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(Ugly Ducklings #3.5)

Genre: Regency Historical Romance

Official Blurb 

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

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

★✩★✩★✩★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read August 2013

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

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

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(Ugly Ducklings #3)

Setting : Regency England

Official Blurb 

Lady Madeline Essex is the last of the unwed “ducklings” in her family—and by far the most outspoken. But when she boldly enters London’s most notorious gaming house in search of fodder for her novel, even her sharp tongue can’t save her from the horrible crime she stumbles upon there. As luck would have it, first on the scene is the last man she wants to see her vulnerable. The one man who could tempt her heart…

Christian Monteith, the new Earl of Gresham, isn’t much for card rooms and gaming hells. But as a favor to his former commanding officer, he’s investigating a gamester for espionage on the night that Maddie ventures in looking more enticing than he’s ever seen her. Suddenly, his feelings for his friend aren’t so friendly anymore. And when her curiosity brings the impetuous novelist to the attention of a madman, Christian will stop at nothing to protect her—from a sinister plot that is far more dangerous than any stolen kiss…

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

HOW TO ENTICE AN EARL is the final book in Manda Collins’ charming Ugly Ducklings trilogy. I enjoyed this engaging friends-to-lovers story with its blend of mystery and romance.

How I imagine Christian…

She had come to appreciate his sense of the absurd as much as his strength and loyalty.

Christian is the perfect hero. Honourable, loyal, charming, witty and sexy, I love how fiercely protective he is towards Maddie and he certainly has lots of  patience when it comes to her hair-brain schemes, although his patience does wear thin at times! The guilt at not being there for his twin sister when she needed him gives him a certain vulnerability which I love in my heroes.

How I imagine Maddie…

“That she is a most determined young lady who refuses to be cowed by the strictures of the ton.”

Maddie is my favourite type of heroine, independent, determined and outspoken. It’s also refreshing to find a heroine who is short with ample womanly curves rather than tall and graceful. If I have one criticism, it’s that Maddie’s impetuous behaviour did have me raising my eyebrows on more than one occasion. But in the moving scene where she comforts Christian, I couldn’t help but love her when she vows ‘to keep his vulnerabilities safe in her heart.’

I liked the fact that Maddie and Christian’s feelings grew gradually. It’s obvious they genuinely like and respect one another but have never thought of each other in romantic terms. As they spend more time in each other’s company trying to solve the murder and clear Maddie’s brother’s name, their feelings start to change:

…ever since he’d held her in his arms last night, he’d had the devil’s own time trying to erase the memory of just how right she’d felt there.

***

Each time they touched, the fire between them burned hotter until Maddie was no longer able to tell which of them was in control.
She wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, but what had begun as rather sweet and gentle turned hot and passionate.

At times, I felt that the romance was somewhat pushed into the background by the mystery plot but the love scenes were deliciously sensual.

There were enough twists and turns in the murder mystery to keep me guessing and I enjoyed the witty repartee between Christian, Winterson and Deveril. I was certainly surprised to see Ms Collins redeem the Ugly Ducklings’ arch nemesis, Amelia Snow, at the end of the book and I’m intrigued to read her story in the forthcoming novella, The Perks of Being a Beauty.

This was an entertaining ending to the trilogy and I’m looking forward to reading more of Manda Collins’ books in the future.

VERDICT: A VERY GOOD READ

RATING : 4/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING : HOT

Read April 2013

The Ugly Ducklings series (click on the cover for details)

How to Dance with a Duke (Ugly Ducklings, #1) How to Romance a Rake (Ugly Ducklings #2) How to Entice an Earl (Ugly Ducklings, #3)

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UGLY DUCKLINGS BOOK 2

You can lead a wallflower to the ball, but you can’t make her bloom—unless one daring young bachelor turns up the heat…

What’s a nice girl like Miss Juliet Shelby doing at a place like Lord Deveril’s ballroom? With her shy demeanor, she’s a total stranger to the dance floor and a source of mockery for the ton. So imagine her surprise when Deveril gallantly comes to her defense—and offers to teach her to dance! Juliet can hardly believe the most handsome bachelor in London would notice her, until he takes her in his arms and sets her heart ablaze…

Lord Alec Deveril has never felt such a spark of attraction for an unmarried lady before. Unlike the “fashionable” ladies he’s accustomed to, Juliet possesses a generous spirit, a fiery intelligence—and an explosive secret. Deep in the London underworld, a dear friend has vanished, and Juliet fears the worst. Deveril insists on helping, escorting her through the darkest alleys in town. But he too is hiding a shocking secret—and the only way he can defeat the devil in his past is to seduce the angel in his arms…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was totally captivated by this sweet romance. I knew when I read her debut novel, How to Dance with a Duke, that Ms Collins was definitely a rising star in the world of Historical Romance and this book has only served to confirm that opinion.

I really admire Ms Colliins’ courage in writing a unique heroine with such a severe disability. She uses some of her own experiences to imbue Juliet’s character with realism on both an emotional and physical level. Juliet has a quiet inner strength which she calls on whenever she needs to cope with the mockery inflicted by her peers and the constant tirade from her own mother. I love how, over the course of the story, she gains in confidence and Alex sums it up perfectly.

“If you knew anything about my wife, you would know that she is entirely capable of taking care of herself.”

I positively adore Alex. He’s just the sweetest, kindest man. Rather than the rake of the title, he’s just a perfect gentleman. I love how he champions Juliet and is so protective towards her. I enjoyed the set-down he gives those two harpies, Miss Amelia Snowe and Lady Felicia, when he finds them in the music room and hears their cruel remarks about Juliet, who happens to be hiding behind a screen.

“I must ask you to return to the festivities,” he continued, his voice definitely cool. “This room is for family use only.”
And you two are not family, his voice implied. Juliet bit back a cheer.
“We will leave at once, “Amelia said her voice thick with apology. Of course she would not wish to insult an eligible like Deveril, Juliet thought cynically.
“We apologise for the intrusion, my lord,” Felicia cooed.
Juliet bit her lip to keep from laughing at the insincerity.
“There’s no harm done ladies,” Deveril assured them with more generosity than they deserved. “And I pray you,” he added, “try not to stumble down the hall. One would hate to see the two of you make a spectacle of yourselves. This isn’t a circus, you know.”

Despite having the worst parents imaginable neither of them has become cynical and embittered. Each in their own way has had the strength to become a better person. Juliet is compassionate with a caring heart and Alex has striven to rebuild his reputation which was sullied by his father’s notorious drinking and whoring.

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Juliet’s music teacher is the ideal way of bringing these two together. I like how their relationship develops slowly, allowing them to really get to know and understand one another. This makes their falling in love seem natural and inevitable. The scene where they consummate their marriage is both intimate and sensual but laced with lovely touches of humour. This little discussion about making love made me smile.

“We’ll do it whenever we please. In very room of the house.”
” Even the butler’s pantry?” she asked, her breath short as she felt the press of his erection against her stomach.
“Especially,” Alec said, widening her legs so that he could rest his hips between them, ” especially the butler’s pantry.”

There’s a great cast of secondary characters including Cecily and Winterson from How to Dance with a Duke, the delightful Lady Madeline with her madcap plans, Monteith with his mocking comments about Alex’s sartorial elegance and, of course, Juliet’s mother, Lady Shelby, whom Ms Collins refers to in an interview as “the kind who makes Mommie Dearest look like Mother of the Year.” There was enough drama in the plot to keep me intrigued not to mention the unexpected twist at the end.

Now I’m waiting with impatience for Madeline and Monteith’s story in the third book, How to Entice an Earl.

A WONDERFUL LOVE STORY WITH LOTS OF HEART!

RATING: ★★★★½

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