Category Archives: Historical Romance
ORDER A COPY: Once Upon a Christmas Kiss
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publishing Date: October 14, 2014
eBook: 125 pages
Rating: 4 stars
This was an enjoyable novella which gives us a glimpse of a historical holiday house party, but also gives us enough intrigue and romance to keep it interesting. This is a companion novella to the Wicked Widows series since it makes reference to the new Duke of Ormond, but can certainly be read as a stand alone.
In this novella, Sir Lucien Blackwell would rather be home for the holidays or better yet with his friend, Trevor, the Duke of Ormond. But Trevor has recently married and he has other plans this season. Lucien has finally accepted the invitation from his cousins, Lord Hurst and his wife, to attend their holiday house party.
Lucien is certain he has made a mistake from the moment he walks in and sees all the eligible ladies and their marriage minded mothers. That is until he see the one young lady who has been occupying his thoughts of late. Miss Winifred Nightingale has been the governess to his friend Trevor’s young sisters for the last few months and with all his recent visits, Lucien and Winnie have become good friends. Lucian has been thinking lately that it might be time to find a wife of his own and maybe it is time to change that friendship with the lovely Winifred into something more.
Winnie has been invited to attend the party along with her sister, Cordelia, who is the local school mistress, and not everyone in attendance is happy to see the pretty young governess and her equally pretty sister grabbing the attention of the unattached gentlemen. There is more than one lady that wants these lesser born ladies out of the house. And someone has become very forceful in their attempts to move them along.
It turns out that one of the gentlemen who shows up at the house was the young Lord at one of Winnie’s prior positions. Lord Leaming came home for school and decided that raping the governess was a fun way to pass the time at home. He didn’t succeed since Winifred got out a scream and woke the house, but she was fired all the same and the young Lord was deprived some privileges as punishment. Leaming wants to punish Winnie for his troubles but is he the one trying to run her out of the house?
Because of their friendship, Winnie approaches Lucien for protection hoping that a fake engagement between the two would protect her for any trouble with Leaming. Lucien agrees but only if Winnie will contemplate making it a real engagement. Winnie’s plan for protection doesn’t go exactly as planned since she is now under attack by the ladies of the house. None are happy to see a lowly governess snatch up a Lord of Lucien’s wealth, standing or handsomeness and the claws have come out. They begin to slander Winnie and her sister’s good names and Lord Leaming helps to fan the flames of jealousy.
As the attacks on Winnie start to become more violent, Winnie and Lucien need to unmask the attacker because she ends up seriously harmed.
This was a nice holiday story where we get a glimpse of what kind of entertainment, etc. which would be involved in a holiday house party of the time. We also see how vicious the competition is for a rich, titled husband can be, especially one that is nice to look at.
In the way of nitpicking, it seems a bit of a bad decision to suggest a fake engagement between a governess and a lord. For one, I didn’t think it was often a broken contract and breaking it off often made one or both parties look bad. Since she is a governess, it would look like Lucien promised an engagement to get into her bed and then broke it off once he got what he wanted. The only other alternative would be that Lucien was so horrible a person that a lowly governess couldn’t even go through with marrying him. Either way, breaking the engagement wouldn’t look good for either of them.
They also took a lot of abuse and snide comments just from the tiny house party. It seems a little reckless to risk the slander just for a fake engagement. Lucien could simply have talked to Leaming that Winnie was a personal friend and under his protection.
Without the nitpicking on the plot, it was quick read and a generally enjoyable story. Winnie and Lucien were both likable characters and there was a little side story involving Winnie’s sister and a local Lord who was trying to court her and who was warned away by one of the Mama’s since she was already trying to grab that lord for one of her four girls.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“Far be it from me to ignore a man in need. Especially at Christmas,” Mrs. Coweyes—dash it, he thought, Winnie had him thinking of her that way too!—said before she rose up on her tiptoes to kiss him full on the mouth. When she started to twine her hands around his neck, Lucien disentangled himself. Just in time to see Winnie glaring at them.
“I believe the usual practice is for gentlemen to kiss ladies beneath the mistletoe,” Winnie said to the widow, her eyes narrowed with annoyance. “Unless the custom is different in your part of the country.”
“Oh, you mean in strumpet-town, my dear?” drawled Mrs. Cowper. At Winnie’s startled laugh, which she quickly disguised as a coughing fit, the widow shrugged. “I know how I’m perceived by other women, Miss Winifred. In part because I ignore convention when I find it to be contrary to my wishes. But I can assure you that mistletoe, like many other pleasurable activities, goes both ways.”
“I would not wish you to think—” Winnie sputtered, clearly caught between sympathy and pique. But her automatic apology was forestalled by the widow, who took Winnie by the hand and shoved her under the mistletoe.
“There,” she said with a speaking look at Lucien. “Is that better?”
To Lucien she said, “I’ll let you take over from here. Don’t say I never did you a favor.”
Turning to his prize, Lucien saw that Winnie was looking up. “I was angry,” she said, “because I’d intended to lure you under the mistletoe myself.”
“What a hypocrite,” Lucien laughed softly, the chatter around them receding as their eyes locked and the world narrowed into just the two of them.
“She was kissing my fiancé,” Winnie said without shame. “I’d have done a great deal more if you weren’t so obviously eager to remove her from your person.”
“Jealous?” Lucien said with a grin. “I like it.”
ORDER A COPY: Less Than a Gentleman
Publisher: Avon Books
Publishing Date: July 2, 2013
eBook: 288 pages
Rating: 5 stars
In this never-before-published historical romance, New York Times bestselling author Kerrelyn Sparks returns to the 18th century, where the fight for freedom is as dangerous as the fight for love.
Between searching for the missing Munro sisters and South Carolina being all but lost to the British, Captain Matthais Thomas has more important things to worry about than finding a bride. But his mother has other ideas. When Matthais finds a beautiful woman in his bed who claims to be his betrothed, he is suspicious of her identity…and determined to discover the truth.
Caroline Munro had few options. The British burned down her home, and now, traveling with her very pregnant sister, Caroline is pretending to be someone she’s not so they can have a safe place to rest. But she didn’t count on a matchmaking matron or her rogue of a son…and certainly never dreamed she would fall in love with a spy.
In Less than a Gentleman, we find our heroine Caroline Munro and her sister, Ginny Munro-Stanton, almost 10 years after The Forbidden Lady. We are now in the midst of the Revolutionary War and Caroline and a very, very pregnant Ginny have been burned out of their home in South Carolina and are on the run with Ginny’s two small children, trying to avoid the British soldiers. Ginny’s husband Quincy was a blockade runner when his ship was burned by the British and Quincy has been missing for several months now. They don’t know if he survived.
Caroline and Ginny come across an untouched plantation in the midst of the war and try to seek shelter. Jane Thomas has been awaiting a visitor; a woman named Agatha who Jane was hoping would marry her only son. To keep Ginny and the children safe, Caroline is willing to pretend to be Agatha and all is going well until Matthias Thomas stops home to visit his mother and, pretending to be a servant, declares to his mother that the lovely Caroline as an imposter. Much to Matthias’s chagrin, his mother was already aware that Caroline and her sister were not who they were pretending to be, but with Ginny about to give birth, how could she not offer them sanctuary. Jane hopes that they will eventually come to trust her enough to confess.
Matthias continues in his disguise as a servant, determined to force Caroline into a confession. When Caroline volunteers her true identity to Matthias, he realizes how much her trust has come to mean to him, but he still continues his masquerade as a servant to see if Caroline might come to love him as a poor man, rather than the wealthy heir to the plantation. It is especially important once Caroline declares she will never give her heart to a soldier. Matthias knows that Caroline is aware that Jane’s son is off fighting in the war, and there is a price on his head. He believes it is best that she is not aware that he is the man the British are hunting.
Matthias’s orders are to destroy all the bridges and traveling routes in the area so that the British cannot get their supplies to Charles Town. Unfortunately, this plan has significant consequences to Matthias and his mother since their plantation is perfectly situated on the riverbank between the supplies and Charles Town and the British have decided to set up a barge route for their shipments and they move into his home, putting his mother and Caroline directly into the hands of the British officers.
Matthias orders have also changed now that the British are holding up in his childhood home. He is to spy on the officers there and gather needed information about the deliveries so the colonists can intercept. Caroline remembers Ginny helping Quincy spy on the British just before the war began and she has come to her own decision to spy on the officers in the house. Now Matthias must fulfill his orders, keep his mother, Caroline and her family safe and keep Caroline and himself from being caught and hung as spies, all while trying to win Caroline’s love. That’s why they say, war is hell.
I am a big fan of Kerrelyn Sparks and I liked The Forbidden Lady but I loved this one more. Although the title is Less than a Gentleman, which made me think that Matthias would be a jerk to Caroline, but he ended up being quite the gentleman. He was fighting in the war for independence and he is a good soldier. He was swamped with guilt for anyone he killed or anyone of the colonist who were hurt by his actions. For example, in the opening scene, Matthias and other soldiers are captured and Matthias gets them freed. In the escape, he had to kill a young British soldier and that weighs on him as well as the fact that the British retaliate for their escape by burning the homes of the locals which is why Caroline and her sister are fleeing. So to Matthias, everything that is happening in the war somehow works back to some action he has done. That’s a lot of guilt.
Caroline, now grown up since we last saw her, is as strong-willed and independent as her sister. With Quincy missing, their father and brother off fighting, and Ginny almost due with her third and caring for two small children, Caroline has taken up the burden of taking care for all of them. She is smart and thoughtful and she too is filled with guilt for lying to Jane to get her sister somewhere safe. She believes that with Jane’s son off fighting the war, possibly never to return, that she and Ginny will be long gone before the might actually have to fess up to her lies or actually marry Jane’s son. Caroline even helps out around the house so that she and her family are not a burden to Jane and her servants.
It is nice to see Virginia again, and meet her children, and we even, eventually see a grown up, Josiah, the little boy that Quincy “purchased” off the ship in Book #1 and raised as his own son. He is now grown and fighting in the war as well.
There are some enjoyable additional characters in this book and some great spy gadgets which are created by one of the slaves on the plantation.
A great follow up story to The Forbidden Lady.
Received an ARC from abovethetreeline.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
We’ve joined in the Less Than a Gentleman tour with Literati Author Services and are part of the Tour-Wide Giveaway. Go to the Rafflecopter link below and enter to win a copy of The Forbidden Lady.
Tour-Wide Giveaway: Paperback of The Forbidden Lady by Kerrelyn Sparks (the first book in the series)
“Are you all right?” Richard asked, slapping him on the shoulder.
Matthias winced. “I’m fine. Where are your horses?”
“Simon is nearby, guarding them in the woods.”
Matthias motioned to where Caroline stood, still in her father’s embrace. “May I introduce Caroline Munro?”
“I’m delighted to meet you, Miss Munro.” Richard bowed and flashed Matt a smile that conveyed his approval. “My cousin has been singing your praises.”
“Indeed?” Caroline wiped tears from her face. “Thomas is your cousin?”
Frowning at his cousin, Matthias shook his head. Then he extended a hand to Caroline’s father. “Thomas Haversham, sir. I am pleased to meet you.”
“Haversham, ye say?” Jamie Munro crushed Matt’s hand in a brutal handshake. Matthias figured his smile looked more like a grimace. “Yes, sir.”
“And who is yer friend behind you?” Munro asked.
Matthias glanced over this shoulder, surprised that Jacob was still there.
“You must be Jacob.” With a smile, Richard shook Jacob’s hand. “I’ve always wanted to meet you.”
“You’re…Richard? The cousin?” Jacob asked.
“My parents would be happy to meet you,” Richard continued. “You should come for dinner.”
“I…” Jacob withdrew his hand. “I don’t usually leave the plantation.”
“Jacob, is it?” Jamie stretched out a hand. “I’m Major Munro, Caroline’s father.”
“How do you do?” Jacob shook his hand.
Matthias glanced at the sky. The last of the sunlight was fading away. “We should take care of business. Major, could I speak to you in private for a moment?”
Jamie Munro looped an arm around his daughter. “Why in private, Haversham? Ye wouldna be keeping secrets from my daughter now, would you?”
Matthias could feel the man’s eyes focused on him, sharp as daggers. He took a deep breath. Caroline would hate him for this, but he couldn’t allow her to jeopardize herself. “Your daughter has taken a foolish notion into her head, sir.”
Matthias continued, “She believes she should be allowed to spy upon the British. I have forbidden it, of course, but she refuses to obey.”
“I see.” Major Munro tilted his head to look at his daughter. “Is this true, lass, that ye refused to obey such an order?”
Her gazed dropped to her feet. “Aye.”
“That’s my girl.” Jamie kissed the top of her head.
Matthias’s mouth fell open.
With a grin, Caroline hugged her father. “Thank you.”
“My daughters can make their own decisions,” Jamie announced.
Matthias found his voice. “Sir, it is far too dangerous.”
“Ye think my daughter doesna ken it is dangerous? Do you think she’s lacking in intelligence, then?”
“No. But I will not allow her to endanger her life?”
“Ye know it is dangerous, lad, but ye do it all the same. Why should Caroline be any different?”
Matthias gritted his teeth. “She is a woman, sir.”
“Aye, and I’m certain ye’ve noticed it on more than one occasion.” Jamie released his daughter and moved closer. “A word of advice, laddie. Ye’re treadin’ on slippery ground here. Ye should start back steppin’ fast before ye drown yourself in a bog.”
Matthias lowered his voice. “Sir, I’m trying to take care of her.”
Why? What did the major expect? An admission of love? A lump in Matt’s throat choked any hope of a response. God help him, he did love her.
(Paperbacks available August 6, 2013)
About the Author
Kerrelyn Sparks is the New York Times bestselling author of a series that mimics its sexy heroes by refusing to die. Now up to book thirteen, the Love at Stake series spreads laughter worldwide in thirteen different languages. In spite of a tendency to nibble on necks or howl at the moon, Kerrelyn’s vampire and shapeshifter heroes are still wonderfully romantic.
Please visit www.kerrelynsparks.com where you can read excerpts, play vampire games, or join the forum. Kerrelyn loves hearing from readers, even those who howl at the moon. Letters may be sent to P.O. Box 5512, Katy, TX 77491-5512.
Author’s Social Media Links
ORDER A COPY: The Secrets of Mia Danvers: A Dangerous Liaisons Novel (InterMix)
Publishing Date: June 18, 2013
eBook: 301 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Since losing her sight in a childhood accident, Mia Danvers has resided in a small cottage on the vast Carrington estate. Thought to be dead, Mia lives a life of virtual seclusion—until one night, while walking home, she happens upon a horrendous crime.
Alex Foster, Eighth Duke of Carrington, lives according to society’s expectations for him. He’s never met the woman who lives in the cottage at the edge of his property. But when she arrives at his door in the pouring rain terrified and claiming she has witnessed a murder, she seizes his attention.
Mia is determined to help the authorities track down the culprit, even though the only person willing to accept her aid is the handsome, arrogant duke. Working closely together proves difficult as Mia’s beauty and independence tempts Alex to ignore convention and follow his desire. But what neither of them know is that this murderer has struck before in Whitechapel, taunting the British press only to vanish—a ruthless killer who knows that Mia is the only living witness to his crime.
Mia Danvers was only 16 when she was dropped off at the little cottage on the edge of the property belonging to the Duke of Carrington by her mothers and sisters. After a riding accident left her without sight, her mother didn’t have time for a damaged daughter who would never find a husband. She had two other girls who needed to find husbands to support the family now that their father was dead. Although her mother intended to leave Mia there alone, her governess and dearest friend Rachel would not abandon her and together the two women made a life in the little cottage that would become a place for Mia to spread her wings.
Mia didn’t allow her sightlessness to stop her from living her life, a life that was no longer hampered by the stringent rules that society had on young women. No one concerned themselves with anything the blind woman did. Before her accident, she was an artist. Although she may no longer be able to draw or paint, she now focused her artistic ability to the art of sculpting, and was able to sell some of her pieces to allow her and Rachel to live a very modest but content life.
Mia has learned to use her other senses in order to compensate for her lack of sight. As time went by, Mia became quite familiar with her cottage and gardens on the edge of Covent Gardens, and she was frequently able to leave her cottage and adventure around the surrounding areas and liked to go to the statuary garden of Hyde Park, using her sense of touch to enjoy the artistry of others.
It was one night while walking alone in the dark along the hedges on the edge of the property that she happened upon the commission of horrible murder. Although she could not see it, she witnessed every grisly detail: hearing the cries of the victim, the tearing of the knife through cloth and flesh, the odd smell surrounding the murderer, and his haunting whistle after a job well done.
Mia knows that she must be whatever she can to help the poor woman find justice. She might not have seen the murderer, but she knew what he smelled like, how he walked. She runs to the current Duke, Lord Alex Carrington, and tells him what she has witnessed. He, of course, denies the possibility of Mia “witnessing” anything since he has always been told the woman on the edge of his property is mad. When the girl’s body is found, he is convinced that Mia knew something, but he believes the police will disbelieve her witness account as he did simply because of her handicap. He is willing to bring the information to the police’s attention but he insists on keeping Mia out of the investigation.
But secrets never remain secret for long and it is no long before the killer learns that the police have a witness to his crime. He realizes that it is time for him to meet Miss Danvers and to silence her before she might actually point the police to him and spoil his game. Yet once he finds out that his witness is blind, he decides it would be more enjoyable to engage in a playful game of cat and mouse with the pretty Miss Danvers before it’s her time to die.
I love a strong heroine like Mia. Her family abandons her to the little cottage, never to return to check on her, but nine years later, although she is impoverished, we find her flourishing living with her friend Rachel and creating her sculptures. She might have lost her sight but she has not lost her spirit or her drive for more.
There was a definite spark between Mia and Alex but Alex’s constant self-reproach that although he wanted to be with Mia, he couldn’t marry her and she was lady so he couldn’t ruin her, got tedious. I believe we got to hear his speech to himself every time he spent 5 minutes with Mia.
Mia is more level-headed and understanding that he needed to chose a proper (capable) Duchess, but she also understands that she really doesn’t have a chance to be around men, especially men she finds as attractive and interesting as Alex, and she is more than willing to sleep with Alex and enjoy a brief time with him.
As characters go, I thought Mia earned a 5 star to Alex’s 3, so I have settled on a 4 star review. It was an interesting story and kept me entertained. I also enjoyed the side story of Alex’s friend being the man that Rachel didn’t marry 10 years ago and once he finds Rachel on Alex’s property, he first wants revenge for her turning him down, but then he realizes he can’t let her get away again.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
Perhaps it was best she could not see her own reflection. She had carved a bust of her own likeness. At least how she imaged herself. It was the first piece she’d created when she’d decided to try her hand at a different medium of art. She’d never shared it with anyone save Rachel. It simply sat in her own bedchamber, a constant reminder to her of what she was capable of despite her own family’s disbelief in her worth.
With her carving knife, she gently shaved off clay near the jaw line, using her fingers to smooth the lines, soften the face as she progressed. She knew Diana was the goddesss of the hunt so in most pictures she was depicted carrying a bow and arrow, often with an animal. But with only a bust to work with, that would be more difficult, to add in those elements without the full-scale image.
Sculpting women was more challenging than men, but they were also in far more demand as best she could tell. And mistates were expensive; she couldn’t afford to carve off too much. She dipped her hand in the water and dampened the clay.
“What are you doing out here in the chill?” a voice said from behind her.
Startled, she grabbed the tool with her other hand to prevent it from digging into the clay. “Lord Carrington,” she said.
His footsteps moved from behind her to stand in front of her. She didn’t rise from her seat at the table, and she made no move to set down her sculpture. But she also didn’t intend to keep working while he stood there and watched her. His presence was distracting, not that she wanted him to know that, so she held tight to the clay in one hand and her caring knife in the other.
“Is there something I can do for you?” she asked.
“What are you doing?” he repeated.
“Sculpting.” She frowned at him. “I had hoped it was obvious. Perhaps I’m not as talented as I’ve been led to believe.” She set down the knife, then wiped her hand on the towel she kept draped across her lap.
“No, that’s not it. I didn’t know, that is, I simply didn’t realize,” he continued to fumble over his words and she had to admit that in that moment there was a sort of boyish charm about him, lurking just beneath the exterior gruff. She could almost imagine him standing there shifting his weight from one foot to the next, trying not to say the wrong thing. “I mean how can you…”
“How can I sculpt when I cannot see?” she finished for him.
“Yes,” he said, not backing away from his inquiry. She imagined then he would round his proud shoulder as he uttered the word with boldness.
“It is a legitimate question,” she said. “I was an artist before. Before I lost my sight.” She smiled. “Well, as much as a girl of fifteen can be an artist. I loved art and I was quite talented, with both pencil drawings and watercolor painting. But obviously paper will not work for me any longer. Now I have to feel it.” She moved her hand over the clay. “See here, here is where I’ll put her eyes, then her nose, her cheeks, mouth. It took me several days to get her hair, these curls, just so.” She set the bust down and stood. Again she wiped her hands, this time more thoroughly, removing any residue of clay. For her it made no difference, but she knew that for others it mattered if it appeared that she was paying attention, looking at them.
“You’ve done with before?” he asked, something akin to wonder edged his voice. “Sculpted other busts?”
“Indeed. Many times. I have been sculpting for nearly four years now. Though I have only begun recently to sell some pieces. Most of my completed pieces are available for sale in a small shop in Piccadilly.”
“Her hair is rather nice, he said. “Looks quite life-like, well, if you account for the grayness of her.”
ORDER A COPY: What the Duke Desires (The Duke’s Men)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing Date: June 18, 2013
Paperback: 416 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, long ago buried his grief for his missing elder brother, Peter, who was presumed dead after being kidnapped. When a mysterious note arrives from Tristan Bonnaud asserting that the Duke’s brother is alive, it leads Max straight to the winsome Lisette Bonnaud, illegitimate daughter of a viscount and Tristan’s sister. Soon he and Lisette are traveling to Paris posing as husband and wife, in search of Tristan, who has disappeared. And the longer he spends with Lisette, the easier it is for Max to see that the line between dukedom and desire is easier to cross than he imagined.
Lisette Bonnard was a young girl when her father was killed in a hunting accident. His death not only drastically changed her life, but it focused her future. Her father, the Viscount Rathmoor, was a procrastinator and he was always making promises he didn’t keep. He promised to marry Lisette’s mother, a former French actress who was his faithful mistress for many years. He promised to provide for her mother, herself and her brother, Tristan, as well as his two legitimate brothers, George and Dom. But he didn’t and now it was too late. George has inherited everything and his first order of business is to remove his father’s mistress and her bastard children from his property, and he has even left his own brother with nothing. Lisette decides that very night that she will never allow herself to be at the mercy of any man. She will find a way to make her own money and never be forced to rely on a man.
With the loss of his inheritance, her brother Dom has to abandon his law career and opens an investigation firm. While Lisette and Tristan were in France, they worked for Eugène Vidocq the former head of the French Secret Police at the Sûreté Nationale. Although Vidocq would have hired Lisette to work as a spy, her overprotective brothers wouldn’t allow it. Now that she has returned to England, Lisette is determined to prove to her brother Dom that he should hire her as an investigator for his firm, Manton’s Investigation. He is more than happy to have her work with him in an administrative capacity and share the many things, she has learned under Vidocq’s tutelage, but not as an investigator.
Lisette was planning on discussing it further with Dom once he returns from his current investigation in Scotland. Yet no sooner than he leaves on a ship, than Lisette is awoken by a pounding at their front door. Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, has come looking for her brother, Tristan. The Duke believes Tristan is trying to swindle him with false notification of finding Max’s older brother, a brother who was kidnapped as a child and who was believed to be dead. With the Duke declaring that he will have Tristan arrested for fraud, Lisette knows this is her chance to investigate the case, to find her brother and learn the truth behind the Duke’s mysterious missing brother.
I really wanted to try a Sabrina Jeffries’s story and this was a great choice. I really like Lisette’s determination and her richly written character. She is determined to make her own way so she doesn’t need to rely on someone else who could fail her. She is intelligent, and although she does make some rookie mistakes, she does have her mother’s acting skill. Although she does have a few “umm…umm” moments when caught off guard, she does have a large dose of common sense which would help her be an investigator.
Max was also a very enjoyable character. Max has a lot of issues connected to the loss of his older brother, including trust issues related to the lies told to him by his own family. He is determined to protect Lisette’s reputation from gossip and her from his desire for her. I also liked that at Lisette’s suggestion they go undercover as regular people and travel by public coach, etc., and what a shock it is to Max since he is used to being pampered and fawned over, but he adjusts quickly which speaks of his overall character.
This was a good story that kept you intrigued by the investigation, as well as the growing respect between Max and Lisette. If you like regency romance and like me, haven’t yet tried a Sabrina Jeffries story, grab this one and you will certainly become a fan.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“And why should I believe you?” He strode nearer, his face dark with threat. “You’ve proved yourself very good at dissembling. For all I know, you and your brother cooked up this plan together.”
“B-but why? Why would I do that?”
“That’s what I want to know.” He loomed over her. “I ought to have you tossed in gaol until you tell me the truth.”
“Because I cry well?” she squeaked.
“Because you are attempting to defraud me,” he said in an ominous tone.
He was going to throw her in irons, all because she could do some acting in a pinch. Oh, Lord, Manton’s Investigations would be ruined! Dom would never forgive her!
“I swear I’m not doing any such thing,” she began, her heart in her throat. “You know why I insisted on your taking me with you. You do! I don’t know where you’ve got this daft idea that I’m some…some swindler, but nothing could be further from—“
Inexplicably, he stared laughing. She gaped at him, now all at sea.
That merely made him laugh harder. He paused just long enough to gasp, “You’re not the only one…good at pretense.”
And suddenly she understood. This was revenge for her playacting this afternoon.
Planting her hands on her hips, she glared at him. “You are a horrible, horrible man! How dare you terrify me like that? Why, I ought to—“
He dropped onto the settee, laughing so hard he could scarely speak. “If you…could only have seen…your face…when I mentioned…goal…”
She walked up to hit him on the arm. “That was not remotely amusing!”
He just laughed even more. “I…beg to…disagree…” he choked out, holding his stomach as he lost himself in mirth.
Glowering at him, she strode over the to ewer, brought it back, and poured its contents on his head.
He jumped up off the settee sputtering. “What the blazes was that for?”
“For making me think you were going to pack me off to goal, you…you…oaf!”
“Oaf? he said as he removed a handkerchief from his pocket and began to wipe his face. “That’s the best insult you can offer?”
She narrowed her eyes to slits. “Cretin, Devil. Arse.”
He smirked at her. “Careful now. Aren’t you supposed to be a respectable married lady?”
“You nearly gave me heart failure!”
“You deserved it after all that crying and nonsense.” He mimicked her. “M-my brother was right. I sh-should never have m-married you!”
Tossing the empty ewer onto the settee, she crossed her arms over her chest. “The words might have been feigned, but the sentiment is still valid.”
“It wasn’t my idea to do this,” he reminded her.
“It wasn’t my idea to pose as a married couple. Thank God that’s pretend.”
ORDER A COPY: The Quizzing-Glass Bride
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publishing Date: April 4, 2013
eBook: 74 pages
Rating: 3 stars
When Lady Fern Reynolds confided in a sympathetic houseguest that she was considering running away to London to escape betrothal to an unknown suitor, she did not expect him to offer her shelter. And she certainly did not imagine tumbling for him, the Viscount Sandford. But that was the least of her surprises, as she discovered the wedding was to go on as planned–and her groom was strangely familiar.
Lady Fern didn’t realize why a dinner with Lord Warwick was requiring her to wear a ridiculous dress of frills and beads and this hideous hairpiece and tiara, that is until she heard the servants twittering on about her upcoming engagement to him. It has been five years since last time Lady Fern saw his lordship after he caught her feeding sweets to his horses, and all she remembers is his stunning eyes and his beard. Now they were expecting her to marry him, without even discussing it with her. And how can she even determine if she likes him when her mother has forbidden her from wearing her glasses. They are unbecoming to a lady. Of course, so is falling on her face because she can’t see where she is walking. So it is no surprise to her, when the evening is a complete failure.
When the handsome Viscount Sandford (a/k/a Lord Warwick) comes the next day to speak to Fern’s father and finds his bespectacled betrothed crying in the library, he realizes that she wasn’t being rude to him. She couldn’t see him. He believes this is his chance to secretly find out what her objections are to the marriage. He quickly understands that he made a mistake in ignoring his impulse to speak with Fern first, and comes up with a plan to help Fern sneak away to London to avoid the marriage.
He now needs to go forward with care. Confess his duality her too soon and his plans might falter, but wait too long and he risks destroying the fragile feelings which are developing between them.
I chose a copy of this story because it seemed like an interesting concept but it turned out to be an unremarkable story. For a short story, the first 10 pages are a conversation between Fern and her maid, who was written with an odd and very annoying accent and made it annoying to read. As it was the beginning of the story, it would have read better without the accent and allowed us to get into the story sooner. The dinner party was also written very awkward. Fern’s parents are uninterested in their daughter and are written as typical aristocrats. Her mother keeps fainting under the smallest duress and her father just wants to disappear to his library. It is hard to believe a headstrong woman like Fern would (1) come from parents such as these, and (2) allow her mother to push her into the ridiculous outfit and allow herself to meet a man she was supposed to marry without her glasses on when she can’t see at all without them. I might have given up at this point, but since it was only 70 pages, I thought I would keep going.
It does pick up when Lord Warwick posses under another of his titles as Viscount Sandford and gets to know Fern and understand what are her objections to marrying Lord Warwick.
Unfortunately, then we are getting back to some far fetched storytelling since we have a reverse Clark Kent/Superman disguise since she can’t tell the difference from the man she met at dinner without her glasses (even though he kisses her) and the man in front of her when she is wearing her glasses. We also have the not very well thought out plot of disguising Fern as a page and bringing her to his London home, where he is planning on hiding her in his bedroom and his staff is to believe she is a boy.
There just wasn’t much to this short story to allow for these awkward plot points.
Received ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher.
She was dressed in a simple gown of rose sarcenet, with a tantalizing underslip of the purest white–silk, he thought, but he could not be sure. She was turned from him, a book open upon her lap. She had not read a word for ages. He could see, for the fifth page of Ivanhoe was stained with tears.
He made a small movement, then startled in surprise. It was not the bright, abundant gold locks that arrested him, for he had glimpsed them the night before, beneath the appalling headpiece. What captured his attention was the revealing satin ribbon dangling down the nape of her neck.
What a clodpoll he was! The lady wore spectacles! It would explain much, he thought, especially her cutting of him at the outset, when she had rudely brushed past his extended hand. Oh, there had been myriad clues…Now that he thought on them he was only astonished he had not perceived it before.
What a pother over nothing!
He peered at her closely. The spectacles were charming and distinctive. Common iron, with loops at the end of each temple for a securing ribbon. A bit dark, perhaps, for her piquant face, but that could be rectified. Good Lord, he could have gold ones wrought if she so wished! It was not that uncommon–Lady Asterley had famous silver spectacles; there was the new tortoiseshell…But he ran ahead of himself. He was not home and hosed yet, he was certain.
Ivanhoe was growing wetter. The lady was now weeping quite freely. He wondered whether it would be diplomatic to depart unseen, or have himself announced.
The decision was wrested from him by the lady herself, who looked up at the precise moment he was pondering this conundrum. The book slid from her lap with a large crash, and she jumped up guiltily, affording the gentleman an utterly guileless smile.
“I am sorry, sir. You have caught me trespassing on Sir Peter’s library! I am not usually such a watering pot, only…”
“Oh, I should not burden a stranger with my troubles! Step inside, and I shall call a servant. Sir Peter is hunting, I believe, but if it is urgent a footman can be sent…”
Warwick did not hear where the footman could be sent. He was too astonished to vouch-safe anything but the mildest reply as he regarded her with suddenly acute eyes. Good Lord, she behaved as though she did not recognize him! And her charming demeanor was at such odds with her behavior the previous night, it could hardly be credited!
“Miss Reynolds, do you not know who I am?”
Fern looked startled. “Should I? Your countenance is certainly familiar, but I cannot perfectly recall ever being introduced. But I am such a shatterbrain, you must forgive me! If we have met, it was probably in London, and my first season, you know, was an unmitigated disaster!”
“That I cannot believe!” Warwick was gallant more by habit than by choice. His mind was far too active wondering how the devil the girl did not recognize him. Either she was playing a very deep game, or he must tread carefully. Perhaps, if she did not recognize him, it would give him a fresh start, time to talk to her without her prejudices or angers or fears. Fern might slap Lord Warwick in the face the next time they met, but she would surely treat a stranger with more courtesy! Warwick decided rather whimsically that he would rather be the stranger.
ORDER A COPY: Sweet Madness: A Veiled Seduction Novel
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Publishing Date: April 2, 2013
Paperback: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Ever since her husband’s sudden and tragic death, Lady Penelope Bridgeman has committed herself to studying the maladies of the mind, particularly treating traumatized soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars. It is this expertise that brings the Marquess of Bromwich’s family to her door.
Gabriel Devereaux’s unexpected and unpredictable episodes are unlike any Penelope has studied. The once proud soldier has been left shaken and withdrawn, but she manages to build a fragile trust between them. Strangely, Gabriel seems completely lucid when not in the grips of his mania, and in the calm between bouts, she is surprised by how much she is drawn to him.
Despite his own growing feelings, Gabriel knows that he is fit for no one, and is determined to keep Penelope away from his descent into madness. But even though she knows firsthand the folly of loving a broken man, Penelope cannot stop herself from trying to save him, no matter the cost.
In a time before psycho-therapy, PTSD and psychotropic drugs, mental disorders were treated with institutionalization. It was for the best so they would not embarrass the family.
Gabriel Devereaux, the Marquis of Bromwich, has been having “episodes” since he has returned from the Napoleonic Wars. He can’t ride in a carriage. He can’t walk into a ballroom without going into a panic. When his cousin’s widow walks into the sanitarium while he was in the throes of the violent madness that is taking over his mind, he thought his humiliation was complete. That is until she brings the news that his family is about to bring the issue of his sanity before the Courts and strip him of his title.
Gabriel’s mother has sent Lady Penelope to help get Gabe out of the Vickering Place Sanitarium. She had heard of the wonderful work that Penelope has been doing with the returning solders and helping them got on with their lives.
Lady Penelope has come to learn a great deal about the disabilities of the mind. Unfortunately, it was only after her husband’s death that she came to understand that he had no control over his periods of depression, any more than he had over his periods of sleepless mania. In working and talking to returning soldiers, she has come to understand that most of their odd behaviors can be linked to the stresses of combat, and once understood, these stresses can be overcome.
And for the first time since Gabriel has returned home, Penelope has given him…hope. Hope that he might actually be able to get past his anxieties and once again be the man he was, and who has loved her from afar.
This is a very thought provoking story. Sometimes we forget that it was not too long ago that solders returning from the horrors of war were looked down at if they began acting oddly upon their return. Whether it be World War II, Vietnam Vets or even Gulf War soldiers, no one discussed the horrors they endured and their families tried to hide the fact that sometimes simple, everyday acts triggered strong, fearful reactions.
As we begin the story, we quickly understand that Penelope’s husband was manic-depressive, and although today it would be treated with medications, in this time period, no one understands the problem. Michael is seen only as gregarious and lively. No one but his new wife knows that he goes through periods of not sleeping until his system starts to break down and he disappears into the country for his depressive states. If anything, he would be thought of as an eccentric artist. Even Michael himself doesn’t realize that his behavior is unusual until Penelope begins to realize the pattern to his actions and points it out to him.
After his death, Penelope goes into her own withdrawal and is finally dragged out of it by her cousin to come help her at the hospital treating returning soldiers. It is through talking to these wounded solders and reading as much information that was available, that Penelope learns how to help the soldiers deal with the horrors of the war and understand the underlying triggers that are causing their fearful reactions.
Gabriel at first doesn’t want Penelope’s help since he has always had a deep love for her, and he doesn’t want her to see him at his lowest, but as he talks with her he starts to fight his own depression brought on by being institutionalized. As he works with Penelope, he starts to plan for the future and we start to see the confident, aristocrat reemerge.
It was quite an interesting story.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“When I first started visiting the soldiers at the hospital, I really had no idea how to reach them.” Dipping her hand into the pot, she withdrew a walnut-sized pouch and shook droplets of water from it until it stopped dripping. “Oftentimes we would just talk about our lives and interests. When they discovered I was an artist,” she said, taking a pin and piercing the pouch, “They asked to see some of my work.”
Red paint oozed out of the tiny hole she’d made, and the crisp tang of linseed oil reached his nose. Pen squeezed a dollop onto a wooden palette and then plugged the hole with a tack before placing the bladder of paint back into her container.
“After some great discussion of art, the men wanted a demonstration, so I did some painting for them.” She withdrew another bladder and pricked it, this time eliciting a bright green. “Then I encouraged them to try, and over a period of weeks, I discovered some interesting things.”
Green was replaced by yellow. “I already knew, you see, that the very act of painting made me feel better. I’d been pouring out my emotions onto the canvas since I’d picked up my first paintbrush. Thankfully” –-she flashed him an eye-rolling grin—“the melodramatic canvases of my youth have long since been destroyed.”
Blue paint now joined the others on the wood. “Anyway, as the men created their own works, I started noticing symbolism in some. Others were able to externalize their emotions through their art, and once they were on the canvas, separate themselves from the feelings enough to talk about them.” Purple joined the mix. “And for some, painting simply improved their moods enough to make it through their day.”
He crossed his arms and lowered his chin. “You expect me to…paint my feelings?”
She smiled and added another color to the palette. “I have a theory that the mere act of creating puts us in a place of positive emotion. Sometimes we gain insight simply by observing what we’ve created. And I believe that sometimes the artistic process can bring feelings to the forefront for us to see, even when it is not our intention. Once we can view those feelings objectively, we are free to abolish them as we see fit.” One last dollop, white this time and she placed the lid back on her pot.
Setting the palette on the table near the easel, she reached for brushes, fanning the sable hairs with her fingers. “Liliana wants me to prepare a paper on my findings, though if I did, I expect it would be laughed out of the Royal Society before they even read the title. Imagine me, trying to pretend that I’m brilliant.”
He looked at her, gathering art supplies and speaking passionately about the ways she’d discovered to relieve others’ suffering—men like him. Didn’t she see that she was brilliant? But even more, she was compassionate and kind. All of the intelligence in the words would be fruitless without those higher qualities that Penelope had in abundance.
But that seemed too deep for the moment, so he just repeated dryly, “You expect me to paint my feelings.”
She pursed her lips, but the corners of her mouth tipped up in a smile despite her efforts to look stern. “It might do you good to try, you know.”
ORDER A COPY: The Turncoat: Renegades of the Revolution
Publishing Date: March 5, 2013
Paperback: 368 pages
They are lovers on opposite sides of a brutal war, with everything at stake and no possibility of retreat. They can trust no one—especially not each other.
Major Lord Peter Tremayne is the last man rebel bluestocking Kate Grey should fall in love with, but when the handsome British viscount commandeers her home, Kate throws caution to the wind and responds to his seduction. She is on the verge of surrender when a spy in her own household seizes the opportunity to steal the military dispatches Tremayne carries, ensuring his disgrace—and implicating Kate in high treason. Painfully awakened to the risks of war, Kate determines to put duty ahead of desire, and offers General Washington her services as an undercover agent in the City of Brotherly Love.
Months later, having narrowly escaped court martial and hanging, Tremayne returns to decadent, British-occupied Philadelphia with no stomach for his current assignment—to capture the woman he believes betrayed him. Nor does he relish the glittering entertainments being held for General Howe’s idle officers. Worse, the glamorous woman in the midst of this social whirl, the fiancée of his own dissolute cousin, is none other than Kate Grey herself. And so begins their dangerous dance, between passion and patriotism, between certain death and the promise of a brave new future together.
Kate Grey is a Quaker. Her father was once an important officer during the French/Indian war. When he is asked to return to duty at the side of Gen. George Washington, he leaves his daughter and their farm in the care of her “Aunt.” An aunt who turns out to be a very successful spy, code named The Widow, who has come to the farm to destroy Gen. Howe by stealing the plans that he is carrying for the British army. Only it is not Gen. Howe who arrives, but Major Peter Tremayne.
The very plain Kate has caught then attention of Maj. Tremayne. Unfortunately for Kate when the Widow steals the plans that the Major is carrying, Kate needs to escape the farm as well before she is held responsible for their loss.
Major Tremayne just survives his court martial and he has been brought to Philadelphia with a task that will redeem his honor. Find the spy known as The Widow who is still secreting information to Gen. Washington and the rebels.
This story sounded very interesting to me and after I saw a youtube commercial for it, I knew I wanted to read it. Unfortunately I just wasn’t enjoying the characters. I read about 150 pages and then ended up putting my reader aside for two days. Now if I am not reading for two days, something is wrong. I gave the story another few chapters, but it just wasn’t drawing me in.
It seemed to be following actual battles from the revolutionary war, and if you know your history, I am sure if you would enjoy this more than I did.
I was under the impression that Peter and Kate spent time together and fell in love, except that they were on opposite sides of the revolution.
It was more that Peter’s unit stopped at the biggest house in the neighborhood to rest, which was Kate’s house and Peter barely noticed Kate until she started discussing the war and strategies with some passion. Now Peter decided Kate would do quite well to warm his bed for the night. He seemed to have no concern that she was a simple and unwed Quaker girl. He took something from her and wouldn’t return it to her unless she left her door unlocked that night. One of his own officers tried to intervene on behalf of Kate, and Peter simply knocked him out of the way.
Although Peter is called away to check on a burning farmhouse, and their whole interaction comes down to one stolen kiss, it appears that it is enough to keep Peter from turning Kate in during his court martial and he does not turn her in as a spy upon his return to Philadelphia. He wants in her bed to buy his silence, even though she is now engaged to his cousin. A position she is using to collect information and pass on to The Widow. She is engaged to this officer who had no problems pillaging locals farms and not raping, but coercing with threats of arrest and burning homes, the local women to have sex with him and his officers. Peter is now above that kind of action, although that was just what he was doing to Kate not too long ago.
I just couldn’t get into this story. I didn’t enjoy the characters and in the almost 200 pages I read, I just didn’t feel any romance. Although I can count on one hand the number of books I abandoned without finishing, it comes down to having too long a TBR list to force myself to finish this one.
ORDER A COPY: The Convict’s Bounty Bride
Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises Australia
Publishing Date: March 1, 2013
eBook: 52 pages
Rating: 4 pages
Life as a convict in an Australian penal colony was brutal, but James Hunter had theadvantages of raw physical strength and courage on his side. He survived, and now he isback; a self‐made man of means, determined to take the bride he was promised.
Lady Thea Willers knows nothing of the bargain her father made to save her brother, nordoes she have any interest in marriage. It might be a radical idea, but what Thea wants is acareer.
The revelation that her brother’s liberty depends on her marrying James Hunter isdevastating. But nothing, it seems, has the power to shake Thea’s world upside down likeJames himself, or the way he makes her feel.
James Hunter is back in England after serving seven years of hard labor in an Australian penal colony. While down under, he has earned himself a fortune but even a rich ex-convict has a hard time breaking into society. He has come back to claim the bride promised him when he agreed to take the fall for the Earl’s foolish son. Although he hopes the Earl’s daughter might be a pretty thing, he is more interested in the status he will finally gain by returning with a wife of breeding.
When James finally meets Lady Thea Willers, he is surprised to find that she is not only beautiful but she is spirited and intelligent as well. She is also quick witted and cunning, especially in her attempts to avoid the alter. She would be a perfect wife for him, and an asset working by his side. He begins to hope that they might have a marriage that is more than obligation, except Thea isn’t sure she is interested in fulfilling her father’s obligation to James.
Thea doesn’t want a husband. She was educated and brought up to think for herself. She wants a career. She wants to be useful, not just a piece of fluff to be paraded out by some husband and kept to breed out an heir. James seems different then the men her mother is constantly throwing her at, but can she trust that a life with him could afford her an opportunity to be the woman she wants to be.
When fate intervenes to keep them apart, will they fight for the future that might just bring them the happiness that has alluded them both or will all be lost?
Let me set the scene for you on this one – I was out with my kids, playing chauffer, reading my story. I get to an interesting part of the story, but it’s time to head home so I put my book away. While driving home, I kept thinking about what kind of interesting thing will happen once we get to Australia. Will there be a business rival for James who will cause trouble? Will Thea become fond of her home? Will she be accepted? Will a jealous rival try to break them apart? Once I get home, I get my coffee, sit in my comfy reading chair and find my place…then I turn the page and it won’t go any further. At first, I thought there was a problem with my download. No! This is only a short story of 52 pages! This is the problem with an eReader. Unless you check first, you don’t know how long a story is or sometimes you think you still have 20 pages left and it turns out to be a promo for the next book in a series. Frustrating!
I can’t tell you how pissed off I was when it ended. I was really enjoying the characters in this story. Thea was an intelligent and spirited woman. She was clever in her subtle sabotages to her reputation so that prospective husbands would walk away from the willful and peculiar woman. She wasn’t about to submit to her father’s promise without getting to know James and determine what her life would be with him. James made a few brief references to his life in Australia and as a convict. I was looking forward to more details about his life, about his farm, and the people he is attempting to socialize with. I love the occasional romance that is about two people getting to know each other and finding out how much they really like the person they are with.
This story needs a Book #2 continuation taking us to Australia and seeing the life they make together and the trials they work through.
For a short story, it certainly gave a lot but it left me wanting a whole lot more. :(
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“What makes you think that I wished to be apprehended?”
“You had no cover, the gaslight in this corner is bright, and the establishment is well patronized,” he said, identifying all the aspects Thea had taken into account before attempting to execute the maneuver.
“That’s most astute of you, Mr. Hunter.”
“So, you did hope to be observed?”
Flummoxed, she had given him the truth before she had the presence of mind to substitute it with something less incriminating, like wanting to liven up the evening. A practical joke, even, would have been a more plausible excuse.
Heavens, what was wrong with her?
“May I ask why?”
Thea took a breath, willing her pulse to steady. How should she reply to that? She had already admitted she wanted to be caught.
“To be cast out of polite society.”
Mr. Hunter roared, bursting out with an unexpectedly melodious laugh. Thea hadn’t meant to reveal anything to this man, and yet, it was as if with one look he had stripped her down to her chemise and extracted the truth from her.
“Why? I thought a woman would sooner saw off a limb than to relinquish her position in the ton.”
There was no point lying now. She had practically told him everything anyway. She might as well come clean.
“To ensure that I remain a spinster.”
One corner of Mr. Hunter’s mouth rose in half suppressed amusement.
“Surely a lady as comely as you wouldn’t want to wither and die an old prune without knowing the pleasures of the flesh. While you’re still succulent that is,” he said with a meaningful glance down to her breasts.
She drew a hand up to her chest instinctively, as if his stare had the power to burn. Warmth spread out from her middle, rushing to the surface where the feeling skittered out across her skin. She wished she had brought the fan she had jettisoned in favor of fitting the flask into her purse. Men often praised her beauty. Such comments were neither here nor there. She would much rather have been complimented for the sharpness of her mind, but nevertheless, for once, Mr. Hunter’s comment left her speechless.
“If you wish to be ejected from society, why not just lay down your maidenhead to a suitable rake? That way you would at least not die a virgin, assuming, of course, you are still pure?”
Who did he think he was questioning her virtue, let alone referring to her maidenhead in polite company? Irritation pricked like a burr caught in her stocking, and the words that had temporarily deserted her came flooding back. She tilted her chin towards him, determined not to allow his impudence to pass unchallenged.
“Is that an offer, Mr. Hunter?”
“Is that a request, m’lady?
She had expected him to demur, but instead he stepped forward into the space usually reserved for family and intimate friends; close enough that she could sense the heat from his body. His voice was even, his eyes tinkling in with devilment. Broad and weathered, the image of him stripped down to his shirtsleeves labouring over some manual task flashed through her mind. Within a few seconds her senses seemed to have heightened a hundred-fold. Mr. Hunter’s sudden and brash movement into her proximity was sending odd sensations fluttering beneath her skirts.
Thea hated backing down from a challenge, but the man’s expression indicated that he would be only too willing to oblige if she called his bluff.
She took a hesitant step back to widen the space between them.
“Yes, I am pure. And even though it’s none of your business, I did consider my total social disgrace as an option, but rejected it on the basis that I might be forced to marry the cad.”
“Well, well, what a conundrum.”
Mr. Hunter tugged at his neckcloth as if he were unaccustomed to wearing it. Her attention was drawn to strange red marks curling from the top of his collar. The scars licked at his hairline.
Like the mark of the Satan.
Mr. Hunter’s eyes glinted. He didn’t appear the least bit apologetic for ruining her scheme. If anything, he obviously found the whole situation comical. Now, thanks to this man, she needed to obtain more cognac or think of another way to engineer her social disgrace.
She thrust back her shoulders.
“I’m not at all sure what you find so humorous, Mr. Hunter. Due to your chivalrous intervention, I am now inconvenienced to either try again or come up with another plan altogether.” She jerked the drawstring of her reticule tight, her purse dropping heavily at her side.
“In that case, I must act soon, while you are still a candidate.”
“A candidate for what?”
ORDER A COPY: Winterblaze (Darkest London)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publishing Date: February 26, 2013
Paperback: 400 pages
Rating: 5 star
Poppy Lane is keeping secrets. Her powerful gift has earned her membership in the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals, but she must keep both her ability and her alliance with the Society from her husband, Winston. Yet when Winston is brutally attacked by a werewolf, Poppy’s secrets are revealed, leaving Winston’s trust in her as broken as his body. Now Poppy will do anything to win back his affections.
Winston Lane soon regains his physical strength but his face and heart still bear the scars of the vicious attack. Drawn into the darkest depths of London, Winston must fight an evil demon that wants to take away the last hope of reconciliation with his wife. As a former police inspector, Winston has intelligence and logic on his side. But it will take the strength of Poppy’s love for him to defeat the forces that threaten to tear them apart.
In the third installment of the Darkest London series, Poppy Lane, also known in the supernatural world as “Mother”, finds herself alone. Her husband Winston has left her after 14 years of marriage after his nearly deadly attack by a werewolf. As a Police Inspector, Winston faces liars every day. He can’t stand liars and he is devastated that his Poppy has been the biggest liar of all. She has hidden the supernatural world from Winston, right under his nose—hidden her true self from him, and it is more than he can bear.
When a deadly demon is freed from his hellish prison, sent there by Poppy herself, he has sworn to pay back Poppy by destroying “her heart.” So whether Winston wants her or not, Poppy will be there to protect Winston from the evil which his coming for him.
But unbeknown to all, Winston is hiding the worst secret of all. A lie so great it could prove their whole lives as a lie.
Now they will have to play the demon’s game in order to fight for their very lives.
It is undeniable that passion still flare between Winston and Poppy, but can they both look past the lies and betrayals and rebuild the lives they once had full of undying love and mutual respect.
When I first read Firelight (which I loved), I wasn’t at all interested in Poppy and Winston. After Moonglow (which I didn’t like as much), they suddenly had my full attention. I was a lot more interested in Poppy and Winston and wanted to see if they could repair their shattered marriage.
Since this story mostly involved the fact that Winston and Poppy were separated and had an emotional wedge between them, I liked how we kept jumping between the present and the past so we could see how Winston and Poppy met, how they overcame their differences in station so that they could get married, and how much they wanted to be with each other before things went so wrong.
I was disappointed, as I usually am, that our hero and heroine both wanted to get past this chasm in their relationship, that they both missed each other and that they both loved and desired the other, BUT when it came to putting themselves out there and possibly to be hurt again, neither one of these brave, strong people were willing to be the one to take that step. My little brain keeps going, “You’re facing evil that wants to hurt you. You might die shortly, but you can’t tell the person you love the most in the world that you love them and miss them in what could be the last hours before you might die? Really? What are you waiting for the regretting part as you lay dying?” Stupid characters.
I also liked the fact that our secondary characters weren’t content to stay in the background as secondary characters are supposed to do, part of that is the set up for the next story. I am excited to say that there will be more stories now that we have finished with the tales of the Ellis sisters.
I am looking forward to seeing where we go next.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“You do not think it romantic that her love for Hamlet was so great that she fell into unending despair when he left?” he asked.
Sharp red brows snapped together, and he wanted to kiss the little furrow between them. His hand curled into a fist as she, oblivious to his lust, proceeded to lecture him. “Romantic? Bah. Such a man’s idea of how a woman ought to love. By all means, let us poor, emotionally weak females fall into utter helplessness for the want of a man. Especially a man who couldn’t be bothered to treat her with any sort of—“
He kissed her. Because he couldn’t stop himself and didn’t have to. Her lips were soft, her tongue tart and slick and he slid an arm about her slim waist and suckled her lower lip before breaking away. “You’ll soon have me in despair,” he whispered, smiling against her mouth, “if you don’t believe in all-consuming love.”
Her arm snaked around his neck, her cool fingers slipping into his hair to toy with it. Had he the ability to purr, he would.
“That isn’t love,” she said.
He nuzzled closer, brushing his mouth against hers. “Kiss me again.”
“We are in public.” But she sipped at his upper lip as though she liked the taste of it.
Winston chuckled and reluctantly stepped back a pace. His gaze landed again on the storefront window beside them, and he looked back at a wonderfully flushed and mussed Poppy. “Do you realize you take us past this empty shop with every walk we take?”
Her cheeks darkened more. “Do I?” She moved to go, but he blocked her way with his shoulder.
“Yes.” He nudged her chin with his knuckle. “And you won’t get me to believe it’s by chance, either. Confess, Boadicea. Why this shop?”
Standing straight and smoothing her hair back into place, she attempted to look past him, her sweet lips pressed into an annoyed line. But then a noise of defeat sounded in her throat, and she glanced at the shop before meeting his eyes. “I want to let it.”
When his brows rose in surprise, she pushed on. “It is a book shop. Or was.” Her nose wrinkled as she made herself speak. “I would like to see it reopened. I—I have always wanted…It is a silly dream, I know.”
Her words cut into him. He hadn’t expected her to have dreams. Why? Why hadn’t he thought of her wants? It shamed him that he’d been so oblivious. Putting a staying hand around her waist when she squirmed to get away, he looked over her shoulder and studied the shop. “Have you any experience in running a book shop?”
Poppy’s expression closed. Tension tightened the muscles along her back. But she did not drop her gaze from his. “No.”
He looked into her dark eyes, his hand firm upon her. “Then you shall learn.”
She flinched. “What?”
He smiled then, tucking a stray lock of fire-bright hair behind her ear. “We have need of funds and a place to live. There is a flat attached to the shop, I see. You want this shop. So you will have it.”
Her breath left in a gust. “Win..How can you…” She drew herself up. “What if I fail?”
Slowly he shook his head. “My love, I have no doubt that if running a bookstore is what you want to do, then you will do it. And do it well. You are too strong-willed to fail at anything.”
She gaped at him, and he cupped her cheek. “I believe in you, Pop. I always will.”
ORDER A COPY: A Duke Never Yields (Affairs By Moonlight Trilogy)
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Publishing Date: February 5, 2013
Paperback: 290 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Impatient with the strictures of polite British society, Miss Abigail Harewood has decided to live life on her own terms—and the first thing she requires is a lover. When the commanding Duke of Wallingford arrives on the doorstep of her leased holiday castle, she thinks she’s found the perfect candidate: handsome, dashing, and experienced in the art of love.
But tempting Wallingford into her bed proves more difficult than she imagined. Restless and dissatisfied with his debauched life in London, the formerly rakish duke is determined to spend a year chaste. But as Abigail tries her best to seduce him, Wallingford finds his resolve crumbling in the face of her irresistible charm…and her alluring secrets.
Abigail Harewood knows what she wants and what she wants is a lover. She has seen the benefits that “good” marriage has ravaged upon both her sister and her cousin. She was watched what the pressures of the aristocracy and loveless, unfaithful spouse have done to her formerly happy and gregarious family members. She has no interest in losing herself to the bonds of matrimony.
She wants an experienced man to be her first lover and after meeting the notorious Duke of Wallingford she is certain he must be her first. Unfortunately for Abigail, the Duke has come to Italy to cleanse his soul of women and debauchery. Even if he were willing to take a woman to his bed, the Duke finds that likes the carefree and vivacious little fairy and he can’t imagine ruining her with almost childlike view of the world with carnal lust, even if there is nothing else childlike about her.
When a mistake leads to both Abby’s party and Wallingford’s party both renting the same Italian castle, Abby vows to bide her time and she knows with persistence she will seduce the Duke.
When Wallingford finally acknowledges his desires for Abigail, she should be delighted, but when she finds out he will only agree to take her to his bed as his wife, she insists that she can never marry a known rake.
Now that they both have acknowledged their desires for each other, the gloves are off and Abigail with do whatever necessary to seduce the Duke and Wallingford will use all his charms to convince Abigail to walk down the aisle with him.
In this battle of desires and wills, can there really be a loser?
I had such hope for this book and was excited when I finally got to it on my list. I was so disappointed.
I thought that the Duke would be a man who was tired of his man-whore lifestyle and the type of women who would engage in loveless affairs, and he would fall for the refreshingly, delightful and sweet Abby. He simply turned out to be a man-boy who grew up in privilege and who had no care for anyone but himself. He ended up going on a sabbatical to avoid a marriage arranged by his grandfather after an evening at his mistress’s home (the wife of a diplomat) when he embarrassed her by having a quicky in the conservatory with some unknown woman. We believe at this early point in the book that he was just drunk at a party. We come to find out that although he is a womanizer, he has no idea of pleasuring a woman in bed. As Abigail tells him, when he shouts no one has ever complained before, You’re a Duke, no one’s going to tell you that you’re not good in bed.
When he starts to feel a real attraction for Abigail and she decides to push him away, he is upset because Abigail is the one woman who has the determination to change him into a better man. WTF? So even when he acknowledges what a loser he is, he expects her to change him. He doesn’t acknowledge that he needs to do something to change himself.
Although Abby starts out as a quirky, delightful and very naïve in her thinking, she was a little too quirky and naïve and after a while she started to grate on my nerves.
I thought that there were parts of the story that seemed a little jumpy, i.e., suddenly Abigail and her sister disappearing to Rome to be a car race, although there was never any discussion about it, but this was Book #3 and a quick check of Book #1 and Book #2 show that these two books are about the other two couples in the castle with the Duke and Abigail. I am sure if you read the first two books, you would obviously know what was going behind the scenes.
Regardless of the story gaps, it was the characters in this story that I didn’t like. The Duke was too much of a selfish jerk and although he finally goes off on his own to do some growing up, he doesn’t return to the story until the very end. Although he seems to have grown up, we aren’t there long enough to see the benefit of his personal growth.
This was my first Juliana Gray story, but it just wasn’t for me.
Received ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
He shook himself. “I came,” he said, schooling his voice into ducal deepness, “in order to educate you on the wholesale impropriety of making appointments with strangers in the stables. Since your sister, it seems, in unequal to the task.”
“But you’re not a stranger,” she said, smiling. “We spoke for quite an hour at dinner.”
“Don’t even think to match wits with me, young lady.”
“Ooh!” She shivered. “Say that again, do.”
“I said, don’t even…” He stopped and folded his arms across his chest. “Look here, what are you really doing here? You know the rules as well as I do.”
“Oh, I know the rules as well as anyone. One has to know the rules perfectly in order to break them.” She was still smiling, still unearthly, lightening the very air around her.
Wallingford’s groin, that seat of instinct rather than reason, tightened unto bursting in an instant.
“Good God.” The words struggled out. “You don’t mean…”
She laughed and held up her hand. “Oh, no! Not so far as that. I understand that anticipation is vital in these matters.”
“Anticipation?” he said dazedly.
“Yes, anticipation. Of course, you’re the expert, but I think we should go no further than a kiss tonight, don’t you think?”
She laughed. “You sound exactly like the stableboy, before dinner. “un bacio,” he said, in exactly that tone of voice.”
Wallingford took a stumbling step backward. “Stableboy?”
“Oh yes. He was rather startled, I suppose, but he recovered quickly…”
“…and stepped up to the mark quite nicely. I say, is that your horse? He’s a jolly splendid animal, aren’t you, darling?” She brushed past him and took Lucifer’s face between her hands. “Yes, a dear love, a remarkable great beast you are, a splendid, lovely animal.”
Lucifer, enraptured, pushed his nose against her chest and whuffled.
Wallingford shook his head. “Look here, Miss Harewood. Do you mean to say you kissed the stableboy? Here?”
“Yes, and a lovely embrace it was. Much nicer than the stableboy at home.”
“The stableboy at home?” The floor seemed to be dropping away beneath Wallingford’s booted feet. He put a hand to steady himself against the wooden wall of Lucifer’s stall.
“Yes. Patrick was his name.” She turned to him. “The brother of one of my sister’s housemaids. Oh! Ha-ha. I see what you’re thinking. No, no. I assure you. I don’t go about kissing stableboys willy-nilly, hither and yon. Heavans, no!” She laughed. She had her arm up around the side of Lucifer’s face, stroking him, and Wallingford could have sworn that the animal winked at him.
“Forgive me, Miss Harewood, for jumping to such an unwarranted conclusion.”
“Oh, how forbidding you are! You must keep your brow exactly like that. How did Shakespeare put it? ‘Let the brow o’erwhelm it as fearfully as doth a galled rock o’erhang and jutty his confounded base, swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean…”
“Are you quite mad?”
“No, no. Only a little mad, I assure you. No, as I said, I don’t go about kissing stableboys as a rule. It’s more in the line of an experiment.”
“You are quite mad.”