Review – Wild Fire by Anne Stuart

wild-fireIn Anne Stuart’s Fire Series, smoking-hot alpha heroes are members of a secret organization called the Committee, a shadowy group that operates under the radar and outside the law to fight crime and terrorism. These sexy agents live fast-paced lives and play by their own rules. They’re used to dealing with intrigue, murder, and trouble at every turn. Their orders don’t include falling in love, but the women they become entangled with are irresistibly seductive. As danger and desire rise, these agents discover the only way to survive the heat is to form alliances—both in and out of the bedroom.

About Wildfire: Three years ago, ex-operative Sophie Jordan made the mistake of falling in love—and marrying—her target. Now she’s paying for it tenfold. Her husband might be one of the sexiest men alive, but he’s also a psychopath. She’s been a virtual prisoner, and the time has come for retribution—and escape. Undercover agent Malcolm Gunnison has his orders: get intel from Sophie’s arms-dealer husband, then kill him. He plans to get rid of her, too, if she gets in his way, but he’s unprepared when she gets under his skin instead. Whose side is she on? And what is she hiding behind those mesmerizing eyes? Sophie vowed to never fall for another man again, but this sexy undercover agent is different. With danger mounting, can Malcolm and Sophie trust each other—and their growing passion—enough to get out of this operation alive?

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Wildfire (The Fire Series Book 3)

My Review:Reviewed by Rose 3

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

The Committee is a nebulous organization which exists to fight the wrongs and evils of the world, but whose methods are ruthless, and sometimes leave collateral damage.  Sophie Jordan was in training to become an agent when she was sent on her first assignment.  Her team’s mission was to kill Archer MacDonald, who is a wealthy arms dealer, among other crimes.  Unfortunately, the inexperienced Sophie fell in love with him, and she ended up marrying him.  Not long after, Archer learned of Sophie’s involvement with the Committee, and contracted to have her killed.  The assassin only managed to injure Sophie’s spine, causing paralysis.  Archer, being a sadistic monster underneath his surface charm, takes great joy in having Sophie helpless and under his thumb.  He virtually holds her prisoner on his private island while he continues with his latest venture, which is brokering a deal for a new and dangerous chemical weapon.

Unbeknownst to Archer, Sophie has begun to regain the feeling in her legs.  Every day, while in her luxurious bathroom, out of reach of Archer’s surveillance cameras, she exercises her body, building up her strength.  She’s smart enough to know that she will be killed as soon as Archer tires of the cat and mouse games he plays with her.  Sophie plans to escape the island, and kill Archer before he kills her.  Enter, Malcolm “Mal” Gunnison, who is another agent for the Committee.  He is undercover, posing as an agent for a buyer of the chemical weapon, while his real assignment is to kill Archer.  Sophie is merely considered a footnote.  It’s up to Mal whether he rescues her, leaves her on the island, or kills her.  Mal is reserving judgment until he sees the lay of the land.

Archer proceeds to wine and dine his new guest while they wait for the inventor of the weapon to arrive on the island.  Everything is at Mal’s disposal, including the women Archer keeps around for entertainment.  Soon, Archer even offers his wife for Mal’s amusement, in fact, he insists upon it.  When Mal and Sophie are out of range of the cameras, they soon learn the truth about each other.  They have an intense attraction which neither wants, so their “working relationship” is antagonistic.  Then the action really ramps up, with a devastating tropical storm, attempted murder, and many more surprises.

I admit it – Anne Stuart is my guilty pleasure, and I adore her.  Her heroes are usually over-the-top bad boys who are somehow on the good side.  Mal is no exception – he does whatever it takes to complete his assignment, whether it be sex, murder, or anything in between.  Yet this hardened man falls for the very flawed Sophie.  Despite her training, Sophie made a huge mistake in judgment regarding Archer.  She was gullible enough to believe his lies, and turned her back on the Committee, and it cost her greatly.  She’s wise enough now not to fall for anyone else, especially a Committee agent.  Or, is she?  WILD FIRE is chock full of intrigue, twists, excitement, and very steamy sex.  I recommend this book for fans of romantic suspense who enjoy a hot, intense read and a dark hero – it’s Anne Stuart doing what she does best.

Rating 4heat-level-scorchingblueflame2

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anne-stuartAbout the Author: Bestselling author Anne Stuart is a master of romance, a winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, and a forty-year veteran of the publishing business. Her first novel was Barrett’s Hill, a Gothic romance published when Anne was just twenty-five. Since then, she’s written romances in nearly every subgenre, from Regency and historical to paranormal and suspense. Anne speaks all over the country and has been featured on Entertainment Tonight as well as in Vogue, People, USA Today, Woman’s Day, and many other national newspapers and magazines. She lives with her husband by a lake in northern Vermont, where she enjoys an empty nest, fabulous grandchildren, and overacting in local theater. She has so many books she still wants to write that she plans to live forever.

Posted in Anne Stuart, Review, Romantic Suspense, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – To Covet a Lady’s Heart by Ingrid Hahn

to-covet-a-ladys-heart

After a lifetime of rakish behavior, Lord Maxfeld must pretend he’s reformed and find a fake wife. And there is nobody more suitable than Lady Phoebe. Trouble is, Phoebe will not agree to a false engagement and leaves Max no option but to blackmail her into agreeing to his scheme.

Phoebe will go to great lengths to avoid anything remotely dishonourable and blackmails Max right back—directly to the altar. Once married, though, Phoebe wants more than just Max’s ring — she wants his heart, something he can never give….

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To Covet a Lady’s Heart

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My Review:   

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Reviewed by Rose 3

Lady Phoebe Landon and her family have only been given a lukewarm reception back into society after the scandal they suffered when Phoebe’s father gambled away their fortune.  When Grace, Phoebe’s sister, married an earl, invitations slowly started to come again, but it’s a precarious situation.  Phoebe knows that she has to avoid any hint of impropriety, so she intends to walk the straight and narrow path.

Max has his future planned, and it doesn’t include a wife or children.  He loves and dearly wants custody of his orphaned nephew, Thomas, but his mother (Thomas’ grandmother) won’t relinquish him because of Max’ rakish reputation.  So Max devises a plan to acquire a temporary fiancée – once his mother has become convinced he’s going to settle down, she’ll release Thomas to him, and then he can quietly end the engagement.  Max also knows exactly who will pose as his fiancée – Phoebe Landon.  Max knows that she needs to avoid scandal, and he knows a very damaging secret about her sister.  When Phoebe refuses, Max resorts to blackmail, threatening to reveal the secret and causing further scandal to the Landon family.  Phoebe has no choice but to agree.

Max and Phoebe were previously acquainted, but didn’t know each other very well.  Now that they are engaged and spending time together, they grow to genuinely like each other.  Phoebe begins to think she’d like this to be a real engagement, and though Max feels the same, he refuses to break his vow to himself never to wed or to be a father.  He won’t tell Phoebe why, though it’s clear he would dearly love to have her for his wife.  So Phoebe decides to do some blackmailing of her own.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading TO COVET A LADY’S HEART.  It was pretty clear almost from the beginning that Max was not a bad person, and that his blackmail was done out of desperation and love for his nephew. The reason Max refuses to father children of his own is revealed fairly early on, though I would have liked to know much more about that whole situation than was revealed. Phoebe makes for a great heroine, with her strength, intelligence, compassion, and wittiness.  This couple is clearly in love and deserves to have a happy ever after.  They have genuine obstacles to overcome, and not all of them are resolved in this book, but I was left with the belief that their love is strong, and that together they will face whatever comes their way.  I totally enjoy Ingrid Hahn’s writing – the story flowed smoothly and I love her dialogue.  TO COVET A LADY’S HEART is a delightful read that receives my solid recommendation.

Rating 4heat-level-hotblue-flame-heart

Posted in Historical Romance, Ingrid Hahn, Review, Rose | 4 Comments

Review – The Star in the Meadow by Carla Kelly

star-in-the-meadowMarco Mondragón and his wife Paloma are living hectic but happy lives at the Double Cross, on the edge of Comanchería. Five years after the death of Comanche leader Cuerno Verde, cautious diplomacy between the tribe and the colonists is underway to end Comanche raids into New Mexico. Paloma’s time has been fully consumed by her two toddlers and newborn son and Marco’s by spring planting.

The Seven Year Audit of 1784 arrives and with it comes auditor Fernando Ygnacio. After years of incarceration for a crime he did not commit, Señor Ygnacio is a broken man. Although his daughter Catalina is bitter about his mistreatment by his superiors, her storytelling abilities captivate the household, including a frequent visitor from the nearby presidio, El Teniente Joaquim Gasca, who has been undergoing his own reformation from rascal to leader.

Unknown to him, Marco has peculiar enemies plotting his downfall. When Paloma and Catalina set out on a visit to Marco’s sister, meant to give Paloma relief from her busy life, the women are kidnapped. Devastated, Marco is torn between love and duty. He yearns to search for his wife, but feels bound by colonial duties to accompany his friend Toshua to Río Napestle, where Comanches have gathered to debate the region’s fragile peace. In his absence from the Double Cross, will Joaquim Gasca and Toshua’s wife Eckapeta be able to find the missing women?

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The Star in the Meadow (The Spanish Brand Book 4)

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review

MY REVIEW:

Reviewed by Rose 3

Marco Mondragon has overcome tragedy in his life, and has managed to find happiness again.  He lost his beloved wife and twin sons to illness, and after years of grief and loneliness, he found a new love, Paloma.  They have made a good life for themselves in New Mexico, overcoming the threat of smallpox, hostile Indians, and their supposed infertility.  They have forged true friendships, found lost family members, and Paloma has just given birth to their second child.  Most importantly, they have found a deep and passionate love in their marriage.

Yet, something feels different to Paloma after the birth of this child.  She feels sad and overwhelmed when she should only be feeling joy.  The tasks in her everyday life seem insurmountable.  (Today we would call this postpartum depression.) Marco decides to send Paloma off to visit his sister for two weeks, where she can just relax and visit and not worry about any duties in her home.  He hopes this will rejuvenate her and bring back her zest for life.

About the same time, there is a large gathering of Comanche, who want to discuss peace, and they demand that Marco be there, as he has played a large part in past negotiations.  Marco has a reputation for being fair, and talks won’t go forward without him.  Though Marco doesn’t want to attend, not with the state his wife is in, plus having a newborn baby, he feels that he has no choice.  In order to have peace and be safe in the future, they have to make arrangements now.

When Paloma and her companion, along with the newborn baby, are enroute to her sister-in-law’s home, their carriage is stopped by criminals who believe someone else is inside.  Upon learning that Paloma is Marco’s wife, they decide to kidnap them, as they have a grudge against him.  This action forces Paloma to make a heartbreaking decision about her child, a decision which no mother should have to make, and quite honestly, one that horrified me.  When Marco finds out that Paloma is missing, he decides he must search for her and not attend the gathering with the Comanche.  Toshua, his dear Comanche friend, insists that Marco will go, even if he has to kidnap him, as the precarious future of the area hangs in the balance.  This situation forces Marco to make a heartbreaking decision, as well.

The SPANISH BRAND series by Carla Kelly takes place in a time and setting that would normally not appeal to me.  Yet, because I love her writing so much, I took a chance on the first book, and I’ve been hooked right through this final book four.  I’ve become quite invested in Marco and Paloma and their extended circle of family and friends.  Their love for each other and their kindness and generosity seems to have an almost magical, healing quality that enfolds their loved ones, bringing happiness and second chances.  I found STAR IN THE MEADOW to be somewhat darker than previous books, and therefore more intense.  I hated what Paloma and Marco had to endure, yet I admit that I was totally enmeshed in the story.  Carla Kelly’s writing is masterful, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this whole series, and I believe you would enjoy each book more if you read them all.  STAR IN THE MEADOW is a stellar conclusion which will reside on my keeper shelf.  I’m sad to see this magnificent series end.

5-blue-rosesheat-level-warm1-blue-flame

Posted in Carla Kelly, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | 3 Comments

Review – The Scoundrel’s Honor by Christi Caldwell

scoundrels-honorFor the ladies and lords of the ton, London Society is a place of rules. No one speaks aloud of the dark gaming hells, where sin and debauchery beckon. Those who run these exclusive clubs live and die by the dangerous rules of the streets, shunning the very nobility who fill their coffers. This is certainly no place for matchmaking, proper marriage contracts, or any kind of propriety. Indeed, these men may run the most notorious gaming hell in London, but even the wickedest of gentlemen aren’t immune to the greatest vice of all—love.

About The Scoundrel’s Honor   Thanks to her older siblings, Lady Penelope Tidemore is no stranger to scandal. In order for her to make a good match, her secret longings for intrigue and romance must be quelled. Yet it is through terrible mischance that Penelope is caught in a compromising position—however innocent—with the darkly enigmatic viscount Ryker Black.

Mr. Black is no gentleman. Raised from the streets and proprietor of the most notorious gaming hell in London, Black lives in a world filled with debauchery and danger. Taking a Society wife from the very ton he despises is not part of his plan, even if the innocent Penelope turns his blood hot with desire. But Penelope isn’t afraid of Mr. Black, and she soon discovers that his reputation as a scoundrel may be designed to hide a surprising vulnerability. As this unlikely husband and wife grow closer, they learn that what started as chance could end up sealing their fates.

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The Scoundrel’s Honor (Sinful Brides)

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

My Review:

Lady Penelope Tidemore has just make her debut in society, and is determined to behave with the utmost decorum, and not add to her family’s already scandalous reputation.  When some intentionally hateful remarks are made within her earshot, she escapes outside for some solitude.  As she hears another set of footsteps approach, Penny knows she can’t be caught alone with a man, so she proceeds to hide under a bench.

Ryker Banbury (who goes by the last name of Black) was recently awarded the title of Viscount Chatham, but he is no gentleman.  He is the bastard son of a duke, who was raised in the slums of the city by a cruel criminal.  As he got older, he formed a “family” with four other street children, and they own a gaming hell.  Ryker is only at this event because one of his siblings has now married into society, and he feels that the connection will benefit his club.  His life is one of constant danger from rivals, and when Penny unfortunately makes a noise and becomes partially visible, Ryker pounces on her, fearing an enemy attack.  Of course, it’s at that moment that several people come outside and witness this, causing a scandal.

There is no doubt that Penny is now ruined.  Though her brother assures her she does not have to marry, Penny knows that her younger sister, who hasn’t yet made her debut, will not stand a chance in society if she doesn’t.  So Penny puts aside her lifelong dream of marrying for love, and weds the cold, hard man who has only scorn for nobles, and goes off to live with him in his gaming hell.

Though many novels have used this trope, I have to say that Ryker is about the most distant, unsmiling, cold man I’ve read about.  His brothers are the same way – there are no friends for Penny in her new home.  Everyone has an intense hatred for the ton and resents her intrusion into their world.  Penny even has to endure the indignity of having Ryker’s former mistress in the house.

Yet, Penny has an unworldly maturity for someone only eighteen years old.  She takes the barbs and arrows directed at her with dignity, and treats Ryker and his brothers like family.  While Ryker unbends enough to share passion with his new wife, whenever she makes a slight inroad into learning about him personally, he beats a hasty retreat.

THE SCOUNDREL’S HONOR is my first experience with author Christi Caldwell, and she writes very, very well.  There are previous books which tell the stories of Penny’s three older siblings, but I didn’t feel lost for not having read them. This book placed two polar opposite characters together in a seemingly impossible situation, yet let them grow toward each other to form a strong union and love.  The romantic and tender hearted Penelope develops strength and determination, while the self contained Ryker finally allows himself to show some vulnerability and admit that he needs help.  Their growth made for a most enjoyable read, and while their relationship solidified, there are many loose ends left dangling.  I expect this will lead to upcoming books in this series, which I am definitely anticipating.

Rating 4heat-level-warm1-blue-flameReviewed by Rose 3

Posted in Christi Caldwell, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | 3 Comments

Review – Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James

seven-minutes-in-heavenAll of Eugenia Snowe’s problems start when Edward Reeve, an arrogant bastard son of an earl, bursts into her registry office. He wants a governess and he wants her. She gives him the governess he demands, but she refuses to give herself.

No question that Eugenia enjoys crossing wits with the brilliant inventor, but she will never tarnish her reputation with an affaire, particularly with a man who doesn’t realize she’s a lady!

She holds her ground…until he kidnaps her.

Ward will stop at nothing to convince Eugenia that they’re meant to be together. He promises her heaven.  She gives him seven minutes.

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Seven Minutes in Heaven (Desperate Duchesses By the Numbers)

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

 

My Review:

Eugenia Snowe lost her beloved husband in a tragic accident not long after their marriage.  Although she is the daughter of a marquess, she needed a challenge to help her through the grieving process.  For the last seven years, Eugenia ran a well respected employment agency for governesses.  Now she wonders if it’s time for her to start living again.  When Theodore Reeve, known as Ward, comes into her agency, demanding a replacement governess for the one who left, Eugenia finds the gentleman very attractive.

Ward is in a very unique situation – he’s the illegitimate son of an earl, but he was actually raised in his father’s home and is publicly acknowledged as his son.  His mother, thought by some to be eccentric at best, and mad at worst, left to travel with an acting troupe.  Unknown to Ward, she married and had two children, his half siblings.  Now his mother and her husband are dead, leaving the children in his care.  Ward is happy to take on the task, but the children’s (and his) own grandmother, who is a stuffy, toplofty, unpleasant woman, is challenging him for custody.  Ward knows that his status as an unmarried bastard jeopardizes his case, so he hires a top notch governess, and  begins to think about making an advantageous marriage to a society lady with an unblemished reputation.

When the second governess leaves her post due to the eccentric behavior of the children, Lizzie and Otis, Ward immediately runs to Eugenia’s agency to demand yet another replacement.  When there is no one available, Ward convinces Eugenia to act as governess for two weeks.  In the course of their conversation, which is fraught with serious flirting and sexual undertones, the couple begins to consider having an affair for those two weeks.  It turns out that Eugenia hits it off really well with the children, and also with Ward.  They share an intense passion and fondness that grows daily.

Now, this is where things get complicated.  Although it was the last thing she wanted to do, Eugenia finds that she is falling deeply in love with Ward, and adores the children.  Ward doesn’t realize that Eugenia is a lady, he thinks that she is just a businesswoman, when in fact her social status is vastly superior to his.  When Eugenia makes a couple of innocent mistakes regarding the children, Ward is doubly certain that she has no permanent place in his life, no matter how fond he and the children are of her.  When the two weeks are up, Ward determinedly ends the affair, despite Eugenia’s declaration of love, and sends her away.

Eugenia is a jewel, and I adore her.  I love how she had the courage to admit her love for Ward, and challenge him to admit his own love.  When she was rejected,  I admire her class and dignity, and her determination to carry on with her life.  Ward is a charming and sexy man – he couldn’t care less what society thinks of him and his birth, yet it was his concern for the children and their future that drove him to be so cruel to Eugenia.  He has his work cut out to try to win her back, especially when Eugenia now believes he only wants her for the social advantage she can supply.  Can this couple work out all the misunderstandings and find their way to happily ever after?  SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN is an enjoyable read, which includes some heartbreak along the way with the light moments.  The children are quirky and quite adorable – and how many stories can boast a pet rat – especially one named Jarvis?

Rating 4heat-level-hotblue-flame-heartReviewed by Rose 3

Posted in Eloisa James, Historical Romance, Review, Rose | 1 Comment

Review – The Duke by Kerrigan Byrne

dukeHe is noble, notorious, and takes no prisoners…

Strong as a Viking. Handsome as Adonis. Rich as Midas. Collin “Cole” Talmage, Duke of Trewyth, is the stuff that legends are made of. He’s the English Empire’s golden son–until fate has its way with him. Cole’s family is killed and his closest comrade betrays him on the battlefield, leaving him gravely injured. But Cole is not one to dwell on misfortune. He is a man of duty, honor–and desire. And now he’s ready for the fight of his lifetime…

Imogen Pritchard is a beautiful lass who works in a hospital by day and as a serving maid at night. Years ago, when she was young and penniless, she ended up spending a scandalous night with Cole, whose tormented soul was matched only by his earth-shattering passion. Imogen entered a marriage of convenience―one that left her a wealthy widow―but she never forgot Cole. Now that her long-lost lover has turned up in her hospital, injured and with no memory of her, Imogen is torn: Is it a blessing or a curse that their past remains a secret to Cole, even as his new passion for her leaves him wanting to protect and possess her…at all costs.

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The Duke (Victorian Rebels)

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

My Review:

Collin Talmage, known as Cole, has just inherited the title of Duke of Trenwyth at the very high cost of losing his whole family.  While he is hurting and grieving, he is also scheduled to leave on an assignment for the crown tomorrow, so tonight he’s seeking out some human comfort.  When he walks into the Bare Kitten, a seedy tavern, he immediately focuses on Ginny, one of the barmaids, as the one he wants to spend the night with.  What Cole doesn’t know is that Ginny is not a lady-for-hire, as the other women working there are.  Ginny is really Imogen Pritchard, a nurse, who is supporting her mother and younger sister.  Her deceased father owes a substantial debt to the tavern’s owner, and she is working in disguise as a barmaid to whittle down the balance.  She recognizes who Cole is, as the newspapers have been full of his tragic story, and she can see the grief and sadness in his eyes.  Still, she refuses when he attempts to buy her for the night.  When she is told that the amount Cole paid is enough to reduce her servitude by a whole year, she agrees, knowing full well what this makes her.  Cole treats her with tenderness and courtesy, and they share a special bond and a warm, passionate night.  When Ginny leaves him, she realizes that she’ll never see him again, in fact, he may not survive his mission, but he’s taking a piece of her heart along with him.

A year later, the duke is brought to Imogen’s hospital, severely injured, and not expected to survive.  Imogen is tasked with nursing him, and ends up saving his life, though it costs her job.  Cole doesn’t recognize her as Ginny, and in his illness, rejects her and her care.  Rescue comes in the form of an elderly earl, a patient at the hospital, who is dying.  This earl values Imogen and appreciates all she has done for him, so he proposes marriage.  Imogen accepts, and is now a wealthy countess, who lives next door to Cole.  When the earl dies months later, Imogen begins working on her new passion, rescuing prostitutes, and other down-on-their-luck people.  Cole is infuriated at this activity happening next door to his home, and he is not shy about berating Imogen publicly and privately.  He believes she tricked the elderly earl into marriage and considers her nothing more than riffraff and totally beneath him.

Imogen is, of course, hurt by Cole’s assumptions and accusations.  The man she was a bit in love with is gone, and in his place is a sarcastic, angry, bitter, scarred man.  She has no idea of the extreme torture that Cole endured when he was captured, or that the only thing that kept him sane at all was his memory of Ginny and their magical night.  Since his return, he has searched endlessly for her, only to keep coming up with a dead end.  He feels that she, Ginny, is his only chance at retaining any of his humanity.  Without her, he knows he’ll fall completely into darkness.  Yet, slowly, he begins to see that Imogen is not the awful schemer he imagined.  He sees her character, her genuine commitment, and her care for those she rescues.  Then he sees her beauty, and begins to desire her.  What will happen if he finds out that Imogen is Ginny?  Imogen is determined to keep her past hidden, as if it became known, she will be ruined, and all her work will have been for nothing.

Kerrigan Byrne has written another powerful and dark masterpiece.  I don’t know how she does it, but I was in that prison with Cole, I felt his rage and anguish.  I detested the person he had become, but I totally understood it and didn’t hate him, just what was done to him to cause it.  I admired his search for Ginny, how he never gave up, looking to fight a way out of the darkness that had become his life.  I also had to admire Imogen for being strong enough to give up on any chance of a relationship with Cole when he rejected her back in the hospital.  Then when his treatment of her should only have earned her rejection, she stayed strong in her beliefs, and yet considered his injuries and treated him with compassion.  THE DUKE is not for everyone.  It’s gritty and dark and in-your-face, and I found it compelling, intense, passionate, and beautiful.  The characters are flawed, have done awful things, yet manage to find a measure of redemption through the power of love.  The Victorian Rebels series is magnificent, and I recommend THE DUKE most highly.  This one will surely be on my favorites list this year.  Fasten your seat belt and settle in for a thrilling ride.

5-blue-rosesheat-level-hotblue-flame-heartReviewed by Rose 3

Posted in Historical Romance, Kerrigan Byrne, Review, Rose | 4 Comments

Review – Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh

someone-to-holdSomeone to Hold (Westcott #2)

Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…

With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.

An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…  

 Buy Amazon point rightClick on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                     Someone to Hold (A Westcott Novel)

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

My Review:

Camille Westcotts world, as she knew it, has crumbled. She was the daughter of an earl, engaged to a viscount,  and raised in wealth and privilege – but it’s all gone now.  Shortly after her father’s death, it was discovered that he was previously married, and though his first wife is deceased, he entered into his second marriage before she died.  This makes him a bigamist, his second marriage invalid, and the three children of that marriage illegitimate.  To make matters even worse, he never changed his first will, thus leaving all his fortune to the child of his first marriage, Anna.  Camille and her family are shocked at their reversal of fortune, and haughtily refuse all of Anna’s overtures of friendship.  They even reject her offer to share the fortune with all of them.  When Camille’s fiance breaks their engagement, she and her sister retreat to Bath to live with their grandmother.

Joel Cunningham is beginning to find some success as a portrait artist.  He’s an orphan, raised in the same orphanage in Bath as Camille’s sister, Anna.  In fact, they grew up together and are dear friends.  When Joel’s path begins  to cross with Camille’s  on a regular basis, he is at first prepared to dislike her, knowing how she treated Anna.  Camille is aloof, haughty, and not at all beautiful.  So why does Joel always seem to seek out her company?

In an act that surprises everyone, including herself, Camille applies for the teaching job at the orphanage where Anna was raised and later worked.  Though she displays an outward icy veneer, inside Camille is in turmoil.  She doesn’t know what to do with her life, or even who she is.  Her whole previous existence was geared to being the perfect society lady and making the perfect marriage.  In a desperate attempt to find some answers, Camille, in effect, decides to take a walk in Anna’s shoes.

SOMEONE TO HOLD has all the trademark qualities of a Mary Balogh book.  The romance between the unlikely couple of Joel and Camille develops slowly and is, by no means, smooth.  The focus is on the characters and their development.  Camille is not a very likable heroine until we start to see inside her hard outer shell.  She is scared, uncertain, ashamed, and insecure, which she hides with her arrogant manner.  It seems that the honorable and very likable Joel deserves another match, one more suited to his personality.  Yet, this couple comes to understand and desire each other, and somehow they end up being perfect for each other.  It was particularly touching to watch Camille fall in love with one of the orphaned children.  I love Mary Balogh’s writing, and the extent  that she fleshes out her characters, making them very real, faults and all.  SOMEONE TO HOLD is another warm and satisfying read which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend.

Rating 4heat-level-warm1-blue-flame

Reviewed by Rose 3

Posted in Historical Romance, Mary Balogh, Review, Rose | 1 Comment

Review – Waiting for an Earl Like You by Alexandra Hawkins

waiting-for-an-earl-like-youLOVE ISN’T ALWAYS WHAT IT SEEMS.
Justin Reeve Netherwood, Earl of Kempthorn—a.k.a. Thorn—has never cared much for his neighbor’s daughter. But his twin brother, Gideon, befriended the wild, reckless, and wholly inappropriate Miss Olivia Lydall in youth, and two have been close ever since. So when Olivia finds herself in a state of romantic conflict and seeks out Gideon for advice, he’s only too pleased to oblige. Only problem: The man Olivia is speaking to is Thorn. And now it’s too late for him to tell Olivia the truth…

Thorn always believed that Olivia was too smitten with Gideon for her own good. So what’s the harm in steering her away from him? But Thorn’s charade turns out to be anything but harmless once he begins to see Olivia for who she really is: A woman full of spirit and passion…and someone he can’t live without. But how can Thorn claim Olivia’s heart when their deepening connection—and burning desire—is built on lies and deceit?

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Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                            Waiting For an Earl Like You: A Masters of Seduction Novel

My Review:

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

The Earl of Kempthorn (known as “Thorn,”) is delighted that his younger twin brother, Gideon, has returned from years of travel.  Yet, their former closeness is gone, and Thorn feels that Gideon is hiding something.  In fact, he seems to want to spend more time with their childhood friend and neighbor, Olivia Lydall, than with his family, even at his own welcome home party.  While children, Olivia and Gideon shared a closeness that left Thorn feeling left out, and now he’s feeling that way again.  His irritation causes him to treat Olivia in a less than kind manner on occasion.  In fact, his hot and cold feelings have him even pretending to be his brother, Gideon, while spending time with Olivia, trying to gauge their real relationship.

Olivia is not at a good place in life.  Her widowed father is anxious to marry her off because he intends to remarry, and his potential wife doesn’t want a stepdaughter around, challenging her for his affections and the running of the household.  Lady Grisdale is the stereotypical evil stepmother, berating and mistreating Olivia when they’re away from her father’s presence.  Then Thorn, who never really warmed up to her, seems to resent her renewing her lifelong friendship with his brother, Gideon.  At first, I found Olivia to be a bit of a doormat and was disappointed that she didn’t stand up for herself more.  Eventually she developed some self confidence, and I liked this quality in her, but she did make some very unwise choices.  Thorn is a complicated man, and while he did have many good qualities, I couldn’t quite fall in love with him. He wavered between being kind, then cruel to Olivia.  He wanted her away, then he wanted her for himself.

I have mixed feelings about WAITING FOR AN EARL LIKE YOU.  I have read the first two books in the Masters of Seduction series, and I’m glad that I did, or I feel that I would have been somewhat lost in this book.  There is an extended cast of characters and some very important events which happened previously that affect this story.  Some interesting plot twists and uncharacteristic behavior made for a very compelling read that held my attention, even though I didn’t really feel the romance.  So, while I didn’t totally fall for the hero, WAITING FOR AN EARL LIKE YOU was sufficiently well written, complex, and steamy to make for an enjoyable read.

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Reviewed by Rose 3

Posted in Historical Romance, Rose | Leave a comment

Review – Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen

between-the-devil-and-the-dukeTheir love was always in the cards.
He should have thrown her out. But when club owner Alexander Lavoie catches a mysterious blonde counting cards at his vingt-et-un table, he’s more intrigued than angry. He has to see more of this beauty—in his club, in his office, in his bed. But first he’ll have to devise a proposition she can’t turn down.

Gossip said he was an assassin.
Common sense told her to stay away. But Angelique Archer was desperate, and Lavoie’s club offered a surefire way to make quick money—until she got caught. Instead of throwing her out though, the devil offers her a deal: come work for him. Refusing him means facing starvation, but with a man so sinfully handsome and fiercely protective, keeping things professional might prove impossible.

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Buy Amazon point rightClick on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                       Between the Devil and the Duke (A Season for Scandal)

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

My Review:

Angelique Archer never quite took during her first season.  Because of her unwillingness to dance (which she did poorly) and her inability to make small talk, she soon became known as the Marble Maiden.  She left society to take care of her dying mother, and never rejoined society as her father died not long after.  With her family fortune seemingly vanished into thin air, and her wastrel brother continuing to spend extravagantly, Angelique has to take desperate steps.  There is a gambling club, Lavoie’s, which allows women to wager.  The female gamblers wear masks in order to hide their identities and protect their reputations.  Angelique is determined to keep her family losses a secret and to win enough funds to provide for what remains of her household, and to keep her younger brothers in school.  You see, Angelique is a genius with numbers – she is able to memorize cards which have been played and accurately calculate odds.  She cleverly intersperses small losses among her winnings, and tries to remain as unobtrusive as possible.  She has, however, come to the notice of the club’s owner.

Alexander Lavoie makes certain that he is aware of all that happens in his club.  He notices everything about the beautiful woman who comes to gamble – he knows that she doesn’t cheat, he knows that she’s trying to stay inconspicuous, he knows that she’s brilliant, but he doesn’t know who she is.  When a drunk accosts Angelique, Alex steps in to defuse the situation, anxious to interact with the intriguing mystery woman.  As luck would have it, Angelique’s intoxicated brother shows up, creates havoc, and allows Alex to discover her identity.  He realizes that Angelique is not gambling for the thrill, but that she’s in desperate need of the money.  Alex offers her a job in his club because he feels that would be very lucrative, but also because he wants to further his acquaintance.  While Angelique initially refuses, her brother’s actions cause yet a more serious financial loss, and she accepts the job at Lavoie’s as a masked dealer.

From the beginning, Alex and Angelique (whom he eventually calls “Angel”) have an intense physical awareness of each other, which they both intend to ignore.  But aside from the attraction, they discover another connection, a mental one, as well as genuine liking and admiration.  Alex is not intimidated by Angel’s extreme intelligence and abilities, rather he appreciates them.  And Angel looks beyond Alex’s reputation of being a spy and assassin  to see the honorable, kind and caring man underneath.  I have to say that I fell in love with Alex – what a fantastic hero he is.  Almost from the beginning, he knew he was smitten and he admitted it.  He never hesitated to do what he had to do to help Angel.  I never thought I’d get the shivers from just hearing a man say, “Mmmm,” but Alex has that effect on me.  As for Angel, she never looked down on Alex or his connections, though she’s the daughter of a marquess.  She’s strong, determined, and a worthy match for him.

As Alex and Angel’s affair heats up, the investigation into the missing Archer family fortune leads to a twisted story of family secrets, betrayals, and revenge.  I can’t speak highly enough of Kelly Bowen’s fantastic writing.  She is rapidly becoming a favorite author, with her likable, intelligent protagonists and exciting storylines.  BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DUKE had it all for me – sizzling passion, genuine romance, great characters, and a captivating story.  The whole Season for Scandal series has been a winner, one which I give my highest recommendation.

5-blue-rosesheat-level-hotblue-flame-heart

Reviewed by Rose 3

Posted in Historical Romance, Kelly Bowen, Review, Rose | 3 Comments

Review – Loving the Lost Duke by Louise Allen

loving-the-lost-dukeA duke confronting his demons. A beauty resisting love.
Almost seven years ago the young Duke of Calderbrook left England for the self-imposed exile that seemed the only way to save his life. Now Cal is back, a grown man bent on taking back his birthright and discovering who so nearly killed him – even if they prove to be someone he loves.
The truth, revenge, then a suitable marriage are Cal’s aims, but his determined quest is stopped in its tracks by Society beauty Sophie Wilmott. He wants Sophie and Sophie, armoured against love by her own secrets, wants Cal. He needs to keep her safe, she needs to guard her heart – but death is waiting at the heart of the Duke’s great house and only courage and love is going to give them the strength to overcome it.

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Click on the title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                   Loving The Lost Duke (Dangerous Deceptions Book 1)

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I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

MY REVIEW:

Sophie Wilmott is in her seventh season, and is attending yet another ball.  She’s in a private location, discussing marriage with her dear friend, Toby.  After a disastrous run-in with love in her debut year, Sophie has decided to approach marriage with a list of requirements her potential spouse must meet.  Love is not on the list.  When Toby leaves to find his dance partner, Sophie discovers that another man is nearby, and heard their whole conversation.  Amazingly enough, this man is the mysterious Duke of Calderbrook, who left England almost seven years ago, and whose whereabouts have been a mystery.

Calderbrook (“Cal”) was orphaned and raised by his uncle.  While a child, Cal suffered many bouts of a painful illness which left him weak and deathly ill.  He also was a victim of numerous accidents, some of which caused broken bones, others which narrowly missed taking his life.  After another attack of the mysterious malady, Cal overhears the doctor talking to someone who feels he may be being poisoned.  Cal loves his uncle and cousin, and the thought that one of them may want him dead breaks his heart.  Yet, they are the heirs who would benefit from his death.  Cal knows that he is now too weak to fight, so he devises a plan to flee and wait.  As soon as he turns twenty-one and gains full control of his dukedom, he arranges for his properties to be managed by a trusted friend, and takes off for parts unknown.  He is careful to correspond with his family regularly, so that he can’t be declared dead.  As soon as he left the estate, he began to regain his health.  Travelling around the world has made him strong and determined.  Now he’s back, ready to reclaim his life, find a wife, sire an heir, and find out exactly who the would-be murderer is.

Cal’s experiences in life and while travelling have left him wanting no part of love.  So when he hears Sophie’s requirements, rather than being appalled, he applauds her methodology.  She is beautiful and intelligent and entertaining, so perhaps she is the ideal candidate to be his duchess.  He begins to call on Sophie, and their physical attraction soon leads Cal to court her in earnest.  When he is about to propose, Sophie know that she has to confess the incident that happened during her first season.  Cal is disappointed in her lack of innocence, but he admires her honesty, which he greatly values, and decides he still wants to marry her.  The wedding plans begin, and Cal decides to hold a houseparty, inviting his relatives.  His plan is to flush out the murderer, and put an end to the game.  Unfortunately, the mistake from Sophie’s past also shows up at the party, intent on ruining her happiness.

LOVING THE LOST DUKE is one of the rare books where I adore the heroine as much as the hero.  Both characters are extremely admirable and likable.  Cal is honest, brave, determined, fair, and has a wonderful sense of humor.  He’s also caring and generous, yet wary.  Sophie is forthright and honest, and my admiration for her is off the charts for having the courage to confess her past to Cal.  This couple has so much to overcome and they are determined that love won’t enter the picture, but of course, it does.  I read this book in one sitting because it had an exciting mystery, wonderful protagonists, a warm and steamy romance, and a satisfying and surprising resolution.  LOVING THE LOST DUKE is a wonderful read that I’m happy to give my highest recommendation.

5-blue-roses          heat-level-hotblue-flame-heart

Reviewed by Rose 3

Posted in Historical Romance, Louise Allen, Review, Rose | 1 Comment