Posts Tagged ‘Victorian Era’

(Scoundrels of St. James #1)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads):

They call him the Devil Earl—a scoundrel and accused murderer who grew up on the violent London streets. A proper young lady risks more than her reputation when consorting with the roguishly handsome Lucian Langdon, but Lady Catherine Mabry believes she has no choice. To protect those she loves, she would do anything—even strike a bargain with the devil

Lucian desires respectability and a wife above all else, but the woman of his choosing lacks the social graces to be accepted by the aristocracy. Catherine can help Lucian gain everything he wants. But what she asks for in exchange will put their very lives in jeopardy. When danger closes in, Catherine discovers a man of immense passion and he discovers a woman of immeasurable courage. As secrets from his dark past are revealed, Lucian begins to question everything he knows to be true, including the yearnings of his own heart.

(First published 6 October 2009)


This was the first series I read by Lorraine Heath and it established her as one of my favourite Historical Romance authors. Over the years, she has continued to captivate me with her beautifully written and deeply emotional love stories. Re-reading this series, I found myself falling in love with her wonderful characters all over again.

Inspired by Charles Dickens ‘Oliver Twist’, the series tells the stories of Luke, Jack, Frannie, Jim and William, all orphans and members of Feagan’s notorious gang of child thieves. Their lives are irrevocably changed when it’s discovered that Luke is Lucian Langdon, the long-lost heir to the Earl of Claybourne.

The entries in Luke’s journal, which form the Prologue, were an unusual way of opening the story. Not only did they provide intriguing details of his past, but they were also an effective hook which certainly had me eager to read on.

As the Earl of Clayborne, Luke has all the trappings of wealth and privilege but he is shunned by society. It’s well known that he once murdered a man, something he has never sought to deny, and his unsavoury past has led many to question the validity of his claim to the earldom, earning him the title Devil Earl. No lady dare risk her reputation by dancing with him and no gentleman would be seen conversing with him in public for fear of having his respectability questioned. Haunted by his past dark deeds, Luke leads a lonely existence, plagued by debilitating headaches. He is torn between his old life and his new one, neither of which he feels he truly belongs to.

Luke is such a complex and appealing hero. He’s strong, loyal, caring and willing to do anything to protect those he loves. Murder can never be condoned, but I understood why Luke felt that he had to take the law into his own hands to protect someone he cared for. Justice was in short supply for those living on the streets of Victorian London.

I couldn’t condemn him for deceiving the old Earl of Claybourne into believing he was his long-lost grandson. Who wouldn’t choose a life of wealth and security when the alternative was being hanged? It says a lot for Luke’s character that he feels so much guilt for his deception, especially as he grew fond of his ‘Grandfather’.

“I wish I had been his grandson. He showered me with love that rightfully belonged to another, and that I was never comfortable with.

Catherine is an independent, strong, bold and determined heroine and I loved how she proved more than a match for Luke and Jack Dodger…

 “Shh! I’ll not tolerate your interference in this matter. Take Mr. Dodger with you as I don’t much care for him. Be sure to close the door smartly on your way out.

She is selfless in the way she took on the heavy burden of looking after her invalid father and his estates in her brother’s absence. It has given her a level of independence that was generally denied to other women. She is also a kind and caring person which is evident in her obvious love for and devotion to her father.

 “I wish you could tell me what you wanted.” She brushed her fingers through his thinning silver hair. “I hope you’re not in pain.”

I also admired her loyalty to and her fierce desire to help her friend, Winnie, who is trapped in an abusive marriage.

I loved how their relationship developed… the heated kisses, the simmering sexual tension, their undeniable passion for each other, culminating in a sensual love scene. During their time spent together, Catherine comes to see a different side to Luke. She is surprised by his honesty, his gentleness towards Frannie, and how much he cares about the plight of children on the streets and prison reform. In Catherine, Luke finds a woman who is independent, strong, determined, loyal and courageous. Even though I was often frustrated by his misguided determination to marry Frannie, I enjoyed the moment when Luke finally realised that it’s Catherine he truly loves, thanks to some wise words from Frannie. It spoke of the depth of her love for Luke that Catherine was willing to sacrifice her own happiness, believing that Luke loved Frannie.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that Luke truly is the Earl of Claybourne’s grandson because there are strong hints throughout the story. It’s the mystery of what happened on that fateful night that kept me intrigued, and the denouement is quite shocking.

We are introduced to the other members of Feagan’s gang who have each overcome their pasts to become successful in their own right. They all take an active role in the story and all have interesting stories of their own to tell. I felt desperately sorry for Catherine’s friend, Winnie, who’s spirit had been broken by her abusive husband, and I was delighted to see the Duke of Avendale get his just deserts. I took a dislike to Catherine’s brother, Sterling, who left her with the burden of looking after their father and his estates, whilst he swanned around the world. I also hated the overbearing way he treated Catherine after he returned home. As the hero of Surrender to the Devil, the third book in the series, I think there will be some serious redeeming to be done.

I like how Ms. Heath doesn’t shy away from showing the grim realities of life for the young, orphaned children living on the dangerous streets of London. Forced to steal to survive, they are subject to terrible punishments if caught. She also highlights the plight of those woman trapped in abusive marriages, who have no redress to the law because they are considered to be their husband’s property.

The excerpt from Luke’s journal, which forms the Epilogue, is very moving and captures the essence of the story beautifully.

This story combines everything I look for in Historical Romance – an emotional and sensual love story, unforgettable characters, passion and drama. Highly recommended.

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(Revelations of the Carstairs Sisters #1)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Amazon):

Unaware of her beauty…

Until he awakens her.

Prudence Carstairs knows her scars leave her with no romantic prospects—instead, she’s content revolutionising her employer’s home with her technological marvels. Then he unexpectedly perishes, and his mysterious younger brother, dashing Dominic Thorburn, reluctantly takes over. In the new earl, Prudence finally finds someone who meets her gaze without flinching. Might he see the beautiful, intelligent woman beyond her scars?


I have read several of Marguerite Kaye’s books and never been disappointed and The Earl Who Sees Her Beauty, the first book in her two book Revelations of the Carstairs Sisters, was no exception.

Having left the army under a cloud, Dominic Thorburn has spent the last five years living a simple life in Greece until, by chance, he discovers that his brother, Jeremy, has died in a train crash and he is now the new Earl of Bannatyne. Dominic has every reason to detest the aristocracy and everything they stand for and has no intention of assuming the title. He will only spend enough time in England to enable him to sell off everything appertaining to his inheritance, invest the proceeds in a worthy cause, and then return to Greece as soon as he can. However his plans go awry when he meets Prudence Carstairs, the self-proclaimed custodian of Hawthorn Manor, the Bannatyne’s ancestral home.

Prudence Carstairs, who lives with her brother Clement, suffered an accident when she was a child which left her face badly scarred. Having experienced how people recoil on seeing her face, she never goes out without wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a veil. With her keen interest in anything mechanical, the late Earl had given Prudence the task of overseeing the renovation and modernisation of Hawthorn Manor. After his death, she has continued to look after the property, but the appearance of new Earl threatens the refuge she has found at Hawthorn Manor.

When Dominic reveals his family history, I could understand why he is so determined never to join the ranks of the nobility, and how the circumstances surrounding his dishonourable discharge from the army only served to reinforce his low opinion of them. His actions reveal him to be brave, honourable, and a man who refuses to compromise on his principles, regardless of the personal cost.

I could sympathise with Prudence who’s disfigurement has shattered her youthful dreams of love and marriage. She does not conform to Victorian standards that put so much emphasis on beauty. There is one particularly emotional scene when she is exposed to public scrutiny and my heart went out to her. It’s her unconventional interest in the Victorian advancements in engineering that reveal the true Prudence – independent, brave, confident and clever.

The first meeting between Dominic and Prudence was certainly one of the most memorable ones I’ve read in a long time, but I won’t spoil it for you. The feathers fly but that doesn’t last long, and I enjoyed seeing the easy rapport between them which develops into mutual attraction and finally love. It was so satisfying to see how they help each other to overcome their personal demons.

Dominic sees beyond Prudence’s scars to the extraordinary woman she is and is determined to convince her that her scars don’t define her, unless she lets them. I love how he wants to keep her safe and make her happy. The way he woos her is unconventional to say the least but, as far as Prudence is concerned, it’s the most romantic gift.

“…if ever I was fortunate enough to be introduced to one of the new sewage pumping stations which are being constructed in London, I fear it may just steal my heart.”

I love how Prudence makes Dominic take a good look at himself and opens his eyes to the fact that, by assuming his title, he would have the influence to carry out the work he wants to do for the poor.

Later in the story when they finally make love, it just feels right. The love scene is beautifully done – tender, romantic and sensual.

I did get a little frustrated with Prudence’s wavering when it came to accepting Dominic’s marriage proposal, but this was a minor niggle and didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the story.

I liked Clement, Prudence’s brother, who obviously loves his sister, but could be slightly overprotective at times. Prudence’s sister, Mercy, has been trapped in an unhappy marriage and I’m looking forward to reading her story in the second book. I liked Mercy’s friend Lady Sarah Fitzherbert-Wright, and I’m intrigued by the potential pairing of this vivacious and outspoken lady with the scholarly Clement.

Ms. Kaye’s research is evident in the fascinating details she incorporates into the the story, whether it’s the clothing, the bathing huts or the intricacies of Victorian plumbing. I was so intrigued by the Crossness Pumping Station, which still survives today, that I had to Google it. I can fully understand why Prudence fell in love with it!

I like how Ms. Kaye doesn’t shy away from describing the horrors endured by the ordinary fighting men at the siege of Sebastopol, or the terrible housing conditions that the poorer people of London lived in. It all added depth to the story and showed the deep divide between the rich and the poor in Victorian society.

If you are looking for a story that is well written and impeccably researched, with interesting characters and a lovely romance, then I can highly recommend this book.

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(Parish Orphans of Devon #4)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads):

She needed to be seen…

As a lady’s companion, Clara Hartwright never receives much attention from anyone. And that’s precisely how she likes it. With a stormy past, and an unconventional plan for her future, it’s far safer to remain invisible. But when her new employer is invited to a monthlong holiday at a remote coastal abbey, Clara discovers that she may not be as invisible as she’d hoped. At least, not as far as one gentleman is concerned.

He wanted to be heard…

Neville Cross has always been more comfortable with animals than people. An accident in his youth has left him with a brain injury that affects his speech. Forming the words to speak to his childhood friends is difficult enough. Finding the right things to say to a lovely young lady’s companion seems downright impossible. But Miss Hartwright is no ordinary companion. In fact, there may not be anything ordinary about her at all.

During a bleak Devon winter, two sensitive souls forge an unexpected friendship. But when Clara needs him most, will Neville find the courage to face his fears? Or is saying goodbye to her the most heroic thing he can do? 


This sweet, uplifting and heart-warming love story was an enchanting finale to Mimi Matthews’s best-selling Parish Orphans of Devon series

While I loved all the previous heroes in this series, there is just something special about Neville that captured my heart. At times, I wanted to reach into the book and hug him so tight. Through his thoughts and feelings, Ms. Matthews gives the reader an insight into how the effects of Neville’s injury have shaped his life.

Ever since Justin had provided a home for him at Greyfriars Abbey, it has been a place where Neville felt safe and secure, and happy working with the animals. It was sad to realise how his speech impediment had defined his life choices.

Ambitions required aptitude. The ability to learn and grow. And there was no fixing his speech. No remedy to the fact that it made him seem slow and stupid.

I had a lot of sympathy for Clara, a romantic at heart, whose youthful indiscretion had such an impact on her life. Not only did she lose her own teaching job, but her brother, Simon, lost his tutor and the local squire’s patronage too. Taking responsibility for the damage she had caused to her family’s reputation and her brother’s prospects, she has taken a position as a companion to help pay for Simon’s school fees.

It was her own cross to bear. Her secret shame.

As a companion, she is expected to fade into the background, but I admire her for having ambitions beyond society’s normal expectations for a woman.

Ms. Matthews beautifully nuanced and eloquent writing made this one of the loveliest romances I have ever read. I loved how the focus of the story was on Neville and Clara’s developing relationship, showing their feelings for each other gradually evolving and allowing the romance to flourish in a natural way. It’s a journey of discovery for them as individuals and as a couple.

I love how Clara is just perfect for Neville. She understands his struggle in a way that no one else does – how frustrating and painful it must be for someone as intelligent as Neville to struggle with forming even a simple sentence.

A flicker of sympathy stirred in her breast. What must it be like? To be thoughtful and intelligent and unable to express it? To have to struggle for every word?

She also sees how capable, strong, honest, kind and gentle he is.

Neville sees not only Clara’s outward beauty but also her inner beauty, something he feels that only he is privileged to see. I love how he encouraged her to read poetry and novels again, something she hasn’t done for many years.

My heart went out to Neville when Clara in forced to leave and he believes he will never see her again, but it makes him realise that he wants what his friends have…a life of his own and a chance at happiness with Clara.

He did want more. He wanted a life of his own choosing.
He wanted her

I loved Neville’s determination to help Clara. It took at lot of courage, knowing that he would have to face his fears and insecurities head on, but it showed the depth of his love for her.

There are so many lovely moments in this book that it was difficult to pick just two.

He rested his forehead gently against hers. And the emotion imbued in that single gesture was so sweet, so tender, she felt she might drown in it. That she might lose herself entirely.

His heart clenched. Having her on his arm, bright and beautiful, and singing so sweetly. There was a rightness to it that was almost painful. He wanted to keep it close. To save the moment forever, like a winter flower pressed between the pages of a book.

I was pleased to see Clara eventually cleared of the stain on her reputation, and I enjoyed seeing how she handled her selfish, ungrateful brother, Simon.

I always appreciate the historical details and social commentary Ms. Matthews brings to her books. Here it is the month-long Christmas celebrations at Greyfriars Abbey with the freshly cut Christmas tree, pine boughs, holly, mistletoe, and the delicious Christmas feast. Ms. Matthews also highlights the inequality in education where women were excluded from going to university.

The Epilogue provided the perfect end to both this book and the series. I sighed, knowing that all four of the orphaned friends had now found love, acceptance and happiness.

”There’s happiness.” Clara rested her head on his shoulder. “There’s this. Every day. With you. For the rest of our lives. The stuff of dreams.”

I can highly recommend not only this book but the whole series.

Originally posted on Goodreads

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(Parish Orphans of Devon #3)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads):

She Needed a Husband…

It’s been three years since Laura Hayes’s father died, leaving her and her invalid brother to subsist on the income from the family’s failing perfume business. But time is swiftly running out. What she needs is a husband, and fast. A noble gentleman who can rescue them all from penury. When a mysterious stranger arrives in the village, he seems a perfect candidate. But Alex Archer is no hero. In fact, he just might be the opposite.

He Wanted a Fortune…

Alex has no tolerance for sentiment. He’s returned to England for one reason only: to find a wealthy wife. A country-bred heiress in Surrey seems the perfect target. But somewhere between the village railway station and the manor house his mercenary plan begins to unravel. And it’s all the fault of Laura Hayes—a lady as unsuitable as she is enchanting.

From the beaches of Margate to the lavender fields of Provence, a grudging friendship slowly blossoms into something more. But when scandal threatens, can a man who has spent his entire life playing the villain, finally become a hero? Or will the lure of easy riches once again outweigh the demands of his heart?


Whenever, I pick up a book by Mimi Matthews, it’s always a treat to read. Her stories are beautifully written and wonderfully romantic, with characters that capture your heart. They are impeccably researched with lots of fascinating historical details, and she captures the Victorian era to perfection.

A Convenient Fiction is the third book in the Parish Orphans of Devon series and, although it can be read as standalone, I think it enhances the reading experience if the series is read in order.

I have been waiting for Alex’s book to discover what happened to him after he mysteriously ran away from the orphanage at the age of thirteen, leaving his friends to wonder at his fate – never knowing whether he is alive or dead. It transpires that he is very much alive and, for the past twenty years, his aptitude at cards has enabled him to make a lucrative living at the card tables in London and France, by luring unsuspecting gentlemen into gambling recklessly and losing. More than money, he wants property that will give him a sense of permanency and the only way to achieve this is to marry an heiress.

But it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough without property. Property was the thing. And for a man of his pedigree, the only way to attain such property was to marry an heiress.

His opportunity arises when George Wright incurs large losses which Alex agrees to forget in return for an introduction to George’s friend and neighbour, Henrietta Talbot, an heiress with property. Accompanying George to Surrey, Alex has every intention of wooing and marrying Henrietta, but his plans become somewhat derailed when he meets the beautiful and fascinating Laura Hayes.

Three years ago, Laura, her father and her younger brother, Edward (Teddy), all contracted a fever. While Laura made a full recovery, her father died and her brother was left an invalid and confined to a wheelchair. Since then, Laura has been caring for her widowed Aunt Charlotte and Freddy, struggling to survive on the meagre quarterly allowance received from her father’s solicitor, Mr. Weatherwax. On his 21st birthday, which is fast approaching, Teddy will take control of his inheritance and Laura is determined to rebuild the remains of the family perfumery business. However, Mr. Weatherwax refuses to relinquish control on the grounds that her brother is too ill to take on the responsibilities.

”Unless I can find a way to challenge him, my family must resign themselves to living on the quarterly allowance he provides us. It isn’t enough. Not nearly.”

With everything else to worry about, Laura certainly doesn’t need the added complication of her attraction to the handsome newcomer, Alex Archer. They are constantly thrown into each other’s company as Laura is acting as Henrietta’s chaperone and, although they admit that there is something between them, both are determined to forget it and move on.

”But now we’ve acknowledged it…perhaps we’ve robbed it of its power. We can move on. Forget any of this ever happened.”

However, a trip to Margate changes everything. In the course of saving Laura’s life, Alex’s actions cause a scandal and he proposes a marriage of convenience to save Laura’s reputation – a temporary measure for a month or two and then they are free to go their separate ways. But things don’t always go to plan.

As I have come to expect from Ms. Matthews, this was a charming, tender, romantic, character driven romance which develops in a natural way. It was very satisfying to see how Alex and Laura grew, both as individuals and a couple, and I also love how Ms. Matthews creates just the perfect chemistry between them.

What a complex and fascinating character Alex is. At first, he seems more anti-hero than hero – a man who willingly betrayed his friends; an unscrupulous gambler and a self-confessed fortune hunter; a man who selfishly pursues his own interests without blinking an eye. It was hard to understand how he could have betrayed his friends who were the only family he had ever had. But when he reveals the circumstances that drove him to it, I could appreciate the sheer desperation Alex must have felt and why he would do anything to get away. He had no one to turn to and who would have believed an orphan like him.

He’d known then that, if he wanted saving, he would have to save himself. Even if that meant burning all of his bridges behind him.

Laura shows great strength of character and determination and I respect her for taking on the heavy burden of looking after the family. That she sometimes rages against her current situation, I could certainly relate to. I’m sure everyone has had times when everything seems to get on top of them.

She senses that Alex is hiding his true self…

…there was always something else there—something lurking behind his eyes. A secret self, hidden from the world. It was as if he wore a very lifelike mask.

He is convinced that he is not a good man but, to Laura, he has been ‘every inch a hero’ from the very first day they met, with his kindness to Teddy and Aunt Charlotte, his desire to help and protect Laura, and his willingness to save her life, despite his fear of water, and to save her reputation.

Alex sees Laura as beautiful and charming but also incredibly brave and compassionate too. He has been alone for so long with no one to trust or rely on, no friend or family. Now he has Laura.

”I’ve never had a home to yearn for.” He took her hand gently in his. “Not until you.”

Even though he hasn’t told Laura he loves her, it’s evident in his every word and action, but when he does finally say the words, the whole scene is so romantic.

I wonder if there is such a thing as fate. Some force that drew me to you, across continents, and across the sea. I think I knew you the moment I laid eyes on you. My love. My Laura.”

Ms. Matthews always seems to incorporate some fascinating historical details into her books and I particularly enjoyed the part describing the bathing machines, the ‘promiscuous’ bathing, as Aunt Charlotte calls it, and the nosey parkers with their telescopes.

The scene in the Epilogue where Alex sees Justin and Neville for the first time in 20 years was so emotional that it brought tears to my eyes, but left me with such a lovely warm glow.

It was as if a page had been turned on a dark chapter of their lives, offering a clean slate. A new beginning.

Another excellent addition to this captivating series. Highly recommended!

Originally posted on Goodreads

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(Parish Orphans of Devon #2)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads):

He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you.


A Modest Independence is the second book in Mimi Matthews’ Parish Orphans of Devon series. Both the hero, Thomas (Tom) Finchley, and the heroine, Jenny Holloway, had important roles in The Matrimonial Advertisement. Tom was Justin’s solicitor and Jenny, Helena’s distant cousin and companion.

I found it refreshing that Tom is not your stereotypical hero. He is neither titled nor is there is anything exceptional about his appearance. However, with hard work and determination, he has risen above his humble beginnings in the orphanage to become a solicitor. Tom has always been in control of every aspect of his life and is totally dedicated to his work and the clients he represents are sometimes less than honourable.

At the age of twenty-eight, Jenny has always been at someone else’s beck and call – first as little more than a drudge for her drunkard of a father and her selfish brothers, and then as Helena’s companion. She has always longed to be independent and fulfil her dreams of travelling and when she receives the money from Helena, I can understand why she is so determined to embrace her newfound freedom.

In The Matrimonial Advertisement, while helping Helena, Tom and Jenny formed a close friendship and it seemed possible that it might have developed into something more. Unfortunately Tom’s actions created friction between them, but the long journey to India allows the strong attraction to flourish and turn to love.

I like how they come to confide in each other and talk openly about their feelings and why they can never be together. Ms. Matthews captures their emotional turmoil so well that, even though I knew that there would be a Happy Ever After, it seemed an impossibility because they both want very different things from life. Jenny is unwilling to give up her independence while Tom has built a life for himself in London and has clients who depend on him.

Tom has his faults but ultimately he proves to be a true hero. He is willing to let Jenny go to pursue her dreams regardless of the heartbreak it causes him. For me such self-sacrifice shows the depth of his love for her. I like how he took a long hard look at himself and the choices he had made in his career and resolved only to represent those who truly deserved his help.

Jenny now has her freedom but realises that she is alone and has no one to share her adventures with. She has been afraid to trust anyone because her family has always let her down. Jenny loves Tom and, in her heart, she knows that she can marry him and not lose her independence.

The journey forms a interesting and colourful backdrop to the romance and Ms. Matthews’ research is evident in the fascinating details she incorporates into the story, bringing to life the vibrant sights and sounds of the places they visit. The use of the Bradshaw’s Guide was especially interesting to me having watched Michael Portillo’s BBC TV series, in which he retraces the journeys featured in George Bradshaw’s 1913 Continental Railway Guide.

The mystery surrounding Helena’s brother Giles, the social and political commentary, and the secondary characters all add to the story.

There is a charming Epilogue which also paves the way for the next book, A Convenient Fiction which is Alex’s story.

Once again, Ms. Matthews delivers a beautifully written, emotionally satisfying and meticulously researched Victorian romance. Highly recommended.

Originally posted on Goodreads


If you would like to read my 4.25 star review of The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans #1) on Goodreads click on the link below.


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(A League of Extraordinary Women #1)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads)

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….


This delightful debut novel from Evie Dunmore is a perfect blend of a sensual romance and a well-researched historical backdrop. The ‘opposites attract across the social divide’ is one of my favourite tropes and she pulls it off brilliantly by pairing women’s rights advocate, Annabelle Archer, with the austere Sebastian Devereux, Duke of Montgomery.

 For the past five years, since her father’s death, Annabelle Archer has accepted her narrow existence as her cousin’s general dogsbody, until she discovers that Oxford University has opened a women’s college. The National Society for Women’s Suffrage has granted her a scholarship, and all she has to do is persuade her cousin to let her go. No easy task when, like most men of the time, he believes that ‘too much education derails the female brain’, but Annabelle cleverly manipulates him into agreeing, with certain conditions attached. In return for the scholarship, Annabelle has agreed to support the society’s efforts to further the cause of women’s suffrage by infiltrating the home of the Duke of Montgomery. What she didn’t expect is to feel so attracted to a man who is everything she despises.

The attraction was now firmly back in place, yes, she was beyond denying it: she was hopelessly preoccupied with the grim-faced aristocrat across the footwell.

Sebastian Devereux was only nineteen when he assumed the responsibilities of becoming the Duke of Montgomery. During the last 16 years, his life has been devoted to duty and, at the age of 35, he has become the most powerful duke in England; even the scandal of a divorce failed to mar his reputation. Clever, self-assured and uncompromising, he has earned the position of Queen Victoria’s most trusted strategist. Now she has charged him with the position of advisor to the Tory election campaign. What he doesn’t need is a group of suffragettes invading his home, particularly as Queen Victoria regards them as ‘wicked, foolish creatures’. If only he didn’t feel so attracted to the totally unsuitable Annabelle Archer.

…he didn’t even feel inclined to question why a most unsuitable woman—a commoner, a bluestocking, a suffragist—would give him so much pleasure.

I liked Annabelle from the very first scene. Her intelligence shines through when she cleverly manoeuvres her ignorant, pompous cousin, Gilbert, to her way of thinking. Although low-born, her father and her maternal great-grandmother had ensured that she received a well-rounded education and I admire her determination to fulfil her dreams of going to Oxford.

Sebastian was harder to like at first with his aloofness and obsession with duty above all else. As details of the circumstances surrounding his father’s death are revealed, I came to see him in a more positive light and understood why it was so important for to him to restore his family’s legacy.

I love how Ms. Dunmore really takes the time to develop the relationship between these two. Annabelle’s recuperation at Claremont affords an opportunity for them to talk and get to know each other. When Sebastian sends her a certain book to read, Annabelle realises that a sense of humour lurks beneath his cool exterior. Sebastian finds her stubborn, witty and unpredictable. Each time they meet, I could feel all the sexual tension simmering beneath the surface…

Mundane gestures became infused with meaning; her senses opened and sharpened, and there was an unnerving awareness of the rapid beat of her heart against her ribs.

He wanted to frame her laughing face in his hands and kiss it, anywhere, forehead, cheeks, nose. He wanted to feel her against his mouth.

With all the pent-up longing and desire, it is inevitable that they will eventually succumb, and I enjoyed seeing the role reversal of the heroine seducing the hero.

Sebastian’s protective instincts come to fore when he arranges for Annabelle to be released from prison despite knowing how this will anger the Queen. When she tells him about her past, I love how he listens as a friend and isn’t judgemental.

I like how Annabelle sees beyond his cold, severe ducal facade to the man beneath – a man with a steadfast heart, who can be charming and makes her feel cherished.

I admire Annabelle for being willing to give up the man she loves because she doesn’t want Sebastian to lose his reputation, his political standing and everything he has worked for, but thank goodness Sebastian is not willing to give up the woman he loves. I enjoyed the scene in Parliament and later when Sebastian says to Annabelle…

”A very clever woman once told me to think about on which side of history I want to be,” he said. “I made my choice today.”

I am always disappointed when there’s no Epilogue but the final chapter provided a charming end to the story.

Ms. Dunmore introduces a number of secondary characters who I am sure are destined to have their own books.

* Lady Lucie Tedbury, secretary of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage.

* Lady Catriona Campbell, assistant to her father, Alastair Campbell, who is an Oxford professor, Scottish earl, and owner of a castle in the Highlands.

* Miss Harriet Greenfield, daughter of Julien Greenfield, Britain’s most powerful banking tycoon.

* Lord Tristan Ballentine -a rogue with a diamond stud in his right ear

* Peregrin Devereux – Sebastian’s unruly, younger brother

A brilliant debut novel in what promises to be a must-read series. Highly recommended

Originally posted on Goodreads

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(The Ravenels #6)

Genre: Historical Romance

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

Everything has a price . . .

Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. It should be simple to find the perfect wife – and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love – the one thing he can’t give.

Everything except her . . .

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win. When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants – or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:

Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun .


This is the 6th book in The Ravenels series and, while many of the books in this series failed to live up to my expectations, CHASING CASSANDRA certainly did. It was pure delight from start of finish.

Lady Cassandra Ravenel has always dreamed of having a husband who loves her, children and a home of her own. She has no grand ambitions but would like to help people in need. In her first season she received several proposals but not one of the gentlemen had stirred her heart. However, when she meets Railway Magnate Tom Severin, she finds him the most attractive and compelling man she has ever met. However, after making an impromptu marriage proposal in the morning, he hightails it back to London that afternoon, leaving Cassandra thinking…

He’d proposed marriage in the morning, and abandoned her by evening. What a frustrating, fickle man.

With hard work, determination and a brilliant mind, Tom Severin had risen from humble beginnings to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful businessmen in London. He has a reputation for being shrewd, ruthless, manipulative and unprincipled – a man who is emotionally detached.

”…long ago I identified the feelings that were helpful to me. I decided to keep those and not bother with the rest.”

and love is definitely not one of those feelings.

When he meets Cassandra he is totally besotted but knows he can never fulfil her dreams of having a husband who loves her, but he simply cannot forget her. However, when scandal threatens to destroy Cassandra’s reputation, Tom comes to her rescue and she accepts his marriage proposal. But, will she be able to thaw his ‘frozen’ heart?

Tom Severin was such a complex and fascinating character and, in an interview, Lisa Kleypas describes him as ‘very nearly sociopathic’ because he is so disconnected from his emotions. As he reveals details of his childhood experiences to Cassandra, I could see how these would have had such a traumatic affect on him emotionally.

I really loved Cassandra. She’s intelligent, patient, understanding and kind, but knows her own mind and has an inner strength – all qualities that make her the ideal match for someone like Tom.

Their romance was heartwarming and romantic with lots of memorable scenes, which suited me perfectly in the current crisis. Tom is totally smitten with Cassandra and I love the lengths he is willing to go to protect her.

”There are no limits to what I would do for you.” (Sighs)

It was both touching and funny to see Tom struggling with his ‘feelings’ for Cassandra.

”Christ, Winterborne … I don’t know what I believe anymore. I have feelings coming at me I don’t even know the names for.”

I love how perceptive Cassandra is and understands Tom as no one else ever has. Recognising that he will need time to come to terms with his past and the feelings he has kept locked away for so many years, she is willing to be patient with him. I like how she knows what she wants and will fight for it in her own quiet way.

I mentioned early that there were lots of memorable scenes and here are few of my favourites.

* Tom and a bare-footed Cassandra dancing in the moonlight and their kiss – gloriously romantic.

Gently his hand came up to cradle the back of her head, his mouth moving over hers with erotic lightness … moment after moment … breath after breath.

* The lessons Tom has learned from the books Cassandra has inspired him to read and his response after reading Jane Eyre!

”Rochester is an irrational arse,” Tom said flatly. “He could have simply told Jane the truth and installed his wife in a decent Swiss clinic.”

* Negotiating the marriage contract –

Wife will acquire no more than one domestic canine companion,” Tom said grimly as he wrote. “A: Not to exceed twelve inches in height at the withers, chosen from a list of acceptable breeds to be determined later. B: Canine companion will sleep in designated areas at night, and C:”—his voice turned stern—”Will under no circumstances be allowed on beds or upholstered furniture.”
“What about ottomans?”
The tip of the graphite pencil lead snapped and flew off the table with a ping. Cassandra interpreted that as a no.

The secondary characters all add richness and depth to the story and I loved the street urchin, Bazzle, who worms his way into Tom’s heart. The scenes between them are both heartwarming and funny.

Tom had regarded him with a frown. “Do you never wash, Bazzle?”
The boy had shrugged. “I runs under the pump at a stable, or splashes meself from a trough.”
“When was the last time?” After watching the boy struggle to come up with an answer, Tom had glanced heavenward. “Don’t think so hard, you’re about to sprain something.”

I also liked Tom’s personal secretary, Barnaby, whose reactions to Bazzle are so amusing.

I loved the friendly banter between Tom, Rhys, Devon and West and liked how they came to see the changes in Tom and accepted that he was a worthy husband for Cassandra. Kathleen sums it up perfectly…

There was no doubt she and Tom Severin were good for each other, and their feelings were developing into a deep and enduring bond.

Ms. Kleypas always infuses her stories with lots of historical details which help to bring the late Victorian era to life. I also appreciated the Author’s Note detailing her research which was I found very interesting.

CHASING CASSANDRA combined everything I could wish for in a Historical Romance – a heart-warming and romantic story, wonderful characters you fall in love with, and lots of passion and humour. Highly recommended.

Originally posted on Goodreads

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Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

He was once a boy abandoned, left to make his own way in the world.

She was a girl stifled by the demands of her family and constrained by the strict customs of Victorian society; a bird caged and without hope.

Raised in two disparate worlds, with one fortune rising while the other tumbled, they might never have known each other.

But when a disreputable old rogue dies unexpectedly and in spectacular, explosive style, a chain of remarkable events is destined to draw these two strangers close— to the bemusement of one and the disgust of the other.

The last Will and Testament of Sir Mungo Lightfoot Mayferry McClumphy has gone astray, and a large number of claimants are fighting over a vast fortune.

She wants nothing to do with it, her grieving heart bereft of hope.

He is in the thick of it, a man of ruthless perseverance and— in her eyes— a dark, mercenary, unfeeling heart.

Drawn together one Christmas, these two “Mortal Enemies” will have to find a way to put aside the strife and be civil. Whether or not they can survive the season remains to be seen.

If they also find hope and love along the way, it will surely be a Christmas miracle. 


Jayne Fresina is a new-to-me author and I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend. While enemies to lovers is an often used trope, it is Ms. Fresina’s imaginative story, wonderfully descriptive prose, sparkling, witty dialogue, and delightful characters that made The Snowdrop an absolute delight.

Despite his inauspicious start in life, Dash Deverell has studied and worked hard to become a successful lawyer. Everything he has achieved is through his own efforts, with a little help from his eccentric aunt, Lady Emma Audley.

”He has always been of the opinion that there is nothing he cannot do if he sets his mind to it and perseveres.”

His reputation for being ruthless and arrogant is well-earned in the courtroom,, but he chooses to hide his true self and is content to be thought of as a man with ‘no compassion, no mercy and no heart. As the story unfolds, I saw a man who was caring and compassionate; a man who took up law because he believed in justice, fairness and equality; a man who showed kindness and tolerance towards his motley crew of servants and gave them jobs when no one else would.

For thirty years, Daisy’s father had been obsessed with proving he was the legitimate heir to Sir Mungo’s fortune, spending a fortune on legal fees, but his claims proved fruitless and he was left bankrupt when he passed away. Although still unresolved, his daughter, Daisy, wants nothing to do with the case that ruined not only her father’s life but her own too. She never wanted the money – all she ever wanted was a quiet life and to be happy. Now she is forced to sell the house and all her father’s possessions to pay off his debts. I really felt for Daisy because her life had become a mere existence without the hope of something better.

…there had been nothing before her; nothing she was able to see or imagine.

In need of employment to support herself and her nephew, who is dependent on her, she spots an advertisement for a lady’s companion to an elderly widow. Not only does it provide her with respectable employment but, for the first time, it will be her own choice to make.

On arriving at Stanbury House, she is shocked to discover the man she regards as her ‘Mortal Enemy’ in residence there. She has every reason to hate Dash Deverell. He had represented one of the rival claimants, repeatedly setting aside her father’s claims, and he had also used his influence with his friend, Frederick Ellendale, to discourage him from proposing to her. She has no choice but to stay because she needs this job. Luckily, as her employer, Lady Audley, lives in the dower house and Deverell is rarely in residence in the main house, Daisy feels safe in the knowledge that their paths are unlikely to cross very often. However, with Christmas approaching, she might find she is a little too overconfident in her assumption.

Daisy begins to see Dash in a new light and finds herself wanting to know more about him. She is touched by the poignant story of a little boy abandoned by those who should have cared for him, and sees how his kindness had earned him his servants’ gratitude and loyalty. His affection for his aunt is obvious and he’s not at all the cold-hearted man she had always thought him to be – especially when she comes across him sans shirt! The budding romance between Dash and Daisy is tender, funny and romantic, with an added sprinkle of Christmas magic.

I like how Ms. Fresina takes the enemies to lovers trope and gives it a refreshingly different twist. In flashbacks she gradually reveals that things are not always what they seem. There are clues to the true situation but they are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have to be fitted together to see the full picture. Saying more would spoil the impact of this cleverly thought-out plotline, but I can say that Dash is revealed to be a wonderful hero – honourable, patient, resolute, and a true romantic at heart.

The secondary characters all add richness to the story. There’s Chauncey, Dash’s steward, who is frequently three sheets to the wind, his cook, Mrs Elkins, with her aches and pain, and Bess, the shy scullery girl. I loved Emma Audley, with her pet miniature donkey, Jack, who has the run of the house. No wonder the more time Daisy spends with this amusing and kindly lady, she finds her spirits uplifted. Emma is certainly wiser and has a sharper mind than people give her credit for. Then there’s Master Mayferry Buckingham, Daisy’s spoilt, obnoxious nephew, but he is no match for Dash.

Who the hell are you?”
Suddenly, it seemed as if all daylight vanished. The hall was cast in darkest grey and this giant ogre was but a shadow moving in it, coming toward them and filling the space.
“My name is Dash Deverell. And I am hell. For boys who do not behave.”

Ms. Fresina has a wonderful descriptive flair and here are a two of my favourites:

She did not like this answer. It made her shoulders wriggle and her bosom rise up like two giant sea monsters from the frothy lace waves of her gown.

Chauncey’s face looked like a crumpled shirt, discarded upon the floor after its owner had enjoyed a night of carousing.

The book is also laced with plenty of delightful humour and I especially loved Coco, Daisy’s pet cockatoo, who provides some great moments with his ribald language. These are just two of the wide vocabulary he uses to insult Dash – Chutless Codpiece’ and ‘Beef-witted Knave.

The mystery of Sir Munro’s missing will is finally and satisfactorily resolved, while exactly what Dash is hiding in his desk drawer is revealed. I thought the surprise at the end was a lovely touch and I loved how the reference to the snowdrop perfectly reflected the theme of the story.

I have no hesitation in giving this book the highest recommendation and I will definitely be reading more by Jayne Fresina.

Originally posted on Goodreads

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A Kiss for Midwinter

(Brothers Sinister #1.5)

 Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

 Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can’t forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him…or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way.

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He’s been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he’s determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. And he has a plan to do it.

If only his plans didn’t so often go awry…

A Kiss for Midwinter is a historical romance Christmas novella in the Brothers Sinister series.


First published December 2012


This was a sweet, clever little novella. So much packed into this heart wrenching, sensitively executed short story.

At the tender age of fifteen, Lydia Charingford is diagnosed as being pregnant by a narrow minded, unsympathetic doctor, who advises her parents to have her put away because she is ruined. In the company of this physician is a young man named Jonas Grantham, about to embark on his medical training and accompanying the elderly doctor to gain experience. Warned to keep his opinions to himself, Jonas feels unable to intervene in the treatment proposed, although he does not agree with the medication prescribed – a decision he forever regrets.

Six years later Jonas returns, now a fully qualified Doctor with some ground-breaking ideas. Young, enthusiastic, tactless, sarcastic and incapable of being anything other than direct and truthful, he is on the lookout for a wife. He draws up a list of eligible young women of which Lydia, whom he does not recognise, is No.11 on said ‘wife list’. Lydia is immediately aware that this tall, good looking young man was present at the moment of her disgrace, and this knowledge puts her on the defensive. She decides she does not like him and, even after Jonas is made aware (by Lydia herself) that it was she six years earlier, Lydia is convinced he thinks her easy and could not possibly be attracted to her.

This is the catalyst for Jonas to decide that no other woman will do and he embarks on a sixteen month pursuit of Lydia, during which, due to the directness of his speech and his inability to lie, she misunderstands every remark he makes to her. To his credit, Jonas will not be turned from his goal and doggedly carries on trying to win Lydia’s heart. As a physician, he recognises that she has not recovered and is really very badly affected by her ordeal six years ago. He patiently tries to help her but his methods and manner of speech do not however endear him to her.

In an era where disgrace of this kind would have, under normal circumstances, completely ruined a young woman, Courtney Milan has tackled a taboo subject in a brave and sensitive manner.  Lydia may have escaped wider censorship with the aid of her friend Minnie and her own caring and loving parents, but she is deeply troubled and hides it with a cheerful and happy disposition. Her own worst critic, she is resigned never to allow herself to find love and is afraid of the natural urges of her own body.

There are also warm and evocative scenes with Jonas and his own father, a self-made man who is desperately ill….real tear jerkers….hankies at the ready!

MY VERDICT: 5 well deserved stars for this wonderful little gem.




Brothers Sinister series (click on cover for more details):

The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5) by Courtney Milan The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1) by Courtney Milan A Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister, #1.5) by Courtney Milan The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2) by Courtney Milan The Countess Conspiracy (Brothers Sinister, #3) by Courtney Milan The Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister, #4) by Courtney Milan Talk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister, #4.5) by Courtney Milan


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Not Quite a Husband

(The Marsdens, #2)

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

Cover Blurb:

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

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

(First published in May 2009)


This was my second Sherry Thomas book and I became a firm fan of this author who has a very real and deep understanding of the complexity of the human psyche.

On the face of it, Leo Marsden and Bryony Asquith are a most unlikely pair; he an Adonis, beautiful, popular, outgoing, and a favourite with his family and peers alike; she cold, aloof, serious, a confirmed spinster by choice, and wedded to her work until she meets Leo. The two have been acquainted from childhood, although Bryony is four years his senior and barely noticed the child on the adjoining estate. He, on the other hand, has always been aware of Bryony, secretly watching and admiring the silent, withdrawn girl from afar; infatuated even before he knows the meaning of the word.

It is not until Bryony comes across Leo socially in London that she becomes aware of the incredible young man he has become. She is now twenty-eight years old, unmarried and still an innocent, although in every other way she is anything but, being a surgeon and physician of some repute and a well-respected woman in a man’s profession and world. At twenty-four, Leo has some remarkable achievements under his belt – a brilliant mathematician, an expedition to Greenland, and even a published and performed play. He is popular, well-loved and the darling of everyone who knows him. Bryony finds herself completely smitten and follows him around London while he gives intellectual lectures on subjects about which she knows little – happy to just gaze at him and listen to his voice.

Eventually, he becomes aware of her once more and his own infatuation is rekindled. This time, with the passing of years, they are on a more equal footing. So smitten is Bryony that it is she who does the chasing and eventually, in her forthright way, proposes marriage. A lady of black and white with no grey areas, not capable of any sort of subterfuge herself, she does not allow for any sort of human flaws in the object of her complete devotion; therein lies her downfall – put someone on a pedestal and they are likely to topple.

From the moment of their marriage, even during the ceremony, they are on a downward track. Leo is at a loss; he tries his hardest to make her happy and cannot understand why she eventually denies him her bed, having only just tolerated his advances. The locking of her door against him is the final blow in their brief, tumultuous marriage and Bryony makes the decision to ask Leo for an annulment and he agrees.

Bryony flees the country, eventually ending up in the far reaches of India. After three years, Leo appears after a long trek, to summon her back to London as her father is ill and Bryony’s sister, Calista, has persuaded Leo to find and bring her home. It is during the journey back to England, with a series of enlightening flashbacks, that the story begins to emerge. It is obvious that Leo and Bryony have never stopped loving each other, but the ‘problem’ which becomes apparent and is the reason for Bryony’s sudden change and appalling treatment of Leo, appears insurmountable, I really did not see it coming.

After fleeing a marauding mob, they eventually reach the relative safety of a British fort and land bang in the middle of large-scale tribal unrest against the British, initiated by the Pathan tribesmen along the North-West Frontier of India. Here Bryony’s skills as a surgeon and Leo’s talent with a firearm are much needed. In the terrible days that follow they become closer and begin to put their differences behind them, although the trust on both sides is a different matter.

At the start, it is hard to like Bryony as she is so cold, withdrawn and unforgiving, but, as her own story emerges, my sympathy for her grew. While I didn’t agree with her attitude and actions towards the thoroughly delectable Leo, I did understand. But if she had not behaved the way she did, we wouldn’t have the story, and the story is beautiful, angsty, compelling and utterly romantic.

Sherry Thomas writes in a unique and unusual way. I love her flashback method of telling the story from each point of view, drip feeding the reader and slowly, layer by layer, revealing the reasons and emotions behind Bryony and Leo’s actions. Watching Bryony and Leo rekindling the love that neither had ever lost for the other and, more importantly, regaining the trust necessary for their healing process to begin was so emotionally rewarding.

MY VERDICT: It is a lovely moment when one discovers a writer so in tune with one’s own taste and Ms. Thomas is a talented writer with a unique style that really appeals to me. With a writer of such calibre, I can overlook a few modern slips.




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

Delicious (The Marsdens, #1) by Sherry Thomas Not Quite a Husband (The Marsdens, #2) by Sherry Thomas

















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