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Posts Tagged ‘Victorian Era’

Obsession Wears Opals

(Jaded Gentlemen, #5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Darius Thorne has learned to use his wit and intelligence to strategize a better life for himself. He is the White Knight amidst the small secret circle of gentlemen known only as The Jaded. The handsome scholar shields his heart by keeping a studied distance from the world…until he rescues a beautiful woman.

Isabel Netherton isn’t merely a damsel in distress. A highborn lady of quality unwilling to be a pawn, she is defiantly escaping an abusive husband. But under Darius’s protection she discovers an unexpected champion–a man who teaches her the power of true desire and what it means to be treated like a queen.

However, the law of the land supports her husband’s cruel claim. It will take all of Darius’s cunning to keep one step ahead of their enemies and protect Isabel. In a deadly game of chess, Darius must defeat the Black Knight and sacrifice himself for his Ivory Queen or forfeit all.

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This is the fifth book in Renee Bernard’s highly addictive Jaded Gentleman series.

Darius Thorne is the second son of a dockworker and a fishmonger’s daughter whose drunkard of a father regularly beat his wife and children. Believing he is cursed to become just like his father, Darius pursues an entirely different life, totally immersing himself in scholarly pursuits. He has never let anyone get too close because he’s always been afraid that ‘blood will tell’ and he will hurt someone. His resolve is to be tested when he discovers a half-frozen woman lying in his garden, who obviously needs his help and protection.

After a whirlwind courtship, Lady Isabel, daughter of the Marquis of Penleigh, had fallen in love with the handsome Earl of Netherton. He swept her off her feet with his tender and romantic gestures and her wedding day is filled with thoughts of their future happiness. Those thoughts are soon dispelled on her wedding night when she discovers her husband’s true depraved and sadistic nature. With no-one to help her and fearing for her life, she seizes the opportunity to escape on her beloved horse, Samson, with no money and only the clothes she is wearing. Riding until her horse becomes lame, she collapses from exhaustion, to be rescued by a man who offers her both his help and protection.

I totally fell for the shy, bespectacled, thoughtful, intelligent, scholarly Darius. I love how he cares for Isabel without knowing anything about her, not even her name. He recognises the signs of abuse and, seeing her wedding ring, knows exactly who is responsible and vows to protect her from harm.

Every fiber of his being felt protective of her, unwilling to think too far ahead of his improvised plan to simply provide her a haven until she’d recovered and a better solution could be found.

I really felt all Isabel’s pain and humiliation and understood why, however foolhardy it might seem, escape was her only option. The law provided little or no protection for a married woman and she was at the mercy of her husband, and his threats to have her committed to an asylum or worse were only too real. I like how Ms. Bernard highlights the plight of women during that time and it makes me realise just how lucky we are today.

Although a stranger, Darius’ sincerity and kindness make Isabel feel safe for the first time in months and instinctively she knows that she can trust him.

He’d said he’d not hurt her for all the world and it made no sense in the world she’d experienced to believe him. But there she was, sitting in front of his fire with her bare feet tucked into his lap, half frozen and miserable— and inexplicably feeling safe for the first time in months.

Gradually in the compassionate care of Darius and his housekeeper, Mrs MacFadden, Isabel’s physical and emotions scars heal but she is still lives in fear of her husband finding her. I love how Darius uses the game of chess to convince Isabel that she can be strong and command power, just like the White Queen on his chess board. I enjoyed the fanciful stories they both create around chess pieces as Darius teaches Isabel the intricacies of the game, but also the sense of the growing attraction between them.

“And you?” he asked, still holding her hand across the board. His gaze was steady, the green in his eyes deepening as the contact between them lingered.
M-me?” Isabel tried to regain her mental footing and ignore the sweet fire curling up inside of her.

If there were ever two people who were meant to be together, it is these two. They complement each other in so many ways but there seems an insurmountable obstacle in their way… Isabel’s husband. I love how Darius uses his intellectual prowess and puzzle solving skills to outmanoeuvre Netherton and achieve Isabel’s freedom. However, his plan takes him into dark underbelly of London and he is sickened by the vile things he discovers about Netherton. I love how Isabel helps to dispel his despair in a rather unusual way.

Darius has never allowed himself to fall in love fearing that he could turn out to be a monster just like his father and he would never subject Isabel to such a fate. He also believes that, as a lady of quality, she will be repelled by his humble origins. I love how Isabel makes him realise that his origins do not matter to her; she fell in love with the gentle, caring and intelligent man he is, and he could never be like his father.

I adore Darius’ housekeeper, Ms MacFadden, who is ‘like a kitten that spits and hisses but has no claws’, to quote Darius. In public, she and Darius’ driver and houseman, Hamish, are constantly at each other’s throats, but secretly they are carrying on a clandestine affair which Darius swears is like watching ‘the courtship of porcupines.’

The other members of the Jaded Gentleman make an appearance and I always enjoy seeing the close bond between them, forged during their imprisonment in India.  I also like the genuine friendship that develops between Isabel and Caroline Blackwell, Ashe’s unconventional, American wife (Seduction Wears Sapphires).

The mystery surrounding the identity of their nemesis, the Jackal, and the exact nature of the sacred treasure is very much overshadowed by the romance in this book. I’m sure all will be revealed when I read Desire Wears Diamonds, the final book in the series.

MY VERDICT: Ms. Bernard pens an entertaining, romantic and sensual love story.  With only one more book to go, I will be sorry to say goodbye to the Jaded Gentlemen.

 

REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Jaded Gentlemen series (click on the book covers for more details):

Revenge Wears Rubies (Jaded Gentleman, #1) by Renee Bernard Seduction Wears Sapphires (Jaded Gentleman, #2) by Renee Bernard Ecstasy Wears Emeralds (Jaded Gentleman, #3) by Renee Bernard Passion Wears Pearls (Jaded Gentleman, #4) by Renee Bernard Obsession Wears Opals (Jaded Gentleman, #5) by Renee Bernard Desire Wears Diamonds (Jaded Gentleman, #6) by Renee Bernard

 

 

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When the Marquess Falls

(The Hellions of Havisham, #3.5)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

The long-anticipated and utterly extraordinary tale of the Mad Marquess that proves love truly does last forever

The Marquess of Marsden always follows the rules. Expected from birth to adhere to decades of tradition, he plans to marry a proper young woman from a good family. But when a beautiful, and completely unsuitable, woman snags his heart, he begins to realize that to get what you want, sometimes you have to break the rules.

Linnie Connor dreams of the independence of running her very own bakery. And while she may be allowed to be a marquess’ childhood companion, the baker’s daughter never ends up with the handsome nobleman. Determined to achieve at least one of her dreams, Linnie makes plans to leave her sleepy village for London, intent on purging him from her heart. And yet, when an invitation to the Marsden annual ball arrives, she can’t refuse her one chance to waltz in his arms.

It will be a night that stirs the flames of forbidden desires and changes their lives forever.

 

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This novella tells the beautiful but bittersweet love story of George, Marquess of Marsden and his beloved Linnie and, having read The Viscount and the Vixen, I knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster of a journey. 

George and Linnie are childhood friends who fell in love and, despite their very different social positions in life, it is obvious they are meant to be together. I admire how George respects and protects Linnie and I can see why he falls in love with her. She is such a lovely person – optimistic, courageous, caring, kind and just plain fun. It wasn’t hard to believe that, in time, she would have won over the Ton.

Throughout the series, George has always been considered mad, but often his actions are far from those of a madman, especially in his relationships with his charges and his son. He has not only raised them but helped each one in various ways.

Seeing the depth of his love for Linnie, and his intense feelings of grief and despair when he lost her, made me think that perhaps he wasn’t mad at all but suffering from bouts of depression. I like to believe that Linnie did watch over him through the years as she promised, and it was heart-warming to see a kinder, gentler, happier George in The Viscount and the Vixen.

The story is so emotionally moving and, even now, thinking about certain scenes brings tears to my eyes. I think it is a testament to Ms. Heath’s writing that she can evoke such strong feelings.

I love how she made me believe in an everlasting love that transcends even death and gave me a Happy Ever After which, although unconventional, left me with a tearful smile on my face.

Note:  I do recommend that you read The Viscount and the Vixen before reading his novella.

MY VERDICT: Such a beautiful, emotional story that will tug at your heartstrings.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Hellions of Havisham series (click on the book covers for more details):

Falling Into Bed with a Duke (The Hellions of Havisham, #1) by Lorraine Heath The Earl Takes All (The Hellions of Havisham, #2) by Lorraine Heath The Viscount and the Vixen (Hellions of Havisham, #3) by Lorraine Heath When the Marquess Falls (Hellions of Havisham, #3.5) by Lorraine Heath

 

 

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Devil in Spring

(The Ravenels, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

An eccentric wallflower…

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake…

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught-by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot…

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy-and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven…

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Like every other Lisa Kleypas fan, I was so excited when I discovered that the hero of this book is Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, the son of one of her most beloved couples, Sebastian and Evie from DEVIL IN WINTER. My expectations were obviously high and I’m happy to say that, apart from a couple of niggles, I loved it.

The Prologue was just delightful and it was wonderful seeing Sebastian and Evie still so in love even after 30 years of marriage and Sebastian has lost none of his devilment.

“The rest of the world can wait,” Sebastian said firmly. “I’m going to debauch you for the ten thousandth time, Evie – and for once, I want you to pay attention.”

“Yes, sir,” she said demurely, and looped her arms around her husband’s neck as he carried her to their bedroom.

Gabriel has clearly inherited traits from both his parents; handsome, witty, astute, charming and worldly like his father and kind, understanding and compassionate like his mother. As heir to a dukedom, he takes his responsibilities seriously, having assumed management of many of the family’s business interests at a young age.   He is well aware of the expectations of others and carries the constant burden of having to maintain the perfect image. However, there is another side to him…his darker sexual appetites which his married mistress is more than happy to fulfil.

For the past two years, Nola had fully indulged Gabriel’s every desire, their encounters unhindered by morals or inhibitions. She always knew when to push the limits farther, coming up with new tricks to spark his interest and satisfy his complex desires

One of my niggles is that Ms. Kleypas never explores this aspect of Gabriel’s character in any real depth and, to me, it seemed like a contrived way of making Gabriel seem less than perfect.

By having Pandora suffering from ADHD, Ms. Kleypas has created a delightfully quirky, adorable heroine who is impulsive, spirited, creative and ambitious. A conventional life has no appeal at all for her and marriage is not on the cards. Pandora plans to support herself and live independently by becoming a business woman and marketing her new board game. I love her habit of making up words, such as calling the elaborate wooden curls and twists carved into the back of the settee, in which she gets her dress caught, swirladingles.

Pandora and Gabriel seem the most unlikely couple but Ms. Kleypas makes the romance work so beautifully. It is such a captivating blend of witty banter, heated kisses and tender, sensual love scenes. I love how Ms Kleypas imbues their romance with lovely touches of humour and this is one of my favourites exchanges:

“Are you thinking about the Queen?” he heard Pandora ask eventually, while the engorged length of his shaft throbbed vehemently between them. “Because if you are, it’s not working.”   

Gabriel’s lips twitched at the helpful observation. He replied with his eyes still closed. “With you sitting on me in that sweet little nightdress, it wouldn’t matter if the Queen were standing in this room with a contingent of guards in full uniform.”

I also love it when Gabriel is whispering all the things he wants to do to Pandora but he’s whispering into her bad ear and she can’t hear him!

I loved meeting Sebastian and Evie’s other children and Ms. Kleypas portrays the loving relationship between the family so well. I was especially intrigued by Gabriel’s caustic older, widowed sister, Phoebe, and do hope she gets a Happy Ever After. Dr.  Garrett Gibson and detective Ethan Ransome, who were both in Marrying Winterborne, make an appearance. I also loved seeing my favourite Wallflower hero, Westcliff, in a cameo role.

My other niggle concerned the dramatic event in the last quarter of the book. It seemed totally unrelated to the rest of the story and more like a plot device to highlight a possible future hero and heroine. However, my niggles in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the book.

MY VERDICT: Enchanting, romantic, sexy and funny – a winning combination.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Ravenels series to date (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

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the-highlander

 (Victorian Rebels, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

Can the fiercest master of battle conquer a woman’s heart?

They call him the Demon Highlander. The fearsome Lieutenant Colonel Liam MacKenzie is known for his superhuman strength, towering presence, and fiery passion in the heat of battle. As Laird to the MacKenzie clan, the undefeated Marquess has vanquished his foes with all rage and wrath of his barbaric Highland ancestors. But when an English governess arrives to care for his children, the master of war finds himself up against his greatest opponent… in the game of love.

Defying all expectations, Miss Philomena is no plain-faced spinster but a ravishing beauty with voluptuous curves and haughty full lips that rattle the Laird to his core. Unintimidated by her master’s raw masculinity and savage ways, the headstrong lass manages to tame not only his wild children but the beast in his soul. With each passing day, Liam grows fonder of Miss Mena—and more suspicious. What secret is she hiding behind those emerald eyes? What darkness brought her to his keep? And how can he conquer this magnificent woman’s heart… without surrendering his own?

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Once again, I was completely immersed in the dark, intense and compelling world of Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels and the passionate love story between Liam and Mena.

The story opens with a powerful Prologue that had me totally riveted to the pages. Ms. Byrne does not shy away from depicting the harrowing events of Liam’s youth and how his violent, abusive, sadistic father tried to shape Liam in his own image. It isn’t easy reading but it gave me a real understanding of Liam’s character; his fear that the same tainted blood runs through his veins and that he would one day become a monster just like his father; the decision he is forced to make to protect is brothers; his belief that by becoming a soldier he could expunge his violent tendencies on the battlefield but all the violence and bloodshed only serves to confirm his belief that he is unworthy of peace or happiness.

The scars he carried upon his soul were horrid and deep as those on his back. Some of the wounds remained open and bleeding, poisoning his chances at happiness or peace.

Mena’s life has been hellish too. Mentally and physically abused by her husband for the past five years, he has now had her committed to an asylum (the reason forms part of the plot of the previous book, The Hunter, and, for those who haven’t yet read that book, I am avoiding spoilers). Once again, Ms. Byrne conveys the chilling reality of Mena’s suffering and abuse in graphic realism and it is not for the faint hearted. These scenes are a powerful indictment of Victorian society, where those without a voice could be committed to such a terrible fate without redress.

I love the scene where Mena is on her way to Ravencroft Keep, Liam’s home, and the carriage wheel fractures. The driver sets off to the keep to get help and, in the meantime, a group of dirty, bedraggled highlanders appear. Liam demands she open the door but Mena refuses point blank, not believing for one minute that he is the marquess. Their exchanges are so funny but, more than anything, I  love how Mena has the courage to refuse to do as Liam says, particularly as he shows every sign of exploding at any moment!

“Do you happen to have any proof of your lordship or nobility?” she suggested, blinking pleased, expectant eyes at him as though she’d offered some sort of foolproof plan. “A signet ring, perhaps, or a seal of—”

  “The fact that I havena torn this carriage apart with my bare hands is proof enough of my nobility,” he growled through lips drawn tight over his teeth. “Now open the bloody door.” 

“I’m sorry, but no.” She shut the window.

It’s obvious that Liam loves his children and has done everything he could to protect them but, after such a long absence, he doesn’t know to relate to his grown-up son and daughter. I love the scenes between Mena and Liam’s children, especially the one where she has a rather clever way of persuading Andrew to read the three classics. I also enjoyed seeing the loving relationship flourishing between Liam and his children.

I like how Ms. Byrne builds the romance slowly. Yes, there is lots of sizzling sexual tension, desire and passion…

The moment they’d met had been like the whisper of a storm kissing a hot, humid day with a blessed chill. The promise of something dark and exciting gathered on the horizon, and Mena had watched that storm rumble closer with every instant they’d spent together. Every time she’d banked the fires that blazed in his eyes. Every time he’d ignited heat into her cold heart.

but they also get to know each other and share their tragic pasts. I love how two such mismatched people are so perfect for each other. Mena finds a man she can trust who will protect and cherish her and allow her to be strong, while Liam finds a woman who accepts him for who he is and offers him the chance to protect rather than hurt and finally find peace.

I liked the secondary characters especially Jani, Liam’s Indian valet, Liam’s children and Liam’s brother, Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne, whose story will be told in THE SCOT BEDS HIS WIFE (October 3rd 2017). I was also intrigued by the references to the Duke of Trewyth and look forward to reading his story in THE DUKE.  

While the main focus of the story is the romance, there is an element of drama in the form of a malevolent force within the keep and Mena’s husband’s attempt to institutionalize Mena again. Dorian Blackwell (The Highwayman) and Christopher Argent (The Hunter) prove their worth as allies for Liam and this fearsome trio show no mercy when exacting revenge on those who have harmed Mena.

MY VERDICT: Another superb addition to this darkly compelling series. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Victorian Rebels series to date (click on the book covers for more details):

The Highwayman (Victorian Rebels, #1) by Kerrigan Byrne The Hunter (Victorian Rebels, #2) by Kerrigan Byrne The Highlander (Victorian Rebels, #3) by Kerrigan Byrne The Duke (Victorian Rebels, #4) by Kerrigan Byrne The Scot Beds His Wife (Victorian Rebels, #5) by Kerrigan Byrne – October 3rd 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the-viscount-and-the-vixen

(The Helllions of Havisham, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian, 1882)

Cover Blurb:

Love begets madness. Viscount Locksley watched it happen to his father after his cherished wife’s death. But when his sire arranges to marry flame-haired fortune hunter Portia Gadstone, Locke is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the stunning beauty from taking advantage of the marquess. A marriage of mutual pleasure could be convenient, indeed . . . as long as inconvenient feelings don’t interfere.

Desperation forced Portia to agree to marry a madman. The arrangement will offer the protection she needs. Or so she believes until the marquess’s distractingly handsome son peruses the fine print . . .and takes his father’s place!

Now the sedate—and, more importantly, secure—union Portia planned has been tossed in favor of one simmering with wicked temptation and potential heartbreak. Because as she begins to fall for her devilishly seductive husband, her dark secrets surface and threaten to ruin them both—unless Locke is willing to risk all and open his heart to love.

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It is wonderful books like this that have made Lorraine Heath one of my top favourite authors. Her beautifully written and deeply emotional love stories keep me coming back for more.

After his mother died giving birth to him, Viscount Locksley (Locke)  watched his father, the Marquess of Marsden, slowly driven mad with grief over the loss of his beloved wife. Locke intends to marry eventually, but it will never be for love having seen first-hand the devastation such an emotion can cause. He chooses to bury himself in working alongside his men in the mines and managing the estates.

Concerned that Locke shows no signs of marrying soon and determined that his title and estates will not pass into the hands of his greedy cousin or his cousin’s son, the marquess plans to marry and acquire a “spare”. When he meets the prospective bride, Portia Gadstone, Locke is immediately suspicious of her motives and convinced she is nothing more than a social climbing, fortune hunter.  He will do anything possible to protect his father from her clutches, even marrying her himself.  In fact, she could prove the perfect wife for him.

Locke slid his gaze over to Portia Gadstone and, for the first time, clearly saw her for what she truly was. A mercenary, a title chaser, someone wanting to rise so badly above her station she would use any means necessary to accomplish her goal, including taking advantage of an aging gentleman. The sort of woman he could never grow to care for, could never love, could never give his heart to.
She was bloody perfect.

Locke is right about Portia in one respect – she will do anything to achieve her goal but not for the reasons he thinks.  Penniless, homeless and with a secret she must hide at all costs, marriage to the marquess will provide the safety and security she so desperately needs.  What she hasn’t bargained for is the Marquess of Marsden’s son thwarting her plans!  She could have charmed the elderly marquess but the handsome, virile, arrogant Locke is a very different proposition.

Ms Heath builds the romance between Locke and Portia beautifully, showing the gradual changes in their relationship. The scene where they first meet is full of barbed, witty exchanges and I enjoyed watching Portia getting a rise out of Locke in every sense of the word! Neither is looking for love but they are not averse to enjoying a physical relationship, leading to some steamy sex scenes.

I enjoyed watching Locke reluctantly accepting that his initial opinions of Portia are wrong. He sees how soft hearted she is when his father is talking about his beloved wife; she has no desire for “constant compliments, numerous baubles, and his undivided attention” like every other woman he has known; she makes him laugh and he finds that he wants to spend time with her as much out of the bedroom as in it.

I like Portia’s boldness in standing up to Locke and expressing her own views. She sees how deeply he cares for his father, his estates and his men and it is heart-warming to see how she brings light, joy and music back to the once dreary Havisham Hall.  She draws the marquess out of his reclusiveness and is the catalyst for Locke discovering so much about his mother he never knew.

It is obvious that Locke and Portia are falling in love –

Coming to know her husband filled her with a sense of satisfaction as well as a measure of dread, because she feared he had the power to shatter what remained of her fragile heart.

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It didn’t help matters that it always caused this odd sense of swelling in his chest that made it difficult to breathe for a few seconds whenever she flashed a smile.

but I knew any future happiness would soon be tested when Portia’s secret is finally revealed. The scene where she tells him of her deception is so heart-breaking and, although I understood Locke’s initial reaction, I very much sympathised with Portia and the choices she was forced to make. I like how Ms Heath always brings an element of social commentary to her books; in this case, the lack of women’s rights in the late Victorian era which forces Portia to take such drastic action to protect all she loves. Despite Locke’s cruel words, once he learns Portia’s full story and accepts his true feelings for her, I love how he confronts her sanctimonious father and moves heaven and earth to find her.

I especially adored the marquess who is kind, gentle and perceptive, such as when he tells Locke –

“Your mother’s beauty was all inside. Portia has a good bit in there as well. Don’t forget to look there”.

I like how he cleverly tricks Locke into marrying Portia. Perhaps he’s not as mad as everyone believes.

Although tinged with a little sadness, the Epilogue left me with a warm glow and a desire to read the forthcoming WHEN THE MARQUESS FALLS, the love story of the Marquess of Marsden and his beloved wife, Linnie.

MY VERDICT:   Another captivating and beautiful love story with characters that will touch your heart. Highly recommended!


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Hellions of Havisham series (click on the book covers for more details):

Falling Into Bed with a Duke (The Hellions of Havisham, #1) by Lorraine Heath The Earl Takes All (The Hellions of Havisham, #2) by Lorraine Heath The Viscount and the Vixen (Hellions of Havisham, #3) by Lorraine Heath When the Marquess Falls – March 14th 2017

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

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how-to-lose-a-duke-in-ten-days

(An American Heiress in London, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

From USA Today bestselling author Laura Lee Guhrke comes the story of a bargain, a marriage of convenience…and the chance for love to last a lifetime.

They had a deal…

From the moment she met the devil-may-care Duke of Margrave, Edie knew he could change her life. And when he agreed to her outrageous proposal of a marriage of convenience, she was transformed from ruined American heiress to English duchess. Five years later, she’s delighted with their arrangement, especially since her husband is living on another continent.

But deals are made to be broken…

By marrying an heiress, Stuart was able to pay his family’s enormous debts, and Edie’s terms that he leave England forever, seemed a small price to pay. But when a brush with death impels him home, he decides it’s time for a real marriage with his luscious American bride, and he proposes a bold new bargain: ten days to win her willing kiss. But is ten days enough to win her heart?

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HOW TO LOSE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS is the second book in Laura Lee Guhrke’s American Heiress in London series but it can be read as a standalone.

Please don’t let the rather light-hearted title of this book deter you because this is a tender, poignant and romantic second chance story.

Going home to New York spells disaster for Edie because she will not only have to face the scandal she left behind but also the man responsible for her ruination. So, she approaches the impoverished Duke of Margrave and proposes a marriage of convenience with certain conditions; she will pay off all his ancestors’ debts, pay him a generous allowance, support his sponging relatives and look after his estates on condition that he goes back to Africa, the country he loves, and never returns.

“I don’t want a husband in any sense but the legal one.”

Following his father’s death, Stuart had returned from Africa to find huge debts awaiting him and the creditors knocking at his door. Although he is rather surprised by Edie’s strange bargain, he is desperate to return to Africa and so agrees. But the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. Five years later, after suffering a severe leg injury when a lioness mauls him, Stuart is forced to re-evaluate his life and decides it is time to return home and make his marriage a real one but he knows it won’t be easy.                                             

This was a new beginning, and a second chance. Not that the task ahead of him would be an easy one. He’d known then, and he knew now, that Edie had a wall around her it would not be easy to breach.

At first, Edie appears hard and inflexible towards Stuart.  With his return, she is afraid of losing the freedom and independence she has enjoyed over the past 5 years but her fears run far deeper. She has never told anyone, even her parents, about the traumatic event which left her emotionally scarred and with a deep-seated fear of intimacy.

She was like a wounded animal, he thought, looking at her. Fear and pain were in every line of her— in the taut stillness of her form and in her watchful, wary stare.

Stuart is such a wonderful hero. His injury causes him a great deal of pain but he never wallows in self-pity. He treats Edie with such patience and sensitivity and his slow but determined campaign to win her trust and her heart is just delicious. I love the scenes where Edie is massaging Stuart’s leg; they are sensual and positively sizzle with sexual tension.

Everywhere his body touched hers, he felt scorching hot. Slowly, as the seconds ticked by, she became aware of other things: the slow, deep labor of his breathing, the hard muscle of his calf beneath her fingertips, the scent of sandalwood— his soap, perhaps? Inexplicably, her body began to tingle.

Stuart is not above using additional weapons in his campaign, especially Joanna, Edie’s younger sister, who is determined to see these two reunited. It helps to have a spy in the camp!

Watching Edie gradually responding to Stuart’s gentle, considerate lovemaking and slowly emerging as a warm and passionate woman is so emotionally satisfying.

“I need you to be just the man you are, Stuart. I need to be reminded every day that I am a pretty, passionate woman, with golden freckles and lovely legs. I need you to touch me and caress me and make it like bliss. I need you to make love to me, and give me that sweet, sweet pleasure.”

MY VERDICT: A beautiful and deeply emotional second chance love story. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Read September 2016

 

An American Heiress in London series (click on the book covers for more details):

When the Marquess Met His Match (An American Heiress in London, #1) by Laura Lee Guhrke How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days (An American Heiress in London, #2) by Laura Lee Guhrke Catch a Falling Heiress (An American Heiress in London, #3) by Laura Lee Guhrke No Mistress Of Mine (An American Heiress in London, #4) by Laura Lee Guhrke

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The Hunter

(Victorian Rebels, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

They’re rebels, scoundrels, and blackguards—dark, dashing men on the wrong side of the law. But for the proper Victorian-era ladies who love them, a hint of danger only makes their hearts beat faster…

A scandalous proposal.

As one of London’s most elite hunters, Christopher Argent never misses his mark and always gets his man. But when his latest target turns out to be a woman—the popular, and stunningly beautiful, actress Millie LeCour—it turns his whole world upside-down. Overwhelmed by the heat that simmers between them, Christopher can’t complete his mission. On the contrary, he’ll do anything to save Millie’s life—even if it means risking his own…

A dangerous passion…

When she learns what Christopher was hired to do, Millie is torn between the fear in her heart and the fire in her soul. Putting herself in this dangerous man’s arms may be her only path to safety—but giving in to her desire may be the deadliest mistake she’s ever made. With both of their lives in jeopardy, Millie and Christopher must learn to trust the real feelings they’re hiding—to find the true love they’re looking for…

♥♥♥♥♥♥

After reading The Highwayman, the first book in Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series last year, I knew I had found an author who was willing to push the established boundaries of historical romance with her dark, gritty, compelling stories and dangerous, tormented anti-heroes. The Hunter certainly didn’t disappoint.

 We were introduced to the mysterious Christopher Argent, in The Highwayman as Dorian Blackwell’s business associate and a cold, ruthless assassin who kills for money without either emotion or remorse. He has accumulated so much wealth that he has no need to accept any more contracts, but killing is all he knows and he’s an expert at what he does. His latest target is Millicent (Millie) LeCour, a popular actress, but when he sees her on stage he is affected in a way he has never experienced before.

It happened again. That curious little jolt in the cavern of his ribs. It was the same when she’d smiled at him from the stage. A startle of sensation. A current of awareness that singed along the nerves beneath his skin with warmth and maybe a touch of pleasure.

Christopher is still determined to fulfil the contract, but ultimately he cannot bring himself to take Millie’s life. Instead, he offers her a bargain – he will protect Millie and her son, Jakub, for one night in her bed. It is a bargain that is to change his life irrevocably.

Millie is a beautiful, talented and popular actress who thrives on the adoration of her audience but she has secrets which force her to keep everyone, other than her son, at arm’s length. Thoughts of marriage or even taking a lover are out the question because her secrets could endanger both her own and her son’s life. Jakub is the most important person in her life and she will do anything to protect him, even make a pact with the devil himself…no matter that the devil comes in the form of a man who has made a number of attempts on her life. She has no reason to trust Christopher Argent and every reason to fear him but…

Millie acknowledged that, in the instance, she didn’t need a white knight, but a shadow that could traverse the darkness with cunning and speed of that lethal viper.

 I went into this book with doubts that Ms Byrne could make me sympathetic towards a stone-hearted killer like Christopher Argent but, from the moment I’d finished reading the powerful and gut-wrenching Prologue, my heart ached for the young Christopher. No-one could endure everything he did and retain any shred of humanity.

It (killing) was all he knew. All he was good at.  And never in his life had he questioned his place, never looked back into the abyss of the past. Never thought of that pathetic, powerless boy he’d once been.
Or of that night he’d lost his soul.

Meeting Millie has him confused and unable to understand what’s happening to him because, until now, he has cut himself off from all human emotions. Watching him struggle with his newly discovered feelings is so compelling and one of my favourite scenes is where Dorian describes to him what love feels like. I love how we see small glimpses that show Christopher still has a shred of humanity in him; his overwhelming need to protect Millie and her son and how gentle he is with Jakub. The scene where Christopher sings the same lullaby to Jakub that his mother used to sing to him was so poignant.

I love Millie’s warmth, strength, intelligence, courage and her overwhelming love for her son. Her life hasn’t been easy but she had the determination and passion to achieve her ambition of becoming an actress.  This makes her a worthy match for Christopher. She may fear him but that doesn’t stop her threatening him, as she does when he tries to wake her at what she considers to be an ungodly hour.

“And if you wake me before nine in the morning again, I’ll pâté your liver and have it with my breakfast. Now get out.”

 Millie feels compassion for Christopher when she discovers everything he suffered as a young boy; it helps her understand him more and what horrors made him into the heartless killer he became. She also realises that he must break the chains of the past before he can tread a different path in life. I like how Ms Byrne doesn’t try to redeem Christopher because nothing can ever erase his past deeds. Intrinsically, she doesn’t change who he is but offers him in the words of Inspector Morley…

“A different life. A better path. The chance to be a force for good. To be a better man.”

The love scenes are steamy, intense and often explicit but I think they perfectly reflect Christopher’s changing emotional state. I especially love the scene where Christopher believes he is making love to Millie in a dream…a dream that always turns into a nightmare but this time it doesn’t. It is such an emotional scene revealing Christopher’s fears and vulnerability when it comes to Millie.

I loved Jakub, Millie’s son, who is such an intelligent and inquisitive child. There are some delightful scenes between Jakub and Christopher including this one when Jakub announces…

“I like you, Mr. Argent,” he announced. “I like that you don’t lie to me because I’m not yet a man. You can go on kissing my mother if you want, so long as you don’t ruin her.”

Dorian and Farah (The Highwayman) play an important role in the story and I enjoyed seeing them still very much in love. I also enjoyed the scenes between Dorian and Christopher which provide some light-hearted moments.  It is wonderful to see a genuine friendship forming between these two.

I found the mystery plot engrossing but there are some realistically brutal and violent parts which may not be to everyone’s taste. One of the villains commits crimes that are particularly heinous and there are some twists and turns before the identity of the person who wants Millie killed and the fate of the missing boys are revealed.

 Although there is no Epilogue (but perhaps we will see more of Christopher and Millie in the next book), I did love the ending with some heart-felt, romantic words from Christopher and a little drollery from Millie and Welton, the butler.

 MY VERDICT: If you are in the mood for something compelling and intense with a suspenseful plot, fascinating characters and a darkly emotional romance, I can definitely recommend The Hunter.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

 

Read August 2016

 

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

The Highwayman (Victorian Rebels, #1) by Kerrigan Byrne The Hunter (Victorian Rebels, #2) by Kerrigan Byrne The Highlander (Victorian Rebels, #3) by Kerrigan Byrne The Duke (Victorian Rebels, #4) by Kerrigan Byrne

 

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

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