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Posts Tagged ‘Sensuality-Warm’

(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.

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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.

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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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Duke of Shadows

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian – Delhi, 1857 and London, 1861)

Cover Blurb:

In a debut romance as passionate and sweeping as the British Empire, Meredith Duran paints a powerful picture of an aristocrat torn between two worlds, an heiress who dares to risk everything…and the love born in fire and darkness that nearly destroys them.

From exotic sandstone palaces…

Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé’s betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.

To the marble halls of London…

In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous — and that a single decision can alter one’s life forever.

Destiny follows wherever you run.

A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned…and some passions never die.

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I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to read DUKE OF SHADOWS, Meredith Duran’s much-praised 2010 debut novel, because I was totally swept by this powerful and beautiful love story.

Accompanied by her parents, Emmeline (Emma) Martin is on her way to Delhi to marry her fiancé Marcus Lindley, an army colonel employed by the British East India Company. Tragedy strikes when the ship sinks in a storm, leaving Emma as the sole survivor. She is rescued by a passing freighter, but the knowledge that she has spent time alone with a crew of rough and ready sailors leaves her reputation, among the Anglo-Indian, tainted by association. Emma discovers that her fiancé is no longer the charming man she knew back in England; he is now a philanderer, gambler and only interested in marrying her for her money. Emma is determined to break off the engagement.

Julian Sinclair, Marquess of Holdensmoor and heir to the Duke of Auburn, has mixed blood – his father was British and his mother was of mixed British and Indian descent. He is torn between two worlds, neither of which he feels he truly belongs to and both cultures regard him with suspicion and disdain. Julian is aware that there is unrest among the Indian troops (sepoys) in the service of the British East India Company and fears a mutiny. However, the British authorities consider Julian an alarmist and fail to heed his warnings.

From their initial meeting, it is obvious that Julian and Emma share a mutual attraction and I love how Ms. Duran develops their romance in the first part of the book. It is so beautifully done and I really believed in their falling in love.

She stirred, small twitches and movements. Soft, sleepy noises. He kissed her again, more deeply this time, and ran a hand down her side, to the swell of her hip. Her eyelashes fluttered up; color came into her cheeks. He smiled against her. Fairy tales were wasted on children. Until this moment, even he had not fathomed the power of waking someone with a kiss.

I could feel how torn Julian is when he makes the difficult decision to leave Emma in Sapnagar. He wants to protect the woman he has come to love and also ensure that his Indian family are safe but, most importantly, he sees it as his duty to try to stop the bloodshed between the two sides. He is a honourable man and does what he believes to be right, unaware of how much it will cost him personally.

Ms. Duran doesn’t shy away from portraying the horror and brutality following the uprising and some of the scenes are harrowing to read., but I feel this is crucial to understanding Emma’s emotional state and her motivations in the second half of the book.

The second half, which takes place in London 4 years later, is such an emotional roller-coaster and I felt as though I was living every moment with Julian and Emma, such was the power and skill of Ms. Duran’s writing. Julian is full of guilt for having left Emma and there is so much anger on Emma’s side, believing that Julian had broken the promise he made and deserted her. I could understand Emma’s anger towards Julian, knowing all the horrific sights she saw and everything she had endured. It is heart-breaking to see how emotionally fragile she is and her paintings seem to represent a way of purging herself of those terrible memories.

When Julian sees Emma for the first time in 4 years, his pain and yearning is a palpable thing but I love him for being so patient with Emma and refusing to let her go. Emma fears that should he learn the truth about her, he would surely reject her.

He was so sure his opinion would be unaffected by anything she told him. But he could not know what was in her head. What was in her. And he would not like it. He would recoil and she would not be able to bear it. Seeing him leave again.

There is no doubt that they still love each other, but it seems that the past will always remain an insurmountable obstacle. Only when they are forced to work together to solve the mystery of who is trying to kill Emma are they able to talk openly and honestly and shed the darkness of the past to find the happiness they truly deserve.

Marcus Lindley was truly despicable in his actions towards Emma and his betrayal and gets a suitable comeuppance in the end.

I was especially intrigued in Julian’s friend and Emma’s patron, Lord Lockwood, whose story is told in Ms. Duran’s latest release The Sins of Lord Lockwood.

MY VERDICTIf you are in the mood for something dark and intense with an original plotline, fascinating characters, suspense and a heart-stopping romance, I can definitely recommend this book.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello Stranger UK
(UK Cover)

(The Ravenels, #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb

A woman who defies her time

Dr. Garrett Gibson, the only female physician in England, is as daring and independent as any man—why not take her pleasures like one? Yet she has never been tempted to embark on an affair, until now. Ethan Ransom, a former detective for Scotland Yard, is as gallant as he is secretive, a rumored assassin whose true loyalties are a mystery. For one exhilarating night, they give in to their potent attraction before becoming strangers again.

A man who breaks every rule

As a Ravenel by-blow spurned by his father, Ethan has little interest in polite society, yet he is captivated by the bold and beautiful Garrett. Despite their vow to resist each other after that sublime night, she is soon drawn into his most dangerous assignment yet. When the mission goes wrong, it will take all of Garrett’s skill and courage to save him. As they face the menace of a treacherous government plot, Ethan is willing to take any risk for the love of the most extraordinary woman he’s ever known.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This is the fourth book in Lisa Kleypas’ The Ravenels series and highly anticipated by many readers, including myself. I admit to being intrigued by the unlikely pairing of the level-headed Doctor Garrett Gibson and the mysterious government agent Ethan Ransom.

Ms Kleypas has created some of the most memorable heroes ever and Ethan certainly deserves to join that illustrious group. He is everything I look for in a hero – strong, flawed, passionate, smart, intriguing, honourable, loyal, tender and prone to saying the most heart-melting words.  I love how, from the first moment he set eyes on Garrett two years earlier, he was totally bewitched by her…

She was sunlight and steel, spun into a substance he’d never encountered before. The mere thought of her left him like a stray coal on the hearth.

and is determined to protect her from harm during her weekly rounds to dangerous parts of London. Garrett is far from defenceless as she is taking fencing lessons, but I enjoyed seeing Ethan castigate the fencing master, Monsieur Baujart, for not instructing Garrett how to defend herself properly against the likes of himself.

“I suppose when she’s lying on the street with her throat slit, at least she’ll be able to console herself that she didn’t score any illegal points.”

Not only that, but he arranges to have all the locks on her father’s house changed because they are inadequate.

I love how he accepts Garrett for who she is, admires and respects her abilities and encourages her to be herself.

I couldn’t help but love Garrett from the moment she said these words to Severin in MARRYING WINTERBORNE…

(Severin) “This is Mr. Winterborne. The one with the department store. He needs to be treated by a real physician with experience and proper training, not to mention—”
 “A penis?” she suggested acidly. “I’m afraid I don’t have one of those. Nor is it a requirement for a medical degree. I am a real physician, and the sooner I treat Mr. Winterborne’s shoulder, the better it will go for him.”

She had to be tough, resilient, independent and determined to succeed in a male dominated world. Her medical career has been the main focus of her life and she has steered clear of any emotional attachments which might have interfered with her work. At boarding school, she learnt endurance and self-reliance which has always made her keep people at a distance, afraid to let her guard down and trust anyone. She has always yearned to experience what it is like to be desired and loved but Ethan is the only man who has ever tempted her into such a relationship. I enjoyed seeing her throw caution to the wind and experience everything she has been missing.

Ms. Kleypas often pairs the most unlikely couples but the romance always works so beautifully. She can make a simple kiss feel so sensual…

His head dipped lower, until she felt a soft, hot pressure at the side of her neck. A shiver went through her, as fine and distinct as the vibration of a harp string. His mouth found an unbearably sensitive place and lingered in an erotic caress that made her toes curl inside her sensible walking boots.

and include lovely touches of humour…

 “Good heavens.”

Ethan lifted his head and gave her a questioning look.

“Your trapezius and deltoids are remarkable,” she said dreamily, her hands wandering over him. “And your latissimus dorsi are so perfectly defined.”

Ethan is the bastard son of the old Earl of Treanor and has always hated the Ravenels because of the way his mother was treated. I enjoyed seeing his attitude gradually soften towards the Ravenels when he realises that Devon and West’s lives have been far from easy. It was heart-warming to see Ethan feeling part a family for the first time in his life.

They exchanged grins. The grip of their hands felt warm and solid. Safe. This must be a brotherly feeling, Ethan thought, this sense of camaraderie and connection, this unspoken understanding that they would always take the other’s side.

I have a HUGE crush on West Ravenel (so looking forward to his book) who always brings a smile to my face with his irreverent humour. Here are two of my favourite examples.

“Mrs. Abbot, I’m going to the kitchen to wash. You’ll want to warn the housemaids to shield their eyes from the sight of my manly torso.”

“I’ve always been skeptical when people say, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ It’s only true if the pen is glued to the handle of a German steel cutlass.”

The extent of Ms. Kleypas’ research is always impressive and I was fascinated by the details of the medical procedures carried out in the 1870s, as described in the book. I was interested to discover that Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman to openly qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain as well as becoming the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain, was Ms. Kleypas’ inspiration for Garrett.

The suspense and drama never overshadow the romance but do highlight Ethan’s moral dilemma when he has to choose between betraying his mentor, the man who has been like a father to him, and saving innocent lives.

I’m ending this review with my favourite, swoon-worthy, romantic quote.

“The first moment I saw you, I knew you were my share of the world. I’ve always loved you. If I could choose my fate, I’d never be parted from you. Acushla… pulse of my heart, breath of my soul… there’s nothing on this earth more fair and fine than you. Your shadow on the ground is sunlight to me.”

MY VERDICT: HELLO STRANGER combines everything you could wish for – a deeply romantic story, unforgettable characters, humour, passion and drama. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

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

Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels, #1) by Lisa Kleypas Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2) by Lisa Kleypas Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3) by Lisa Kleypas Hello Stranger (The Ravenels, #4) by Lisa Kleypas

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A Counterfeit Heart

(Secrets and Spies, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

As Sabine de la Tour tosses piles of forged banknotes onto a bonfire in a Paris park, she bids a reluctant farewell to her double life as a notorious criminal. Over the course of Napoleon’s reign, her counterfeits destabilized the continent and turned scoundrels into rich men, but now she and her business partner must escape France—or face the guillotine. Her only hope of surviving in England is to strike a deal with the very spy she’s spent her career outrunning. Now after meeting the arrogant operative in the flesh, Sabine longs to throw herself upon his mercy—and into his arms.

Richard Hampden, Viscount Lovell, is prepared to take any risk to safeguard England from the horrors of the French Revolution. To lure the insurgents out from the shadows, he’s even willing to make a pact with his archenemy: Philippe Lacorte, the greatest counterfeiter in Europe. But when a cheeky, gamine-faced beauty proves herself to be Lacorte, Richard is shocked—and more than a little aroused. Unlike the debutantes who so often hurl themselves at him, this cunning minx offers a unique and irresistible challenge. Richard will help her. But in return, he wants something that even Sabine cannot fake.

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This is the third book in K. C. Bateman’s entertaining, witty and sexy Secrets and Spies series and I loved it just as much as the other two books. 

It is usually the hero who first captures my interest but, in A Counterfeit Heart, Sabine is truly a force to be reckoned with and I admire her intelligence, courage, resourcefulness and resilience. Her life has been far from easy, but Sabine has used her skills to survive and thrive in a difficult and dangerous situation, to become France’s greatest forger and scourge of the British Secret Service. I like how, despite everything, she retained her own moral compass and I admire her loyalty to and concern for her best friend, Anton Carnaud.

Richard Hampden, Viscount Lovell, Nicholas and Eloise’s older brother, was a secondary character in the previous two books but, to be honest, he didn’t leave a great impression on me.  Apart from his work as an agent for the British Crown, he seemed typically handsome, wealthy and self-possessed, with a bevy of ladies ready and willing to indulge in a no strings attached affair. In fact, ‘he had never met a woman he couldn’t walk away from’, until he meets Sabine of course. Well, I quickly changed my opinion of Richard in this book because he is incredibly sexy!

At first, Sabine sees Richard as everything that she dislikes about the aristocratic class, overbearing, lazy and dissolute, but gradually discovers that he is resourceful, loyal and protective of those he cares for, including herself. She also admires his steadfast determination to right wrongs and the way he champions those caught up in the political machinations.

“I don’t give a stuff about the politics, but I do care about all the innocent people who will be caught up in the subsequent violence.”

I love how he is more than willing to get his hands dirty literally, and his disguise as Sabine’s dumb brute cousin Jacob is a performance not to be missed.

Richard doesn’t trust Sabine and thinks she’s nothing more than a ‘blackmailing little crook’ but he can’t help being impressed and enthralled by her. She is unlike any of the other women he has known; she’s not afraid to challenge him and, where he is used to people treating him with envy and respect, Sabine is neither in awe of his title nor impressed by his wealth which he finds refreshing.

I love their verbal to-and-fro and Richard’s deliciously wicked innuendos.

“It’s amazing how attractive a man appears when viewed through the lens of an unencumbered estate and twenty thousand pounds a year.” ​
Hampden chuckled. “It’s closer to thirty thousand, actually. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t the size of my inheritance they’re interested in.”

♥♥♥

“Where do you want me? On the bed? The chair? The floor?” His eyes gleamed with teasing merriment at his deliberate double entendres. “Feel free to arrange me however you like. I’m completely at your mercy. Any position you choose will be perfectly acceptable.”
(Richard proposes Sabine paints him)

Ms. Bateman develops the relationship between them perfectly. I could feel their deepening attraction and the sexual tension positively sizzles as they struggle with their feelings for each other.

Awareness thickened the air between them, a bright, expectant tension, like the hush before a thunderstorm.

It was fun to see the interactions between Richard and his brother-in-law Raven, who is amused by Richard’s predicament and teases him mercilessly about Sabine.

Raven let out a long whistle and leaned back in his chair. “Oh, this is priceless. The great Lord Lovell bested by a French pixie.” He shook his head with a gleeful chuckle. “Do you know how long I’ve prayed for you to meet your match? Years, my friend. Years.”

I like the warmth with which Richard’s family treat Sabine and I enjoyed seeing the budding friendship between Sabine and Richard’s sister Heloise.

One of my favourite scenes is where Sabine orders all sorts of items in Richard’s name so that, in all the ensuing mayhem, she can sneak out of the house unnoticed. It is just hilarious, particularly the foul-mouthed parrot! I also became very fond of Argos, Richard’s ‘tongue-lolling, tail-thumping cross between a greyhound, a Bedlington terrier and a lurcher’.

The danger and intrigue are woven into the fabric of the story in a way that never overshadows the romance. In fact, the nail-biting climax and subsequent events are what propel Richard and Sabine to finally admit their love for each other and pave the way for this heartfelt proposal from Richard.

“Useless, disobedient organ that it is. My heart wants you. Needs you. And since I need it to keep on beating, you’re just going to have to marry me. That’s all there is to it.”

I love the way the author uses her knowledge of the antique and art world to incorporate fascinating details into her stories; such as cartographers’ ‘paper dolls’ and painting techniques. I always discover something new whenever I read one of Ms. Bateman’s books.

The Epilogue provided a most heart-warming ending to Sabine’s family’s story.

MY VERDICT: A worthy end to a wonderful series which I can wholeheartedly recommend. I’m now looking forward to Ms. Bateman’s new Desperate Desires series.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Secrets and Spies series (click on the book covers for more details):

To Steal a Heart (Secrets and Spies, #1) by K.C. Bateman A Raven's Heart (Secrets & Spies, #2) by K.C. Bateman A Counterfeit Heart (Secrets & Spies, #3) by K.C. Bateman

 

**I received a complimentary copy from the author for the purposes of an honest review**

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A Duke in Shining Armor

(Difficult Dukes #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Late Regency, 1833)

Cover Blurb

Not all dukes are created equal. Most are upstanding members of Society. And then there’s the trio known as Their Dis-Graces.

Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley, will never win prizes for virtue. But even he draws the line at running off with his best friend’s bride. All he’s trying to do is recapture the slightly inebriated Lady Olympia Hightower and return her to her intended bridegroom.

For reasons that elude her, bookish, bespectacled Olympia is supposed to marry a gorgeous rake of a duke. The ton is flabbergasted. Her family’s ecstatic. And Olympia? She’s climbing out of a window, bent on a getaway. But tall, dark, and exasperating Ripley is hot on her trail, determined to bring her back to his friend. For once, the world-famous hellion is trying to do the honorable thing.

So why does Olympia have to make it so deliciously difficult for him…?

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A Duke in Shining Armor, the first book in Loretta Chase’s new Difficult Dukes series, is simply delightful and filled with all the elements I love so much about her books – an entertaining story, sparkling wit and a captivating romance. The series features the Dukes of Ripley, Blackwood and Ashton, commonly referred to as ‘Their Dis-Graces’ because of their notorious, rakish behaviour. All three had suffered miserable childhoods but formed an enduring friendship whilst at Eton and the three have been inseparable ever since.

After attending his sister Alice’s marriage to Blackwood, Ripley had spent a year on the Continent and, on his return, he is shocked to discover that Ashton is about to marry Lady Olympia Hightower. Furthermore, Ashton is relying on him to ensure that everything goes without a hitch – not an easy job when the bride fails to make an appearance and Ashton is imbibing too much, with the result that he would either ‘sink into a stupor and subside ungracefully to the floor‘ or ‘he’d pick a fight with someone.‘  When they go in search of Ashton’s elusive bride, Ripley finds her climbing out of the library window in all her wedding finery. True to his promise to Ashton, Ripley follows her out of the window, determined to bring her back.

Lady Olympia had not received a single offer of marriage in the past seven years of being out in society, and her only claim to fame was being voted the Most Boring Girl of Year for those years. Her parents are loving but, when it comes to money, they are not financially astute. Her father had wasted vast amounts of money on seasons for Olympia with the view to finding her a husband. Not once had he considered the adverse financial implications for his eldest son and heir, or his other five sons. So, when Olympia catches the eye of the Duke of Ashton and he proposes, it is the answer to her prayers. He might be a notorious libertine, but he is also wealthy, handsome, charming and he seems to like her. It is only on the day of the wedding that doubts, fuelled by rather too much brandy, start to set in and she runs away with Ripley in hot pursuit.

At first, Ripley has every intention of persuading Olympia to return to her fiancé but soon finds himself falling in with her plans to go to her aunt’s. It’s a journey that will change their lives for ever.

I love a good road-trip romance especially when it involves assorted mishaps and misadventures along the way, including a dunk in the river, a runaway dog, a naked duke and more-than-friendly kisses in a post-chaise. The delightful banter between Ripley and Olympia is full of Ms. Chase’s trademark wit and humour which I love so much about her books.

He blinked. “Remarkable. You have a plan.”
“Yes. I only needed the mental stimulation of your stimulating company.”
“Any chance of stimulating you into telling me what, exactly, you’re running from?” he said. “Better yet, any chance of your changing your mind, like a good girl, and turning back? Any chance of something, oh, you know, bordering on reasonable?

Although of short duration, the journey creates a sense of intimacy between Ripley and Olympia. They talk and get to know each other in a way that would not have happened in the normal course of things, given the constraints of society. Ripley discovers that Olympia is far from the boring person she believes herself to be. She is clever, spirited and funny, with a passion for rare books. Olympia discovers that beneath that rakish exterior (a lifestyle which had already begun to pall, according to his Aunt Julia) lies a man who is charming, kind, astute, witty and, most surprising of all, he reads romances!

I love the way in which Ms. Chase gradually builds the sexual tension between Ripley and Olympia, but both are determined not to succumb to temptation. Ripley’s sense of honour prevents him from stealing his best friend’s fiancée, however much he might believe that Ashton doesn’t deserve her. While Olympia doesn’t want to destroy the lifelong friendship between Ripley and Ashton and neither does she want to hurt Ashton.  But the heart wants what the heart wants, and I was delighted to see Olympia throw away the rule book and be the one who takes the initiative. Poor Ripley doesn’t stand a chance!

There she was, the spirited general of a girl who’d mowed down a bully. There she was, in a lot of white underthings and a naughty corset, the most deliciously irresistible thing he’d ever seen.
Ripley never resisted temptation. He hardly knew how.
He couldn’t look away or run away or do the right thing. He’d never been a saint and he wasn’t about to start now, of all times.
She said, “Is this too subtle for you?”
“No,” he managed to choke out. “Dammit, Olympia.”
Two limping strides closed the space between them. Two more brought her up against the wall
.

Sometimes the scenes are so vividly written that they conjured up all sorts of wonderful images in my mind. I think my favourite scene must be the one with the mechanical invalid chair which Ripley is reluctantly using after he sprains his ankle. It’s had me laughing out loud at Ripley’s antics.

It is obvious that Ashton will not take kindly to his best friend running off with his fiancée and marrying her, and matters have to be settled in the time-honoured way. Luckily, this is a romance and therefore all ends happily.

With his excessive drinking and volatile temper, it seems Ashton will have a difficult journey ahead before he attains his Happy Ever After. I am intrigued by the reason for the obvious estrangement between Blackwood and his wife, and there is definitely some history between Ripley’s Aunt Julia and Ashton’s Uncle Frederick that I am keen to learn more about.

MY VERDICT: This is a delightful story filled with fascinating characters, sparking wit, laugh-out-loud moments and a captivating romance. I am certainly looking forward to the other books in the series. Highly recommended.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

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

A Duke in Shining Armor (Difficult Dukes, #1) by Loretta Chase

 

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