Category Archives: Historical Romance
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.”
ORDER A COPY: The Autumn Bride (A CHANCE SISTERS ROMANCE)
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Publishing Date: February 5, 2012
Paperback: 310 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Governess Abigail Chantry will do anything to save her sister and two dearest friends from destitution, even if it means breaking into an empty mansion in the hope of finding something to sell. Instead of treasures, though, she finds the owner, Lady Beatrice Davenham, bedridden and neglected. Appalled, Abby rousts Lady Beatrice’s predatory servants and—with Lady Beatrice’s eager cooperation—the four young ladies become her “nieces,” neatly eliminating the threat of disaster for all concerned!
It’s the perfect situation, until Lady Beatrice’s dashing and arrogant nephew, Max, Lord Davenham, returns from the Orient—and discovers an impostor running his household…
A romantic entanglement was never the plan for these stubborn, passionate opponents—but falling in love may be as inevitable as the falling of autumn leaves.
After an afternoon walking in the park, Abigail Chantry was just returning to her post as Governess for a London family when she was stopped by a frantic young woman. She told Abigail that Abigail’s sister Jane was in great danger and being held in a London brothel against her will. Although Jane is supposed to be miles off on her way to her new job as a companion, Abby follows young Daisy, who, with the help of another captive girl, rescues Jane from the brothel.
Abigail then learns the tale of how her sister was drugged and kidnapped and that Damaris was dragged off her ship in the middle the night, and if it wasn’t for the quick thinking of Damaris and Daisy’s bravery, her lovely sister Jane would even now be being defiled in a seedy brothel. Since Damaris and Daisy are orphans like Abigail and Jane, Abigail is determined that they shall stay together and although they are not all sisters by blood, they were now sisters of the heart.
Their plans to start over in Bath are thwarted by the reality of four girls trying to earn a living, pay for rent, and buy food in London. When Jane falls ill, with no money for medicine, Abigail becomes desperate enough to try and break in to the neighboring house. She has been watching and the window is always open, but there are never any lights from inside. She only needs to get in and get out and grab a small trinket to pawn for Jane’s medicine.
But when she crawls into the window she is surprised to find the room barren of objects, more importantly she is shocked to find a feisty old lady wasting away in the dark. There is no doubt that she is a lady of breeding, and it is just as obvious that she is being abused by her servants.
Together they figure a way to help Abigail and her sisters have somewhere to live and to save Lady Beatrice from her abusive servants. The next morning, Lady Beatrice’s four nieces arrive on her doorstep and immediately take over the care of Lady Beatrice. The ruse has been God send to the sisters as well as Lady Beatrice, who begins to recover and flourish in the care and society of Abigail and her sisters.
These five woman have come together to create a new family not of blood, but of love. All is going quite well until the one person who is well aware the Lady Beatrice does not have four generous, caring nieces arrives on the doorstep. Lord Max Davenham, Lady Beatrice’s only nephew doesn’t trust these women. He knows they can’t just be acting kindly to his aunt out of the generosity of their hearts. They must have an alternative motive, and he is determined to get to the bottom of their plot, especially their beguiling ringleader Abigail.
What an absolutely enchanting story!! Normally I would say that the romance novel should have more romance between the hero and heroine, but I was so enjoying the interaction between the girls and especially between Abigail and Lady Beatrice that the quick affection which blooms between Abby and Max (once he stops believing they have a notorious plan) just flows nicely with the story.
Lady Beatrice absolute steals this show. I love when she is finally feeling up to seeing her old friends and she gets so into inventing a story of her connection to the girls, while Max blusters that it was all nonsense. But the best is that word passes among Lady Beatrice’s friends until one gentlemen pulls Max aside to tell him quite frankly that scandals happen in families all the time, and Max is just embarrassing himself by trying to deny the relationship to the girls. Priceless!
Of course Abigail and Max go head to head quite passionately over the girls being there and what they are trying to get out of Lady Beatrice, and who was abusing Lady Beatrice, and once Max realizes that no matter what the situation truly is, that Lady Beatrice is more herself and loves the girls and they love her back, he stops fighting against them. Once he is no longer fighting Abigail, he quickly admits to his romantic interest in her.
Although it was notably light on Max and Abigail time, the captivating storyline involving the five woman more than makes up for the quick romance.
This is book 1 of the series and Abigail has three more sisters and Max has three more single business partners, I am going to guess we are going to work a match up here between those six although I can’t even guess yet who will end up with who.
I say “Bring on more Lady Beatrice! She’s a hoot!”
Received ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you!
“Before we met you, I mean. You’re the best thing that’s happened to us…ever.” She suddenly realized how that sounded. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean you’re a thing, of course; I meant—“
The old lady patted her on the hand. “I know what you meant, my dear, and you gels are the best thing that’s happened to me in forever too. So, young Jane, you’d make a practical marriage, would you?”
Jane nodded. “The very best marriage I possibly can.”
Lady Beatrice turned to Abby. “So, Abby what kind of marriage would you dream of?”
Abby looked down and smoothed the fabric of the lovely old dress. “As you said before, Lady Beatrice, we don’t all get the choice—“
“What on earth…?” a deep voice interrupted. Lord Davenham stood in the open doorway, lord of all he surveyed.
The bedchamber was an explosion of color and fabric and garments, a feminine Aladdin’s cave. Even more so than usual. “What are you doing?” he asked, eyeing the pile of fabrics cautiously. Presumably there were kittens buried under it somewhere.
“Max, my dear.” His aunt’s eyes were a little red rimmed, as though she’d been weeping.
In two strides Max reached her. He took her hands in his. “Aunt Bea, what is it? What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, nothing. We’re going through all my old gowns, and oh, the memories.” She waved a crumpled wisp of lace. “A few sentimental tears, that’s all, but mostly tears of laughter.”
“I see.” He gaze roamed over the tumbled mass of clothing.
“No, you don’t, dear boy, but never mind. I’ve had the most delightful time reliving my youth. The gels have had me in stitches.” She chucked. “Stitches, gels, did you hear? I made a pun.”
All the girls except Daisy were dressed in old-fashioned clothing, the dresses sagging a little, as if they were children dressing up. But Abby was no child. She was dressed–half dressed, he saw with leap of his pulse—in an eighteen-century brocade gown with panniers. She moved slightly, defensively.
Her back was to the freestanding cheval looking glass and he saw at once that the dress was not properly laced…
She was naked from the nape of her neck to just below the small of her back. His breath caught in his chest as his gaze traced the graceful outline of her spine.
Unaware of what the looking glass revealed, she faced him calmly, secure in the belief that the gown she held to her chest protected her modesty. Her shoulders and arms, as well as her back were completely bare. She was wearing no chemise.
If she dropped the gown…
A delicate wild-rose color flushed her just concealed breasts, and slowly spread to her cheeks. She’d noticed him staring.
With an effort he dragged his gaze off her. Off her image in the looking glass.
Abby hitched her gown higher. As he watched, she stole an arm around behind her. Had she felt a draft? She gasped again and stepped behind a screen, blocking his view of her slender, creamy back and shoulders.
From behind the screen he could hear rustling noises, and in his mind’s eye he saw the green silk dress ripple down her body and settled in a puddle at her feet. He imagined her, like a Botticelli Venus, rising naked from a green pool. He swallowed to get rid of the hard lump in his throat, and force his mind off the image, telling himself the sounds he heard were nothing both that gray woolen dress being dragged over her body.
ORDER A COPY: Too Dangerous to Desire (Lords of Midnight)
Publishing Date: November 20, 2012
Paperback: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Long ago, Sophie Lawrance chose prudence over passion, rejecting a rebellious young rogue for the sake of her family-no matter the ache it left in her heart. But after a specter from her father’s past resurfaces, threatening to destroy all she holds dear, the desperate beauty knows there is only one man whose shadowy skills can save her.
Cameron Daggett is a man of many secrets…and many sins. He’s never forgotten the pain of losing Sophie. But now, with a chance to win her back, Cameron sets aside his anger and agrees to help Sophie save her father’s honor. Together they embark on a perilous masquerade, leading them to a remote country estate near the sea. There, they must battle a cunning adversary-and their own burning desires. Will they be consumed by the flames? Or can they prove that true love conquers all?
Cameron Daggett is the most secretive of the Hellhounds, even his fellow Hellhounds only know what little Cam has decided to share over the years. That’s because Cam has come a long way from Cameron Fanning, the young boy of his childhood, the bastard son of the Marques of Wolcott. Cam has left that life long ago and has remade himself into the man he is today. With a little help from his quick fingers and clever tongue, he has stolen or seduced his way to some of the best treasures to be found…and to be sold for the right price. In fact, the only thing Cam was not able to steal was the heart of the girl he loved.
Sophie Lawrence might be on her way to being a rather young spinster, but she knows she made the right choice for her family in refusing to elope with her childhood friend and sweetheart Cameron. Cameron was too wild, too carefree, and Sophie’s mother had just died leaving her family in desperate need of her. She couldn’t abandon her father and young sisters, even for love.
A chance meeting has brought Cam back into Sophie’s life. They are both a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, even if Cam is still a little wild. But maybe a little wild is just what Sophie needs in her life before she accepts the mantle of spinster.
As they work together to save Sophie’s family, will they take the second chance they have been given or walk away from the only person they have ever truly loved?
I just loved Cameron and Sophie together. Cameron was always a question mark in this trilogy. You knew he “acquired” things that didn’t really belong to him, and although he was not Robin Hood (since he stole from the rich to give to Cameron), you never felt he was bad since he wasn’t swindling little old ladies out of their savings. Cam would steal art and jewelry from the rich and sell it to other rich people for a tidy sum. He was also very good at cards and was able to increase his funds that way. But we never really knew anything about him, since the other characters in the story only knew so much about him.
Spending time with Sophie brings out a side of Cameron that is not so jaded. He makes fun of the other Hellhounds for finding love and settling down, but you can tell that Sophie was that one great love for Cameron.
I love that she didn’t judge Cameron for what he has been doing with his life since he left her. She enjoys his stories and isn’t shocked or upset and she doesn’t shame Cam for being who he is.
It was just so sweet that they were both still in love with the other but we’re trying not to get their hopes up that things could be different this time.
It was a lovely end to this trilogy and I truly enjoyed this series.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“Come along, Sophie,” he said a little roughly. “I need to get you out of here as quickly as possible.” Two swift strides and he was back at her side. “Where’s your cloak?”
She gave a vague wave at the bed. “I left it over there.”
Averting his eyes from the temptingly plump pillows, he took her hand. “Well. Let. Us. Find. It.” He said through gritted teeth.
“I know, I know.” With a sigh, Sophie slumped against his side. “I look absurd. Me, a Damsel of Desire?” Her lust-red lips pursed. “Ha—and pigs might fly.”
“You don’t look absurd,” growled Cameron. “If you must know it, you look ravishing.”
“I—I do?” Her lashes fluttered. “I rather like the way my eyes appear when they’re all smudgy.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “They are as…seductive as sin.” A loud commotion in the corridor outside the door drew his attention from the intriguingly dark, dappled shadings. Wrenching his head around, he listened for a moment before letting out a low oath. “Damn, we had better wait for a bit before trying to leave.”
Several distinctly off-key male voices were raised in a bawdy song, their efforts encouraged by the titter of female laughter and demands for another chorus. By the sound of it, the performance might go on for a while.
Sophie leaned back against the velvet-draped mattress and looked up at the gently swaying brass lanterns. “It’s really quite pleasant in here.”
“Yes, well, it’s meant to be.”
“And the bed is exceedingly comfortable.” She bounced her bum against its side. “Have you tried it?”
Coming from anyone else but Sophie, the comment would be a flagrant come-hither invitation. She, however, was blithely unaware of what she was saying.
Or was she?
Fanning a hand over the deep “V” of flesh exposed by her unbuttoned bodice, she gave a cat-like stretch. “Aren’t you warm in that coat? Why not take it off?”
“Because,” answered Cameron, trying not to watch the slide of patterned muslin pull taut over her breasts, “we are going to be leaving here in another moment.” He crossed the carpet and took hold of her arm.
“What’s the rush?” she asked, shaking off his grip. “I have been thinking it over, and appearing on my uncle’s doorstep at this late hour might provoke too many unwanted questions. Perhaps we should stay here for the night and then I will go on in the morning.”
God must be punishing me for my many misdeeds.
“Sophie, this isn’t an inn, it’s a bordello.”
Her hands set on his shoulders and slowly slid inward. “Yes, and if truth be told, I find that rather exciting.” A sigh tickled his neck. “I’ve so rarely done anything reckless, anything naughty.”
Cameron drew a ragged breath as she twined her slim fingers in his hair. His self-control was hanging on by a mere thread. “While I, on the other hand, have spent my life breaking most every rule in Creation.”
“So break another,” whispered Sophie.
ORDER A COPY: Obsession Wears Opals (A Jaded Gentleman Novel)
Publisher: Berkley Sensations
Publishing Date: December 4, 2012
Paperback: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Darius Thorne has learned to use his wit and intelligence to strategize a better life for himself. He is the White Knight amidst the small secret circle of Gentlemen known only as the Jaded. The handsome scholar shields his heart by keeping a studied distance from the world…until he rescues a beautiful woman who literally falls into his hands.
Isabel Netherton isn’t merely a damsel in distress. A high born lady of quality unwilling to be a pawn, she is defiantly escaping an abusive husband. But under Darius’ protection she discovers an unexpected champion—a man who teaches her the power of true desire and what it means to be treated like a queen.
However, the law of the land supports her husband’s cruel claim. It will take all of Darius’ wit to keep one step ahead of their enemies and protect Isabel. In a deadly game of chess, Darius must defeat the Black Knight and sacrifice himself for his Ivory Queen or forfeit all.
Lady Isabel Netherton thought her life was perfect. She was the daughter of a Marquis, had a spectacular debut, beautiful clothes, the right friends, and a handsome new husband. On her wedding night, her perfect world fell apart. Her new husband was an abusive sadist who got great pleasure in hurting her. When an opportunity came to escape, she took it and ran with no money or clothing. Just her beloved horse, Samson. They rode until Samsom went lame and Isabel collapsed into the gardens of Darius Thorne.
Darius was well acquainted with the signs of abuse. His father was a vicious man who also took pleasure from beating his wife and children which is why Darius has vowed never to take a wife himself. He never wanted to harm another person. So he focused his life on his studies and on his education to better himself from just a dockworker’s son.
Darius have vowed to keep Isabel safe while she recovers from her injuries, both physical and mental. Even though the laws would indicate that Isabel is the property of her abusive husband and must return to him, Darius is determined to use his gift of puzzle solving to figure out how to save Isabel from the clutches of her husband.
What a delightful story! I loved these characters. The shy, bespectacled professor was the perfect match for the abused and frightened, Isabel. Darius is thoughtful and intelligent. He makes Isabel feel safe and gives her time to heal physically. His kindness goes a long way to helping her heal mentally.
Although she starts to feel empowered under the tutelage of Darius and she wants to stop hiding and living in fear, she doesn’t do stupid heroine things like throw herself into danger or sacrifice herself for the better good. She uses her intelligence and allows Darius to help her. Isabel in turn saves Darius when his plans to remove Isabel from her husband, leads Darius searching the darkest underworld of London. Darius becomes depressed from the ugliness he is finding and it is now Isabel’s turn to show Darius kindness and bring him joy to turn away the darkness.
This is Book 5 of a series and there was only basic information about Darius and his friends, now called The Jaded, who were held captive in India for about two years, and I am guessing they fell into a fortune in gems when they got free. I am sure this is all explained either in the first book or over the course of the prior four books. I know that they are being threatened by The Jackal to return a sacred item and they don’t know what he is looking for and now there is another faction that says they must not turn over the sacred item to The Jackel. So, once they figure out what he is looking for, it will be the proverbial rock and hard place of what to do next. This seems to be more of the premise to the other stories, but all this background wasn’t important to Darius and Isabel’s story.
I would love to start from the beginning, but unfortunately, there does not appear to be audiobooks on this series so I can’t put it on my Catch Up by Audiobook list.
Received ARC from netgalley.com, courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
(FYI – Darius gives Isabel the name Helen when she refuses to give her name.)
“You should learn chess, Helen.”
“Should I?” she asked, mystified at his persistence.
“For one more reason I’ve yet to mention.”
“And what reason is that?”
“Because the most powerful piece on that board isn’t the armed knights on horseback or the brute soldiers or even the solemn-looking fellow wearing the crown.”
“No?” She held her breath, drawn in by the light in his eyes.
“It’s the queen. The singular female on the field has more power and freedom to move than any other piece.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “Imagine it, Helen. She is the strongest element on the board and every other piece is either struggling to make sure she is safe or to stay out of her way.”
“Oh, my!” Isabel let out the breath she’d been holding. “Really?”
“Here, I’ll show you. Bring your plate of food!”
The first game was less a battle and more a series of lessons on how a battle unfolded and the consequences of every choice she made. He held his black army in check, never striking aggressively against hers, but advising where he could have, letting her retrace her steps and weigh out her moves. The first loss of a knight made her almost tearful, but Darius walked her through the realities of a necessary sacrifice to achieve a greater goal.
“You must try to see all the pieces as part of larger entities, all working together.” He turned the board just a few inches to the left. “Take a deep breath. Sometimes I like to image that my men are all eager to do their duty and consider sacrifice a great honor—especially when I promise to resurrect them for the next battle.”
She laughed. “Such absolute power!”
“Heady, isn’t it?” He squared the board again between them. “When you play chess, nothing happens on the field without your command.”
“But I’m not commanding you.” She eyed the intimidating lines of his pieces. “And your men don’t look happy about dying just to please me!”
It was his turn to laugh. “True! The Black army seeks only to please their dark queen, but let’s see if you cannot outwit them.”
“I will do my utmost to make her rage in frustration.” Isabel bent her head in concentration, trying to see the board as he did. Her poor knight stood forlornly next to Darius’s hand—a captured piece. “But only if you sign a treaty not to mistreat any of my men who fall into your hands.”
“Agreed.” Darius solemnly held out his hand. “I shall be merciful.”
“Good.” Isabel took his hand to shake it, her bare palm pressed to his and the warmth of his firm touch enveloping her slender fingers. It was meant as a jest, her proclamation of the articles of their little war, but the spark of sensation she experienced drained her of humor. There was nothing funny about the seductive pull of the heat shimmering across her skin. Isabel knew it was forbidden, this pleasure, but suddenly—it was hard to accept why.
I’m married—and already so far down a path to scandal that I may never recover. But this—God, how is this even possible? When I thought never to want any man’s touch again for as long as I lived?
“And you?” he asked, still holding her hand across the board. His gaze was steady, the green in his eyes deepening as the contact between them lingered.
“M-me?” Isabel tried to regain her mental footing and ignore the sweet fire curling up inside of her.
“Will the White Queen also pledge to be merciful? My army stands ready to either case, but a gentleman must ask if the treaty is to be balanced.”
“Of-of course.” Isabel conceded, then reluctantly let go of his hand. “I’ll serve them jam and biscuits while they wait for you to pay their ransoms.”
“Very kind of you.” He dropped his hand too quickly and clumsily knocked over his rook and two pawns. “Whoa! Disorder in the ranks!”
Chess was a serious game but Darius had never played it without folding in a bit of drama.
Instead of laughing at him, Helen had openly approved, proclaiming herself enchanted, and revealed that her imagination outpaced his. Even now, she took his breath away as she announced, “My lone knight is melancholy to think of his lost twin, Mr. Thorne, but I warn you, he is getting a fireside speech from his comrades to rally his spirits. They’ve reminded him of our cause and inspire him to avenge his brother!”
Darius was entranced—a man held in thrall. “No less inspiring than the cries of my generals to my battered men-at-arms. He is promising them extra rations of ale and a parcel of land to the first common man to take down one of your bishops.”
“How wicked!” she exclaimed, her eyes gleaming. “The White army needs no such bribery.”
“Well”—he leaned in conspiratorially—“they do need one thing.”
“And what is that?” she asked, her attention instantly diverted to the board, her expression anxious. “Is someone in danger?”
“No, not necessarily,” he conceded. “But the White army does need the lady ruling the White Kingdom to make her next move, or my wicked forces will start to conclude that she has forfeited.”
“Oh, yes, of course!” Helen bit her lower lip, her gaze narrowing as she concentrated. She touched her rook, but hesitated. “Hold on the tapestries, gentlemen, for we are moving.”
ORDER A COPY: To Tempt an Irish Rogue (Hamilton Sisters)
Publisher: Zebra Books
Publishing Date: November 6, 2012
Paperback: 334 pages
Rating: 4 stars
She wanted a life of her own…Paulette Hamilton loves working in her family’s London bookshop. Strong-willed and sharp-witted, she hopes to one day open a second shop, and she won’t let romantic follies get in her way. But the best laid plans have never met such a handsome Irish widower with a dubious history.
He wanted to leave his behind…Declan Reeves came to London with his young daughter to escape his life in Ireland. Though he’s vowed to never marry again, he quickly falls prey to the tempting blue eyes of fair-haired Paulette. But her family is suspicious of his past, and before he can make her his wife, he must travel to Ireland to vindicate his reputation. Torn between honor and desire, Declan and Paulette launch a perilous search for the truth. Whether it lies in the past or a present beyond their control, it’s their only hope for a future together.
Declan Reeves, Lord Cashelmore, has brought his young daughter to London for a fresh start and to escape the whispers and rumors circulating around Dublin that he had any hand in his wife’s death. He is also hoping to find a doctor who can help his daughter speak again for she hasn’t uttered a word since she saw her mother die.
When he takes her into a quaint bookshop on the edge of Town, he meets a very intriguing young woman who owns the shop, who makes his daughter smile for the first time in a year.
Paulette Hamilton is the middle Hamilton sister and she and her sister, Colette, have run Hamilton Bookstore since their father passed away. They are now on the verge of opening up a second store on the other side of London and are working fiercely as the opening day approaches. Paulette has never had the time or the inclination to chase a husband, but she can’t help but be drawn to the handsome Declan and his adorable daughter, Mara.
Although Declan has no desire to ever marry again, he enjoys spending most afternoons bringing his daughter to Miss Hamilton’s bookstore. Her delightful smile and lovely eyes lift the spirits of Declan and his daughter.
When the ugly rumors follow him to London, he realizes that he must return to Ireland to clear his name before he can truly think of what the future holds for himself, his little girl and the lovely Miss Hamilton.
You can’t go wrong with a story featuring an adorable little girl, and her handsome and devoted father. The stress of his wife’s death and his daughter’s disability have aged Declan. As the story progresses and the time he spends with Paulette, we watch Declan almost youthen, returning to his age of only 25.
Paulette is a mature 21 year old, running her own business which she and her sister have built up, redesigning the store since their father’s death and increasing their business. Although she is very business smart, Paulette does make some stupid decisions with regard to Declan which seemed out of character for such a smart woman, especially since unlike her younger sister, she has never been interested in parties and men and finding a husband.
This was the fourth book in the series. The first three feature the three older Hamilton sisters. We meet all of the sisters in this book as they get together for the grand opening. The second oldest, Juliette, seems a very vivacious character and I have picked up a copy of her story, Desire in His Eyes. The last story will be of youngest sister, Yvette, and the best friend of Colette’s husband, who is the bastard son of a Duke. From meeting them in this book, they have a bit of a Little Women, Laurie and Amy, feel to them.
“Where in Ireland are you from?”
“Is it very different from London?”
“Not very. In some ways they are very much alike. Then again, most large cities are the same.”
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been anywhere except here,” Paulette said with a sigh.
“All large cities seem to be the same. Crowded, noisy, and dirty.”
Paulette laughed at his remark. “I’ve heard people say that. How long are you planning to stay in London?”
“I’m not sure yet. Now it’s my turn,” Declan said, with a grin.
“Your turn for what?”
“My turn to ask you questions.”
Paulette smiled. “Oh, I guess that’s only fair.”
He placed his hand under his chin, resting his elbow on the counter. “Why aren’t you married, Paulette? A beautiful girl like you?”
Surprised by his question, she was also caught off guard by his compliment. “I haven’t met anyone I want to marry.”
“Why is that, do you think?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“But you’re happy here, working in the bookshop with your sisters?”
“Yes, very much so.”
“How old are you?”
“I’ll be twenty-one next month. How old are you?” she asked.
Declan shook his head. “Oh, no. My turn is not over. No questions from you yet. But if you must know I’m five and twenty.”
“Oh.” He was much closer to her in age than she had originally thought. “You must have married very young! Why, Mara is four years old, isn’t she?”
“You’re interrupting my turn.”
“I’m sorry. I promise I won’t interrupt again. Please continue.”
“Thank you.” He paused a moment before asking, “Why did you let me kiss you this morning?”
What had she let him kiss her? She’d been asking herself that same question all day and had only been able to come up with one response.
“Because I couldn’t help it. I’d never been kissed before and I—“
“Do you mean to tell me that no man has kissed you before me?” Declan was clearly astonished. “Before today?”
“No.” Flooded with embarrassment, Paulette felt her cheeks grow warm. Why did speaking about kissing her seem more mortifying than his actually kissing her? She had no idea, but she liked sitting here with him, talking. He was surprisingly easy to converse with.
“Well, thank you, Paulette. That was an honor I didn’t know I had. Now I feel even more regretful over kissing you though.”
“Oh, don’t regret it!” she cried out. “I thought our kiss was wonderful! Didn’t you?”
“You’re a funny little thing, aren’t you?” He looked amused by her. “Do you always say exactly what you’re thinking?”
“Not deliberately.” She paused, feeling slightly panicked. “Didn’t you think it was wonderful? Kissing me?”
“Yes, I did.” Declan admitted, his emerald eyes glittering as he looked at her. “Perhaps too much.”
“Why too much?”
He laughed. “You’re asking the questions against, lass.”