille Westcott, for whom any show of strong feelings is considered unladylike.

I could understand how devastated Camille feels when she discovers her father’s betrayal. Her well-ordered life has crumbled around her and she no longer knows who she is or what her future will be.

The future yawned ahead with frightening emptiness and uncertainty.

I enjoyed following Camille’s journey of self-discovery and I like how Ms. Balogh doesn’t change Camille; she is still fundamentally the same person but with a different focus in life. She still displays the same strength and determination she applied to becoming the perfect lady, but it is now focussed on forging a new life for herself and a single-minded determination to succeed.

I especially enjoyed the scenes where Camille is teaching the children in the orphanage because they reveal what a tender-hearted, compassionate and intelligent person she is beneath that prickly exterior. I love how, despite her initial fears, she has a real aptitude for teaching and makes her lessons instructive, creative and fun too, capturing the children’s hearts in the process. Watching Camille’s relationship with baby Sarah slowly develop was really touching because she had never allowed herself to form an emotional attachment before.

I like Joel very much. He is good-natured, intelligent, dependable, talented and honest, all qualities I love in a hero. Although raised in the orphanage, Joel has been supported by an anonymous benefactor, thus enabling him to attend art school and pursue his passion for portrait painting. I love how his honesty extends to his portrait paintings. He refuses to flatter his subjects but studies them carefully so that he can capture their true essence on canvas. His unique style has gained him a prestigious reputation and numerous commissions from wealthy clientele. He also teaches art a few afternoons a week at the orphanage. He was in love with Anna and is still heartbroken over her marrying the  Duke of Netherby.

I love the slow building romance and watching Camille and Joel gradually move from dislike and distrust to friendship, attraction and finally falling in love. It seems both natural and believable. I particularly like how, with his artistic eye, Joel is able to see the real person beneath Camille’s protective shell.

“You are an incredibly strong person, Camille,” he said. “But sometimes you build a wall about yourself. You are doing it now. Is that the only way you can hold yourself together?”
She was about to utter an angry retort. But she was feeling weary. Her feet were sore. “Yes,” she said.
His eyes continued to search her face. “Yet behind the wall,” he said, “you are amazingly tenderhearted. And loyal hearted.”

I enjoyed seeing Camille realise that she had previously suppressed everything that made her human and now…

…she wanted to live. And she wanted to love, even if that word was a mere euphemism for desire. She would live, then, and she would enjoy. She would not stop to think, to doubt, to feel.

There is a point, early in the story, where Camille asks Joel to hold her and, when Joel has to cope with life changing events himself, it is Camille to whom he turns for support. This mutual respect and support further convinced me that their love would endure.

The story is very much about family too, because Camille comes to realise that her family’s love is unconditional. I love the poignancy of the moment when Camille finally calls Anna her sister rather than her half-sister.

I enjoyed seeing the other family members especially Avery who always appears cool and aloof, but beneath that facade is someone who takes a keen interest in what’s happening and can demonstrate great kindness. He is always guaranteed to bring a smile to my face with quips like this.

“My dear Camille,” he said, “I hope I never admonish anyone. It sounds as if it would require a great expenditure of energy.”

After receiving a bloody nose courtesy of Avery in SOMEONE TO LOVE, I was delighted to see the odious Lord Uxbury receive a bloody mouth courtesy of Joel’s fist in this book!

MY VERDICT: Once again, Mary Balogh delivers a beautifully written, emotional character driven romance. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Westcott series so far (click on the book covers for more details):

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1) by Mary Balogh Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2) by Mary Balogh Someone to Wed (Westcott #3) by Mary Balogh Someone to Care (Westcott #4) by Mary Balogh Someone to Trust (Westcott, #5) by Mary Balogh

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